Posted on November 27, 2013
I wonder if I’m getting worse as I get older!!
I used to listen so intently! I have good ears. When I worked at Trio, we were trained in how to listen for cutlery dropping, both inside and outside the restaurant, so that we could quickly get some fresh stuff to the customer before they had a chance to ask! Same with the sound of the chairs sliding on the floor – if a customer was getting up, we needed to be by their side, know what was their desire … how could we help?! Bring a bill or point them in the direction of the bathrooms? All part of what makes it the best place for breakfast Sydney (SUUUUCH good food!)!
But it did taint my dining experiences elsewhere. For years afterwards I was forever hearing other customers’ cutlery dropping, service bells pinging and phones ringing!! I remember once freaking myself out because I was eating at Pompeii and someone in Hurricanes, the restaurant next door, dropped a fork. Yep, we got to distinguishing which type of cutlery! I didn’t WANT these thoughts in my mind anymore, they were of NO benefit to me now!!
It’s wearing off over the years! However, I was recently treated to breakfast on the house at Trio, as while I was chatting with the Ronen, (the owner) I couldn’t help fretting because the phone was ringing and I was desperate to either answer it or ask one of the gorgeous girls to get it!! This was what was expected of me in my role there (I left 6 years ago!!). He felt so responsible for my psychosis that chalked my breakfast to the house! Hahahaha!!
So these days, I work to consciously block a lot of external stimulus … hope I haven’t thrown the baby out with the bathwater!!
This is a short Ted Talk with some interesting points on how to listen for BETTER COMMUNICATIONS.
“Personal Broadcasting”!! LOVE this term!! I do a bit of this from time to time! Then I call in my Personal Editor – that’s usually Mrs. Yoga – she’s great for getting me to listen in to what I’m doing and reminding me of what is necessary, and to let go of what is not!
5 Ways To Listen For Better Communications
1. Silence – consciously make room for at least 3 minutes of silence (or at least quiet) in your day.
2. The Mixer – when in a place where there is noise, try to hear/listen in to as many different sounds and channels of sound within the noise.
3. Savouring – enjoying the mundane sounds – the tumble dryer etc … isn’t it a blessing!
4. Listening Positions – the idea of moving your listening position to what’s appropriate to what you’re listening to – active/passive, reductive/expansive, critical/empathetic, etc. etc.
5. R.A.S.A. an acronym (and also the Sanskrit word for juice or essence)
R: RECEIVE – pay attention to the person
A: APPRECIATE – make little sounds of appreciation, ‘hmmm, mmm, uhuh’ and the like
S: SUMMARISE – the use of the word ‘SO’ is important here … summarise what you’ve heard to get clarity and understand each other
A: ASK – ask questions afterwards
I thought this was a really helpful lil video, and a good one to watch every now and then as a reminder – to be a good listener is a skill after all, something that needs to be nurtured, honed and practised.
Hope it’s helpful for you too! Good luck!
Oh and check out TRIO for a breakfast someday, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!
Love Lise, xo
Posted on November 26, 2013
Well … it seems to be you either LOVE him or hate him …. and I’m a lover not a hater!! Since I was first introduced to ‘Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again’, over a milkshake in TJ’s burger-&-general-teenage-hang-out-joint, Main St., Newbridge, circa 1988, I have been a fan of Bob and his poetry and songs!
This book is available to buy HERE at Lilapud.com, because I want to share the beautiful things … bring some smiles and wonder to life! This one’s a gem!
Now, I grew up in a house where there was always singing, and music, in fact we were often ‘sung to’ instead of spoken to ... one tune that comes to mind:
Certainly this one was pulled out any time I protested about not getting enough pocket money, or demanding to be paid for my household chores, hahahaha! Or basically, any time I needed reminding to be a more gracious girl and thankful for what I had. Just good old Catholic guilt really, all wrapped up in a purty Tammy Wynette bow!! But, I digress …
“May you build a ladder to the stars, And climb on every rung, May you stay forever young”
Forever Young is such a beautiful poem, all children, and hec all adults everywhere deserve to have this anthem sung to them. It is essentially a blessing from an adult to a child, and recorded in 1974 on the Planet Waves album. Bob had recently become a father, I believe the song was inspired by his then 4 year old son Jakob. The song was memorably recited on American TV by Howard Cosell when Muhammad Ali won the heavyweight crown for the third time.
