Jan 9, 2016
Guest: Pierre Pradervand
Moderator: Pavi Mehta
Host: Amit Dungarani
Pavi: This is a topic that I feel like I'm still growing in. There is so much to uncover there. I remember a conversation from almost ten years ago with my husband, he's a person for whom the art of loving compassionate way of interfacing with the world comes very naturally, but he was describing this time at a gas station late at night. He had stopped and gone in and there was one guy in the station who was an unfriendly thick set, someone who looked a little bit both unhappy and potentially dangerous, and he had all these thoughts going through his mind. And then the guy sneezed. And my husband's instinctive response was to say, "Bless you."
And the guy smiled. And it dissolved any slight apprehension or tension that had been in the air, whether it was real or perceived. What was real was that flash of connection that my husband was describing. In a way, that is something that we do so reflexively in modern culture: when someone sneezes, you say, "Bless you." There is a beauty there that we brush past because it has become so customary. Yet when you unpack that, what does it mean to take that moment to shine that light on someone.
I've been recently been thinking about this. My husband is recovering from an illness, so we do a weekly hospital visit/lab test. I've noticed over time the way I walk through the hospital corridors has changed. Initially, it was very kind of anxious and worried, and wondering what the results are going to be and what was going to happen. There was a lot of uncertainty.
At one point, I remember feeling like I was zoomed out and watching myself, and thinking, "Wow, there is so much self-centeredness there" in this person. There is anxiety and all that, but there is also a narrowness of view. She needs to look up; she needs to smile. There are so many other people walking around her in exactly the same way. And what would happen if she looked up at each person that smiled like "I see you and I don't know exactly what you are going through. " In that moment when your gaze meets or even if it doesn't, sending that beam of well-wishes. "Wherever you are in your day, whatever you are going through, may your heart be a little lighter, may your light shine a little brighter."
It has been so beautiful to see. I have no idea if it makes a difference for anyone else, but it makes a huge difference for me. I think part of that is in that experience lies a little of kernel of what Pierre has talked about and dedicated his life to so beautifully: The gentle art of blessing. It is a powerful thing and something that we all have immediate access to and that is what makes it so appealing and universally so.
So I'm deeply excited and grateful to have this opportunity and conversation with Pierre. Thank you so much.
I will go into a brief introduction of Pierre and then we will get to hear his voice. Pierre Pradervand is a skilled author, speaker, and facilitator with a long background in International development, whose life's work now centers around this revolutionary and secular practice of blessing the world that we live in and all that is in it.
When a series of intense personal experiences gave him first hand experience of this power, it changed the course of his life. He went on to write The Gentle Art of Blessing. A passage and then a book that flowed spontaneously out of him and into the world where it continues to change and charge thousands of lives today for the better.
I can't think of any better way of introducing this remarkable person than by quoting a few excerpts from that passage on the art of blessing.
"On awakening, bless this day. For it is already full of unseen good, which your blessings will call forth. For to bless is to acknowledge the unlimited good that is embedded in the very texture of the Universe and awaiting each and all."
"On passing people in the street, on the bus, in places of work and play, bless them. The peace of your blessing will accompany them on their way and the aura of its gentle fragrance will be a light to their path."
"To bless means to wish unconditionally, total, unrestricted good for others and events from the deepest well-spring in the inner most chamber of your heart. It means to hallow, to hold in reverence, to behold with utter awe that which is always a gift from the creator. He who is hallowed by your blessing is set aside, consecrated, holy and whole."
"To bless is to invoke Divine care upon, to think or speak gratefully for, to confer happiness upon, although we ourselves are never the bestower, but simply the joyful witnesses of life's abundance."
We have the privilege of having the author of these deeply profound words on our call with us today. He's calling in from his home in Switzerland. Pierre, welcome and thank you so much for being with us.
Pierre: Thank you, Pavi for that very friendly introduction.
Pavi: You are welcome. With a topic like this, I think the friendliness just comes automatically and I think we are all feeling pretty friendly, everyone listening to this call as well. Impossible not to with these kinds of reflections.
Pierre before we jump into the series of events that catalyzed the gentle art of blessing in your own life, I was wondering if you could look back and remember your earliest recollection of either receiving a blessing or feeling that blessing pour out of you.
Pierre: Well, I guess the sense of receiving blessings started in childhood. I had very loving grandparents. I grew up in England during the War. My grandmother was a very special person who gave me a great sense of love and compassion for others.
Then during adolescence, moments of spiritual insights that just popped up from time to time. I remember that close to our home was a large field with a huge oak right in the center of the field. I used to go there and sit at the foot of the oak. I had some lovely moments there.
Early in my life when I finished college in Switzerland which is sort of the first two years of college in the States, I went to work in the slums of Marseille and it was a very challenging and exciting year. On the way back, I stopped in a place called Taizé. It was the first Protestant monastery for brothers, and I had a very powerful mystical experience which lasted the whole night long on the power of love. There have been so many blessings through my whole life that I could not even start recounting.
