Be a Blessing = Living a Blessed Life

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Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness.
If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions –
we cannot be free.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh, Heart of Buddha’s Teaching

By determining to be a Living Blessing, you become a sunbeam of light and hope in a very dark and lonely world.

By determining to be a Living Blessing, you become a sunbeam of light and hope in a very dark and lonely world.

Some people are having trouble reading this post. For that I sincerely apologize. My computer skills are too limited for me to figure out how to fix it.  As an alternative, to read Rick Hansons message that I loved so much go here:
http://www.rickhanson.net/just-one-thing/bless#more-6586
 
Freedom is the hearts cry of every vandweller, freedom from the restrictions and limitations placed on us by the normal consumer-oriented American life. Freedom from possessions is a wonderful, liberating experience, but for many of us it isn’t enough to bring true happiness. There is an old saying that says, “Wherever you go, there you are.” It means that you can run from your demons, but unless you deal with their root causes they will find you and attack you over and over again. I know in my life it was not enough to simply move into a van and embrace simplicity and mobility, I had to find a way to deal with the anger, fear and anxiety that drove me.
To show you what worked for me I am going to do something unusual in this post; I am going to steal a post from someone else’s newsletter by cutting and pasting it here. Doing this may be technically copyright violation, but I do it with good intent. I am a fan of the author, Rick Hanson, and want to encourage each of you to sign up for his newsletter. They come once a week and while they aren’t all wonderful gems they very often deeply move me and greatly improve my life. Last weeks post about being a blessing to others was one that touched me and put into beautiful, poetic words what I have endeavored to do with my life. This spiritual practice has done more to make my life better than anything else I have ever done and I want to encourage you to open your heart to his words and let them touch you deeply to the very core of your being. If you do, your life will be changed.

Lately, I’ve been wondering what would be on my personal list of top five practices (all tied for first place). You might ask yourself the same question, knowing that you can cluster related practices under a single umbrella, your list may differ from mine, and your practices may change over time. (Editor’s note: I’ve deleted the first two practices)My third practice is bless, which means see what’s tender and beautiful, and wish well. (For some, this word has religious connotations, but I’m not using it that way.) Blessing includes compassion, kindness, appreciating, honoring, non-harming, warmth, cherishing, and love; you can see I’m using this word broadly. It’s leaning toward pain rather than away, helping rather than harming, giving rather than withholding, opening and extending rather than closing and contracting, wishing well rather than ill, delighting in rather than finding fault. You can bless others, the world, and yourself – and any parts of any of these.Blessing is obviously good for others and the world, and that’s plenty reason to offer it. As a bonus, it’s also good for you. It strengthens gratitude and gladness, opens your heart, deepens connection, and tends to evoke good treatment from others. You experience people and the world as blessed rather than threatening, disappointing, or rejecting. By blessing, you feel blessed.

How? Deliberately feel warmly toward someone while wishing him or her well – that he or she not suffer, and be truly happy. Also be aware of a benevolence toward others, looking for good things in them. Use this to know what the act and the attitude of blessing feels like, and to take in the experience of it so you can call upon it in the future.
To bless someone, see their goodness, efforts, hopes, suffering, and what’s neat about them. Let yourself be touched, moving past the idea and the should of blessing to the experience itself. Feel a warmth, a kindness. You can express good wishes with actions – a touch, a door opened, a charitable gift – or words (e.g., “may you be at peace, may you be loved”), or inside your heart alone.
Blessing means not harming, hurting, criticizing, or dismissing; if any of these is present, blessing isn’t. Don’t let blessing feed a subtle superiority, the bless-er who is better than the bless-ee. Let others be who they are, and don’t presume you know what they need. In the moment of true blessing, there’s little if any sense of self, of I-me-mine. You bless for them, not for yourself.
Bless people you know, and also bless strangers. It’s powerful to look at someone passing on the street, get a sense of the person, and then wish him or her well. See what happens when you bless people who have really helped you, friends and family, even people who are difficult for you. See what it’s like to deliberately offer compassion, kindness, prizing, or love. You can also bless parts of yourself – your pain, your darkness, your light – as well as yourself as a whole.
Do blessing deliberately. And over time, be blessing. It becomes where you come from, your ground and natural inclination.
You can be pressed and stressed and still bless. Find your warmth and good wishes amidst the mental clutter, like hearing wind chimes outside amidst storm and rain. But also take care of yourself. It’s hard to bless if you feel bad. Blessing does not mean approving; you can wish people well while also disengaging from them.
Fundamentally, blessing means treating another person as a “thou” not an “it,” not a means to your ends. Think of “thou” as a verb. To bless people is to thou them.

