I posted this elsewhere, but thought I would stick it here as well...
I suppose everyone has a door in their mind that is marked "gratitude" -- a door behind which the people and events that have guided their lives in positive directions live.
And for some reason, I opened that door again today. John Blofeld, an author of several books about Buddhism, had come to mind and I recalled how, although I never met the man, he nudged and encouraged me through a before-the-internet correspondence, he from Thailand and I from New York. I was new to Buddhism and, half-secretly, wanted to find someone who might take my aspirations seriously, who might, through communication, assure me that I wasn't really nuts. John Blofeld did all that an more and so I am grateful to him.
And the same was true for Dokai Fukui, a Zen monk I met only once and corresponded with for years. And Trungpa Rinpoche, whom I met and talked with once and never communicated with again. And my own teacher, Kyudo Nakagawa Roshi, a man who taught me over tea a cigarettes at his kitchen table. And Jack Gallahue, a shrink who helped me to lighten my load over a period of seven years.
So much for the first people who greet me when I open the door marked "gratitude."
But when I consider those few in the initial, smallish, room, there seem to be a myriad of other doors that must be opened if I am honest. How could I be grateful to these people if there had not been others before them to whom I was distinctly ungrateful? The wonderful people and events are indelibly connected (so to speak) to the people and events that may still make me shudder or go red with anger.
I'm not much for waxing ooey-gooey over such things as gratitude or compassion. I'm more of a fan of just opening the doors that present themselves -- the actual-factual, in-this-life doors -- and seeing what there is to be seen. Some of it is good, some bad, some happy, some sad ... just taking a look strikes me as more useful and sensible than praising or blaming, elevating or demeaning, seeking justification or avoiding condemnation. Door after door, room after room ... just take a look.
But now and then, I really can't help myself and some voice starts chirping: Thank you very much!