Tag Archives: John O’Donohue

Promises to tomorrow #47 #trust and #surrender

Trust and surrender was the theme of a networking event I went to this week. Having these two words put together instantly dropped a plumb line into the conversation circles that were part of the afternoon. I didn’t intend to share my recent history with a bunch of strangers, however told a story of how I was invited to trust and surrender when Tim was first diagnosed. For long time readers of my blog you may know this story.

When Tim was first diagnosed with IPF, he was told he had 18months to 2 years to live, he actually lived 9 more years.   At the time we were in shock for a few months. I was wondering what it all meant as I headed into my 50th birthday and for years had longed for my 50s as at decade between children and (hopefully) grandchildren, between not having to invest too much in a career as already had achieved a lot (eg been a Chief of Staff, CEO, completed post graduate studies). Instead I felt I was given a life sentence too. So I took the idea of a LIFE sentence and thought about how we could live, not die. We took the concept of living with a disability and not to adopt a dead-man-walking approach to it all. I also adopted the title of pilgrim for myself and to see everything as part of an intentional journey to be walking on this earth and whatever path I was on there was meaning and message. It served me well. But I didn’t come to it easily. I had the help of a set of dreams and that is what I shared on Friday.

Between Christmas and New Year 9 years ago, I had four dreams. Each dream had me in a devastating catastrophe. One a tsunami, another a bushfire, another a flood, and another an earthquake – in each one I was still alive and ended up on a shore. In each one I also traversed some hair-raising landscapes and sometimes I was alone, sometimes with strangers and sometimes with family or friends. The dreams were all vivid and often loud, but when I got the shore each time the dream ended and I awoke, I was exhausted, grateful and calm. After the fourth dream, I thought what is going on? What is my sub-conscious trying to tell me. I realised that they were all natural disasters, nothing I could do about them, they happened whether I liked it or not, and I was able to survive them all. They gave me the frame to be in what was ahead. I was able to trust and surrender, because in each dream, I went with the flow of the disaster, I was carried along with it, but I didn’t succumb to it and I had all I needed with me to get to the end in one piece. And this is how I have now arrived indeed on a new shore and a new horizon, still intact, but not the same because of the journey to get here.

Trust and surrender is a mixture of confidence in yourself and the universe, in a willingness to be open and vulnerable, to be carried, assured, confident. Trust comes from the word strong, and surrender is more about succumbing, letting go, deliverance. I was delivered safely to the shore by being in the disaster, repelling any temptation to fight or flee, as the force of nature was bigger than anything I could resist.

My promise to tomorrow is to remember being in the whatever it is – in itself is an act of trust and surrender – whether you know you will arrive safely to being able to rise in the morning to see the dawn or a new horizon is unknown. Trusting yourself to have all you need to surrender is a promise for all the tomorrows.

I took the photo of the Cliffs of Moher as I hung over the ledge as instructed by John O’Donohue in his poem, For Freedom, to let all that is holding you fall into the ocean from the craggiest of rocks, is to accept the invitation to trust and receive the gift of surrender.

For Freedom

As a bird soars high
In the free holding of the wind,
Clear of the certainty of the ground,
Opening the imagination of wind.
Into the grace of emptiness,
May your life awaken
To the call of its freedom.

As the ocean absolves itself
Of the expectations of land,
Approaching only
In the form of waves
That fill and please and fall
With such gradual elegance
As to make of the limit
A sonorous threshold
Whose music echoes back along
The give and strain of memory,
Thus may your heart know the patience,
That can draw infinity from limitation.

As the embrace of the earth
Welcomes all who call death,
Taking deep into itself
The tight solitude of a seed,
Allowing it time
To shed the grip of former form
And give way to a deeper generosity
That will one day send it forth,
A tree into springtime,
May all that holds you
Fall from its hungry ledge
Into the fecund surge of your heart. – John O’Donohue

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Cliffs of Moher

Promises to Tomorrow #41 #silence

Last week was the first week in the five years I have been doing a blog that I didn’t post something. I intended too and then felt the silence was the right post. Silence isn’t emptiness – it is fullness.