In 2008, Dylan asked award-winning illustrator Paul Rogers, to apply his signature mid-century aesthetic in re-imagining the lyrics of the iconic anthem as a series of illustrated vignettes for young readers.
Here’s a review of the book by ELH Browning from the UK:
“These classic song lyrics are brought to life in a book for children, imparting a beautiful and important message to a new generation. The words are lovely, as you’ll know before you read given the provenance of the text, and the illustrations have a cool deliberate sixties look. There’s an American flavour to the pictures which is entirely appropriate and isn’t in the least over-bearing or off-putting for UK readers, and there’s lots of classic things to point out to a child, like a VW beetle. In addition there are oodles of other things to spot as an adult which vary in their obvious link to Dylan and his lyrics but many of which are highlighted at the back of the book. For instance a little girl in one of the illustrations has a T-shirt the same as the one Bob Dylan wears on the cover of his Highway 61 Revisited album. It’s a pleasure to read the song (or sing it) to children hearing it for the first time and as the book begins “May God bless you and keep you always…” so a rather lovely Christening gift from the more secular giver, perhaps?”
May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.
May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.
May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.
Posted on November 25, 2013
Many years ago, I had the pleasure of experiencing this salad at the heavenly hands of Miss Wen! It was North Bondi, a hot steamy summer’s night, and Dawnie & Jenxie were there too! We just LOVE this salad!
Since then I have had the benefit of the generous Miss Wen sharing her recipe jewel with me! I’ve prepared this spicy number quite a few times over the years and it always goes down with a bang!! So that’s why I’m sharing it with you … she gave me the nod, and a few of you have been asking … !!
Apart from it tasting PIZANG!, I really like it because it can all be pretty much prepared and stored in advance, so it’s great for entertaining – the leaves can be washed, dried, picked and stored in a salad bowl, using a clean dry tea towel to cover the leaves and a layer of cling film over the top, to keep it from wilting, and just popped it in the fridge overnight. The dressing too can be prepped in advance, and you could even chop the mangoes and onion up in advance, though I like to leave this to closer the serving time to reap the most nutritional value from them. I recommend using sweet, ripe mangoes, it’s nice to be able to cube them, but they ought to be flavourful and sweet for best results.
I use coconut sugar and some stevia drops to sweeten the dressing, but otherwise a tablespoon of brown sugar is the guideline!
Also, I found this fish sauce which seems to be pretty straight forward ingredient-wise. When I can, I like to use something as close to natural as possible without any nasties. This brand just uses anchovy extract, water and salt. Which will also suit those allergic to shellfish. It tastes great!
Miss Wen’s Mango Salad
Serves 4 approx.
1/3 cup lime juice
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 tablespoon coconut sugar and a few liquid stevia drops (or brown sugar).
1 clove garlic peeled and crushed
1 chilli seeded and finely chopped (or leave the seeds in! Pow!)
1 full bunch of coriander
1 half bunch of mint
1 large bag rocket
3 – 4 mangoes diced1/2 a Spanish (red) onion thinly sliced and chopped (optional).
A handful of cashew nuts, I like to dry fry mine in a pan to get ’em crunchy!
Dice the mangoes. (Suck the stones … yummmm!)
Mix lime juice, fish sauce, sugar/stevia, garlic and chopped chilli together; then pour over mangoes
Wash and dry all the leaves and mix up together in a large serving bowl
Gently mix through mango salsa and chopped red onion
Sprinkle with your toasted cashew nuts over the top and serve!
We eat this with pan-fried salmon … also mouth-wateringly good with his BBQ’d lamb cutlets, marinated in garlic, oregano and rosemary… mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!
Let me know if you try it and what you think?!!
