I love to receive personal blessings. One of the best blessing-givers I have ever met was the late Irish poet and mystic John O’Donohue. I remember at the end of our various recording projects, we would always celebrate by going out to dinner and having a few drinks. One night, after dinner, I shyly asked John if he would be willing to give me a blessing (I just couldn’t let him fly back to Ireland the next morning without asking). We walked together to a private spot outside of the restaurant, under a tree. He then cupped his hands over my head and prayed out loud for several minutes, asking that goodness come, that any obstacles in my path be removed, that I be liberated from any shame or self-deprecation that was holding me back (quite honestly, I can’t remember exactly what he said, it was a long stream of consciousness invocation, but what I wrote here was the gist of it).
I will always remember that moment when John O’Donohue blessed me under a tree. It was like being injected with light.
Interestingly, since that time, I have requested blessings from all kinds of people (from Tibetan Buddhist teachers, from friends who seem to have healing abilities and from my partner Julie who is always willing to help me out with a blessing if I feel like I am facing a particularly difficult situation). I have also given blessings to all kinds of people in different kinds of circumstances. John O’Donohue spent 19 years as a Catholic priest, but I am not a priest of any kind. My point here is that we can all give and receive blessings, regardless of whether we have been “officially sanctioned.” All that is necessary is a willingness to invoke infinite benevolence for the sake of someone else. Then there is a meeting, a mysterious meeting that is beyond the personal and infuses the person with infinite possibility.
Recently, I interviewed Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés for “Insights at the Edge” (the weekly free podcast series that I host). I asked her about the power of blessings, as she ends each one of her online teachings with a blessing-prayer for the listeners. Her comments hit home. She talked about how the blessing withheld is as important as the blessing given. I thought of situations in my own life in which out of competitiveness or meanness, I have actually withheld from someone my belief in them or my investment in their success. CPE (as I call Dr. Estés) also spoke of how we can bless people through our work, and through writing and poetry, and how there are many people who are literally waiting and in need of the blessings that can only pour through each of us.
I love the idea of blessings flowing freely from us and to us. We each have the freedom and the birthright to invoke blessings at any time. We can scream blessings from the rooftops, silently look through eyes that bless, or say something to someone that is exactly the blessed encouragement they need to hear. It doesn’t have to be formal or even seen. Blessing and being blessed can be a way of opening to a field of grace, a field that is always available, ready to fill us and others in response to our heart’s call.