“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.

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s Parents: A Re-Education On What Education Is

TO LEARN OR NOT TO LEARN

There is no question that most American parents who have children of “school-age” are very concerned about what sort of education they receive.  In past essays and conversations I’ve often mentioned that every child on Earth is “home-schooled” in the sense that all their primary sensory experiences be they emotional, physical or intellectual are learned in their home environment–the faculty primarily consisting of immediate caregivers like parents and colleagues like siblings.

HEADLINES READ: “ANOTHER SCHOOL SHOOTING”–WHAT’S GOING ON?

The knee-jerk reaction to the current epidemic-like rash of violence in schools in that past couple of decades has been to blame the availability of weapons like guns, addictions to drug substances, excessive use of internet social media for awkward adolescents making bullying all the more callous, et cetera.  In my humble opinion, I believe the issue may be as complex as the one unfolding in the environmental/agricultural circles regarding CCD and the fate of the honeybees. 

For instance, did anyone happen to catch the little bit of research data released to the Associated Press (compiled and explained by Philip Elliot) that printed in papers like my local Palm Beach Post today?  You can look it up yourself by “15% of U.S. youth idle, report says” and at a link like this http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/21/youth-unemployment_n_4134358.html

All of these factors and more that I’m leaving unlisted can overwhelm us to the extent that we don’t know what to do first: complain to our government and educational institutions or just yank our kids out of school and move to a semi-utopian place like Costa Rica.

BASICS FIRST AND FOREMOST

I was in the throes of the “baby blues” during the early months of my firstborn in 2008 when I came across a book or article (real fuzzy memory of that time for obvious reasons) that noted what all first-time parents/caregivers need to keep in mind as the single most important thing you can do for your newborn: LOVE THEM.  It turns out that starting with this basic but profound intention will in turn help everything else fall into place when taking care of your offspring.

Loving your child(ren) will help you get attuned to their needs–especially as they grow and approach the ages that our society and American government deem as the appropriate age to start an academic education.  The blessing of the year 2013 and beyond is that we live in a time of continuous progress in information technology that has drastically altered our home lives, professional careers and the overall commerce of the world in general–the effect that it has on what we consider education is so revolutionary that many of us haven’t grasped or accepted the fact that we all need a re-education of what “education” truly means.

In short, if you are a parent/caregiver today of persons of minor ages, you have a vast array of options as to how you conduct/delegate your child’s education to help them grow into individuals who will be able to think for themselves and give back to not only their family units and local communities but hopefully the world population as well.  Yes, I understand that for many options may be limited because of social and economic status–however, in America, it really isn’t an excuse when it comes to pursuing what is best for your child if you are involved one way (like homeschool choice, virtual schooling) or another (public schooling, magnet program seeking, charter school grants, etc).

RANDOM READING AND HOPES

I truly mean to encourage others that education for our children really shouldn’t be such a stressful topic.  They need love and honesty from us: when my 5 year old asks me countless questions and there’s inevitably one I can’t answer then I admit that’s the case and take him along to find out the answer (hint: “google” or “Siri” needn’t always be the one to go to, it’s good to take them to find the answer in other ways too).

Best wishes to all and I hope you can feel empowered by all the information available to you and your families as you navigate what’s the best path for your children’s education–also that you can find peace as that path can and may change more than you’d like to experience.  But then again, as our children learn we can learn more as well and that’s the best way to stay truly human and living in the now.

R.V.S.B.

P.S. for those interested in some alternative views on education beyond the confines of Common Core or whatever the latest standard is and will be for public education curriculums:

http://www.triviumeducation.com

“Dumbing Us Down – The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling” by John Taylor Gatto

 

 

 

Making Love With Words – Seashell Philosophy by She

MAKING LOVE WITH WORDS

Seashell Philosophy by She: Part 6 in Series

Act 1: The Stage Background

This morning in Palm Beach County, Florida we were blessed with a beautiful sunrise scene that showcased scattered clouds reflecting a shattered rainbow in the color scheme—a fantastic visual that made me drunk with that same seductive emotion that overcomes us when in love.

