Inward and outward

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barcelona dawn | photo at pixabay

The Inner History of a Day

Born quietly from deepest night,
It hid its face in light,
Demanded nothing for itself,
Opened out to offer each of us
A field of brightness that travelled ahead,
Providing in time, ground to hold our footsteps
And the light of thought to show the way.

The mind of the day draws no attention;
It dwells within the silence with elegance
To create a space for all our words,
Drawing us to listen inward and outward.

We seldom notice how each day is a holy place
Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens,
Transforming our broken fragments
Into an eternal continuity that keeps us.

Somewhere in us a dignity presides
That is more gracious than the smallness
That fuels us with fear and force,
A dignity that trusts the form a day takes.

So at the end of this day, we give thanks
For being betrothed to the unknown
And for the secret work
Through which the mind of the day
And wisdom of the soul become one.

John O’Donohue
The Inner History of a Day
To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings

I’ve been enjoying photos of the Eclipse as seen in the US; and good and brave souls embracing and ‘getting back to normal’ on Las Ramblas in beautiful Barcelona; and hundreds of other snapshot fragments of life around the world on the 21st August 2017.

And I’m so grateful for John O’Donohue’s calling our attention to the ‘eucharist of the ordinary’ – that quiet inner life, the dawn ‘born quietly from deepest night,’ where all humankind and natural phenomena together are joined in the ‘work through which the mind of the day / and wisdom of the soul become one.’

Transforming our broken fragments.

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Surprise

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river | sonja langford | photo at Snapwire

Fluent

I would love to live
Like a river flows,
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding.

John O’Donohue
Conamara Blues

You’re like the hymnal on two legs! – a schoolfriend told me long ago. It’s a lovely thing that having loved poetry for a long, long time, a flow of perpetual encouragement and inspiration lives deep in heart and soul.

I’ve lost count of the number I’ve known of wonderful elderly people, and sick people – my own dear Dad presently among these – who, though sometimes unable to remember what they want or had for breakfast, can recite dozens of poems, psalms and songs. At his prompting Dad and I sang Feed the Birds from Mary Poppins, in the hospital earlier this week. That singing – and that message – will stay with me for the rest of my days.

… All around the cathedral the saints and apostles
Look down as she sells her wares.
Although you can’t see it, you know they are smiling
Each time someone shows that he cares

Though her words are simple and few
Listen, listen, she’s calling to you …

The late, great, John O’Donohue speaks to me for weeks on end sometimes. One of the joys of my life is meditation, shared with a worldwide community – some of whom, myself included, are in the habit of sharing a line or two of reasons for gratitude, or hopes for growth, with one another. Time and again the image of a river is expressed, together with surprise, unfolding, and real attempts to live life fluently.

Oh Dad! You’ve known a thing or two about Wisdom:

Though her words are simple and few
Listen, listen, she’s calling to you …

Thank you: for being so … fluent.

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An axiom

I have an abiding image of the late, great Irish poet John O’Donohue sitting at his peat fireside, notebook and pen at hand, apparently completely at peace with the world. A big man with a big and generous heart. Again and again his words are a tonic to me.

The great law of life is to be yourself. Though this axiom sounds simple it is often a difficult task. To be yourself you have to learn how to become the person you were dreamed to be. Each person has a unique destiny. To be born is to be chosen. There is something special that each of us has to do in the world. If someone else could do it they would be here and not us. One of the fascinating questions is to decipher what one’s destiny is. At the heart of each destiny is hidden a unique life calling. What are you called to do? In old-fashioned language: what is your vocation in life? When you find that what you are doing is what you love, what you were brought here to do, it makes for a rich and contented life. You have come into the rhythm with your longing. Your work and your action emerge naturally: you don’t have to force yourself. Your energy is immediate. Your passion is clear and creative. A new calling can open the door into the house of your vision and belonging. You feel at home in your life. Heart and hearth at one.

John O’Donohue

Yes: a big man – whose heart was – and remains – a hearth.

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.

I think he did

Fluent

I would love to live
Like a river flows,
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding.

John O’Donohue
Conamara Blues

Me too. I think he did, and I think he was, and probably still is.

I’ve just been gazing upon a photograph of my elderly father beaming upon my smiling infant granddaughter. Perichoresis.

I think they do, and I think they both are, too.