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 love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.
By John O’Donohue
This is a poem from A Book of Blessings by the Irish poet, author, philosopher and priest John O’Donohue. It contains poetic blessings for a whole range of occasions: for beginnings and endings, challenging life situations as well as joyful celebrations.
It’s one of those books I pick up occasionally, sometimes just to browse, sometimes deliberately calling on it for inspiration in a particular situation. The one above jumped out at me this morning, after a night of rich dreams about a previous chapter of my life with all its hopes and plans.
I love its invitation to honour this nightly world between the margins which can nourish the heart. At the same time it touches in with poignant presence right here and now – the breath and the inner environment of thoughts, desires and the beauty around. And then that gathering of courage, to ‘risk being disturbed and changed’.
We speak so much of acceptance in mindfulness, and often I hear one or more concerned voices in the room wondering where this leaves the need to grow and change. I’ve always felt reassured and encouraged by the American psychologist Carl Rogers who famously said that “the curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” So yes, I stretch into acceptance whenever I can – and this includes the acceptance of the discomfort and disturbance of change and growth.
Mary Oliver offered the question and challenge in a previous poem: “tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Well, how about the ending to this one, this clear intention to live life fully present: “to live the life that I would love”, to “waste my heart on fear no more.”
Here we go…