Pavi: That is beautiful. Did you have a very deep exposure to any particular spiritual path or religious path that influenced your trajectory?
Pierre: Well, I grew up in a Christian family where there was a strong grounding in the Bible. I still find the Bible helpful, especially the message from the Sermon on the Mount of Jesus and Psalm 23 which is for me a main stay: "The Lord is my shepherd/ I shall not want" Which is for me one of the most beautiful non-denominational, universal spiritual texts that I have ever come across in my lifetime.
I was for many years on a strong non-dual path of non-dual teaching of Christian origin, but I left that because the movement was very rigid in its organization and now I don't belong to any religion or spiritual movement, but I am very much a student of the spiritual path, especially in Geneva I've created a blessing circle.
They exist in a few cities in Europe. This is a group where we meet every two weeks to just bless different people and world situations. And there is such a love in this group. I just so look forward to going to it every two weeks because it just overflows with love and that for me is the essence of any authentic spiritual path.
Pavi: Wonderful. I'm thinking back and trying to envision your childhood and young adulthood, when it came time to choose your career path what direction did you go in?
Pierre: My father was a minister, and I did two years of Theology solely to please him. After two years I realized that this was not my cup of tea and I embarked in the field of sociology and I really enjoyed my studies, especially my two years at the University of Michigan from 1969-71. Which I always say are among the two best years in my whole lifetime because the campuses at that time were on fire with so many movements, experiences, and teachings.
Pavi: So what drew you to sociology?
Pierre: It was simply, it was a very undefined topic that you could open up in all sorts of different directions. I very rapidly went to Algeria a year after working in Geneva. The UN offered me a life contract--a contract for my whole life with a salary twice the Geneva average salary with two months vacation, special shops for UN personnel, and no taxes. This was just anyone's dream.
Of course, everyone pushed me to accept it and I said, "No." I saw that I had become a good little bourgeois with a nice little wife, a nice little house, two nice little children, and a car. And I would fall asleep at the beginning of my life. That is not what I came on this planet for. And I went to Algeria without any contract, just because it was a country that had undergone a real revolution. They chased the French from the country and after a long fight for independence, they changed all the structures in the country. From then on I was living in Africa where the birthrate was extremely high and embarked in the field of family planning. I worked for an extraordinary wonderful US NGO: The American Friend Service Committee. This is a Quaker NGO which works all around the world. And it was the most exciting professional experience of my whole lifetime because these people were so respectful of other cultures and other needs and in such a spirit of listening which is the center of Quakerism.
And I went on to other fields and after almost 25 years, I've been running my own workshops on personal development and writing.
Pavi: Wonderful. I didn't realize there was a Quaker influence as well. How long were you in Africa.
Pierre: 11 years in Africa.
Pavi: And that was different parts in Africa.
Pierre: In Algeria, I was working for the Algerian government as a sociologist. I say I became a defrocked sociologist in Algeria, because what I learned in the University didn't work at all in the field.
Then I went to the University of Michigan for two years. Then I these two extraordinary years with the American Foreign Service Committee in Senegal. I was traveling all over French speaking Africa. And two years later I had another extremely exciting professional experience starting a grassroots educational magazine. I had no experience of doing this work whatsoever, and I took as a chief editor a wonderful African woman who had no experience of doing this work whatsoever, and in three years it was the best selling international magazine in the whole of French speaking Africa. And we were the first magazine in the whole of Africa, for example, to ever speak of woman's circumcision, which was a very hot potato at the time and it still is.
Pavi: I can imagine. These are all such thorny important and vast issues. I find it really interesting how so much of the groundwork of your life was focused on these areas of making very tangible external change in the world. And how that shifted later in working from a more internal space through the art of blessing.
Pierre: Exactly. That is the oldest consciousness absolutely and the most important thing in the whole planet today is raising world consciousness. That is the thing that is going to transform the planet very, very deeply. All is is consciousness. Everything starts with a new awareness.
Pavi: This is a great place for you to tell us the story of about how you made that transition from this world where you were dealing with these very real, very pressing issues whether it was hunger or malnutrition or infant mortality. Dealing with these issues and then what led to the transition out of that world.
Pierre: Ok. Lovely, thank you for the question. Well, I was working in Switzerland after I returned from Africa in the early 80s. I was working in this French/Swiss school system for a group of NGOs on a program of education on North South issues. I set up a whole new program for French speaking Switzerland. it was very exciting. I had a canopy in my office because I would often miss the last train home, so I would sleep in the office.
I decided to organize a roving exhibit on world hunger because it was and still is one of the main social issues of the world. There was no money in the budget. I invested my own savings the equivalent of $25,000. That had never happened in the history of these organizations. My employers were very satisfied. The exhibition was a great success.
The name of the exhibit was called "Ending Hunger Today." At the same time, I joined The Hunger Project which started in the United States' world campaign to end hunger. A slogan of the campaign was "end hunger by the year 2000," which would have been possible in the early 80s if there had been a political will.
