Tag Archives: John O’Donohue

Meeting the moment 2021 #29

The power was off for nearly sixteen hours and the winds were raging, I was having a Dorothy moment, thinking I might end up in Kansas. It was one of those moments with the windows rattling, the banging of loose tin, something unknown and metallic hitting against a nearby fence and in the distance a crash of a branch. By mid afternoon men in hi-vis and big white trucks were wandering up and down the street and around the corner matching their knowledge to the ferocity of what had been the night before and its impact on 67 households (according to the app). These are the moments I remember to be grateful for power, hot water, wi-fi, heating … I take so much of this for granted in my first world comfort zone.  

A storm like this, only a few years back, had me driving my dying husband around in the car with his ventilator plugged in so it could recharge via the car’s auxiliary power outlet. We went up and down roads and through vineyards and over hills, until the power at home went back on.  We had dispensation to be a priority customer given his reliance on oxygen, but we didn’t get the supply immediately and also up until then didn’t have tanks on hand to compensate.  (We got them after that and never had to use them.)  I am grateful I don’t have to live through all those moments again.  Stormy conditions are not always equitable. Some of us have more resources than others, more jackets to put on, better quality umbrellas, back up powerpacks. I have come to consider the non-physical versions of these, resilience tools.

The breath is what distinguishes something as being alive or dead. The raging storm lets me know well I am alive, all creation is alive.

In the storm, the air finds its voice mixed with the staccato of hail, the rumble of thunder, the crescendo of waves of rain crashing like waves on the beach. Then the quiet arrives, not quite silence, as birds find ways to harmonise with the new post-storm atomic score. You take time to clean up debris, replace and restore what is out of place or is not in any shape to be able to be retained. The path of the storm has left a clearing where, there is now, more light.

I have been haunted by the past and some very tricky personalities presenting themselves this week. I felt darkness descending and shadows forming, not of my making and not at my invitation. In true Celt fashion, a triptych of deeptime sensory discomfort. The storm blew in to deliver lessons. The electricity lines being down seemed to draw a line, cut off supply and blew away the bad spirits. The elements have guided me and delivered the high, fierce and dangerous winds required to shift the predatory shadows circling me. 

The invitation to live in this space between and with the elements, is something I am learning more about, thanks to continuing to delve into my Celtic roots especially through the works of John O’Donohue and guidance of Norin Ni Riain. I am learning to take instruction from the elements, to live more in tune to the seasons, the turn of the sun, the tidal power of the moon and the dance steps of planets and stars. It is not lost on me, this relationship between wind and breath, and the feminine word for spirit (ruah) in the Judeo-Christian tradition. It feels quite pointed and poignant, as I meet the moment of this week, reflecting on the symphonic elemental natural world as my spiritual guide.

Photo by Anandu Vinod on Unsplash

2021: Meeting the Moment #16

Taking steps that are unfamiliar, or even ones that may have been taken before, but not quite confidently, awkward teetering towards the promise of potential, are the ones making landfall right now. New paths are being trod and with each step a beginning, for we are never walking the same path as the day before, as we weren’t today’s person yesterday. Each moment is full of promise, potential. Each breath in and the exhale offering the fundamental call and response of our humanity entwined with all of creation. Moments seeking to be met by our fragility and imperfection. Taking risks with ourselves requires us to back ourselves and to remember who has our back. In the great lineage of those who have come before us, we hold this baton for a short time and with it the responsiblity to bring our best selves, give it our best shot; for the legacy we leave behind for the next in line.

I feel quite worn down by the deep grief in the air, generations of sadness spilling into crevices and pooling in hearts and festering in minds. While others are gaining energy and growing in their acts of resistance, I find myself remembering to breathe is a radical act. It might not look like that from the outside, but on the inside I am working hard and holding space for others and for myself. There are cobwebs to be swept away and seeds to be planted. A new season is arriving. New shoots and leaves falling, is not a paradox, it is congruence.

Deeply grateful for friendship this past little while, friends who have extended thier friendship beyond themselves to their friends. New circles opening and in surprising ways – a guided meditation, a chance meeting in a market, a door opening to a future harvest, a shared link to grief, a common history. Past moments disconnected coming together in real time, inviting a review of what has gone before, and in doing so, I got to see with new eyes. I have appreciated a little more of my past self. Definitely not nostalgia, rather insight and fuel for taking steps into new beginnings.

