Tag Archives: Leonard Cohen

Year of Self Compassion #6 Luggage

Luggage comes in all shapes and sizes, colours, contours, with hidden and visible compartments. We all lug stuff around, that great effort it takes to carry or drag a bulky or heavy load. The stuff itself is only part of the story, it is the lugging it around that is visible to others even if they can’t see what is inside.

I was watching people arrive at a destination recently and as they collected their luggage in the airport, some moved easily through customs and each point of transfer and transition to a new status – a citizen arriving home, a visitor being welcomed, an alien being processed and sent away. The luggage they bring with has a status all of its own.

Luggage offers up lots of lessons in this year of self-compassion – what I can hang on to, what can be left behind, what might be waiting for me at a destination, what needs to be packed before a journey to be made.

What does a pilgrim pack? Usually we all pack too much and I think that is true for the pilgrim too, and there are, from time to time, contradictions, for even a small day pack can be hard to carry.

As Leonard Cohen writes:

I know the burden’s heavy
As you wheel it through the night
Some people say it’s empty
But that don’t mean it’s light – The Street

Finding a message or a few old coins in the seams of a bag that hasn’t been used for a while can take you back to a place you have once been, and you hear the echo of a memory or a gentle reminder of what you picked up there or left behind. It may be a Pandora’s box secreting blessings and curses simultaneously.

I have been doing a lot of packing up and moving of books, CDs, DVDs, clothes, furniture this past week and each item carries with it a story of how it came to be here, its contribution, some books never opened, others barely touched, some falling apart from their daily interaction with the world. Like the things we put into luggage, some never used and other items that travel close to your person and irreplaceable. Some carried by others through generations for another generation to treasure or discard. In this year working out what needs to be held and kept and what needs to be packed away for a future moment to challenge or remind, what needs to be rejected, what needs to be abandoned and left on the side for someone else to collect … big and small moments to discern invitations to be strong and to be gentle on yourself.

So in the spirit of John O’Donohue here is a blessing I have written.

A Blessing for Luggage

When the load gets to heavy

May you know what to put down.

When the load is light

May you skip with a giggle.

When you are sharing a handle

May you give a turn to your companion.

When the tag has your name writ large

May you own up to the luggage.

When you arrive but your luggage doesn’t’

May you remember to take a deep breath.

May an empty suitcase ordained to be filled with gifts and treasures

Be a vessel for your willingness to receive.

May your passport pouch with the tiny pocket

Hold your precious self, safe and secure.

May your backpack of trusted belongings

Be the source of all your basic needs.

May your carry-on bag

Find a place to rest in the cabin above you.

May your inner pilgrim

Get lighter, the longer on the journey.

May your inner Empress

Await courtiers arriving with gifts from far off lands.

And may you leave behind what no longer needs to be lugged.


Dancing with Speeches #51 Anwar Sadat

Dancing with speeches this year has opened up new ideas, pathways, people and places. The year ends with edicts are being proclaimed in tweets from world leaders, speeches like that of Anwar Sadat’s are rare these day. The modern US composer Mohammed Fairouz says a speech is a kind of music by itself. There is certainly poetry and power in this week’s 1977 speech from Anwar Sadat. The speech took him from Cairo to Jerusalem stands as an incredible contrast to the leaders of today. What better instruction could we have than to be asked to fill the earth and space with recitals of peace! This speech is a little dance on a few phrases and the season, a speech that might be given by a CEO to their staff Christmas party.

You, bewailing mother; you, widowed wife; you, the son who lost a brother or a father; you, all victims of wars – fill the earth and space with recitals of peace. Fill bosoms and hearts with the aspirations of peace. Turn the song into a reality that blossoms and lives. Make hope a code of conduct and endeavour. The will of peoples is part of the will of God.

This Christmas Eve, looking for the spaces that gives us access to the sacred space means entering touching into eternity is the search that comes when following the star.

It is in the space, the silence between the notes, the crack where the light gets in, the shoot appearing in the crevice breaking the concrete. Keeping our poems and our music close together where we can recite by heart the words to guide us to humanity and our best selves is my hope for this season. We are all connected and when the song rings out from fans across a football stadium, the audience joining in the chorus in that same football stadium transformed into a rock concert, we know that we are one. We know we have arrived at a common place, and then when the harmonies begin … another level of beauty rises. We use the line “singing from the same hymn sheet” to bring clarity to argument and shared vision to strategic planning in corporate board rooms. What if we actually did then rise in song to consolidate a moment?

After a trial of decision-making and intense argument I was working with a board and at the end of the decision where consensus arrived I played one of KD Lang’s rendition’s of Leonard Cohen’s Hallejuah, the group stopped and silently listened … there were tears. I need to do this more often, bring music to the moments of decision-making and poetry to speech-making.

Language to bring people together is what a speech and a song can do. On this night songs will be sung by heart about the birth of a child in Palestine a couple of thousand years ago, those who only swing by the places of worship once or twice a year, will find the deep connection, the deep time in their cells. They will sing … there will be tears. The common humanity to be found in the humility of a stable with a family on the run from a tyrant seeking to destroy a generation, is the story of the day as Aleppo falls and orphans look for signs in the sky that are not bombs.

There will be some voices singing out of tune, creating a wild kind of counterpoint to remind us the rhythms and rhymes may co-exist but are not always in harmony – and that helps us know where the spaces are.   Those voices also offer us an invitation to come follow and see where we might be led. We hear the humour in the off beat and out of time.

May your Christmas take you from Cairo to Jerusalem under fire, may you find the babe in a manager in a village of your ancestors, and may you bring yourself to sacred spaces to hear the silences in poetry and music.


Egyptian President Anwar Sadat addressing the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem, Nov 20, 1977, The Times of Israel