My employers who were a bit leftist oriented didn't like things that came from the States. There was one man in these organizations who just hated my guts. And he decided he wanted to get rid of me. So first they told me that I was forbidden to speak of The Hunger Project in my work in the schools. These are organizations that are fighting hunger in the Third World. So it is rather contradictory.
I abided by the request with great sadness. And one day I was called up to a meeting. I was told point blank either you stop saying that we can end hunger by the year 2000 in schools because The Hunger Project says it or that you stop your work.
I was just flabbergasted/dumbfounded. Here an organization trying to end hunger telling me to stope using a very powerful slogan. So I quit my job. I didn't want to commit a moral harakiri. But I developed the most huge incredible resentment. And it was eating me up night and day. It became what psychologist call an obsession.
I couldn't stop thinking about this when i got up in the morning, went into the shower, brushing my teeth, doing the washing up, doing the shopping. It was constant. And I was meditating, praying, reading spiritual texts. I knew I was harming myself. It just wouldn't go.
Then one day, reading Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stating "bless those who curse you." Of course, it was so clear. Of course that was the solution. And there and then, I started blessing them. Blessing them in their health, in their joy, in their family life, in their finances, in every conceivable way. At first it was in the head, to obey what I believed was a very real command. Then it moved very quickly down to the heart. And I insist on that, blessing is 100% heart energy.
Suddenly, a few months later I started blessing people in the street, the supermarket, the post office, wherever I was. It became so joyful. I would travel the whole length of the trains to be sure to bless every person on the train. It was such fun.
One day I was preparing a talk for an international youth meeting on the theme "Healing the World" when suddenly I received this one page text that you read a few extracts in the beginning: "The Gentle Art of Blessing." By the way, there is now a website on this theme at www.gentleartofblessing.org. You will find this text on the website in the form of a video and it is just so incredibly beautiful. Well over 200,000 people have seen it on youtube. And it is a text that has been changing lives. I can't say anything else for 25 years around the world. So that is the story, Tazi.
Pavi: Wonderful. It's a beautiful story. I think all of us have felt those moments of resentment and anger and something that seems like rock hard within us no matter how hard we batter at it with our thoughts. I think you shifted the plane entirely by moving it into the realm of blessing. I wonder how do you understand this process? How do you articulate, or can you, what is actually happening?
Pierre: For me, Tazi, blessing is wanting the real good for the other person from the deepest well-spring of the most hidden part of your heart, or the most deepest part of your heart. It is really wanting real good of the other person.
I do a lot of blessings in public in the bus and in the trains, and I just love it. I just look at the person and send them a silent blessing. The wonderful thing, for 25 years, it has been constantly changing and renewing itself. It is not something that is rigid. If it becomes rigid than it is dead. It must flow from the heart. I have such a deep yearning for the happiness for every single person on this planet including those called terrible dictators like President Assad of Syria and the like. The gentlemen who runs North Korea who just exploded an atom bomb, a hydrogen bomb. Everyone for me is a child of Divine love. Everyone merits our blessing.
So blessing is something that comes from deep compassion. It is done with deep compassion. I've become so sensitive to people's suffering. I can see a person just have a glint in their eyes from twenty feet away and I feel instantaneously what they needed. If I see a state of depression, I bless them in joy, in their wholeness. If I feel anger, I bless them in peace, in their serenity. Blessing is something
that always comes back to you because we are all one. More and more we are getting worldwide this sense of wholeness. That is a wonderful side of the internet which has become such a tool for linking people. You have some of the worst, but also some of the best on the internet. The whole world is getting such a stronger sense of this oneness and a stronger sense one infinite divine mind that is running. this incredible show called the Universe.
Pavi: That is exquisite. I have a question around what the influence of this practice is. I imagine it is almost like a muscle that you have been building so consistently over time. You may not realize it in the moment of simple practice, but how when something happens to you which is unexpected that would have typically brought fear or aggressiveness, do you find yourself responding differently?
Pierre: Well, of course. When I discovered the gentle art of blessing, I was so excited. I remember soon after discovering this with an African friend who had an African Caribbean orchestra, we decided to organize a benefit concert for peasant farmers groups in Senegal. So we organized this concert. We hired a large hall in a very large college in Geneva. The technician of the college wanted to have nothing to do with our concert. And you know in these concert halls, you need true technicians. You can't run them yourself.
So I went to see the director of the college, and he said, "Look Mr. Pradervand, I'm so sorry, but this gentleman is a civil servant, and I can't get him to work after 5 o'clock in the evening if he doesn't want to." Those were the laws of the time. He said to just hire someone from another college, which we did.
This concert had been announced on the radio and the press and two hours before the concert, my friend and I came to see that everything was in order. There were only two mics left on the scene. We went to see the technician of the college who was so hostile. We opposite the counter from him and he was talking to my friend with his great hostility.
At first I felt anger, then my little voice deep down said, "Pierre, you are not going to heal this situation by anger. Start blessing him." So I just started blessing him. Silently blessing him in his gentleness, his kindness, his peace. And suddenly between two sentences, a huge smile appeared on his face. He went to his laboratory, came back with a pile of mics, recommended the best ones and wished us a wonderful evening. And for 25 years, I have had response like this from people from all around the world.
