Reflections on Gratitude

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Reflections on Gratitude
Hesed Community Newsletter– That in All Things God’s Name May Be Glorified August 2012
Reflections on Gratitude
“The root of joy is gratefulness...It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is
gratitude that makes us joyful.”
- Br. David Steindl-Rast
So often when I reflect on my own spiritual practice I come
back to the importance of gratitude. I began my gratitude practice about
three years ago when a friend shared her practice with me. I found it to be
such a lovely jewel in my life that I want to share it with you.
Compassion
Compassion is the common thread among
all religions and is the "test of true
spirituality," according to religion scholar
Karen Armstrong. She states that version of
the Golden rule - treat others as you would
yourself – also insists that the rule applies
to everyone, not just members of your own
group or religion. This idea of compassion
is hard to grasp in a world where violence,
religious and secular, is common. In our
own country, sexual violence against
young children by church leaders, and the
recent mass killings of innocent people are
but two examples.
These reflections come from the Women's
Reflection group as we read Karen
Armstrong's book on the topic: Twelve
Steps to a Compassionate Life". There are
many steps to living compassionately, but
perhaps for us, the question is: how does
meditation help?
A story from her book illustrates how a
person can be transformed: a king who was
a friend of the Buddha was disconsolate at
his wife's death, going hither & thither with
his army, wandering aimlessly. One day
he came to a park with huge tropical
trees. "...the king walked among their great
roots, which were themselves a tall as a
man, and felt consoled. These ancient trees
'inspired trust and confidence'. They were
quiet; no discordant voices disturbed their
peace; they gave out a sense of being apart
from the ordinary world, a place where
one could take refuge."(page 193)
For me, the path of meditation can lead us
to that place of refuge, of peace, at least as
an ideal we want to reach. The daily
discipline of sitting in silence, focussing
one's mind & body on one word or on one's
breath, reflects back a sense of calmness &
wonder. I am just one piece in an
expanding universe whose depths are yet
to be plumbed. As Isaiah says, we are
creating a new thing….daily.
Ellie Shepardson, Board President
This two-person practice is simple but it does require the careful
selection of a gratitude buddy. I was fortunate to find the perfect gratitude
buddy sitting next to me at the exact right moment. Maybe there is someone
sitting next to you who would be your perfect “buddy.”
The practice goes like this: every day (at least for the first few
months) you answer three questions with your gratitude buddy. They are: 1)
what did you do well in the last 24 hours; 2)what are three things you are
grateful for today; 3) what is your intention for tomorrow? There is also a
bonus question, if you like, and that is what made you laugh today? This can
be done in a quick 5 minute phone call, but these questions often lead to
friendship deepening, soul nourishing conversations so it is helpful to provide
more spaciousness and time for them whenever you can.
Over time, the practice will evolve with you and speak to what is most
helpful for you and your buddy. My buddy and I often do gratitudes when we
are busy with an occasional “did well” or intention, whichever seems
appropriate, but the gratitudes are the consistent piece. We also added, with
permission, the option of giving your buddy a “did well” when the need arises.
In this way we become soul friends, whose practice of gratitude creates more
gratitude as time goes on.
This practice has not only deepened our friendship in a soulful way,
but has also taught me so much, and deepened my joy and peace in daily life.
It has been self-revelatory as well, as I have learned ways in which I
sometimes trip myself up in life, or resist the gratitude that “should” be there.
Most importantly is to declare a “no lying zone” between you. If the gratitude
isn’t there for something you feel it should be there for, then choose
something for which you can feel gratitude, even if it is something like the
breeze or the hummingbird at the window. Sometimes the small gratitudes
provide as much or more joy than the “big” ones. It is also ok to say I can’t
find any gratitude today. Often when that happens some gratitude will come
to you later during the conversation, even if it is just gratitude for not having
to fake gratitude when you don’t feel it.
Meister Eckhart said that if you only pray one prayer in your life it
should be “Thank You” and I find I have to agree. If you would like more
information about creating a gratitude practice in your life feel free to call or
email me at [email protected] or call me at 510-333-3922.
Suzanne Tindall, Interim Executive Director
“Everything is a gift. The degree to which we are awake
to this truth is a measure of our gratefulness, and
gratefulness is a measure of our aliveness.”