To be silent

To silence

In silence

Silenced.

 

Each of these states evokes a range of feelings, thoughts … behaviours.

I have been journeying with one for whom silence was the language of God and his yearning to be in union with the silence led to deep monastic practices with all the discipline of a mystic. I revolved around his world like a moon around a sun. Meeting his every need, whim, fear, hope.

The banshees are riding on the wild winds this morning, late to the occasion, but in time for me. I have been holding on for so long, they are arriving to shake me about to let go and let down. Elementally speaking, I find myself in The Burren and can feel her beneath my feet. Stepping carefully to avoid the hidden holes, I am consistently unsuccessful, unsteady steps on my lunar landscape. To help I go fetch my John O’Donohue poetry book – Conamara Blues – and the page marked is A Burren Prayer. How is it the cellular memory and my earlier self has prepared a path for me today? All of creation conspiring to help me, so I can rest into silence.

What a gift and I am silenced and in awe. A key revelation is to put down what has been, to be soothed and to rest into this liminal space. To wait. To be still. To find the stillness beyond exhaustion. In the midst of all this life goes on. There is a wedding in a week, another family member having a job interview tomorrow … there is no perfect timing only time and no perfection is required.  My promise to tomorrow is to rest and to wander in the Burren as required and called.

A Burren Prayer

Oremus,

Maria de Petra Fertilis:

 

May the praise of rain on stone

Recall the child lost in the heart’s catacomb.

 

May the light that turns the limestone white

Remind us that our solitude is bright.

 

May the arrival of gentians in their blue surprise

Bring glimpses of delight to our eyes.

 

May the wells that dream in the stone

Soothe the eternal that sleeps in our bone.

 

May the contemplative mind of the mountain

Assure us that nothing is lost or forgotten.

 

May the antiphon of ocean on stone

Guide the waves of loneliness home.

 

May the spirits who dwell in the ruin of Corcomroe

Lead our hearts to the one who is beautiful to know.

 

Go maire na mairbh agus a mbrionggloidi

I bhfoscadh chaion dilis ns Trinoide.

(May the departed and their dreams ever dwell

In the kind and faithful shelter of the Trinity.)

– John O’Donohue

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Promises to tomorrow #39 #befriending self

I am getting lessons on how to be my own best friend by noticing what my friends are gifting me and accepting those gifts with the love and gratitude of a receiver. The love transaction in friendship is transformative.

My friends are creating a nest for me at this time, little pieces of straws and sticks broken and re-arranged for me to fit, shiny foil reflecting light to ward off evil, catching feathers to enable a soft landing for me to rest in, keeping enough space to hold the structure together with a light touch. My friends are familial, close by, far away. They are in real time and virtual. They are known and unknown to me. Being blessed with friends and knowing the sinews and muscles of friendship that have been exercised and strengthened over time tells me who I belong to and who belongs to me. There is recognition in love, even love unrequited is recognised. My inability to return right now perhaps is a falsehood, for it is in the receiving of the unconditional that the gift is given. My practice now is to receive.

A Friendship Blessing

May you be blessed with good friends.
May you learn to be a good friend to yourself.
May you be able to journey to that place in your soul where
there is great love, warmth, feeling, and forgiveness.
May this change you.
May it transfigure that which is negative, distant, or cold in you.
May you be brought in to the real passion, kinship, and affinity of belonging.
May you treasure your friends.
May you be good to them and may you be there for them;
may they bring you all the blessing, challenges, truth,
and light that you need for your journey.
May you never be isolated.
May you always be in the gentle nest of belonging with your anam ċara.

