Blessing: The Art and the Practice


On the most basic human level, we all want to be blessed. We want life to bring us good things, to shield us from harm, from fear, from loneliness. A blessing can be anything-a kind word, a prayer or ritual, a gesture, an embrace, a gift.

Blessing is the culmination of David Spangler's remarkable career as a spiritual thinker and teacher: the definitive book on how to channel our natural sense of compassion. With specific exercises and examples to guide and inspire us, this book...

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On the most basic human level, we all want to be blessed. We want life to bring us good things, to shield us from harm, from fear, from loneliness. A blessing can be anything-a kind word, a prayer or ritual, a gesture, an embrace, a gift.

Blessing is the culmination of David Spangler's remarkable career as a spiritual thinker and teacher: the definitive book on how to channel our natural sense of compassion. With specific exercises and examples to guide and inspire us, this book helps us answer the ancient human calling within us all.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

How do you bless your loved ones? Do you touch them? Do you speak about the things you hope are true? “A blessing has nothing to do with esoteric or spiritual pyrotechnics,” explains spiritual lecturer David Spangler. “It’s a whisper, a gentleness, a voice that speaks not of my power but of the power of the recipient.” In this book, Spangler teaches us to develop our own ways of blessing. He shows us where to find the power of our own holiness and how to use it to connect with others. “We can be points of reconnection, points of remembrance, points of love,” Spangler promises. “We can be blessings.”

From the Publisher
"An extremely rare book...This book is a treasure." —Caroline M. Myss, Ph.D., author of Anatomy of the Spirit

"Amazing...Offers a variety of ways to walk the spiritual path with very practical feet." —Stephen Larsen, Ph.D., author of The Shaman's Doorway

"An exceptional book." —Angeles Arrien, Ph.D.

"Gentle and nurturing...a balm for the soul." —Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Spangler, a spiritual teacher, lecturer, writer and former codirector of a New Age community in northern Scotland, encourages readers to bless all things, including people, places, activities and even machinery. Spangler (Everyday Miracles) intends the book for readers of all religious and spiritual traditions. A blessing, he says, is distinguished from a kindness in that it brings forth a spiritual depth, urging the blessed person to become, rather than just receive. According to Spangler, blessing is not an act or technique so much as a relationship in which the blesser must remain open to what the need is and not try to project his/her own agenda on another. Spangler first fell into the idea and practice of blessing when a woman approached him after a lecture and requested a blessing. Shortly afterwards, he started having his weekend workshops break into groups of threes to practice blessing each other, with positive and powerful results. Spangler is so trustingly open to the spiritual gifts of all people that he merely offers exercises to help readers hone their own unique and intuitive abilities to bless, rather than giving strict marching orders on the how-tos. This gentle and nurturing book is a balm for the soul. As Spangler says, "Surely a blessing is also a flow of life force between ourselves and others or between ourselves and the sacred. It's an act of connection." In making that connection, this book itself becomes a blessing. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781573229340
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/4/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

David Spangler has been writing, lecturing, and teaching since the early seventies, when he was codirector of the spiritual community of Findhorn in northern Scotland. He is the author of Revelation: The Birth of a New Age; Emergence: The Rebirth of the Sacred; Everyday Miracles; A Pilgrim in Aquarius; The Call; Parent as Mystic, Mystic as Parent, and most recently Blessing. He also co-authored Reimagination of the World with William Irwin Thompson. Spangler lives in Washington, near Seattle.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One, Give Me a Blessing

Give Me a Blessing

This book was born one evening in the fall of 1965, though I didn't realize it at the time. I was twenty years old. I had harbored ambitions of becoming a molecular biologist, but answering an irresistible inner calling, I had left college and a degree program in biochemistry to cast my fate upon the very uncertain waters of being a lecturer on personal and spiritual development. On this particular evening, after I had finished my regular weekly lecture at a spiritual center in Los Angeles, I was approached by a well-dressed middle-aged woman who said, "Would you please give me a blessing?"

Give me a blessing.

If we gave voice to the most common wish within each of us, it would probably be this.

We look to the universe, to the world around us, to each other, and, if we are believers, to the invisible world of the sacred, and if we have one basic desire-voiced or not, recognized or not-it is that all these things be on our side. We want life to be our ally: helping us, empowering us, enabling us to be safe and happy. We want good things to come our way: our wounds healed, our loneliness banished, our power restored, our fears allayed. We want alienation to be replaced with belonging, impoverishment with abundance, bondage with liberation, and darkness with light.

We want to be blessed.

And in our better moments, we want to be a blessing for others.

Give me a blessing.

Years later, I am at an informal gathering of laypeople attending a conference on science and spirituality. During a meal break, we collect in a loose circle and the conference leader asks, "Who would like to give a blessing before we eat?" There is a moment of uncomfortable silence. No one volunteers. Had our host said, "Would anyone like to say a few words before we eat?" a half-dozen voices might have spoken out, but to stand up and give a blessing? It seems presumptuous. Finally, one man speaks a few words, and I can see relief on the faces of others. I feel relief myself. Why? What is it about giving a blessing that makes a person feel uncomfortable?

