I came across a chat my late friend the poet, and philosopher, John O’Donohue had with broadcaster John Quinn in a pub in Kinvara in 1997. As the two men lent in to join everything in the bar went silent as they recorded their inspiration for a program Quinn was developing.
One line in the piece jumped out at me:
“Many people are frightened by the wonder of their own presence.”
It reminded me of A Course in Miracles quote “Future loss is not your fear. But present joining is your dread.” (T-26.VIII.4)
In his life time ex Catholic Priest John O’Donohue gently cajoled an entire reticent nation full of deep shame into a comfortable intimacy with self and other. Providing a language of “beannacht” (welcome and blessing) that was safely meandering, but most purposefully and clearly a companion walking you Home. If you opted for it you could always take a short cut into profound presence. If the unseen still unnerved you—he’d happily let you sink into his easy being as you sauntered the Way together. Eternally open and alive to the miraculous in everything.
This was my experience of John and it mirrored my own mighty companionship that I offered. But as I deepened in my own journey something started to feel disjunctive in my “walks” with people.
However, the miracle entails a sudden shift
from horizontal to vertical perception.
This introduces an interval from which
the giver and receiver both emerge farther along in time
than they would otherwise have been.
For a long time the Spirit had only sent those to me who seemed to be at a turning point in their lives. So that was the level of willingness and readiness I began to expect. My role felt very much like one of confirmation and celebration for a choice they had already decided to make. There was a jubilant experience of all being in this together. Much like when the apostles first ran out into the streets after receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. The tongues of fire having given them clarity of understanding so that nothing was lost in translation.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven … [and] every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
—Acts 2: 1-12, King James Version of the Bible
Yet after some years of living and thriving in this Way with people, something changed. After a short stroll I would start to feel “leadránach” (dragged out in Gaelic) somewhat drained. So I would double down on what I had to give by doing superlative forgiveness on myself. After all “Only what you have not given can be lacking in any situation.” —ACIM
But still I had a growing sense of overwhelm. My companions seemed to delight in what I shared—they obviously felt the vibrancy—but no longer seemed to fully take it for themselves.
It was very disconcerting because suddenly it felt personal, as if I had failed at something. Readiness is not under personal control, only welcome and I had no desire to try to make anything happen. So I was confused by the continued asking for help: If there was not a desire for resolution right now, why were there still questions coming? I continued to attempt to share the Answer for us both. But what was this joining truly for? By now I had relinquished the need to see any shift in “another,” but something still felt strange in my own awareness. I knew somehow it was all for me rather than a lack in my brother.
I tried to look at what this reflection was showing the awakening mind overall?
I had made myself completely available to the Spirit for Awakening, but in the idea of “Sarah” there had been a basic misunderstanding of how that was meant to be utilized. Because of “her” formative experiences a conclusion had been drawn in the mind, and an expectation founded on a mistaken premiss from childhood, that “she” only existed to serve/help other people.
Finally I got it: Oh my God I’m not meant to help “people” at all!!!!
I had forgotten that I was a sower of seeds, and not a farmer, this idea of “execution” was definitely not my part! What I was witnessing to was a deep insistence in my own mind to understand. That was where the questions were coming from, “not people.”
The Course calls it “Trust not your good intentions.” (T-18.IV.2:1) and “Your part is only to remember this; you do not want anything you value to come of a relationship.” (T-16.I.3:1) It was shocking because I am devotedly here for the awakening mind, how could I have gotten the idea of service so mixed up with an old idea of being “a good person” and helping “others”?
After all Extension is a state of mind!
Every encounter was truly a Holy Encounter, I had yet to fully receive their gift of reflection, because it was something my self-concept didn’t want to hear. So a perfect mirror of my later interactions!
Yet in the same section of the Course it also states:
Trust not your good intentions. They are not enough. But trust implicitly your willingness, whatever else may enter. Concentrate only on this, and be not disturbed that shadows surround it. That is why you came. If you could come without them you would not need the holy instant. Come to it not in arrogance, assuming that you must achieve the state its coming brings with it. The miracle of the holy instant lies in your willingness to let it be what it is. And in your willingness for this lies also your acceptance of yourself as you were meant to be. —ACIM (T-18.IV.2:1-9)
And while that offered Innocence the extra “rev” in the engine that had compelled me still purred, people or not. So the shadows did disturb me. I was horrified and ashamed at no longer being able to hold space for my brothers and sisters. Even though the last couple of interactions had weirdly started to feel like being electrocuted, to say “no” also felt mean! At first I did feel a loss. It had brought me so much joy in the past to share this profound intimacy with “people.” I had been very much undoing “the belief that no one, including yourself, is worth consistent effort.” (T-4.IV.7:2) And I loved what I heard for my self in our conversations.
I paused all joinings except for the “strictly necessary” functional communications with one, and was quiet. The self-concept’s hunger for “personal participation” grew strong and became easily evident as I fasted from any interactions.
At one point the intensity was so high the Spirit had me watch the entire series of The West Wing (which I’d never seen) I devoured it hungry for clarity. I was enthralled by the drama while watching all of the other addictive and compulsive “false responsibility” mechanisms play out that were not “for peace.” Ingenuity, problem solving, out of the box thinking, camaraderie, team work, selfless action, 24hr-on-call, obsessed, tenacious… I watched an entire self-concept of lack feast and thrive on what had once been a medicinal backdrop of service and relinquishment of self. But when the draw to “participation”, or in my case outward “helping” became more urgent than the inward responsibility for sight—I could see the higher purpose for Acceptance of the Peace of God as my one goal—what the backdrop of joining was actually for, had been momentarily overwhelmed.
