The Blessing Bowl

Elsewhere in the northern hemisphere summer is arriving, yet beyond these walls I encounter only a realm of cool, swirling mist as I open the front door in the early morning.

It has not rained in over a month, yet the wooden boards of the deck glisten darkly like smoky glass and the marine air is a thick cloud of moisture that I breathe deeply into my lungs. Stepping barefoot from the house, the wet boards are cool underfoot, and I gently set the Native American pottery bowl in front of the praying Bali frog.

In the American Southwest, many of the native tribes are known for their unique craft and pottery styles. In New Mexico, the Santa Clara pueblo is famous for its red and black slip pottery with etched or carved designs. Each piece is hand-coiled, built, smoothed and then polished, then fired in a special process (which involves smothering the fire with horse manure) until it turns black.It has a glossy shine like obsidian or jet, or perhaps sunlight on raven’s feathers. Santa Clara pottery has become the most collectible Native American ceramics, and vintage, signed pieces are worth hefty sums of money. 

blessing_bowlSome fifty years ago, my maternal grandparents traveled to New Mexico and purchased a couple of the black pottery bowls, a larger one for themselves, and two smaller ones for their daughters. I have both my mother’s and my grandparents’ bowl, and they typically rest on the fireplace mantle beside a sculpture of some dancing bunnies from Taos, New Mexico. Yet recently I felt inclined to somehow put the bowls to ceremonial use, rather than simply sit collecting dust. To hell with their value. 

As part of my morning ritual, I have begun setting the larger of the vessels outside my door each morning as a gratitude or “blessing bowl”, with a small offering placed inside, as a gesture of giving thanks for the goodness that will come into my life today.

The carved black bowl placed before my stone frog, I cross the wet deck, moving through the thick misty air, to lay my hands upon the Grandmother Monterey cypress and offer my thanks for the day, to stretch and open my bodysoul.

Gratitude has long been a part of my spiritual practice, and I’ve written of it repeatedly in these posts, as with my “gratitude journal” [read “Gratitude Practice: A Little Journal of Blessings” 2014], and appreciating the goodness of the fresh ingredients I have gathered to prepare a meal [ read “The Soulful Kitchen, Part 2” 2013]. So many of us simply take automatically, as if it were our right, and if we even remember to be grateful, it is usually after the fact. As a practice, I’m choosing to be grateful before I have even received something or harvested it, and the blessing bowl is a ritualistic gesture of that.

During my weekly check-in with Facebook, I often visit the page of a woman I follow who posts beautiful photos of nature with the overlay of words, “Giving thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.” Yes, that’s it exactly, I think with a smile, as I click on her posts to “like” them.

Currently, I am in the process of finding a literary agent to represent and sell my new book, and it is a somewhat tedious, drawn out, and discouraging search. You need thick skin to be a writer, to handle the repeated rejection that comes your way in trying to launch a work. Yet with each agent that turns me down, I am silently saying “thank you,” because it simply means they weren’t the right person. And I do trust that eventually I will connect with the individual who is excited by what I’ve written and wants to represent me and the book.

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Beauty unfurling

In the meantime, I go on with my little rituals and practices that keep the boat upright [read “Keeping the Boat Upright: Little Rituals of Grace“] as I travel the river’s course, ever guided by mysterious currents, unseen gravity, and invisible hands. And the beautiful blessing bowl outside my front door each morning (I bring it indoors at night) offers a visual cue to gratefully receive those gifts of goodness that arrive today. Every day. There are always too many to count.  

There is the rumbling of the sea each night and morning in the near distance, and the emerald Anna’s hummingbird hovering at the small, red blossom of the potted succulent on the deck railing. The cool earth underfoot, a new yellow rose, and those glistening, sweet rubies of local cherries we savored last night. I could write pages of little gifts of beauty and abundance, and still it wouldn’t even scratch the surface of what we have to be grateful for.  

Friend, here’s hoping that in your own way, you can welcome and appreciate the gifts arriving today. Every day. Life isn’t always a bed of roses, and we each have our genuine struggles, heartaches and losses to bear, but our practice must be to continually shift the focus and open the aperture wider to allow more light.

Our patterns hold us fast, especially our more limiting notions. Again and again we must choose to open and realign. I urge you to go take a walk in the fresh air, barefoot of course, with a renewed sense of hope and possibility, that you might feel a lightness in your bones and breath. If your heart is open, it becomes a blessing bowl carried with you everywhere, offering it to the world and receiving in kind.

Blessed be.

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