“The hand of a stranger is the hand of God.” -John O’ Donohue
Whenever St Patrick’s Day rolls around I am mindful of my Irish heritage and the passionate writings of the late John O’ Donohue. His stirring reflections on the Celtic tradition of soul love is one that transforms your way of being in the world. O’ Donohue describes the Celtic imagination in terms of a love of circles. Life flows with a natural rhythm that is attuned to nature amid the seasons of our lives.
The Celts hold dear the mysterious notion of an “Anam Cara” or soul friend, which reveals a friendship that is not “wounded by the limits of separation or distance.” When the confines of ego and persona have melted away, one is able to see beyond the material world. This friendship, O’ Donohue states, “Is an act of recognition and belonging. When a friendship recognizes itself as a gift, it will remain open to its own ground of blessing.”
Love is an expression of affection, connection and affirmation of another’s sacred beauty. Love is a prayer, or as O’ Donohue so eloquently describes “the threshold where divine and human presence” intertwine. There are times when we may feel separate from one another, yet if we reach out our hand we may find there is no longer any stranger, only God.
My now four-year-old grandson pasted a sticker on the back of my cellphone. It is an image of the great and powerful "Spiderman."
Little kids (especially little boys?) long to be big and powerful like the adults that tower over them. When they discover superheroes that are even stronger than their parents they bond with them.
One Sunday School teacher captures the attention of her seven-year-olds by talking about Jesus in superpower terms. Next to Jesus, Superman looks weak.
He may be able to leap tall building at a single bound. But, Superman and Batman cannot heal the sick the way Jesus could.
How many of us are still fascinated along with our children at stories of super human performance?
We long for superpowers. In fact, we already have them. And these powers can accomplish more than Superman himself.
Your smile will raise the energy of the next person you see. Your affirmation changes the blood chemistry of the people you compliment. Your willingness to listen and be present to others can heal their soul better than can Superman's x-ray vision.
"Want to change the world?" Mother Teresa asked. "Go home and love your family."
Want to change the life of the patients and staff you work with? Go out and love them.
Every time I look at that Spiderman sticker on my phone I smile. It was placed there by one of my superheroes - a little boy who has the power to make my heart leap tall buildings at a single bound.
There is much to unlearn. Parents reflect back to their children society’s messages about how one ought to act. Children are continually reminded and scolded, with good intentions mind you, about the right way to behave, good manners, of what to do and not to do. The voice of criticism and continual correction leaves an indelible mark.
Overtime children learn to mold their identity based on others expectations. Deep down we internalize feelings of not being enough, good enough, pretty enough, successful enough, talented enough, kind enough, giving enough.
is a change
One of the blessings in this latter part of life is to take stock of how much living we have experienced and whether our dreams were accomplished or left untouched, which motivates us to reevaluate our priorities. We have a natural propensity towards experiencing moments that enliven us and offer meaning.
Just a little willingness enables us to examine those false beliefs cultivated while growing up. We can invite all of them to the sacred alter of our being to forgive, be forgiven and release the weight of what we have carried for so long. Years of conditioning and the external influences that have fashioned our persona.
Learning is experiential. Relationships are our greatest teachers. Our closest relationships can trigger our greatest pain as we encounter each other’s wounding; the stuck places where we hold back our love.
Our purpose is to love. Spiritual practices (meditation, prayer) help us to hone our listening skills so that the “still small voice” within will guide our every step. When difficult situations arise we can lash out in fear or see the Holiness in the other person (as well as ourselves.) It is easy to get caught up in the drama of life but it helps to remember that underlying all our words is a desire to communicate, “I love you.”
Liz Sorensen Wessel
Mandala by ~liz
Note: My essay stems from Marianne Williamson’s teachings and my reflections, both which are based on A Course in Miracles.
The Dalai Lama is revered by Buddhists as their leader and by millions of others for his wisdom as well as his fine sense of humor. After giving a speech at the University of Colorado he fielded questions from the audience.
Parker Palmer reports that one man rose with an inquiry. Excited at the opportunity to address the great man he went on and on. As Palmer pointed out, "People who ask long, rambling 'questions' don't really stop. They sort of subside, as the surf does now and then."
Finally, the man got to a question. How can my wife and I raise our three small children?
After a pause, the Dalai Lama spoke: "How should I know? I MONK!"
How incredibly refreshing. "How does it feel to step into a stream, Daddy?" Step in.
Since the Journal began eight years ago I have often felt odd about offering you answers. How should I know?
Caregivers (and their leaders) often think they are supposed to have the answer to every question. So often, the best and most courageous response is also the honest one: "I don't know."
What do you need to live your life well & truly? It is courage.
Courage & laughter unlock Love's magic.
