Recently I was having lunch with our poetry editor, Tom Delmore, to meet his friend Joseph Cospito. The conversation turned to blessing, a concept that was mentioned at last fall's Wingspan Men's Leadership Conference. Several men mentioned the idea, but we didn't talk about it very much. We knew it was important, but we didn't know what to say about it.
"I'm not sure I would know how to give blessing," Joseph said.
"What did you say to me when I first came in?" I asked.
"I said your name."
"I don't remember."
"You said that you found M.E.N. Magazine valuable. You were glad that I was putting in all the work to get the magazine out each month. Your acknowledgment of me and your honoring and praising my efforts give me the energy to keep doing this work. You gave me blessing."
I told them of a course on spirituality that my wife Bernetta and I hosted at our house for the Chinook Learning Center. The facilitator was David Spangler, a brilliant and spiritual thinker who at one time was one of the key spokespersons for the Findhorn Community. His book Emergence: The Rebirth of the Sacred is one of the most inspiring books I have read.
David gave us homework assignments to work on between the sessions. His homework for one week was for us to envision ourselves as angels giving blessing. This was before the current popularity of "angel books." The exercise struck me at first as a bit arrogant and silly. Me? An angel? As I thought about it, I began to see his point. There is a place within each of us where spirit meets soul, and we are in touch with the Divine, the Higher Power, the Cosmos, the Greater Power, or whatever one wants to call it. When we give recognition and praise from that place, the recipient feels good-charged and empowered. When I did the homework that week, I experienced it as a miraculous energy flow. I didn't experience any loss of energy, but I could see the recipient's face light up with! energy. Initially, I had the same reaction as Joseph: "I don't know how to do this!" But when I tried it, I found that I did.
I see "giving blessing" as one of my functions as editor of this magazine. Recently, for example, a man talked to me outside the Wisdom Council. He told me how important it was for him to continue to be with his son, even though he and the son's mother aren't together. I asked him, "Would you be interested in writing your story? You have an incredible gift of wisdom to give to other men. They would be eager to hear it." At the same time, I looked into his eyes and could easily visualize him as fully capable of telling a powerful story. My recognizing a man, acknowledging his wisdom, and telling him he has a powerful gift to offer is a form of giving blessing.
I incorporated David Spangler's lesson into my own life before Robert Moore and Doug Gillette wrote King, Warrior, Magician, Lover. I now recognize giving blessing as a form of King energy or Elder energy. The old tales speak of crowds thronging to see the king. I think these stories have it backwards. I think they went to be seen by the King.
"I see you. I acknowledge you as a unique and valuable person. I use my generative powers to reflect the Divine order of the Cosmos and to create peace and prosperity, so that you can be blessed with prosperity and the freedom to develop your own unique gifts and talents, for the good of yourself and the kingdom."
As we spoke of this at lunch, Tom pointed out that the father wound that many of us experience in our lives could stem from never receiving our father's blessing. I know that even up until my father died, I hungered for the crumbs of praise and blessing that my father might let fall from the table. In high school, I was a 4.0 student and won several community service awards. My father never acknowledged me for them, although he bragged about me to his co-workers at the Post Office. Instead, he bought me a card that I remembered saying, "It's nice to be great, but it's greater to be humble." When it came time to sell the house, I went up to clean out my room. My parents had left it just as it was when I went away to college 30 years earlier. The card Dad had given me was still ! there, between a Mountaineers climbing course graduation certificate and a high school award. What it actually said was, "It's nice to be great, but it's greater to be nice." But I had got the message.
One of the warmest memories I have of Dad was when we were fighting our way through brush on a cross-country hike shortly before his deadly stroke. He, the Trail Blazer and early pioneer in exploring the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, asked me for routefinding advice! Another warm memory was when he asked me to go with him and give him advice when he bought his last car. He was 78. He said, "You and Bernetta don't take me skiing often enough. I guess if I want to go, I'll have to go buy my own damn car and take myself. Meet me at the dealer's." But he needed my advice and support. These sweet morsels of cake tasted good, after a lifetime diet of stale hardtack. My father had given me blessing for who I am.
How much blessing are we giving to our sons, and to younger men in our lives? We're trained, it seems, to challenge younger men to do better by pushing them to their limits and pointing out how they can do better next time. That is not blessing. How often do we acknowledge the skills, the energy, the creativity and imagination, of younger men and boys? How often do we see them, as the King sees, rather than taking the opportunity to show off our "superior" knowledge and wisdom and give them advice? How often do we love them for who they are, instead of looking at what they do? How often do we give blessing to younger men and boys?
As the conversation over pizza and beer continued, Joseph speculated, "I wonder how many of us are open to receiving blessing?" Zing! I remembered how difficult it has been for me to receive praise. I tend to make some sort of deprecatory remark, or belittle the effort being praised. Or I immediately try to think of a way to praise them back, as if blessing were a barter situation or something to be earned and reciprocated. It's difficult for me to simply say "thank you" and bask in the blessing. I had learned the lesson of giving blessing from David Spangler's course, but being open to receiving blessing has been a much harder lesson for me.
Are we giving and receiving blessing? Here's the challenge I throw out to you: try doing David Spangler's homework assignment for a week. All of us, regardless of age, have within us at least the germs of King energy or Elder energy. Allow the germs of the seed to germinate in the fruitful darkness within, and to sprout and blossom in the light of day. Take a deep breath and use that moment to center within your heart. From that place, look into the eyes of someone, and see him. Acknowledge him for who he is. Acknowledge to him his gift or his strength, and tell him how much you value the gift that he has to offer. If he praises you back, thank him and quickly come back to repeating your blessing to him. Encourage him in his gift, his strength.
Then write us a story about how your giving blessing to others, and your discovery of your power to give blessing, enriches your own life. You have a unique gift of yourself and your story, which can inspire and ignite the imagination of others. Be open to sharing that gift in our pages, so we can all learn from each other the art of blessing and give each other the powerful energy-gift of blessing each other.