For some of us, these two words cause our eyes to roll up into our heads. For years I inwardly groaned whenever someone used “blessing” in a sentence. The occasional outer groan might have emerged as well.
Blessings were the exclusive purview of priests and parsons, whom I effectively avoided by spooning with my pillows on Sunday morning.
I did have some empathy with the southern use of “Well, bless his soul,” which carries the silent sentiment, “Damn fool.” When my 10 year old son preferred to duck away and stare at his shoes instead of receiving a blessing from an aged Nepali holy woman in Kathmandu, I recognized in him my own old discomfort.
But over the years, “blessing” has not only crept into my vocabulary, but set up a lively shop, weaving its colorful threads into my emails, songs, yoga teaching, art; almost nothing is untouched by its deft hand. How did this happen?
My whole view of blessings changed when I stopped thinking of them as abstract holy utterances and realized that more than anything else, they are free, unhampered, unrestricted aspirations. Aspirations for what we want for ourselves and each other and the world. What do you want for your best friend? What do you want for your family? Your community?
Blessings are little articulations of our intention for life.
We want the people we care about to be happy and safe, loved and healthy. A blessing is a way of saying, “I know things suck sometimes, but I care about you and I want you to have an awesome life. I want your work to be successful and satisfying. And I hope you have plenty of time to dance like a damn fool and laugh until you can’t breathe.” Or something like that.
In Buddhist metta (or maitri) practice, you meditate and offer blessings to people you naturally, effortlessly love, so that you connect to the warmth of your own heart. You imagine them and repeat to yourself:
May you be happy, may you be well, may you be full of peace.
After a while of that, then if possible, you turn it toward yourself:
May I be happy, may I be well, may I be full of peace.
Eventually you can turn the aspiration/blessing toward “neutral” people and then even toward difficult people. Of course if you experience yourself as a difficult person, you might find the second step kind of challenging.
But what do you wish for difficult people? That their lives be worse? Really? If difficult people are unhappy, does that make your life easier or harder? If our difficult people were happy and content wouldn’t they most likely be… less difficult? If we wish difficult people well, we’re wishing ourselves well and the people they might otherwise harm. It’s win-win.
If you are your own difficult person, then wishing yourself well is wishing other people well too. It’s an aspiration to love ourselves enough to create less harm in the world, use fewer Styrofoam cups, and squash fewer toes.
If your body is your difficult person, why wish it ill? Maybe you’ve had a difficult relationship with your body your whole life, or even just an indifferent one. By wishing your body well, you wish for more peace toward your body, you aspire to take care of yourself, and be positive and encouraging towards yourself. If you actually were more at peace with your body do you think you’d be happier/kinder/more fun/less stressed? Yup. You’d be making the world a better place.
May my body be well, may it be happy, may it be full of peace.
Offer it to your body, to every part of your body. Rinse. Repeat. See what happens.
Give blessings away for free. Let your aspirations try out their fluffy wings and launch themselves headlong from the nest. It’s worth a little eye rolling from your friends. Who knows when the b-word will emerge from their lips? Anything’s possible.
Love Your Body Blog Part 72