“The Gentle Art of Blessing”: A Book Review and a Cautionary Tale

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“The Gentle Art of Blessing – A Simple Practice That Will Transform You and Your World” by Pierre Pradervand

A Book Review

Initially I picked up this book at my local Barnes and Noble bookstore because the title and decorations on the cover looked calming.  In my hectic life, reading is often a source of entertainment, of learning and at times of healing.  I perceive this as a healing and educational sort of book.

Besides his book, Pierre Pradervand has a website that describes his life work: http://www.gentleartofblessing.com

The premise of this piece is to encourage everyone to consciously bless others–even if they’ve directly wronged you or others.  The author uses extensive references from Christianity, Native American wisdom, Arab proverbs and other cultures around the globe.

An excerpt from his book that encapsulates a mini-version of his discourse style:

“That is why loving unconditionally is the most important activity in the whole universe, and the one most       able to produce the deepest happiness. We do not love unconditionally to satisfy some abstract moral law or some faraway deity.  As the French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of The Little Prince, wrote, ‘You love because you love. There is no reason to love.’ If the very ground of our being, our very essence, is love–which is one of the postulates of this book–then love is simply the most genuine, the most natural expression of our true being.  And in active love, we will also discover a wonderful path toward happiness, health, and fulfillment–but it will be an unintended result, so to speak.”

As I write this book review, I freely admit that I haven’t completed reading–It is one of those books, however, that keeps on giving even if you are only able to read a few pages at a time over the course of several months.

A Cautionary, yet Comical Tale: How One Takes Inspiration to Action

In the wake of reading an incredible chapter from “The Gentle Art of Blessing”, I felt confident driving out during a recent Monday morning with a certain set of goals in mind for my children and I.

It all began with getting the boys packed up quickly in the car after I received a call-back from my women’s health physician’s office that they were able to squeeze me in immediately.

After frantically rushing through stubborn traffic patterns, I made it upstairs to the second floor with my kids for what I thought would be a short 5 minute wait.  The waiting room wait was more like 50 minutes–the ball beads and wire toy on the floor lasted as entertainment for about 15 minutes–not enough for my energetic little ones.

My name was called and we were checked in by the nurse into the examination room.  Figured this meant I’d be seen shortly after I dressed myself in an attractive paper sheet while also refereeing the under-stimulated offspring that were now quite set on getting each other all ruffled up for jest and jeering purposes.

I cannot come up with a figure for how long I waited in there because ultimately when the nurse practitioner came in she was attentive and efficiently thorough with me.  In fact, she even had someone in training along with her who was quite helpful in distracting the youngest to my left while I could maintain eye contact with the older child to my right–priceless when one is quite helplessly laid back on the examination table.

Thankfully when I left the doctor’s office I was ready to pursue the course of action intended to assist me in being healthy again as soon as the pharmacy could fill the prescription.  Now I faced the minor problem of our vehicle nearly out of fuel and we were late for our next appointment.  So I called the office to alert them and although they assured me it was fine whenever I made it, I felt guilty for being tardy all the same.

This brings me to the climax point of my small and common tale: I turned out of the medical plaza area and drove down the road a little bit to turn into the very next gas station.  Upon rolling up to the pumps I noticed that the space was cramped with cars at each fueling kiosk and it was difficult to get in the right position to fuel up (my gas cap is on the right side of the car).  This was a challenge, but I assured myself that all was well and it would work out as it should.

It took me a few minutes of circling around the four lanes of gas pumps available but I found the right spot to pull up behind a Bentley–mind you, I’m in my 12-year-old beat-up mama SUV.  Assuming I was in the home stretch of this thwarted morning, I swiped my credit card anticipating the display prompts like “please enter your zip code” and so forth to begin fueling already.

Alas, I got the dreaded “please see the cashier”.  You know, the one person you really don’t care to see or walk all the way across the fueling and parking area to go inside and complain that your card is not registering on the supposedly convenient digital outdoor gas pumps.

