Tag Archive | The Gentle Art of Blessing

Ahhh…grist for the mill of awakening

I pulled into the parking lot of our local grocery store a few months ago and noticed these dogs in the car next to me…so friggin cute

Thanksgiving is a few days away, and for many of us this can be a time of intense emotions and feelings: happiness, anxiety, joy, sadness, contentment, loneliness, inner peace, anger and resentment, compassion, disappointment, belonging, rejection, anticipation…and at least for me, the “negative” emotions are doubly charged because I don’t think that I should be feeling these…especially around the holidays. But I’ve come to know that part, if not all, of the pain is the result of me resisting what is happening or what I am feeling in the moment…thinking that things/people should be different than they are/were, or that I should be different than I am/was.

When I find myself in the middle of this negative thought, I try first of all to acknowledge the feelings…not fight with them…and then, if I can, I try to find a different/new way of seeing.

This isn’t easy with old wounds. If I can catch myself in a new situation that is challenging, and I don’t let it gain momentum, often times it transforms…but with those old experiences that I didn’t have the tools or the desire to handle in a higher way, I unconsciously built up a stories and told them (even if just to myself) over and over until my version, my small little painful version, seemed like the only truth. There is a part of the mind that strongly balks at the idea of seeing painful situations in a new light…especially if we feel we were the ones who were “innocent”.

When my father died in February and had cut off communication with me for the last 6 months of his life, I had a pretty strong resentment against him and his wife, Jane, who didn’t let me know about his condition, and left it to her daughter to call me after he had died. During that phone call, she casually told me that my father was very important to her and that he only wanted her there during his last days. I didn’t even know this woman. It felt like the final insult from all of them, and yet, I knew a different story.

While my father was alive, and we were communicating, he would say to me, almost every time we met, “Jane is very hard but I’m too old to get a divorce. I have to go to her family functions. They don’t mean anything to me.” He was tired. He didn’t want to fight with her so he gave up and gave in. My father was a good actor and he was dishonest in so many ways, but I still loved him and I knew that he loved me.

So, several months after his death when I still felt angry and indignant, I made a decision to see things differently. I didn’t try to see a new angle, but I wanted to be out of the pain of resentment so I became willing…I became a little bit more open. Shortly after I made this decision, while on a walk, I had a huge insight and saw the last 6 months of my father’s life in a new way, “He was sick and dependent on Jane. There was no way that anyone was going to see him except they go through her. He was sparring me that! Oh my god…I knew the truth of it. Maybe it was cowardly on his part, maybe it wasn’t a healthy way of dealing with our relationship but it was his way of protecting me and it was the best he could do.” As I continued on my walk, I thanked him and I could feel his energy and smile…I heard him laugh. I got it.

But now I needed to see the situation with his wife and stepdaughter in a new way, because I didn’t feel the love with them and never had a positive history to draw upon.

I’ve watched myself over this past year with several resentments…thinking they are gone and then finding the angry thoughts back and as intense as ever. I’ve even exclaimed in exasperation, “I wish this could just be gone once and for all! I am so sick of thinking about ____”. But was I really?

Being honest with myself, I had to say no, I wasn’t. There was something that I was getting out of these resentments and the rehashing of the past. In the AA literature, there is a line that has always stayed with me,

“In a perverse way we can actually take satisfaction from the fact that many people annoy us, for it brings a comfortable feeling of superiority.” (The Twelve and Twelve, page 67)

Did I feel superior to Jane and her daughter? When I asked this question, I had to say that yes I did. I knew their history…I also knew how Jane and my father had met and it was extremely embarrassing for him.

Had I forgiven her? No. I’d only given it lip service.

Ouch. Now I could see it clearly. Forgiveness is a spiritual law…if I don’t do it, then I don’t feel it. Period. I could hold onto these resentments forever and not allow myself to grow or I could do the very big work of allowing a new way of seeing. This is where my immature adolescent girl rears her head. She would rather say, “F  you. You hurt me and now I hope that you are miserable. No way I want you to feel happy and blessed. I want you to suffer!”

But my higher self says, “You are the one who is suffering, Mary. It is time to let go. It is time to forgive so you can be free. The choice is yours. You want it to be easy but maybe it isn’t. Is that OK with you? Are you willing to go through the fire as the petty, vengeful, thoughts burn away?”