Love Lila & thanks to Miss Wen! xo
Posted on November 14, 2013
Here’s a video I found interesting. It’s an oldie but a goodie.
Cholesterol and how to eat right to keep it where it’s ‘healthy’ is so controversial.
Well, it’s the to-keep-it-where-it’s-healthy part that’s controversial to me.
Who to believe?
Are you on medication for high cholesterol? Are you aware of the side effects they have, or notice any at all?
It seems to be very complex, but wonderfully interesting especially as there is a lot of money to be made from pharmaceuticals, and there seem to be many ‘I’ll-prescribe-you-some-chemicals happy’ doctors out there!
So here’s what happened to me:
Last year, I decided that I would have a colonoscopy, as I was reaching a certain age where apparently, it’s wise to start keeping an eye on organ health. I had to do a few different kinds of tests. One of which revealed I had the genotype which made me susceptible to coelic’s disease (gluten/wheat intolerance). Another revelation was that my cholesterol was higher than the doctor (a Specialist actually) thought it should be, or in the range that is considered ‘high’. It was 6.5.
And so the doctor suggested that I go on statins to reduce it, taking into account the fact that my father has had more than one heart bypass and my grandmother died from angina. Fair enough … typical conventional medical advice I should think.
I refused point blank, considering it rash but also because I’m not a fan of having foreign chemicals in my body. As I felt perfectly fine and considered my lifestyle pretty healthy, in fact a large portion if not all of my lifestyle is geared around health & wellbeing, I’m just the kind of person that would rather my instinct tell me I need something like that, than a doctor who knows medicine but doesn’t know me at all.
He enquired about my diet. And so I explained that I try to eat less gluten, grains and sugar and more fresh vegetables, salads, fish, grass-fed meats, free range organic chicken, but not much meat over-all, and I include good animal fats, cococnut fat, and more goats & sheep products than dairy, though I still enjoy a daily latte on regular milk, some good quality cheddar cheese, biodynamic dairy yoghurt and of course my darling pure unadulterated butter. I try to eat food that is not or as least processed as possible, and choose boidynamic and organic produce where my budget allows, (or really where I don’t feel like Im being ripped off). These are just my general eating habits and preferences, I don’t stick to severe régimes or any such discipline!
He wasn’t too chipper about me eating butter, and coconut fat!! In fact he suggested I give them up, and choose low-fat products (this to my chagrin!) instead.
He suggested the statins were a common choice as he said that changing my diet can only reduce my cholesterol by about 10%, which made me think ‘then why would I ruin my life by trying to avoid eating my beautiful foods?!’.
Now most of you who know me, will know that I can be quite contrary at times, and a bit bolshi when I feel like it, and I felt so strongly about this conventional approach that I wanted to blow this lovely man’s advice right out my you know what. But I felt a little intimidated by his medical language and knowledge. I also have a lot of respect for him as a person, for his seniority & reputation in the profession, and he is very well revered in his specialty.
So I felt confused, as everything I had been reading and practising about diet and health, while may be considered ‘alternative’, was science based but was not being supported by this highly acclaimed professional. And while I did not doubt myself and my instincts, I decided to bite my lip and keep it polite and respectful!! At this stage there was nothing to be gained by arguing.
What I did do though, was tell him that I was going to send his secretary this video (above) and I asked him if he would watch it, and so that’s what I did.
Getting back to the statins, we decided on another route. As I was firmly closed to taking them, I asked him an important question:
“What if I had my arteries checked to see if there was any plaque built up from my high cholesterol reading, family history or anything else?”
So we organised for me to have an ultrasound test of my carotid artery. And I also had a cardiac ultrasound.
The tests came back. The build up of plaque caused by cholesterol or anything else read zero, which he said was an excellent result for someone of my age and with my family history.
So now was it necessary for me to go on statins? No. Absolutely not necessary.
Did it matter that my cholesterol was high? No it didn’t.
