Sunday, January 9, 2011
May the Blessings Be
How are you, NIP?
I am well. Quite well, in fact. It’s taken me a long time to get here—and I’m still a work in progress—but I’m glad to have this opportunity to keep becoming. Keep breathing. Keep living. With every passing day that I recite my morning gratitude mantra I truly feel more blessed. It’s constantly on my mind how precious life really is because I’m always reminded of the odds. I can’t quite put it into words but I know that it has everything to do with my perceptions of the world at this point in my life—much of which I believe have been nurtured by my grandmother Philomena over the years. While Erin and I were in Rhode Island for the holidays, we spent some time with “Grandma” and as soon as we left Erin and I had remarked what a nice visit it had been. I hadn’t seen her in person for about 3 years, and we all simply sat together in her apartment for three hours, talking and enjoying the snow topped vista of Providence from her 10th floor. When we left Grandma gave me a few short books about meditation and contemplative prayer, one of which I read on the plane ride back to Florida. It had an explanation about a phrase I had read frequently in my correspondence with Grandma, “May the Blessings Be.” I always liked the ring of it, but I never quite comprehended the phrase’s intent. Now that I do I find myself saying it all the time, especially right before I begin my meditation.
I think much of my dissatisfaction with life before I met Erin had to do with my focus, how I perceived and interpreted my reality. I don’t know what it is about our species that makes us so susceptible to negativity, but if it’s not in our nature then we at least gravitate toward it because of our environment. Especially our consumption based economic environment, which promotes having stuff. This ideal prompts many to believe that “stuff” equates “happiness.” Most of us at some point in our lives uncritically swallow this whole and try to purchase happiness at Best Buy or wherever else we think we can find and pay for it. But I think the quicker we come to realize that this doesn’t and will never work, we abandon the idea and move on to more beneficial worldviews. When I did focus on what I didn’t have, it made me miserable. What was worse is that those two forces were reciprocal—the more miserable I became, the more I focused on what I didn’t have. It was always out there. External. It wasn’t an instantaneous change when I met Erin, but she was definitely the turning point. I started to focus on how she enhanced my life and me personally and it just kept on getting better. Now I just let the blessings be. It’s that simple. I’m grateful for too many things for me to type out here, and it’s all because of my focus now—on what I do have.
It may not be much in the material sense. I live in a modest home with playful pets and a wonderful wife, but I couldn’t ask for more. What would be the point? All it takes is seeing that what we value is determined only by us, and if what we value is what we have rather than what we don’t our lives are cups bountifully overflowing. In an intangible sense, I consider myself a man of unparalleled wealth. I have so much because I choose to see the riches surrounding me while simply living life. Grandma’s valediction of “May the Blessings Be,” then, is this idea in principle. All it requires is accepting what life offers us. We can’t ask for blessings because it would be about having something specific, which is what causes us to focus on the negative if it is never fulfilled and we’re left wanting. But by focusing on every blessing you receive from life—no matter how insignificant or small—life becomes instantly and constantly enriching.
This is an attitude that has to be developed, however, not simply recognized. Candide was right to say that we must cultivate our gardens. We must tirelessly toil on ourselves, specifically our mental dispositions and self-discipline to improve our own lives. It is all within our power, but it begins with letting the blessings be. Be grateful to wake up tomorrow and realize that a new day is the first of many blessings—another chance to improve your life, NIP. Another chance to pursue your passions. Another chance to take a deep breath, ponder how truly infinitesimal the odds of your particular, specific existence are, and realize that you are morally obligated to strive, to become who you are, to do what makes you feel alive and makes the world a better place in the process. I can’t say for certain if I’ll ever get the chance to experience this miracle of life again, so why squander the chance I have now? I can’t get back the time I lost, so why bother with the past? I’ve lived and learned and that’s not only brought me here but it’s given me the wisdom and courage to understand all there is is right here, right now. The more I focus on letting the blessings be, the more I seem to be surrounded by them in every single moment.
After you’ve read this short letter, NIP, try to focus on the blessings you have in your life. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “blessings in disguise,” but I think more appropriate and important is “blessings in perception.” Life is how we see it. If we are willing to “see” the blessings and realize that they are all beneficial to becoming the best of who we are, we accept them willingly and unconditionally. By doing so you’ll begin a healthy process of reciprocity—whereas not having led to negativity, having (the realized blessings) leads to positivity. This positivity leads to gratitude. The crazy part is the more grateful I become the more blessings I receive! Just trust me and try it. You won’t be disappointed.
May the Blessings Be, NIP.
P.S. – This letter is dedicated to you, Grandma. Know that this letter in particular was written with more heart than head, and that I am grateful for all of your guidance and support over my lifetime. From taking me to see chamber music at a public library during my youth, to reminding me that we must begin from a place of love in any undertaking during our most recent visit, you have nurtured my spirit in innumerable ways. Like a tender gardener who whispers well-wishes while watering, your words and love echo within and have cajoled me to blossom. Ja cie kocham!