From The Gentle Art of Blessing
Many spiritual teachings and numerous mystics stress the importance for the spiritual disciple to develop a constant awareness of the divine. The Vietnamese Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh suggests this be done by striving to live in the present. One of the great classics of Christian mysticism, The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth-century Cistercian French monk who worked in the monastery kitchen, stresses this practice as a privileged way of developing such awareness. Such practices may not be excessively difficult in an ashram in the Himalayas, a monastery in Montana, or with fellow pilgrims during the Muslim hajj to Mecca – or even during your morning meditation at home in Toronto, London, or Manhattan. But how do you keep such a spiritual awareness when you are alone in an elevator with someone having an epileptic seizure? How do you keep your spiritual poise during a transatlantic flight with the baby in the seat behind you crying its heart out? How do you keep your calm when someone insults you without reason? How do you feel love rather than pity in a refugee camp with hundreds of starving children pulling at your clothes?
The practice of blessing is a simple way to develop a constantly centered awareness. It is also a tool for growing in universal love and avoiding judgment. When you bless all those you meet in their total happiness and true integrity, without the slightest concern for their appearance, expression, race, class, sex, or any other label, when you wish them the very best from your innermost being, it is impossible for your heart not to expand. From a narrow cubicle, it will become a temple without walls.
A constant reminder of spiritual masters is that you cannot grow spiritually if you are burdened mentally by the habit of judging others. But do not take my word for it, try it for yourself. Try to systematically replace every single thought of judgment with blessing – especially for that fellow at the office who drives you out of your wits!
I love what spiritual philosopher David Spangler writes in his beautiful book, Blessing: The Art and the Practice:
Blessing is not a technique we perform but a presence we embody. It is not an act we do to someone or something, but a relationship we form with them that enables us all to be embraced in the presence of an unobstructed world.
He adds that a blessing can take many shapes – a hug, a tone of voice, a word or glance. What makes it a blessing is the spirit we bring to it.
Create your own ways of blessing. There are no set formulas. My way of blessing has changed over the years. At the present, when I bless people in the street, on the bus, or anywhere, I say in my heart: “I love you. I bless you in your divine perfection and total happiness.” I try to really feel the love, and this forces me to look beyond the physical appearance, which is not always very inviting, to the hidden, harmonious, perfect spiritual reality behind.
Try blessing. You will be the first to benefit!
I’d like to share with you the outcome of the story that began this chapter. A few years ago, by one of the “chance” encounters Providence sets up for us with perfect synchronicity, at a meeting of an organization we both belonged to, I happened to encounter the person who had masterminded the ugly situation that caused me to quit my job and ultimately led me to discover the art of blessing. I cannot find words to express the incredible wave of joy that flooded me, or the deep love – and especially, gratitude – I felt for this man. It was one of the most powerful moments of deep joy I have ever known. For days, this joy was to stay with me. Even as I write about it now, the feeling of joy comes back to me.
Here was the man who apparently had caused me to lose a job I thoroughly enjoyed, where I had immense freedom and felt very useful to society – and all I could feel was deep gratitude welling up from my soul.
This experience was a milestone in enabling me to feel (not to know or believe, but really to feel) that truly, there was a perfect plan for my life – that whatever happened to me, it would always end up being in my best interest if my life stayed rooted in total sincerity and the integrity of being described in this book.
Somewhere, even our enemies (especially our enemies!) – be they circumstances or people – are the best friends of our growth.
What an amazing universe we live in!
On Your Path to Blessing
- When is the last time you blessed someone?
- Who in your past might it help you to bless?
- Who in your present might it help you to bless?
- Could blessing help you live more fully in the present?