John O’Donohue

BELONGING: Eternal Echoes, Prologue (Part 2) by John O’Donohue

January 16, 2019

From Eternal Echoes Our world is suffused with beauty.  There are landscapes, oceans, paintings, and music whose beauty awakens in our hearts a sense of the eternal.  Yet nowhere do we feel so deeply encountered as we do in the presence of another human being.  There is something in another human presence that is equal to our longing and soul.  The human heart is a theater of longing.  One of our deepest longings is to find love and friendship.  In the Celtic tradition there was the beautiful notion of the Anam-Cara.  Anam is the Irish word for “soul” and Cara is the word for “friend.”  In the Anam-Cara friendship, you were joined in an ancient way with the friend of your soul.  This was a bond that neither space nor time [...]

BELONGING: Eternal Echoes, Prologue (Part 1) by John O’Donohue

January 9, 2019

From Eternal Echoes I remember as a child discovering the echo of sound.  It was the first time that my father took me up the mountain to herd the cattle.  As we passed a limestone cliff, he called out to the cattle in the distance.  His call had barely ended when it was copied exactly and sent forth again by the stone.  It was a fascinating discovery.  I tried out my own voice and the echo returned faithfully every time.  It was as if the solid limestone mountains had secret hearing and voice.  Their natural stillness and silence suddenly broke forth in an exact mimic of the human voice, indicating that there is a resonant heart in the depths of silence; the stone responds in a symmetry of sound.  Hearing one’s echo out among [...]

POETRY: The Glorious Mysteries—The Coronation by John O’Donohue

August 27, 2018

It was a long time ago in another land. Who can tell how it really was before belief Came towards you with a hunger that could not see you Except against white air cleansed of the shadow of earth? No inkling that you were a free spirit who loved The danger of seeing the world with an open mind, How you strove to be faithful to uncertainty And let nothing unquestioned settle in your heart. You loved to throw caution to the wind when you danced. To be outside in the dawn before people were, Letting the blue tides of your dreaming settle ashore. The village said you put the whole thing into his head. In the glow of your silence, the heart grows tranquil. No one will ever know where you had to [...]

POETRY: The Glorious Mysteries—The Assumption by John O’Donohue

August 20, 2018

Perhaps time is the keeper of distance and loss, Knowing that we are but able for a little at a time. And the innocence of fragments is wise with us, Keeps us from order that is not native to our dust. Yet, without warning, a life can suddenly chance On its hidden rhythm, find a flow it never knew. Where the heart was blind, subtle worlds rise into view; Where the mind was forced, crippled thought beings to dance. As if this day found for her everything she lost. Her breath infused with harvest she never expected From the unlived lives she had only touched in dream; Her mind rests; memory glows in a stairs of twilight. Her hair kisses the breeze. Her eyes know it is time. She looks as young as the evening the raven [...]

POETRY: The Glorious Mysteries—The Descent Of The Holy Spirit by John O’Donohue

August 13, 2018

Somewhere in our clay remembers the speed of cold, Overtaking the surge of colors with grey breath, And the shudder of fields, as they smother beneath The white infinity of ice paralyzing the world. How swiftly fear touches this relic—cold in the bone. After his second going, they hide from the crowd. Then, like manna from a red wind, a tongue of flame swirls Into each mind huddled there in the fear-filled room. The language caul they lived in falls, leaves them wordless, Then, a kindling, words they never knew they had come Alive out of nowhere sprung with awakening That will not cease until winter sets the heart free. Out in the open now, voices of new belonging, Needing no courage beyond the fire of their [...]

POETRY: The Glorious Mysteries—The Ascension by John O’Donohue

August 6, 2018

With waves the ocean soothes the dark stillness of the shore. With words the mind would calm the awful, inner quiet. Offerings to the nothingness on which we trespass. Our imprint no deeper than breath on a mirror. Though delighted by the wonder of your return, To glimpse you is already too much for their eyes. At your cadence of voice a bird stirs in the heart, Its wings spread such brightness nothing can hold its form. You are no longer from here, yet you still linger In the lightness, wed to the dance you awaken, As if in drudged-down lives, the song of your new hands Could raise the soul towards horizons of desire. You slip through a door of air. Memory comes home, Bright as a dead tree drawn to blossom by the [...]

POETRY: The Glorious Mysteries—The Resurrection by John O’Donohue

July 30, 2018

Oh, the rush with which the forgotten mind awakens Under the day a well of dark where color dwells Until it learns the art of light and can reveal, In neglected things, the freshness thought darkens. With grey mastery distance starts to blur the horror. Already the days begin to set around the loss. The after-silence of his death become porous To the gossip of regret that follows failure. Through the cold, quiet nighttime of the grave underground, The earth concentrated on him with complete longing Until his sleep could recall the dark from beyond To enfold memory lost in the requiem of mind. The moon stirs a wave of brightening in the stone. He rises clothed in the young colors of [...]

