Only half a circle


The creator of the universe loves circles: time and space are circles, the day is a circle, the year is a circle, the earth is a circle.

But when creating and fashioning the human heart, the creator only created a half-circle, so that there is something ontologically unfinished in human nature.

The beautiful irony is that even though we’re housed in separate bodies there is a profound hidden tissue of absolute connection between us. The Celtic tradition sensed that no one lives for herself alone. Your call to discover who you are and to bring your soul into birth is also a great act of creativity toward everyone else.

John O’Donohue, The Presence of Compassion


Don’t interpret

Cold weather forecast for today, with snow possible on higher ground:

A monk wanted to know what was Mahaprajna, Great or Absolute Wisdom. The Master answered:

“The snow is falling fast and all is enveloped in mist.”

The monk remains silent. The Master asks: “Do you understand?”“No, Master, I do not”. 

Thereupon the Master composed a verse for him:

Great Wisdom: It is neither taking in nor giving up. 
If one understands it not, The wind is cold, the snow is falling.

The monk is ‘trying to understand” when in fact he ought to try to look. The apparently mysterious and cryptic sayings  become much simpler when we see them in the whole context of “mindfulness” or awareness, which in its most elementary form consists in “bare attention” which simply sees what is right there and does not add any comment, any interpretation, any judgment, any conclusion. It just sees. 

If one reaches the point where understanding fails, this is not a tragedy:

it is simply a reminder to stop thinking and start looking.

Perhaps there is nothing to figure out after all: perhaps we only need to wake up.

Thomas Merton, Zen and the Birds of Appetite,

A morning thanksgiving


I give thanks for arriving

Safely in a new dawn,

For the gifts of eyes

To see the world,

The gift of mind

To feel at home

In my life.

The waves of possibility

Breaking on the shore of dawn,

The harvest of the past

That awaits my hunger,

And all the furtherings

This new day will bring.

John O Donohue

More than our fears

In Ireland,  Summer is officially over at the end of August, and, as if to acknowledge this, yesterday began foggy and grey. Typically,  however, the rest of the day turned out better than most of the Summer. The fog passed through, the sun came out. Today, we are told to expect heavy rain.  Small upsets or bigger storms…the sky can hold whatever passes through it.

It is essential to understand that an emotion is merely something that arises, remains and then goes away. A storm comes, it stays a while, and then it moves away. At the critical moment remember you are much more than your emotions. This is a simple thing that everyone knows, but you may need to be reminded of it: you are more than your emotions.

Thich Nhat Hahn, Healing Pain and Dressing Wounds