By Patricia Webb If I had to use one word to describe our September retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh, it would be gratitude. All of the events opened my heart-the Dharma talks by Thay, the daily sitting meditations, the early morning walks on the University of California at San Diego campus (a powerful experience of many souls gracefully and silently moving into dawn), an evening of Deep Relaxation and Touching the Earth, the healing wonder of silent meals, and receiving the Five Mindfulness Trainings.
I was surprised every day at how the gratitude I experienced grew. It opened like a flower, and I was filled with the fragrance of it-my marriage, my family of origin, my children, my grandson were present with me each time I became still. My love for them and appreciation for my life just as it is, was almost too much to bear. I had not allowed myself to feel this joy for many years.
My husband and I buried his only daughter a few months before the retreat, in the Winter of 2000. The retreat allowed us to more deeply accept her passing by touching our gratitude for her beautiful and completed life.
I arrived at the retreat in a great deal of physical pain from an old injury to my back-pain so intense that I wondered if I would be able to sit to meditate at all. But fortunately, miraculously, the discipline of sitting properly in order to breathe began to correct the problem. In the weeks and months since the retreat, my back has almost completely healed and I am pain free. Another thing to be grateful for!
The following poem is given as a tribute to the global Sangha whose energy is with us here every day in Oklahoma City, showing me how to live mindfully, gratefully, and more healthfully than I ever dreamed possible.
In the silence, I notice my own heartbeat. Thank you, heart, for serving me so well All these years. In the silence, I notice my own breath. Thank you, lungs, for your good service.
In the silence, I notice the small things Tiny rocks beneath my feet, Insects that land on my arm. I am aware of how much goes unnoticed In my busy day.
The sun makes my paper neon bright, Bright as my life is When I can breathe my thanks And beat my heart thanks And know that though I am a small thing In this vast universe, I am not insignificant.
And my noticing Is not insignificant. For its strange and silent power Makes me thankful.
Patricia Webb, Silent Service of the Heart, is a poet and Artist-in-Residence in Oklahoma. For the past ten years, she has worked in schools and hospitals to bring silence and journaling techniques for releasing inner wisdom. She and husband David McClesky, Auspicious Guide of the Heart, sponsor The Silence Foundation, an organization dedicated to bringing mindfulness practice to schools and hospitals.