Just re-reading these words bring tears to my eyes. Without ever thinking formally about it, I have tried to be a blessing in my life and the joy and peace it has brought me is beyond my ability to describe. The spiritual path I follow instructs me to end each day by saying to myself, “Was I loving and kind toward all today?” Ricks post makes that practice come alive and makes it very real. Nothing I ever write in this blog, or say, or do, can be as helpful to you as this simple practice Rick describes. Consider making it a part of your life. To subscribe to the Rick Hanson newsletter, go here:
http://www.rickhanson.net/writings/just-one-thing
 

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37 Comments

  1. LaVonne

    “Was I loving and kind toward all today?”
    What a wonderful question to ask of ourselves at the end of every day. I am not at all surprised that it is your guiding light, Bob. It’s obvious that you live what you preach (not that you preach!)
    I would just add that we need to remember to include ourselves in that “all”. Too many of us were taught from an early age to distrust and even despise ourselves, which makes it almost impossible to extend love and kindness toward others.

    • Bob

      LaVonne, you are so right. Most of us would never “talk” to others the way we talk to ourselves in our minds and hearts. We would be ashamed if we did, but somehow it seems not only okay, but right to beat ourselves up. There are plenty of people in this world who will beat us up without our joining in!
      Bob

  2. LaVonne

    “Was I loving and kind toward all today?”
    What a wonderful question to ask of ourselves at the end of every day. I am not at all surprised that it is your guiding light, Bob. It’s obvious that you live what you preach (not that you preach!)
    I would just add that we need to remember to include ourselves in that “all”. Too many of us were taught from an early age to distrust and even despise ourselves, which makes it almost impossible to extend love and kindness toward others.

  3. CAE

    That’s some strong healing.

    • Bob

      CAE thanks for the kind words!
      Bob

  4. Pat

    Bob,
    There’s something wrong with viewing your post. I can’t see the right side. I tried reloading and that didn’t help. To give you an idea, the photo is about 90% covered by the green column on the right.

    • rick

      It works in Internet Explorer but is messed up in Firefox browser

      • Bob

        I am using Firefox and it works okay. I cut and pasted Ricks post from his email and some hidden formatting came through with it. The formatting of my post is off because of it but it is a minor problem. On my latest version of Firefox it is perfectly readable with no overlapping of photos and text.
        My guess is that maybe you have an older version of Firefox that is struggling with the hidden formatting? It’s always a puzzle to me why some browser/computer combinations struggle with a page and others don’t. Wish I could be more helpful but I know zero html. It should be just this one post because of the hidden formatting that came with the cut and paste and shouldn’t happen again.
        Bob

  5. Kevin

    Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish. — well that mantra serves most and applies in this discussion. Is being nice a wonderful temporary blessing? Dont get me wrong, because it’s required for communication. Just saying that being a blessing is not limited to talking the talk. Find a way to be a blessing by doing something actual. Bet that is the way we remember those who blessed us.

    • Bob

      You are right Kevin, words are great but actions are life-changing. It takes both.
      Bob

  6. Joy

    Bob,
    I think there are a lot of us that echo how you feel in this regard…..let’s hope it’s contagious!
    In my small way…I’m trying to grow a garden, rebeautify this old Fl home I am staying at, and hope to join some community gardens and in turn help the food banks. My fav. new phrase is….[Give a Man a tomato..he will make a sandwich….Give him a tomato plant he might feed his family and share with neighbors.]

    • Bob

      That’s a very good saying Joy. You have a wonderful, giving heart!
      Bob

  7. Adriana

    Wow, I needed this thank you guys. This morning I’ve been feeling especialy lost & confused. Not knowing what to do next. My to do list has gotten longer & makes me more disillusioned & disapointed…almost to tears. I’m upset about my new neighbor that is building this ugly 12 foot high cinder block thing just 8′ from my 3′ white picket fence. Now I can’t see the big oaks, squirrels, blue birds & cardinals that would enjoy my bird bath. They to have been displaced. Wish I could just pick up & change my scenery. If I was in a van I could. I meditate daily & try to live my Buddhist practice but sometimes it is such a challenge. Since this new neighbor started building I’ve had much difficulty sleeping & no longer can enjoy the wild life or a cup of coffee in my backyard. My american dream has become a nightmare permiating literaly my views, sleep & personel freedoms. I’ve been reading your blog & seriuosly thinking of saying F#*k it…& hitting the road. Just needed to vent this morning. Putting “craigslist” first on my “to do list” to look for a cargo van. Love you all for your inspiration, support, ideas & nonjudgment. You are all truly masters of your domain.