I was comforted with a remark about the courage of beginnings during the week and reminded of this extract:

There is nothing to fear in the act of beginning. More often than not it knows the journey ahead better than we ever could. Perhaps the art of harvesting the secret riches of our lives is best achieved when we place profound trust in the act of beginning. Risk might be our greatest ally. To live a truly creative life, we always need to cast a critical look at where we presently are, attempting always to discern where we have become stagnant and where new beginning might be ripening. There can be no growth if we do not remain open and vulnerable to what is new and different. I have never seen anyone take a risk for growth that was not rewarded a thousand times over. John O’Donohue, Irish poet and philosopher Excerpt from To Bless the Space Between Us.

Wondering what might be ripening when not being sure if any seeds are sown and will be fruit, let alone be ready to harvest, is an act of courage. I was invited to consider this week, in a moment, I was fumbling in the dark to meet. Grief is a tar baby and seduces stagnation into making a home somewhere behind the eyes where tears form. Being creative might be the antidote to shift the stickiness of grief that seems to get worse the more one tangles with it. Yet, inside this stickiness seeds have been sown, and they are being watered and fertilised with stabs in the dark.

I have been inspired by the bravery of a woman refusing to be silenced by lies and abuse this week in the most public of domains, a Senate enquiry. How she risked herself to speak her truth to power encouraged me and many, many others. We have more stories to be shared, more women to be heard and it is not OK that it is only the white women, educated, with a platform to be heard that are the ones being heard. We have more truth telling to come – the women and children removed from their lands, murdered, raped, starved of basic human rights since colonisation begun. I long for a Truth and Justice Commission aka South Africa’s for the First Nations of this country so their voices can be heard and a reckoning arrive. I am imaging a process that starts with a smoking ceremony and a litany of names of warriors and freedom fighters and martyrs and sacred places, read into the public record. It would go for days and days, nights and nights until it was done. The grief of this tar baby cannot be moved until those of us non First Nations peoples experience some of the uncomfortable stickiness of this on the soul of our country. We need to risk to become whole, to be vulnerable to find out what might be possible. A new moment to meet is ripening and the seeds have been sown in the 30 years since the Black Deaths in Custody Royal Commission. Pat Dodson, former Royal Commissioner and now Labor Senator says I sense that the same sort of storm of suspicion and accusation is gathering as that which precipitated the royal commission in 1987. Political resolve has been lacking, and the Morrison government’s response to growing concerns about the recent cluster of deaths has been quite desultory.

Meeting this moment is not coming easily, but it is coming, and us settler folk can’t hold our breaths forever. It is time for some creativity, some courage and some solidarity.

Photo by Johan Mouchet on Unsplash

Year of activism #19

Having a morning stretch while still lying in bed is the forecast, what might be possible to get to the edges without having to move out of a comfort zone?  To get to the edges, do some unfurling and find the part where you end and the expanse of everything else around you brings an invitation to go (as John O’Donohue says) a bit beyond yourself.

What is that bit beyond your self? The self that contains all of us with our fears, our frustrations, our courage, our inspirations, our dreams. The self that creeps into new places that we don’t quite yet inhabit but edge towards or away from as we meet the expanse.  The self that glides through the world, taking for granted all the edges it meets along the way. What is that bit beyond your self?

Listening to the community of lorikeets in the flowering gum across the road each morning as I unfold with a stretch, I am reminded by their chatter, how we are all listening to conversations that happen in the sanctuary of a home. Their home is the tree that shelters, feeds, provides a place for communion, a chance to bring news from the outside in, a place where generations can nest and be nudged to flight.  The home is an extension of ourselves and a place to stretch. It is where activism is born.  The stretch in a comfort zone to give you the practice and opportunity for discipline for the kind of world you want to live in.  It might start with a goal to grow vegetables, or to not bring single use plastic into it, maybe more ambition like solar panels, and recycling grey water for those that own their homes. It might be that as you arrive and leave where you live you appreciate and take up your role as a health activist and make sure you wash your hands before you leave and before you come back.