― David Steindl-Rast Jesus and Lao Tzu: The Parallel Sayings
Hesed Community Newsletter
Compassion by Kim Nataraja (reprinted from the WCCM website)
The Christian Desert Fathers and Mothers of the 4th century, on whose teaching John
Cassian based his works, also form the foundation of Christian Meditation. John Main,
our founder, rediscovered this way of prayer for us in Cassian’s writings ‘The
Conferences’, especially chapters nine and ten.
The virtue to which all spiritual work of the Desert Fathers and Mothers led was the
supreme virtue of compassion; only increase in love for others is seen to be a reliable
sign of spiritual growth. The desert way of life would lead to a total transformation of
being, a transformation into the fire of Love: “Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and
he said to him, "Abba, as far as I can, I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and
meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?"
Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands toward heaven; his fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said
to him, "If you will, you can become all flame." God, the Divine energy, is Love. Meditation will also lead us to
experiencing this love deeply within our own being and we too will be transformed by it.
Everything the Abbas and Ammas did and taught was done out of compassion for those still caught by their demons: “A
brother asked Abba Sisoes, saying,’ What shall I do, abba, for I have fallen? The old man answered: ‘Get up again’. The
brother says,’ I got up and fell again.’ The old man continued, ‘Get up again and again. The brother asked,’ Till when?’
The old man answered, ‘Until you have been seized either by virtue or by sin.’
Their refusal to judge others is another sign of compassion. They saw that judging others was really a result of our own
unresolved woundedness, and often behaviour potentially our own. This tendency is moreover seen to come out of the
ingrained habit of always judging ourselves. Only when we accept ourselves as we are, warts and all, can we accept and
love others.
Not only do they consider judging harmful to the one doing it, but moreover our judging freezes a person in a certain
behaviour at a specific time; it does not allow for the possibility of change in the other person. But change is always
possible: Abba Xanthias said: ‘The thief was on the cross and he was justified by a single word; and Judas who was
counted amongst the number of the apostles lost his labour in a single night and descended from heaven to hell.’
Compassion is therefore the true foundation and the fruit of their practice and our practice. It is considered even more
important than prayer: “It can happen that when we are at prayer some brothers come to see us. Then we have to
choose, either to interrupt our prayer or to sadden our brother by refusing to answer him. But love is greater than prayer.
Special Events in September
September 6th - 6:00-8:00 pm, First Thursday Dinner and
reflection with Suzanne, RSVP
September 16th – 4:00 to 7:00 pm Fr. Laurence Freeman will
speak at Hesed, followed by meditation and potluck, please
RSVP to Suzanne $20 suggested donation.
September 22nd 7:00pm Annual Fundraiser at Quinn’s
Lighthouse $100 per person donation, RSVP
Hesed Community Newsletter
Book Corner – What’s New in the Book Room?
The Way of Thomas – Nine Insights for
Enlightened Living from the Secret Sayings of
Jesus
by John R. Mabry
We now have more copies of this book for those of
you who weren’t able to get it before we sold out.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
John Mabry is an interfaith scholar, author, teacher and ordained Bishop in the
Old Catholic Church, who writes about the truly revolutionary Gospel of Thomas
and its place in early Christianity and its interfaith sensibility.
According to Rev. Mabry,
“Jesus’ teachings in this Gospel have a decidedly post-modern ring to them,
emphasizing internal over external authority, and promoting a unitive
consciousness that is in many ways indistinguishable from the goal held up by
many Eastern traditions.”
For example, the first insight of the nine, “There is only one thing in the universe,
and you are that thing” is clearly a statement of a unitive point of view.
The second insight, “When you can see what is right in front of you, the hidden
things will be revealed as well” speaks of knowing oneself and the internal
authority created by realizing that your being is of one thing with God.
Hesed Schedule Monday 7:30 pm Lectio and Meditation 2nd and 4th Tuesdays 9:45 am Women’s Reflection Group Wednesday 5:30 pm Liturgy & Meditation Saturday 5:00 pm Liturgy & Meditation 2nd Saturday 10:00‐12:00 am Oblate Meeting Fr. Laurence Freeman at Hesed
–
September
16th
4:00-6:00 pm
followed by a
potluck.
The Way of Thomas draws parallels with several Buddhist methods and insights
but focuses on a Christian perspective. Much of the Gospel is obscure and difficult
but Mabry postulates that perhaps this was intentional causing the reader to be
drawn deeper into the text as one would contemplate a Zen koan thus finding
one’s own meaning through contemplation. These are concepts that have to be
personally experienced through meditation and contemplation.
