I lived for close to a decade on a high Mesa in western Colorado. Each afternoon as I drove up the steep road to the top, I felt blessed by what I knew was one of the most beautiful drives home in the United States.
When I finally arrived home, Ananda, my beloved Golden Retrieval, followed me out of the truck right and we headed to the back deck for some cool water right out of the well and to stretch out and soak up the Colorado sun in late afternoon.
Nights were usually cool. My house had solar panels that heated water that then piped through the floors as well as into the hot water tank, but it also had nineteen windows on the south side and each window had an insulated blind that draped down to help hold off the chill. Each evening I would methodically lower the nineteen insulated blinds and each morning I would methodically raise them.
While I was doing that required ritual, names of people I loved began to rise up inside of me. I would sometimes say the name aloud, but always I would hold the person in my heart for a moment.
I never developed a “standard” list of names but rather I allowed each morning and evening whatever name wanted to jump up inside of me and say “Hello, here I am!” Often I was surprised to find myself blessing those who had even caused me much pain and suffering; and sometimes blessing a stranger I had perhaps met only that very morning.
Those nineteen blinds meant nineteen names and that was about right. More names than that and I would have grown weary. I remember hearing a minister once say that it was far better to love your neighbor next door than to love the whole world but pay no attention to that neighbor. We like to love “generally” rather than “particularly” because loving “particularly” often requires us to do something about our love.
Blessings are like that. It is easy to say “God bless the whole world,” but more difficult to say “God bless that neighbor who has never had a nice word to say to me,” or “God bless those two children who have made life so miserable for me,” or “God bless that American president who has destroyed so much of what we once held sacred.”
Some Buddhists carry blessing beads with them—a strand of perhaps 33 beads, the idea being that you rarely have the psychic energy to thoroughly bless more than 33 people at one time…or for that matter to have more than 33 people in your life to whom you are personally and deeply connected.
I began making strands of beads to give to others, which I made out of poppy jasper, agate, obsidian, jade, even turquoise. I printed up a little tag which began, “These beads, associated with ancient spiritual traditions including Buddhism and Christianity, can be used in various ways. One traditional method is simply each day to touch each of the ten beads individually and bless the person who comes to mind while that bead is being touched. In addition, they are often used to ‘count your blessings,’ again simply touching each bead and opening yourself to one way in which you are currently blessed in your life.”
I still keep a strand of these on the nightstand beside my bed. I usually manage ten names, but on some nights twenty, and some nights when sleep does not want to come, thirty.
Nineteen insulated blinds may be hard to come by here in Mexico, but beads are easy to find…simple beads, large exotic beads, stone beads, plastic beads, bone beads …string up whatever you can handle and then dedicate them for your daily blessings. Blessings!