On the website gentleartofblessing.org, you'll find a whole section on testimonies from all around the world including death row Texas where I have a friend on death row for 25 years for a crime he never committed, and he has become an amazing spiritual teacher for hundreds of people around the world to this peasant leader in the heart of the Saheli in Africa who has become totally addicted to blessing as a solution to everybody.
One little story he told me: he meets this woman who is in this polygamous household which is frequent in West Africa. She was in her 50s. Very often in households, when the first wife is getting elder and less sexy, the husband takes a much younger wife who is more spritely as a wife and sexual partner. So he had taken a very young second wife, and he was making his first wife's life hell. He was insulting her. He was beating her. And the second wife started doing the same thing. And her life was sheer hell. She just met my friend Mamadu in the street and poured out her misery.
Mamadu said, "Look, Fatima, just bless your husband. Bless your co-spouse. Bless them in their kindness, in their serenity, in their goodness." People in Africa who don't have a Western elite education are so receptive to new ideas. I've had that experience so often. So this woman just went home and that very evening, she started blessing her husband from the heart, blessing her co-spouse. The next morning, her husband came to her, apologized to her for his terrible behavior, and changed completely from one day to another. And of course the young spouse followed suit.
Again, if you go on the website, you'll find so many exciting stories of how blessing works including one where it probably saved the life of an MD friend who was taken hostage by rebels in Niger and so on. It works. It works, but you don't do it because it works. You do it because it is a healing practice. First of all, blessing is a deeply healing practice at the same time an extraordinary expression of gratitude.
In the text on blessing, I say that blessing and gratitude are the two sides of the same coin. When you are expressing gratitude to someone for something they have done, you are blessing them. And when you bless somebody, it is because you feel gratitude towards the creator for that person.
Pavi: So powerful. As you are talking, I'm thinking how in our world we so come to value very different kind of skill sets--the skill set of intelligence, the skill set of being able to manipulate situations at an external level--we give so much attention in the energies and the abilities of the mind, and have somewhat brushed past this skill set of blessing that works at a subtler quieter level, so in our noisy world it is harder to tune into, yet I love what you say that you don't do it for the external impact. You don't bless someone because it is going to change them, you do it because in that moment it is healing you. And the byproduct, the ripple effect of that does go outward, but that is not the original intentions. I think that is a very deep insight.
Pierre: Also, blessing is so simple. Even in the testimonials on the website, there is a story of a three year old child throwing his arms around his mother's legs because he is a tiny tot. As he came out of the house, he ran up to her and threw his arms around his legs, and looked up at her with a shining face and said, "Moma, I bless you." Now she had never ever talked to her son about blessing. That is just magical.
Pavi: That is wonderful. I think for many of us it changes our fundamental understanding that blessing come from the high to the low. It comes from the elders to the young. It comes from a place of privilege. There is such an equalization in what you are talking about. There is a democratization of this that is very beautiful.
Pierre: In English language, it is different from the French. In French, the word blessing benediction has a very liturgical and churchy dimension/resonance that turns people off. And I always have to explain that blessing in its true sense has nothing to do with the Christian church or churches. It is probably in cultural terms of the nascent early practices of human kind. Blessing is probably one of the oldest spiritual or religious practices of the human race. It has nothing to do with churches or religion. It was adopted by the Christian church, and that is fine. There is nothing wrong with that. I even know of an atheist friend who read my book The Gentle Art of Blessing by Simon and Schuster and who even shared it with friends, and she is an atheist. Even an agnostic can practice blessing because it is simply wanting the real good of the other person. Don't have to have a whole theology to want good for another person, do you?
Pavi: Absolutely not. Yes. I was reading your blog and I was struck by one entry that we tend to get siloed in our understanding of the world and to think that our perspective is better or greater than the others, and I was struck by this little story you told about being in Senegal and visiting a Imam friend.
Pierre: Would you like me to repeat the story?
Pavi: I would love for you to share that story.
Pierre: It is one of my very favorite stories and one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned. I was living in Senegal in a little bungalow on the beach between two shanty towns where people live in utter absolute desperate poverty with shacks built out of wood. The son of the Imam who lived in one of the shanty towns was a dear friend of mine and sometimes I used to go discuss with his father who was a very kind and gentle man.
And one Sunday, I thought I'm going to ask Imam how he defines God. I was so cocksure that I had the best definition in the world. I belonged to a very specific healing movement of that time which was based on a textbook. There was a definition of God in that textbook and we were taught that this was the ultimate revelation of truth. So I thought evidently this is the ultimate definition of God.
There is a lovely Japanese proverb that says it is very difficult to describe the vast horizons of the ocean to the frogs sitting at he bottom of its well. And my state of mind as I strode along the beach to Imam's home was in very much that of the little frog encased in his little well shaft.
When I arrived at Imam Sall's house and he greeted me with such gentleness and kindness. He was such a gentle man. We sat down after the usual greetings. i said, "Imam Sall how does Islam define God?"
