May your pockets be heavy
Your heart be light
And may good luck pursue you
Each morning and night
So goes a very old and heart-centered blessing of the Irish.
The important phrase when it comes to creating a blessing is heart-centered. Why not make the art of blessing a practice?
You don’t have to be a churchgoer or affiliated with any religious institution to have a personal blessing practice that’s good for your soul, mind, and body (and that of the recipients) in myriad ways.
And it doesn’t involve making the sign of the cross (although it can) or putting together prayer hands (although why not ?) or even the yogic hand mudra where the thumb is joined to the forefinger representing the union of the greater with the lesser in the universe. Nor does your blessing ritual call for a particular place or time (although again, rooting your ritual in a physical space on a specific day and time that holds meaning for you may make it even more symbolically rich and easier to come back to each day.)
Throughout the ages, to bless meant to make sacred or holy by a sacrificial custom. One of the first incidences of blessing in the Bible is in Genesis, 12:1–2 where Abraham is told by God. “I will bless you, I will make your name great.”
But Christianity has no monopoly on this deeply human custom.
Blessings which may involve the offering of gifts of food or flowers are integral to every known religious tradition from Judaism and Islam to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Native American practices. Speaking in contemporary terms, a blessing is the infusion of something (really anything) with holiness through word, deed, thought, or touch (or all four),
We can keep the blessing going in our own 21st-century ways. According to the author and physician Rachel Naomi Remen, “It is the job of the human race to discover the hidden wholeness in all of life’s events, to heal the world back into its original unity…by becoming a blessing and blessing the life around you.”
You can bless yourself, members of your family, relatives (living and deceased), people you don’t know but care about. You can even bless objects of special significance. For instance, blessing your home/ living space at times that hold special meaning for you. Or blessing outdoor spaces that bring beauty into your life, season after season.
To get started, you don’t need to kneel or have a prayer book at hand (although why not if either speaks to you). A blessing practice can replace, arise from, or merge with other prayerful practices you already do. Start where you are.
The ritual is yours to fashion and that’s the fun of it. Here’s how to create a personalized blessing practice that will bless you back.
What to bless, who to bless, where to bless
- Loving Kindness Blessing: Find a quiet place indoors or out, Begin on day one by centering yourself prayerfully, then naming the recipients of your blessing (envisioning each one as best you can)–your partner, children, siblings, other family members, and relations. On day two, try expanding that embrace to business associates, social friends, your neighbors. As you become more practiced and your heart opens, send love and care to those who are even more distant and unknown to you. World leaders, people, and places in distress. You may say aloud or silently blessings such as MAY YOU BE AT PEACE, MAY YOU BE LOVED, MAY YOU LIVE A WORTHY LIFE. Let the words and sentiments flow naturally
- The Meditation Mindfulness Blessing: Before you meditate, choose an object, a person, or cause as your blessing focus for this day. Find a simple mantra to express this intention. Remember it’s not just words or thoughts, it’s speaking from spirit, from your heart. You can use a lighted candle as a gazing point, start your practice with the ringing of a bell or open the doors or windows to nature if you are blessed to be close to birds and trees and the rest of the natural world.
- The Gratitude Blessing: Begin writing your intentions down and reflecting silently or reading them aloud. Each day can begin with a new list of things you wish to bless that you are thankful for. Keep the lists in your own sacred place ( a sunny windowsill, an altar, a space between your favorite plants). Thinking of and thanking those who care for you and keep you safe, in your family, in the community, your state, your country, those responsible for growing and harvesting the food on your table, those who deliver it and market it. The opportunities for blessing your bounty in life are bountiful.
- The Affirmative Blessing: The practice of wishing the blessings of life on who you are and who you could become often called affirmations, is powerful. Examples: I AM CONFIDENT, I AM STRONG, I HAVE ABUNDANCE, I AM A FORCE FOR GOOD, I FOLLOW MY DREAMS. Write your own. Try doing this in front of a mirror.
When you bless who you are, you invite who you might be to emerge,
- The Great Outdoors Blessing: Blessing the trees, flowers, birds, squirrels, and insects for their part in the universal life cycle. Best practiced outdoors in your yard, in the park, on a trail walk, but on inclement days, you can focus on your own houseplants, household pets.
- Hands-On Blessings: Human touch is a blessing and we can use it with our companion animals, our children, our partners. And go ahead and smile–some people extend hands-on blessings to those inanimate objects that quietly serve us – like kitchen appliances and office technology. If nothing else, it could make you more appreciative of the blessing these “objects “ are in our lives.
- Add blessings to your daily or weekly to-do list, and give them a time and a place until it becomes an automatic habit to start the day greeting (and blessing) the sun that has just risen to light our ways. Or to end the day by blessing the moon that brings our day to a close.
- Bless with the rhythm of the seasons. Blessing the earth coming back to life to support us in the spring and its opposite in the fall. Blessing the going-inward nature of winter.
- Mealtime blessings. The venerable practice of “grace” before meals is just another form of blessing and giving thanks that don’t have to involve a heavenly deity. It can instead pay tribute to (and bless) every human (and animal) involved in bringing the food to the table. It is this practice done joining hands with family and friends that makes us better more humble more thoughtful custodians of the planet.