There are so many words for love in my parents’ native language of Greek: in the Ancient Greek it breaks down to four main ones and I’ve gleaned the following information from www.en.wikipedia.org .  Agape means “love” as in “I love you” with traditional qualities in its definition.   Eros is a passionate sort of love that can apply to anything more than just a friendship and although sensual in nature that doesn’t have to be defined as sex-lust kind.  Philia can mean friendship or affectionate love in Modern Greek and is mostly as that general kind of love between friends, family and community but can include lovers and mutual events.  Storge is the affection felt for the relationships like between a parent and child.

Act 2: Back to the Beach

This alluring morning beckoned me to take my sons in tow with a picnic plus shore gear and head to one of our favorite spots: Juno Beach by Loggerhead Park.  As we walked across A1A and to the edge of where the sand clings to the asphalt, we got the first glimpse of a calm Atlantic Ocean kissing the shoreline.

The sky still had a wallpaper of clouds and seemed to drip into the ocean’s horizon line—the color scheme now had switched to the hues of blue, white and light grays that had a calming effect following the rapturous sunrise we’d endured hours earlier.

The shells were plentiful in quantity as well as quality—even the rocks and coral pieces were intermixed, a cornucopia of gifts from the tide going out.  I noticed that there were some people around but everyone seemed to keep to themselves.  My sons and I made a presence by the sheer fact that we were digging in sand, building structures, picking up trash, running in and out of the shoreline, myself leaping into the beckoning blue sea with the glee that my youngest displayed as he broke down castles smaller than he.

Act 3: How Do We Love By Talking?

As I was enjoying a simple day at the shore with my sons I realized that most people here today were also attracted to the inviting blue water and the abundance of shells.  The way the waves broke over the line of shells and rocks provided a great game consisting of spotting a shell that you wanted and then lunging downward to pick it up before the water took it back again.

After recent articles and books I’ve read about how our human society is battling loneliness despite increased inter-connectivity via our mobile devices and computers—it hit me that we are all able to battle this unnecessary tragedy of feeling isolated when here were a bunch of people today all at the beach for various reasons but for this moment in time we are together.

So I used the obvious icebreaker of saying something to someone about the shell-picking opportunities today or remarking about the boat offshore experiencing an engine fire.  I made it a point to speak to everyone who came within 12 feet or so of me or my children.  It became easier after the first few people and it was enlightening to engage in conversation with everyone.  After about an hour or two I felt so comfortable and relaxed—it seemed everyone else did to as the dozen or so folks in this area who hadn’t been talking to each other now were and even shell-picking or enjoying the surf in closer proximity than before when it seemed everyone had been in their own invisible cubicles just past the high tide line.

Act 4: Love, Love, Love

I was filled with joy today.  I simply lived in the moment of being at the beach, engaging with other people around us and digging my hands in the sand, leaping into the surf, dodging waves for the next best shell.  By far the best part was the love of today.  It wasn’t just my sons that I loved as I handed them refreshments and played with them.  I loved reaching out to other beach-loving spirits and sharing with them as I learned from them.  I truly believe that each time people connect with words it is a form of loving each other if only that it affirms we are not alone.

We all need love and as there are so many kinds of love and ways to give love, why not give as much as we can even in the little ways?  Maybe we make life too complicated—sure we have the trials and the unexpected tragedies that we must weather in a fallen world like Earth but how much stronger are we when we face these things together?  I wish us all more Love in the time we are living now as it is the one thing that is priceless, timeless and most vital to our survival here.

R. V. Saridakis Bean

 

DRIVING: EXPOSED SOULS

DRIVING: EXPOSED SOULS

I was driving through a busy intersection and heard the loud motorcycle revving behind me.  As I looked in my rearview mirror I noticed the rider was too close to my rear and I decided in haste to move right to the next lane.  A loud “BEEP” alerted me to the error of cutting off a vehicle.  Within a few seconds I hit a red light and the offended party pulled up beside me.  In full anticipation I had rolled down my passenger window and as the driver and passenger looked at me I had rushed my hands to my chest and mouth “My fault, I’m sorry” with the most contrite face I could muster.  Not a moment passed and they both raised their hands in a grateful wave/acknowledgement.  My oldest son asked me what I was doing and I admitted to him that I had unwittingly cut off the car next to us and I was apologizing for doing that to them because it was my fault.  I was reminded again of just how volatile the world of driving can be.