Activism starts at home in a comfort zone and with a stretch.  It might not be a very big stretch, however if we got to the edges of the stretch where might that take us?  I am inspired by all the people around the world who are doing all they can with what they have to make a difference in climate change, but these individual efforts will never be enough. It has taken a virus, something small, something that can be found in any home to give us a wake up call. Yet not everyone is awake and with one in five people in UK nursing homes dying of the virus and places like the USA and Brazil still not flattening the curve it is becoming more and more clear I hope for the peoples of the world to learn the lesson between private pain and public policy.  This lesson is at the heart of social work, my chosen profession and it still what I stretch into each day. It is the soil in which my activism seeds were sewn and my Catholic social teaching and faith was the fertiliser that saw it grow over the years. I am always curious about where other people’s roots are and how deep they are, if they can stretch out far and wide or are held close to home. It helps me celebrate the contributions they are making and gives me insights and invitations to stretch as well.

I was listening to a concert last night where Paul Kelly talked about Archie Roach as a singer songwriter who could create a song so personal and so political better than anyone else he knew.  I think this is the essence of the activist, to bring as much of your whole self to the story, to the edges and this happens by stretching out into the void, to the extremities of your self to meet the shore of possibilities.

So have a stretch, in your comfort zone, and see where it takes you.

kinga-cichewicz-kqDEH7M2tGk-unsplash

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

Sparks will fly #25 #winter

Sparks are flying every way. New ideas. New pain.

Is it possible to hold the space inside of myself where expanse can grow wide and deep at the same time I want to crawl away into a tiny tight ball? This pain I carry from new knowledge about the one I loved for my whole life is eating me inside out. I am using all the tools I have at my disposal to inoculate, heal and to help myself, but there are times when they are not enough and the only thing left is tears. I wonder how the body can keep producing them, it is tiring, but I just let them come and let them go. I notice how they arrive invited and uninvited, conjured up by a memory or provoked by pain.

I come to new understandings as my brain allows lessons to be revealed or information to be surfaced in ways I can make meaning.  I long to share with others who have a common experience to do the sensemaking and am so grateful to the few I can tap into, and to others who witness me arriving at new understandings. It is winter.

This has not been an easy week on the inside.

On the outside it has been all celebrations and success, harvesting and sowing seeds that are already coming into bud. An extraordinary beginning of my version of the quest for equity. Everything else though has been an inside job, battling the demons of wounds that refuse to heal and are determined to ooze their toxins and invading me  and infecting me. Feels like vector borne diseases are eager to catch me out when I am not expecting it. The metaphorical mosquito buzzing around me that never seems to be able to be swatted and despite putting on repellent, finds the only place not covered to land a bite. Mozzies in winter are even more annoying than usual.

I am weary and restless from the incessant buzzing and just lie in wait for the bites to come and apply the salve to soothe afterwards as prevention just doesn’t seem to work.

I am finding comfort, as I usually do, in the words of John O’Donohue. His words on broken trust resonate with me as I yearn to  find a poultice of tears to wrap around betrayal, deceit, lies, broken promises to deliver compassion, dignity, healing and maybe one day, redemption. For now though, it is raw and awkward, stumbling, bumbling and fumbling thoughts sending me up and down like a game of Snakes and Ladders. There are more snakes than in the Garden of Eden, testing me and distracting me from climbing the ladder up and out of the depths of contaminated memories. I am holding onto the bright sparks of light, drawing me to the stars and the sky, where the moon now waning, hangs low to welcome the winter solstice. Sparks are flying in the fire pit.

Sometimes there is an invisible raven
That will fly low to pierce the shell of trust
When it has been brought near to ground.

When he strikes, he breaks the faith of years
That had built quietly through the seasons
In the rhythm of tried and tested experience.

With one strike, the shelter is down
And the back yoke of truth turned false
Would poison the garden of memory.

Now the heart’s dream turns to requiem,
Offering itself a poultice of tears
To cleanse from loss what cannot be lost.

Through all the raw and awkward days,
Dignity will hold the heart to grace
Lest it squander its dream on a ghost.

Often torn ground is ideal for seed
That can take root disappointment deep enough
To yield a harvest that cannot wither:

A deeper light to anoint the eyes,
Passion that opens wings in the heart,
A subtle radiance of countenance:
The soul ready for its true other.