And the little frog in me, just had the surprise of his life. With his gentle voice he just said, "Pierre, if you took all the branches of all the trees in the world as pens. and you took the water of all the oceans and seas, all the rivers and lakes and streams of the world as ink, you could not write out all the names, all the qualities of God." Of course, I was absolutely dumbstruck.
In the moment of silence that follows. He said, “You know, Pierre, you are a better Muslim than most of the Muslims who surround me.” By that he meant that I did not drink alcohol, I didn’t chase women, I was generous with my giving to humanitarian things and to people, and Islam enjoins people to tithe their income. So he was very sincere.
There is a little poem by American poet Ed Markam that goes:
He drew a circle that closed me out
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
Love and I had the wit to win,
We drew a circle that closed him in
I had closed Imam Sall out of my heart, my consciousness, and he had enclosed me in his heart and consciousness. And you can't imagine what a wonderful lesson that was. At this time where people are so often speaking of the Islamic terrorists, I would like to stress that Islam has also a deep dimension of compassion.
Pavi: Very important. And I love that image of the bigger circle that can always be drawn with love. It is all embracing, all encompassing at a time when we feel shadow, when we feel marginalized, when we feel victimized, afraid. There is always the capacity to join hands with love and draw that circle.
Pierre: And blessing helps you do that, you see? It is impossible, and I mean impossible, to judge and to bless at the same time. They exclude each other absolutely and totally. So if somebody has problems constantly judging others, you just start blessing. Dear friend, try blessing.
Pavi: It is impossible to judge and bless at the same time. So have there come times in your own life where you felt challenged by this? Where things have come up where you thought, "I'm not sure if I can bless that"? Or has it taken on this depth that allows.
Pierre: It can be very very challenging. I remember this friend on death row in Texas whom I know is innocent. We have a wonderful lawyer who has the same convictions. And all those in the international community and all those who know him have the same deep conviction. When George Bush was governor of Texas, he was a strong proponent of the death penalty. His successor beat his record, but at the time he was governor he executed 152 people which was a Texas record. It took me three years of constant blessing to finally really bless him sincerely.
Now it doesn't take so long. It has become so deep in me that I can usually bless without difficulty almost anyone, but that is after 27 years of practice.
Pavi: Beautiful. I think of these great examples whether it is Nelson Mandela or Gandhi who is assassinated and the instant after the shot is fired, dies with a blessing and a prayer. We look at that and it is easy to say, "Oh that person is on a different level. That person is this, that, or the other, and I'm not there." But what we don't see is exactly what you are talking about. We don't see that moment rests on countless moments that came before of practicing very ordinary, very small hidden humble ways that allow for that strength to spontaneously come up in that moment of extreme intensity.
Pierre: Another story that I share on the website on blessing is of this school teacher who took part in one of my workshops. And she explains how she had a colleague in a relatively small primary school who for 12 years each time this colleague passed her turned her head away as she passed her. Can you imagine that? Passing someone every single day and they never look at you. They turn their head away decisively. She discovered blessing through one of my workshops and she started blessing this woman. Before the next school vacation, on the last day of school, this teacher came to her and with the most wonderful smile wished her a fabulous vacation. And that is very simple. It is not an impressive story, but life is made mostly of small incidents, not huge, adventurous experiences. But lots of little things. And blessing pours lots of honey on many situations.
I love this greeting among Mobi in Northern Togo. When you greet somebody, you say, "How is your life today?" And if their life is working well, the person replies, "My heart is covered with honey." I just love that.
Blessing will cover your heart with honey and the heart of all those you bless.
Pavi: I like that "My heart is covered with honey." We've got to start spreading more honey in the world.
Pierre: And I'm a honey-nut. The armories of our family that go back to the 12th century are a bee hive.
Pavi: It really is in your lineage. [Laughter]
Pierre, I wanted to talk about one of the phrases that is built into our language when we talk about "trials being blessings in disguise." It is easy to say, yet in the moment it is hard to say. I listen to your story and I can't help thinking, those guys who laid down the law at that organization you were with and made this unreasonable demand, it was a blessing in disguise. At the time, it looked like a blessing in disguise.
Pierre: At the time, it was terrible. But...the one guy who organizes and he started the business meeting by saying, "I'm an atheist" which immediately set colors clear. It took me three years of constant blessing to heal myself of my resentment towards this man whom I thought was my enemy, my persecutor. And ten years later, I met this guy in the city near Geneva. And I had inside me one of the greatest explosions of joy in my existence. I gave him a huge hug. And we ate together and for three days my heart was singing, singing, singing.
And it took me another ten years because as the British say, "I'm a slow learner." It took me another ten years to understand, and this is explained on my text on blessing. When something goes completely askew in your day, like when I had to leave this organization, my life went completely askew. When some unexpected event knocks down your plans and you too also, burst into blessing. For life is teaching you a lesson. The very events you believe to be unwanted, you yourself called forth so as to learn the lesson you might balk against were you not to bless it. Trials are blessings in disguise, and hosts of angels follow their path. I believe that at some level before being born, I made a soul arrangement, soul agreement that set up this whole situation, so that I could discover the power of blessing and through that discovery, bless thousands of people all around the planet. Be a tool, a service tool, of blessing.
