The Flow of Blessings

“… the blessing that flows into us
through everything we touch…”

My dad knew many interesting people. Here and there throughout my life, quite a variety of people would come into our lives and home. Many of them became colorful threads that helped to sew together the person I am. They were blessings in my life. Their smiles and hugs, their values and hopes flowed into me and became a part of me. A few of them found a special little niche in my memory. It is the spot I visit often and work to keep the memories there dusted and cherished so they have a chance of staying sharp and crisp. My memories of them are small, and sometimes of silly things. Yet, remembering them and following their lives and stories as I grew up continued to shape and form me.

One such person was Hans Kloppenburg from Germany. I think he was from Bremen. He came to the US  with his family to visit a doctor for his son. This was in the 60’s, and I seem to recall his son had a medical condition and they were looking for guidance that might not have been available in Germany at the time. I don’t really know what the connection was with my dad. Hans was a round and jovial man with a white beard that connected to lamb-chop sideburns. He had a great laugh that sort of echoed around no matter where he was. He brought me two little dolls that I still have. The girl has red pom poms on her hat! He smoked cigars. He smoked cigars sticking straight up out of the bowl of a pipe. I think this was the first time I discovered the creative aspects of pipe cleaners. Years later we visited his family in Germany. His wife taught me how to properly fluff a feather bed each morning.

There was Udar Pinto from Pondicherry India. A not very tall man, bald on top, who emanated love and calm. He was involved in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and tread lightly on this earth. Clearly he not only loved life but rejoiced in all the experiences and experiencing of it no matter how difficult, mundane or manic. His presence added a brightness to everything. When I remember Udar I can smell the jasmine that twisted and twined throughout Pondicherry. If I close my eyes I can see him leaning against a pillar covered with red and orange exotic flowers that were everywhere. A smile on his face. He lived well into his 100’s.

There were the Berrigan brothers…mostly Daniel. Daniel would often come over for dinner. Or donuts. Father Berrigan traveled with Howard Zinn to Hanoi during the Tet Offensive to “receive” three American airmen, the first American POWs released by the North Vietnamese since the US bombing of that nation had begun. Daniel was director of Cornell United Religious Works. He was a member of the Catonsville Nine and was sentenced to Federal Prison for his protests. My dad would visit him often at the Federal Correctional Institute in Danbury Connecticut. One year I painted a peace dove and sent it Daniel at Danbury for Christmas. He never received it. Many years later the envelop found its way back to us, tattered and disintegrating, marked, “Undeliverable”.

Sometimes I brought people home too! One was the an Orthodox priest I introduced myself to in the Cleveland airport while waiting for my brother. Father Anthony occasionally visited an Orthodox church in Lansing and would come over to our house to visit. For many, many years I would receive small packages from around the world as he traveled. Olive-wood beads from Jerusalem. An ivory necklace from what was then the Belgian Congo, now the DRC Democratic Republic of the Congo. We maintained contact for almost 20 years…..

Juliet Hollister was a dynamic, tall woman. When she walked, she flowed. She founded the Temple of Understanding. She was always brimming with energy and love. She believed respect and understanding of cultural and religious diversity was the only way for people to survive together on this planet. She believed social change would bring about the possibility of global citizenship.

Perhaps one of the most significant friends of my father’s was Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk. They maintained a long and nurturing relationship over many decades. They traveled together in Europe and spent hours sitting in our home talking. Almost  two decades after my father’s death, Brother David sent me a picture of the two of them in Europe. (Brother David is the inspiration for the website

Each one of these people ignited something  inside of me. Through the process of knowing them and having them touch my life I received the blessing of each one of them. Hans and his pipe brought me the element of silliness and thinking outside the box. Even though I was very young, I remember feeling bad that Hans could not find what his son needed in their own country…perhaps the first inkling of the developmental disparity among countries. There seemed to be an inequality or differing national priorities. Udar gave me the possibility of calmness, appreciation for the moment and the understanding that we are all a very small part of something much larger. I wonder if people know who Dan Berrigan is any more…..poet, anti war activist, pacifist. He instilled in me that peace is the way we must learn to travel. Father Anthony gave me the world in little gifts. A lesson that no one is too small or insignificant to care about….he had no reason to stay in touch with me for 20 some years as he traveled the world. Juliet made me believe we could become one world, all citizens of the same global community that could honor and respect vibrant, diverse, living cultures and religious freedoms. Brother David gave the blessing of the smile, of being totally present for a person. He brought the power of gratitude and simplicity into my life.

I found this quote the other day and it caused a ray of light to saturate that dusted and honored place in my memory, shining a light on the kindhearted smile of Brother David.

brother david (2)“The more alert we become to the blessing
that flows into us through everything we touch,
the more our own touch will bring blessing.”
Brother David Steindl-Rast

My heart, soul, mind, all of me, needed this reminder. Sometimes we all need to pause and allow ourselves to be alert to things we have forgotten about. Like our blessings. The ones we receive and the ones we give.

Today, please find a moment to pause, to be still and quiet and tune in to the blessings of life and love that flow into you infinite amounts of times each day. Pause to be aware of and honor the blessings you bestow on others all through the day with your concern, your laughter, your interest, your patience, your love, your time, your support, your respect….your taking notice of them.

Our own touch, thoughts, awareness, interactions can bring a blessing to others. How wonderful is that? By being aware of what we receive, we increase the awareness and ease of what we give so freely to others. Compassion. Love. Recognition. Hope. Companionship. Strength. Wonderful, nurturing things! Let’s make time to feel the back and forth flow of human kindness.

