Notes from Anam Cara
You could call the Celts gruff and barbaric, primitive, but to be fair you'd also have to acknowledge how wonderfully spiritual they were. John O'Donohue's Anam Cara focuses in on the soul-feeding practices of the Celts, their connection to the landscape & rhythms of nature, and gives us a fresh way of thinking about our handful of years on earth and what happens next. It's become one of my favorite books to read when I'm feeling spiritually depleted or otherwise uninspired.
Maybe it's not a perfect book. Admittedly, I sometimes get frustrated with the didactic tone that feels something like listening to a lengthy sermon go on and on when the gem of knowledge, the very point, was already unearthed halfway through. But, the gems in Anam Cara are too good to pass up. They sit with you and give you reason to reflect and question what you think you know. I suppose they could be life altering if you pondered them intensely enough.
I've typed out some of my favorite profound bits below.
We should never allow our fears or the expectations of others to set the frontiers of our destiny.
We are sent into the world to live to the full everything that awakens within us and everything that comes toward us.
Having has become the sinister enemy of being.
We have no longer any sense of the decorum appropriate to eating. We have lost the sense of ritual, presence, and intimacy that were elemental to any meal; we no longer sit down to meals in the old way.
True listening brings us in touch even with that which is unsaid and unsayable.
Hands are beautiful.
Solitude is luminous.
The home is decorated and personalized; it takes on the soul of the person who lives there and becomes the mirror of the spirit.
Many people in business operate only with one side of their mind: the strategic, tactical, mechanical side day in and day out. This becomes a mental habit that they then apply to everything, including their inner life. Even though they may be powerful people in the theater of work, outside of the workplace they look forlorn and lost. You cannot repress the presence of your soul and not pay the price.
One of the qualities that you can develop, particularly in your older years, is a sense of great compassion for yourself.
The second innocence comes later in your life, when you have lived deeply. You know the bleakness of life, you know its incredible capacity to disappoint and sometimes destroy. Yet notwithstanding that realistic recognition of life's negative potential, you still maintain an outlook that is wholesome and hopeful and bright.
It is lovely to meet an old person whose face is deeply lined, a face that has been deeply inhabited, to look in the eyes and find light there.
And my very favorite:
Your sense of inner beauty has to remain a very private thing. The secret and the sacred are sisters.