Pierre Pradervand has worked for decades in personal development and social justice. His career includes work on nearly every continent. He is the author of The Gentle Art of Blessing: A Simple Practice That Will Transform You and Your World, in which he posits that making the conscious choice to bless every person or being around you can truly make a world of difference in yourself and in others around you. Drawing from his own personally transformative experience while engaged in international development work, through which he converted to joy his own resentment (that “was literally eating me up”) by consciously blessing his detractors, Pierre shows that the practice of blessing has the power to create more than just a renewed perspective. It unleashes tangible benefits throughout your entire life -- through your daily interactions, your life-long relationships, and in the way your approach your place in the world. The following article is based on an Awakin Call interview with Pierre. You can listen to the recording of the interview or read the full-length transcript here.
“To bless means to wish unconditionally, total, unrestricted good for others and events from the deepest wellspring in the innermost chamber of your heart. It means to hallow, to hold in reverence, to behold with utter awe that which is always a gift from the creator. He who is hallowed by your blessing is set aside, consecrated, holy and whole.” - Pierre Pradervand
Pierre Pradervand is an author, speaker, and facilitator whose life's work now centers around the practice of blessing the world. “Blessing is probably one of the oldest spiritual or religious practices of the human race. It has nothing to do with churches or religion. Even an agnostic can practice blessing because it is simply wanting the real good of the other person. Don't have to have a whole theology to want good for another person, do you?” he asks.
When a series of intense personal experiences gave him first hand experience of this power, it changed the course of his life. He went on to write The Gentle Art of Blessing. A passage and then a book that flowed spontaneously out of him and into the world where it continues to change and charge thousands of lives today for the better.
Pradervand can trace his awareness of the power of blessing back to his childhood. He recalls a sense of receiving blessings started in childhood particularly when spending time with his grandparents. “My grandmother was a very special person who gave me a great sense of love and compassion for others,” he said.
Raised in a Christian family gave Pradervand a strong grounding in the Bible the teachings of which have helped to shape his thinking. “For me, the Sermon on the Mount and Psalm 23 are some of the most beautiful non-denominational, universal spiritual messages that I have ever come across," he shares.
Now he doesn't belong to any religion or spiritual movement, but considers himself very much a student of the spiritual path. In Geneva, where he makes his home today, Pradervand has created a ‘blessing circle” - a group which meets every two weeks to just bless different people and world situations. “There is such a love in this group. I look forward to going to it every two weeks because it just overflows with love and that for me is the essence of any authentic spiritual path.”
Trained as a sociologist, Pradervand had a career in international development and much of it in Africa. There, in Senegal, he worked for The American Friend Service Committee, a Quaker NGO (non-governmental organization). He describes it as the most exciting professional experience of his life because his Quaker colleagues were so respectful of other cultures. He was influenced by the “spirit of listening” which he defines as the the center of Quakerism.
But it was an incident in Pradervand’ professional life which encompassed unfairness, anger, resentment and made him a scapegoat of sorts that led to his discovery of the power of the art of blessing . Returning to Switzerland in the early 80’s, he was involved with developing programs for a group of NGOs within the French/Swiss school system. He details the experience in his own words, “I decided to organize a roving exhibit on world hunger because it was and still is one of the main social issues of the world. My employers were very satisfied. The exhibition was a great success.The name of the exhibit was called 'Ending Hunger Today.'
At the same time, I joined The Hunger Project which started in the United States' world campaign to end hunger. A slogan of the campaign was "end hunger by the year 2000," which would have been possible in the early 80s if there had been a political will.
My employers who were a bit leftist-oriented didn't like things that came from the States. There was one man in these organizations who just hated my guts. And he decided he wanted to get rid of me. So first they told me that I was forbidden to speak of The Hunger Project in my work in the schools. These are organizations that are fighting hunger in the Third World. So it is rather contradictory.
I abided by the request with great sadness. And one day I was called up to a meeting. I was told point blank either you stop saying that we can end hunger by the year 2000 in schools because The Hunger Project says it or that you stop your work.
I was just flabbergasted/dumbfounded. Here an organization trying to end hunger telling me to stop using a very powerful slogan! So I quit my job. I didn't want to commit a moral harakiri. I developed the most huge incredible resentment. And it was eating me up night and day. It became what psychologists call an obsession. I couldn't stop thinking about this when I got up in the morning, went into the shower, brushing my teeth, doing the washing up, doing the shopping. I knew I was harming myself.”
