To Bless the Space Between Us

To Bless the Space Between Us

by John O'Donohue


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385522274
Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/04/2008
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 20,969
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

JOHN O’DONOHUE is the author of several books, including, most recently, Beauty, and the international bestsellers Anam Cara and Eternal Echoes, as well as two collections of poetry, Echoes of Memory and Conamara Blues. He lives in Ireland and frequently travels to the United States to give lectures and conduct workshops.

Read an Excerpt

1    Beginnings

There are days when Conamara is wreathed in blue Tuscan light. The mountains seem to waver as though they were huge dark ships on a distant voyage. I love to climb up into the silence of these vast autonomous structures. What seems like a pinnacled summit from beneath becomes a level plateau when you arrive there. Born in a red explosion of ascending fire, the granite lies cold, barely marked by the millions of years of rain and wind. On this primeval ground I feel I have entered into a pristine permanence, a continuity here that knew the wind hundreds of millions of years before a human face ever felt it.

When we arrive into the world, we enter this ancient sequence. All our beginnings happen within this continuity. Beginnings often frighten us because they seem like lonely voyages into the unknown. Yet, in truth, no beginning is empty or isolated. We seem to think that beginning is setting out from a lonely point along some line of direction into the unknown. This is not the case. Shelter and energy come alive when a beginning is embraced. Goethe says that once the commitment is made, destiny conspires with us to support and realize it. We are never as alone in our beginnings as it might seem at the time. A beginning is ultimately an invitation to open toward the gifts and growth that are stored up for us. To refuse to begin can be an act of great self-neglect.

Perhaps beginnings make us anxious because we did not begin ourselves. Others began us. Being conceived and born, we eventually enter upon ourselves already begun, already there. Instinctively we grasp onto and continue within the continuity in which we find ourselves. Indeed, our very life here depends directly on continuous acts of beginning. But these beginnings are out of our hands; they decide themselves. This is true of our breathing and our heartbeat. Beginning precedes us, creates us, and constantly takes us to new levels and places and people. There is nothing to fear in the act of beginning. More often than not it knows the journey ahead better than we ever could. Perhaps the art of harvesting the secret riches of our lives is best achieved when we place profound trust in the act of beginning. Risk might be our greatest ally. To live a truly creative life, we always need to cast a critical look at where we presently are, attempting always to discern where we have become stagnant and where new beginning might be ripening. There can be no growth if we do not remain open and vulnerable to what is new and different. I have never seen anyone take a risk for growth that was not rewarded a thousand times over.

There is a certain innocence about beginning, with its excitement and promise of something new. But this will emerge only through undertaking some voyage into the unknown. And no one can foretell what the unknown might yield. There are journeys we have begun that have brought us great inner riches and refinement; but we had to travel through dark valleys of difficulty and suffering. Had we known at the beginning what the journey would demand of us, we might never have set out. Yet the rewards and gifts became vital to who we are. Through the innocence of beginning we are often seduced into growth.

Sometimes the greatest challenge is to actually begin; there is something deep in us that conspires with what wants to remain within safe boundaries and stay the same. Years ago my neighbor here set out to build his new home. He had just stripped the sod off the field to begin digging out the foundation when an old man from the village happened to come by. He blessed the work and said, "You have the worst of it behind you now." My neighbor laughed and said, "But I have only just begun." The old man said, "That's what I mean. You have begun; and to make a real beginning is the most difficult act." There is an old Irish proverb that says, "Tus maith leath na hoibre." "A good beginning is half the work."  There seems to be a wisdom here, when one considers all the considerations, hesitation, and uncertainty that can claim our hearts for such a long time before the actual act of beginning happens. Sometimes a period of preparation is necessary, where the idea of the beginning can gestate and refine itself; yet quite often we unnecessarily postpone and equivocate when we should simply take the risk and leap into a new beginning.

