Monday, July 19, 2010

The Spirituality of Body Talk

Talk to Your Body

The body is your only home in the universe. It is your house of belonging here in the world. It is a very sacred temple. To spend time in silence before the mystery of your body brings you toward wisdom and holiness. It is unfortunate that often only when we are ill do we realize how tender, fragile, and precious is the house of belonging called the body. When you visit people who are ill or who are awaiting surgery, you can encourage them to have a conversation with the body area that is unwell. Suggest that they talk to it as a partner, thank it for all it has done, for what it has suffered, and ask forgiveness of it for whatever pressure it may have had to endure. Each part of the body holds the memory of its own experience.

Your body is, in essence, a crowd of different members who work in harmony to make your belonging in the world possible. We should avoid the false dualism that separates the soul from the body. The soul is not simply within the body, hidden somewhere within its recesses. The truth is rather the converse. Your body is in the soul, and the soul suffuses you completely. Therefore, all around you there is a secret and beautiful soul-light.

— John O'Donohue in Anam Cara


Friday, July 16, 2010

Animals and Us

Honor the Dignity, Beauty, and Wisdom of the Animal World

The animals are more ancient than us. They were here for millennia before humans surfaced on the earth. Animals are our ancient brothers and sisters. They enjoy a seamless presence — a lyrical unity with the earth. Animals live outside in the wind, in the waters, in the mountains, and in the clay. The knowing of the earth is in them. The Zen-like silence and thereness of the landscape is mirrored in the silence and solitude of animals. Animals know nothing of Freud, Jesus, Buddha, Wall Street, the Pentagon, or the Vatican. They live outside the politics of human intention. Somehow they already inhabit the eternal. The Celtic mind recognized the ancient belonging and knowing of the animal world. The dignity, beauty, and wisdom of the animal world was not diminished by any false hierarchy or human arrogance. Somewhere in the Celtic mind was a grounding perception that humans are the inheritors of this deeper world.

— John O'Donohue in Anam Cara

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Inner Wellspring

You can never love another person unless you are equally involved in the beautiful but difficult spiritual work of learning to love yourself. There is within each of us, at the soul level, an enriching fountain of love. In other words, you do not have to go outside yourself to know what love is. This is not selfishness, and it is not narcissism; they are negative obsessions with the need to be loved. Rather this is a wellspring of love within the heart. . . .

If you find that your heart has hardened, one of the gifts that you should give yourself is the gift of the inner wellspring. You should invite this inner fountain to free itself. You can work on yourself in order to unsilt this, so that gradually the nourishing waters begin in a lovely osmosis to infuse and pervade the hardened clay of your heart. Then the miracle of love happens within you. Where before there was hard, bleak, unyielding, dead ground, now there is growth, color, enrichment, and life flowing from the lovely wellspring of love. This is one of the most creative approaches to transfiguring what is negative within us.

— John O'Donohue in Anam Cara

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Anam Cara-Soul Friend

In the Celtic tradition, there is a beautiful understanding of love and friendship. One of the fascinating ideas here is the idea of soul-love; the old Gaelic term for this is anam cara. Anam is the Gaelic word for soul and cara is the word for friend. So anam cara in the Celtic world was the "soul friend."

In the early Celtic church, a person who acted as a teacher, companion, or spiritual guide was called an anam cara. It originally referred to someone to whom you confessed, revealing the hidden intimacies of your life. With the anam cara you could share your innermost self, your mind and your heart. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. When you had an anam cara, your friendship cut across all convention, morality, and category. You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with the "friend of your soul."

The Celtic understanding did not set limitations of space or time on the soul. There is no cage for the soul. The soul is a divine light that flows into you and into your Other. This art of belonging awakened and fostered a deep and special companionship. In his Conferences, John Cassian says this bond between friends is indissoluble: "This, I say, is what is broken down by no chances, what no interval of time or space can sever or destroy, and what even death itself cannot part."

— John O'Donohue in Anam Cara

more about this in my musings The blessings of spiritual friends

Monday, July 5, 2010

Embrace Your Inner World

Embrace the World that Lives Inside You

It is strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone. Behind your image, below your words, above your thoughts, the silence of another world waits. A world lives within you. No one else can bring you news of this inner world. Through the opening of the mouth, we bring out sounds from the mountain beneath the soul. These sounds are words. The world is full of words. There are so many talking all the time, loudly, quietly, in rooms, on streets, on television, on radio, in the paper, in books. The noise of words keeps what we call the world there for us. We take each other's sounds and make patterns, predictions, benedictions, and blasphemies. Each day, our tribe of language holds what we call the world together. Yet the uttering of the word reveals how each of us relentlessly creates. Everyone is an artist. Each person brings sound out of silence and coaxes the invisible to become visible.

— John O'Donohue in Anam Cara

More about John O'Donohue here and here.


Eliot on Waiting

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

— T. S. Eliot, from “East Coker,” The Four Quartets