Once inside I was able to clear up the little set-back after pleading that I didn’t have my ID on me and head back outside again to finish the job.  I saw the back door was open and rushed over and in a relieved-but-furious manner scolded my oldest for having opened the door in the first place.  As I closed the car door I hear a woman’s voice raised in a near-yell, “Excuse me, excuse ME…”

I turn to my right to face the middle-aged looking woman with a blonde up-do, brightly colored with floral pattern sundress who is standing with one hand on her hips and the other on her shiny, cherry red sports car.  I lock eyes with her and she continues in the same irritable tone: “Can you please move your car? I can’t reach my gas door!”

There was a good full second or two that passed as I stood in shock just looking at her deep into her eyes, the noise level and harsh tone hanging in the air between us.  My anger lit quick and intensely hot inside like that moment you throw a match onto a pile of charcoal that’s drenched with lighter fluid in the outdoor grill (for those of us still using that archaic method).

Somehow how I managed to mechanically respond in a deliberately trying-to-be-nice voice that “Yes, I would be happy to help you–a nicer tone would be nice though”, as I was simultaneously aware that my carnal instinct was to rush at her with all possible physical force and throttle her and yet cognizant that my impressionable young sons were witnessing every moment transpiring.

As I marched in front of my vehicle (left, right, left, right…do NOT start running at her), I kept watching her as she explained hastily that she had tried the “nice” route by yelling after me before–as in when I was walking into see the holy cashier to beseech that they take my money so I could fuel up, endure a verbal lashing from a complete stranger and somehow make it to the late appointment for my children.  “I’m late for work!” she blurts out as I’m entering my car to back up and fight every urge in my right hand to throw the gear into ‘drive’ instead of reverse.

I exaggerated my backing up of the car and found myself stretching the gas pump to reach my own fuel door–too prideful to move again I made it work somehow.  The anger was boiling inside me, like a lava flow that’s got to go somewhere, it festered and was pouring out of my mouth and I was trying to direct its wild track into “the gentle art of blessing” as impossible as that seems.

Silly as it sounds, the first thing I did was make a triplicate sign of the cross with my right hand toward her muttering in a barely audible, but don’t-care-if-it’s-heard voice, “God bless you because I can’t right now”…that at least started to help ease the caustic edge of my fury by transferring the full ability to love to Someone a little better capable at the moment.  Then, I kept mumbling to myself that I want to understand her and am just hurt because I really didn’t mean to foul up her morning–I was barely keeping afloat in my own planet of experience this beautiful Monday morning.

Then a calmness came over me and I looked over her way again now that we were closer together and pumping gas respectively and said in a soft manner, “You know, I didn’t mean to park that way, I just pulled up as far as the guy’s car before would allow me”–without looking at me she quickly replied, “I know, it’s okay…” (It sounded apologetic too, much improved from our first interaction).

As comic relief would have it in our cosmos, our gas pumps clicked at the same time indicating our cars were satisfied.  “Have a good day”, she said with a definitive and much kinder tone to me as she closed her fuel cap, “you too” I said with a relieved sigh.  Thank God we both were walking away a little bruised but able to heal quickly and move on with life without holding each other in a grudge–or worse, paying forward our mutual frustration to any other unsuspecting souls.

Ending Note

Again, I understand that reading is difficult for many of us to do with our respective, hectic lifestyles–but if there was one book I recommend having at your night stand it would be this “The Gentle Art of Blessing” by Pierre Pradervand.  He has a talent for speaking to everyone, no matter what religious background or lack thereof.  The stories shared are the kind we find in many family oral traditions.  Ultimately, Pradervand acknowledges the universal truth that we are all connected somehow and Love begets Love.

R.V.S.B.

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus Christ Had It Right: Be Like Our Children

“But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it'” –Luke 18:16-17

This particular New Testament Bible passage has always fascinated me–especially when I was a Greek Orthodox girl in an elementary Roman Catholic school where the nuns outnumbered the lay teachers.  I didn’t understand or know many of Christ’s teachings during those years but that one stuck with me because it told me that Christ loved us kids no matter how noisy and unruly we could be.

Taking this thought a step further, this passage came to my mind again in recent weeks as I’ve had the honor to witness my youngest child take his first steps and continue at an unbelievable pace.  My son is almost a year old and the progress he makes on a daily basis makes me feel like as busy as we adults can be, it doesn’t seem we’re making the same advancement as this little guy.  He greets each day with an awe-inspiring smile in the morning, ready to receive whatever the adventures du jour are.

