Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Solitude and Wisdom of Beauty During Suffering Inspired by John O Donohue

*POST EDIT: For those following our mom passed away last night. I hope to write a post about her soon as she was the glue to the family for us and she was our biggest advocate, accepting friend, and nurturing mom. All our love mom. xo.*

"There is the solitude of suffering, when you go through darkness that is lonely, intense, and terrible. Words become powerless to express your pain; what others hear from your words is so distant and different from what you are actually suffering.” 
John O'Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
Many of my readers and friends surrounding are suffering. From disease and broken backs to financial situations to death of a loved one...Suffering abounds. As John O Donohue aptly remarks- our individual suffering is lonely, intense and terrible. There are no words for comfort or to convey our distress when we are in our darkest times. Yet, while we have breath we crave moments of beauty and light. We manage our suffering by balancing the life and wisdom of beauty. Sometimes we have to lose ourselves in this beauty, and at others we have to force ourselves to become acutely aware to our pain to find the source. "When we hear the word 'beauty', we inevitably think that beauty belongs in a special elite realm where only the extraordinary dwells. Yet without realizing it, each day each one of us is visited by beauty. When you actually listen to people, it is surprising how often beauty is mentioned. A world without beauty would be unbearable....When we hear some beautiful piece of Mozart or admire a wonderful building, we suddenly become present in ourselves. That's unusual nowadays because dishevelment and distraction have become an art form. "John O'Donohue

Being present in ourselves is both brutal and beautiful. When grief grips presence feels impossible, and when joy abounds our essence can feel constrained. Beauty is not a pretty asymmetrical face, though to the eye that loves that face, it IS, but beauty is deeper. Beauty is a home coming. "The human soul is hungry for beauty; we seek it everywhere - in landscape, music, art, clothes, furniture, gardening, companionship, love, religion, and in ourselves. No one would desire not to be beautiful. When we experience the beautiful, there is a sense of homecoming...The human gaze is not the closed, fixed view of a camera but it is creative and constructive. Both the gaze that sees and the object that is seen construct themselves simultaneously in the one act of vision. So much depends on how we see things. More often than not the style of gaze determines what we see. There are many things near us that we never notice simply because of the way we see. The way we look at things has a huge influence on what becomes visible for us. If a house has been closed up for a long time, a film of dust settles on the windows. Decayed residue gradually manages to seal out the light. When we go into such a place, we smell the dankness of sour fetid air. The same thing can happen in the windows of the mind."- John O Donohue.
From Mona Lisa smiles to Cheshire Cat grins, the world is found within perspective. We see the story we tell ourselves. To some the Mona Lisa is sneakily hiding secrets, to others she is simply giving a smile with no guile. The Cheshire Cat can be scary or wise, terrifying or helpful...or perhaps a mix of both. Likewise, at times, terrible suffering can also be accompanied by bits of beauty. Tiny flickering moments of hopeful awakening or connective lights reach deep within to gently warm back sanity. While there IS great darkness abounding and we DO need to face our grief before we travel onward, this is only part of our journey. When grief returns to shadows we can finally see that the biggest beauty we own is our choice of lens. Sometimes that lens means bleak darkness. Each expression is legitimate. We determine what we see. "No one else has access to the world you carry around within yourself; you are its custodian and entrance. No one else can see the world the way you see it. No one else can feel your life the way you feel it. Thus it is impossible to ever compare two people because each stands on such different ground. When you compare yourself to others, you are inviting envy into your consciousness; it can be a dangerous and destructive guest.” (John O'Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom)

"We live between the act of awakening and the act of surrender. Each morning, we awaken to the light and the invitation to a new day in the world of time; each night, we surrender to the dark to be taken to play in the world of dreams where time is no more. " -John O'Donohue.  In this tangible life, there is both darkness in light. Both require surrender and awakening. An easier example of this analogy would be in friendship. "Every friendship travels at sometime through the black valley of despair. This tests every aspect of your affection. You lose the attraction and the magic. Your sense of each other darkens and your presence is sore. If you can come through this time, it can purify with your love, and falsity and need will fall away. It will bring you onto new ground where affection can grow again.”  I have had friends whom I thought I would never speak to again. Each of us took turns in darkness...we lost the magic collectively and individually. I'm not talking about the turning of time when friends need to take separate paths. My cousins are friends and sisters for life...yet we have had moments when our affection was tested. Luckily, our love was purified after time healed...and honouring the darkness was part of this journey. The magic grew from beauty and life. There is hope even in this.

