Why Gratitude and Devotion are Inseparable
I heard a story many years ago about a reporter that was sent to Jerusalem to report on the war happening there.
She was assigned a tiny apartment that happened to be situated above the famous Wailing Wall. Each day she watched as an elderly man came to the wall. He spent the whole day praying there, every single day, for weeks on end. She was so enamored by him and his devotion that she finally decided to go speak with him. Being conscious not to interrupt his reverie, she waited until he was taking his small break to have a few sips of water. She approached him and said, “I am so touched by your devotion. May I please ask you a question?” He replied, “Yes, of course.” She continued on, “I've been watching you come to pray every single day for weeks now. Your gratitude and devotion are so inspiring! It must be amazing to come here and pray every day! How does it feel for you?” And the tired old man whispered, “It's like praying to a damn brick wall.”
And so, I come back to the to the idea (again and again and again) that “devotion is diligence without assurance.” Devotion is coming to the brick wall of our altar, every single day without expecting anything in return. We show up for the practice knowing that the showing up and the practice are more beneficial and beautiful than some end result.
Oooooh, this is a lot to absorb. At least it was for me.
The only thing that helped me bridge the gap was the concept and practice of gratitude. Gratitude asks us to be present with what IS. It asks us to bow down in deep and humble humility to ALL that life has to offer us, to let life bring us to our physical and metaphorical knees in heart-wrenching reverence for the process that is life unfolding. It takes guts to be grateful, especially when things are challenging. Hell, it's easy to be grateful when everything is going our way! The true measure of our gratitude shows itself when the shit hits the fan ... can we still count our blessings when we're coming apart at the seams? This is a huge spiritual endeavor, gratitude. And certainly one that is worth all of our attention and devotion.
The thing I loved best about having a tipi is that one got to literally bow down to enter it. The natives who made this design were evolved beyond measure. As Day Schildkret says in his book Morning Altars, “the etiquette is embedded in the architecture.” Oh, what a fabulous insight!
Gratitude then becomes the bridge that carries us to devotion and in return, devotion delivers us to more gratitude. In the beautiful cycle of reciprocity, these two practices are divinely intertwined.
And so…let us show up for life. Let us remember always and in all ways that the nectar of gratitude is what sweetens our life, like honey sweetens the tongue. Let us know in the core of our hearts that expressing our gratefulness only brings us more of the good stuff...the very pith of life that sustains us and fulfills us and makes us whole and happy. Let us remember to express our gratitude OUT LOUD to those who contribute to the goodness in our lives! Gratitude is the gift that keeps on giving. It propagates more goodness because we are focusing on our abundant blessings...and what we focus on is what we get more of!
Tonight, as I ready myself to crawl into my sweet and bountiful bed, I count my blessings like sweet, fluffy sheep. To my beautiful friends who love me without reserve, to my beautiful loved ones who reflect back to me the most radiant love and light ever, to my body for all its glorious functions beyond my control, to my children who bring me the most joy I have ever known, to my dharma for providing the path of right livelihood and purpose, to the entire spectrum of my life unfolding in this very moment...I am grateful.
From The Kama Sutra, A Tale of Love..."My heart is as open as the sky. Life is right, in any case." Indeed. Yes, indeed. Life is right. And I am grateful