You know Awakin Calls speak about the servant role that you are to play. So this gentleman was a tool for me to discover blessing. That he would, in turn, bless many others. So yes, trials are proofs of love's care. As Apostle Paul says, "All things work together to the good of them that love God." All things, not most, not 99%--100%.
Pavi: That is a teaching of a lifetime. I think that's something we can carry around in our pockets and benefit from. From the driver who cuts you off to the big things like your friend who is in jail for a crime he did not commit. I love how in the line you just quoted, "when some unexpected event knocks down your plans and you too also, burst into blessing." I love that--burst into blessing. Respond with the fullness of your heart, with enthusiasm, with all the things we don't usually associate with being knocked down. Where the tendency would be to shrink in, to close down, to close off, and yet you're saying do the exact opposite.
Pierre: You spoke about my death row inmate friend in Texas whom I've been corresponding with for 19 years who is innocent of the crime he has been accused. And he has used blessings so much on death row and if there is any place on the planet which is the ultimate testing ground for blessing, it's death row Texas, because death row Texas is the end of hell. Could I read you a brief letter on blessing from Roger.
Pavi: Oh, yes.
Pierre: Above of whose writing it and where he is writing it from, it carries great authority. He describes first a period of very tough conditions where the inmates were particularly poorly treated with air-conditioning so high they were freezing in their cells, and poor food, etc, and then he says, "I was really feeling the effects of it all. I was at the bottom of the barrel asking God for the strength to hold on. I was ready to explode. I prayed, but I could not find comfort in my prayers, and I would get up feeling empty. Then you sent me your letter. I looked at it and to be honest, Pierre, the first thing I thought was "more to read." I have so much to read. So much spiritual literature. I'm tired of receiving it.
Finally, one night before going to bed, I read the first sections of your book, the book you sent, The Gentle Arts of Blessing. I can tell you that it changed my thought process. After reading it, I just started asking God to bless all these people. To bless them and their family. To bless them in their finances and their spiritual life, every aspect of their lives. Very slowly, very gently, the weight began to lift from my shoulders, not all at once, but gradually. And now every morning when I wake up the first thing I do is to bless them. And in the middle of the day, and again before I go to sleep at night.
There is no structure to this place. There is no routine to live by. Hour after hour, nothing happens. So I just do the first thing that comes to my mind and lately that has been to pray and to bless."
Amit: Wow, that is incredible. Pavi and Pierre, thank you guys so much. Something that came up while listening to you, especially you sharing that sometimes it took as long as three years to cultivate a truly authentic blessing. it seems to me that my heart agrees with everything that you said, but my ego is determined and likes to stand in the doorway at times. Whether it is a so called self-perceived detractor, or even if it is someone I love or is in my day to day life, sometimes there is that instantaneous reaction of anger or resentment, and then of course, after a few moments go by, you step back and perhaps try to put yourself in the other person's shoes or try to understand their suffering or whatever the situation maybe.
I'm trying to understand how do you get to that point where you recognize that your blessing is truly authentic, because I could sit and almost say like a mantra, "I want to bless you,' and there is a part of me that that desire is very sincere, but for it to be fully authentic, to pop out of your heart, how do you cultivate that?
Pierre: Well again, I think perseverance is something very important. I say there are three qualities essential to the spiritual path, the spiritual life, is intent, sincerity, and perseverance. And Mother Teresa went through a spiritual desert for close to 50 years, and she never gave up serving. She just continued.
Blessing I think, you will feel in your heart when it comes from the heart, but don't give up because you don't feel that straight away. I told you it took me a long time to bless with feeling rather than with the head, but in the beginning, the sincerity of desire, the desire to bless sincerely, was what carried me. And if you persevere that sincerity will get down to the heart, and you will bless from the heart. It is not possible otherwise. Sooner or later, you will get there.
Amit: Thank you. I'm going to go to one of our first callers.
Caller: Hi all, I'm Deven. I'm calling from Orange, California. And Pierre and Pavi, I would say that this conversation is covering my heart with honey. It is just so relieving and healing and nurturing, just listening to it. I feel so blessed. Thank you.
When I'm feeling angry or frustrated with a personal situation, where do I start for cultivating that feeling of blessing?
Pierre: When you feel an angry emotion or any emotion, just observe it. You are not your emotions. You are a child of the light. You are not your emotions, so just try to observe them as an outside observer and say, "Hmmm, interesting. Deven is feeling very upset about this person." You observe yourself trying to know that you are not the upset part. You are the serene Divine reflection. Just try that in addition to just persevering in wishing to bless.
Caller: Thank you. Thank you so much.
Amit: One of the comments that has come online asks, "Do you believe in the law of attraction? If you do, how does that interpretation differ from the materialistic one that you usually find in books and workshops?"