And I answered, “Yes I am. Help!” A few days later I was helping Jack clean out an old trunk at his store and he handed me a book, The Gentle Art of Blessing, that I’d given him a few years back. I opened it and read the following passage,

“What is appealing about the spiritual path, as the American spiritual teacher Ram Dass has stressed, is that everything is ‘grist for the mill.’ Absolutely everything—a traffic jam, an illness, a theft, a noisy neighbor, a flat tire—becomes an opportunity to learn, discover, progress, repent, rejoice, unveil, awaken, love more, and wonder. The smallest detail of life, every single encounter—be it with a saint or a snail—can sparkle with tender interest and become aglow with enchantment.”*

These few words helped me to reframe my resentments…why not simply call them “grist”. I loved that thought. If the grinding feelings inside can be redirected from telling the same old painful story to a feeling of productive energy then why not give this a try…and I did. Instantly I felt lighter and more open. Who doesn’t want to “sparkle with tender interest and become aglow with enchantment”?

This lovely little book opened a door for me…a door that I was ready and willing to walk through…what a relief…. not that I’m done with this work…maybe it will go on for as long as I am alive. Fine. I’m human too. Sometimes I feel so inadequate to the task…but sometimes not.

So, as this season of Light approaches, I wish for you all open hearts and open doors…and if you’re not ready to walk through them yet, fine…I love you anyway, just as I am loved as I walk, and sometimes stumble, on this path of awakening. I love you as I love myself because you are human too and you and I have egos that sometimes act like spoiled kids…and sometimes we can just laugh at this…but we keep walking.

 

 

*The Gentle Art of Blessing by Pierre Pradervand

I am that…stepping into beauty

Bodhi looking outside at the snow this morning

Bodhi looking outside at the snow this morning

Over the years, I have become very aware that every feeling I experience, every negative thought about another, every judgement that I make, is really only telling me about me. I was reading the book, The Gentle Art of Blessing, this morning and these words spoke to me:

“No one can be our ‘enemy’ (or a total bore, or pain-in-the-neck, or whatever unflattering adjective we all occasionally feel like applying to others)….. Absolutely everything that happens to us in life, everything we are aware of, is filtered through the filter of our consciousness, our perception. An event ‘in itself’ does not exist. We interpret all events, all encounters, every single sensual impression.”*

There is no better way to know ourselves, than to pay attention to our feelings and thoughts about others, and our world.

I spent a lot of time looking at my judgements about other people, and it was a necessary first step to knowing myself. When I began this process of uncovering myself, it was very painful. Who wants to see petty, mean, harsh, jealous, critical, unhappy, morally righteous and superior thoughts, not as a statement about “the other”, but as condemnations of ourselves?

But through this spiritual exercise, I grew to see myself more clearly and was able to catch this tendency to criticize others (seeing that I was really only looking at me, reflected in their behaviour) more easily, and it led me to the next step, which was/is, the revelation that every good, appreciative, loving, and lovely feeling was/is also a window into myself.

When I see someone as caring, I am seeing myself. When I see someone as competent, successful, expansive (and I feel appreciation for these qualities in them), I am seeing myself. When I notice beauty, I am noticing myself.  When I see a very patient person, I am seeing myself. When I notice a kind gesture, I am noticing myself. When I hear wisdom, I am hearing myself.

I didn’t look for the good in myself…for a long time. I didn’t think that noticing it (in the world) had anything to do with who I was. I believed that all spiritual/emotional progress was made by digging out the bad, the wrong, the unhealthy tendencies, the hidden crap. I was always digging, hoping to eventually uncover it all so I could finally be at peace and be happy. I got lost in the first step.

We are seeing, hearing, and feeling ourselves at every turn.

In two days it will be Thanksgiving. I am inviting you to join me in noticing yourself in the good, the lovely, the beautiful, the generous, the kind, the surprising, the wise. I am also inviting you to join me in silently saying (each time you notice these wonderful things) “I am that”, and then in becoming aware of how you feel, in recognizing your beautiful self, in the world around you.

If you’d like to (and feel brave!) please share these experiences of your magnificent self here on the blog (as many times as you’d like to over the next few days). Many of us have no problem telling ourselves and others about our faults and defects of character, but when it comes to telling our magnificence….

So I will begin;

Last night Jack and I ate at  a wonderful restaurant in Vergennes, VT, called the Black Sheep Bistro. As we walked toward the entrance, we saw a couple of people busily working, draping large, full, garlands of real evergreens, surrounded by spirals of lights, around the outside windows. I paused to let them know how much I appreciated their work. They smiled and thanked me. I appreciate this kind of detail, and in that moment, I could see myself too.

