The ninth gift is Reverence.




May you appreciate the wonder that you are
And the miracle of all creation.


Sitting down to focus my thoughts on “reverence” what first comes to my mind is a quote from Thomas Merton, the Trappist Monk, author, and peace activist. “In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs…I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts… If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed…I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other. But this cannot be seen, only believed and “understood” by a peculiar gift.”And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

Wow! If only we could all see this way all the time!  Can we?

I believe we can at least catch a glimpse of that everyday…at least a glimpse… whenever we open to the gift of reverence. I know I did.

During the summer of 1990 my college-student daughter, Stephanie, and I, along with a small group of men and women, caught a glimpse of seeing one another that way.  It happened at the conclusion of a week-long program called “The Art of Joyful Living” at Kripalu, which is a yoga and well-being center in Lenox, Massachusetts.

Shortly after we arrived, during our orientation to Kripalu, we learned that we would be using the greeting Jai Bhagwan before and after every session. Similar to Namaste, the greeting is said with hands in the prayer position while bowing to one another. At first, most of us mispronounced Jai Bhagwan (properly pronounced: J-eye B-uh gw-on) and bowed awkwardly. Despite its beautiful meaning of “The Light in me recognizes the Light in you,” self-conscious chuckles accompanied our first Jai Bhagwans. By the third day, the giggles stopped. We had all said Jai Bhagwan so often it had become comfortable and routine, like saying hello and see you later.

During that week, we wrote, reflected, prayed, played, danced, made art, and shared stories with heart-centered telling and listening.

By the last day, with pretenses dropped and masks removed, everyone in the group was open, authentic, willing to be vulnerable…REAL.  As a result, at the closing ritual, bows were graceful. The greeting was whispered. Eyes met with love…and with tears…in awe of the light we did see in one another.  A powerful feeling filled each of us.  The experience of love and respect was beyond words.  Yet, one word names it: Reverence.

Reverence is closely related to the gift of wonder.  When we young children we all saw with eyes of wonder.  Remember?

I recently noticed a young boy staring at a shiny mylar balloon. The look of awe and wonder on his sweet face stirred memories of some of the things that I revered as a child… lightening bugs, rainbows, stained-glass windows, and sunlight sparkling like diamonds on water.

Every summer during my childhood I spent time at the New Jersey shore. My Aunt Mary and Uncle George had a simple bungalow on a bay in Point Pleasant.  The community was named “Sunshine Harbor.” Everything about it was wondrous to me, including that name. From the time I arrived to the time I got back in a car to return to my home in the city, I wore no shoes. That was pure joy and delight. I felt natural, vibrantly alive and connected to Earth.  Every once in while, someone would say, “Let’s seine” and someone else would go off to the garage in their bungalow, get a seining net, and return to the beach. It was a magnificent experience to hold the net at either the shallow end or go out a ways into where the water was deeper, walk along the shoreline for perhaps 15 feet, dragging the net, without being able to see what was below the surface of the dark greenish/brown water or what was being caught in the net. That, in and of itself was wondrous! Then, bringing the net onto the shore and exposing what was held in the net and examining our “catch.” Various fish and jellyfish, seaweeds, crabs…LIFE!  We would simply look at it all with awe, appreciate it, and then return it all to the sea.

Connecting with such memories can help stir the wonderment that lives in us still.  Is there a baby or young child in your life that can help you see this way…either by observing the way they see the world…or by gazing into their innocent eyes?  When we intend to see with awe, we will.

For reflection, journaling and discussion:

1. What do you remember from when you were discovering the world around you?
What made you whisper wow?
3. What stirred love, awe, joy and well-being in you? A flitting butterfly?  Snowflakes? Fireworks? Clouds? Swinging high and feeling one with the sky?
4. What experiences stir that now?
5. Recall a time when you caught a glimpse, however tiny or large, of what Thomas Merton saw.