A funny thing happened on the way to this sermon. I was editing it yesterday afternoon and accidentally left it on the subway…

Sermon, discussion and experiential activities delivered at
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Queens
, August 21, 2011
Copywrite © David Freiman 2011, All Rights Reserved.

…But first, I have to say, (as I zip up my fly which appears to have been open all morning since I got dressed) a funny thing happened on the way to church today! I took a taxi to save time, but it backfired when the taxi driver, after entering the address into his GPS device, got lost at the marina at  Flushing Meadows Park and made several other wrong turns trying to navigate the highway interchanges there. You know what I am talking about.

Father Bob, the former pastor at Ann’s church in Brooklyn, tells the story of the time a visiting priest showed up unexpectedly to perform the mass. It is not unusual for new “firehouse” priests to show up on the schedule, but although Father Bob was not expecting this priest, he assumed the schedule was wrong and the priest made his preparations for the mass. Just before the mass was to begin, the visiting priest realized that he was in the wrong church and he rushed out to where he was supposed to be. When Father Bob came to the pulpit to deliver his homily, he said, “I see that our visiting priest left his homily here. Let us all pray for him.”

Fortunately, I had the previous draft saved, but I lost several pages of fresh input and all my notes for rearranging the outline. Not thinking clearly, for several hours I thought that I would have to deliver the sermon from memory because the last hard copy I had was completely useless and no access to a printer. Eventually, I figured out I had other options and sat down to rewrite. But it was a good lesson in letting go, and letting God, as they say.

In the Buddhist sense, I had to release my attachment to the eloquent words I had crafted, and trust that I could muster new words that might be even better. I could have gotten very upset with losing all of my work. I did lose my bearings for a while, but then I used a technique that I am going to teach you today. And I could have blown up at the taxi driver’s incompetence, but I remained calm.

And I might have been embarrassed and thrown off by starting this sermon with my fly open. In addition, my home printer is broken so I did not have an opportunity to print off a hard copy of this sermon. That is why I am using the web browser on my smartphone to view the document where I saved it in the “cloud” on my Google Docs account. If I were standing at a pulpit you would never know I was scrolling through the document from the web on my smartphone. Yes, you, too, can learn to remain this calm in the face of so many mini-calamities.

The Buddha said, “when you get a new glass, the glass is already broken.” Isn’t this true in a quantum sense, too? The potential for the breakage is always there. It is only a matter of time. If I accept the breakage or death of this glass from the moment I first gaze on it, I will not experience loss but pure acceptance and equanimity.

The loss of my sermon required me to fall back on the personal practices we are going to discuss today, something I refer to by the acronym CROPS.

More Prayering

Our two-year-old son Will’s bedtime prayers finish with a litany of “God Bless…” Ann has a large family and we also include close friends so it is quite a list. Will likes his prayers so much that he doesn’t want to stop. He likes to add his own: “God bless the frog who says ‘ribbit’ and goes up down, up down. The gorilla who goes up down, up down and eats.”  Then he moves on to things he saw or did that day. And on and on. But once he starts repeating himself, we know the stall tactics have begun. When we try to cut off the blessings, he says, “NO! More prayering!” After we have left his bedroom he shouts, “Wait, Mommy! God bless sandbox!”

Sneeze

“Ah-choo!”

[Congregation: “God Bless You”]

Why do you say that? Did someone say ‘God bless you’? Do you believe in God? And what do we mean by blessing?

We have our problems, too.

Ann and I are seekers and works-in-progress. We are also religion nerds and as an interfaith couple have frequent ongoing discussions about applying spiritual tools to daily life. Like each of you we have our joys and sorrows, our trials and wins. We make no claims of mastering the ideas we bring here for discussion. We improve them or we discard them. Today’s technique is one of the most challenging but also the most rewarding and successful when it works.

Theme – Radical Blessing

Today’s talk is about blessing. Radical blessing.

Last time, I spoke about The Four Attitudes Toward People from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, which recommends that practice as one of many possible meditation practices that will help one find peace and calm. An easier to remember practice is one I learned from a renowned guru as follows:

The proper relationship to all things is blessing.

The proper relationship to ALL THINGS is blessing.

All things. Blessing all situations, all objects, all upset, all joy, all pain, all people, all beings, all of your own self. Yes, blessing your self. And have you heard of blessing God?

I have come to see this as a practice of Radical Blessing, as it really takes blessing more seriously, even to an extreme degree. It is a practice of blessing everything, all the time, in every moment. It takes practice.

