Thursday, December 30, 2010

Grammar of Gratitude

In November 2009, I attended a weekend-long retreat at Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center in Hiawatha, IA.  The nuns there are Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, and the retreat center is ecologically thoughtful, homey and warm, restful and deeply spiritual.

“Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center is founded on an incarnational theology rooted in the Gospel life of Jesus that sees God as present and active in this world. . . . We believe that our God is here among us and that Earth and all of creation are sacramental in nature, signifying in the presence of the Divine. Accordingly, Prairiewoods opens its doors and its 70 acres of woods and prairie for the spiritual benefit of all who come.”

I went alone, was given a beautiful, corner room in the guest dormitory building, joined about 15 other women (and one man) for a contemplative weekend.  I am surprised how often I cast my thoughts back there.  With so little effort I recall the flavors of their soups and breads, the blue darkness and glow of candlelight in dining room, the sound of our chanting voices and the screeing hawk answering us from far overhead, how graceful I felt moving in meditative rhythms on the grass that frosty morning.  I hope to go again this year sometime.

But this blog is not really about that weekend, it’s about 2011.  I am 43 and overweight and acutely aware of it.  My cholesterol is on my mind, as well as my blood sugar, noisy joints, a tetchy kidney and various other little physical reminders.  I will not be happier if I lose weight, but I will feel better, and I will do myself lasting good, so I resolve to exercise and eat better and be mindful of myself.  But this blog is not really about that either.  

Last week I received my newsletter from Prairiewoods, and the woman there who buys books for their bookstore had a great article about spiritually literate New Year’s resolutions.  With credit to Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, here are those resolutions:
1.      I will live in the present moment.  I will not obsess about the past or worry about the future.
2.      I will cultivate the art of making connections.  I will pay attention to how my life is intimately related to all life on the planet.
3.      I will be thankful for all the blessings in my life.  I will spell out my days with a grammar of gratitude.
4.      I will practice hospitality in a world where too often strangers are feared, enemies are hated, and the “other” is shunned.  I will welcome guests and alien ideas with graciousness.
5.      I will seek liberty and justice for all.  I will work for a free and fair world.
6.      I will add to the planet’s fund of goodwill by practicing little acts of kindness, brief words of encouragement and manifold expressions of courtesy.
7.      I will cultivate the skill of deep listening.  I will remember that all things in the world want to be heard, as do the many voices inside me.
8.      I will practice reverence for life by seeing the sacred in, with and under all things of the world.
9.      I will give up trying to hide, deny or escape from my imperfections.  I will listen to what my shadow side has to say to me.
10.  I will be willing to learn from the spiritual teachers all around me, however unlikely or unlike me they may be.

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