– – John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us

siim-lukka-281452-unsplash.jpg

Photo by Siim Lukka on Unsplash

Year of Self-Compassion #46 #poet

On arrival to the Byron Bay Community Theatre, the line is already out the door, while the coffee beans just roasted brew to join with the steam in machines arrested and held by slender latte coloured bodies. There are no ugly people in Byron. I choose a seat in the fourth aisle immediate front and centre with a spotlight above my head. I come as a naked pilgrim, stripped bare and with nowhere to hide and nothing to hide. He tests the sound system with that eternal question from the nunnery scene in Hamlet, the most famous of our English bards handed down throughout to the centuries: To be or not to be. This is no rhetorical sound check , it is delivered not as a question, but as a statement. The perfect beautiful question in this place where yoga and reiki and meditation novices and masters find one another; where stones and chakras and cards are caught, folded and coerced into be-ing and be-coming and be-held.

I am in the light and on this day where being and not being live along side of one another in the poetic practice of blessing and being blessed. I know I am ready and also so weary my eyes can barely stay open. As I settle in to the listening, the three wise women chatting behind me, invoke Jesus, Mary and Joseph as their cussing lineage. Now invited into the space the Holy Family settle in too and appear from time to time throughout the day brought into the conversation by the poet and stories of his beloved friend and this comfort holds me near the nativity, a surprising advent invitation.

In the gathered, there are the groupies and those who have come dragged along by their female lover reminding them a lyric is an aphrodisiac and if only they could serenade their soul like the charismatic poet. We are all seated on red chairs for this red letter day. Phones are being put to good use with texting of girlfriends to tell them where they are. The fifty shades of grey hair in the room are interrupted on a regular basis with chemical offerings of red, purple, blues, blondes and blacks. I think about our desire for individuality and wonder what would happen if we all lived the truth of our bodies, one hair at a time. I notice one of the younger ones in the gathered taking a selfie and think well I haven’t seen that before at a poetry and philosophy session. I am so delighted to see this rock star of the word worthy of this modern iconographic action – it is an arrival all of it’s own, alongside the words and pictures we will be making in our imagination and memories today.

A green Edwardian chair of perhaps oak with a hint of a regency strip is placed next to the clothed table with a pile of his books, carafe of water in a glass already half full and my mind instantly recalls his poem Everything is Waiting for You. The chair and I begin a conversation and within a few back and worth lines, I am mischievously invited to come and sit. It is an invitation I refuse but laugh gently and know this crone is home to an Empress as well and maybe … everything is waiting for me too?

Most of the audience is bespectacled. Ready to see with new eyes and hear with new ears, perhaps a phrase or a line to sustain them as they go forward in their lives. The lady next to me (who I discover is called Susan) has gone to the toilet twice before we start, she is so excited. Locals are connecting with friends and the last of this tribe for today arrives as the final wriggles and giggles leave the bodies. I am excited for them who will hear the poet for the first time in the flesh, in the same way I was excited in the cottage at Ballyvaughan with fire stoked and hearts warmed by other pilgrims. Abundance and generosity had settled in long before we got there.

He stands on the stair off stage but visible to all, his eyes glued to Mel the promoter extraordinaire who has midwifed his visit. She is in a regal blue skirt and she relays his conversational leadership credentials and then with a whoop and a cheer and some serious applause he arrives. Nothing in the way between him and the audience, we are about to begin a conversation and his first words are “very good”. To ease himself into this conversation he invites WB Yeats and his life long love Maud Gonne in and recited the Song of the Wandering Aengus. I surprisingly hear the poet’s daughter Charlotte’s soprano voice waft into the lyric, maybe he is thinking of her as he recites the poem, I decide intimacy is on the menu today.

I start composing a Litany for Intimacy:

To meet life as we find it

to arrive at a place where the river has already flowed by

to go just beyond yourself

to be half a shade braver

to say no to something formed and yes to something yet to form

to be around tonics, those people who with their gravitational pull just make you feel better

to recognise the past in your body

to break promises and vows

to have your heart broken

to fall forward.