ESCAPE

Ironically our current main vehicle is a Ford Escape.  I love the name of this vehicle as it embodies what many of us may feel when we enter our transport of choice.  When you get in your car it may be the few times out of the day that you are alone—even if you have kids because you end up strapping them into their seats and then you are free to get behind the wheel and blast your tunes of choice on the radio waves, CD or iPod playlist.  It is also because of this feeling of freedom that I believe most people are at a very raw state of mind when driving.  From a sociology perspective, there is much to be learned from human behavior as it’s exhibited behind the steering wheel.

COURTESY: WHAT IS THAT?

It always strikes me harshly how cold we can be to each other when we’re driving.  Seriously, does it really help to try to out-race each other when in a merging on-ramp approaching the interstate? How about when the traffic is crawling?  Depending on the commuting region you live in there are many different levels of rudeness you can encounter among your fellow drivers.  For instance, when I lived in the Washington, DC metro region I found that I had to let at least 3 drivers go ahead of me at a merge point because the 3 drivers before me wouldn’t even allow one driver to go.  Then again I can be a hypocrite in this regard as well since I’ve had my most impatient moments where I take out the rage of my current life moment on the drivers around me as I impatiently weave in front or around them.

PRACTICE MAY PERFECT OR PERCEIVE

If nothing else, let’s try to experiment with this idea: try to show kindness and mercy in your driving.  Allow others to go before you who are waiting to get on the highway or street, forgive those who may cut you off because who knows what terrible day or life they’re having, be more aware of the movement of those who are going faster and move over so they can keep going without having to move lanes and overall just see how it affects you to give more than you take while you drive.  I truly think that there is much to be learned from driving with more patience and love.  When I look around and see so many communicating on the phone I wonder how much we must need each other and why we treat ourselves so callously when on the road.

RVSB

First? The Chicken, The Egg or Re-Creation of the Egg?

First? The Chicken, The Egg or Re-Creation of the Egg?

Note: Inspiration to delve into this topic comes from the following source that was re-hashed in several newspapers nationwide: http://www.nature.com/news/egg-making-stem-cells-found-in-adult-ovaries-1.10121

Have you ever read a latest scientific finding and thought to yourself that it didn’t surprise you? That’s exactly what I thought when coming upon the Associated Press reprint in our Palm Beach Post today: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57385826-10391704/stem-cells-in-ovaries-may-grow-new-eggs-study-shows/

Ironically I was just telling a close girlfriend last month how we females are born with all the eggs we’ll ever have in life–a recollection of conventional wisdom that I’ve accepted as knowledge and yet as I read this article today my spirit leapt with joy at the possibilities of these new findings.

There are so many of us that have heard countless stories that vaguely run like this: A woman has trouble conceiving, she and her mate try all the different avenues afforded by western and holistic medicine alike, then they make the decision to change course and open their hearts in mentoring/fostering/adopting children and then almost instantaneously or shortly thereafter find they have miraculously conceived. There are the women who end up conceiving by natural means well past the standard menopausal season dictated by our normal human expectations.

As the reports following these findings in the Sunday, February 26, 2012 journal Nature Medicine note, this topic will certainly spark new discussions, judgments, anxieties and hopefully an opportunity for us to open our minds to what possibilities there are in the miracle that is our human body (not to mention the rest of the organisms and life entities we share the Earth with but that’s several other essays and volumes for another time).

It is still a mystery overall to most “civilized” societies how the physiology of our bodies are affected by our mentality (brain waves/messaging) and our spirits (life energy/will/heart–basically the intangible and yet undeniable part of who we are unless we choose to numb it with substance abuse or outright oxymoronic denial).

If you didn’t get a chance to see this research finding in the papers today I hope you enjoy it as a piece of intellectual candy for the better.

R.V.S.B.

 

Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"