My neighbor and I ran into each just a few mornings ago. We stood in my yard under a gorgeous sky when our Colorado air was still cool, enjoying that freshness it carries. She told me about some trouble she had had with a common acquaintance and I found myself commiserating with her story. He did lurk; he seemed to enjoy scouring the neighborhood for disappointments; he was an older, small man – an original in our neighborhood - growly and difficult; he talked at you instead of to you and seemed to listen only when it served his purposes. Altogether, he was a guy you didn’t really want to see heading your way. “You know what I mean?” she asked me. And I did. But what I found myself doing was giving her a smile and saying “I know. Bless his heart; he’s a tough one.”
Back inside, my neighbor having moved on for her walk, I felt compelled to locate my favorite book of blessings – John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us – and found this: “A blessing is not a sentiment or a question; it is a gracious invocation where the human heart pleads with the divine heart. . . . (and is meant to) elevate whatever is happening to someone. It is . . . driven by immediacy and care.”
Been following the news? Or talk shows? Listening to NPR? If so, perhaps your human heart, like mine, has been aching for some divine heart intervention. Turn on any media; become involved in conversations with those who don’t look or sound, think, act or believe like you: the results are often not simply frustrating but actually heartbreaking. We humans in the name of our different needs and causes, our grievances and, most especially, our fears have parceled our hearts and minds, our very spirits, into separateness. And then we collectively suffer with the resulting inherited fears, self-imposed isolation, and the diminished ability to welcome and participate in civil discourse with others. Of course some individuals, unfamiliar communities, whole ideologies are far more difficult for us to understand and condone, let alone bless, than others. But, let’s face it, we inhabit this shrinking planet together – living within its dangerous, beautiful, greedy, generous, ego-involved and complex mix we’ve all helped to create. And we are in a bit of a crisis.
My inadvertent blessing caught me short, making me wonder; it also reminded me that I’ve been trying for a while to figure out what any one person could do - just me, by myself - to make a positive difference, helping to calm these chaotic tides we live and swim in. If my desire is to compassionately pass healing on to another, or to offer love to a community of the oppressed, or to thank those who tirelessly work to support the less fortunate, or to celebrate generosity and kindness when it is freely given, or to help the next generation learn to live differently, or to give tender comfort to those who grieve, then sending blessings could be my answer.
A synonym for blessing is grace – the unearned help freely and lovingly given by the divine; to bless is to invite grace into the life of another. Writer O’Donohue contends that when blessings are extended, the “atmosphere” changes because authentic blessings only truly happen when we have gone deeply into ourselves and connected first with our own soul; “blessings are from soul to soul.” To bless another, we send a message from deep within us to freely give something divine, some grace, to another. It’s not hard to do; sending a blessing is as easy as closing our eyes, visualizing the light of love, and silently sending it to surround others as it travels the world, blessing one heart at a time. And the best part? Blessings return to enfold us, each time we take the opportunity to genuinely bless the lives of others . . . on purpose.
Blessings to you all – May your own heart grow still, gently opening to the embrace of deep peace.
And, may this next blessing by O’Donohue give you peace:
“May all that is unforgiven in you
May your fears yield
Their deepest tranquillities.
May all that is unlived in you
Blossom into a future
Graced with love.”