The Greeks believed that time had secret structure. There was the moment of Epiphany when time suddenly opened and something was revealed in luminous clarity. There was the moment of krisis when time got entangled and directions became confused and contradictory. There was also the moment of kairos; this was the propitious moment. Time opened up in kindness and promise. All the energies cohered to offer a fecund occasion of initiative, creativity, and promise. Part of the art of living wisely is to learn to recognize and attend to such profound openings in one's life. In the letters between Boris Pasternak and Olga Ivinskaya there is the beautiful recognition: "When a great moment knocks on the door of your life, its sound is often no louder than the beating of your heart and it is very easy to miss it." To live a conscious life, we need to constantly refine our listening.

The Jewish tradition believed that time had its own psychic seasons. In the book of Ecclesiastes there is a list of the correspondences between certain events and their proper time:
To every thing, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a

time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Before it occurs, a beginning can be a long time in preparation. This is why some beginnings take off with great assuredness, and one can instinctively recognize that the right direction has been chosen. Without any struggle, one enters into a fluency that seemed to have been awaiting one's choice. Other beginnings are awkward and slow, and it takes considerable time before the new path opens or welcomes one. Sometimes beginnings can catch us unawares. Often when something is ending we discover within it the spore of new beginning, and a whole new train of possibility is in motion before we even realize it.

When the heart is ready for a fresh beginning, unforeseen things can emerge. And in a sense, this is exactly what a beginning does. It is an opening for surprises. Surrounding the intention and the act of beginning, there are always exciting possibilities. This inevitably excites artists. So much can actually happen between the moment the brush is taken into the hand and the moment it touches the canvas. Such beginnings have their own mind, and they invite and unveil new gifts and arrivals in one's life. Beginnings are new horizons that want to be seen; they are not regressions or repetitions. Somehow they win clearance and become fiercely free of the grip of the past. What is the new horizon in you that wants to be seen?


Somewhere, out at the edges, the night

Is turning and the waves of darkness

Begin to brighten the shore of dawn
The heavy dark falls back to earth

And the freed air goes wild with light,

The heart fills with fresh, bright breath

And thoughts stir to give birth to color.


I arise today
In the name of Silence

Womb of the Word,

In the name of Stillness

Home of Belonging,

In the name of the Solitude

Of the Soul and the Earth.
I arise today
Blessed by all things,

Wings of breath,

Delight of eyes,

Wonder of whisper,

Intimacy of touch,

Eternity of soul,

Urgency of thought,

Miracle of health,

Embrace of God.
May I live this day
Compassionate of heart,

Clear in word,

Gracious in awareness,

Courageous in thought,

Generous in love.

A Morning Offering

I bless the night that nourished my heart

To set the ghosts of longing free

Into the flow and figure of dream

That went to harvest from the dark

Bread for the hunger no one sees.
All that is eternal in me

Welcomes the wonder of this day,

The field of brightness it creates

Offering time for each thing

To arise and illuminate.
I place on the altar of dawn:

The quiet loyalty of breath,

The tent of thought where I shelter,

Waves of desire I am shore to

And all beauty drawn to the eye.
May my mind come alive today

To the invisible geography

That invites me to new frontiers,

To break the dead shell of yesterdays,

To risk being disturbed and changed.
May I have the courage today

To live the life that I would love,

To postpone my dream no longer

But do at last what I came here for

And waste my heart on fear no more.

A Blessing for the New Year


For Josie.
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 gray window

And the ghost of loss

Gets into you,

May a flock of colors,

Indigo, red, green

And azure blue,

Come to awaken in you

A meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays

In the curragh 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.

In Praise of Fire

Let us praise the grace and risk of Fire.
In the beginning,

The Word was red,

And the sound was thunder,

And the wound in the unseen

Spilled forth the red weather of being.
In the name of the Fire,

The Flame

And the Light:

Praise the pure presence of fire

That burns from within

Without thought of time.
The hunger of Fire has no need

For the reliquary of the future;

It adores the eros of now,

Where the memory of the earth

In flames that lick and drink the air

Is made to release
Its long-enduring forms

In a powder of ashes

Left for the wind to decipher.
As air intensifies the hunger of fire,

May the thought of death

Breathe new urgency

Into our love of life.
As fire cleanses dross,

May the flame of passion

Burn away what is false.
As short as the time

From spark to flame,

So brief may the distance be

Between heart and being.
May we discover

Beneath our fear

Embers of anger

To kindle justice.
May courage

Cause our lives to flame,

In the name of the Fire,

And the Flame

And the Light.
For a New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming,

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,

Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,

Noticing how you willed yourself on,

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety

And the gray promises that sameness whispered,

Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,

And out you stepped onto new ground,

Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear

You can trust the promise of this opening;

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning

That is at one with your life's desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
For Light

Light cannot see inside things.