We are barely into this day and I am being drawn in memory, once again, to what I have stopped being and what calls me to love. And another litany begins to unfold, this time a list of names start to turn up alongside one another, and, with no filters, unrequited love appears and disappears. Just like the chattering monkeys of meditation, I don’t hold on to them, I notice them and then let them go. Tears fill the well as the poet reminds us all it is only because you care that your heart can be broken, and you chose the person for that special gift, a super power of being the one to break your heart. This gift of a thousand shards leaving me bleeding and bruised, never able to be put back together, I hear an invitation to write more about falling over and it was not the ground beneath my feet no longer there, but my feet no longer able to tread on anything solid. Like The Burren, my favourite spiritual director, I need to learn to walk on ground that is swampy, with hidden crevices, that looks solid when it is not, that is stone and ancient, ready and waiting for me.

I got a glimpse of my old mischievous self at the beginning of the session and caught myself with an inner smile, a familiarity and echo to my old self. It was a joy to recognise, I have been laughing again more, and this spiritual discipline might well be the one to guide me home. My small steps, though infantile and tenuous are helping me fall forward. A mantra is forming “go a step beyond yourself”. This is attributed to John O’Donohue and joins Seth Godin’s line “levelling up” and this poet’s phrase “half a shade braver”.

My bravery, between the cracks, and in the solitude, is haunting and humbling me down – all I need to do is show up. A pro tip arrives with the advice to ask for help – visible and invisible. Another one follows in close succession: develop the discipline of breaking promises in order to keep the conversation real. What promise do I need to break right now, that has been held and nurtured in my soul is a question I expect to lead me to a profound act of self-compassion. I have plenty more to mine from this gift of time and place with David Whyte. His new collection The Bell and the Blackbird has more than enough breadcrumbs for me to find my poetic pilgrim way on this camino.

The Bell and the Blackbird

The sound
of a bell
still reverberating,

or a blackbird
calling
from a corner
of a
field.

Asking you
to wake
into this life
or inviting you
deeper
to one that waits.

Either way
takes courage,
either way wants you
to be nothing
but that self that
is no self at all,
wants you to walk
to the place
where you find
you already know
how to give
every last thing
away.

The approach
that is also
the meeting itself,
without any
meeting
at all.

That radiance
you have always
carried with you
as you walk
both alone
and completely
accompanied
in friendship
by every corner
of the world
crying
Allelujah.

The Bell and the Blackbird
© David Whyte and the Many Rivers Press 2018

bandb

Year of Self Compassion #42 #receiving

This week I was asked a number of times if I enjoyed my party and the answer was a resounding yes. One of the things I have had to learn this year is to receive. I have been so unable to do so much so often, reception is what has been left. Bereft and broken, alone and fumbling around I have had to put down my arrogance and fear and be waited on more than once. Vulnerability and humiliation paired up to remind me I am human.  While I invite others to be together, to find the good in one another, to celebrate and extend generosity – I haven’t been so good at doing that for myself. Hence this year of Self-Compassion.  I still have my L plates on, but as a wise woman said to me this week – L plates is a good place to start.  And starting I am, and learning I am, and practicing I am.

Learning to receive is a practice all of its own.  I think the key is the practice …. like any discipline. I was looking up the history of the word receive and it is declining in its use over of the past two hundred years or so. It has Middle English and Anglo-Norman origins from back and take. I think there is a clue in here for me to think about receiving as giving back. In receiving you are giving back, by acknowledging the gift and honouring the giver. It seems to hold a promise and potential too. By receiving you are moving a relationship forward, taking another step in trust towards deeper intimacy.

Another clue to the power of receiving, is the opposite, the betrayal of a gift being rejected. Having spent yourself and given with joy, to have that thrown back at you is a hurt that creates a hole which is often hard to be re-filled.  You are greeting the good in the other when you receive as they give witness to the good in you.

It is not always easy to receive and so I am growing my reception muscles and my birthday has helped me in that fitness quest. Inviting other to give to me so I can receive is quite a big step. To receive random acts of kindness is a whole other level and to be impacted by a stranger or an invisible human seems to always connect me to the cosmic energy of the goodness in the Universe. Universal love is made visible in those random acts.

And then there is the receiving of what is around us everyday – the big blue sky, the pleasure of a cup of tea, the blossom on the trees, the little ants going about their business underfoot, the magpies calling me to the day and the majesty of the grey box tree offering spiritual direction from broken branches, peeling bark and a precarious nest being held halfway to the sky protected from the elements and predators.

