Reaching Sunward

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

Beannacht (“Blessing”) by John O’Donohue

A poem for healing, grace, generosity and strength of spirit for a friend in need….

Beannacht (“Blessing”) by John O’Donohue

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O’Donohue also wrote Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

A Book of Celtic Wisdom  

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Meditation practice from The Art of Mindful Living by Thich Nhat Hanh

The Art of Mindful Living by Thich Nhat Hanh

Breathing in, I see myself as a flower

Breathing out, I feel fresh

Breathing in, I feel myself as a mountain

Breathing out, I feel solid

Breathing in, I see myself as still water

Breathing out, I feel myself reflecting clearly

Breathing in, I feel space inside me and around me

Breathing out, I feel free


To live in forgetfulness means to get lost in the past and in the future, to be possessed by anger, hatred, fear, and therefore you are not ready to enter the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is available to you in every moment.

To get rid of forgetfulness, you practice breathing in and out and the result is mindfulness. And with mindfulness you get in touch with everything that is wonderful, that is refreshing, that is healing in the present moment.

A brief paraphrased summary of each practice is written below:

Breathing in, I see myself as a flower

Breathing out, I feel fresh

Humans are born as flowers. We are fresh and beautiful. You can offer someone a flower with your eyes, when you smile at them with your eyes. Your smile is another flower you can offer to anyone at anytime. When you look at someone and you smile with your eyes you offer them two flowers. When you smile with your lips you offer another flower. With my hands I can form a flower – a lotus flower, and when I bow to someone, I make a flower with my hands and I say, “a flower for you, the Buddha to be.” So my hands are flowers, capable of making someone happy. We are born as flowers but we must take care of our flowers or we will wilt. When you breathe in deeply you make every cell in your body smile like a flower, and for your sake and for the happiness of others you should be fresh. If you are grouchy and irritated, people around you cannot be happy. So practice refreshing yourself. The Buddha sits on a lotus flower – it means anywhere he sits, he sits with peace, happiness and freshness. If we have too many worries, we cannot sit on a flower – we sit on burning coals. But if we practice taking care of our flower, we can have peace with us anywhere.

Breathing in, I feel myself as a mountain

Breathing out, I feel solid

From time to time a very strong emotion overwhelms us – it can be anger or despair or fear. When this happens we feel very vulnerable, breakable. But we are more than our emotions. We are more solid than we may think. So practice being solid like a mountain. When we look at a tree during a storm, we see the top of the tree swaying – it is not solid. You see the leaves and branches and you have the impression that the tree is vulnerable and fragile. But if you see that the tree is firmly rooted in the ground, the impression that the tree is vulnerable will vanish. You see that the tree is more solid than it looks at the top. We are like these trees. Emotions pass over us at the top but we have the trunk down here…. a little below your navel. Bring your attention down to this level, and breathe in and out. Then your emotion will not be able to destroy you anymore. We should practice this every day so that when emotions overwhelm us we know how to handle it.

Breathing in, I see myself as still waters

Breathing out, I feel myself reflecting clearly

When we are not calm we distort things. We cannot receive the message of other people; we cannot receive the truth from others. Suppose the moon wants to reflect herself in the water of your pond, but the water of your pond is not calm. How can the full moon reflect herself in you? It’s not the fault of the moon, it’s the fault of the water. If the pond of the mind is still, the moon will reflect herself in it. If you are still then your perceptions will be correct. We will understand what people are trying to tell us. The moon, the mountains, the rivers, the trees, everything is trying to tell us the truth. But because the water of our mind is not still, we cannot receive the truth from the cosmos. We must calm ourselves for true understanding to be possible.

Breathing in, I feel space inside me and around me

Breathing out, I feel free

If you don’t have space, how can you be happy? We all need space around us in and inside us. We have to move and have liberty, and we need space to do that. The refreshing moon of the Buddha travels in the sky of the utmost emptiness. The Buddha has a lot of space inside and outside. Those who have more space are happier. Give your loved ones some space. When you arrange flowers, each flower needs some space around for the flower to radiate its beauty and its freshness. Human beings are like flowers; they are flowers, and each one needs space around. Offer freedom and emptiness to yourself and others. Don’t be so busy that you have no space.

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Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle Received from a Friend Called Felicity

My friend Gina is canning peaches and tomatoes, figs and all kinds of summer-lovely things, and as she was telling me about going to buy the last of the summer fruit, I was reminded of this poem that I loved when I was a kid. “Stop the grocery list right there” I said, and I ran to my poetry collection to show her this poem…

After Christmas, when the long, drawn out months of winter are on me and I can’t wait for Spring, I will be so thankful and happy to have some of Gina’s beautiful yellow-orange-pink peaches, and let the colors and flavors of summer refresh me. Thanks Gina!

Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle Received from a Friend Called Felicity

During that summer
When unicorns were still possible;
When the purpose of knees
Was to be skinned;
When shiny horse chestnuts

(Hollowed out
Fitted with straws
Crammed with tobacco
Stolen from butts
In family ashtrays)

Were puffed in green lizard silence
While straddling thick branches
Far above and away
From the softening effects
Of civilization;

During that summer–
Which may never have been at all;
But which has become more real
Than the one that was–
Watermelons ruled.

Thick, pink, imperial slices
Melting frigidly on sun-parched tongues
Dribbling from chins;
Leaving the best part,
The black bullet seeds,
To be spit out in rapid fire
Against the wall
Against the wind
Against each other;

And when the ammunition was spent,
There was always another bite:
It was a summer of limitless bites,
Of hungers quickly felt
And quickly forgotten
With the next careless gorging.

The bites are fewer now.
Each one is savored lingeringly,
Swallowed reluctantly.

But in a jar put up by Felicity,
The summer which maybe never was
Has been captured and preserved.
And when we unscrew the lid
And slice off a piece
And let it linger on our tongue:
Unicorns become possible again.

John Tobias