Last year I found a beautiful blessing that I shared with a friend who had lost her mother. It was such a simple, but deeply heartfelt thought to give someone at a time of loss. It was something I read by Naomi Shahib Nye, one of my favorite poets, and it touched my heart:
“Blessings on your mom’s memory and her spirit in you.”
Since then, I have been paying attention to all kinds of blessings and things written about them. I am not a religious person, but I believe in the power of words and poetry, and blessings are some of the most beautiful and powerful phrases to be found.
I recently read To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings, by John O’Donohue, and found some very nice ideas, poems and blessings. About blessings, he says:
In the parched deserts of postmodernity a blessing can be like the discovery of a fresh well. It would be lovely if we could rediscover our power to bless one another. I believe each of us can bless. When a blessing is invoked, it changes the atmosphere. Some of the plenitude flows into our hearts from the invisible neighborhood of loving kindness.
The publisher said this about the collection:
…his compelling blend of elegant, poetic language and spiritual insight offers readers comfort and encouragement on their journeys through life. O’Donohue looks at life’s thresholds—marriage, having children, starting a new job—and offers invaluable guidelines for making the transition from a known, familiar world into a new, unmapped territory.
As we enter the new year, we are all transitioning into new, unmapped territory with new goals and with many challenges to meet. So I share with you, as a New Year’s gift, one of his poems/blessings about new beginnings. And may your New Year be blessed with health and happiness!
FOR A NEW BEGINNING
In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
Autumn is a Transient
~by Maude O. Cook (my grandmother)
When Autumn spreads her crimson
Along the wayside trails,
And distant, fluted mountains
Are wearing soft blue veils;
When days are crisp and heady
Then is the time to go
To flaming slopes and by-ways,
Rich with prismatic glow:
For Autumn is a transient,
And soon she will depart —
She leaves behind the beauty
That is captured by the heart.
Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke, is a gem of a book. It consists of ten letters written to a young man who wrote to Rilke for advice on how to become a successful poet. These ten letters revealed the heart and soul of Rilke himself, and all were full of wisdom about finding what you are passionate about in life and living true to that vision.
Rilke’s first response to the young poet was to tell him that he should not look outside himself for advice…
Now (as you have permitted me to advise you) I beg you to give all that up. You are looking outwards, and of all things that is what you must now not do. Nobody can advise and help you, nobody. There is only one single means. Go inside yourself. Discover the motive that bids you write; examine whether it sends its roots down to the deepest places of your heart, confess to yourself whether you would have to die if writing were denied you. This before all: ask yourself in the quietest hour of your night: must I write? Dig down into yourself for a deep answer.
As the correspondence between the two men continued, the conversations became even more heartfelt, and were beautiful exchanges about life and living, growing and becoming, as both an artist and a human being.
In one of the early letters, Rilke recommended an author he admired and suggested the young poet read those works. I loved that sharing a favorite book was important to him, and his explanation of how that book had touched his life was quite wonderful…
Get hold of the little volume called Six Tales by J. P. Jacobsen, and his novel Niels Lyhne, and start with the first story in the former book, which is called Mogens. A world will come over you, the happiness, the wealth, the inconceivable greatness of a world. Live for a while in these books, learn from them what seems to you worth learning, but above all love them. Your love will be repaid a thousand thousandfold, and whatever your life may become,—will, I am convinced, run through the texture of your growing as one of the most important threads among all the threads of your experiences, disappointments and joys.
One more nugget of gold about Life:
So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloudshadows, passes over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any miseries, or any depressions? For after all, you do not know what work these conditions are doing inside you.”