Pierre: Well, the law of attraction for me is so very simple--Light attracts Light. If you love someone, sooner or later, the love will come back to you. Maybe not through that person, but in some other manner. I believe that our good thoughts always attract good to us, although we can't have a book of accounts and draw up two columns: Here is the thoughts I send out and here is the good that comes back to me. There is an element of faith, you know.
I believe in love because I had once in my life an incredibly powerful mystic experience. I felt love as the ultimate strength, law, power, reality governing the whole universe. My mind had completely disappeared in a state of consciousness where there was nothing but love. And for a while the Divine consciousness was my consciousness because there is one infinite mind. I believe that the ultimate law of attraction is love. And the more love you put out, the more love will come back to you, although that is not always a law.
I used to know the prior of Taize, a wonderful community in France that was started as a community of Protestant monks and became an international ecumenical center. And the prior, Brother Roger Schutz, was an incredible loving man who went all around the world preaching reconciliation. And he was assassinated, murdered in his own church during a church service by an insane woman. So the law of attraction doesn't function mechanically, but I do think that it always does function,and the good always does come back to you in some way or another, and it might be in another lifetime.
Amit: Thank you. I'm going to go to our next caller.
Caller: Yes, I am smiling and rejoicing to be able to hear this today. When Pavi was talking about her husband blessing someone who sneezed, I wanted to share something my grandchild said and ask if Pierre had anything to add.
My grandchild asked me, "Grandma, why do people say, 'bless you' when someone sneezes?" I had to ask her exactly what she was meaning, and I then realized that she was saying was saying "plus" instead of "bless." And that has become our family saying. To say, "Plus you." And it has become a way for me to think, I am plussing you with all that I can think of that is good right now. Do you have anything to add to that right now, Pierre?
Pierre: The only thing I can think of is what Jesus said, that we have to become as little children if we want to enter the kingdom. I find that just beautiful. That is wonderful. It's not the words we use that counts. It is the intentions of the heart. That is the core of blessing, the intention of the heart, not the words.
Caller: Thank you, This has been a beautiful talk and I've just been cherishing it deeply.
Pierre: Thank you. It has been a joy talking to all of you, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart. My greatest joy in life is communicating with people.
Amit: Thank you for your beautiful question and share as well. Pierre, I wanted to shift for a second. You brought up this friend, this inmate in Texas. It just seems like he is an individual who is such a big part of your life. In fact, you come to the US once a year, just to visit him and spend time with him. And from someone who you even consider a spiritual guide in some ways. Can you share about him and what you have learned from his transformation and it has helped transform you as well.
Pierre: Well, he has taught me, "how could I ever complain?" I mean he has been through such hardship, and he wrote to one of my friends, "If I have to die on death row, I can at least show that one can be happy there."
You might have heard about the dark night of the soul, that is something that is frequently alluded to among spiritual seekers along all paths, and I went through, a few years ago, a dark night of the soul. It was so dark, I was at the rock bottom of a dark valley for almost three years. To the extent that for two years I could not even bless. It was so horrendous. What kept me going was Roger's example. I wrote my second book on him during this period because the example, this man whose in pure hell and has discovered that forgiveness and gratitude are the ultimate answers to everything.
I would like to add that I just published in French a little book called, Making Yourself a Gift of Forgiveness, that forgiveness is first of all a gift you make to yourself, just like blessing, because to live with resentment is horrible, so forgiveness is the freedom from resentment. And I discovered a blessing through the part of forgiveness. And Roger has learned to forgive completely a system that has held him in prison for 30 years when he is innocent. And that has happen in great part in his ability to bless his tormenters.
Amit: Beautiful. i want to go to one of our next callers.
Caller: Hi, this is Preta calling from Cambridge, Mass. Thank you so much for this beautiful conversation. The question I have follows a lot of questions that Pavi had about the your shift from the external to the internal world. I'm wondering now when you deal with people in extremely materially poor environments or those that may have social barriers and blocks that they face everyday, I'm struck by your comment that gratitude is the flip side of blessing. I'm wondering how you approach those situations and people in those environments. Do you encourage them to feel gratitude for the non-material assets that they have? How do you reconcile your earlier focus on the ways of bringing about change and the internal?
Pierre: Good question. i really appreciate it. Well, I would never tell a person whose in desperate plight what she should do. I don't feel the right to. I can help them if they are open to think differently. But it is there choice. I've been for twenty years a prison visitor in the Geneva prison here. And I remember one gentleman from Ghana whose in prison for drug traffic, and I lent him my book on the gentle art of blessing, and it just transformed his life completely. He started blessing guards, the officers, social people at the prison, the prison director. He started blessing the judge and the district attorney, his own lawyer, and all the other inmates of course. He just blessed and blessed and blessed. And he is completely transformed by this practice.
And the time of his trial came and he had been blessing everyone involved abundantly. Usually for this kind of misdemeanor he would have had 7-8 years of penitentiary. And he was condemned to one year and a half. He had already done one year in the local prison before the trial, so he just had a few months left. When he came back, nobody in the prison wanted to believe him. They had to probe tribunal to be sure that this has happened. I didn't preach anything to him. i just gave him a tool and he decided to use it.
