There must be some primeval magnet that draws me toward the sea. Just being there replenishes me in a way that nothing else can. I can’t really tell you why, but for me it has become a lot like going home. Going home has different meanings for all of us, but I would venture to say that for most of us, it stems from a longing buried deep within our hearts.
Just what is this insatiable desire, and how does it shape us and bring meaning to our lives? In Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on our Yearning to Belong, John O’Donohue explores these questions in depth. Here are some of the insights he offers:
1. The Heart’s Longing is a Call From Within
O’Donohue believes our search for purpose—and even our search for identity—stems from a loneliness in our hearts. That loneliness is the whisper of “our inner infinity,” reminding us that we are more than we know.
2. Self-Acceptance is Key in Celtic Spirituality
If we are to reconnect with those deep levels, we must learn to be our own best friend. We begin that friendship through the simple act of self-acceptance. Our hunger for acceptance is in itself a unique form of pain. When we learn to love and accept ourselves—just the way we are—we bring an end to that torment and begin healing the fractured places in our lives.
3. Challenge Can Be a Gift
It’s the nature of the soul to be joyful. That joy just naturally spills over into our lives whenever we move beyond the prison of our past conditioning. Neither a stifled life nor a stifled soul can ever really grow, but we are here to grow. To be on the cutting edge of life is to grow. When we are able to accept and perhaps even welcome the rigors of growth, our challenges will drive us toward our inner frontiers.
4. Honor Your Secret Roots
O’Donohue reminds us that growth is deeply related to the earth itself. If ever there was a people aware of their earth connection, it was the Celts. O’Donohue himself is of Celtic origin. His understanding of Celtic spirituality runs deep. He knows whereof he speaks when he talks about people who just naturally walk with one foot on earth and the other foot in heaven. They recognize that secret root in heaven and seek to honor it even as they honor the earth on which they live.
5. We are Temporary Guests Here
In Celtic spirituality, they see the earth as a great shelter, their body as part of that shelter. They know they are temporary guests here, and do not seek their satisfaction just from the clay of the earth. Instead, they see themselves as ancient beings who give expression to the invisible source from which we all have come.
Unfortunately, we have lost our sense of connection with our source. Once we awaken to what we have done, we are inevitably drawn toward the sacred presence in our heart.
6. Presence is Everywhere
O’Donohue believes that presence is everywhere, just as space and light are everywhere. Ancient wisdom says that presence is the Self expressing itself as itself. The flow of that presence spills over in great music, art, and poetry, and reaches deep inside us where it touches a chord of recognition.
That chord is the eternal echo of the divine within our soul. We vibrate to it. We resonate with it. It quickens us through and through with its animating force. This is the tonic chord that resounds in the vital depths of all creation. It springs out of the very heart of silence itself, creating a deep, creative rhythm and harmony that testifies to the innate unity of all things.
7. Nature is a Door to Presence
If you’ve ever walked through acres of flowers, you know what O’Donohue means. The beauty of pure being and the joy of expression spills over through every leaf and stem. Gardens are alive with presence. One can all but see the invisible spirit revealing itself through its delicate little flowers. Not a word is uttered, nor is it needed. In its own way, presence reveals itself.
8. Listen to Your Soul’s Whispers
That is why it is so healing to get away from the chaos of cosmopolitan life and move into the silent inner space that our secret immensity calls home. From this immensity creativity flows and inspiration springs. We draw on this source when strength is needed, and when our soul breaks forth in laughter, that, too, is the product of these deep streams. When we maintain a sense of balance and proportion between our inner and outer journeys, we find the hidden fullness of our soul where our deeper rhythms are kept secure.
9. The Presence is Timeless
The soul is so wise. It can see horizons of which we have not even dreamed. Life has a way of leading us toward those horizons. It takes us to unexpected places and puts us in scenarios we couldn’t have planned, even if we’d tried. Along the way, it reveals a meaning and purpose we could not possibly have foreseen. Such are the ways of those who let life take them where it will, trusting that a higher wisdom is guiding their every step.
The mountains know that wisdom well. Their silence is all-pervading, their peace unmeasured. In the mountains, there is only Now. The timelessness of other days and other years are somehow framed by this moment, this day, this hour. The tall and stately pines stand like silent sentinels, watching over it all. Occasional guests to this quiet, holy place scurry by in their motor-driven conveyances, totally unaware of the sanctuary that has escaped them. The towering trees just seem to nod and smile as they silently harbor the ancient secret man has yet to discover—there is no place to go, there is nothing to do. It is quite enough just to be.
10. Just Being is Enough
All of Nature meditates. Her simple eloquence is silent testimony to the One Great Truth that I Am, and there is none other beside me. Yes, out there in the hills, there is no need to struggle or strain. To stand still and just be is quite enough. At that moment you know that if you never climbed another mountain or forded another stream–if you never did another thing–it would be all right.
Being is all life really asks of us. In that being, we are exactly where we need to be, and the doing just seems to take care of itself.
There are a lot of ways to wander. There are just as many ways to come home, but do not be deceived. We are more deeply rooted than we realize. Those roots reach into our very soul, allowing us to sail the seas of life with the absolute certainty that we are never truly lost. So let us run the course before us, knowing that in our soul we are already home.