“Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.” Good stuff which I was taught at a very early age to repeat at mealtime. My family and I recited these words with a consistent drone and my dad would then liven it up with “over the lips and through the gums watch out stomach here it comes!” punctuated by a brief humming of the Godfather’s theme while swishing his wine. For years I recited this grace without actually feeling what I was saying, the value of it was lost on me and it was just a politeness to get to the eating.
After I left home at 18, I had an epiphany that I knew everything there was to know about religion, every aspect of life actually and I became resentful as it seemed that everyone was just mindlessly going through the motions of being grateful and life itself. I was convinced that I had narrowly escaped a zombie diocese that spanned throughout not only my childhood home but the surrounding tri-state Pittsburgh area. Get out of bed, clean up, work hard, be tired, watch tv, back to bed, repeat. My spiritual superiority supported my prevailing judgment of others. In fact my resentment and discontent became a major current in my life, not just in regards to saying grace at dinner but with my perspective of my family, childhood and human race. I was filled with fear and judgement and it disconnected me from my joy of life. Out in the world I was sometimes complimented for my discernments and in my discernment it was hard to feel grateful for inheriting such a hard knock life and doomed planet. I was so disconnected from the joys of life that I did not say grace at meal time in fact I did not say it at all.
Buried in my judgements my anesthetized heart could barely feel lightness or joy. In a way I was like a zombie, a hyper fit revlon covered zombie trying to avoid feeling for almost 15 years. Life was disappointing, my body rigid and my heart broken because I discerned all that was wrong with world (especially me). I don’t know the exact day or the exact hour that my judgements started to melt away and light began to crack out of my heart. It was a culmination of many days, tears and humblings. I can pinpoint that I started to feel safe in my own mind/body after doing a yoga practice. It started to be ok to feel and the more yoga I did the more feelings I had and the more joy I experienced (this is a reason why I teach yoga today). I started to feel a sense of acceptance of myself, my failures and my choices. It took a lot of these moments of post yoga safety to start to trust that I could be ok feeling- and choose to feel everything fully. This yoga healing combined with blips of pure startling gratitude through a series of sadnesses and disasters started to awaken me to me. It was slow and not steady. But I can say that there began a time when I felt without judgement and easy more often then resentful and untrusting. That I felt safe in that easy grateful state and that I began to feel a clear difference between being in a state of fear driven judgment and a state of contented gratitude and I could choose gratitude!
Now twenty some years later I find myself consciously switching my perspective asking not what is wrong with a situation but what is right with it. What is there to be truly grateful for in this moment and then breathing and feeling the light of that right now. Rearing my own family, I find that stopping to say “grace” or thanks is one of the most special parts of the day. Where I look into each of my dear one’s eyes and say that I am thankful for them. That I am thankful for the gift of this day and the bounty of food on the table. That if it is my last nourishment to share with them that their presence in my life has been immense. With new perspective, I see the love and commitment of my parents to help each of us children have a sense of consistency and goodness. That I who once looked at the ritual of grace as something disconnected when fully conscious is the greatest prayer and gift that I can offer myself and anyone connected to me. In the awakened words of Meister Johann Eckhardt,”If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”
Thank you to my parents who have always tried their very best and met me with love. Thank you to you for taking the time to read these musings from my heart.
May we Awaken ourselves and each other to what is beautiful in each moment and say grace together.