Tag: John O’Donohue

7/25/11 “Love”

Good day, team.

For weeks now, the subject of love keeps popping up in my consciousness like a daffodil in spring. Bright and surprisingly strong, this tender blossom with its happy yellow trumpet has been asking me to pay attention. So, this week’s challenge is about love and how important it is in our lives — with family and friends, in our most private moments and even at work.

In preparation for our wedding celebration seven years ago, my husband and I looked for poems, books and songs that spoke about the subject of love. Nothing came close to what John O’Donohue wrote about love in his book, “Anam Cara.” In Gaelic, the words “anam cara” mean “soul friend.” Nothing seemed more appropriate than those words to describe the relationship David and I found ourselves in. Falling in love at 48 is considerably different than when you’re 28. At this stage in my life, to call my betrothed my best friend and most trusted companion meant more than anything I could have imagined.

I had the great honor of meeting John O’Donohue while traveling through Ireland with poet David Whyte and a group of aspiring writers. David and John had been friends for a number of years, and John took us on a walking tour of the Connamara region of Ireland where he had lived for many years in a small home. He was a tall man with windblown hair, incredibly kind blue eyes and a high-pitched laugh that never quite matched his countenance. His contrasting wildness and sweetness always refreshed me. His vocabulary was rich from many years of studying the classics, theology and philosophy. But all the knowledge he shared with us was delivered in an unmistakable Irish brogue and with a terrific sense of humor. Nights at the pub with John were the highlights of the trip, and I’ve never forgotten the glint in his eyes as he spoke.

I don’t know the whole story, but having been a Catholic priest, John left the church and became better known as Irish poet, philosopher and Catholic scholar. I believe in his life experiences, he began to find the Catholic Church to be too restrictive and dogmatic. His movement toward ancient Celtic beliefs was a better representation of his heart and soul.

Here’s what John wrote about love in chapter one of “Anam Cara”:

“When the human mind began to consider the greatest mystery of life, the mystery of love, light was also always used as a metaphor for its power and presence. When love awakens in your life, in the night of your heart, it is like the dawn breaking within you. Where before there was anonymity, now there is intimacy; where before there was fear, now there is courage; where before in your life there was awkwardness, now there is rhythm of grace and gracefulness; where before you used to be jagged, now you are elegant and in rhythm with yourself. When love awakens in your life, it is like a rebirth, a new beginning.

“It is strangely ironic that the world loves power and possessions. You can be very successful in this world, be admired by everyone and have endless possessions. You can have a lovely family, success in your work and have everything the world can give, but behind it all, you can be completely lost and miserable. If you have everything the world has to offer you but you do not have love, then you are the poorest of the poorest of the poor. Every human heart hungers for love. If you do not have the warmth of love in your heart, there is no possibility of real celebration and enjoyment. No matter how hard, competent, self-assured or respected you are, no matter what you think of yourself or what others think of you, the one thing you deeply long for is love. No matter where we are, who we are, what we are or what kind of journey we are on, we all need love.

“If you only awaken your will and intellect, then your work can become your identity. This is summed up in the rather humorous epitaph on a gravestone somewhere in London:

‘Here lies Jeremy Brown, born a man and died a grocer.’ Often people’s identity, that wild inner complexity of soul and color of spirit, becomes shrunken in their work identity.

“In the world of negative work, where you are controlled, where power prevails and you are a mere functionary, everything is determined by an ethic of competition. In the world of creative work, where your gift is engaged, there is no competition. The soul transfigures the need for competition. In contrast, the world of quantity is always haunted by competition: If I have less, you have more. But in the world of the soul: The more you have, the more everyone has. The rhythm of soul is the surprise of endless enrichment.”

I recall the exact moment when I realized how important it is for me to do work that is a better reflection of who I have become in my internal world. I wanted my doing to be a result of my being. The love I experienced in my heart needed a way to offer itself to the world in some way that it could be received. I often thought how lovely it would be if I could be myself at work and express my true nature, giftedness and imagination. I no longer could live with a separation between what I was doing in my career and the person I had become.

I often see clients who have outgrown their career, their job or their particular environment. It becomes more and more painful to try to fit a foot that’s become too big into an old shoe. It’s both inspiring and painful to realize that the love you feel within needs a bigger world in which to manifest. But the importance of allowing love and intimacy to express themselves through trustworthy and kind acts at work is essential. In John’s words, “Where you belong should always be worthy of your dignity.”

Your challenge this week is to see if your current job, your career, your vocation is a place where you can express the love and generosity of your heart. We so often associate these words with romantic love that we rarely see how love actually manifests in a work environment. The next time you see a team member extend a kindness to another, notice the quality of love at work. Try manifesting this love yourself. Perhaps it’s as simple as giving a colleague your undivided attention by listening or noticing when someone at work needs a helping hand and lending it. How about having a difficult conversation with a co-worker and being courageous enough to tell them the truth — but in such a way that they can receive it? Or how about remaining silent in a meeting, even though you know the right answer, so that your team member as the opportunity to shine?

One of my favorite Buddhist stories ends with a saying from the old master,

“If you do the work that you do from a loving heart, then you will always be able to make something beautiful.”

This week, focus on how your loving heart shows up at work, at home and in your quiet moments. Revel in the beauty and light this brings to you and others.

Have a good week!


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