Intro to C.R.O.P.S.

I am going to teach you a meta-methodology that I learned several years ago (thanks to Swami Umeshananda of Siddha Yoga in 2004. I have kept the acronym, but the descriptions of the steps are my own. I have previously blogged my use of CROPS in a recent crisis here). I have been practicing and refining it for some time now. Ann has also adopted this method and it has been a lifesaver for each us in daily life and in a number of trying situations. It has the unwieldy acronym of CROPS.

In brief, CROPS is a meta-methodology because it contains a sequential compilation of methods to use when you are feeling emotional: sadness, upset, frustration, anger, heartbreak, fear, disappointment, and so on.

Ann and I have used it to work through relationship problems, family feuds, parenting and stepparenting, financial difficulties, workplace aggravation, performance anxiety, test taking, bereavement and situational depression, to name a few.

It also works with aggressive drivers, annoying people, bad neighbors, watching the news, getting on the subway during rush hour, and even losing your sermon, clueless taxi drivers, and costume malfunctions like leaving your fly open.

Disclaimer!

  1. CROPS is not a substitute for advice from mental health professionals, medical doctors, tax accountants, lawyers and so on.
  2. CROPS is a technique to calm the fluctuations in the mind that cause us to see an illusory world, and helps us see the real world.
  3. CROPS helps restore balance and can help you find the calm in the eye of the storm. It does not make the storm go away, but it helps you deal with whatever comes.
  4. CROPS brings you equanimity in the face of hardship and upset.
  5. CROPS removes stress and suffering and so you can make the best of any difficult situation.
  6. CROPS enables us to take care of ourselves so we can lead long, healthy and happy lives.

Here are the steps in CROPS:

  • C is for Catch yourself. Be Conscious. This is the step you will use most often and it is the one that must be practiced on mildly upsetting things at all times so tha you will be prepared to use it when you really need it.
  • R is for Relax. I find it hard to relax when I try to think of relaxing, or when someone says relax. The relaxation technique is taking five easy breaths. The challenge is taking those breaths without getting distracted from really experiencing every moment of the breath. If you get distracted you go back to the first step and Catch yourself. The start counting the breaths again starting again at one.
  • O is for Offer a blessing. Blessing is the secret weapon but also the one where the greatest resistance occurs.
  • P is for Proclaim “I am not a victim” or Power “I create my own reality” This step is about owning your feelings, including the dark emotions.
  • S is for Serve the situation. It is the process of making the morally right choice. It allows you to keep your cool, and move on by setting things right.

To review, CROPS is:

  1. Catch yourself
  2. Relax and breathe easy
  3. Offer a blessing
  4. Proclaim “I am not a victim”
  5. Serve the situation.

That’s CROPS in a nutshell and I will take you through it later.

Activity – Picturing Blessing

We are going to do an activity together, but before we do I would like to go over some ground rules in order for us to feel safe about sharing personal experiences.

  1. Confidentiality: What happens in Flushing, stays in Flushing. Don’t betray confidences. Do not reveal what someone else has shared here with others outside this meeting.
  2. No personal comments.
  3. Respect diverse opinions.
  4. Use “I” statements. Speak from personal experience and do not speak for others.
  5. You have the right to say “pass” and not answer a question.
  6. Anyone can call someone on the rules.

Raise your hand if you chose Unitarian Universalism after being raised in another faith. You are group A.

Raise your hand if you were raised Unitarian Universalist. You are group B.

Raise your hand if the answer is “other” or “none of the above.” You are group C.

I am in this group (C), growing up with interfaith but secular parents. We never went to a church or a synagogue but celebrated Chanukah and Christmas at home with family to learn appreciation of our family’s cultural heritage. Then, incidentally, I attended Fieldston, an Ethical Culture School and deepened my interest in humanism.

Question: Group A. If ask you if you know what a blessing is, do you get a clear picture in your mind?

[Discussion]

For example, if you were raised Catholic can you picture a papal blessing, or a priest’s blessing? The prayers of the people at the Mass are a kind of blessing. If you were raised Jewish can you picture a Kaddish, a rabbinical blessing, a blessing for the wine or matzoh at a Passover Seder?

[Discussion]

Group B, can you picture a Unitarian Universalist blessing? What image comes to mind?

[Discussion]

Frankly, I can picture the blessing used for Service of Dedication with the quote from Kahlil Gibran, “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.” The Unitarian Universalist blessings are sometimes part of the the Meditation or Prayer, and are different at each service, depending on the whim of the minister.