Give me a blessing.

Over the thirty-five years I have been in public life, lecturing and teaching about spirituality and spiritual practice, I've given thousands of blessings. I have blessed people, events, buildings, places, even a composting toilet! You would think I'd feel comfortable about giving blessings by now, and most of the time I do. But sometimes, as at that conference, I feel reticent. I may feel it's more appropriate for someone else to do it, someone who is more attuned to the particular event or place. But sometimes I simply feel shy. Who am I, I wonder, to stand in the place of spirit and pronounce a blessing? After thirty-five years, I can still have my doubts.

Give me a blessing.

I don't call myself a spiritual teacher, although that name is often applied to me. I feel that each of us has an indwelling spirit-a unique and personal connection with the sacred-which is our true spiritual teacher. What I do is to help people identify and connect with that spiritual side of themselves. I support them in learning to listen to it and embody it in their lives. Because of this, people sometimes see me in a role similar to that of a clergyperson; it is in this context that I am asked to offer blessings. But a blessing is not the function of a particular role. It is the natural expression of the fiery love and inclusiveness of our inner spirit. It is the manifestation of a soulfire, and each of us can be its hearth. To bless is not a prerogative only of ministers, priests, and rabbis; it is not the exclusive domain of saints and holy people. It is a natural human ability, and anyone can do it. But first we must claim that ability.

Give me a blessing.

If I came to you and said, "Please do me a kindness," or "Please help me," you might feel put upon by my request, but at least it would fall within a familiar range of human interaction. You would have an idea of how to proceed. You could, for example, inquire as to just what help or kindness I needed or wished, and then see if you had the resources or willingness to proceed. There is nothing unusual about being asked to help. But you may find it unusual and disconcerting to be asked to give a blessing. The implication is that you have access to a spiritual source capable of making that blessing real. The implication is that there is holiness within you.

This is an identity many modern people are uncomfortable with. We are not like the Irish peasants who, when walking by a farmer's field, could quite naturally and sincerely call forth blessings upon the land and the crops. In our fast-paced, highly electronic culture, we don't feel so intimately connected with spirit anymore. It's easier-and often more believable-for us to call someone on the other side of the world on our cell phone than it is to call upon a creative spirit within. Through technology, we have become connected to each other and to the world in incredible and generally useful ways. But we have become disconnected as well. And it's this disconnection that amplifies the voice within us that longs to call the universe home, that yearns for an unknown wholeness, that looks for allies and support in the world about us, that seeks liberation from a growing sense of alienation.

Give me a blessing.

The issue of identity is important. We identify ourselves in so many ways, but most often through our roles, or our possessions, or our social status. We may rarely say, "I am myself. I am spirit. I am soul. There is a holiness in me. Therefore, I am someone who can bless." For blessing is spirit reminding itself of who it is in the midst of its myriad incarnations and manifestations. Blessing is a conversation of recognition between myself, and myself within another. Blessing is a reminder of the love that lies at the core of us, waiting to become our blood and sinew, bone and tissue. If in the "new physics" and the "new cosmology" the stars remind us that we ourselves are made of "star stuff" and therefore kin to the universe, then in a new, holistic spirituality, blessings remind us that we are made of spirit stuff, soul stuff, love stuff-"blessing stuff"-and therefore kin to life and to each other. When we bless, we are not just doing good. We are remembering this.

Give me a blessing.

When I was a child, I was aware that there was a non-physical, invisible, spiritual side to life. It seemed perfectly ordinary that this was so, for it was the world as I experienced it. I did not, however, think much about blessings. Oh, my grandmother would pat me on the head and tell me I was a blessing, but that was what grandmothers did. The only times I heard about blessings were when someone sneezed or we said grace at mealtimes or when I heard the minister invoke blessings on the congregation at church. A popular song encouraged me to count my blessings instead of sheep, but usually I was asleep when my head hit the pillow and didn't have time for either. Giving and receiving kindnesses and helping people out were an everyday part of life, a part of neighborliness, a part of fulfilling one's respon-sibility as a human being. I didn't think of them as blessings.

And when I left college and embarked on a career as a lecturer, I was simply wishing to share the delight, wonder, and empowerment I felt in experiencing a dimension to life beyond our five senses, a dimension filled with spiritual resources for and allies of humanity.

I certainly didn't think of myself as going forth to bless anyone.

Give me a blessing.

"Give me a blessing," the woman said. She stood before me expectantly and trustingly, and I knew I couldn't say no to her. I had no idea what I was going to do or how to go about it. I didn't know why she wanted a blessing-much less wanted it from me-but in that moment, it didn't seem right to ask. The correct response was . . . to respond: to meet her halfway, to match her trust in me with my trust in her and in spirit. If I could not approach her in knowledge and experience, I could approach her in love and faith.