We are looking forward to John Mabry’s newest book about Christian Mysticism
which will be out this fall. John has agreed to come to Hesed for a book signing
event for us at a future date. In the words of one Christian
mystic,
Cave of the Heart
The ancient symbol of the cave evokes the
luminous mystery of the human quest. The
heart is often described as a cave that we
are invited to enter to find both ourselves
and the loving source of our self. Fr
“The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I
Laurence puts this universal wisdom in the
saw, and knew I saw, all things in God, and God in
context of the Christian spiritual tradition
all things.” – Mechtild of Magdeburg
and introduces meditation as a way to
make it true in our own experience.
by Suzanne Tindall, Interim Executive Director
Laurence Freeman is a Benedictine monk
and the director of The World Community
for Christian Meditation His most recent
book is First Sight: The Experience of
“It seems to me that we have ultimately to go beyond all forms of thought – even beyond Faith.
the Trinity, the Incarnation...... All these belong to the world of signs – manifestations of
God in human thought – but God Himself, Truth itself is beyond all forms of thought.”
- Bede Griffiths OSB
Please Subscribe to Hesed’s Quarterly Newsletter
by sending a check to Hesed for $15 to help defray costs
PLEASE RSVP so we know where to put
everyone and how many chairs we will
need. We want Fr. Laurence to feel
welcome and we don’t want to leave
anyone out.
If you could put up a flyer or two for this
event, let Suzanne know and she will get
some to you.
Hesed Community Newsletter
ONE TRUE THING From John Main, OSB
For modern people the word
meditation often suggests
passivity or inaction, but it is
neither of these. Meditation is
the way to a fulfilled state of
being. Indeed it is the state of
being which is prior to all action
and without which all action will
tend to be shallow, without the
significance of permanence. All
sane action in our lives must flow out of being at one with
being. This means that to meditate, we begin to learn to
be wholly alert; to accept oneself wholly; to love oneself’
and to know oneself rooted and founded in the utter
reality that we call God.
For the greater part of our life we live at the surface level,
so often reacting to immediacy. But in meditation we are
not reacting to external stimuli. We are learning to live
out of the depths of our being, here we are finding and
responding to the supreme, sole stimulus, the Creator.
We are learning to be the person that we are called to be,
as we align ourself in response to the source which has
called us into existence. Being the person we are means
enjoying the gift of our own creation before and beyond
all desire, all expectations, all demands. The early
monastic Fathers described this state as he state wherein
we are one, and beyond all desire because we are utterly
filled with the fullness of God. Being one is being whole.
We have all we need for oneness, for wholeness, for
passing beyond all desire. Desire is undesirable because
it can only complicate and divide what is meant to be
simple and unified.
The experience of mediation is therefore the experience
of simplification, learning to become ever more and
utterly simple. This is the secret of all happiness; to enjoy
what is. Being the primal experience of us all. Prior to all
having, prior to all doing, being is enduring. It is the
eternal in each of us.
John Main from The Way of Unknowing
(a Haiku by Bob Guiang) There is One True Thing that can never be hidden. It makes itself known!
There has been some interest in adding an additional night of
lectio, using interfaith scriptures. If you are interested please send
me an email and I will add you to the list –
If there are other services or activities you are interested in having
at Hesed feel free to let me know and we can see if there are others
with the same interest. [email protected]
Also, I am offering Spiritual Direction at Hesed for those who
are interested. Right now, all of the fee goes directly to Hesed so let
me know if you would like to chat about Spiritual Direction.
The Sacraments
by St. Francis of Assisi
I once spoke to my friend, an old squirrel,
about the Sacraments he got so excited
and ran into a hollow in his tree and came
back holding some acorns, an owl feather
and a ribbon he had found.
And I just smiled and said, “Yes dear,
you understand
everything imparts his grace.”
How Can You Help ? – I’m glad you asked
Bookstore help – If you would like to help get the bookstore into shape, please call Suzanne @ (510) 333-3922
If you would like to help prepare Hesed for the visit of Fr. Laurence Freeman, please call Suzanne @(510) 333-3922
Stuffing envelopes to mail newsletters is always a great way to help if you have time, call Suzanne.
How about hosting a small event in your home to benefit Hesed? I have lots of ideas, let me know how I can help you.
Would you like to write an article or book review for the newsletter? Just let me know! You guessed it, call Suzanne!