When I was married to Ann five years ago yesterday, the Rev. Cheryl M. Walker sternly summoned me into a dressing room before the ceremony. I thought I was about to receive a scolding. Then she performed a beautiful blessing on me. At All Souls they end the service with a variation of Psalm 118:24, but every congregation ends with their own benediction: “May God bless us and keep us. May the light of God shine upon us and out from within us and bring us peace. For this is the day we are given; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Group C? Did you grow up with a clear idea of what a blessing is?

[Discussion]

There is an old Yiddish joke about blessing, or in Yiddish, brokhe (BRAW-kheh), as told by Leo Rosten:

Mrs. Gidwitz told her benevolent old Orthodox rabbi, “My grandchildren are driving me crazy this year: they want to have a Christmas tree. Rabbi, could you maybe make some dispensation, a special brokhe over such a tree…?”
“Never!” said the rabbi. “Impossible.”
So Mrs. Gidwitz consulted a more lenient rabbi, a Conservative. “No,” he said, “I’m sorry.”
So poor Mrs. Gidwitz went to the young new Reform rabbi.  “I’ll be glad to,” he said. “Only tell me: What’s a ‘brokhe’?”

(Source: The New Joys of Yiddish by Leo Rosten)

As I suspected, those of you in Group A had no problem coming up with a clear image of blessing. You barely had to think about it. You described statues that made you feel blessed, you remember hearing the priest bless and you remember reciting blessings.

Group B (only one person grew up UU in the group. That seems about right for this size group) You said you felt no connection to the word blessing. It doesn’t mean much to you. The word even makes you a bit uncomfortable. You said it was something that other people did, which you don’t mind. But essentially you are relatively indifferent to blessing.

Group C. You each had to search hard for an explanation, describing a process of discovering blessing, and a defense of the process. Without direct experience of blessing at an early age, you could not picture it, so you had to analyze it. You have a complicated relationship with blessing.

Group B and C, I think I know why blessing posed a challenge to you that Group A did not encounter. I have a theory about the word blessing itself, which I will come to momentarily.

From my experience with the practice of blessing, I realize that CROPS goes above and beyond what we typically think of blessing. I have decided to call it Radical Blessing for reasons that will become clear.

What does blessing mean to you?

What does blessing mean to you?  If we are to understand Radical Blessing, we should understand where the word blessing comes from.

Unfortunately, the English word blessing does not resonate with English speakers in connection with any similar sounding English words, so I find the meaning is vague and unclear except for our familiarity with its usage and our experiences.

The Hebrew word used in the bible, bawruch means literally “to kneel” in the sense of lowering oneself in respect. I have always heard baw-ruch a-taw a-do-noi e-lo-hay-nu me-lech haw-o-lawm as it is usually translated:  “Blessed art thou, O Eternal, Our God, King of the Universe.” The English word has no cognates that convey the same sense of respect.
In the Hebrew Bible, bawruch was used hundreds of times to convey the meaning of respect or adoration. People conferred bawruch on God and God conferred bawruch on people.

In short, eulogeitos, the Greek word for blessing and benedicere, the Latin, both translated bawruch as “well spoken of, praised.”

To my ears, the word “blessing” does not evoke the same sense of thanks, good words or praise, because we have no other words that sound like blessing. There is a good reason for this. It comes from an old German word that means blood.
Bloetsian was the Middle English word used by the pagans to refer to blood sacrifices. The meaning, then, was ‘to mark with blood or with a sacrificial animal.’ This was the term chosen by the English Christians. Perhaps there was no closer equivalent, or perhaps the translators believed that the pagans needed a word that conveyed the weight and seriousness of blessing.

Now let’s unpack further why I chose the word “radical.” Another meaning of the word “radical” is “coming from the root” or “returning to the source.” A radical return to the root of blessing brings us into the arena of pagan sacrificial rites — radical blessing is elevated from mere “praise, and good words” to actual life and death. Radical Blessing implies raising the stakes.

The most basic form of evangelism is to talk about God’s blessings which are available to everyone, saved or not. Let Christians have their “safe” blessings. Radical Blessing could be our version of Extreme Sports — like BMX bikes, or helicopter snowboarding.

In our discussion, someone brought up the word “shalom” with in various forms means “peace” in the Middle East and is used as a welcome and farewell greeting. In East Asia, Namaste is a common greeting that means “I bow to you.” In Hinduism and yoga tradition it has taken on the further meaning of “the divine in me recognizes and honors the divine in you,” with the acknowledgement that on the divine level we are unified, we are connected to a universal soul or consciousness. I have heard that the bindi that Hindi’s wear on their forehead is a helpful reminder of the divinity and universal consciousness that we share.  I love this concept, that one has a visual responder each time you meet someone, even a stranger, to keep you in mind of their importance and connection to you, even a divine connection.