Receiving is an art and craft. I find myself bowing to the giver so often, to recognise what they have done in their lives to make the gift and the cost that has been. The act of receiving is only possible because someone else has eeked out time for me, found and prioritised resources, knowing me well enough to match their giving to what my needs are.  This is call and response. And I know the giver receives as well, I know this better because I am good at giving, and learning to receive is what is opening up  … and I like it!  And may you too be blessed with good friends as John O’Donohue writes in this blessing from The Space Between Us and find your visible and invisible soul friends in many you meet on the road.

Blessing for Friendship

May you be blessed with good friends,

And learn to be a good friend to yourself,

Journeying to that place in your soul where 

There is love, warmth, and feeling.

May this change you.

 

May it transfigure what is negative, distant,

Or cold within your heart. 

 

May you be brought into real passion, kindness,

And belonging.

 

May you treasure your friends,

May you be good to them, be there for them

And receive all the challenges, truth, and light you need.

 

May you never be isolated but know the embrace 

Of your anam cara. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Photo credit: Catherine Lawson 

 

 

Year of Self-Compassion #37 #commoncold

The gift of a cold is unwelcome and accepted . My immune system has been vigilant and done an amazing job to keep me cold free all winter, but the change of season is here and it has decided to take a rest. The sniffs and sore throat have arrived and rest is called for … not surprising I am in this state in what has been a tumultuous time. The body will do the work if the brain doesn’t has often been a mantra of mine and inevitably has sent me this invitation to be in the company of tissues, hot lemon and honey, echinacea, menthol and eucalyptus. One of my homemade remedies on these occasions is a cup of hot water with Vegemite in it – unconventional – but it does seem to work more often than not.

I am trying to accept this gift and am beginning to wallow in the heavy head hosting the nasal drip. I have also started thinking about the medicinal properties of chicken soup. My preventative vitamin C tabs, one of my daughters gave me during the early dark days of grief, ran out during the week, and I am reflecting on the irony of an empty jar depleted of its contents and how I am feeling right now.

The “ïf only” mantras are flooding in with each reach to the box of tissues. If only I had got some more vitamin C before they ran out; if only I didn’t do the gig I did yesterday: if only I hadn’t listened to distress of another and batted it away; if only I had rested earlier in the week; If only …. If only …. The If only mantras do not serve me well, they drag me to the past and to regret, they offer no more than a holding pattern and with each nag, lean me into self-flagellation – definitely the opposite of self compassion! I am chuckling to myself even as I write about how indulgent colds are, but giving them credit for arriving to slow you down, hold you in an uncomfortable place and seduce you to rest.  It is a time to allow the flowing out of liquid from the body, carrying the last grams of energy, and when the flow stops it is time for restoration and open-ness to being filled up again begins. Perhaps it is a bit like spring rains, building up slowly and then with a sudden burst of hail, wind and drizzle, the ground is refreshed and the sun comes out so all the creatures can bask in their glory, pampered by the rays warming them on rocks and slowly returning to their homes as the temperature drops.

The heavy head needs attention, over balancing needs a pillow to rest on so the weight of it all is softly supported, being held without holding on. It is the pause button pressed without any urgency to play or fast forward, although there seem to be plenty of thoughts waiting for the rewind button to be pushed with the wallowing mantras making themselves known every now and again. The head is home to the cold and although there is some oozing of aches and pains into the limbs they do not take priority, the head is consuming most of the space the cold is inhabiting. It has got me thinking about how a cold comes and what we do to catch it.  I am mean if something is caught, it means it has been thrown. And I have had my fair share of things being thrown at me in the last few years. I have also dodged a few things coming my way, but this cold has snuck up while my bodily defences were down.  This cold is an external sign of my weariness, my body’s surrender to the change of season and recognition that comes with fogginess, drips and drizzles, gripes and grizzles.

I am comforted, as I am often am, by a blessing from John O’Donohue for those who are exhausted In this Year of Self-Compassion receive the blessing for myself, under the covers, with a hot water bottle, sipping a cup of hot lemon and honey and waiting out this empty time.

 

When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight.

The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laboursome events of will.

Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.

The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.

You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken in the race of days.

At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.

John O’Donohue To Bless the Space Between Us

bryan-minear-317365-unsplash

Photo by Bryan Minear on Unsplash

 

 

Year of Self Compassion #30 #familiarity

Travelling through time and space, in a tardis camouflaged as a 2017 Kia, it is inevitable there will be familiar and unfamiliar moments to greet me.

