John O’Donohue on Ageing.

August 25, 2020

John O’Donohue on Ageing.

May 29, 2023

If you’re been an avid Wisdom Well reader, you know I revere the Irish poet John O’Donohue who passed away way too young a dozen years ago. If you dip into his well on Google, you’ll find things like this YouTube conversation on Ageing (yes, I kept the “e” in there out of respect to John’s European roots). Here are a few of the gems from his ruminations:

  • There is a “Sisterhood of nature and the soul.”
    • Our body is made out of clay...it has the memory of the earth in it and has the rhythm of the seasons embodied in it.
    • The Bible says, “You have sown much, but reaped so little.” Age is when you can reap the reward of your neglected experiences, so find a way to cultivate and harvest that wisdom.
    • “As the body physically diminishes, the soul gets richer.”
    • “The soul needs space and time.” This reminds me of Michael Alan Singer’s book, “The Untethered Soul.” What if you were to think of your soul as an untamed, beautiful, wild horse?
    • “Most people have atrophied complacency that masquerades as achievement and respectability.” What parts of your life are atrophying? Most people seek comfort which breeds complacency which leads to apathy. How are you disrupting that habitual cycle that happens to so many of us as we age?
    • Old people gather around the well of memory, but it’s better to describe it as “recall” as computers have hijacked the word “memory.” Recall is more of a somatic experience. You feel it in your body, not just your brain.
    • “It’s not time, but our temperament that defines aging.”
    • How can you tap into your wisdom as a form of “distilled essence?”
    • He quotes author Gabriel Garcia Marquez: “To live is an art. And no sooner have we begun to learn, then it is time for us to depart.”’

    I’ll finish with an O’Donohue poem that hasn’t yet made it to the “pages” of Wisdom Well. This is dedicated to all of us who feel a little worn out, not just by our age, but the times we’re living in.

    A Blessing For One Who is Exhausted

    When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
    Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
    Then all the unattended stress falls in
    On the mind like an endless, increasing weight,
    The light in the mind becomes dim.
    Things you could take in your stride before
    Now become laboursome events of will.
    Weariness invades your spirit.
    Gravity begins falling inside you,
    Dragging down every bone.
    The tide you never valued has gone out.
    And you are marooned on unsure ground.
    Something within you has closed down;
    And you cannot push yourself back to life.
    You have been forced to enter empty time.
    The desire that drove you has relinquished.
    There is nothing else to do now but rest
    And patiently learn to receive the self
    You have forsaken for the race of days.
    At first your thinking will darken
    And sadness takes over like listless weather.
    The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.
    You have travelled too fast over false ground;
    Now your soul has come to take you back.
    Take refuge in your senses, open up
    To all the small miracles you rushed through.
    Become inclined to watch the way of rain
    When it falls slow and free.
    Imitate the habit of twilight,
    Taking time to open the well of colour
    That fostered the brightness of day.
    Draw alongside the silence of stone
    Until its calmness can claim you.
    Be excessively gentle with yourself.
    Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
    Learn to linger around someone of ease
    Who feels they have all the time in the world.
    Gradually, you will return to yourself,
    Having learned a new respect for your heart
    And the joy that dwells far within slow time.

    Dear Wisdom Well readers, please “be excessively gentle with yourself” today.

    How could you incorporate that belief into how you live this specific day?

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