Anam Cara by John O’Donohue

Some books are like a friend sitting on next to your bedside table. They soothe you each night as you go to sleep and smile at you in the morning when you wake. They provide words of wisdom and encouragement but also push you forward confidently into the unknown future. Anam Cara is one of those books. Every word does not hit the mark and there are times when you are not quite sure what you are reading, but you sense there is a gold nugget just around the corner. The nuggets do not disappoint.

O’Donahue’s words provide an inspiration to look within, spend time in solitude and treasure the undulations of everyday life. Perhaps I am too emotional, perhaps I am too sentimental, who knows, but I need books like this in my life. Living each day with the love, respect, and appreciation it deserves is no easy task. Authors like O’Donahue inspire but also develop a gratitude for all the gifts that already exist – if we merely take the time to celebrate them.

Here are a few topics which stuck with me – mostly patched together quotations from the book in italics.

The reflections on seasons pushed me to be gentler with the various seasons of life. Not just the longer stages of life between childhood, adulthood and old age but the seasons within the year, within the month and even the day. Emotions fluctuate. While routine and commitment are certainly required to achieve success in life, we cannot militaristically apply the same approach to each fluctuation. Sometimes a different approach is required, perhaps a harsher discipline is necessary, perhaps a gentler patience with oneself. This is a difficult skill to acquire but one worth cultivating.

We should not force ourselves to change by hammering our lives into a predetermined shape, operating according to the idea that there is a pre-determined plan for our lives. Rather we need to practice a new art of attention to the inner rhythm of our lives. Using a strong will to hammer your way through life brings you falsely outside of yourself where you can perish in a famine of your own making

The comments on familiarity were powerful and encouraged me to think of ways in which to peel back the familiarity with myself and those closest to me.

Hegel, “generally the familiar, precisely because it is familiar, is not known”

Behind the façade of the familiar, strange things await us. Friendships and relationships suffer immense numbing through familiarization.

Familiarity allows us to tame, control and forget the mystery.

Familiarity is one of the subtle and pervasive forms of human alienation

View yourself as a complete stranger to your, your relationships and location. Now what?

O’Donahue pays respect to the darkness and fear within us.

We falsely understand the subconscious as the cellar where all our repressions and self-sabotage are housed. We have imagined monsters down there out of fear of ourselves. but the subconscious is not all demons. The demons only haunt us if we remain afraid. Each demon holds a precious blessing, which will heal and set you free. To receive this gift, you have to lay aside your fear and take on the risk of loss and change, which every inner encounter offers^^

It is challenging, but we must find ways to turn towards those “demons”, not away from them.

Solitude and silence are difficult to find, but that is where our true essence lies.

Only in solitude can you discover a sense of your own beauty. No one was sent here without the depth and light of divine beauty. This beauty is frequently concealed behind the full facade of routine. “It is only in the neglected place that you will find the lobster”. I.E. In the neglected corners of your evaded solitude you will find the treasury that you have always sought elsewhere.

All words come out of silence. Words which have a depth, resonance, healing and challenge are words that are loaded with ascetic silence. Language which does not recognize its relationship with silence is banal, denotative and purely discursive. The language of poetry issues from and returns to silence.

Wishing you more silence, solitude and respect for the seasons of your life with less fear and familiarity.


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