That is what the dark is for:

Minding the interior,

Nurturing the draw of growth

Through places where death

In its own way turns into life.
In the glare of neon times,

Let our eyes not be worn

By surfaces that shine

With hunger made attractive.
That our thoughts may be true light,

Finding their way into words

Which have the weight of shadow

To hold the layers of truth.
That we never place our trust

In minds claimed by empty light,

Where one-sided certainties

Are driven by false desire.
When we look into the heart,

May our eyes have the kindness

And reverence of candlelight.
That the searching of our minds

Be equal to the oblique

Crevices and corners where

The mystery continues to dwell,

glimmering in fugitive light.
When we are confined inside

The dark house of suffering

That moonlight might find a window.
When we become false and lost

That the severe noon-light

Would cast our shadow clear.
When we love, that dawn-light

Would lighten our feet

Upon the waters.
As we grow old, that twilight

Would illuminate treasure

In the fields of memory.
And when we come to search for God,

Let us first be robed in night,

Put on the mind of morning

To feel the rush of light

Spread slowly inside

The color and stillness

Of a found world.
For the Artist at the Start of Day

May morning be astir with the harvest of night;

Your mind quickening to the eros of a new question,

Your eyes seduced by some unintended glimpse

That cut right through the surface to a source.
May this be a morning of innocent beginning,

When the gift within you slips clear

Of the sticky web of the personal

With its hurt and its hauntings,

And fixed fortress corners,
A morning when you become a pure vessel

For what wants to ascend from silence,
May your imagination know

The grace of perfect danger,
To reach beyond imitation,

And the wheel of repetition,
Deep into the call of all

The unfinished and unsolved
Until the veil of the unknown yields

And something original begins

To stir toward your senses

And grow stronger in your heart

In order to come to birth

In a clean line of form,

That claims from time

A rhythm not yet heard,

That calls space to

A different shape.


Excerpted from "To Bless the Space Between Us"
by .
Copyright © 2008 John O'Donohue.
Excerpted by permission of The Crown Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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To Bless the Space Between Us: A Collection of Invocations and Blessings 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
MichelleBH More than 1 year ago
I love this book for it never ceases to provide comfort to me and usefulness in ministry to others. It is an absolute must have for anyone in need of soul-food for themselves, or others. No matter the occasion, I can always turn to this book and find an appropriate reading. As a chaplain, in hospice, the hospital, or the church, I never want this book to be out of reach. It is indispensable and unmatched.
cabernet More than 1 year ago
This is a precious, beautifully written book from a brilliantly enlightened, wise man, John O'Donohue. When I saw him speak on public broadcasting I was immediately compelled to go buy his books. This book sits by my bedside and I turn to it for comfort and guidance. It speaks to all of life's new beginnings, thresholds and endings - with such a deep understanding and truth. You realize that every moment is as it should be and within everything there is beauty.
BB422 More than 1 year ago
I purchased my first O'Donohue book in Ireland, Anam Cara, and became a huge fan. When I heard he had died, I purchased "his" audio recording of his book of blessings. (What a voice!) I laughed. I cried. I had to have the book so I could re-visit the simple, the eloquent, the beautiful whenever I had need.
stanlicious on LibraryThing 5 months ago
O'Donohue's Celtic and poetic style burst forth from this collection of beautiful prayers and blessings. And the most powerful aspect of this book is the empowerment it gives to all people to bless.
rtink More than 1 year ago
These books by John O'Donohue are great for showing you the life around you. It will bring peace into a chaotic life. Don't let this one get by.
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montesdeoca More than 1 year ago
This book is rich with shared thoughts that may be helpful at different times.
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