Friday, February 12, 2021

Final Chapter; John O' Donohue's Anam Cara Book Study Questions and Quotes; The Faces of Death. Hope and Comfort. A Beautiful Blessing for You.

 * Ironically this is also a chapter that brings peace and hope...maybe that is not ironic? I seem to recall that John's thoughts on death were especially profound in his book "Beauty the Invisible Embrace" (which is my favourite book of his.) Other than the chapter 'Solitude is Luminous', this was my second favourite chapter. To see the other study chapters for John O Donohue's Anam Cara click on the bottom label of this post. *

1.) "One of the faces of death is negativity. In every person there is some wound of negativity; this is the blister of your life... Some people are having wonderful lives right now, but they do not actually realize it. Maybe later on, when things become really difficult or desperate, a person will look back on these times and say, "You know, I was really happy then but sadly I never realized it."..." It wants to make you a stranger in your own life." (Pg. 200) Have you felt the weight of negativity when things are going well? How do you acknowledge negativity without becoming addicted to it? 

2.) "There is no soul without the shadow of fear. It is a courageous person who is able to identify his fears and work with them as forces for creativity and growth." (Pg. 201) John's answer for this is healthy detachment. Name some ways, as a group, that you can let go of outcomes, control, people or things in a loving and healthy manner.

3.) "Some people are afraid of being themselves. Many people allow their lives to be limited by that fear. They play a continual game, fashioning a careful persona that they think the world will accept or admire. Even when they are in the their solitude, they remain afraid of meeting themselves. One of the most sacred duties of ones's destiny is the duty to be yourself. When you come to accept yourself and like yourself, you learn not to be afraid of your own are balanced. It is so futile to weary your life with the politics of fashioning a persona in order to meet the expectations of other people. Life is very short, and we have a special destiny waiting to unfold for us. Sometimes through our fear of being ourselves, we sidestep that destiny and end up hungry and impoverished in a famine of our own making." (Pg. 202/ 203) When have you lost your voice or yourself to conform? How does your soul feel when you can not be true to your own nature? How can you transfigure into knowing thyself?

4.) "Death is a lonely visitor...having someone close to you die is an incredibly strange and desolate experience. Something breaks within you then that will never come together again. Gone is the person whom you loved, whose face and hands and body you knew so well...this is frightening. (pg. 207) John goes on to talk about the different Celtic Irish traditions surrounding death. Did any of these examples stand out to you?

5.) How did you feel about the statements John made about if you are at someone's death bed, to make sure you make it about them if you can and save your shattered moments for later if possible? How do you help them find dignity and serenity and see calm in your face and try to make their passing as easy as possible. Death can be traumatic or it can be dignified. It depends on the circumstance. For those left behind the scars and trauma can be immense, but for those going onward, it is best to ease when possible. Death is also a sacred lonely journey for the one passing and the ones whom love. Feel free to skip this question in a group setting due to these factors unless someone wishes to speak about a death experience for healing.

6.) I personally love that the Irish do not leave the dead person on their own for the first night and that they are left in familiar surroundings (if possible) to be comforted as their soul slowly leaves their body. "Our consumerist society has lost the sense of ritual and wisdom necessary to acknowledge this rite of passage. The person who has entered the voyage of death needs more in depth care. "( Pg 214.) Do you have hopes for your own funeral or death passing journey? 

7.) "Physical death, then, is not about the approach of a dark, destructive monster that cuts off your life and drags you away to an unknown place. Masquerading behind the face of your physical death is the image and presence of your deepest self, which is waiting to meet and embrace you. Deep down, you hunger to meet your soul. All during the course of our lives we struggle to catch up with ourselves. We are so taken up, so busy and distracted, that we cannot dedicate enough time to the depths within us. We endeavour to see ourselves and meet ourselves; yet there is such complexity in us and so many layers of the human heart that we rarely ever encounter ourselves." (Pg. 217) Discuss the hopes and thoughts this statement brings.

8.) "When you think about it, you should not let yourself be pressurized by life. You should never give away your power to a system or to other people. You should hold the poise, balance, and power of your soul within yourself. If no one can keep death away from you, the no one has ultimate power. Power is pretention. No one avoids death. Therefore the world should never persuade you of it's power over you, since it has no power whatever to keep death away from you....The waste of time is one of the greatest areas of loss in only get once chance. You have one journey through life; you cannot repeat even one moment or retrace one footstep...if you are able to let go of things, you learn to die spiritually in little ways during your life. When you learn to let goo f things, a greater generosity, openness and breath comes into your life. Imagine this letting go multiplied a thousand times at the moment of your death. That release can bring you a completely new divine belonging." (Pg. 218) How does thinking about your death help you LIVE? Is it liberating to realize no one can have complete control of you in this regard?