POETRY: The Sorrowful Mysteries—The Crucifixion by John O’Donohue

July 23, 2018

When at last it comes, it comes in silence; With no thought for the one to whom it comes, Or how a heart grieves itself and loved ones With that last glimpse from its fading presence. Yet it is intimate, the act of death, To be so chosen, exposed and taken. Nowhere untouched. But death wants you broken. The soldiers must wait ages for your last breath. With all the bright words, you are found out too, In agony and terror in vaulted air, Your mind bleached white by a wind from nowhere That has waited years for one strike at you. A slanted rain cuts across the black day. It turns stones crimson where the cross is [...]

POETRY: The Sorrowful Mysteries—The Carrying Of The Cross by John O’Donohue

July 16, 2018

A kiss on the back of the neck tingles, Almost sound, a breath of music in bone. It is here they laid the heavy crossbeam, Each step a thud inward like sick thunder. It invades his head. All silence leaves him. Stooped forward he watches his innocent feet Search each step for sure ground to take the weight. He falls face first on the broken pavement. Those he knows to see will not meet his eyes. They fear his gaze might unleash misfortune. Sweat down his back opens a line of wounds. A white towel absorbs a mirage of his face. Windows open in the crowd, his heart rends At the weeping of his mother and [...]

POETRY: The Sorrowful Mysteries—The Crowning With Thorns by John O’Donohue

July 9, 2018

The thorns woven to your head are nothing Like the emptiness loosening your mind From the terse mountains where you served your time Seeking the hearth in the loneliness of things. Then that slow glimpse of three faces concresced In a circle of infinitely gentle gaze Trusting each thing out of air into form, Showed you belong to this first tenderness. You earth divine flame in a young man’s frame. Things rush your senses offering their essence. Now the earth clenches against you, cold and closed In a yard forsaken by every name. On crucifixion duty, bored with routine The soldiers start mocking and crown you [...]

POETRY: The Sorrowful Mysteries—The Scourging At The Pillar by John O’Donohue

July 2, 2018

When we love we love to touch the beloved. Our hands find joy in the surprise of skin. Here is where tenderness is uncovered. Few frontiers hold a world more wondrous in. Imagine the anger of their disturbance. They cannot bear the portals his words create. Helpless, turned inside out by his presence, Sheltering from themselves as a crowd irate. Made to face the pillar, the wrists bind him Under the shadow of the angel of pain, Who flogs, and waits, prefers a broken rhythm, Until his back becomes a red text of shame. His mind holds to the images of those he loves; While his frightened skin swells under the [...]

POETRY: The Sorrowful Mysteries—The Agony In The Garden by John O’Donohue

June 25, 2018

Whatever veil of mercy shrouds the dark Wound that stops weeping in no one, cannot Stop the torrent of night when it buries thought And heart beneath the black tears of the earth. Through scragged bush the moon discovers his face, Dazed inside the sound of Gethsemane, Subsiding under the weight of silence That entombs the cry of his terrified prayer. What light could endure the dark he entered? The void that turns the mind into a ruin Haunted by the tattered screeching of birds Who nest deep in hunger that mocks all care. Still he somehow stands in that nothingness; Raising the chalice of kindness to [...]

POETRY: The Joyful Mysteries—The Presentation In The Temple by John O’Donohue

June 18, 2018

The words of a secret have rivet eyes That cannot sleep to forget what they know. The restrained voice sharpens to an arrow That will reach its target through any disguise. Two old people wait in the temple shadows Where stone and air are hoarsened with prayer For some door to open in their hunger; Sometimes children laugh at her twitching nose. Worn to a thread the old man’s rope of days, Spent unravelling in this empty torment, Has wizened his silence to words of flint. When he glimpses the child, his lost voice flares. His words lodge in the young mother’s thought That a sword of sorrow will pierce her [...]

POETRY: The Joyful Mysteries—The Nativity by John O’Donohue

June 11, 2018

No man reaches where the moon touches a woman. Even the moon leaves her when she opens Deeper into the ripple in her womb That encircles dark to become flesh and bone. Someone is coming ashore inside her. A face deciphers itself from water And she curves around the gathering wave, Opening to offer the life it craves. In a corner stall of pilgrim strangers, She falls and heaves, holding a tide of tears. A red wire of pain feeds through every vein Until night unweaves and the child reaches dawn. Outside each other now, she sees him first. Flesh of her flesh, her dreamt son safe on [...]

