One of the greatest conflicts in life is the conflict between the ego and the soul. The ego is threatened, competitive, and stressed, whereas the soul is drawn more toward surprise, spontaneity, the new and the fresh. Real soul has humor, irony and no obsessive self-seriousness.
– John O’Donohue from Anam Cara
My aha moment, that I was living too much in the world of my ego and not enough in my soul, came on a recent trip to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. As soon as my feet hit this island, after our 10 hour drive from Virginia, I felt lighter as I inhaled the combined scent of pines and ocean. While my life is good and I have much to be grateful for, I had been in a funk for several months. Relationships seemed strained. Debates that I would have at one time engaged in, caused angst. The very thought of the world’s situation drained me. I was only seeing a pessimistic world view and saw no constructive way for me to implement change. I couldn’t laugh at any political jokes. Everything seemed mean spirited, no matter which position was taken. Worse yet, I seemed to lose my ability to enjoy activities that once gave me joy. I had a severe case of writer’s block and activities that I thought I loved were feeling stale, stuck.
I’m not sure I even knew the source of my conflict and malaise. I had just read a phenomenal book, If Women Rose Rooted by Sharon Blackie which spoke to me on many levels. My friend, Marge Roche Richards (http://www.margerichards.com) recommended Ms. Blackie’s book and Anam Cara by John O’Donohue as preparation for a summer trip to Ireland that she was organizing. I was so moved by the power of Ms. Blackie’s words that I sought her out and learned that she was starting an on-line course related to the themes of her book. (http://www.thehedgeschool.org/the-voices-of-the-wells/). I immediately enrolled and as luck would have it, the first module arrived when I was at Hilton Head.
Anam Cara had been on my bookshelf for a few years. I opened it many times, but was always too pre-occupied with other things to really focus with attention on the book’s poetic message. Both books introduced me to Celtic Lore and Spirit from a perspective that was either unknown to me before or forgotten. As someone who grew up in a large extended Irish Catholic family, I thought I knew what it was to come from “Irish” roots. What I learned after reading O’Donohue’s work, is that I (my ego) is familiar with many things. But familiarity may not reach my Celtic soul.
Behind the facade of the familiar, strange things await us. This is true of our homes, the place where we live, and, indeed, of those we live with. Friendships and relationships suffer immense numbing through the mechanism of familiarization. We reduce the wilderness and mystery of person and landscape to the external, familiar image…Familiarity enables us to tame, control and ultimately forget the mystery…
– John O’Donohue Anam Cara
From Blackie’s work, I learned, on a deeper level, about the draw of nature and place as being essential to a soul connection. Her work led me to reflect on my relationship with trees. This inspired some new blog posts. (http://www.denyselefever.com/connections-with-trees/).
Together, both of these soulful writers, made me realize the importance of cultivating what is called in Eastern traditions, Beginner’s Mind – “an attitude of openness and lack of pre-conception”. Beginner’s mind can be helpful in times of stress or when feeling stuck. Whether it was the Celtic wisdom, beginner’s mind, or the magic of the live oaks, Spanish moss, pines, palms and ocean breezes on Hilton Head, the familiar island looked different to me. On our first evening, as we stepped out of our car, directly in front of us, I saw a magical tree which seemed to have the shape of a heart at the center of the trunk (Pictured in last post). Then on a walk through one of our favorite forest preserves in Sea Pines Plantation, I stumbled across a tree root (Pictured above) that looked to me like an elephant’s head and trunk. I started to giggle and immediately thought of the Hindu God, Ganesha, who is called upon to remove obstacles. He is also the patron of letters and learning.
With a smile, I acknowledged my Beginner’s mind for seeing this tree root as anything but familiar. Because Ms. Blackie’s course is causing me to think and reflect differently, I started to write more in my journal and deliver the on-line writing assignments more easily than expected. I returned home with a fresher outlook and a brighter perspective on what my soul needs. The world situation hasn’t changed. I still have no control over much in life, but my beginner’s mind has new perspectives. I’m finding time to appreciate mystery and magic in everyday interactions.
Upon return from our island sojourn, my hubby and I decided to welcome spring with a fairy garden in our front yard. We moved around some plants so that the front garden was a bit more open. There we placed several ceramic fairies and a little cottage. My husband joked, “I hope we don’t violate some homeowner rules by adding fairies to the garden.” One morning, I came out of the house to find a mother with a stroller stopped in front of our garden. Her 3 year old, curly haired, redhead daughter had one foot planted in the garden, the other in the street. She was bent over and wagged her index finger in the direction of the fairies. “No, no, no” she exclaimed in a very stern voice. Upon seeing me, she popped up with a look of surprise and ran behind her Mom. “I’m so sorry,” said her Mom. “We told her that if she didn’t give up her binkies on her own, the binkie fairies would come and take them away from her. She thinks your fairies may be binkie fairies!” Each morning, I now check to make sure there are no binkies in the garden.
In the Celtic tradition, we are approaching Beltane, an old ritual recognizing the transition to summer. Beltane was traditionally celebrated on 1 May. Cattle were moved to summer pastures. Crops were planted. Bonfires were lit to protect the land, crops and people. As we approach the 1st of May, consider welcoming the new season with beginners mind. Play with serendipitous discoveries that may bring more magic into your life. Think about whether you’re holding onto any binkies that would be best left with the fairies. Call upon Ganesha to remove any obstacles that may interfere with your soul connection. Find time to find mystery in the familiar!