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

Being the Rainbow

Anette's photo of the rainbow at Warrungup Spring

Anette’s photo of the rainbow at Warrungup Spring

Yesterday at our Kuan Yin Day gathering (thank you to the lovely women who came along and shared their beautiful energy and heartfelt stories that made the day such a nurturing time together), fellow pilgrim Anette shared a story about this wonderful photograph she took on Saturday of a full double rainbow across the Mandurah Estuary. Anette had been driving home when suddenly, after a cloudburst of rain, this glorious rainbow appeared: it was a full arch with a double rainbow that reflected in the still waters of the estuary. It was so breath-taking that she parked her car and got out and just stood there in awe of this beautiful scene. Then she snapped this photo before getting in her car to continue on her way home, feeling a sense of elation at having been witness to this special moment, even though she was unable to capture and share the full radiance of the experience in a single photograph. A moment later, as Anette drove away, clouds blew in and the rainbow disappeared, just as suddenly as it had appeared, but the feeling of awe and elation remained long afterwards.

I think it is very significant that the place where Anette “just happened to stop” was Warrungup Spring, the Aboriginal sacred women’s site where women had given birth to their babies for thousands of years (I wrote about Warrungup Spring in Sacred Places).

It is¬†a wonderful blessing to be present in a sacred place and to bear witness to a glorious moment in nature. Sacred places are physical spaces within which there is a higher potential for spiritual transformation: perhaps this is because we know that it is “sacred,” which brings our awareness more fully to the experience or perhaps there is a deeper mystery present at an energetic level that permeates our being. Although the¬†reasons for sensing the sacredness of¬†a physical location remain a mystery (and¬†instead of intellectualising about why this place is sacred), it is most important to bring our complete¬†awareness into the body, into the heart, into the mind and simply open ourselves fully to the experience of the sacredness present in that place.

You can do this by relaxing your body and bringing your awareness into your feet connecting with the ground, drawing up the energy of the earth, feeling it streaming throughout your body; then bring your attention to your breath: gently following the breath in and out; breathing in the sacred energy of this place, breathing out and sharing your own energy, leaving the traces of your own sacred nature to add to the energy of this place. If you know of places that are considered sacred, it is important to visit those places with a meditative awareness Рbreathe, meditate, walk through these places and open up to receive its blessings and offer your own prayers, leaving your own spiritual footprint for the next pilgrim to find and follow.

Egret I met this morning at Warrungup Spring

Egret I met this morning at Warrungup Spring

Likewise, when you¬†witness beautiful natural events such as rainbows, sunsets, moon rises, or share precious momentary encounters with native birds and animals, there is a moment of awe in which you¬†are completely open and one with that experience. In that moment, all your cares and worries and preoccupations are suspended while you¬†share in that connection with something greater than just “I”. It is in that moment when spiritual transformation is possible – you are open and momentarily there is no separation between what is ‘inside’ you and what is ‘outside’ you: there is just being completely within the experience itself. Just being the experience of the rainbow. Just being.

Sacred places and experiences are everywhere around us, all the time: we just need to be able to ‘see’ them. Step outside now and just look… then breathe… then just be the rainbow ūüôā

Sacred Places

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs I enter one of the sacred sites dedicated to Kannon (Kuan Yin) on Japan’s ancient¬†pilgrimage route, it feels as though I am walking through an energy veil, a kind of force field that separates this space from the mundane world around it – I am stepping onto sacred earth, imbued with a special energy that I can feel permeate my physical body. What makes this energy flow? What makes me feel it? What is a sacred place?

Is it because over the course of hundreds of years, thousands of pilgrims have stepped here before me, all offering their prayers and opening their hearts. Or is it because the wisest of sages, hundreds of¬†holy men and women have trodden this path and offered their deep wisdom and compassion to be shared by all who follow in their footsteps. Or is it the very ground I tread on, percolated with a special¬†earth energy that permeates the ageless rocks and stones and sand of this sacred place and then imbues every footstep as I tread on this ancient¬†path. Is it my own response of awe to¬†this place, which is named as “sacred,” that brings my awareness to the potency of all the sacred¬†signs in the¬†statues, carvings, paintings, architecture, and priests in robes, and incense, and flowers, and the beams of soft light penetrating the mysterious darkened alcoves of the temple. Perhaps it is the sum of all these elements that¬†casts its sacred spell upon my mind and all my senses, all at the moment of crossing the threshold of the great gates at the temple’s entrance.

Warrungup Spring by Gloria Keering

Warrungup Spring by Gloria Keering

2014.03.29_egretYet, today I felt that sacred energy once again – right here where I live. This morning, I walked my usual route, starting and ending at a local indigenous sacred place called Warrungup Spring. This site is a sacred women’s place, where women came to give birth on the edge of ¬†a great estuary, at the junction of three water courses, where there is fresh water. I looked out over the estuary: the sun, as it rose, splashed the water with sparkles of golden pink, a white egret in the reeds paused to share the view, a flock of black swans elegantly glided out from the shore, pelicans were scooping up fish in their huge bills, and raucous galahs cut through the soft whispers of the sheoaks. ¬†And in the western sky, the crescent moon hung languidly pale in the still dark blue. As I stood in this timeless vision, I imagined countless generations of¬†women who, in the peaceful dawn after their long painful night of labour, holding their baby in their arms, also looked upon this same view. I was filled with a sense of profound awe at the resilience of these women and the expression of sacred beauty all around me. I felt the sacred presence of the Wargyl, the ancient Creator of the water courses that fed and nurtured the people and animals who passed through this sacred place. I felt humbled and full of gratitude for this gift.

2014.03.29_estuaryWhen I returned home, back to the profane world and the mundane everyday chores of housework, I felt as though I left that sacred world behind me. And then, while I was in the midst of doing the dishes, I happened to glance out the window and saw the crescent moon, so pale and fleeting, and in an instant I was suddenly reconnected to the scene of the early morning, reconnected with the awe I had felt. And in that moment, I realised that the sacredness of the Warrungup Spring was carried home within me: I was a container for its sacred energy – my body was imbued with its sacred beauty and meaning by having simply been there and breathed the air and touched the earth. I had born witness to its sacred nature with my body and had honoured that sacredness by the act of remembering.

A¬†sacred place exists as a geographical location, but also as the living breath of the place that is carried away by anyone who visits, and as the breath is expelled, so the sacred energy is passed on to other living beings and other places. This is the healing nature of sacredness and the way that any place, anywhere and at any time, can be made “sacred.”¬†We all “know” that the whole of the earth itself is sacred, and so everywhere and at any time we should be able to feel the same awe of the sacred that these special places bring. But we forget to recognise its sacred signs. It is our spiritual practice to not only connect with awe and gratitude to the sacredness imbued in the beauty and wonder of our world, but to remember.