One thing that made Ireland so memorable was the Irish people, who with their warmth, quick easy wit and welcoming attitude, immediately captured our hearts. In County Sligo, in North-Central Ireland, we stayed in a converted stable at Lisserlough, a working farm owned by Marie and Joe Duignan, who made us feel completely at home and prepared fabulous meals for us. Our guide in Sligo, John Wilmott, AKA the Woodland Bard, shared his poetry, and his vast knowledge of the plant world and Irish mythology. He took us to magical caves, forests, faerie glens, and his thatched-roof cottage with its wonderful gardens and labyrinth. His harpist partner, Clare Roche, treated us to a private concert and the most delicious scones I have ever tasted. We were loath to leave all of them after four days; it felt like parting from family.
One’s heart can be opened wide on such spiritual undertakings, but a pilgrimage is only as valuable as the capacity to integrate the openings, insights and subtle energies experienced into your familiar life when you return.
I came home feeling much more grounded and aware of the ever-present availability of the Divine in the natural world. But perhaps more importantly than that, I was reconnected with a sense of magic, wonder and innocence that is always there beneath the surface, but we lose touch with it. How could I incorporate what had been gained on this journey into my day-in, day-out experience?
I realized that I wanted to disconnect more from electronics – TV, computer, cell phone – and spend more time in quiet reflection in nature. Our addiction to electronics and to left brain “rational” thinking gets in the way of our receiving and benefiting from the healing and restorative capacities of the natural world. You don’t have to travel as far away as Ireland to discover these gifts. We on the Monterey Peninsula live in an incredibly beautiful area filled with plenty of places where the grace of the Divine Mother is readily available. The natural world is ever available when we make time for it.
First it was just buzzing around in my vicinity, then it landed at the edge of the table, preening and rotating around, ever so slowly so I could admire it from every angle. Then it flew to the edge of my drinking glass, only a foot and a half away from me and made itself at home. It spent the entire lunch with me, alternating between flying and perching nearby. I have never been so close to a dragonfly, never mind for such an extended period of time, and it was such confirmation that I was on the right track.
The third lesson learned, from the Irish people themselves, is to be more welcoming to the stranger…and by that, I mean even the unwanted encounter or experience, whatever that might be, not just a particular individual I don’t yet know. When I do that, the rough edges of my life seem to soften, and I feel more in harmony with all that is.
I haven’t yet, but I intend to get a bird feeder. On the last leg of our journey, Sharlyn and I went on our own to visit a friend of hers, Ann Clerkin, in County Galway on the West Coast, who is a gardener and a bird whisperer, among other things. Her little sliver of a backyard garden was home to a countless array of birds, who were all her friends.
I vowed to read more poetry and let it inform my days. It used to be my practice to use my book of poetry by Hafiz as an oracle, opening at random to any page and seeing what it has to offer. But I had fallen out of the habit, so, I am rekindling this practice. Plus, I want to be more exploratory and read the works of poets I don’t yet know. Drawing oracle cards, as we did daily, is another simple way to influence the tenor of your day.
Finally, I am constantly reminding myself that there is magic and mystery afoot in this extraordinary and mind-boggling universe that God has created and we are privileged to inhabit.
Clearly, it is not necessary to make a trip to a faraway land to foster an atmosphere that keeps you connected to what is vital and nourishing and essential to mental/emotional health and spiritual growth. You can make small, incremental changes to your daily experience that can have a huge, qualitative impact on your life. You may have to face the obstacles in your consciousness that have prevented you from taking these steps before but that’s to be expected. At every step of the way, Treatment (affirmative prayer) is a valuable tool in making positive change.
So, I encourage you to pay close attention to what makes your heart sing and orient yourself toward that. It may be that your desire is simple and easily achievable, right here in your own backyard, or it may be that what your heart deeply longs for seems monumental, perhaps unattainable. Even if your heart’s calling seems out of reach, don’t let that deter you. Just take one step in the direction of your objective. In his “Hero’s Journey,” the late mythologist Joseph Campbell reveals to us that the simple act of committing to a course of action and taking the first step activates a force field that begins to orchestrate for you the means to achieve your desires. And I have certainly found that to be true.
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.
So, hope for a great sea-change
On this far side of revenge
Believe that a further shore is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.
Call the miracle self-healing:
The utter self-revealing
Doubletake of feeling.
If there’s a fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky
That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth-cry
Of new life at its term.