The power and purpose of spoken blessings
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about blessings. I don’t mean I’m practicing gratitude and feeling #blessed (though, y’know, I’m working on that when I remember to). No, in this case, I’m talking about “blessings” as the counterpart to “curses.”
I’m talking about a statement of intent and power. Something of this sort:
May you find meaning in your life.– Aaron Pogue
Well, I can’t make up a new one every time! But there you go. It’s a blessing in a format any of us would recognize. It’s something that can feel hokey or jokey, but it’s also something that can feel overwhelming with the ancient weight of antiquity and magic.
What a Blessing Is
So! Here’s the thing:
The ordinary person wakes up every day in an ordinary world, doing ordinary things, having ordinary experiences, and dreaming of some distant not-quite-ordinary future.
We are fish swimming in a vast sea of Ordinary. Ordinary isn’t bad, but it numbs the senses and dulls the brain. It suppresses the spirit by engaging the body. It makes us feel more like animals than princes of the universe. It’s all just math and stuff.
A long time ago, the word we used to describe all that malaise in the last paragraph was “profane.” Profane meant “ordinary” with all its tedious baggage. Profanity was the dull ordinariness of actual life.
The counterpart to “profane” is “sacred.” A sacred space is a space that has been set apart. It’s a bubble of spiritual stimulation floating distinct within that great sea of Ordinary. It’s something other than Real Life.
That’s not a difficult concept to grasp when you think of temples, cathedrals, altars, shrines. These are the places that have been set apart. They are made to feel Other. When you step into these places, you’re meant to feel as though you’ve left Real Life (in the ordinary sense) waiting for you outside.
Ancient peoples used temples and shrines to create on earth a dwelling place for heavenly spirits. Through a sacrifice (of labor and valuable land, if nothing else), and through an act of will, people set aside a place that could be filled with the presence and power of God.
And now I come around to the point of this whole section: A blessing is exactly the same thing. The purpose of a blessing is to create, through an act of will and supplication, a sacred space within the profane world.
What a Blessing Does
Why does all of that matter? I promise I’m after more than just word count.
No! Here’s the thing. A blessing, properly applied, is much more than just a friendly statement. It’s more than a wish.
When someone speaks a blessing with the intention of creating a sacred space, that space will come to be. It’s a space created by words, so it’s a mental place, not a physical one. But it’s a mental version of a temple–a place where God is welcome to dwell, and his presence can coexist with creation.
In other words, it’s a set of words that you can dwell upon. But it’s also a mental space that you can dwell within. It’s a quiet place. A sanctuary. A moment set apart, where your life can intersect with something more than Ordinary.
How to Practice Daily Blessings
Because, let’s face it…it’s not ordinary to speak a blessing with real intent. It’s not ordinary to go looking for one every morning. It’s not ordinary to actually stop your day just to sink yourself inside some nice words someone else shared on social media.
But that’s how I encourage you to think about it. When you encounter a proper blessing (especially one of mine), think of that encounter as a rest stop beside the busy, rushing highway of Real Life. There’s a scenic overlook, and a chance to stretch your legs and catch your breath and maybe, just maybe, experience something incredible.
You won’t find the Profound every time, but you should find comfort. Restoration. These are spa experiences for the soul.
And then, from time to time, the Profound will show up out of nowhere and change your life forever. Because you gave it a chance. Because you showed up in a sacred space. If you’re always living in the Ordinary, how can your life be anything else?
That’s why we need sacred spaces. That’s why we need our faith, our sense of spiritual connection, our hunger for Truth. All of it drags us out of the arithmetic of ordinary life, driving us to find some nook, some cranny, some uneven edge in the universe where something bigger, better, and far more interesting can shape our destinies.
The irony of it all is that it’s there to be found–all of the mad, chaotic, boundless possibility of Dream is there to be found–but it’s waiting in the quietest, calmest places you will ever find.
Step into a sacred space today. Dwell there for as long as you can spare, breathing in the air and waiting patiently as your cramped spirit finally gets to stretch its legs a little. (You’ll know you’ve found the place when your soul feels like it’s drifting lazily on still waters.)
Breathe. And see what happens. You have no responsibility in a sacred space. (You have no power there.) Your only job is to show up, and make yourself available, and see what happens.
Here’s your chance. Ready? Now.
May you find meaning in your life.– Aaron Pogue
I’ve made this space for you, and I have begged the God of Heaven to keep it open for anyone who knows my name. That’s you. And you are welcome here.