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Tag Archives: John O’Donohue

Fluent

I am on the road the next two days so I am tired at the end of relatively long day. John O’ Donohue‘s poetry has a light feel to it, much like a small river that flows easily along its way.

He often wrote blessings and a blessing is something that catches us by surprise. It unfolds in surprising ways, never taking the same path twice. Like the river and, as expressed by Heraclitus in his quote: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

We cannot live the same moment twice, because we cannot return to it and, even if we could, we would not be the same person. We would return with an understanding of what it meant to step in the river in the first place.

The beauty of living is filled with the richness of uncertainty and complexity. The best we can expect is to be mindful of each moment as we live in it and as it unfolds.

I would love to live

Like a river flows,

Carried by the surprise

Of its own unfolding.

We took this picture several years at Lundbreck Falls. Today, I drove past them and, like me, the river has changed.

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For an Occasion of Celebration

John O’Donohue was a Catholic priest who left the priesthood. Throughout his life, he retained and shared a deep spirituality and his poetry often was in the form of blessings.

Although this poem is not titled as a blessing, it still feels like one. I send this to my American friends, colleagues, and acquaintances as they celebrate Thanksgiving. We set aside certain days to pay special thanks, but we should celebrate each day and take time to be thankful for our blessings: friends, gifts we receive, health, and the wonder and mystery of living.

Now is the time to free the heart,
Let all intentions and worries stop,
Free the joy inside the self,
Awaken to the wonder of your life.

Open your eyes and see the friends,
Whose hearts recognize your face as kin,
Those whose kindness watchful and near,
Encouraging you to live everything here.

See the gifts the years have given,
Things your effort could never earn,
The health to enjoy who you want to be
And the mind to mirror mystery.

For the Traveler

John O’Donohue wrote blessings. This poem weaves in and out as in a mystical and mysterious way. The poem is a journey itself and offers insight into the idea that each moment we live we experience the newness of time.

We often forget, as adults, that nature does not measure time with a clock. It just exists in a continuous movement that is whole in each present moment that holds all of history and all imagined future. In the blink of an eye, it is gone and replaced with a brand new moment.

When we pause and look inward, we find the territories of the spirit that secure us in our lives. Each moment, we visit reminds of the last, but holds it in its wholeness, as well.

Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.

New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.
Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.

When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:

How you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening in conversation
You want to take in
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight
You could not have known
You needed
To illuminate
Your way.

When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.

A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.

May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.

May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.

The Inner History of a Day

John O’Donohue wrote many of his poems as blessings and prayers to living. He included a deeply spiritual aspect in his writing reminding us to be mindful and attentive in living our lives.

Each day has a history that we cannot know in advance and only recall incompletely. Life becomes a mystery except when we are living each moment in its completeness. It is here, on the sacred ground of the present, that the past and future continuously mingle becoming one. It is here the eucharist of the ordinary happens and we join together living in community.

The word present reminds that each moment, each day, we should not take the gift for granted and lightly. Living it fully, responsibly, and richly is the gift we return.

No one knew the name of this 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 traveled 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.

For Courage

John O’Donohue wrote this lovely poem about the need for quiet spaces where we rekindle the love and joy we find in living life. I attended and presented at a small leadership symposium today. Although it was an invigorating two days, my brain is a bit like mush.

I think I will close my eyes, gather a little kindling around my heart, and seek to create a new spark to light my way.

Close your eyes.
Gather all the kindling
About your heart.
To create one spark.
That is all you need
To nourish the flame
That will cleanse the dark.
Of its weight of festered fear.

A new confidence will come alive
To urge you toward higher ground
Where your imagination
Will learn to engage difficulty
As its most rewarding threshold!

Fluent

Kathy and I made it to Phoenix, but it was quite a day. The flight was delayed for four hours due to mechanical problems. Considering the alternative, I am grateful, but it made for an incredibly long day including a time change. I leave you with a short, poignant John O’Donohue poem which echoes Life is a River.

I would love to live
Like a river flows,
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding.
It was a day full of surprise. I look forward to my weekly digital sabbatical and the unfolding that I will witness.
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