John O’Donohue: Anam Cara

My anam cara – my soul friend – is making his way to soon be turning towards the light. It is a journey that refuses to be hurried and stubbornly almost defiantly won’t turn down the paths even though the signposts are calling. This is marathon vigil. Pheidippides ran from Athens to Sparta was made to alert readiness for battle and so there is some of me that thinks the final message while in the process of being sent, is not yet delivered. My anam cara still teaching me about friendship, forgiveness, integration, identity in the few hours of wakefulness he has each day. You might also think of anam cara as friend to your soul – and in doing that – you too could be your own anam cara. This is the love and friendship you have where there is no pretence and all the illusions have faded and fallen away.

My promise to tomorrow is to make more time to nurture the friendship with myself. How might I bring the knowledge and experience of anam cara to the mirror? There are magical healing powers in forgiving others and yourself and surely that is what takes friendship to a new stage each time, more transformational than transactional.

Anne Lamont says: In the course of the years a close friendship will always reveal the shadow in the other as much as ourselves, to remain friends we must know the other and their difficulties and even their sins and encourage the best in them, not through critique but through addressing the better part of them, the leading creative edge of their incarnation, thus subtly discouraging what makes them smaller, less generous, less of themselves.

Generosity is an ethic of abundance and is the fuel for friendship. So thank you to all those who are being generous with me and patient and kind and inviting me to be a better friend to myself.

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anam cara

Promises to tomorrow #37 #Surrender

The word surrender has it’s roots in Latin – to give back. Surrender is not giving up it is giving back. Giving back power. Running the white flag up the flag pole the sign to the other side that you are no longer in the battle, is a way to bring the battle to an end. It is a concession this way is no longer working and what little agency you may have left you will not use your energy to fight. Instead you will say enough and be still, and wait for the other to make its next move, perhaps they will come to the table, perhaps they will keep marching through. These moments are marked by a signature on a treaty, the fallen before and often after the surrender.

A surrender is never done lightly and takes courage. Amidst cries of humiliation, curses for not lasting longer, regret for not being better prepared; there is calm the decision made and whatever lies ahead the recognition you are now on the threshold and used the last of your actions to no longer consort with the other – you are out of the dance.

Would anyone watching Shark Tank, think when one of the sharks says “I’m out” that they have surrendered? I doubt it – we all watch and see that as a sign of confidence in their own ability of knowing what is right for them at this time, often lacking in compassion for what is being brought to them – it isn’t surrender though.

I am privy to surrender each day making its way through a body struggling with breath, the mind and body tussling for authority. The mind takes out the early battles while the body wins the war. More of my love is living outside of his body each day, finding the oldest meaning for surrender – giving back.

My promise to tomorrow is to continue to take lessons in surrender and to ask myself what and perhaps how am I giving back when lay down my weary tune? There is an openness to the mystery of what lies ahead when you surrender, it may come reluctantly and with great angst.

The threshold from acceptance to change arrives with surrender … and isn’t really a single moment, it is multiple moments.  The flag doesn’t arrive already unfurled. It has been packed, needs to be found and made ready before it is presented. Letting go breath by breath, thought by thought, bite size giving back. Surrender as an everyday discipline, prepares us for the one time it will define us.

“We live between the act of awakening and the act of surrender. Each morning we awaken to the light and the invitation to a new day in the world of time; each night we surrender to the dark to be taken to play in the world of dreams where time is no more. At birth we were awakened and emerged to become visible in the world. At death we will surrender again to the dark to become invisible. Awakening and surrender: they frame each day and each life; between them the journey where anything can happen, the beauty and the frailty.” – John O’Donohue – Beauty the Invisible Embrace

surrender

 

 

 

Promises to Tomorrow #4: Play

The more I play today the more silt I am laying down in the river of play for tomorrow … or that is the how the logic goes in the parallel universe of compassionate imagination (thank you Phil Porter co-founder of InterPlay for sowing the seeds of these thoughts and practices with Agnotti Cowie this week). Being playful, and mischievousness break through. In this era of alternative facts, fake news and post truth brings multiple platforms to play.

