Sunday, January 03, 2010


"As you grow, you develop the ideal of where your true belonging could be - the place, the home, the partner, and the work.  You seldom achieve all the elements of the ideal, but it travels with you as the criterion and standard of what true belonging could be."  John O'Donohue, Eternal Echoes, Celtic Reflections on Our Yearning to Belong

Lately I have been really struggling with errant thoughts about health and mortality.  I don't know why.  It happens from time to time and it impacts any semblance of routine i have in my life.  It pulls me into a state of awakened fear and anxiety like nothing else.  Panic just fills my pores.  It also messes up my ability to focus, to write, to find my grounding.  Does that happen to you?  I

t's like a massive jolt of caffeine to the soul and I have a very tough time shaking the intrusive thoughts.  It makes me question who I am, where I am, if everyone around me is safe, if I am fulfilling my life to the best of what I am capable of (no), if I am giving of my love and kindness as expressively as I can.  I wonder if this is all there is, and wrestle with trying to understand how others see me.  Basically, I question my sense of belonging and get all tangled up in a mess of self loathing.  Not pretty.  But, I see it as a shake up, a wake up.  The discomfort is motivating once I get unstuck from the inertia. 

Last night, I pulled a big armchair up in front of the fireplace and watched the flames being pulled up into the flue by the constant stormy wind which continued to gather momentum outside.  Each angry gust of cold winter air brought the gift of energy to the revel it shared with the flickering heat, whose fiery embers cradled the wood with snapping intensity.  It reminded me of two people dancing the tango.....their individual vitality is fuel for expressing the passion of belonging.

It is what we all strive for.... that feeling of contentment, the comfort of silent stillness in the middle of the dancing flames of belonging.  It's emotionally stirring.  It's a fulfilled longing to be a part of the activity.  Fire only breathes by the air it is fueled.  Our breath, our spirit is what fuels our internal fire.

What I have learned and absorbed from Father's O'Donohue's inspiring writings and beliefs is immeasurable when it comes to helping me regain my footing during times when turmoil swims inside me.  The depth of his faith fuels my own wavering faith.

For some reason, I am a believer when I immerse myself in his lyrical heartfelt writings.  I'm not so afraid.  I'm not so worried about the mystery of death.....of whether there is a Heaven.....of whether God will be there to greet me......of whether we get to live again in some capacity, our souls re-emerging from the clay he so often writes about.  His wisdom and the way he was able to articulate it has always felt like a lullaby to my contorted spirit.  His deep faith is believable, which in turn has allowed me to let go of my tightly held anxieties and believe too.  Unclenched, I have been able to breathe more easily knowing that I am guided by a higher power. 

I don't know why, but I didn't return to his books while I stumbled through this latest soul upheaval..... I should've.  Maybe I would've slept better.   However, maybe I needed to sit in the fear on my own again for a while in order to let go even more of it.....?  Doubt is a wake up's just that you WAKE up and find yourself surrounded by mean shadowy fangs....... eeewwwwww!  It's like living in the middle of the Blair Witch forest!

Today is the anniversary of this beloved man's death.  It is beyond sad and I know many of his dear friends and family are thinking of him and wishing he was still amongst us.  Since the time I was introduced to his writing, I have been struck by the thought that there is no one else I can think of whom I regret not meeting face to face.  There is a bit of a mystery as to why he has touched me more deeply than any other author except one other....Jean Vanier.  Timing played a role.  I was ready and open to receive their messages.  I was ready to be a student again.  But, there's more to it than that.  It just seems like the way he expressed himself, so genuinely and with such conviction somehow touched upon a lost chord stuffed deep inside me; so deeply embedded I had forgotten it had even existed.  That lost chord of mine is tied to understanding where I belong and why.