So in simple framework exegesis, we can agree that this short passage alludes to the impatience and annoyance that Christ’s inner circle initially felt at people crowding him with their babies and children beckoning for touch/acceptance/blessing.  They tried to shoo them away and Jesus immediately “rebuked” them and then called the young to him directly while declaring that it should be understood that we must try to be like our children in order accept the gift of the kingdom of God.

While in church with my children, I must remind myself to not get trapped by the concerns of sticking to the current status quo in regards to how well we sit, stand and whatever other physical ritual we have in our worship time.  What is most important for our children to know and understand?  That they are loved and accepted.  That they are desired and destined for greatness in their individual development.  That love is God’s gift to us all and we are able to receive it and share it.

These restless and tiresome years with the little ones are so fleeting and one day they’ll have more challenges than we’d care for them to have to encounter.  However, we can learn from them right now how to accept that there is nothing we can do to earn or win the love of God.  It just Is.  Love without fear, doubt or rejection–let’s be like a little child with the kingdom of God at our fingertips.

R.V.S.B.

Nature as God’s Classroom…

Gardening or farming is not for everyone as a hobby or career, however, I do believe it should be part of our education as children with refresher courses in our adulthood.

This past weekend I worked in my garden and mini-fruit tree orchard with a hired hand to go through my approximately 25 x 75 foot raised bed garden and surrounding area weeding, mulching, digging and planting.  My subject of my nature lesson on Saturday became dramatically clear as we bagged nearly half a dozen black lawn bags with unwanted weeds and dead vegetation.  How do my plants survive through adversity?  Translation:  How do we humans fare in adversity?

In my nearly twenty years of active “gardening” of some sort, I have often run into living analogies of our humanity in the natural world of plants and organisms.  As I’ve matured in my adult life, I’m comforted by witnessing both the triumphs and failures of things in nature as they echo of my own life experiences up to present.

This past Saturday’s lesson is a repeat, I’ve seen it before but I never get bored with its wisdom revealed.  Of the 9 fruit-bearing trees that I’ve planted in the corner of my mother’s property, 5 of them are actually growing well and thriving.  The remaining four have been a struggle to keep from withering away.  Conventional wisdom would have us infer that the five trees which are doing well had been meticulously monitored since their planting complete with consistent water, perhaps a protecting plastic for the young trunks, clean mulch lacking weeds, good feed and soil and so forth.  The reality is that I was only able to really pay special mind to the four trees that are now barely clinging to life–they have been hit with water stress, bugs, molds, fatigue, et cetera.

What does that say?  Does it mean I let the five go on untouched?  No, actually, I have gone in a couple of times this year and cleared the five healthy trees of their choking weeds, refreshed their soil, put down mulch again, fed them and pruned.  However, I did allow them to weather the trials of a record summer of heat in Florida, bear the burden of giant ant hills and thick weeds.  Basically, I didn’t try to protect them from any and all adversity that could strike them.  I did endure guilty feelings this season as I thought I was truly neglecting them and would suffer their loss.  Instead, as I would clean them up periodically, I found that they had gained strength, built immunities, grown thicker and taller and overall have a bright future of bearing me healthy fruit yields in future seasons.

As the worker and I finished our labor this weekend, I walked and inspected each of my nine fruit trees individually.  I’m still amazed by what seems such a backward logic to many of us, especially parents.  By allowing some of my young trees to fend for themselves on a number of naturally occurring elements, I essentially ensured that they would garner their own armor and future strength reserve for battles ahead.  While my poor four trees that I donned so much attention on ended up stifling them and rendering them ill-equipped for the unforseen weather patterns and bug raids that would occur in this summer season.