Being able to laugh (even on the inside) is a way to inoculate yourself from some of the harm of the powers of evil. Satire is a gift to get through hard times – the first all Aboriginal TV show Basically Black in 1973 introduced us to Super Boong, the first Aboriginal Super Hero, it took another couple of generations before Cleverman came to our screens and breathtakingly took us all (not just one person in trouble) to a new place to save the planet (can’t wait for the next series).

Play can reveal, camouflage, inspire, transcend. Without play we don’t learn how to get along with others, build our muscles and find interesting ways to use our bodies and our brains. Play helps us find out what works, form habits and attitudes, beliefs and trust. Play is essential in our human development. Play is sometimes called the “universal language of childhood”. I will often play peek a boo with a child on public transport, even one a few rows away they usually pick it up in a few moments.

Play is too important to be left at the school gate. It gets codified into sport, or the arts as we grow older and improvisation is left to everything other than play! We improvise through the rest of our adult lives, so why not in play too! One of my favourite living poets, David Whyte says with a chuckle directing listeners and fellow poets: “just follow the instructions as if you know what I meant when I gave them to you; isn’t that what you do anyhow all the time?” I have stolen this instruction more than once when working with groups – it is liberating advice.

Playing for play’s sake and noticing the instructions embedded in the experience, allowing the body to be teacher and mind to be taught, allowing the spirit within to be released and captured in a thought not yet fully formed, to be revealed in a contemplative moment – this is the essence of an improvisation practice known as interplay.

Start in small ways …. Instead of for pity (insert your vernacular expletive here) sake – say for play sake. Next time you walk through the security screening at an airport – say Ta Da with outstretched hands or do a pirouette as you exit. Tap dance your way into a lift. Say yes and when you want to disagree and add your own layer to the conversation. Respond to an email with a made up poem. Talk in gibberish when you are lost of words.

I dip into the InterPlay well each year.  To play is a gift and one not to be taken for granted. My promise to tomorrow is to do more playing, to recognise play as a way of exercising and holding power; as a way to unlock possibilities for resistance, resilience, fun and whole-heartedness. I also promise to know and understand the power of play has inherent qualities like following and leading.

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PS:

Here is a John O’Donohue blessing for one who holds power.

And a few thoughts from past blogs

Save

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Reflection on Revenge

Dear Sor Juana,

I have discovered that gossip and scandal, lampooning and scuttle buck are ways revenge takes shape in my language and conversation – from a subtle put down here to a full blown personal attack there.  Words laced with vengeance have a capacity to rise up from a from a well deep inside I had thought was dry. The words echo from this dark chamber and make a lot of noise.

I can see why you might have chosen silence as a way of monitoring your own behaviour. Silence need not still the thoughts and from time to time they eek out through my mouth and become audible.  I had one of those times this past week.  Revenge is one of the dark sides of the desire for control.  I am indebted to Hugh Mackay who unintentionally helped me join those dots this week while I was reading his book “What Makes Us Tick“?  And reminded me once again of the difference between justice and revenge; “one civilised and measured, the other brutish and primitive”.

Control issues are inherent in my personality and the quest for integration is a balance of leadership and power and surrendering to vulnerability. I noticed my anger and vengeful self having a day out this week. Sor Juana your uneasy relationship with power and authority perhaps propelled you through the courts using your intellect to control others and within the container of the convent able to find balance in community and prayer, subjecting yourself to the rule of religious life.

The search for equilibrium is universal and in our western world phrases like “work-life balance” abound. An on / off switch regulating my working hours makes no sense to me. This is becoming easier as work practices are more dynamic and technologically supported; but it is also becoming easier as personal reflection is an integrated practice.  There is no work-life divide – just as there wasn’t for you in the convent – it is vocation to be who you are (warts and all).  I have written about this previously and been encouraged by David Whyte’s work in his book The Three Marriages.  This constant conversation is with all the elements and when the conversation is undertaken in whole heartedness, insights emerge healing and inviting us to our deeper selves. In the case of revenge, it may lead to forgiveness.

