This is the last book from Irish poet and spiritual teacher John O'Donohue, one of the most lyrical writers of our times, who died suddenly and unexpectedly in January 2008. To read his writings and to listen to his audiotapes is to be in the presence of a truly enthusiastic person. The opening paragraph of this volume shows us why:
"There is a quiet light that shines in every heart. It draws no attention to itself, though it is always secretly there. It is what illuminates our minds to see beauty, our desire to seek possibility, and our hearts to love life. Without this subtle quickening our days would be empty and wearisome, and no horizon would ever awaken our longing. Our passion for life is quietly sustained from somewhere in us that is welded to the energy and excitement of life. This shy inner light is what enables us to recognize and receive our very presence here as blessing. We enter the world as strangers who all at once become heirs to a harvest of memory, spirit, and dream that has long preceded us and will now enfold, nourish, and sustain us. The gift of the world is our first blessing."
A blessing breaks down the barriers between people and is the ultimate form of intimacy. It changes the environment around us and opens new possibilities of connection, healing, and transformation. O'Donohue laments that in the West we have "no rituals to protect, encourage, and guide us as we cross over into the unknown." The blessings he has written are divided into seven sections representing the major rhythms of the human journey:
• Beginnings (including blessings for Matins, the New Year, and A New Position)
• Desires (including blessings for Eros, Longing, the Senses, Belonging and Absence)
• Thresholds (including blessings for Your Birthday, a New Father, a Friend on the Arrival of an Illness, a Parent on the Death of a Child)
• Homecomings (including blessings for Grace Before Meals, on Waking, on Meeting a Stranger, on Passing a Graveyard, and Before Sleep)
• States of Heart (including blessings for Courage, Failure, Grief, Beauty, Equilibrium, and Loneliness)
• Callings (including blessings for Marriage, the Unknown Self, Work, and Citizenship)
• Beyond Endings (including blessings for Broken Trust, Someone Who Did You Wrong, Lost Friends, and the Dying)
Here is an example of a blessing:
For a New Home
May this house shelter your life.
When you come in 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.
In a magnificent closing essay titled "To Retrieve the Lost Art of Blessing," O"Donohue posits that this gift is grounded in the belief that human kindness holds sway in the world and that beauty abounds. Blessing moves in and through us by means of wonder, and each day is received as an invitation and as a bounty. Blessing enables us to cross the different thresholds of our lives with reverence.
A veritable treasure trove of blessings for everyday activities have been passed down from generation to generation within the Celtic tradition. A blessing is a protective circle of light and a key to awakening and creating forgiveness. It is also "a sheltering wall" and a constant stream of mindfulness of others and their needs. Blessing, explains O'Donohue, is a form of grace and an expression of the open and loving heart. And best of all, blessing is the secret sustenance of our lives and the powerful and positive intention that can transform situations and people.