I would never tell a poor person do this or do that or start blessing, but I would bless them myself.
Caller: Thank you that is just beautiful. Thank you for the amazing conversation.
Pierre: You're so welcome. It is my total joy. I feel you all linked mentally so strongly this Awakin network all around the world, and that is what is going to change the world. It is our growing sense of oneness. One mind, one consciousness, one love uniting us all. Nothing can stop such a power.
Amit: Could you share about forgiveness of the self?
Pierre: When I went through this deep night of the soul, what I call my tsunami, the ultimate thing I had to forgive was myself for mistakes I had been through. All my life just exploded in one moment: My fantastic marriage of 26 years just fell through; I had the greatest health challenge of my whole life; because my energy had dropped so low, my workshops just crumbled; hence, my income crumbled, shriveled up; and finally, my spiritual path of 40 years just blew into smithereens. So the five of them at the same time was really rather a lot.
The news was that I was a celebrated trainer, writer, well-known regionally, and at the bottom of the pit, I first had to not judge myself and then forgive myself. It took a long time. But today I can really say, I am grateful for having been through this incredible trial. When I was in it, I didn't see how I would ever come out of it, but I did because I was sincere.
Mary Baker Eddy, metaphysician from the last century whom I respect once said, "A deep sincerity is sure of success for God takes care of it." The other thing was the perseverance. I knew I would never, never, never give up. As I love this statement by Churchill. I lived in England during the Last War, and Churchill told his countrymen: "When you are going through hell, keep going." Well, I was going through hell for almost three year, and I just kept going.
So forgiving yourself is one of the most challenging of all the forms of forgiveness. But when you know that you are totally loved with no accusation from the Divine Love that people called God. That one helped a lot. I love the parable of the prodigal son in the book of Luke. It is my favorite parable of Jesus's parables because the youngest son has squandered all the family inheritance, his inheritance, in wild parties with prostitutes and all that. And he comes home completely broke, expecting his father to scold him. Yet his father not only doesn't scold him, but embraces him and puts on the white robe of innocence and the ring of oneness on his finger.
You can do that to yourself. You have the right to clothe yourself with the robe of forgiveness, the white robe of total innocence. One of the most powerful mystic experiences I had in my whole lifetime was when I was going to Geneva in a tram and suddenly the whole tram was filled with light and I saw the ontological, the essential, innocence of everybody in that tram. I got off of the bus stop where I was suppose to descend, and it was the same thing, I could see with a deep spiritual seeing, the utter innocence of every single person there. I felt like raising my hands and shouting, "You are innocent. You are innocent." But I didn't want to be taken to the local asylum, so I kept my peace, but I felt that innocence and it was one of the most powerful experiences of my whole lifetime.
I can say that I even know that it is try that President Assad of Syria, behind the tormented terrible mask of someone destroying their own country is an innocent child of Divine Love.
Pavi: Thank you so much, Pierre, for the richness and lived experience of all your sharing today. Early on in the conversation, you mentioned being a defrocked sociologist in Africa. I feel like many of us on this call have become defrocked change makers in our own way. In the sense that we may have started in the world as social development and philanthropy and making the world a better place using external levers as our starting point and when the rubber hits the road, then you actually try and effect change in those ways, you realize very soon the limitations and the backfiring that happens.
I think what you have shared with us on this call really shifts the lens and a very powerful way gives us a pathway to walk as we are walking that dance because no life is purely internal or purely external. We're constantly shifting between those two and yet when you carry some of the keys that you have spoken about today, we find different levers and we find different access points. We find a very different way of moving in the world.
As a penultimate question, what can we as this community do to serve your journey.
Pierre: Well, in the beginning you mentioned living in a service oriented way. I think that is the ultimate goal of the spiritual path, not to have nice mystical experiences high up on mountain tops, but rather to live as a world's servant. Hughes Schoncofield, who is a British thinker of the last century, coined the term and even created an organization called the Servant Nation. That we have lived in divided political nations for years, and we now need to create a new nation of world servants. People who are working for a world that works for all. A win-win world that works for all, which will be the world of tomorrow which is certain because the old conservative, masculine, hierarchical, cartesian, competitive paradigm of yesterday is already dead. We are creating this win-win world, this world that works for all, but it will only happen as each of us feels as part of this servant nation. We already are this servant nation. We just have to become aware of it.
As I said in the beginning, everything is consciousness. Just become aware that you are a world servant just because you want a better world.
Pavi: Lovely. That gives us a starting point for sure and a pathway to follow. My last question before we conclude the call. After having heard all these stories, may we have a blessing from you, Pierre.
Pierre: Absolutely! From the very bottom of my whole heart, may you be enfolded in grace. May you treasure the infinite goodness that is the essence of who you are. May the light of your divinity shine not only for those around you, but for who you are. And may your heart be covered with honey. Goodbye, precious listener friends all around the world. I love you. I send you all the very, very best, and I will keep you in thought and in blessing. Goodbye.