A return to the beautiful writings of Irishman, John O’Donohue

Last week, I published a Post about John O’Donuhue‘s book Anam Cara, entitled Soul friend, the meaning of anam cara in Gaelic.  There were a number of lovely responses, both as comments to the Post, and as emails sent to me.  I thought I would share another essay with you.  First, some reflections about transfiguration or, perhaps a better word for today’s challenging times is ‘change’.

I have made no secret of my belief that we are in a period of great change, perhaps greater than mankind has faced before.  Possibly that is slightly hyperbolic, but looked at from the perspective of the extinction of homo sapiens then perhaps it is no exaggeration.  The vast majority of people, who stop and reflect, sense that on several fronts it is change or die!

A classic behavioural attribute of modern man is to see ‘change’ as something that others should do, rather than change coming from within.  From time to time, I have quoted this,

For today, I am in charge of my life.

Today, I choose my thoughts,

Today, I choose my attitudes,

Today, I choose my actions and behaviours,

With these, I create my life and my destiny.

Much, much easier to say, and write, than to undertake.  But it does underscore the obvious – change flows from our journey inwards.  Let’s turn to John O’Donohue’s inspirational words about this subject.

From the John O’Donohue website

Spirituality of transfiguration

Spirituality is the art of transfiguration. We should not force ourselves to change by hammering our lives into any predetermined shape. We do not need to operate according to the idea of a predetermined programme or plan for our lives. Rather, we need to practise a new art of attention to our inner rhythm of our days and lives. This attention brings a new awareness of our own human and divine presence. A dramatic example of this kind of transfiguration is the one all parents know. You watch your children carefully, but one day they surprise you; you still recognise them, but your knowledge of them is insufficient. You have to start listening to them all over again.

It is far more creative to work with the idea of mindfulness rather than with the idea of will. Too often people try to change their lives by using the will as a kind of hammer to beat their life into proper shape. The intellect identifies the goal of the programme, and the will accordingly forces the life into that shape. This way of approaching the sacredness of one’s own presence is externalistic and violent. It brings you falsely outside your own self and you can spend years lost in the wilderness of your own mechanical, spiritual programmes. You can perish in a famine of your own making.

If you work with a different rhythm, you will come easily and naturally home to your self. Your soul knows the geography of your destiny. Your soul alone has a map of your future, therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side of your self. If you do, it will take you where you need to go, but more importantly it will teach you a kindness of rhythm in your journey. There are no general principles for this art of being. Yet the signature of this unique journey is inscribed deeply in each soul. If you attend to your self and seek to come into your own presence, you will find exactly the right rhythm for your life. The senses are generous pathways which can bring you home.

A renewal, indeed a complete transfiguration of your life, can come through attention to your senses. Your senses are the guides to take you deep into the inner world of your heart. The greatest philosophers admit that to a large degree all knowledge comes through the senses. The senses are our bridge to the world. Human skin is porous; the world flows through you. Your senses are large pores which let the world in. Through attunement to the wisdom of your senses, you will never become an exile in your own life, an outsider lost in an external spiritual place which your will and intellect have constructed.

John O’Donohue Anam Ćara

 (c) John O’Donohue. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Please just read those words from John again.  Re-read the last paragraph.  Then go one paragraph up and read that again, “Your soul knows the geography of your destiny. Your soul alone has a map of your future, therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side of your self.  If you do, it will take you where you need to go, but more importantly it will teach you a kindness of rhythm in your journey.

Each of us taking us to where we need to go, and one by one, each of us taking our world to where it needs to go.

2 thoughts on “Transfiguration

  1. Paul,
    How timely and appropriate these writings of John O’Donohue come into play. It’s interesting to me how my very life seems to be falling into place; meeting you and your lovely wife, Jean, connecting with your blog, finding my new church. Six months ago it became obvious to me that my life was changing rapidly, so needed to make new and correct choices. Rather than listen to the outside forces, I instead listened to my instincts, my inner-self, my soul. A dear friend of mine e-mailed me at just about that time and directed the following to me – “Universal energies are accelerating, so whatever we create for ourselves now, with our thoughts and beliefs, will move into place more quickly.” “The world is your oyster, it’s time to clear out the grit and become the pearl.” Your blog continues to give me constant affirmation that I travel on the right path. As always, thank you Paul!


    1. Merci,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts across the Learning from Dogs readership. I am certain that what you articulate is experienced, literally, also by hundreds of thousands of people across the globe, if not millions. There’s no doubt in my mind that change truly flows from our journey inwards. lol, Paul


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