The Window of Gratitude

A message from Ian Case, Brooklyn Zen Center director and resident priest at Ancestral Heart Zen Monastery:

Dear sangha,

I hope this message finds you safe and healthy.

First, it makes me very happy to announce that we raised a total of $75,917 during our end-of-year campaign—so we have successfully met our goal and then some! This amount came from 162 individual donations, truly a collective effort. Thank you so much to everyone who contributed and responded to our appeal. I am deeply grateful and so heartened by this latest manifestation of generosity by the sangha. This also represents a great boost of support for Brooklyn Zen Center as we move into the new year.

I have been reflecting this week on the active power of gratitude. Last week at the monastery I came down with what seemed to be Covid symptoms (another monk got sick as well). All our tests came back negative, but we took no chances. A protocol meeting was quickly convened. It was decided that all the monks would wear masks in public spaces and isolate from each other as much as possible, and the two of us sick monks would quarantine in our rooms until our symptoms resolved.

As many of us have experienced at various times during the pandemic, one’s world can become quite small in such a situation. I became intimate with the four walls closing in on me. My desk marked the horizon, and it was hard to discern where my body ended and my bed began.

At the same time—and this is what saved me—I realized what a radically dependent being I was during those five days. I depended on the community for everything. Three times a day, meals were delivered to a little table outside my door: tofu cabbage, kimchi pancakes, Tuscan white bean soup, all my favorites it seemed. My humidifier was refilled upon request. It was wondrous in a way. A deep sense of gratitude gradually overwhelmed any inclination toward self-pity that I might have entertained. And the gratitude became my lifeline to the rest of the community, reminding me that I was not alone. When I remembered the gratitude, the gratitude grew and the rest of the world was there. It was a window into a field of nonseparation.

Fortunately, we don’t necessarily have to be sick and cooped up in our rooms to discover this (although becoming intimate with the ways we create suffering will ultimately illuminate this truth for us). We are being supported by others in ways both obvious and mysterious, all the time.

May this realization be a source of strength, resilience, and joy as we cross over into the new year.

– January 2022

This message was first distributed in the January BZC Newsletter. If you would like to receive the BZC monthly newsletter in your inbox, please sign up here.