A bit of Anam Cara then …

“So” (after yesterday’s post) “will you point me to a bit of Anam Cara then?”

And – of course – I can, and will. But anyone would do well to have a copy of the book on their nightstand – and audio recordings of John O’Donohue’s mellifluous voice become life-treasures. John died young, but not before he’d been able to write and record a legacy that can provide peace-filled gift enough to supply a lifetime’s contemplation and reflection. Yesterday I mentioned the poetic gift that David Whyte offers to the world. Another who comes to mind when I think of John O’Donohue is the revered Vietnamese Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, who now lives and practices at the Plum Village Monastery in France.

Here are a couple of sample paragraphs from John’s Anam Cara – which means “Soul Friend”.

The secret heart of time is change and growth.
Each new experience which awakens in you adds to
your soul and deepens your memory. The person is
always a nomad, journeying from threshold to
threshold, into ever different experiences. In each
new experience, another dimension of the soul
unfolds. It is no wonder that from ancient times the
human person has been understood as a wanderer.
Traditionally, these wanderers traversed foreign
territories and unknown places. Yet, Stanislavsky, the
Russian dramatist and thinker, wrote: ‘The longest
and most exciting journey is the journey inwards.’

There is a beautiful complexity of growth within
the human soul. In order to glimpse this, it is help-
ful to visualise the mind as a tower of windows.
Sadly, many people remain trapped at the one
window, looking out every day at the same scene in
the same way. Real growth is experienced when you
draw back from that one window, turn and walk
around the inner tower of the soul and see all the
different windows that await your gaze. Through
these different windows, you can see new vistas of
possibility, presence and creativity. Complacency,
habit and blindness often prevent you from feeling
your life. So much depends on the frame of vision –
the window through which we look.

John O’Donohue
Anam Cara, from chapter 4 – Work as a poetics of growth

The inner tower of the soul … what gorgeous imagery. It, in turn, reminds me of Rainer Maria Rilke’s “widening gyre” … but that must wait for another day!

Elements of belonging

Last evening I got lost in a reverie with David Whyte’s poem Working Together: master teacher of the arts of evocation and of invocation, his poems “haunt” me, hovering in and around me, in much the same way Mary Oliver’s do, or May Sarton’s, or William Stafford’s. Poets who become our favourites do so, I guess, because something of their form, heart, precision and soul takes up residency somewhere deep, deep, deep within us.

… may we, in this life
trust

to those elements
we have yet to see

or imagine

David Whyte
from Working Together
The House of Belonging

Though I knew of the late John O’Donohue’s sublime works (Anam Cara – soul friend; Divine Beauty etc) before I discovered David Whyte, I wasn’t in the slightest bit surprised when I learned that the two were the closest of friends. Each, consciously or unconsciously, writes blessing. The poetic voice of each – the sound, the timbre, the vibration – are heard once, never to be forgotten … may we, in this life / trust …

Some lovely video footage of John, writing at home, comfortably seated beside an Irish peat fire, has left me with a burning desire some day to visit The Burren [YouTube], perhaps to encounter the soul of the great man in the vast and ancient open spaces there, and maybe, by some miracle, to bump into his old friend David Whyte who, I like to imagine, still walks and remembers there from time to time … to those elements / we have yet to see …

But the actual going there, to The Burren, will not, I think, be necessary, even if someday achieved and delighted in. For the poetry of life has already done its work, and friendships I delight in – some of whom I’ve set eyes on, and some of whom I haven’t, have already been shown to be gifts and graces of that ultimate Oneness for which we instinctively reach. All that’s necessary each day is for me to meditate, remember or imagine.

Great intangibles

… may we, in this life
trust

to those elements
we have yet to see

or imagine,
and look for the true

shape of our own self,
by forming it well

to the great
intangibles about us.

David Whyte
from Working Together
The House of Belonging

David Whyte speaks authoritatively, and with gentle voice, rather like that of Colin Amlôt, one of my school-teachers over forty years ago, whose aim, he said, was “to teach you everything you need to know,” (to pass the examinations in his subject) “whilst asking you to remember, at every stage of your lives, that there’ll always be vastly more that you don’t know.” He signed my youthful Autograph book with an exhortation: “Read widely. Think deeply”.

May we, in this life / trust / to the elements / we have yet to see / or imagine

These words, part of a poem written to mark the introduction of the Boeing 777 jet, pray that WE might take flight – forming (our “wings”) to the great / intangibles about us.

And – as so often with a David Whyte poem – I find myself able to respond (to him, as to Colin Amlôt) with only the one word: AMEN (or “may it be so”).

Listening

…All those years
forgetting
how easily
you can belong
to everything
simply by listening.

David Whyte
from ‘The Winter of Listening’
The House of Belonging

Poetry often springs into our minds and hearts one remembered line at a time, perhaps because sometimes one line at a time is absolutely enough – the poetry in and of both life and literature is not to be rushed.

And so it was for this grandfather today, chuckling and singing and holding on tight to our wriggling eight months old adventurer. Her blue eyes are steady and she watches intently, and oh how she listens. Oh how she listens.

Yes.

…All those years forgetting how easily you can belong to everything simply by listening.

A line at a time.