We are seekers at heart, knowing that when a sense of inertia weighs us down and tugs at our awareness, it is time to recognize the growing discomfort.  Father O'Donohue wrote........ "Our bodies know they belong; it is our minds that make our lives so homeless."  For a while, my mind felt homeless again.  This morning, it feels like it is settling amongst the essential elements of life again.  It began to happen while reading the last of the correspondance between Globe and Mail journalist Ian Brown and Jean Vanier.   It seems serendiptously written, for it has touched me exactly where I needed to be touched.  It has settled my rumblings to some extent.  They wrote about life and death...the student and the mentor as friends. When I reach this paragraph, I could feel the ground beneath my feet again.

"We are not pure or impure spirits, floating on clouds of acclaim. We are flesh, grounded and rooted in the earth. We need sleep and rest, work, good food with friends and lots of pleasure. We need disappointments, because they foster hope and renewal. Of course we muse over death.
It is not an accident that we die. We enter the world in the fragility of a baby and later decline into the fragility of the old person we will become. Fragility means needing to cry out, “I need your help, I need your love, I need you.” Fragility forms bonds of togetherness, community, friendship and peace."

Fragility..... this is how I've felt.  The questions and inner rumblings I have struggled with left me with a sense of fragility.  But instead of being afraid of that feeling, I realized through Vanier's faith driven response to Ian Brown's questions about death, that perhaps I should look at it through a different lens..... If I am feeling this way, and taking the necessary step to admit it, express it, own it, then I become more open to the blessings of love and friendship all around me.  I become a fragile vessel.  Maybe that's what we learn the most when we are grieving the loss of a loved one.  Maybe thats what we learn the most when we are struggling with our own fears of mortality? 

After reading the article,  I sat with a stillness I havent felt in a long time.  Then,  I picked up John O'Donohue's Eternal Echoes again and felt a sense that I was visiting a friend face to face.  It felt like a homecoming.   It felt like I was returning to a mindset of belonging again. 

Here's is a link to a Youtube video of John O'Donohue.  Enjoy....!!!


LL Cool Joe said...

I don't have fear in death, just about dying. My faith in God and an after life is strong, I just don't want to be part of it yet.

Anonymous said...

I have little moments like that where I feel I'm not doing enough, where my peace of mind is shredded by something inexplicable. I meditate when that happens or play the piano. It regains my focus. I think it is quite normal to feel this way as just about everyone I know feels it from time to time.

Father O sounded like an amazing man.

Marja said...

Oh how great to read your words again and how I know the turmoil in the mind the confusion, uncertainty and separateness but the next day I often feel totally connected and focussed. Often it feels like I wake up in one state or the other and have no real control over it.Although the positive mental state about all is on the rise With father O do you mean John O'Donohue? I know his words through your Blog and think he was a very spiritual and amazing
man. I already planned for a while to find a book from him and This is sure going to happen this year.
Wish all the love and peace for 2010

Gilly said...

Sounds like you are having a spiritual panic attack! ;)

I think we all feel like that sometimes. If we didn't, we would never strive to get further on, either mentally, emotionally or spiritually.

And that would be a pity.

awareness said...

Joey... Me neither!

Selma.... It's exactly why it was happening. I've not been any routine and was kind of lost this past week while trying to relax over the holidays. It kind of backfired. today, I'm back to work and my routine.
Father O'Donohue's writings are beautiful. I recommend you pick up his book Anam Cara. doesn't last with me either, though this time it seemed to wake me up for a week at 4 am! usually writing and reading help, but I had a tough time focusing on both.
I meant to write Father O'Donohue in my post. I'll fix that so there is no misunderstanding. I look forward to hearing what you think of his writing.

Gilly.... I think that's exactly what it was! I like that! I have called them "death attacks" which I have experienced on and off since I was 10 years old. they had gone away for a long time, but for some reason(and I should figure out the reason) it kicked in again over the holidays. Gone now!

Gypsy said...

It always strikes me that we often go to bed feeling perfectly ok about our place in the world and then by morning we are in a totally different mind space we can't seem to shake. I always wonder what happens during those sleeping hours to make it so.

awareness said...

Gypsy...or when whatever you've been dreaming about makes you BOLT upright wide awake at 4 am all shivery! I hate that. I'm back on track today though...working and finding my routine again and happy about it.