Being Gratitude

Offering prayers at Warrungup Spring

Offering prayers at Warrungup Spring

Meditation:
Breathe in beauty; breathe out gratitude
Take a moment to look around you and allow your eye to settle on something that strikes you as beautiful – the view out the window, the way the light glances off a surface, your own reflection in the computer monitor. Feel that beauty with your body, breathe it in. How wonderful it is to be touched by beauty – realising that something is beautiful fills our hearts with a deep emotion that includes peace, happiness, calm, connection, and gratitude. Feel a sense of gratitude for being blessed with the presence of beauty and, as you breathe out, feel your body respond to that gratitude in a gentle sigh.
Breathe in beauty; breathe out gratitude
What are the blessings in your life – yes, count them ūüôā And with each blessing remembered, breathe out gratitude. After a short while, your whole body will be feeling a gentle soft tenderness that is simply ‘gratitude’ without an object. Rest a while in “being gratitude”.
Breathe in beauty; breathe out gratitude

2013.01.20.01Gratitude is a blossoming flower¬†of spiritual practice. When we feel gratitude, our hearts open up like a flower opens in the nurturing warmth of the sun and we are no longer isolated and alone – there is a profound recognition of connection with another person, a recognition of our interdependent relationship with something and everything that is beyond our narrow framework that defines “me”.

This is the key lesson I have gained from my own spiritual practice, and “being gratitude” was the central focus of my training in preparation for the Womb World initiation given by the Dalai Lama in Japan in April. I have tried a number of times now to write about some of the intense realisations that I experienced during that trip, but each time I have not been able to capture the essence of those experiences in words. I think it will require a book! So many small steps along the path, since I began practicing in the Buddhist way twenty-five years ago after my bout of cancer, which seemed to culminate in a profound moment of understanding and recognition of the blessing that is simply being alive. This recognition released a flood of gratitude to all the people who have helped me in my life, and all my ancestors’ labours that led up to the point of my own existence, and all the people, animals, plants, wind, sunshine, earth…all the entire cosmos somehow working together so that I might live. How profoundly humbling!

Fishes in Warrungup Spring

Fishes in Warrungup Spring

It has been one hundred now since the Dalai Lama initiated me into the Womb World. During that time I have continued to practice the rituals associated with that initiation, including reciting 10,000 mantras each day. Over this one hundred days I have also continued to offer the prayers that were entrusted to me and yesterday I went down to the sacred Warrungup Spring and made a ritual of reciting the names of petitioners and finally offering up their prayers, which marked the end of that prayer cycle. The sun came out just as I offering the last name and seemed to fill the world with light and blessings.

This active, yang cycle is now complete. Now it is time for me once again to withdraw into a passive, yin cycle that rests, reflects and contemplates. ¬†In honouring and nurturing our spiritual lives, it is essential to¬†carefully¬†balance the yang of outward-flowing energy that is active, with equal amounts of yin practice that draws energy inward and is passive and quiet: to rest in gratitude. Therefore, I will not be engaging in my usual public Wabi’an events for the time being. This means there will be no Kuan Yin Day in August. Thank you for your understanding.

Breathe in beauty; breathe out gratitude

Eat a ducky, Muss!

“Who’s Muss? And why do Japanese people eat so many ducks?” my five-year-old son asked me when we first went to Japan. On sight of my puzzled face he continued, “Well every time Japanese people start to eat, that’s what they say – eat a ducky muss.”

In fact, what they say is “itadakimasu,” which means “I humbly receive” with the implication in this humility of offering gratitude for the meal. This is very similar to the traditional grace before meals that is familiar to many readers, “For what we are about to receive, may we be truly grateful.” As a practicing Buddhist, awareness is centred not on the food itself, but on the generosity of the person who has taken the time to prepare it. This appreciation extends to the person who bought the food, who packaged the food, who drove the delivery truck, who grew the food – and even to the earth, the water and the sunshine that nurtured the food. In this way, “I humbly receive” reflects the awareness of a profound connection in that moment to all the living beings and components of the universe that made this meal before me possible.

This deep awareness and appreciation can also challenge the ideas that we may cling to as our fixed beliefs, such that if the dish that I am being offered by another person contains meat or fish, and I am a vegetarian, then I am tempted to politely but firmly reject the offering, based on my personal beliefs. However, I feel that it is much more important to recognise the gift of the offering from this person who has gone to the trouble of feeding me, rather than focus on my own likes and dislikes. This is one of the principle reasons why Buddhists cannot be said to be strictly vegetarian – when collecting alms of food, in times gone by, monks and nuns would gratefully accept whatever was offered and this was an important part of their training. So whilst I have the freedom of choice when I make my own food, my own preferences are overruled by the need to open up to the generosity being offered by another person. Acknowledging generosity with gratitude is more important that having narrow fixed views. When confronted by the limitations of our own beliefs, there is no way to expand our spirit – our hearts cannot reach out and embrace kindness if we are chained in our minds by our fixed ideas.

And this receiving with gratitude does not just apply to food: When you hear a bird singing – receive the sound with gratitude; when you smell a flower – receive its scent with gratitude; when you feel the sunshine on your body – receive its gift of warmth with gratitude. It is a rewarding spiritual practice to try and be aware all the time and to be open to these offerings. In this way, you can open up all your senses to receive the gifts being offered all around you, in every moment, filling your life with unexpected blessings. In this way, being “humble” doesn’t mean grovelling subservience or feeling inferior in some way, but instead it is quite the opposite: grateful awareness opens us up to receive so many wonderful gifts that will make our lives filled with joy. Really! Try it!