Reflecting on Blessings!

We long for a peaceful, happy life.  Yet, if I’m mired in fault-finding or you’re stewing in grievances, we’re unlikely to build the life we long for.

Furthermore, evolution seems to have stacked the deck against us.   That’s right, we are evolutionarily inclined to give maximum attention to the threats and dangers around us.  And that’s true no matter how small these perceived threats and dangers are.

That’s a problem.

It’s a problem because it’s far, far better for our sanity and health to notice and spend time reflecting on, and rejoicing in, life’s wholesome pleasures, treasures, and joys.  But we seldom slow down enough to notice.

We Can Shift The Focus Of Our Attention.

As we know, blessings come through family, society, industry, and culture.  Sometimes they come as the fruit of our own effort, action, and good luck.  At other times we feel blessed simply because we’re alive.

“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” Willie Nelson

Some of us at Sweeping Heart Zen got a powerful reminder about counting our blessings this past week.  An SHZ sangha member has Parkinson’s Disease.  And, she regularly has difficulty with her balance during slow walking meditation because of tremors.

Yet this morning after meditation, with a beaming smile on her face, she said, “I had no tremors during kinhin.  Every step was steady.  I felt free and whole again.” She was glowing with happiness as she continued, “I don’t take this as a sign of anything–it may never happen again–but I’m so grateful to have been able to walk like I used to walk, with no fear of losing my balance.”

Needless to say, her overflowing joy reminded me and each of those listening  to be grateful for every tremor free step we take.

“If they often think about and consider thoughts of kindness … their mind inclines to thoughts of kindness.”  Guatama Buddha

In Buddhist practice we are encouraged to cultivate wisdom.  Cultivating wisdom includes cultivating kindness and gratitude.  These qualities are crucial to our well being.  Gratitude and kindness help us steady ourselves through the storms of life and add to our contentment.

On the other hand, If we regularly give our minds over to the constant parade of gripes and gloom that surrounds us today, sooner or later we’ll loose our resilience and good health. We’ll tend to be hopeless and depressed, chronically bitter, angry and passive.

“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7

There is a story in the ancient Buddhist teachings that recalls how the practices of wise living is a touchstone for gratitude and reflection on gratitude.

As the story goes, on one occasion a heavenly deva came to visit the Buddha with a question.

The Deva asked,

“Many gods and humans want to know what are the highest blessings that lead to a peaceful and happy life?”

The Buddha’s answer is recorded in the Maha Mangela Sutta.  Here are a few of the blessings praised by the Buddha.  The translation is by Thich Nhat Hanh.

“To have a chance to learn and grow,
to be skillful in your profession or craft,
practicing the precepts and loving speech —
this is the greatest happiness.

“To be able to serve and support your parents,
to cherish your own family,
to have a vocation that brings you joy —
this is the greatest happiness.

“To live honestly, generous in giving,
to offer support to relatives and friends,
living a life of blameless conduct —
this is the greatest happiness.

“To avoid unwholesome actions,
not caught by alcoholism or drugs,
and to be diligent in doing good things —
this is the greatest happiness.

“To live in the world
with your heart undisturbed by the world,
with all sorrows ended, dwelling in peace —
this is the greatest happiness.

“For he or she who accomplishes this,
unvanquished wherever she goes,
always he is safe and happy —
happiness lives within oneself.”

Much to be grateful for!

If we’ve had a chance to learn and grow in wisdom, we are blessed indeed.  We’re likely to be skillful at work and respected on the job.  No doubt we are gentle, and thoughtful, and kind to our parents, our family, and relatives.

If we’ve had a chance to learn and grow in wisdom, we’re not apt to be alcoholic or burdened with drug abuse.  Moreover, we’ll know the value of charity; we’ll be generous with our friends, and so on.

If these or the many  other blessing praised by the Buddha are present in your life—please take time to reflect on these  blessings, this goodness, your own goodness, every day.  Reflecting in this way will add happiness and peace to the world.

If you would like to read the Maha Mangala Sutta in its entirety here is a link:

The first paragraphs of this post are about what researchers call “negativity bias.” Here are links to posts about negativity bias at this blog:

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And visit a Sweeping Heart Zen event.  Here’s a link to our calendar:

We’re located in historic Gloucester on Cape Ann. Cape Ann is about 40 miles up the coast from Boston on the North Shore of Massachusetts.


The steeple on the left in the photo is on the Gloucester UU Church.  That’s where we meet.

May your life go well!