True protection

Fred

Fred

A few years ago, I made an appointment with an energy practitioner whom I’d heard good things about. I traveled quite a distance to meet with him, and found the session to be very powerful, but at the end he strongly suggested that I come back for follow-up appointments, indicating that I needed quite a bit more work. This surprised me since I hadn’t yet considered coming back, and I hadn’t asked for another appointment. When I did ask what he meant, his answer was cryptic. It felt off.

I left the session saying that I would get back to him, but I didn’t. A year later I heard that he had been forced to stop practicing because of unethical behaviour, and I wasn’t that surprised. No matter how gifted he was in this area of his life, he had another huge area that he hadn’t yet cleared in himself, and it eventually seeped into his approach with his clients.

I believe that people know what is best for them, and I continue to hold that truth in my own practice; I always let my clients make the follow-up appointments. I know that a number of people have found this odd and a bit disconcerting, but it isn’t because I have forgotten to schedule their next session, or because I don’t want to work with them. It is my deepest belief that no one should leave an appointment feeling like they are not OK without my (or the therapist/healers/doctor’s) help.

If I feel like someone knows more about me than I do, or they have some hidden keys to me, and I need them (specifically) or else I’m in trouble, then something is off. If I am not more empowered, healthier, stronger, or better after an appointment, then I need to examine this relationship. Is this person trying to make me dependent on them for some reason? (financial, emotional, sexual?)….it can happen.

All of us human beings have areas of our lives that we need to come up higher in. If you are feeling like something isn’t quite right with a relationship, try trusting that inner voice, ask your inner-self for guidance, and let it go. The answer will come to you; maybe in a song, a dream, a passage in a book, a sign on the road, ….but you can trust in the divine part of yourself to lead you to the correct path or to bring more clarity to the one you are on.

When I finally heard what had happened to the man who I’d had the session with, I didn’t feel happy or glad about it. I sent him a silent blessing and imagined him surrounded by light and peace. I sincerely hope that he clears things up within himself. He has many gifts to give to this world, and it is my wish for him that he have the opportunity to offer them in a better way,… and I wouldn’t hesitate to see him again if I felt that inner call to do so.

I can trust my inner voice, and so can you. We don’t need to be fearful or hyper-vigilant, always trying to “protect” ourselves. If I am having trouble (mentally) with someone, the best thing I can do is to bless them, think no harmful thoughts, and trust that the way that I need to proceed (with or without this relationship) will be made clear.

The still, small voice always lets us know which way to turn; it is our best friend and we can trust it.

“As you walk, bless the city in which you live, its government and teachers, its nurses and street sweepers, its children and bankers, its priests and prostitutes. The minute anyone expresses the least aggression or unkindness to you, respond with a blessing; Bless them totally, sincerely, joyfully–for such blessings are a shield that protects them from the ignorance of their misdeed and deflects the arrow that was aimed at you…..Blessing those who attack us in any manner, in word or deed, constitutes truly that impenetrable armor and prevents arrows aimed at us from wounding us inside, even if we are touched physically. For the minute one is clothed with the love such blessings express, one is no longer at the mercy of outside circumstances, persons, forces or events. “ The Gentle Art of Blessing: Lessons for Living One’s Spirituality in Everyday Life, by Pierre Pradervand)

Double blessings

Noah napping on our porch yesterday afternoon

Before I fell asleep last night, I was thinking about the incredible healing power that is released when we bless difficult situations, and got up this morning to read Maria Wulf’s* beautiful blog on that very thing! A couple of months ago, a woman who I used to know, came into my mind. Several years ago, she’d been upset with me because she felt I dismissed her. I tried at the time to explain, but she just couldn’t accept that, and we drifted apart.

The morning that I thought about her, I said out loud, “I bless……..and release her.” This is one of my favorite prayers. I try to do it whenever I am conscious that the memory, I am about to re-live in my mind, is not a good one. What I know is that the bonds of Love are never broken, and this is my way of releasing all of the other negative connections, hurt feelings, and resentments that are sort of stuck around that person/place or memory. Within a minute of saying this, my cell phone rang. I couldn’t answer it because I was driving but when I got to my office, I checked the message and it was the very woman who I had “blessed”, saying that she missed me.

“The key factor (in blessing) is the intention. Slowly, the blessings moves from being an act of the will to an act of the heart–because the act of blessing comes essentially from the heart.” PP 5 The Gentle Art of Blessing, Pierre Pradervand   (this is a wonderful book)

*  http://www.fullmoonfiberart.com