    • Bob

      Adriana, I am so sorry you are going through this. You have to wonder if the Universe isn’t trying to tell you something? Not that it necessarily is but you have to at least consider that idea. Decisions made in haste are sometimes wrong so be sure you aren’t running away from something that should be dealt with first. No one but you can know that for sure.
      At the RTR we had a bunch of huge Class A motorhomes come in and set up camp right next to us and they ran their generators, their ATVs and were generally just noisy and unwelcome. We didn’t want to move the whole group so we just waited them out and they were gone within a week. But we were all so glad that we were on wheels so if someone comes in that we just can’t stand to be around all that is required is to turn the key and drive away. Viola, Serenity Restored!!
      Whatever you decide, we are here for you!
      Bob

  8. Terry

    Thanks Bob for sharing. This is perhaps one of my favorite posts. Now at the end of the day, I too will ask if I have been loving and kind toward all today. I was wondering what my next step would be on my spiritual path of healing. Thanks;)

    • Bob

      Thanks Terry! I don’t always live up to those words, but I do try. At the minimum I try to at least do no harm. And if have to do harm I try to do the least amount of harm. I got really angry at Burger King the other day and actually complained to the clerk. It was a mild complaint but a complaint none the less. i wasn’t proud, but I wasn’t ashamed either. I do my best.
      Bob

  9. Patrick

    Only the fool likes sweet words. True words are not sweet.

    • Bob

      Hi Patrick, to be honest with you I don’t know what to make of your comment. One of the motto’s I have lived my life by is that a “Soft answer turn away wrath” and I have found that to be very true. So I think true words can be soft and sometimes they can be sweet. I really like it when people tell me they love me and I hope those are sweet and true words. Maybe I just don’t see what you mean.
      Bob

      • Paul

        Let me put the fundamentalist spin on what Patrick has written. Should we bless others when we know that they are doing something wrong, making poor choices, or hurting others? Is that really what is best for them? That is certainly the easy thing to do and it does bring us a feeling of having done something good but have we really? I know that most people don’t believe the Bible any more but God’s word says that a man sharpens another man like iron sharpens iron. Iron sharpening iron is not sweet and pleasant. It’s hard. It means being tough, applying tough love, and doing the hard things in life. It means rebuking sin and bad choices. The Bible says that if a man is not doing the right thing (I’m paraphrasing) or if he has offend you then you are to go to him and rebuke him in love. And, if he won’t hear you then take your elders back with you and do it again. Then if he will not get his life straight turn him away from your door. It is better for a man to hear the righteous words of God (regardless of how painful) and be corrected by them than to to hear the sweet words of men and continue to their ultimate destruction. And, if they heed your words and return to right living then they will know a true and deeper blessing. Kind words are fine, but kind words are anything but kind when what someone needs to hear is the truth, and not the truth according to man but the righteous words of God.

        • Bob

          Paul, I understand your point of view but I don’t share it. I do agree that in life not everything is goodness and light. If I come across a person assaulting another person, I feel my moral obligation is to get involved and do whatever is required to make it stop. In that case, love and kindness requires physical violence and hurting someone.
          But, that really isn’t your point. If I understand you correctly, you feel like you know what the absolute truth is and you know absolutely what right and wrong is. Beyond that, you feel that you not only have the right to tell and correct others, you are morally obligated to do so.
          The problem is I totally disagree with your fundamental assumptions, so we don’t have any basis for a discussion. I think we are going to have to agree to disagree.
          But I do appreciate you presenting your point of view, I’m sure there are other readers who share it and are glad you did.
          Bob

          • Paul

            Bob,
            You wrote in your Christmas post that you once believed that you were a born again Christian but now you are not. I hate to tell you this but being born again is not something you can turn off and on like a light switch. If you were and you believed then you still are and I hurt for a brother who is now drifting in the morass of moral relativism. If you were indeed a true believer then you know the truth of what I have written. You know it, and whether you choose to accept it does not make it untrue. From the tone of your reply and what I have read in your other posts I cannot help but think that it was you who was once confronted with the righteous words of God and the conviction of His spirit. At a crossroads in your life you had a choice of either turning around and getting your life straight and getting back to a right relationship with God or continuing on in the sin you were committing. You chose the latter and now have adopted a mindset of “there is no truth” and “I’m okay, you’re okay” to try and justify the reality of that choice. Dear brother I know of what I write because I have lived this reality myself and had it not been for a father who loved me and sternly rebuked me and my foolish choices I don’t know where I would be today. You advised me to be helpful and uplifting and there is nothing more helpful and uplifting than true words and wise counsel. May His blessing be with you always. I love you brother.