This week my pilgrimage has taken me back in time to meet relatives I didn’t know I had and to join some dots on the family tree. Once again the nature / nurture theory is being cross-examined at close range. Rebecca Sohnit says “branches are hope, roots are memory” and these words seem to be helpful.

In the roots, I find more generations of music, lilts and tilts towards the Emerald Isle. The wind instruments echoing and haunting wild landscapes, that somehow contain untamed mysteries. The endless pattern of call and response, the syncopation of clapping and stomping drives home the familiar. (All we were missing was a fiddler.) There was dancing and drinking.

Many branches of hope from these roots across generations uprooted, pruned, cut off, abused, neglected. Faded photographs, snippets of stories, incomplete threads – all have a way of being woven together as the soundscape holds us around the table. Bread broken, wine poured, a powerful eucharist and toast to the common ancestor, a woman Alicia who bore a generation of children that found their way across this country.

You can travel for hours and still be in the same country. That is what grief is like for me – always being in the same country even though I travel far from home. There is wailing on the songlines of this journey and my tears join with the other branches, where loss and being lost has been the status update of other pilgrims. Around this table, I witness resilience from these hardy roots. I experience solidarity without explanation. I offer song without fear. Roots are deep and branches are wide.

Hope is invitational and promises the ability to change the narrative, without denying the history. Memories serve as humus, transforming by decaying into food for the branches. Whatever caused the break is unknown and now irrelevant, as another chord is played and toe is tapped.

I ache to be on The Burren and to have the west wind in my hair. There is a grand disturbance once again making me unsettled and joining with revelations of who no longer longs for me. I am taking instruction from the roots in County Tyrone so these branches can push out power and hope from the dark, blessed and blessing.

For Longing
By John O’Donohue

Blessed be the longing that brought you here
And quickens your soul with wonder.
May you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire
That disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.
May you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease
To discover the new direction your longing wants you to take.
May the forms of your belonging–in love, creativity, and friendship–
Be equal to the grandeur and the call of your soul.
May the one you long for long for you.

May your dreams gradually reveal the destination of your desire.

May a secret Providence guide your thought and nurture your feeling.

May your mind inhabit your life with the sureness with which your body inhabits the world.

May your heart never be haunted by ghost structures of old damage.

May you come to accept your longing as divine urgency.

May you know the urgency with which God longs for you.

Year of self compassion #23 #friendship

Having friends who have been in your life for years, decades even, are gifts that give over and over again. They can see the scars as wisdom, hold the memories as prayer and recognise the frailties as kinsutori (more beautiful because first broken and then repaired with golden thread).  Friendship often just needs a light touch, a glance, a stroke on the back of a hand, even the removal of a recalcitrant thread on a garment will define the depth of a friendship.  The time spent sitting in a back yard chatting, drinking another glass of shiraz or perhaps filling up the tea pot one more time, extends the friendship and takes you to a deeper well.  In this well are the truths, the surprises, the questions longing to take shape and reveal themselves as those golden threads to weave and heal the brokenness.

Such a privilege to be a friend and a salve to be-friended. I am deeply grateful and bow down to the friend in you that I hope will find the friend in me, even when there is little for me to give.  There is a social contract of conditional love that seems to seep into many friendships and family relationships and it is often only when one has literally nothing to give that conditions fade and the gift is given without any notation on the ledger.  Perhaps this is where compassion makes a home, at the threshold between conditional and unconditional love and as we stand under the lintel, the invitation from compassion helps us lean in to accept the invitation that may take us to a new level in the relationship in friendship and a new level to our selves.

In the Celtic tradition it is cara, that is the friend, and anam cara, the soul friend – that person a guide to your self with whom you are at home and through their presence also brings you home. A friend “… opens your life in order to free the wild possibilities within you” (John O’Donohue – Anam Cara). In this friendship we show up with one another with complete integrity, vulnerability and with a knowing that hearts will meet and hearts that will break.

I am grateful for the times I have been a friend to others and the friend I might be into the future. The well is deep and making a space to receive and be blessed by the waters of that well is a daily practice and one I am learning to activate. So to all my friends I say thank you for hanging out and hanging in with me … time and time again for your love conditional and unconditional and for inviting me to threshold moments in your lives and mine.