I like Tennyson's language, "Come now, friends, 'tis not too late to seek a newer world...for my purpose holds/ To sail beyond the sunset/ and the baths/ Of all the western stars, until I die."
It is courage that enables you to sail on when your heart loses hope. Courage enables Love, faith & hope.
It is a lie that winning is the only thing that matters.
When a physician friend died his obituary reported that, “He lost his battle with cancer.” This odd (& frequent) observation suggests my friend was a loser.
Life is not a football game.
If you die of old age can we say you lost your battle with death? If so you & I will lose.
My friend was a caregiver. He did not “lose." His victory came from living love to life's end.
If I die of cancer I hope no one says I “lost” my battle. I will not even have lost my life because I know I have tried - to the point of straining my potential.
Ralph Ellison wrote that the greatest affirmation of humanity is our willingness “to persist in the face of certain defeat.”
To face defeat & never retreat sounds foolish. But, to rest & return to trying expresses life.
This does not always need to be a grim endeavor. Amid the high anxiety of the 1989 Superbowl quarterback Joe Montana faced fear & laughed. With a minute on the clock & his team ninety-two yards from victory Montana came into the huddle & said to his team, "Hey, John Candy is in the stands." His reference to the comedian relaxed his team & led to victory.
Our highest moral imperative is not to succeed but to always try. You have so much more courage than you think.
Try even if you are tired. Try especially if you fail. Try even if you are in pain from trying before. Nurture your strength. Help others.
You can only succeed if you try. You only fail when you give up – when you do nothing, when you ignore someone you could have helped, when you live never using your gifts because you were too fearful (or unmotivated) to try.
Persistence overcomes resistance. I would rather be a “has been” then a “never was.”
Minton Sparks & friends are putting on a conference this summer called "Eat, Paint, Write."(https://www.eatpaintwrite.com) Do all these things with artistic intent.
Help the poor. Try things you are not good at as well as those things where you know you can succeed. If you persist you will always prevail – even if you fail to reach your goal.
Trying offers its own reward - that at the end of your days you can say that you strived – that you lived love to the last syllable of your life.
In that way, you will, "sail beyond the sunset/ and the baths/ Of all the western stars," until you die.
The world mourns the loss of a great person, Leonard Nimoy. I wish to honor his memory by sharing this video of Nimoy as he shares his marvelous story. Apparently, Nimoy's parents were Orthodox Jews and immigrated from Iziaslav, Soviet Union in 1931. Nimoy's cultural and religious Heritage was very meaningful to him. Listen, enjoy and offer a blessing for Leonard Nimoy.
Stories are magical aren't they? They resonate on the level of our human experience more so than our thinking brain. Star Trek stimulated our hearts as well as our minds. They wrestled with the darkness in pursuit of light. They struggled with ethical dilemmas and navigated through the difficulties to arrive at the best decision. Interestingly, the character that Nimoy portrayed, Spock, emulated the logical thought processes as an observer of the human condition. Yet deep within, as much as he tried to deny and push it away was human emotion. This made for a fascinating character.
What a delight to learn of Nimoy’s early experience within his own spiritual tradition and upbringing. On that memorable day when he dared to look, who knew it would leave such an indelible impression or that this magnificent thread would manifest in such an astounding way. You might say as a prevailing, guiding force, a sign, a knowing that surpasses understanding, made manifest in a story.
"We're all so busy chasing the extraordinary that we forget to stop and be grateful for the ordinary." - Brene Brown
One winter night in 1905 eleven-year-old Frank Epperson made an ordinary mistake. After fixing himself a Kool-Aid-like soda he accidentally left it outside.
The next morning, although disappointed by his forgetfulness, he decided to lick the frozen remains. It was delicious.
Thousands of others may have done the same thing that. But, little Frank was the only one who recognized that Mother Nature had handed him a giant opportunity.
Then he did another even more extraordinary thing. He kept his invention secret until 1923 when he secured a patent for his "Popsicle." (Epperson wanted to name his invention "Epp's icicles." But, his kids named it after their dad, who they called "Pop.")
In the intervening eighteen years from discovery to application no one else recognized the potential in converting a frozen drink into world-renown treat. Thus, Frank Epperson changed the world.
Every great invention starts with a creative observation of the ordinary and is realized through persistence.
In 1889, amid the freezing winters of Rochester, a pair of brothers did not think up the Popsicle. Their creation was the Mayo Clinic. Their integrated practice model is repeatedly ranked number one in the country.
But, the Mayo Clinic is more than a great medical center. The "Mayo Way" supports one of the most compassionate care models ever created & the Clinic is ranked as one of the nation's best places to work.
The Popsicle & the Mayo Clinic. Two examples of creating the extraordinary out of the ordinary.
Maybe that is true of Radical Loving Care - the application in healthcare of a two-thousand-year-old idea - love one another no matter what.