POETRY: The Joyful Mysteries—The Visitation by John O’Donohue

June 4, 2018

In the morning it takes the mind a while To find the world again, lost after dream Has taken the heart to the underworld To play with the shades of lives not chosen. She awakens a stranger in her own life, Her breath loud in the room full of listening. Taken without touch, her flesh feels the grief Of belonging to what cannot be seen. Soon she can no longer bear to be alone. At dusk she takes the road into the hills. An anxious moon doubles her among the stone. A door opens, the older one’s eyes fill. Two women locked in a story of birth. Each mirrors the secret the other [...]

POETRY: The Joyful Mysteries—The Annunciation by John O’Donohue

May 29, 2018

Cast from afar before the stones were born And rain had rinsed the darkness for color, The words have waited for the hunger in her To become the silence where they could form. The day’s last light frames her by the window, A young woman with distance in her gaze, She could never imagine the surprise That is hovering over her life now. The sentence awakens like a raven, Fluttering and dark, opening her heart To nest the voice that first whispered the earth From dream into wind, stone, sky and ocean. She offers to mother the shadow’s child; Her untouched life becoming wild [...]

POETRY: The Inner History Of A Day by John O’Donohue

November 24, 2017

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 [...]

BLESSING: A Blessing For The Senses, by John O’Donohue

May 22, 2017

From: Anam Cara May your body be blessed. May you realize that your body is a faithful and beautiful friend of your soul. And may you be peaceful and joyful and recognize that your senses are sacred thresholds. May you realize that holiness is mindful, gazing, feeling, hearing, and touching. May your senses gather you and bring you home. May your senses always enable you to celebrate the universe and the mystery and possibilities in your presence here. May the Eros of the Earth bless [...]

BLESSING: A Blessing Of Solitude, by John O’Donohue

May 11, 2017

From: Anam Cara May you recognize in your life the presence, power, and light of your soul. May you realize that  you are never alone, that  your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe. May you have respect for your own individuality and difference. May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, that you have a special destiny here, that behind the facade of your life there is something beautiful, good, and eternal happening. May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride, and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.   [...]

BLESSING: A Morning Offering, by John O’Donohue

May 4, 2017

From: To Bless the Space Between Us I bless the night that nourished my heart To set the ghosts of longing free Into the flow and figure of dream That went to harvest from the dark Bread for the hunger no one sees. All that is eternal in me Welcomes the wonder of this day, The field of brightness it creates Offering time for each thing To arise and illuminate. I place on the altar of dawn: The quiet loyalty of breath, The tent of thought where I shelter, Waves of desire I am shore to And all beauty drawn to the eye. May my mind come alive today To the invisible geography That invites me to new frontiers, To break the dead shell of yesterdays, To risk being disturbed and changed. May I have the courage today To live the life that I would [...]

BLESSING: To Learn From Animal Being, by John O’Donohue

April 21, 2017

From: To Bless the Space Between Us Nearer to the earth’s heart, Deeper within its silence: Animals know this world In a way we never will. We who are ever Distanced and distracted By the parade of bright Windows thought opens: Their seamless presence Is not fractured thus. Stranded between time Gone and time emerging, We manage seldom To be where we are: Whereas they are always Looking out from The here and now. May we learn to return And rest in the beauty Of animal being, Learn to lean low, Leave our locked minds, And with freed senses Feel the earth Breathing with us. May we enter Into lightness of spirit, And slip frequently into The feel of the wild. Let the clear silence Of our animal being Cleanse our hearts Of corrosive words. [...]

LOVE: Styles Of Vision by John O’Donohue

August 6, 2015

From Anam Ċara To the fearful eye, all is threatening.  When you look toward the world in a fearful way, all you see and concentrate on are things that can damage and threaten you.  The fearful eye is always besieged by threat. To the greedy eye, everything can be possessed.  Greed is one of the powerful forces in the modern Western world.  It is sad that a greedy person can never enjoy what they have, because they are always haunted by that which they do not yet possess.  This can refer to land, books, companies, ideas, money, or art.  The motor and agenda of greed is always the same.  Joy is possession, but sadly possession is ever restless; it has an inner insatiable hunger.  Greed is poignant because it is always haunted and [...]

