A friend of mine often says, “I understand that bad things happen to good people.  I just can’t understand how good things happen to bad people.  What happened to karma!?”    We’d go round that one for most of an evening until finally we’d have to admit that it’s our perception of “good” and “bad” that is the problem.  Once we’ve built the categories, everything else becomes a logic locomotive.  We start generating if-then sequences and ideas of justice and entitlements, forgetting that karma has nothing to do with a Last (or Lasting) Judgement.

To paraphrase Sylvia Boorstein, we get what we get.  My nemeses get what they get.  My friends get what they get.  The fact that I choose to label them as Adversaries or Dear Ones is what gives their successes such power over me.  More to the point, when I’m caught in concepts of deservingness, I miss the generosity of people around me.

A few years ago a colleague was diagnosed with cancer.  He worked two doors down from me and I had heard about it but hadn’t seen him.  Coming out of my office one day, I was greeted by this familiar person in my waiting room – a cartoonish sketch of someone I knew.  It was my friend, physically dramatically changed from the cancer treatments.  But I would have recognized those sparkling eyes anywhere!  We went into my office and his first words were, “How is Frank?  I heard about his surgery!”  I was amazed and confused.  Why was he concerned about Frank who was fine and recovering?   How could he be so thrilled about Frank’s positive prognosis when he was on his way to a last-ditch effort at a treatment?

He seemed content.  His life was a series of unending gifts – the medical students he had taught and mentored, the family who grew with grace and fortitude, friends who had walked with him in laughter and tears.  He joined us in celebrating Frank’s “all clear,” embraced us, and said his final treatment has failed; he died three weeks later.  It seemed he was so full of joy that he was giving it all away before he left us.  This was a profound lesson for me in Resonant Joy.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to have attained my friend’s level of unconditioned love.  But it might start in a little way with kindness.  Self-kindness and gentleness.  With saying “thank you” and “wonderful!”  Saying “It’s OK” and “I understand.”  With refusing to turn away from the momentary hurt.  Refusing to allow that internal gossip mill to grind down the heart.

It’s a start.

It’s a choice to start.

great fullness & and the subtle nourishment of gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving Day to all of you south of the 49th parallel!

Some of my favourite food is shown below.

Anything written about mindful consumption on a day of celebration would be too preachy so I shall simply say, “Enjoy!”

And why not.  It’s always struck me as odd that we flagellate ourselves for having the good fortune of bountiful food, relationships, time, and finances.  In a session with a client, I was enjoying her story about a spouse who dotes on her but whose unconditional love makes her uncomfortable.  Having to work through the anxieties about payback in her story was a karmic payback for my own inability to freely accept the care of others.

It occurred to me that it takes courage to allow myself to be open to the generosity of others.  To gift to others the opportunity to give to me just as I want them to accept unconditionally what I give to them.  When I resist receiving my giving to others becomes a form of unmindful consumption of my own resources.  I’m thinking of printing up gift certificates:

To:   My Beloved

From:  Your Beloved

The sum of ___ minutes freely giving to me.

This certificate is valid from _______, 2011 to __________, 2012

No substitutions allowed and cannot be combined with any dysfuntional program running at the time of redemption.

There are many wonderful books and articles on generosity.  My favourite is Being Generous: The Art of Right Living by Lucinda Varley and John Dalla Costa who explain that generosity is not generous unless it regenerates.  In other words, it must circulate through a community to mindful givers so that it is always replenishing the system.

Sweeping Zen, quickly becoming one of my favourite sites of all things Zen, recently carried a beautiful article, Gratitude by Roger Shikan Hawkins from his book Great Doubt (which I hope I will receive from a certain Beloved who reads these posts at 0530 every morning).  Hawkins discusses the term “great fullness” from Dogen’s sayings from The Shobogenzo.  Brother David Steindl-Rast, he says, calls gratefulness “great fullness.”  It is knowing that we are greatly filled by the events and experiences we meet in each moment with nothing more needed.  The article deals mainly with feeling gratitude to those who gift us the opportunity to practice when our delusions, aversions, and clinging are activated by them.  Yet this statement lends a broader application:

Let our gratitude extend to the opportunities presented by others.

It is equally applicable to seeing a gift given through the arising of love as an opportunity to practice that replenishing generosity simply by accepting it.  To deny ourselves that is to miss the opportunity to truly give thanks.

Thank you for practising,



OK… I can’t resist.  One of my Practicuum Interns submitted a review paper of Jan Chozen Bays’ book Mindful Eating and Tricycle just posted this piece by Chozen Bays.