*photograph my dad and Brother David around 1959.


Guerilla Compassion

This morning I was reading comments on articles and my heart sank. I know the internet and social media have allowed for hateful and hurtful voices to speak out. This morning, still dark, one particular comment was just so sad. It was ignorant, bigoted, mean, unkind….it was very difficult to understand. Sad to think that first of all, maybe “we” are raising people who are so full of fear, hate and intolerance and secondly, that even if they function as kind, caring people they still speak their true hearts and minds on social media for all to read.

Last week I couldn’t even muster the energy to try to be a Shambala Warrior. The world at large had knocked me down. The political rhetoric of war, hate, violence, the greed, the anger, the desire for power and control, all of it, deflated me.

Then as usually happens, I read something that filled me up again.

walk4“Sharon Salzberg suggests we practice guerilla compassion — silently blessing people on line at the bank, at the supermarket, in the cars next to us in traffic. Each blessing a tiny Sabbath, a secret sanctuary offered to a hurried and unsuspecting world.”

Okay, I thought, I am going to do this. I am going to be aware of people. In that awareness I will offer a silent blessing to them. No matter who they are, or what they are doing. I will not hide under a veil of fear, of not noticing, not seeing, not caring. I will offer “May you have a peaceful day.” “May you have a happy day.” “May you be safe.” To those I want to shun or turn away from, discard,  I will not. I will offer “May you find healing.” “May you find hope.” “May you find strength.”

Why? Because I think it matters. I don’t know if this energy really goes out into the world and creates a change. I hope it does. I do know when I change my thoughts and actions I change on a profound level. If I begin to offer blessings to all the people I encounter during my day, first of all I see others, secondly I see them in a positive, hopeful light of possibility. Instead of sorting them by worthy or unworthy I see them as being worthy of compassion. If I forgo the judging, the lumping them in categories I see them as individuals not unlike me. We all have shared values, dreams, hopes, suffering and joys. If we do not see ourselves in others, even if it is one teeny tiny thing (sometimes it is so very difficult to find that teeny tiny common thing), we will become boxed in from life and the world by fear, indifference, apathy, judging. As individuals we loose. Collectively we loose. As a country and a nation we loose. As a world we suffer.

The thought that others passing by me during the day may be offering me a blessing is humbling. It is a wonderful thought. To be noticed, seen, respected, even in my failings and weaknesses, is healing. To think that someone who I don’t know understands we share many of the same dreams, hopes and feelings is comforting. Those things wrap me in the security of a shared human experience and reminds me I am not alone or unsupported.

I have a difficult time balancing the affairs of our world. The massive amounts of suffering and pain tugs mightily at my heart. The words of anger and threats and actions of violence makes my soul tense up and my spirit pale . I am one, but I am going to keep trying to do what my heart and soul tell me to do. This week I will focus on offering blessings to others all day long. I believe it matters.

Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal.
Walk out of your house like a shepherd.”

No One Reads A Blog On Thanksgiving Day, Right?

“Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.”
–Mary Oliver

No one reads a blog on Thanksgiving, right?  Well, perhaps….I’ll take a small chance.  In this country today is Thanksgiving….it has different meanings for different people. Here’s my take….a day to commit to transforming the way I live.


As I grow older the choice to make each day a day to give thanks, to feel gratitude, grows stronger. It is not enough to have one day to pause and reflect and count blessings. Living in gratitude has become a resolute intention. I understand, as Mary Oliver says, “I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.”

To share each day with a loving, giving partner and to watch our children grow into loving, compassionate, grateful, aware individuals, who strive to make a difference in the lives of others in the world, is a blessing. I never want to take them for granted.

I feel blessed every day. To wake up from sleep in a soft, comforting bed and take in a breath as I open my eyes to a new day is a blessing. I do not want to ever take that for granted.

At the end of the day as I shed clothing, activities, words and emotions from the day, I am blessed to be able to recline in a tub of hot water and reflect on having had a day where I did not have to think of food, safety or shelter. I never want to take that for granted.

As I fret and worry of things I could have done better or differently, or worry about things that may or may not happen in the future, I recognize the relevance of living in the present. I pause to “stand wherever I am to be blessed.” I am blessed. I do not ever want to take that for granted.

When I get in my head I need or desire something and it lingers and hangs on every thought as if it were important and can’t be put aside, I pause and look around. I live in plenty. There is nothing I need. I do not ever want to forget that or take for granted what I have.

When I feel sad, small, confused, I know I have only to reach out my hand to find the absolute love of family and friends. In their embrace I am uplifted and restored. I never want to take that for granted.

thanxgiving morning 2015

It Was Early

It was early, which has always been my hour to begin looking at the world
and of course, even in the darkness, to begin listening into it,
especially under the pines where the owl lives and sometimes calls out
as I walk by, as he did on this morning. So many gifts!
What do they mean?  In the marshes where the pink light was just arriving
the mink with his bristle tail was stalking the soft-eared mice,
and in the pines the cones were heavy, each one ordained to open.
Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.
Little mink, let me watch you.
Little mice, run and run.
Dear pine cone, let me hold you as you open.
–Mary Oliver

May you know you are blessed. Each and every day. In the joy and hopefulness of your day as well as in the bruised and distressed moments, you are blessed. The pilgrimage towards inquiry includes the effort to stand still and receive and acknowledge those blessings. No matter how small and feeble they may feel, they are there….the sun, your breath, your shoes, a glass of water, a smile received, a hand held…..

Stand where you are, be silent and still. In that stillness may you be filled up with gratefulness for all the blessings in your life.

Happy Thanksgiving!