Whether you pray or worship in the traditional sense, or examine life in an alternative form, what does that mean about our belief in blessings or thankfulness? Some of us have asked: blessedby who or be thankfulto who. One of our congregants actually notated that in one celebration, I had used the word blessing27 times, as if it were a bad thing. Perhaps “blessing” needed to be redefined? So, let’s think of what blessing can mean, to us. I submit to you that we are and can be blessed. So, I ask:
Do you think you are blessed? Do you think you’re not? Do you think blessings only come from God or the mystical? Have you ever been told, “have a blessed day?” Can blessings be altogether natural? We may be overlooking our blessings, but our attitude, our mindfulness can help our daily outlook.
There are many blessings in disguise that aren’t always apparent to us, and many of these blessings are afforded to us simply for being alive! As long as we have life, we can learn to be grateful for it, and uncover our unique human blessings, despite the hardships we encounter. Do you remember the song “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)” written by Irving Berlin, sung by Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby in the 1954 movie “White Christmas.” Berlin wrote:“Sometime ago, after the worst kind of a sleepless night, my doctor came to see me and after a lot of self-pity, belly-aching and complaining about my insomnia, he looked at me and said “speaking of doing something about your insomnia, did you ever try counting your blessings?” He put it in the song.
Sometimes we may say that we are in control of our own lives. But there are many things beyond our control; sickness, being loved, natural phenomena. There is one thing you can control, and that is, how you let it affect you; your attitude; your outlook.
A colleague of mine here at the Jewish Historical Society told me not long ago that he begins every day with a conscious awareness of how he will approach each day. He said; “I swing my legs out of bed first thing in the morning and think to myself: Today is going to be a good day. I will make the most of whatever it holds in store and whatever I can make of it.”
I think, “I had better get to the bathroom, then I maybe, I’ll philosophize.”
Here are some broad and general blessings that we all may have overlooked, or do not elevate sufficiently on a daily basis, to be significant.
“Through wisdom, a house is built; and by understanding it is established.”-Proverbs 24:3.Through life we have so many opportunities to grow as a person and gain greater awareness and understanding of ourselves and the world around us. This is a true blessing. Learning from our mistakes and growing from experiences is a part of the gift of life. Recognize how fortunate we are to be able to grow spiritually and reflect on our own existence in order to reach greater contentment.
As human beings we have been blessed to able to give and serve others. We can do kind things for other people, or altruistically help another person in need, and we can get this same behavior reciprocated to ourselves. Taking an approach to give back what we have been given and help others feel better is a wonderful gift to ourselves. When we grow full of gratitude and joy, we can begin to share it with others.
We are all afforded protection. Think of the many close calls and moments where we have safely made it through a precarious situation. Most of us have a sense of security and think that we are going to be okay in difficult times. This is something to be very grateful for. Things may not be perfect, but as long as we have a sense of safety it makes it possible to experience love, pleasure, and trust.
If you have a type-A personality like me, you are always on the go, and viewing rest and relaxation as a blessing can be overlooked. However, we all need time to restore our body and mind, and having time to relax, and recharge our batteries, can be one of the most valuable gifts to receive in this busy world. It provides us a new beginning and fresh perspective. Don’t take for granted the opportunity to simply relax and be restful. Recognize our downtime as a blessing, a personal Shabbat.
If you’re going through a difficult medical situation right now (and I hope you are not,) this may be hard to accept, but our bodies are made to heal. Every cut, bruise, and break heal in time, especially with help of the miracles of modern medicine. Focus on the magnificence of our bodies natural healing ability. We need to learn to cherish our health, preserve it, and when we get sick, feel blessed that we will get better.
We all have moments where we receive guidance, whether directly or indirectly. We are given advice and receive advice every day if we are willing to stop and notice these moments. Feel blessed when you ask someone a question and they happily give you advice. When you are able to help another person, recognize the beauty in this encounter. There is an infinite amount of knowledge in the world that is at our fingertip (just Google it). If you are uncertain about something, guidance is around the corner.
