I was asked a number of times what made me launch a public gratitude project. The simple answer is that I realized that intensive practice of generosity is literally mind blowing and simply had to share it with anyone who would be interested. It was an intuition more than anything else. I also see this challenge as a step towards a shift in collective consciousness, a step towards love, gratitude and appreciation.
But there is a deeper level as to why I initiated this challenge. For me this is an attempt – a lame attempt I must admit- to repay the kindness and generosity I’ve received over the past couple of years during my “spiritual journey”. Some of you already know that an unusual set of circumstances allowed me to renounce the life I had, set on an inner journey and dedicate two years to intensive meditation practices.
Today I’d like to express my gratitude to the incredible human beings and circumstances of my life that enabled me to continue that journey. I’m writing with the aspiration that my stories will inspire you to recollect your own good fortune. As today’s “exercise” try and list down, mentally or in your daily gratitude journal, the top five incredible acts of kindness and generosity you’ve received in your life. If you can, don’t stop at five and feel free to share with us.
For almost two years I was able to concentrate solely on my meditation practice without having to take care of anything. Living in Nepal and Burma, too of the poorest countries in the world where many of the residents are not yet connected to national water or electricity systems – I was always hosted in a (potentially) lit up modern room with fresh running water . I was given a bed, two generous meals a day and free medical care.
Most importantly, I was given the regular guidance of two of the world’s renowned and inspiring meditation masters (sometimes even twice a day). My selfless teachers devoted their time, love and attention to me and were receptive to all my needs and challenges without expecting anything in return.
I was also given the friendship, the care, the support and the time of my family and friends. Beginning with my Jewish parents, who still cannot grasp why I left the good life I had and disappeared in Burmese monasteries, yet supported me on my journey with anything I needed. Continuing with my brother and sister and my close friends who supported my decisions and waited patiently for my rare signs of life. Culminating with the generosity of countless strangers.
Generosity of strangers
The people I’ve never met who insisted on paying my bus ticket in Yangoon almost every time I did the journey from the center to the city. The beautiful ladies who, on two different occasions, literally picked me up off the street and hosted me generously and trustingly in their homes; The Thai man who protected me with his own body while crossing, by foot, an eight lane highway in Bangkok. And then detoured for more than a kilometer to take me where I needed to go despite a very obvious limp. And still, when we got there, bought me a can of soda, made sure I got the ticket to the right place at the right price and asked someone else to take care of me. And all of that without exchanging more than two words in English. And there are plenty more stories.
I will never comprehend how the poor families in Burma (whose average monthly salary is 35 USD for a family of 5!!!!) regularly feed the monastic communities. Every single day. They fed me as well – twice a day for almost two years. I will forever remain grateful to the nuns who were forbidden to shop or even carry money, yet shared with me the food they were offered every single meal; the beautiful Burmese MD who insisted on paying for my x-ray and then took me out for lunch ; the free medicine I’ve received simply for being a meditating foreigner and many many many more. Every single day. And not just in Burma, Nepal and Thailand but also in India, London, Tel Aviv, New York. Rotterdam, San Francisco and anywhere else I’ve been. Everywhere. Every day.
There are no words that can convey my sense of gratitude and good fortune. I will forever be overwhelmed by the fact that I have actually received this incredible generosity and I cannot really grasp or understand why “me”. And to top it up even more I was given everything for free!!! Completely free of charge!!!! For as long as I want or need!!!! for almost two years!!
The financial donation I left will never be sufficient. The only way I could begin to repay this kindness is by being as generous and protective towards others – in anyway I can. And that, is the main reason I launched a public gratitude project.
To be held and supported with so much kindness, tenderness and generosity – not only by my family and friends but also by complete strangers, and most incredibly by some of the poorest people in the world – this, is beyond my capacity to comprehend. For me this is pure magic. No less.
I share this reflection with you today with the hope that my words will remind you of your own good fortune and the ways others have been kind to you. I hope that these memories allow you to be and feel grateful. I also hope that my words will remind you of your own goodness and your own kindness.
Thank you for allowing me to share, thank you for joining our gratitude challenge (120 of us already) and thank you for lighting the world with your love and joy.