I believe blessing rebounds. Every time we practice blessing of others, we feel better for it. Receiving blessing is a difficult practice for many. It is difficult for many of us to receive a gift wholeheartedly without reservation, without questioning of motives of the blesser. My mother was terrible at receiving any sort of gift. We never got used to her reaction upon opening a gift, “Oh, no!” she would cry. “I would never get this blank.”

What does Radical have to do with it?

Radical is not only drastic, but implies reform. We can think of Radical Blessing  as a way to reform our selves and as well as a practice to reinvigorate our UU faith.

How does this blessing rebound work? Here is where blessing can get radical. Radical also means getting to the basis or foundation. That suggests that blessing can go much deeper than a Hanukkah bush or a sneeze.

Wouldn’t it be “rad” if blessing embraced humility, surrender, acceptance, connection to our best selves, to something indescribable that transcends thought? Don’t we feel blessed when we thrill to inspiring music, poetry, art, or oratory? When I led the children’s choir at All Souls I told the children they were all ministers of music–that listeners would be inspired by their courage in performing in front of an audience, that this courage and their singing voices were their special gifts to the congregation, that their singing would make congregants cry (they did). The congregants clearly felt the blessing when the pure tone and simple harmonies of the children’s voices struck their ears and their hearts.

So let’s include transcendence in our practice of radical blessing.

And surrender is radical in the sense that it is thoroughgoing or extreme.

“Not my will, but thy will be done.”

Surrender is the acceptance that we are part of something greater. Or, we can imagine it as a higher vibration of consciousness, our Wise Self, or as the part of our selves that cares most about us. Some call it divinity, or God. I personally call it Perfect Universal Intuition, a term I got from a stage director, the late William Ball.

Kriya Yoga

Yoga has a three part spiritual practice called kriya yoga. (My ecumenical translation comes from yogi Gary Kraftsow) The third practice, Ishvara Pranidhana, instructs one to “open your heart; master your mind.” The key to this is the practice of surrender, traditionally to God, but for non-theists can be considered as “surrender to the self that is kind, caring, humble, grateful” “the sweetness of devotion.” It is achieved when you “accepts that you are not in control of everything.” You get there when you can “be open, available, humble, and grateful.” One must “let go of self-importance – pride, arrogance, self-pity, low self-esteem.” You allow yourself to be “grateful for the gift of life” for instance, in nature, appreciate the beauty around us, and in relationships, show respect and appreciation for others.

If you have trouble with the idea of surrender,  a Kraftsow tells a story of a client whose husband was a Marine (and I paraphrase from memory). She was receiving great benefit from the practice of surrender, and wanted to share it with her husband. She was afraid that as a Marine, her husband could never accept the idea of surrender. Gary thought about it and told her, “Tell him it is about ‘accomplishing the mission,’” The Marine got it.

As I see it the keys to blessing are (a) forgiveness of the self and others, (b) gratitude for what we have and focusing on the good things in our lives, as well as (c) awe of nature and the miracle of life and friendships, and ultimately (d) trust in your own personal life mission by practicing surrender.

Unitarian Universalist principles and radical blessing

Many Unitarian Universalists do not make a habit of blessing. It is something the minister does. It is often something we read about someone else doing. We are given the sense that, like many things UU, blessing is self-taught and we are expected to discover what blessing means on our own, by, like Emerson, being self-reliant, or by, like Thoreau, being inspired by nature to awe. This is part of our UU DNA.

When you go to any other church, everyone learns the rituals so you don’t have to spend much time thinking about them. As Unitarian Universalists, we are charged with the fourth principle of the responsible search for truth and meaning, so we must spend time thinking about our rituals. But I rarely hear it from the pulpit or the pews or even during fellowship. Our adult education programs seem to be about everything but Unitarian Universalism. We have programs on the Bible, other religions, art, music, social justice, parenting, but never on practices and rituals, and what it means to be UU.

