There are people whose presence is encouraging. One of the most beautiful gifts in the world is the gift of encouragement. When someone encourages you, that person helps you over a threshold you might otherwise never have crossed on your own. There are times of great uncertainty in every life. Left alone at such a time, you feel dishevelment and confusion like gravity. When a friend comes with words of encouragement, a light and lightness visit you and you begin to find the stairs and the door out of the dark. The sense of encouragement you feel from the friend is not simply her words or gestures; it is rather her whole presence enfolding you and helping you find the concealed door. The encouraging presence manages to understand you and put herself in your shoes. There is no judgment but words of relief and release.
– John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes (p. 62)
It is impossible to be on the earth and to avoid awakening. Everything that happens within and around you calls your heart to awaken. As the density of night gives way to the bright song of the dawn, so your soul continually coaxes you to give way to the light and awaken. Longing is the voice of your soul, it constantly calls you to be fully present in your life: to live to the full the one life given to you. Rilke said to the young poet, “Live everything.” You are here on earth now, yet you forget so easily. You travelled a great distance to get here. The dream of your life has been dreamed from eternity. You belong within a great embrace that urges you to have the courage to honour the immensity that sleeps in your heart. When you learn to listen to and trust the wisdom of your soul’s longing, you will awaken to the invitation of graced belonging that inhabits the generous depths of your destiny. You will become aware of the miracle of presence within and around you.
– John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes (p. 49)
Each of us has made a huge discovery that we have never gotten over. This is the discovery of the world. Our first journey was the journey to the earth and we are still travelling.
– John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes (p. 21)
If you were a stone, you could remain still, gathered in silent witness in the same landscape. The horizons and the infinity would never trouble you. Nothing could draw you out. As a human, your daily experience is riven with fracture and fragmentation.
Like a nomad you wander from event to event, from person to person, unable to settle anywhere for too long. The day is a chase after ghost duties; at evening you are exhausted. A day is over and so much of it was wasted on things that meant to little to you, duties and meetings from which your heart was absent. Months and years pass and you fumble on, still incapable of finding a foothold on the path of time you walk.
A large proportion of your activity distracts you from remembering that you are a guest of the universe, to whom one life has been given. You mistake the insisten pressure of daily demands for reality and your more delicate and intuitive nature wilts. When you wake from your obsessions, you feel cheated.
Your longing is being numbed and your longing becomes merely external. Your way of life has so little to do with what you feel and love in the world. But, because of the many demands on you and responsibilities that you have, you feel helpless to gather your self; you are dragged in so many directions away from true belonging.
– John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes (p. 8)
There is something deeply sacred about every presence. When we become blind to this, we violate Nature and turn our beautiful world into a wasteland. We treat people as if they were disposable objects. We lament today the absence of God and the demise of the sacred. Yet it is ourselves who have killed God. The world today is just as full of sacred presence as it was centuries ago. With the hardening of our minds we are no longer able to feel and sense the ever-present-sacred the way our ancestors did. Our arrogance and greed have killed the gods. Unknown to us, the suppression of Divine Presence exacts a terrible price, because Nature and person lose their inner divinity when the gods depart. Past generations were often victims of a bleak, monolithic god who suppressed all creativity; we recognize the authority of no god and much of our creativity is monstrous. Dostoyevsky said, ‘If God does not exist, everything is permitted.’ All the horizons become flattened and the wells dry up. We no longer walk the earth with wonder. We have purchased the fatal ticket. Instead of being guests of the earth, we are now crowded passengers on the runaway train of progress and productivity; the windows are darkened and we can no longer see out. The gadgets and games in each compartment are quite fascinating. There is constant theatre. Public relations experts offer sensational help in manicuring the image and searching out the best sound-bite. Even if we wanted to alight, no one seems able to stop the train.
We desperately need to retrieve our capacity for reverence. Each day that is given to you is full of the shy graciousness of divine tenderness. It is a lovely practice at night to spend a little while revisiting the invisible sanctuaries of your lived day. Each day is a secret story woven around the radiant heart of wonder. We let our days fall away like empty shells and miss all the treasure.
– John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes, pp 76-77
Within us and around us there is an invisible world; this is where each of us comes from… When you cross over from the invisible into this physical world, you bring with you a sense of belonging to the invisible that you can never lose or finally cancel… When you enter the world, you come to live on the threshold between the visible and the invisible… Because the invisible cannot be seen or glimpsed with the human eye, it belongs largely to the unknown. Still there are occasional moments when the invisible seems to become faintly perceptible… Now you belong fully neither to the visible nor to the invisible. This is precisely what kindles and rekindles all your longing and your hunger to belong. You are both artist and pilgrim of the threshold.
– John O’Donohue from ETERNAL ECHOES
When we approach with reverence, great things decide to approach us. Our real life comes to the surface and its light awakens the concealed beauty in things. When we walk on the earth with reverence, beauty will decide to trust us. The rushed heart lacks the gentleness and patience to enter that embrace.
– John O’Donohue, from Beauty: The Invisible Embrace
If you really live your life to the full, death will never have power over you. It will never seem like a destructive, negative event. It can become, for you, the moment of release into the deepest treasures of your own nature; it can be your full entry into the temple of your soul. If you are able let go of things, you learn to die spiritually in little ways during your life. When you learn to let go of things, a greater generosity, openness, and breath comes into your life. Imagine this letting go multiplied a thousand times at the moment of your death. That release can bring you a completely new divine belonging.
– John O’Donohue, from ANAM CARA: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
It is a strange and magical fact to be here, walking around in a body, to have a whole world within you and a world at your fingertips outside you. It is an immense privilege, and it is incredible that humans manage to forget the miracle of being here. Rilke said, “Being here is so much.” It is uncanny how social reality can deaden and numb us so that the mystical wonder of our lives goes totally unnoticed. We are here. We are wildly and dangerously free. The more lonely side of being here is our separation in the world. When you live in a body you are separate from every other object and person. Many of our attempts to pray, to love, and to create are secret attempts at transfiguring that separation in order to build bridges outward so that others can reach us and we can reach them. At death, this physical separation is broken. The soul is released from its particular and exclusive location in this body. The soul then comes in to a free and fluent universe of spiritual belonging.
– John O’Donohue, from ANAM CARA: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self.
This is the man I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him. And to be unknown of God is altogether too much privacy…
All sin starts from the assumption that my false self, the self that exists in my own egocentric desires, is the fundamental reality of life to which everything else in the universe is ordered. Thus I use up my life in the desire for pleasures and the thirst for experiences, for power, honor, knowledge and love, to clothe this false self and construct its nothingness into something objectively real. And I wind experiences around myself and cover myself with pleasures and glory like bandages in order to make myself perceptible to myself and to the world, as if I were an invisible body that could only become visible when something visible covered its surface.”
–Thomas Merton (New Seeds of Contemplation, p. 37)