Don’t mix with others too closely.
Friendships do not satisfy us
unless they are rooted in mutual love for the Lord.
Our human wish for loving understanding from others
is in reality the soul’s desire for unity with God.
The more we seek to satisfy that desire outwardly,
the less likely we are to find the Divine Companion.
I was so ashamed. Mostly with secondary guilt; at the perception of having wasted time and energy when, my intention was to save time for all. It felt tragic. Yet I was simultaneously so grateful for the insights and the hermitage spaces that were offered without reciprocity and with food. Yurts on hills, seaside homes. Talk about Given! It made it obvious that this was how I could truly be of service.
I had to go back to the basic lack thoughts, that this newly revealed compulsion to believe I only existed to “care for others” had obscured. A belief in being valueless without contribution, the importance of every upset that another seemed to hold needing to be immediately addressed and taken care of, so “I” could have confluence. Once I had received a request I could not rest until I had taken care of it by going to prayer for the Answer. So intimate and immediate did every Call for Love feel. There was nothing I would rather do than join with “another” for peace.
A young English reverend I met at an Easter Sunday lunch shared that his mentor was always saying: Remember we are only here to remind everyone that they are already saved.
“Sarah” is naturally a little hermit, yet people often think her quite gregarious. I never experience missing anybody—ever. I am happy when I spontaneously intersect with companions, or hear I am going to see them again, yet I have not been without them in the mean time. They ride along whole and complete in my heart and I remain intimately linked in mind with all those I have ever joined with.
Many years ago after my Dad’s passing there was a merge, and I have never felt a sense of separation from “people” since. That is why this blindspot was so disguised as I didn’t have any traditional co-dependent attributes. Except the need to alleviate unquestioned guilt through a specific form of joining—so it had to be relinquished momentarily.
This obsession with participation in old style atonement is really our refusal to surrender the import we think the character has in Awakening. At first it feels insane like taking your hands off the steering wheel on the motorway until we discover we are being safely and expertly chauffeur driven by the Holy Spirit. It is in this “yielding” to the impersonal nature of the Way, and humbly being along for the ride that incurs momentary humiliation for the hostage, and then great relief for the host.
The Vision of the Spirit allows for wandering, blind alleys and dead ends. All twists and turns have already been Answered long ago in that game of snakes and ladders. No one ahead no one behind. Merely suspend “play” if you become aware that you think you are “a player” and be willing to step back and let Him lead the Way.
A blindfold can indeed obscure your sight,
but cannot make the way itself grow dark.
And He Who travels with you has the light.
By no longer following the laws of friendship, affiliation, or shared pathos which can never set us free, we become loyal only to Peace of Mind. As “all things work together for good” we become willing to risk every false comfort in service to experiencing the Peace of God as our one goal, now.
Yet space between you and your brother is apparent only in the present, now, and cannot be perceived in future time. No more can it be overlooked except within the present. —ACIM (T-26.VIII.4:1-2)
The Calling is clear; transparency and Clarity, through sharing and extending. Offering parables of Awakening, and joining intimately with groups of Brothers and Sisters for Joy.
The itinerant Rabbi’s sandals have been dusted off. Writing and Live broadcasts now seem to serve the Spirit’s plan better than retreats or one-to-ones. As we walk this Way together the Spirit has many opportunities for us to be “truly helpful” if we release our own perception of what is needed for the awakening mind. Resting in Trust and not needing to know, the tenth characteristic of a teacher of God, X. Open-Mindedness.
Mighty companions flank the mind and the Anam Cara’s of our hearts calling continue to mirror the eternal Holy Relationship of the Father and the Son, in Christ.
Now is timeless when we allow “all things to be exactly as they are” and walk with our Brother as our Self in True Empathy. Seeing clearly in the community of the mind, that no “body” needs help, we sink deeper into the intimate cocoon of Communion and in Acceptance of the Atonement, the Love for All extends.
The last judgement that we will ever have is that we could be “personally responsible” for Awakening.
But don’t worry there is nothing we can do to defended against the surprise and wonder that illuminates the ever present Love of God, gentle Guidance of the Holy Spirit, and vibrant support of our elder Brother Jesus!
Here is the passage from John O’Donohue’s conversation with John Quinn in Kinvara which sparked the sharing of this parable of Awakening.
“… we are infinitely more than our images of ourselves. One of the sad things today is that so many people are frightened by the wonder of their own presence.
They are dying to tie themselves into a system, a role, or to an image or to a predetermined identity that other people have actually settled on for them. This identity may be totally at variance with the wild energies that are rising inside their souls. Many of us get afraid and we eventually compromise. We settle for something that is safe, rather than engaging the danger and the wildness that is in our own hearts.
…Nietzsches saw with devastating clarity the collusion that society actually is. He stripped back the layers of lies, pretension and gamesmanship, and he got down to the wild flow of energy in the well of the soul. It is impossible to stop the well of light and the well of life that is inside you. You might calm it and quell it, but it will still rise up within you.”
—John O’Donohue from Walking in Wonder: Eternal Wisdom for a Modern World
Posthumously published Walking in Wonder is is John O’Donohue in conversation with renowned Irish broadcaster John Quinn with a foreword by OnBeing’s Krista Tippett. Avaliable Here