Monthly Archives: October 2015


Dear Sor Juana,

You turned to your books and your telescopes to fuse past and the future and maybe in those moments of silence your presence to the present. Each moment is its own unique distillation – kairos. Kairos is the supreme and opportune moment where chronological time is banished and where every moment is like a time lapse that can fly in any direction in time and space (it is the Tardis timepiece for our fictional time traveller Dr Who). Kairos teaches us about the essence of being able to live in the moment, in the confidence that each one of those granular moments is the season for everything.

I have never done well at keeping to anyone else’s timelines and very happy to let the universe unfold as it should, while savouring what can be savoured from the gift of each day and the promise of what is yet to come. The pilgrim’s journey is one where every step is both a standing still, holding on and moving forward action, all at the same time. Being able to hold the space that takes us to a new place and on a trajectory to presence is a discipline.

When our species was more hunter-gatherer we followed the food and followed the seasons, foraging and finding what we needed where we walked and looked to the stars and the sun to guide us. Kairos happened when you held your arrow, found the berry and made camp each night. The partnership of hunter and gatherer kept communities alive and brought life to the fire with mythological tales and everyday news. Trust was high, everyone knew their role and how to support the community on the road during the day and how to celebrate around with the stories, golden threads, woven, keeping them altogether.

How we make these stories now, know our roles and develop our deep understanding of our place in kairos (as opposed to chronological time) is a noble quest. It is not trivial and at its deepest having a bigger story, bigger agenda, bigger brain thinking and a bigger heart beating will bring us to our essence. The pilgrim has a lot to learn from the hunter-gatherer time – gently stalking then capturing the stories and possibilities to be shared with the wider group; scanning the landscape picking up clues for hunter, building the fire and gathering up the remains of the day, knowing where the greenest shoots are and what fruits are in season ready to be picked. The dance of mother nature with us, more co-creating than conspiratorial, the unfolding visible once we take the moment as kairos. No doubt Sor Juana, you would have studied Aristotle and his schema for rhetoric where for him kairos was that moment in time and space when all was revealed and proof was made visible, where proof was previously hidden.

I am reminded by the Jewish parable of the two sisters Truth and Story, where Truth was reviled when walking through her town naked, yet when Story cloaked her she was accepted and welcomed – no one likes the naked Truth, but when wrapped in Story, it becomes a thing of beauty and something we can all appreciate. Perhaps, this is what happens in kairos – time stands still and the space is held and beautiful truths are revealed. These are glorious moments when the scales fall away, the sun shines, stars twinkle and there is an alignment of the planets. So here’s to hunters and gatherers, and stories bringing more kairos to pilgrims for every indivisible step.

Kairos as portrayed in a 16th-century fresco by Francesco Salviati

Kairos as portrayed in a 16th-century fresco by Francesco Salviati

When Love Comes to Town

Dear Sor Juana,

Life is fragile and precious, I enjoy the cuddles, giggles and smiles as a new grandmother, yet this isn’t everyone’s experience. I know a grandma this week who is grieving for the loss of a three day old grand-daughter and in our country we are all reeling from a quilt handmade by a loving grandmother that became the key to finding the identity of the body of a child found in a suitcase.

Precious or waste disposal – what a gulf between the ways these little ones lived their lives. Valued and invaluable, each life completely irreplaceable, treasured and cherished.

In our country an astonishing number of children don’t have the same life trajectory my grandson has, let alone all those children around the world, who are waking up this morning hungry, homeless, hurting. I have a renewed commitment to building the kind of world I want all children to grow up in, with the arrival of this little person into my life.

Walking with love in your heart is in the job description of the pilgrim and our long suit needs to be reply (to steal a phrase from former Prime Minister Keating). What is our reply to the questions:  Where does love take us? How do we build our world wide love quotient? I want my reply to be I did what I did when love came to town.

Lessons from Lizards

Dear Sor Juana,

Sitting on a rock by the back door of where I live this week were two lizards – a parent and a child. Taking in the rays of the sun, warming up to stock up on food and mingling with more species than the protection the dark and cold offered them for the past few months. They had grown since I saw them last and retreated silently and with haste (for a blue tongue lizard) as soon as I was detected. What do we retreat from even when we are enjoying basking? A potential of threat, however unlikely, can have us scuttling away from what our heart desires or body needs.   Sometimes these lizards call the bluff of potential predator by opening wide their mouth and showoff their tongue with their best impression of being bigger and stronger than what might be attacking them.

The fight or flight response deeply embedded in the DNA of all creatures finds its genome path from the reptiles to us humans in still recognizable ways. Yet with gentle and careful movements these prehistoric creatures can be handled, although there are clearly uncomfortable with leaving solid ground under foot.

