My fiftieth year had come and gone,
I sat, a solitary man,
In a crowded London shop,
An open book and empty cup
On the marble table-top.
While on the shop and street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed;
And twenty minutes more or less
It seemed, so great my happiness,
That I was blessed and could bless.
Yeats’ beautiful depiction of a moment of illumination amidst the ordinary and the everyday, a phenomenon Maslow referred to as a ‘peak experience’, is both evocative and instructive in facilitating access to these higher experiences. The final sentence: ‘That I was blessed and could bless’ is the real revelation of the poem.
The poet accesses this state of grace through the realisation of blessing – that he was both the receptacle of blessings, but also, crucially, had the power to bless.
When we see that we have been blessed, and the true blessing is the simple fact that we are alive – the feeling of being – our spirit is elevated; gratitude is an expansive state that lifts and enlivens.
Receiving is blessing, but so too is giving. The power of the heart to bless, to love, to feel, to connect, is equally our birth right. Generosity, kindness, compassion are wholesome states that run both ways – they benefit the one towards whom these energies are directed, but also, and primarily, the one who generates them. The kind person is the first beneficiary of that kindness. This is what is known as ‘wise selfishness’. Filling your cup by pouring it out.
Practice working with these alternative dynamics of giving and receiving. What is it like to receive the world and all its beauty and blessings into yourself? What does it feel like to give and to bless – even just with your gaze, your touch, a thought? In blessing we are blessed.