Count Your Blessings

I’d like for all of us to sing this simple song together. Here are the words:

When I am worried and I can’t sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep, counting my blesssssss……ings

What I was thinking about in relation to this song is that, in the life dealt to us, everybody gets something. Even if they get very little, they get a simple life. So I was making a list up for myself about the perks that people get in life. For example, there’s good health, there’s talent of some kind, there’s monetary security. You could be beautiful or handsome, you could get a relatively sane life partner—or at least a sane partner for a year or two! You could get intelligence, you could have a house, you could have friends, you could have pets you appreciate, you could dig nature, enjoy a hobby, have an appreciation for music, etc. The list goes on and on. We don’t have to get esoteric here; these are really just ordinary things. The things people are dealt. Even people who have difficult lives often have a lot of support. You know what I mean? There are a lot of people in foreign countries where the families are very poor, but people hang together. At least they have that. They don’t have to get lonely.

So everybody here has a list of perks that they have gotten from life. You could say these perks are part of their “win column.” Everybody wins some things. Everybody here has also put some effort into getting some of the things that haven’t come easily to them. Maybe you started off the ugly duckling and, with effort, you have ended up attractive. You started off poor, and now you have some wealth, or you began with no talent and you have ended up with something you’re really good at. Most of you have put in considerable efforts to get some of those things that you haven’t been dealt. What I want to put forth is, if you’ve made reasonable efforts to add something to your “win column,” and it hasn’t gotten over there, I’ve got some news for you: it’s probably not going to happen. Your continuing efforts to put more things in your “win column” are probably a waste of time. Of course, if you haven’t made the effort because you’ve been unmotivated or lazy, then you may be in a different category. You might just have to make the effort. Also, if you’re just twenty-five or thirty years old, I’m not necessarily talking to you. But very few people in this get-together are twenty-five or thirty.

Your idea that everybody can get everything is an erroneous concept—because they can’t. We’ve just been fooled into thinking that. In TV shows and movies we’ve seen and in songs we hear that you can have love and you can have riches and you can have whatever you want. We’re actually in a handicapped position because, in other cultures, people learn to make so much more of so much less. Out of necessity, their aspirations are very modest. In our case, our aspirations are over the top. We’ve been fooled into thinking that everything is available to us. It’s just not.

It may in fact be that the energy you put into getting the things you haven’t yet gotten could be better used. If you put your energy into moving things from the “what you didn’t get” column into the “got it” column, then you’re not going to have much energy leftover. The energy it takes to discover your spiritual center, to discover your connection to God, is the same energy you’re using to improve your lot in the way that we’ve been talking about. As you decrease your “improving your lot” energy use, you can increase the energy you have for spiritual exploration and discovery. That is the law.

When I turn on the air conditioner in my trailer, the lights dim. I would like the lights to stay bright when the A.C. is on, but there’s a certain amount of energy available in that trailer, and when the A.C. goes up, the lights go down. They both share the same energy source. It’s the same for you. The energy to improve your lot and the energy to discover your spiritual center both share the same energy source. I’m not saying you have to stop doing things in your life. I’m saying that you don’t have to put your hope and aspirations in those things. You still might paint as much or more than you painted before, but you can let go of your hope to become a famous artist. The energy needed to paint is very different than the energy needed to paint in order to become a famous artist. Now, if there were no higher place for that energy to go, then I would say, “Sure, just keep banging your head against the wall. What the hell?” But there is a place, a wonderful place, a profound and important place. For a person willing to tone down their outer quest and seek the beauty within, so much meaning in life is possible. The light within is there, and it gives many perks of its own. It gives perks of feeling filled up. It gives perks of feeling constantly cared for.

Imagine the feeling you get when you really appreciate something and you say thank you, and you really mean the thank you. Now imagine what that would be like if it were for your breath. “Thank you for that breath. Thank you for this one. And for that one.” And on and on and on. That would be a reflection of the feeling of the perk of being taken care of by something that feeds us breath by breath—not something that feeds us day by day or year by year or event by event. There is also the great and incredible gift of being able to look outside oneself and see what’s out there; see the pain, the beauty, the delight, or the need. Normally, we don’t really see each other. Anyone who’s taken a couple of tokes knows that to be true. We don’t really see each other, but we can. We don’t really see the creation, but we can.