To alleviate the consuming resentment, Pradervand turned to spiritual practices. “I was meditating, praying, reading spiritual texts. It, the resentment, just wouldn't go." And then one day, it did. While reading the Sermon on the Mount, Pradervand came to the words of Jesus: "bless those who curse you" which he came to understand was a very real command. “Of course, it was so clear! Of course that was the solution! And there and then, I started blessing my former colleagues. Blessing them in their health, in their joy, in their family life, in their finances, in every conceivable way,” he said.
In a few months, Pradervand realized his practice of blessing has moved beyond those colleagues that had turned him out. "I had started blessing people in the street, the supermarket, the post office, wherever I was. It became so joyful. I would travel the whole length of the trains to be sure to bless every person on the train. It was such fun,” he said, "For me, blessing is wanting the real good for the other person from the deepest wellspring of the most hidden part of your heart, or the most deepest part of your heart. It is really wanting real good of the other person.”
Though he has been blessing others for over 25 years, the practice is still fresh for Pradervand. What has keep it from becoming a rote recitation of words is his sensitivity to people's’ suffering. “I've become so sensitive to people's suffering. I can see a person just have a glint in their eyes from twenty feet away and I feel instantaneously what they needed. If I see a state of depression, I bless them in joy, in their wholeness. If I feel anger, I bless them in peace, in their serenity.” he explained. “It is not something that is rigid; it has been constantly changing and renewing itself.”
Yet, Pradervand will say that blessing others is not always easy. He admits it can be a very challenging thing to do sometimes. Since Pradervand includes political leaders in his practice of blessing, sometimes it can years to be able to bless those in power sincerely. He recounts how it took him three years to reach sincerity in blessing one political leader who held a differing viewpoint of an issue that Pradervand felt strongly about.
“Now it doesn't take so long. It has become so deep in me that I can usually bless without difficulty almost anyone, but that is after 27 years of practice,” he confides, and goes on to share that, “Blessing is something that comes from deep compassion. You will feel in your heart when it comes from the heart, but don't give up because you don't feel that straight away. I told you it took me a long time to bless with feeling rather than with the head, but in the beginning, the sincerity of desire, the desire to bless sincerely, was what carried me. And if you persevere that sincerity will get down to the heart, and you will bless from the heart. It is not possible otherwise. Sooner or later, you will get there.”
Pradervand's website includes a section of testimonies from all around the world. The testimonies are shared because those who have adopted blessing others as part of their lives have discovered the same thing that Pradervand has: Blessing is something that always comes back to you because we are all one. Within this art, or practice of blessing is the capacity for healing and the cultivation of gratitude.
Recalling his ouster from the organization in Switzerland, Pradervand said it took him years of constant blessing to heal his resentment towards the man whom he had come to think of as an enemy and persecutor. “And ten years later, I met this guy in the city near Geneva. And I had inside me one of the greatest explosions of joy in my existence. I gave him a huge hug. And we ate together and for three days my heart was singing, singing, singing.”
Now Pradervand recalls that time in his life with some perspective and even gratitude. “I believe that at some level before being born, I made a soul arrangement, soul agreement that set up this whole situation, so that I could discover the power of blessing and through that discovery, bless thousands of people all around the planet. Be a tool, a service tool, of blessing.
So this gentleman was a tool for me to discover blessing. That he would, in turn, bless many others. So yes, trials are proofs of love's care. As Apostle Paul says, "All things work together to the good of them that love God." All things, not most, not 99%--100%.
When something goes completely askew in your day, like when I had to leave this organization, my life went completely askew. When some unexpected event knocks down your plans and you too also, burst into blessing. For life is teaching you a lesson. The very events you believe to be unwanted, you yourself called forth so as to learn the lesson you might balk against were you not to bless it. Trials are blessings in disguise."
Beyond the guidance given in his book, The Gentle Art of Blessing and the inspiration of the stories shared on the website, Pradervand emphasizes his belief that three qualities; intent, sincerity and perseverance, are evident when embracing a spiritual practice such as the gentle art of blessing. And even with that, he will tell you, “It is the intentions of the heart. That is the core of blessing, the intention of the heart, not the words.”