For my friends

Witness my walking,

and falling on the earth.

Enter my dark and dank places.

Lighten my load with flowers and hugs.

Bring surprising questions, to open my heart.

Throw me distractions, to tease my brain.

Celebrate my resting and hibernation.

Invite and include me.

Cover me in colour.

Find me in frames of stories past and new beginnings.

Surround and hold me, even when I don’t notice.

Hold the torch into nooks and crannies of my vault of fears.

May many anam cara show up for you,

just as you do for me,

at thresholds of becomings.

 

melvina-mak-626542-unsplash

Photo by Melvina Mak on Unsplash

 

Year of Self Compassion #22 #bestfriend

In this year of Self Compassion I have been blessed with the continuation of much love and support from friends of many years and newer ones who have stepped into my inner sanctum offering kindness and witness time and time again. Wiping away tears, offering practical support, delivering flowers, gifting art, books and music, holding me in their prayer and heart. I have experienced random acts of kindness and received professional gifts of free tickets to events and invitations to participate in new ways with new communities. Colleagues have generously been patient with me and held spaces for me to fold and unfold. I have been offered distractions to remind me I have business acumen and wisdom on tap. I have friends who have offered me points to fly away, another willing to plan a holiday for me and yet another who consistently reminds me there are walks and nature just waiting for my footprints. There is kindness all around me and I am filled with gratitude.

Yet despite all this kindness, and even perhaps a bit of because of it, I am noticing the invitation that I have to be kind to myself and love myself in these times of grief. Noticing my own suffering is essential and it is something I am still learning. While self-care is in place it is still routine and not yet fully formed to be an expression of noticing my suffering and acting with kindness to that first and then following up with the care I would give to any of my friends. Partly I don’t always know what I need and can’t quite name it for myself, so my newest practice is if a friend offers me something I work out a way to say yes. That is how I come to be looking forward to two days in the Compassion Lab with Mary Freer this week. Being able to say yes to people who can make an educated guess about what I need, is a bridge helping me to work that out for myself.

In Interplay there is a practice of opening to the day that ends up with giving yourself a big hug and I want to do more of that as touch deprivation is real and I find I am embracing people more than ever before. No one much seems to mind, and I know the health benefits abound for everyone, touch is in slim supply in some of the settings I find myself in and in abundance in others, so overall I am probably getting enough hugs.

I am a bit like Christchurch in 2010 and 11 , having first had a massive earthquake leaving the shell of buildings behind and then all the after shocks to reconfigure the city. I too, need to work out what can be saved, what might need to stand as a magnificent ruin, what can be re-purposed, what needs to be cleared away – and mostly these decisions are cellular and still forming. The plasticity of the neuronal pathways like a giant traffic jam sometimes bumper to bumper and not quite moving forward although there is some evidence that a light has turned green about 5 kilometres up the road. Being kind to myself and being my own best friend in these moments requires my L plates to be on. I am in new territory and I am resistant to exploring. I don’t have a map and I right now I don’t want one. A friend would probably offer me a map, although a best friend would offer me tea to sit on the side of the road until I was ready to go and it is that inner best friend I need to channel. To recognise, really deeply notice the experience of suffering and offer myself the comfort of space and rest, deep rest.

For many years I used to say to others, after a loss, it is not the first six months that are the hardest, it is the second, when the reality sinks in, and the time when re-configurations start to take shape and search for meaning. Now I need to hear this advice for myself. I am hoping winter will have me holed up snug and warm to do some of this inner work in my own good company.

The transience of all times, good and difficult, all things pass and that is central to our human condition. It is inevitable and a lesson to be learnt over and over again. To be in the moment and accept the gift of that moment, is a life times work. As John O’Donohue reminds us the place where our ‘vanished days secretly gather is memory’. Bringing the kind light to my soul for healing and self-compassion til the night is gone.

866368ff670fb95ad0be1d667e387509

The Lamp Post from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis

by John Henry Newman 1833

Lead, Kindly Light, amidst th’encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
Shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!

Meantime, along the narrow rugged path,
Thyself hast trod,
Lead, Saviour, lead me home in childlike faith,
Home to my God.
To rest forever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life.