Recently at a small core sangha Sunday gathering at my home, a long-time Dzogchen Dharma student shared his current elder-thoughts on pride and gratitude. While his message was simple, I was struck by the enormity of its meaning and how easily, in our day to day being, we forget to be thankful and appreciate all who’ve been part of our gifts and opportunities, unfolding talents, virtues, and loving intimates, as well as our benefactors.
Dr. Leo shared that he tries to remember the importance of practicing gratitude every day. While it would seem logical that he, the grandchild of non-English-speaking immigrants from Eastern Europe, should be proud to be a physician and mental health professional, proud that he helped raise successful children and grandchildren, proud that he has a lovely home, community, and friends of all kinds, colors, creeds, and breeds; instead he practices being grateful for all of these wonderful achievements—saying thank you every day and almost every minute for whatever his higher power sends his way. For in practicing gratitude he finds it humbles his heart and makes him more open to accepting things in life that are often challenges, or unwanted disruptions, and recognizing that hard work, surrender and acceptance must go hand in hand and that oneself is not entirely in control.
My dear student went on to say that he’d come to realize the importance of something he’d heard me say many times over the years, echoing many of the world’s sacred scriptures and words of wisdom, about how our accomplishments are often the result of the help and interdependent inter-being of those who have touched our lives along the path. He said that feeling great pride in what he’s accomplished was extra and even seemed excessive; and that gratitude and kvelling (reveling and rejoicing) in the kind generosity and compassionate caring of others was far more substantial and significant as far as his spiritual health and genuine clarity and sanity were concerned. I think he too agrees with what the famous mystic Meister Eckhart said: “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”
Last year, before he passed, I spent some precious deathbed time with my dear friend Fr. Thomas Keating, a true Christian mystic. One of the explicit messages he shared with me that windswept September afternoon was the importance of carrying forward the practice of gratitude, and living a life filled with service, and truth. When asked about the pain of his advanced cancer he said, “Sometimes God squeezes us. I feel fortunate to feel so close.”
A beautiful message from a beautiful soul.
Thank you all, thank you, thank yous (sic) very smooch.
Thank you, Lord,
For this our day,
For this our life,
For all your gifts and delights…
For this breath, for this moment
And company,
For our marvelous soulful beingness
And for this good earth we stand on.
Happy Mother’s Day!
With love and blessings,
Lama Surya Das