Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Fountain of Blessings

My day began with a big, beautiful sun shining a vivid orange through the thin bank of clouds at the eastern edge of my world. As I offered gratitude for the beauty I walked within, a quote from the Roman poet Ovid came to mind. “Thanks are justly due for boons unbought.” For truly, how exactly did I deserve that brilliant orb this morning? How did the mountain air filling my lungs become mine to ignore or take for granted?

Rabbi Marcia Prager, a respected teacher in the Jewish Renewal tradition, guides us through a study of gratitude in her lovely book, The Path of Blessing. By way of illustration, she tells of a fountain she once saw in the form of a tree, with each cupped leaf collecting water before spilling it onto the leaves below. Individual droplets gathered into a pool at the tree’s base only to be pumped to the top in a continuous cycle of flow and return.

Prager compares this fountain to the unceasing movement of grace in the world. “All we are asked to do,” she writes, “is to be aware that we are leaves on the fountain, endlessly filling and pouring.”

In Jewish tradition, gratitude is enacted through making a brakha, a prayer of blessing, at various points throughout the day. While this practice encourages receptivity and awe in the practitioner, the results are believed to be more far-reaching.

“Jewish tradition teaches that the simple action of a brakha has a cosmic effect,” Prager writes, “for a brakha causes shefa, the “abundant flow” of God’s love and goodness, to pour into the world. Like a hand on the faucet, each brakha turns on the tap.” Or like a pump in a fountain, a moment of gratitude cycles the water through, to be given out again and again.

“A brakha completes our energy-exchange with God,” Prager explains. “We are partners in a sacred cycle of giving and receiving…When we offer our blessings, we raise up sparks of holiness, releasing the God~light housed in our world back to its Source.”

And what happens when we hold back, hoarding or taking for granted the energy freely given us? We create kinks in the tubing. “When we allow all the daily miracles to be passed by, our openness to the abundance of divine blessing withers…When we fail to cultivate a practice of appreciation as potent as our capacity to appropriate, we become despoilers, destroying both ourselves and the whole.”

What a powerful line that is~~”When we fail to cultivate a practice of appreciation as potent as our capacity to appropriate, we become despoilers.” Humans can so easily appropriate without return. Cultivating a practice of appreciation seems truly to be our cutting edge and, in this view, a sacred practice as well.

Amid the bustle of a busy life, it’s easy to lose track of the gifts generously circulating through our lives. But by engaging our free will in a practice of thanksgiving, we can consciously encourage the flow and enlarge its channel, within us and throughout the world itself.

In just this way, we do our part to maintain an exquisite balance. We openly receive what is given us and, in our turn, we give back~~spilling blessings onto our fellow leaves and offering praise to the Source of the fountain itself.

Noting that all of creation contains a spark of the Divine, Prager continues, “When we walk the path of blessing, we begin to recognize the presence of these holy sparks in everything and everyone around us. Day by day the world becomes more alive, more magical, more miraculous!”

My day ended with my husband curled around me, arms holding me close, warm breath caressing my shoulder like…well…a blessing. A blessing that caused me to lift up my heart in a brakha of praise and wonder and gratitude for this life that is mine.

And now, I extend a heartfelt brakha for every one of you reading these words, and for all the gifts you cycle into this world of ours.


Loanne Marie


monica wood said...

I was driving back from the farmer's market this morning, the back seat of my car gushing with flowers, and thought: I am so grateful to be young enough, healthy enough, alive enough to be driving this car right now , in this moment. And then a few hours later I find this essay. Thank you, Loanne.

Loanne Marie said...

And thank you again, Monica, for showing us how to live these ideals in the day to day stuff of a real life!

Rena said...

Interestingly, a yiddish lamentation is, "Oy abroch". A blessing or brakha would fix what is broken. Thank you for your enlightened and enlightening essays....

Loanne Marie said...

Isn't this also the idea behind tikkun, the healing of that which is broken, a way of repairing the world? Prager writes about how our actions can restore and return to their Source the Divine sparks that have been scattered through various cataclysmic events. Beautiful concept!

Thanks for writing, Rena!

Anonymous said...

Hadn't read these articles for awhile- told myself I was too busy - would do it when I got caught up. Some how it seems a person can't catch up on life- you just do it. My soul has just been floating. Finally I just resigned myself to God and let go. My daughter came back to us! This morning it rained , a beautiful soft refreshing rain. Thank you God! These articles are as refreshing and nurturing as the rain. Much thanks!

Loanne Marie said...

Wow! Being compared to rain~~and during a drought, too~~is quite a compliment. Thank you so much! And welcome back!!!

Marilyn Cardone said...

Dear Loanne,
How beautiful is this image of a tree-shaped fountain, each leaf receiving and giving water in an endless cycle of renewal! Some days I am almost overwhelmed with gratitude for all the gifts I've been given--even gifts in the form of challenges. Thanks, Loanne, for your essay.
Marilyn Cardone

Loanne Marie said...

Isn't that a beautiful picture! One leaf would never think of keeping all the water for itself or sneaking over to snitch water from another.

And gratitude for all those gifts--Yes!

Thanks for writing!


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