But it was hard. Part of me wanted to turn and walk away or suggest she see one of the leaders of the center where I had spoken. They were loving and wonderful people of high integrity whom I knew gave blessings regularly as part of their non-denominational ministry. A moment before, I had been immersed in a flow of spirit as I lectured, feeling inspired, enthused, and magnetic. Now, though, as this member of my dispersing audience stood before me expectantly, I felt empty, ignorant, unprepared, and altogether unsuitable for what she was asking. What if nothing happens? I thought. What if it's only words? In short, I was afraid. I saw with perfect clarity that my image of the kind of blessing I wanted to give was a cartoon. It was an image of a burst of spiritual power, heavenly choirs singing, inner lights blazing, magical bells and whistles going off, with the recipient having all her problems solved, her consciousness raised, her life transfigured. It was pure Hollywood. It was pure ego.

Give me a blessing.

But then with equal clarity I knew that such a display would not be a blessing at all. A blessing had nothing to do with esoteric or spiritual pyrotechnics. It was a whisper, a gentleness, a voice that spoke not of my power but of the power within the recipient. It was not a hurricane of energy but a soft and warming breeze that invited us to open windows and doors to let stuffiness out and new life in. It was an invitation to openness. It was not meant to impress but to touch and to connect. It could take whatever form would make that connection. I understood then that whatever spiritual forces might flow within a blessing, what was most needed was simple human caring and presence, a mindfulness of being present to the other. It required nothing more magical or grandiose than meeting her halfway, for a blessing, I realized, is a two-way street: not something someone does for someone else, but something we become together in order that a spirit may flow. The principle was deceptively simple but very familiar: Where two or more are gathered in the name of that which loves, that which connects, that which is compassionate, that which liberates, there blessing is also.

I could not have put all this into words. But it was there as a knowing, almost as an instinct rising to the surface. And in that knowing, I simply took her hands and held them, closing my eyes, becoming still, and reaching out to embrace her in my spirit and to be embraced in hers, allowing that connection to invoke what was needed.

As we sat together in this way, there was a warmth that enfolded us, a loving presence that was sweet and unpretentious but seemed to stretch on into infinity. There was a sense of opening out to a vastness. And down my arms and through my hands into hers, there was a sense of something flowing, as if part of that warmth that embraced us had become fluid and was moving from me into her. No bells. No whistles. No radiant rainbow lights flashing about our auras. Just being together, two people acknowledging each other, acknowledging our humanness, acknowledging the presence of the sacred that emerges when human beings gather each other to their hearts in goodwill and caring.

The feeling of this presence lasted for about a minute or so, then receded. We opened our eyes and smiled at each other. She simply said, "Thank you," got up, and left the auditorium.

That was it.

My first blessing.

I never saw her again, never knew why she wanted the blessing, never knew what, if anything, happened as a result of it. And it didn't matter.

She may have asked me for the blessing, but I was the one who was blessed.

For that evening, at the very beginning of my career, I learned something important about spirit and letting go, about our human connection and the power that can arise from it, about love, and about blessing. What I learned was not so much an insight, although certainly insights began to unfold from that experience; it was a deeper stirring and awakening within my own soul. It was a remembering. And over the years, in addition to other influences it has had upon my work, this remembering finally culminated in a series of classes related to the art of blessing, which inspired this book.

Give me a blessing.

When my children were toddlers and we would take them down to the park to play, they would run a short distance out into the world, play for a bit, then run back to touch Julie's or my leg, climb into our laps, and generally touch in, being reassured that we were still there. Then they would be off again, exploring, playing, discovering. Then they would come back again and reconnect. Over the years, the distances they would go and the length of time between moments of reconnection would grow greater, but the cycle was still there. I expect it always will be there, although as they become adults, it will change in the ways it manifests.

In a way, a blessing is just such a moment of reconnection with each other, with the world, and with the source of our being. There is in our world, as I said at the beginning, a desire for that connection, for wholeness, for empowerment, for life. There is a desire for all that a blessing can give. At the heart of the world, in the hearts of each other, a voice speaks out, sometimes softly, sometimes with a shout: Give me a blessing.

The essential message in this book is that each of us, you and I, can answer that voice. We can be points of reconnection, points of remembrance, points of love. We can be blessings.

Give me a blessing!

Yes, I will.

—From Blessing: The Art and the Practice by David Spangler. (c) May 17, 2001, Riverhead Books, used by permission.

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Table of Contents

Part 1 The Practice of Blessing
Give Me a Blessing 3
Teaching Blessing 13
An Ecology of Blessings 18
Sharing Blood, Sharing Breath 24
Beyond Kindness 28
A Blessing Is a Gift 38
Superheroes 45
The Imagination of Blessing 51
The Unobstructed World 60
The Great Work 68
Part 2 The Art of Blessing
A Time to Bless 79
Learning Blessing 86
Identification 93
Opening 109
The Blessing Place 116
The Art of Blessing 123
A Radiance of Blessings 133
Part 3 A Blessing Workbook
Exercises in the Art of Blessing 137
Examples of Blessings 269
Further Explorations 333
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