9.) "Imagine if you could talk to a baby in the womb and explain its unity with the mother. How this cord of belonging gives it life. If you could then tell the baby that this was about to end. It was going to be expelled from the woman, pushed through a very narrow passage finally to be dropped out into the vacant open light. The cord that held it to this mother womb was going to be cut, and it was going to be on its own forever more. If the baby could talk back, it would fear that it was going to die. For the baby within the womb, being born would seem like death. Our difficulty with these great questions is that we are only able to see them from on side. In other words, we can only see death from one side..." (Pg. 223) I love this passage. I plan to read it to my children because it makes death both more of a mystery and less of one. It is a comforting thought. I don't have a question for it...Just wanted to point it out.

10.) "It is a strange and magical fact to be here, walking around in a body, to have a whole world within you and a world at your fingertips outside of you. It is an immense privilege, and it is incredible that humans manage to forget the miracle bing here. Rilke said, 'Being here is so much.' It is uncanny how social reality can deaden and numb us so that the mystical wonder of our lives goes totally unnoticed. We are here. We are wildly and dangerously free. The more lonely side of being here is our separation in the world....many of our attempts to pray, love and to create are secret attempts at transfiguring that separation in order to build bridges outwards so that others can reach us and we can reach them. At death, this physical separation is broken." (Pg. 225) Wow, this was a lovely paragraph. Doesn't it make you wish to suck the marrow of joy out of life and rejoice in all the good things you do have? If not, how can you cultivate that gratitude of BEING in your life?

11.) "Meister Eckhart was once asked,Where does the soul of a person go when the person dies? He said, no place. Where else would the soul be going? Where else is the eternal world? It can be nowhere other than here. We have falsely spatialized the eternal world. We have driven the eternal out into some kind of distant galaxy. Yet the eternal world does not seem to be a place but rather a different state of being..."(Pg. 226) "Maybe when a person goes into that world (the circle of eternity) he or she can look back at what we call past time here. That person may also see all of future time. For the dead, present time is total presence. " How did these statements make you feel? When I was reading this part I though that many I know would find it pagan or blasphemous...yet ironically in the very next part (see question 12) that dissolved. Can you hold these seemingly to polarities? Can you marry the so called pagan or mystic with the divine and God? 

12.)"They are now in a place where there is no more shadow, darkness, loneliness, isolation or pain. They are home. They are with God from whom they came. They have returned to the nest of their identity within the great circle of God. God is the greatest circle of all, The largest embrace in the universe, which hold visible and invisible, temporal and eternal, as one." Just when you think he is going one way or confused on his christianity, he goes another...and yet, the way that he does it is not pushy or mainstream religious but about comfort, mysticism and a greater comfort and joy. How do you turn to your nest of identity without putting mainstream platitudes or religious platitudes or sayings into this?

Since this is the final chapter I will leave his final, beautiful, peace filled blessing to each of you here. Read it twice. Savour it. Know it. Become it. Repeat it in your darker hours;

"A Blessing of Death By John O' Donohue

I pray that you will have the blessing of being consoled and sure about your death. May you know in your soul that there is no need to be afraid. When your time comes, may you be given every blessin and shelter that you need. May there be a beautiful welcome for you in the home that you are going to. You are not going somewhere strange. You are going back to the home that you never left. May you have a wonderful urgency to live your life to the full. May you live compassionately and creatively and transfigure everything that is negative within you and about you. When you come to die may it be after a long life. May you be peaceful and happy and in the presence of those who really care for yo. May your going be sheltered and your welcome assured. May your soul smile in the embrace of your Anam Cara." (Pg. 231) 

My Answers:

1.) At times yes. Luckily, living with difference in health and mind, it is easier for me to be grateful BECAUSE of the hardships and struggles I have daily. Each day without much pain is such a gift. The breeze after being cooped up is a caress, the note of a friend after being dismissed by others is like a balm of Gilead. I do acknowledge negativity. Every day. Sometimes, as you have witnessed, I must write about it to purge it from my system and process it in a way that can transform into some from of positive aspect (like education, awareness, positive anger on behalf of justice, compassion, perspective ect.) That is how I do not become addicted to it. When I notice myself slipping, I take out my gratitude lists which I try to do often or daily. I also realize no one has power over me fully so being aware I am my best I AM and satisfying myself with that fact, takes the power away.