For myself, this lesson yielded a few layers of personal learning.  As a parent, it tells me that it’s okay to not hover over my son constantly in certain situations.  Obvious things aside like danger of drowning or being burned by the stove, it does benefit my son to let him navigate some social situations on his own or witnessing him making mistakes in a play scenario so that he can nurture his own sense of troubleshooting through things.  As a wife, it reminds me that my husband and I will sometimes feel that God has gone silent in our marriage when we seem to be capsizing in one of life’s tumultuous storms out in the proverbial sea.  But as we cling to each other and our love for our Maker, we will weather those storms and truly enjoy the stronger vessel our love is as we sail gorgeous seas together.  As a friend, it comforts me that while I cannot always properly nurture all my relationships, this doesn’t mean that I will be destined to lose any particular friend as there are those whom we cross paths with in this life that are not affected by the passage of our human time.

This is a pretty inexhaustible subject and yet I wanted to share it with all of you because we are so busy in our lives that when a nature lesson like that hits me with precious information that can help everyone I want to shout it out to the world…so I type this post to you world.

Happy Labor Day!

R.V.S.B.

The Art of Saying “No”…Does It Really Exist?

I’m still amazed at the frenetic pace of my life sometimes.  I wonder does everyone else feel the same way about how quickly and how many things we go through on a daily, weekly and monthly basis?  Is it really within our power to simply our lives by saying “no” to people and circumstances?

FAMILY

I begin with this subtitle because it is what many of us are most familiar with.  Our parents. Our siblings. Our cousins. Our aunts and uncles. Family consists of many different titles but the urgency is usually the same.  I really can’t say “no” to family but I can try to set boundaries and perhaps corral requests as a cattle farmer herds his cows.  This is never an easy task, however, and I caution that some forethought should be involved before speaking.  My standard habit is to ingest the request(s) and let it filter through my mind while managing small talk in between.  If it’s a low-key item or two, I can easily respond in the positive.  If it’s more complicated, I usually stall an answer and say I’ll get back to them on that or some other clever response.  In my heart I would never really want to be able to say no to beloved family since I do love them and truly desire to help them through the bumps of this physical life we lead.

FRIENDS

Being in my thirties now I’m definitely learning some hard lessons in the friends department as well as enjoying the immense blessings.  I’ve read many a magazine article that breaks down all the “types” of friends one can have and how to mitigate conflicts that may arise.  Many times I try to pre-empt my colleagues by offering to be available whether by verbal communication or by spirit in prayer because I do want them to know that I’m not just a fair-weather type of friend. Yet life has a way of predetermining which friends can weather my personal storms of life and I need to just let go and know it’s okay to say “no” inside when I wonder if I should reach out one more time.  Also, if a friend is a constant drain on energy sources then it may be time to set some distance to help recharge and reassess the relationship.  Again, never easy.

WORK

Our jobs seem to have spilled over into our personal lives since the advent of cell phones, internet communication and long, unnecessary hours.  Add to that the scarce holiday, vacation and personal days and we have a society filled with stressed singles, marrieds and parents that try to balance their lives with the constant demand of “the man”.  I’m not a sage in this department as my past decade of life included working in the halls of the U.S. Congress, Treasury Department and countless corporate firms where money and hours spent at your job was your merit.  I still can taste the bitterness in my mouth of biting my tongue when the days would grind on endlessly and the boss was a nightmare and I in turn reflected nightmarish tendencies.  At the same time, I remember the day I submitted my resignation when I became pregnant with my son.  I had been looking forward to it for weeks, I knew it was the right choice for me at the time.  Weighing all the pros and cons, I decided it was time to say “no” and consider other options in the aftermath.  I have never regretted the decision.  This is not shared with you to encourage quitting your job in a tough economy such as ours, however, I hope it can inspire you to really examine what is important to you, your family and what type of career would truly complement your zest for life.

BOOKS/SELF-HELP

The art of saying “no” is the soapbox for many writers, psychologists and others.  You can certainly find a book that suits your needs or a CD set that talks about how to get a better grip on your hectic life and hopefully help you lessen the load.

My personal experience is that I seem to move things off my plate just in time to welcome new things.  Perhaps the goal should be to find a “balanced diet” on this life plate that sustains itself through the years.  As my family and close friends know, my spirit always relies on the strength of our Lord as God has an inextinguishable amount of energy sourced by the Universe and Creation itself.  But that is my way of living, you can only know your way yourself.

So my conclusion is that saying “no” is the wrong focus, rather how can we say “yes” and follow through?

R.V.S.B.

Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"