POETRY: Purgatorial by John O’Donohue

June 19, 2014

Beneath me sleep splits like pliant silk I drop derelict into a bare dream where my language dry as paper is being burned by a young child over a black stove. I cannot see his face but feel the fearsome power of this play. His uncanny hands herd every private word back to its babble shape, fixes them in lines mutters at the order then, in a swerve drives them over the edge into the fire’s mass of murmuring tongues. He takes too my inner antiphon of wild, wind-christened placenames, Caherbeanna, Creig na bhFeadóg, Poll na gColm, Ceann Boirne. My weak words half-meant, viral, deceptive crust the pages like scabs give off an odor. Our shy night-words which no other had heard he spatters in his yellow laughter, they crackle like honey [...]

PRAYER: Breath As Prayer by John O’Donohue

June 16, 2014

From Four Elements: Reflections on Nature One of the oldest words for God in the Hebrew scriptures is the word “Ruach” which also means breath.  Even in early Greek Stoic philosophy the fundamental concept of Spirit was rendered by the word “Pneuma,” which could also mean air.  In the Buddhist tradition breathing as the art of coming into the presence of the divine was a sacred and liturgical activity.  In the Bible there is the lovely story of Elijah who was waiting for God.  First there came a storm, but God was not in the storm.  Then a wind came, but God was not in the wind.  Finally, a breeze came and God was in the gentle breeze.  This is a lovely recognition of God as breath and tenderness. One of the [...]

PRAYER: A Friendship Blessing (Includes The Anam Ċara), by John O’Donohue

July 29, 2013

From Anam Ċara A Friendship Blessing May you be blessed with good friends. May you learn to be a good friend to yourself. May you be able to journey to that place in your soul where there is great love, warmth, feeling, and forgiveness. May this change you. May it transfigure that which is negative, distant, or cold in you. May you be brought in to the real passion, kinship, and affinity of belonging. May you treasure your friends. May you be good to them and may you be there for them; may they bring you all the blessing, challenges, truth, and light that you need for your journey. May you never be isolated. May you always be in the gentle nest of belonging with your anam ċara.  The Anam Ċara In the Celtic tradition, there is a [...]

POETRY: For Eros, by John O’Donohue

December 12, 2012

When you love, May you feel the joy Of your heart coming alive As your lover’s gaze Lands on your eyes, Holding them, Like the weight of a kiss, Deepening. May the words of love Reach you and fluster Your held self, The way a silhouette of breeze Excites a meadow. When you are touched, May it be the gentleness You desire, Your lover’s hands sending Each caress deep into your skin Like a discovering glance. May slow sequences Of kisses discover Your secret echoes. May your desire flow free And never be fettered By the thorn-chains Of old guilt Or crippled touch. May you feel How your soul loves When your skin glows, And your eyes darken When promise ripens. In the gaze of your lover, May you see clearer In the mirror Of your own being. [...]

POETRY: For A New Home, by John O’Donohue

December 12, 2012

May this house shelter your life. When you come home here, May all the weight of the world Fall from your shoulders. May your heart be tranquil here, Blessed by peace the world cannot give. May this home be a lucky place, Where the graces your life desires Always find the pathway to your door. May nothing destructive Ever cross your threshold. May this be a safe place Full of understanding and acceptance, Where you can be as you are, Without the need of any mask Of pretense or image. May this home be a place of discovery, Where the possibilities that sleep In the clay of your soul can emerge To deepen and refine your vision For all that is yet to come to birth. May it be a house of courage, Where healing and growth are loved, Where dignity [...]

POETRY: For a New Beginning, by John O’Donohue

December 12, 2012

In out-of-the-way places of the heart, Where your thoughts never think to wander, This beginning has been quietly forming, Waiting until you were ready to emerge. For a long time it has watched your desire, Feeling the emptiness growing inside you, Noticing how you willed yourself on, Still unable to leave what you had outgrown. It watched you play with the seduction of safety And the gray promises that sameness whispered, Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent, Wondered would you always live like this. Then the delight, when your courage kindled, And out you stepped onto new ground, Your eyes young again with energy and dream, A path of plenitude opening before you. Though your destination is not yet clear You can trust the promise of [...]

POETRY: A Blessing For One Who Is Exhausted, by John O’Donohue

December 12, 2012

When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic, Time takes on the strain until it breaks; Then all the unattended stress falls in On the mind like an endless, increasing weight, The light in the mind becomes dim. Things you could take in your stride before Now become laborsome events of will. Weariness invades your spirit. Gravity begins falling inside you, Dragging down every bone. The tide you never valued has gone out. And you are marooned on unsure ground. Something within you has closed down; And you cannot push yourself back to life. You have been forced to enter empty time. The desire that drove you has relinquished. There is nothing else to do now but rest And patiently learn to receive the self You have forsaken for the race of days. [...]