          • Bob

            Paul, I very much appreciate the love and concern you are expressing. You obviously want only the best for me and are extending it to me in the best way you know how. Thank you!!! The easy and lazy way would be to say nothing, but instead you took the risk of my being angry and vengeful because you cared. That says a lot to me about your character. Again, thank you!
            While I totally understand everything you are saying I have made deliberate choices to go another way. Following this way has brought me an immense amount of peace, contentedness and joy that I never had while following your way. And yes, I do understand that from your point of view I am either fooling myself or am being deceived by the the “Devil”. But following your way was pure misery for me, and I will not go back to it.
            When I look at the number of people I hurt and helped when I followed your way, versus the number I hurt and help now, now wins by about 1000 to 1 in both the hurting and the helping category. If your “loving” god needs to send me to a Lake of Fire to be punished forever because of that, then so be it. And yes, I know that by not telling everyone about Jesus I am not really helping them, I am condemning them to eternity in the Lake of Fire with me. It’s a risk I am willing to take.
            Bob

  10. Sayward

    Loved what I could read of it, but it’s messed up on my Firefox browser, and I AM updated…sure would like to have seen it all.

    • Bob

      Hi Sayward, I’m sorry about that. I wish I could fix it but my computer skills are just too limited. Here is a link to the archived post from Rick Hanson so you can at least read it. And it was the important thing anyway.
      http://www.rickhanson.net/just-one-thing/bless#more-6586
      Bob

      • LaVonne

        Bob, I’m pretty good with wordpress and html. I’d love to help. Let me know.

        • Bob

          Hi LaVonne, I appreciate the offer, but I am so dumb I don’t even know where to start!
          Bob

          • LaVonne

            I’ve set up lots of blogs for people, so you wouldn’t need to know where to start – that’s my job. I’d like to contribute somehow to the wonderful work you are doing. Email me if you’re interested.

  11. Myrrh

    Some of the most thoughtful, open and courteous discussions I’ve seen in a long time have been right here -thank you!

    • Bob

      Thank you Myrrh, I take that as very high praise! I appreciate it very much!
      Bob

  12. Gary Stern

    Bob:
    I am a devotee of your blog and I even admit to small amount of jealousy. But I can’t quite relate to the idea that there is some godly quality to completely eschewing the acquisition of comfort bringing tangibles or the part time worship of Mammon. I have truly “had it” after 40 years of being in the trenches of the law war. I live very modestly, drive a small cheap car and have a 1 bedroom apartment. What keeps me in my life as it now exists are the relationships I don’t want to lose if I leave.
    I wouldn’t miss my stuff as I have very little. I would miss the ability to spend 3 weeks on a river boat in France (a perk of working) but no longer being able to dine with my dear old friends (as I did last nite) would break my heart.
    My point is that freedom is a state of mind to be achieved where ever you are and whatever you’re doing. When you are no longer trapped by your existence but are able to use it for your pursuit of life – you are free. This is a privilege some of us have earned by the payment of a most dear price and I won’t just reject it because it has become somewhat tiresome.
    ges

    • Bob

      Hi Gary, I can assure you that I have no illusions that there is anything “godly” about the way I live. I do think it is much more natural and in line with our evolutionary history and therefore far better for us mentally, emotionally and yes even spiritually. But it is only one way among many ways to live. It just happens to be the one that works for me, so I write about it.
      The “normal” life was a living nightmare for me so I ran away from it. Living on public land 365 days a year brings me so much joy I can’t describe it to you. It never gets tiresome to me. It’s what I love so I write about it. There are many others who feel exactly the same way I do, and they can relate to my writing.
      I am also not an ascetic. I have no interest in denying myself normal pleasures to prove a point of any kind. I have satellite TV and a microwave because they make me happy. I don’t have a flush toilet or a shower because they aren’t worth the hassles they create. Every decision I make has one goal, which makes my life better and happier. The decisions are never based on what will impress other people the most or pacify an angry god/universe. If your life makes you happy, I am very glad for you (I’ll have to admit, 3 weeks in France on a River boat would probably make me very happy as well)!! Please, don’t reject it. Leave it just the way it is.
      Gary, Like you, I just want to be happy. No more and no less. I have found a way to be happy and I believe there are thousands, or millions of people out there looking for exactly what I have found. So I write about my life with the goal of inspiring them and teaching them how I did it. There are others who are interested but not really that unhappy with their “normal” lives. It sounds like you are one of them. For those people I hope I at least provide some entertainment, a pleasant read about an exotic life. And if I am really lucky, an occasional insight into how to make your life better. It’s not my intent to threaten or belittle your choice of life. Unfortunately, I think when I describe how miserable it made me I do let that happen. For that I sincerely apologize and will try to stop doing that.
      I wish you the very best! Maybe think about me on your next trip to France!
      Bob