Everyone has a purpose. It just needs to be discovered. When we uncover our purpose we have a whole new outlook on life and can approach each day with vigor and resolve. This is a true blessing that we can uncover a purpose beyond ourselves. This may be one of the major reasons we are alive. We all need to consider what we do best, what we desire to offer the world, and how we can make a difference, and start following our purpose.
8. Freedom / Free Will
We have free will. It’s an amazing thing to have free will. We can make choices that better our life and have a sense of control. In this sense, we have control over our destiny. We can also make choices that will cause us to learn from our mistakes and become a better person. We can choose to have fun and pursue our goals at the same time. We are free to choose how to live our life despite what others may say.
We are made to experience abundance and have our hearts desires. The universe does not lack in any outlet. There is enough in the world for everyone. This relates to creative ideas, wealth, and influence. The world’s abundance may not be distributed equally, but don’t let that fool you, there is enough for everyone, including you!
If there is one thing that is easily overlooked in our day to day hustle and bustle is that we are eternal beings in an eternal world. We are here to live out our purpose until our bodies expire. There are many beliefs about what happens after we die, but one thing that seems persistent is the eternity of time, and we are a part of this. We are eternal and everlasting. Every molecule that ever existed has been redistributed throughout time. In that way, we physically live on after death, molecularly; and we live on in the hearts, minds and memory of those we have touched in life.
11. Love and Sorrow
Our relationships, friends, and family are something to be thankful for every day. Having someone who can give us support and allows us to experience love and affection is such a blessing. Whenever we develop a loving relationship, realize how much of a blessing it is. Cherish relationships in all the joy and sorrow they provide. As the saying goes, “it’s better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all.”
When you are waiting in line, sitting in traffic (in L.A. they call it “Car-cooning”), we need to take a moment to allow our mind to think, to ponder, to reflect. We would do well to focus on these situations as a time to practice patience. It definitely requires a perspective shift to recognize what a blessing our ability to be patient is.
Patience gives us a chance to be at peace, experience the present moment, and remain contented in a world of immediate gratification. Next time we have an opportunity to be patient, we need to recognize it as a blessing and use this capability.
Work or volunteering can seem like a difficult chore, but labor is a rewarding part of life. Whether at a job, at an organization, at school, or household chores and errands, I’m sure we have all complained about it at one point or another. Yet without labor, where would we be? Work is the fiber of our lives, and when we find work that is fulfilling, it offers us a sense of purpose, meaning, and pride. I, personally, do not relate to retirement. The work I do is rewarding; the people I meet, the activities I do, the services I provide are a blessing. Even if you aren’t fulfilled by your work, you can be grateful for doing good work, and for what you do well.
We all have many things to be thankful for and that we can view with appreciation. Sometimes it takes a change in perceptive to find all the blessings in disguise that surround us. Begin to incorporate some of the ideas mentioned tonight and consider other blessings we may be overlooking. By doing so, it will help us develop acceptance, strength, and courage to make a better life.
Therefore, I suggest, we add one more blessing; that of mindfulness.
14. Mindfulness What exactly is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present. This state encompasses observing one’s thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad.
To live mindfully is to live in the moment and reawaken oneself to the present, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future. We can only LIVE in the now, yes, remembering the past and planning for the future, but living today! Mindfulness separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. The only thing we are truly completely in control of in our lives is our attitude…our outlook…our thoughts
Mindfulness is a tool that allows us to be more aware of our physical and emotional conditions without getting bogged down in self-criticism and judgment, not a slave to the, but to learn from them. As we begin the Yomim Neroim, the Days of Awe, aware of the traditional custom of seeking reconciliation with people we have wronged, (in Hebrew, Kapparot,) we need to be mindful, take a long, hard look at the person in the mirror, be aware of ourselves, our foibles, our qualities, our attitude, and our blessings.
When your feet hit the floor first thing in the morning, perhaps you should think: “I am blessed! I am mindful of my blessings. Today is going to be a good day. I will make the most of whatever it holds in store and whatever I can make of it.” “Now, I better get to the bathroom.”
Let’s briefly discuss what you think about blessings; the qualities we have. Next Tuesday at Yom Kippurwe will discuss thankfulness and gratitude; how we feel about our blessings, specifically,for now. We will pass the mic and hear from you as to what you think are your blessings,in a few words from yourperspective.