2.) This is a group discussion.

3.) I have learned this lesson over many youthful years in my twenties, the hard way. But, the dividends of taking time to know myself paid off. In certain situations I still mask quite a bit or go back to my 'former' self out of habit or protection. But mostly, I am happy to say, I am at peace. I am at peace with my beliefs. I am at peace with whom I am. I am at peace with my personality types and aspects (an important part of my journey along with my Autism diagnosis which I am now also at peace with.) It is a beautiful thing to have peace even if one is still stressed or is a well of inner knowing in the pool of an I Am. It is beauty and grace even when one is suffering from food poisoning in the bathroom (which happened to me last weekend) but knowing that they are not alone in their hour of darkness. There may be pain. There may be moments of temporary panic, but underneath, that water of BEING encompasses with waves that even this time is a gift.


5.) I have been near the death beds of a few people in my life. I do strive to not show much of my emotion which has labelled me ( at times) cold or unfeeling. But for myself, I feel it is my gift to the one whom is dying to smile, talk to them as normal as possible but with more grace and help them find comfort or last minute healing. This can be tough too. I won't always be what a person needs and that is ok. Then I step back. I find I am the same to those who are suffering from losing someone- like when my husband lost his mother. I find that I approach it in this way. However, I know without a doubt - with four people in my life- there will be a reckoning. There will be no comfort. I know this about myself which is why I wonder if I will go first...but I also long to hold on as long as possible to continue to help guide those in my care for as long as possible and for them to guide me.

6.) Yes I do. Both my husband and I have agreed we do not wish for traditional funerals. We want just our little family of valued souls to BE together and celebrate and mourn. Then perhaps if the ones behind are ready they can organize a small gathering of souls to comfort and celebrate but it is not required. We want our death passages to reflect our life. Small, private, mystical, love filled and home based. We do not need more.

7.) This is an important paragraph. I'm leaving it empty of my answers though.

8.) I love this. A resounding YES!

9.) -

10.) It IS a miracle. Wild and free! Yes, it does. Not by pursing riches or pleasure for pleasures sake but when I say suck the marrow out of life, I mean things like...when I wake up every morning the first aspect I notice is the light in the beautiful patterns of my curtains which remind me of my paternal grandmother which remind me of her laugh and sitting by her fire, safe and warm as a child. I give thanks. Next, when the blinds are open, the sun (if it is shining) hits an orange bejewelled sun fixture on my wall. My children will often hear me say, " Look the sun is on the sun. Pay attention at the beauty. It will soon move on." I start most of my mornings, even the pain filled ones this way. Then I take my cards and pick thoughts for the day and journal which gets me prepared in thought and deed. This makes my life wild and free. I admit that during the day I can lose sight once more with restlessness, pain or boredom or depression. When those moments come, I look to nature in my home (plants and colour and my stuff) or outside...and the little how the light sparkles on my crystals in the window or the dust softly floats down to my orange carpet, or how the wind on the deck chimes or the sweet smell of the marsh across the way is earthy...and I am grounded once more.

11.) I think this is easier for me than others...even when I was in a traditional setting of religion I was still this way...

12.) Beautiful. I wish you the beautiful blessing today. Thank you for participating in this book study with me. May you find beauty in the small, ordinary moments. Blessed Be.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for doing this book study for us. It was interesting.

Kmarie said...

You are most welcome:) It was hit and miss for timing due to so many factors but I am relieved it is finally done ha ha. While I wouldn't say it's impact on me is as strong as in prior times, I do think it had some beautiful sentences in there and some things to think upon. I am not of the mindset that I have to read everything I completely agree with ( to which I would probably not read much then!) But I do like to read things that at least give some SOUL to living...and I think this did that:)

Witchcrafted Life said...

Powerfully engaging topics and, in turn, replies to John's questions. I am perpetually interested in, and inspired by, other people's thoughts, feelings, and beliefs surrounding death. It is a universal experience that we will all go through, but how we interact with, and opt to face (or turn away from) this truth can vary wildly.

Autumn Zenith ๐Ÿงก Witchcrafted Life

Kmarie said...

Hey Autumn ๐Ÿ‚
You always give such lovely tidbits of insight. ๐ŸงกI agree that how we engage ( or don’t) with the topic of death determines a lot. ๐Ÿ’• I figured you would be the kind of person who would be fascinated and willing to engage and BE. Thanks for your beauty.