Tuesday, March 23, 2010

More Blessings

As I said I would, I went back for a second helping of My Grandfather's Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen. (See my post on 'Blessings', 3/9/10, for my first pass at this book.) I have been rereading it and enjoying it more and more. This is a book full of real blessings. As Rachel Remen says in the book, "Everything unborn in us and in the world needs blessing. ... Blessings strengthen life and feed life just as water does."

She goes on to say, "When we offer our blessings generously, the light in the world is strengthened, around us and in us. The Kabbalah speaks of our collective human task as Tikkun Olam; we sustain and restore the world." This is the healing of the world that I have spoken of (in my post of 2/24/10 entitled 'And Their Four Offspring'). As we bless the world and those in it, we become part of that healing, part of the Great Turning. (See my post of 11/15/09 for more on 'The Great Turning'.)

So how do we bless the world? Certainly we can wish it well. We can start with Loving-Kindness--I wrote about how this relates to social change in the third post I wrote for this blog. ('Loving-Kindness and Social Change', 6/24/08) From there add Compassion, Joy, and Serenity (see 'The Four Gardeners', 2/14/10), as well as Patience, Forgiveness, and Generosity (which I wrote about in 'And Their Four Offspring', 2/24/10--with a lot more on 'Forgiveness' in my post of 8/7/08). I believe that each of these things blesses the world, and each of these things contribute to its healing. The way that Rachel Remen talks about is through service.

She points out that, "We do not serve the weak or the broken. What we serve is the wholeness in each other and the wholeness in life. The part in you that I serve is the same part that is strengthened in me when I serve. Unlike helping and fixing and rescuing, service is mutual."

And she goes on to say, "...we do not serve from our strength; we serve with ourselves. We draw from all our experiences. Over the years I have discovered that everything I know serves and everything I am serves. I have served people impeccably with parts of myself that embarrass me, parts of which I am ashamed. The wholeness in me serves the wholeness in others and the wholeness in life. The wholeness in you is as worthy as the wholeness in me. Service is a relationship between equals."

I think this is powerful stuff. But the point is that the service doesn't have to be perfect. We just need to open up our hearts and give to each other. I see service as a type of generosity. We bless the world as we give of ourselves. And we give of ourselves as well as we can. Again, "...according to my grandfather, it is better to bless life badly than not to bless it at all."

Rachel Remen also talks about Compassion. She relates the legend of the Lamed-Vov. Her grandfather tells her how it is told that God will allow the world to continue as long as there is a minimum of thirty-six good people in the human race. These are the Lamed-Vovniks. He says, "...Even the Lamed-Vovniks themselves do not know for sure the role that they have in the continuation of the world, and no one else knows it either. They respond to suffering, not in order to save the world but simply because the suffering of others touches them and matters to them. ...
"They do not need to do anything. They respond to all suffering with compassion. Without compassion, the world cannot continue. Our compassion blesses and sustains the world."

According to Dr. Remen, "Compassion begins with the acceptance of what is most human in ourselves, what is most capable of suffering. In attending to our own capacity to suffer, we can uncover a simple and profound connection between our own vulnerability and the vulnerability in all others. Experiencing this allows us to find an instinctive kindness toward life which is the foundation of all compassion and genuine service."

I love this book. I could go on quoting from it--and it is filled with stories, stories of how vulnerable human beings struggle with illness and change, and become blessings in the process. I have found myself close to tears at some points.

I do think this is social change. If more and more people focused on service rather than acquisition, it would totally reorient our society. If we focused on being blessings for the world and part of life, rather than being removed and separate from it, a sustainable, compassionate world would start to grow. I don't think that reading this book is enough to totally change things, but it is enough to push things further along.

Quote of the Day: "All who serve, serve life. ... When we serve, we discover that life is holy." - Rachel Naomi Remen

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