Forgiveness begins in the shadows of fear, betrayal, anger and breaches of trust. Finding the light, brings humility and is restorative.  As a pilgrim, I accept “We are each a river with a particular abiding character, but we show radically different aspects of our self according to the territory through which we travel” (David Whyte, The Three Marriages). The river flows through rocky rapids and other times takes up a foetal position in a cul de sac nudging the muddy banks. The invitation to get inside what revenge is all about has been an act of restorative justice. It is self restoration, a coming home to myself from darkness to light and appropriately so in this Holy Week Easter season.

Easter Sunrise

John O’Donohue

As the embrace of the earth
Welcomes all we call death,
Taking deep into itself
The tight solitude of a seed,
Allowing it time
To shed the grip of former form
And give way to a deeper generosity
That will one day send it forth,
A tree into springtime,
May all that holds you

Fall from its hungry ledge
Into the fecund surge of your heart.

 

Corcomroe Abbey, where John O'Donohue celebrated Easter morn many times. I visited in June 2013

Corcomroe Abbey, where John O’Donohue celebrated Easter morn many times. I visited in June 2013

Vintage Cynicism

I was meeting in a coffee shop this week sharing ideas and experience on volunteering, a church organisation and future thinking.  To dream, plan, conjure and play with others is a delight. Hildegard you would have been so at home there. Two school girls, still in their school uniforms, were auditioning and we gave them a glowing review between bubbles and chai latte.  I am sure I got to sneak preview of what will be a duet to rival my beloved Indigo Girls.

So, an old friend and a new one, chatted to this sound track of delicious young women melodically fusing their voices and their guitars. And while we chatted one of their mother’s looked on and the business owner confirmed they got the gig. We had just witnessed the beginning of their public careers – taking the step from the classroom and bedroom to the front room of a coffee shop. What a privilege to see that step taken – these postulants making it to novice.  The coffee shop, as true a convent, as any of yours Hildegard.  A sacred space for women to listen to one another, plan for the future of a church organisation, fostering young talent and spirituality, breaking bread and sharing wine, communing with one another. Here we were celebrating the threads that bind us invisibly together as women and custodians of the past, present and future.

A transition to the next stage of something not quite revealed was peering out behind all our voices.

There have been a few transitions I’ve witnessed of late. Seeing the aging folk star move to eldership inviting a young guitar technician to share the stage, while we all ached for times gone by grounded in our common knowledge that from little things, big things grow.  The 60s were a very good vintage and the the echo from the past, as well as the sounds of now and the future were alive in the coffee shop too.

Working out how to disappear with grace and gratitude is a daily challenge and a practice and a discipline that I have fallen short of many times. In its place grumpiness worthy of Oscar the Grouch takes hold and my demons dine out!

The contrast of the virginal duet to my deep throat murmurings is stark.

I yearn to recognise all the spaces I am in as knaves and altars of the underground cathedral (a concept offered by the Abbot of Glenstal Abbey) – places where the architecture to sustain is neither Romanesque or Gothic – but a recycled retro fitted coffee shop, that has fair trade products and young women singing like angels, to soothe the soul of a cranky crone.

So Hildegard, I will recognise the underground cathedral in I am in, when I find the seductive siren Cynicism calling me. There, I will find more of the spirit of joy and not have a stale taste from the bad mouthing I had been up to this week.

John O’Donohue, it is fabled, blessed his penitents to go and sin beautifully. I have a smile on my face when I recall this story re-told by his friend David Whyte, and so by way of confession and penance, a poem.

Vintage Cynicism

She calls out to you.
Beckoning.
Alluring.
Inviting.
Seducing.

You are captured by her spell;
You are in her grip.
No matter how much you try,
Cynicism has arrived at your door.

The daughter of distrust,
Doing a strip tease to your soul.

Your better self, unable to resist the temptation.
You indulge.
You revel.
You bathe in it;
A bath of thought bubbles appear.

Cynicism dances and prances around you:
Flaunting herself.
No chance of getting this geni back in the bottle tonight.

Gingers, Goodwood Rd

Gingers, Goodwood Rd