YET, if you are reading this and not ready to embrace the beauty and magic, and the brutal is just so engulfing - know this (parenthesis mine):
"You are not obligated to do everything a healthy person does (in mind, emotion, or in body- or a happy person.) You are NOT obligated to be an inspiration. You are not obligated to hide your illness (or grief) in order to make people comfortable. You are allowed to know your limits. You are allowed to have bad days. You are allowed to stay in bed if you can't get up to do anything but go to the bathroom. It is not our fault if other people leave you because of your illness (or grief.) It is not your fault that you are sick (or sad.) You don't have to apologize for something that is out of your control."- Unknown quote

The integrity of your soul matters. Feel what is true to you. Think lovely thoughts but darkness is allowed too. You are allowed that mystery and authenticity. It is it's own beauty. "When you acknowledge the integrity of your solitude, and settle into its mystery, your relationships with others take on a new warmth, adventure and wonder." John O'Donohue. This includes the relationship with yourself. The quote below can also apply to yourself. Love yourself this avidly and then love others in your circles with the same warmth and wonder.

Beauty can not be a constant companion. Nor can inspiration. To hold on avidly and desperately to beauty is futile. However, beauty is a visitation that helps us choose who we are and where we will go..."What are you going to do with all that darkness? Find a way to glow in it."- Amanda Torroni. "Beauty does not linger; it only visits. Yet beauty's visitation affects us and invites us into its rhythm; it calls us to feel, think and act beautifully in the world: to create and live a life that awakens the Beautiful. A life without delight is only half a life." John O'Donohue

Wishing you wisdom, solitude and beautiful moments during your darkest hours. xo.

**All quotes of John O Donohue taken from my two favourite books of his "Anam Cara" (which we named our home after) and "Beauty the Invisible Embrace". Links to the books on my library page.

Song: Cry Ophelia- Adam Cohen. (A friend gave this on a mix tape in high school and the first time I heard it the lyrics wound their way into my melancholic teenage soul.) 
Desperado - Eagles. ( Sorry for the weird image...The Eagles knew how to write a tune. Their songs capture my mind with their engagement of imagery, wisdom, and soul. It's a song that reminds me about perspective...that my time is still here and it's not too late until it is.)
Lost- Michael Buble. (I first heard this song after I had my miscarriage. I listened to it over and over again. The tears would always slip when Michael would croon "Baby you're not lost.")


FlutistPride said...

The most dangerous place I can be is alone with my own thoughts.

S said...

Today, just before reading your blog, I happened to meet a friend of mine who was very disturbed by something. I could sense her suffering but could do nothing to comfort her. Suffering is so intense and private that even having empathy does not allow us to reach out to those who are suffering.What I have learned is that we have to go through suffering by accepting it and not trying to change it or fight with it. Accepting is very painful in the beginning but once we go through it, a bigger lesson emerges and after we come out of it, we become more powerful and wiser than before. According to some scriptures that I have read (although it is hard to believe) suffering cleanses the soul.
The other day, I read about something called "The Dark Night of the Soul ". This is something similar to a spiritual crisis that we go through often in our lives. At the end of it, we become bitter at first...and after that the bitterness paves the way for the transformation of the soul and sometimes, the transformation of our entire persona, or a major change in our perspective, a transformation which is perhaps very necessary for the growth of our soul. As T. Scott McLeod said,“You necessarily have to be lost, before you’re found.”

Kmarie A. said...

Flutist Pride: For most it is healthy but for some it is very unhealthy to have prolonged periods with quiet thought moments. I can go either depends on the moment...

Beautiful point about accepting and walking through it. So many stages of grief, different types and different shifts for each person. Some people use pain to further damage themselves and others, but luckily most try to become wiser versions of themselves. Perhaps it cleanses the soul because we have to face sticky parts of our selves and we are forced to feel things...and we change.
Oh I have read the book the Dark Night of the Soul. That is a beautiful sentiment. Tis true in order to be found, you do have to be lost first. Thank you for your thoughts and as always I appreciate your comments. BTW did you end up watching Once Upon a Time? What did you think of it?