When a parent at All souls organized a group to have meetings on what it means to raise your children UU, she tried to open a dialogue about our views and practices. However, she was also reluctant to pollute the conversation with the things that she came up with. When I finally convinced her to share, she had many terrific ideas. For instance, when her young children were well-behaved she told them they were being “good Unitarian Universalists” so they would feel that their behavior and moral choices were part of their faith.  She also displayed UU symbols around the home. But why did she feel so awkward telling others how she practiced? As UUs we are so afraid to offend someone by suggesting they practice our way, that we sometimes fail to share the good ideas. We tell people, you can worship and practice your UU faith any way you want. This merely serves to discourage any meaningful discussion. We need a clearinghouse of ideas, not a shuttered house where we hoard our inspiration.

Consider, if you were to move into a new neighborhood and you asked your neighbor, where do I buy food and they replied. Oh, anywhere. There is food all around. Get it wherever you like. Now, I wouldn’t want the neighbor who says, you have to go to the Pathmark on Main Street. They are the only place to buy food. The other stores are terrible. That is the supermarket bigot. Another neighbor might say, try the Gristedes on Lexington Avenue. They have good produce, and you can get good prices at Key Food. Or your neighbor might say, I do all my shopping at Key Food, but I hear there are other good stores.

So when the child wants a glass of milk, the Unitarian Universalist Religious Education program says to the child, you can buy land, and learn how to farm, raise a cow and milk it yourself. But I can only tell you about those things, I couldn’t possibly teach you. And I won’t try to influence you or offend your parents by telling you where I get milk. And some people prefer soy milk or almond milk. And did you hear about the people who drink goat milk. And those purists who only drink raw milk? We teach the principles but we don’t teach how to practice the principles.

When we UUs shy away from discussing our rituals we are throwing out the baby with the bath water.

The late Rev. Forrest Church, of All Souls Church, was fond of quoting Lord Acton, who warned that “every institution perishes by an excess of its own first principles.” I agree. All people and institutions have their blind spots. Unitarian Univeralists are not the only faith guilty of this.

I’ll start with the Catholic church. At a mass yesterday at Ann’s church in Park Slope, a Maryknoll missionary priest delivered the homily and gave an eloquent argument for the missionary school in Tanzania that provides girls with a secondary education because God created each of us in his image and women deserve equal rights. I thought this invocation of human rights would come as quite a surprise to the Vatican which is against equal rights for women to serve in leadership roles within the church. This is surely an invocation of a dearly held principle that imperils the Roman Catholic Church if they continue their return to nineteenth century attitudes about women.

Sorry for using another Catholic example, but I have such good stories. Nothing personal to the Catholics.

A few years ago, Ann and I attended a First Communion ceremony at an Upper East Side (UES) church that will go nameless —  (St. Ignatius Loyola). In his homily, the priest attempted to help the six-year-olds understand the sacrifice Jesus made for their souls–he asked them to recall the feeling of when it is time to leave the zoo, and leave behind the popcorn and cotton candy. He said that this was how Jesus felt when God called him home. He left out the part about the crucifixion. A minor detail. Ann and I looked at each other in astonishment. The last thing these over-privileged UES children needed to hear was a story that affirmed for them how something like missing their yearly ski trip to Aspen because the  Dow is down and Papa the investment banker is getting a smaller bonus this year was equivalent to Jesus Christ dying on the cross.

Let us examine the peril in our own first principles. As a liberal and democratic faith, one obstacle to change is often “the tyranny of the older member.” Are you familiar with the expression, “We’ve always done it this way”?

Radical Blessing of our faith will surely lead us to rewrite the old scripts and create our own practices.

Let’s consider our very own Unitarian Universalist Principles. The First Principle is  “respect for the inherent worth and dignity of each person” or in the children’s version, “every person is important.”

And our second principle is “Justice, equity and compassion in human relations,” which we teach to the children as “be kind in all you do.”

I can run down all the principles, and all have to do with our relationship to the external environment, such as the people and influences from our world.

Activity – Radical Blessing of the UU Principles

I have a radical idea. What if we used Radical Blessing to apply the principles to our relationship with ourselves? What if we turned these principles inward as personal practices?

