On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" When he saw them, he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, "Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well." -Luke 17:11-19
On This Week's Prompts for Personal Meditation
I imagined the leper with the loud voice "leaping and praising God" like the lame man healed at the Beautiful Gate (Acts 3:1-10). What happened to the other nine? Perhaps they showed themselves to the priest as Jesus directed them. But then what? What would I have done? Probably run home to restore my past, or reclaim my future. But the loud foreigner? HE embraces the present with gratitude and gets to hear Jesus say, "Your faith has made you well!"
R. S. Thomas writes, Life is not hurrying on to a receding future,/Nor hankering after an imagined past. /It is turning aside like Moses/ To the miracle of a lit bush...(see below, Miscellany). Gratitude urges you to look twice at the same thing, and that second look penetrates to eternity.
The practice of gratitude gradually opens every moment to eternity (Meditation One). Integrity is essential to that practice (Meditation Two). Gratitude effects those around us for the better (Meditation Three).
John Milton said, “Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.”
May you know the joy and beauty of the eternal present. -Suzanne
Meditation One (introit) the practice of gratitude
For the seeker on the Direct Path it is essential to learn how to awaken and sustain gratitude, for gratitude is the key to many of the highest, most noble, and most transformatory sacred emotions. A heart tuned constantly to be grateful comes to revere the Divine in the whole of existence and slowly to recognize the unity of the Presence behind all diverse appearances. A heart trained always to be grateful will also grow more and more humble; it will be fearless in its recognition of how everything it loves, needs, and celebrates streams in a never-ending river of grace from God. -Andrew Harvey The Direct Path
Naaman the leper washing in the Jordan, Unknown Illustrator of Petrus Comestor's Bible Historiale, 1372
I have seen the sun break through To illuminate a small field for a while, And gone my way and forgotten it But that was the pearl of great price, The one field that had the treasure in it. I realize now that I must give all that I have to possess it. Life is not hurrying on to a receding future, Nor hankering after an imagined past. It is turning aside like Moses To the miracle of a lit bush, To a brightness that seemed as transitory as your youth once, But is the eternity that awaits you.
Spiritual Practice: Ten Things
I do this on my walk around the block in the evening. If I wait until bedtime I'm too tired to think, and if I wait for my head to hit the pillow, well, forget about it.
Before going to bed, name ten things for which you are grateful this past day.
What happens after a short time of practice, is that you begin "collecting" lovely things for which to be grateful throughout the day. Soon, you begin noticing more things - the beauty of the cat's mottled fur - and closer, the purr in her throat when she comes near. The play of light on a maple leaf - and closer, the river delta geography of the leaf's veins. The laughter of the kids across the street - and closer, overhearing their delight in sheer silliness. Little things that delight you all day long. And there are big things, too. Food. Shelter. Safety. Companionship. An idea. A beautiful image. Another day to be grateful. A warm bed and soft pillow to look forward to tonight.
Jesus heals a leper, Unknown Illustrator of Petrus Comestor's Bible Historiale, 1372
Meditation Two (insight) gratitude and integrity
There is a French Marian legend about a storyteller who gives up his fickle life and enters a monastery. But the life of the monks remains strange to him; he knows neither how to recite nor chant a prayer. He pours out his lament to the Virgin Mary and she tells him to serve God with what he can do, namely to dance and leap. From that moment on, he skips the divine offices and dances during those times. He is called to the abbot and believes that he is about to be expelled. But the abbot only says, "With your dancing you have glorified God with body and soul. but may God forgive us all those lofty words that pass our lips without coming from the heart." -Dorothee Soelle The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance
Meditation Three (integration) gratitude and hospitality
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
-Melody Beattie The Language of Letting Go: A Meditation Book and Journal for Daily Reflection
The Divine Beloved longs to play joyously and rest peacefully within the heart of the consecrated lover. -Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa 1836-1886 Great Swan: Meetings with Ramakrishna, Lex Hixon
The Last Word
The root of joy is gratefulness... It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful. -Brother David Stendl-Rast OSB
Speaking of gratitude and insight...
My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor
At the age of 37, Dr. Taylor, a Harvard neuroscientist, suffered a stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. While it took a decade to recover fully, she observed painstakingly and enthusiastically the process of her recovery which she shares in her memoir along with good advice for “tending the garden” of our own brains. It's a fast, easy, inspiring read.
Here's the insight: when her left hemisphere shut down, she experienced fully the right hemisphere's gift. Peace. Bliss. Compassion. Oneness with the universe and humanity. A sense of fluidity and unbounded energy of Being. “Nirvana,” she calls it. The eternal fascination of the Present Moment.
Consequently, for Jill Taylor, the effort to struggle to regain function in her left hemisphere (order, judgment, language, files of information, the little ego, communication - the capabilities necessary for normal life) was a conscious choice to some extent. But as a scientist she also remembered the plasticity of brain cells, the body's eagerness to learn and to heal and concluded that recovery might be possible and desirable. She set about learning again - to sit up, to walk, to speak, to read, to think. Her perceptive, loving, and intuitive mother helped her full time.
Later in the book, Taylor encourages the reader to find strategies for quieting the left brain “storyteller” who plants drama and trauma in ceaseless chatter and negativity, and to nurture the “right mind” for the sake of self, humanity, and the planet.
Enjoy Jill Taylor's remarkable TED Talk. It seems to me to compliment the self-guided retreat on the present moment and gratitude in this week's web-post.