      • Gary Stern

        Bob:
        I wasn’t trying to be critical in anyway. I was just sharing my own struggle to find a life that will give me the illusion of being free. The closer your relationship with your children, significant other and friends, the harder it is to excape the bonds that hold me into what is often an unsatisfying life.
        Since I’ve learned and internalized that you can’t run away from yourself and that your subconscious has “a will of its own” it has made this process even more difficult for me. Two divorces allowed me to experience losing “all my stuff twice” so I have very little and even less desire to acquire stuff, but everytime I think about giving up the place where all the people in my life congregate, I can’t conceive of breaking the tie.
        I’ve been working on a midway plan. My significant other has a nice one bedroom apartment but it won’t provide me with personal space to be alone. I have considered outfitting a stealth van as my private mancave and moving in with my sweetie as she wants. I just need to know she understands that I must be alone sometimes and that disappearing to the lot outside is not a rejection. Having the van will allow us to get away for months at a time, while sharing the small cost of keeping her apartment. So, I’m working on my plan. I was blessed with a successful professional career, even though my personal life was a curse, so I am economically better off than most. Also, being a student of economics and finance helps me where others struggle with the confusion of a rigged investment arena.
        I’m not complaining, by any means, I’m just trying to get it right, so it feels good.
        ges

        • Bob

          Gary, I understand totally. It sounds like you are on the right path for you. We are all so very different, and our circumstances are so different that it is not a one-size-fits-all world. It sounds like you aren’t trying to have it all, you are just trying to have a part from both worlds but you know there will be somethings you can’t have. I think that is entirely possible. You want 50% from the “normal” life and 50% from the vandwelling life. That adds up to 100% which can be done. But most people want 90% from each and that rarely works.
          I have a friend who owns land and spends half his year on the land and half the year in his van. It works really well for him. That isn’t exactly what you have in mind, but the same principle; take the best of both worlds and combine them.
          I did something like it. After the bitterness of our divorce was over, my ex and I started working well at raising the kids. We became good enough friends to let me park my van in front of her house and use her electricity. So when the kids came home from school they visited with me, then went in for supper and spent time with their mom. Maybe at the end they came out and did their homework with me. Of course all summer we shared them with vacations and built in babysitters. It worked really well. Of course that isn’t what you have in mind either, but it is combining the two worlds, so I know it can be dome and done very happily depending on your circumstances.
          If your Significant Other is willing, you could both have a truly great life and expand your horizons. Who knows, maybe she will fall in love with vandwelling at least part time.
          And then there is always the River boat in France!
          Bob

  13. Calvin R

    Great post. The attitude you wrote about is so simple that most people will never discover it. I have been blessed with a great deal of support in gradually learning enough of that attitude to change me and so change my life. I look forward to more progress. In the meantime, I’m glad you and others are around to show me and tell me what I need to know.

    • Bob

      Thanks Calvin. You bring up a very good point, the key to a successful life is steady progress, not perfection. Very often the “best” is the enemy of “good enough”. Like everyone I have good and bad days. Fortunately, the good days have begun to outnumber the bad days. Now that is progress!!
      As much as we like to talk about “New” age or other wisdoms, there really isn’t anything new under the sun. We are all following age-old, well-worn paths packaged under new names. In fact I try to follow the oldest wisdom I can find. I especially follow Native Ameircan Spirituality because it is the closest I can find to our Hunter Gatherer ancestors. My other main influence is Taoism/Zen because they are very old and because they are based on Nature Wisdom, the oldest of all.
      The simpler and older the better. In fact I can summarize everything I believe in 5 words:

      Love and Tolerance of others.

      Not very complicated or new. Even as someone as dumb as I am can understand it.
      Bob

  14. m.a.

    the Thich Nhat Hanh post is beautiful. his heart is so kind.

    • Bob

      M.A. I couldn’t agree more!
      Bob

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