For a moment I would like you take in the first principle as it applies to yourself. Try blessing yourself. Do you truly respect your inherent worth and dignity? How would you treat yourself as important, not in a negative egotistical self-important way that puts others down to boost yourself up, but as inherently unique and valuable to others. What would that look like? [Pause]

What would you want a young child to feel about oneself? We say, “You can be anything you want to be when you grow up.” Can you say this to your little child self today? [Pause]

Let us move on to the second principle. Bless yourself for being harsh with yourself. This is a form of forgiveness meditation or lovingkindness meditation. Can you show yourself justice (non-judgment), equity (cutting yourself some slack), and compassion (lovingkindness)? [Pause]

Justice: What would it mean to stop judging yourself, end the self-criticism, and lose the stinking thinking? What would it mean to be tolerant of yourself? [Pause]

Equity: Are you harder on yourself than you are on others? Are you ashamed of yourself for something but when others do it you give them the benefit of the doubt or look the other way? What would it mean to treat yourself equitably to how you treat others? [Pause]

Compassion: Do you care so much for other people that you try to help them with charity, volunteering, helping in soup kitchen, saving the orphans in Africa? The writer Stephen Levine told a story of a woman who came to Mother Teresa saying, “I want to be like you. I want to help the poor.” Mother Teresa asked, “Are those your children with you? Go home and take care of your children.” As we would instruct a child: Can you be kind to yourself? Consider your own trials and self-criticisms. If you met an unhappy child, would you treat them as you treat yourself? Or would you hold the child’s hand and offer encouragement and praise? Imagine you are that compassionate angel holding the hand of your little self as a child. [Pause]

Use whatever works – our UU Fourth Principle

As Unitarian Universalists, we are free to create our own religion drawing from whatever works. Surprisingly, for someone who grew up uncomfortable with Christian imagery and references to God and Christ, I have been deeply moved by Christian symbols.

When I have been in my darkest days, there are two images that helped bring me out of my despair. One I’m sure most of you have seen at some time, was a picture of an angel with its wings protectively surrounding two small children. As I was agnostic at the time, I was surprised at how much it affected me.

The other was a photo illustrating the well-known “Footprints in the Sand” poem by Mary Stevenson:

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky. In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there were one set of footprints.

After complaining to Jesus that the footprints seemed to disappear during the toughest times in the narrator’s life:

The Lord replied, “The times when you have seen only one set of footprints, is when I carried you.”

This is a beautiful description of the idea of surrender. And for me, it works to conjure up these images of guardian angels protecting little David, and of being able to take a load off my shoulders and confidently have faith that the universe will carry me. When I think of these images, I feel safe, supported and blessed.

And one more Christian image is dear to me. Since I have known Ann I attend mass with her on most Saturdays when she sings. Since my mother died three years after my son Will was born, While others receive Communion, I have made it a practice to bring Will up for a simple blessing from the pastor. Then I take Will, and now my daughter Claire, to the statue of the Madonna and Child where we light candles and provide an offering for the recently deceased, my mother, their great-grandparents, and this month, my ex-father-in-law, grandfather to my two other children.

Almost without fail, I process my grief each week at this time. I get emotional, tear up and have a good cry for my dear mother, their grandmother whom they will never get to know. In fact, last week, Will was studying a photo album I had made for my mother a week after Will was born, with a picture of her cradling Will in her lap while he happily suckled her pinky finger. Will turned to me, pointing at the picture, and said, “This is my friend Oma.”

Oddly, these Christian images were part of my journey through yoga to find a faith in a God I could believe in.

Dealing with Dark Emotions such as Hate and Anger

How do you forgive someone who has deeply wronged you? How do you bless a situation or person that makes you so angry? This is often a sticking point for people, and indeed today, some of you have mentioned getting stuck on the Offer a Blessing step.

Ann Landers often said,

“Hate is like an acid. It destroys the vessel in which it is stored.”

The Course In Miracles has a lesson that says,

“Only my condemnation injures me. ”

Conclusion

The Irish say:

“May those who love us, love us; and those who don’t love us, may God turn their hearts; and if He doesn’t turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles so we’ll know them by their limping.”

I can’t end with that because it is a parody of blessing–Like other oppressed peoples like the Jews, the Irish are fond of black humor.  It is healthy to be able to laugh at ourselves, especially when times are tough.

How are we practicing blessing now if we are not practicing Radical Blessing?

The antonym for radical is superficial.

When we are not practicing Radical Blessing, we are barely blessing at all. I am not saying there is anything wrong with rote religion.  But I feel we get so much more when we deepen our practice of blessing. It makes us less stressed, happier and successful.

One more thought on the practice of blessing. The advantage of fundamentalist religion that views everything starkly in black in white is that they are so certain of themselves that they find it easy to bless everything with a sure faith.  Though antithetical to liberal religious theology, certainty has its benefits. When my wife Ann was on a service trip to Ghana with an NGO, she attended a service led by missionaries which had this call-and-response:

Leader: God is good
Congregation: all the time.
Leader: And all the time
Cong: God is good.

Think about it. This blessing could easily be Unitarian Universalist.

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