Coming into the light, forecasts the next invitation: to recoil into darkness. The nooks and crannies in the rocks at my back door, are a glimpse of the tiniest distance between those two offerings: the distance of a lizard’s breath. Or perhaps as the Celts would have it – thin places – where distance between heaven and Earth collapses. The lizards know this thin place, where in a singular world their bodies unite in the moment of blissful basking. In a moment perhaps easily broken silently by a shadow or unveiled by a raider coming to steal or threaten to break that moment. The lizards are in  conversation with the rock and commune as they meld together.

The giant lizards of pre-history, those dinosaurs pursing us into the dark places of our imagination, maybe no more than the blue tongue lizard quietly basking in the sun offering us a thin place to reflect on being between heaven and earth. There is light and dark in all our lives bringing us shade and cover, exposures us to the elements and everything in between. The invitations to stay in the sun or find the crack in the rocks to slither away, are every present, often in equal measure, pulling, pushing.


Blessing and Blessed

John's land near The Burren

John’s land near The Burren

Dear Sor Juana,

Trying to walk in this world as a pilgrim I find I am blessed and blessing along the way. This week those steps have added to the end of one year of my life and the beginning of the next. The opportunity of a birthday to celebrate living on this earth and reflecting on who sojourns enables a deep breath in of love and a deep breath out of gratitude.

A blessing is a protection and a favour, an inoculation and a booster shot, a bounty of grace and gratitude. I am richly blessed and in my turn aim to bless. The greatest modern blesser I have encountered (although never met in person) is John O’Donohue. I join with many others around the world in being blessed by his gift to blessed. His friend David Whyte tells the story of how even a broken carburetor received a blessing from John to complete its restoration to health before enabling the passenger in the vehicle to continue on their way! I had the privilege of walking through his land a few years ago and to sing and hear sung on the lilting, drifting airwaves, The Beatitudes. (These stanzas are surely the blessing set of all blessing sets – good enough to be invoked by Christians around the world and the great nonviolent Hindu leader Gandhi said them everyday.) This encounter with the Celt, set me on course to step into blessings and to look for them in the landscape, in the voices, in the spaces between us.

The day of your birth being celebrated is one of those spaces – when the year that has past is closed down and farewelled, packed up with lessons to add to the next year and the new year is opened fresh and fertile with seeds sown in darkness waiting to be revealed. Here is John O’Donohue’s blessing for the day of your birth to support, protect and celebrate.

Blessed be the mind that dreamed the day
The blueprint of your life
Would begin to glow on earth,
Illuminating all the faces and voices
That would arrive to invite
Your soul to growth.

Praised be your father and mother,
Who loved you before you were,
And trusted to call you here
With no idea who you would be.

Blessed be those who have loved you
Into becoming who you were meant to be,
Blessed be those who have crossed your life
With dark gifts of hurt and loss
That have helped to school your mind
In the art of disappointment.

When desolation surrounded you,
Blessed be those who looked for you
And found you, their kind hands
Urgent to open a blue window
In the gray wall formed around you.

Blessed be the gifts you never notice,
Your health, eyes to behold the world,
Thoughts to countenance the unknown,
Memory to harvest vanished days,
Your heart to feel the world’s waves,
Your breath to breathe the nourishment
Of distance made intimate by earth.

On this echoing-day of your birth,
May you open the gift of solitude
In order to receive your soul;
Enter the generosity of silence
To hear your hidden heart;
Know the serenity of stillness
To be enfolded anew
By the miracle of your being.

John O’Donohue from his collection To Bless the Space Between Us


Dear Sor Juana,

No doubt you would have read the daily scriptures as part of your practice to set your path and provide inspiration for reflection and a line from one such piece has been rattling around in my head:

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Luke 9:58

The idea of nests and holes has struck me as being the same. The comfort of being held in the sanctuary of a place prepared and nurtured by loving partners for life to commence and then for a fledgling to grow before being evicted to take to the wing; and the place in the dark, the den of the underground home of the sleek and sneaky predator coming out in the night to steal and thieve. Two great cosmic archetypes: light and dark, sky and earth, juxtaposed with the Divine choosing neither to find rest. Instead only the present is being offered: the here, the now.

This line is preceded by an instruction to a potential follower, to leave the dead to bury the dead, something I have often thought of as a little harsh. Compassion for self might indeed be the instruction here: to be present to the invitation to come follow and bring yourself to the moment on offer rather than looking back to what might take you down a hole.

Attaching to thoughts that are dead and yet not being able to let them go completely, just wanting a few more minutes with them to wallow or maybe return to the nest or even find a hole that is magnetically calling you to come down. Saying no to both nests and holes and being the pilgrim to being present to the now can be one hell of a challenge!

What is this place Nowhere? Is it instead the here and now – NowHere?