Behold The Gates Of Mercy

Come Healing

O gather up the brokenness
And bring it to me now
The fragrance of those promises
You never dared to vow

The splinters that you carry
The cross you left behind
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind

And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
The cruelty or the grace

O solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind

O see the darkness yielding
That tore the light apart
Come healing of the reason
Come healing of the heart

O troubled dust concealing
An undivided love
The Heart beneath is teaching
To the broken Heart above

O let the heavens falter
And let the earth proclaim:
Come healing of the Altar
Come healing of the Name

O longing of the branches
To lift the little bud
O longing of the arteries
To purify the blood

And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

O let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

– Leonard Cohen

The Path Of Cultivating Human Bravery

How do we work with our minds when we meet our match? Rather than indulge or reject our experience, we can somehow let the energy of the emotion, the quality of what we’re feeling, pierce us to the heart. This is easier said than done, but it’s a noble way to live. It’s definitely the path of compassion — the path of cultivating human bravery and kindheartedness.

― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

The Path Of The Warrior

To stay with that shakiness—to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge—that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic—this is the spiritual path. Getting the knack of catching ourselves, of gently and compassionately catching ourselves, is the path of the warrior. We catch ourselves one zillion times as once again, whether we like it or not, we harden into resentment, bitterness, righteous indignation— harden in any way, even into a sense of relief, a sense of inspiration…

Every day, at the moment when things get edgy, we can just ask ourselves, “Am I going to practice peace, or am I going to war?”

― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

Groundlessness

When things fall apart and we’re on the verge of we know not what, the test of each of us is to stay on that brink and not concretize. The spiritual journey is not about heaven and finally getting to a place that’s really swell. In fact, that way of looking at things is what keeps us miserable. Thinking that we can find some lasting pleasure and avoid pain is what in Buddhism is called samsara, a hopeless cycle that goes round and round endlessly and causes us to suffer greatly. The very first noble truth of the Buddha points out that suffering is inevitable for human beings as long as we believe that things last—that they don’t disintegrate, that they can be counted on to satisfy our hunger for security. From this point of view, the only time we ever know what’s really going on is when the rug’s been pulled out and we can’t find anywhere to land. We use these situations either to wake ourselves up or to put ourselves to sleep. Right now—in the very instant of groundlessness—is the seed of taking care of those who need our care and of discovering our goodness.

― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (p. 9)

The Beginning Of A Great Adventure

Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy…

Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. When there’s a big disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story. It may just be the beginning of a great adventure. Life is like that. We just don’t know.

― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (p.8)

The Rhythms Of Longing And Belonging In A Community

A culture that cannot praise the divine becomes a bare, cold place. The demise of religious and spiritual practice has contributed hugely to this flattening.

One can understand how a culture that has come of age can find little shelter or resonance in the way many of the rituals of institutional religion are practised. Increasing numbers of people stay away. Others attempt to develop their own rituals. The difficulty here is that a deeply resonant ritual emerges over years out of the rhythms of longing and belonging in a community. Great rituals create an imaginative and symbolic frame which can awaken numinous otherness, the tenderness, and the danger of the Divine. It is a subtle and infinitely penetrating form. Scattered, isolated individuals cannot invent ritual. Consumerism has stolen the sacred ritual structures of religion and uses them incisively in its liturgies of advertising and marketing. Meanwhile the post-modern soul becomes poorer and falls even further from the embrace and practice of sacred belonging. The great thing about a community at prayer is that your prayer helps mine — as mine helps yours. This makes no consumerist sense, but it is one of the most vivid enhancements of Being available to us. Individualism of the raw competitive kind is ignorant of this dimension.

– John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes (p. 210-211)

You Enter The Secret Temple Of Your Deepest Belonging

There are no words for the deepest things. Words become feeble when mystery visits and prayer moves into silence. In post-modern culture the ceaseless din of chatter has killed our acquaintance with silence. Consequently, we are stressed and anxious. Silence is a fascinating presence. Silence is shy; it is patient and never draws attention to itself. Without the presence of silence, no word could ever be said or heard. Our thoughts constantly call up new words. We become so taken with words that we barely notice the silence, but the silence is always there. The best words are born in the fecund silence that minds the mystery.

…When the raft of prayer leaves the noisy streams of words and thoughts, it enters the still lake of silence. At this point, you become aware of the tranquility that lives within you. Beneath your actions, gestures, and thoughts, there is a silent tranquility.

When you pray, you visit the kind innocence of your soul. This is a pure place of unity which the noise of life can never disturb. You enter the secret temple of your deepest belonging. Only in this temple can your hungriest longing find stillness and peace. This is summed up in that lovely line from the Bible “Be still and know that I am God.” In stillness, the silence of the divine becomes intimate.

…When we pray, we pray to that space in the Divine Presence which absolutely knows us. This could be what is suggested in the New Testament when it says of our return to the invisible world: “On that day you will know as you are known.”

– John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes (p. 206-207)

You Are My Sunshine

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away

The other night dear, as I lay sleepin’
I dreamed, I held you in my arms
When I awoke dear, I was mistaken
So I hung my head and I cry

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away

I’ll always love you and make you happy
If you will only say the same
But if you leave me to love another
But you’ll regret it all some day

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away

You told me once dear, you really loved me
And no one else could come between
But now you’ve left me and you love another
And you have shattered all my dreams

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away
Please don’t take my sunshine away

– Written by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell

A Secret Belonging Carried Within The Soul

One of the most tender images is the human person at prayer. When the body gathers itself before the Divine, a stillness deepens. The blaring din of distraction ceases and the deeper tranquillity within the heart envelops the body. To see someone at prayer is a touching sight. For a while they have become unmoored from the grip of society, work and role. It is as if they have chosen to enter into a secret belonging carried within the soul; they rest in that inner temple impervious to outer control or claiming. A person at prayer also evokes the sense of vulnerability and fragility. Their prayer reminds us that we are mere guests of the earth, pilgrims who always walk on unsteady ground, carrying in earthen vessels multitudes of longing.

To sit or kneel in prayer is visually our most appropriate physical presence. There is something right about this. It coheres with the secret structure of existence and reality, namely that we have a right to nothing. Everything that we are, think, feel and have is a gift. We have received everything, even the opportunity to come to the earth and walk awake in this wondrous universe. There are many people who have worked harder than us, people who have done more kind and holy things and yet they have received nothing. The human body gathered in prayer mirrors our fragility and inner poverty and it makes a statement recognizing the divine generosity that is always blessing us. To be gathered in prayer is appropriate. It is a gracious, reverential and receptive gesture. It states that, at the threshold of each moment, the gift of breath and blessing comes across to embrace us.

– John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes (p. 184-185)

The Wildness Of The Invisible World Is Nameless

The wildness of the invisible world is nameless.  It has no name.  A first step towards reawakening respect for your inner life may be to become aware of the private collage of dead names you have for your inner life.  Often, the experiences of wilderness can return us to the nameless wildness within.  Sometime, go away to a wild place on your own.  Leave your name and the grid of intentions and projects and images which mark you out as citizen Z.  Leave it all, and let yourself just slip back into the rhythms of your intimate wildness.  You will be surprised at the lost terrains, wells, and mountains that you will rediscover, territories which have been buried under well-meant but dead names.  To go beyond confinement is to rediscover yourself.

– John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes (p. 127)