I know a number of the people here, and I know that you are sincere in your efforts. As it gets colder and colder at these outdoor meetings, I will recognize your efforts even more! I know a lot of you and I respect your efforts. I’ve seen them for years and I know that you mean it. But if you don’t have the energy available to climb, the aims of your sincere desire and your intention for climbing are not going to come to pass. So if you feel frustrated at your ability to make efforts and your resulting accomplishments, it may simply be because you are using your energy to improve your lot. It may be that, for some of you, it’s time to put more of your energy into the inner quest. I can’t tell you that it’s time. That, of course, is for you to decide.

In some cultures, historically, it was set up to have different phases of life. In your first 25 years you did a certain thing, in the second 25 years, you did something else, and if you were lucky enough to get a third 25, there was a whole new thing for you to do. When, at some point, you left your possessions and your business and your family, they didn’t say, “I can’t believe you’re walking out on me!” It was simply part of the custom. But we don’t have that culture. We have it that you can be a kid when you’re a kid. Then, you can be a teenager and a kid when you’re a teenager. Then you can be a teenager and a kid and a young adult when you’re a young adult, and then you can be… you understand? You can keep bringing all those things with you. All you’ve got to do is keep going to the gym! It’s not such a joke. That’s the promise we are given.

We pretend that there are no phases of time, that there are no seasons in life. That’s not the case. We think we can have everything all the time. Then, when things change, we try to re-institute them. We don’t get the message that maybe it’s time to go on to the next thing—whatever that next thing is. Maybe it’s time to take care of some other people instead of just taking care of myself. Or maybe it’s time to take care of myself after all this time of taking care of other people. It could be anything. Once you know it’s time to do the next thing in your life, then we can really do some business together—because you’ll have the energy to do it.

One way this process could go a little faster is if you learn the words to this song we sang at the beginning. It could become your song, or maybe you could make up your own song. You have considerable attributes that have been given to you, and you could make a list of those attributes. You could keep that list in sight for whenever you needed it. Then, when someone ignores you or is inconsiderate, you could look at that sheet and say, “But all these blessing are still here! I still have this skill and that quality and this space and those possessions and this family… Someone may have been inconsiderate to me, but I still have friends to listen to me and help me see another perspective!” People will sometimes leave their dishes in the sink, but they may also help remind you of something important. It’s not that you won’t still have the “bummer list,” but you’ll also have this other list you’ve made. Think of how neon-bright the entries on the “bummer list” are, compared to the entries in light pencil on the blessings list! The entries on the “bummer list,” when you listen to their story, it’s as if they were shouted from the mountain tops.

We need a way to keep our blessings in mind, and not only because it’s annoying to hear a person to say, “I want, I want, I want” when they have so much. It’s also a personal rip-off for that person. In their attempts to move what’s on their bummer list to their win column, they use the energy they could be using to know God. Think about that. Think about that as a trade off. If you thought about that, you might not be so cavalier in pursuing your next dream of glory. For the dream of the perfect job, the bigger house, or the perfect relationship, you are paying with the energy you could use to know God. So often people ask me, “How did you come to understand and experience so much? I’ve head the stories you’ve told and I’ve read the stories you’ve written, but how did you do it?” Well, it became the most important thing to me. While other people were doing the most important thing to them, I was doing what was the most important thing to me. All it takes is harnessing the energy that otherwise goes all over the place—realizing that you already have enough blessings—and putting that energy instead towards being a seeker of truth.

Now if you have something that’s really off about you or your life, you may have to do a little work. If you’re very weak, you may need to work out. But if you’re in the middle range, and most people are, then you’re fine. Simply make the best “stew” out of what you’ve been given and then let’s get on with it! Mind you, that’s not what you’re doing. It may sound great, but I can tell you that’s not what you’re doing. Your major attempt is to improve your lot. That is where 90 percent of your energy goes. And you give your soul, your spirit, whatever is left.

So if you’re interested, you’ll make a list for yourself. It’s an interesting list if you start writing it down. Then, when you find yourself striving to move items from your bummer list to your blessings list, you might decide, “Maybe I already have enough blessings. Maybe I could take some of that energy to look for the inner silence.” Once some momentum gets rolling, you’ll be amazed at how this creation provides you with an internal experience so filling that the importance of those other things comes into its proper perspective. It just does. And once you realize that, you’re set. You can still play tennis as often as you want, but you’re not grasping, you’re not desperate. You made a tennis appointment and the person didn’t show up. Your reaction isn’t “Oh my God! What am I going to do? I was depending on this!” Whether it’s a job, or an appointment, or a burnt meal—it’s okay. If you can put your energy in the right direction, you’ll find what it says in one of the scriptures to be true: all else shall be added unto you.