by Susan Russell
The ideal, of course, is that we live our lives in balance and exercise the kind of physical, emotional and spiritual self-care that keeps us from becoming exhausted. Spent. Wrung out. Fried. The reality — at least for me — is that most of the time I exist somewhere short of that ideal.
John O’Donohue offers an antidote to being exhausted/spent/wrung out/fried in this poem — this blessing. As we reach the midway point in our Lenten journey to Easter my prayer is that we can be given the grace to receive these words of blessing as a kind of roadmap for the journey forward. And my hope is that we might find in these words of blessing a way to give up exhaustion — not just for Lent but for life.
A Blessing For One Who Is Exhausted
When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight,
The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.
Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.
The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.
You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken for the race of days.
At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.
You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.
Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.
Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.
Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.
©John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us (New York: Doubleday, 2008), p.125, 126.