However, while I got the results I’d hoped for, I don’t really know what I would have done if the tests came back and my arteries did have a plaque build up. I still think I would hold off on the drugs. Maybe. But I’d never really know until I was faced with the issue. They say that once the build up of plaque is there, there is no way the body can remove it by itself.
It really made me think though … these ultrasound tests were very expensive, not something everyone can afford. And so even if doctors were ‘on to it’, and recommending these tests before pushing the prescription drugs, the prohibitive cost would still mean that some people would end up on the drugs regardless. Keeping the pharmaceutical companies in business, and possibly having this weird concoction of unnatural drugs floating around in our systems – for what?!
Again, I think I was very lucky not to have been bullied into taking the drugs and to have seen a logical doctor who gave me options, albeit expensive ones. But that isn’t the case for us all.
I needed to quieten down a bit. I had been going around blabbing passionately on how having high cholesterol was not the big evil problem that the medical profession, government and media make it out to be, and that we’d all do better to eat more good, healthy fats, less sugary crap, less fructose, less high sugar carbohydrates and less grains and wheat, all of which can cause inflammation in the body. This is just my personal, extreme and general view, open to change and who knows what they’ll discover next! Not all doctors are going to agree with my slant on things, and not everybody is going to have the options I had made available to them.
But what about this : How much do we spend on the statins? Or does the government pay for that. What if the money was spent less on medications and more on rigorous testing? Would that make more sense? Is there any link there between governments, politics and pharmaceutical companies? These are the questions I ask myself. I am naturally a suspicious person, and I will leave it there!
So what of those of us who DO have arterial plaque build up? Are statins required then? I mean, does the theory that high cholesterol doesn’t cause heart attack still apply and/or ought we tread very carefully here.
Is the answer to take the meds because we don’t really know? And do we know the possible damage and risks we take by taking meds that may or may not help the issue?! I can’t help feeling nobody knows. Or at least it hasn’t been fully revealed yet as it’s a constant experiment when our diets are changing so rapidly and, for some, with such little awareness of how food gets on our plates!
How will you know how different you could feel (better that is), unless you TRY IT!! Sugar plays a huge role in the issue of our ill-health today.
I feel that a little bit of the white stuff now and then won’t harm me too much, but it’s funny that I do notice the difference in how I feel when I eat it.
I grew up eating plenty of sugar, so don’t worry … I’ve had my glory days, and I think people should eat whatever the hell they want to in order for them to be happy, because life is short! But best keep it real, with reality checks, non?!
I have my views and they’re my own! I believe in each to their own. I certainly think that we all have to do what we each think is best for us.
I just wonder if programmes like this 30 minute one in the link below, will do much to help people understand that perhaps we’ve got to listen up, think about these things a bit more, become active in regard to our health, and not just sit around thinking the government and medical industry have got this one covered!!
Well done Dr. Maryanne Demasi! Again!
What are YOUR thoughts on this folks?
Posted on November 13, 2013
Apparently a lot of people care, but is it in a way that adds value to the world?
It seems it can cause divide, bias and even discrimination for some, in the increasingly ‘extrovert’ world of over-share in which we live.
I bought a book last Christmas for a loved one called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.
And since then I’ve become quite intrigued by the topic.
According to research, at least a third to a half of the people we know are introverts. YES! That is saying that one in two or three people we know are introverts! Who Knew?!
It was brought to my mind again recently, when I enjoyed a live performance by Beyoncé. Part of her show included pre-recorded video clips portraying some of her thoughts and messages to the world. One thing that rung true for me was this line:
“WITH ISOLATION COMES REVELATION”
Along with my devotion to yoga, I’ve been cultivating for myself, for some time now, the idea that if I stopped projecting outwards so much, voicing my opinion on everything in the manner in which I was doing it, and cultivated a little more inner questioning, awareness, and stillness, that I might contribute to a more peaceful, content world. And I might make some space to notice some more or life’s gifts and beauty. And I did. I am! And I’m sharing them here. It’s a quieter space for me!
And that’s not to take away from the extroverts in our lives – on the contrary – we NEED extroverts. But it is a worry that if one in two or three of us are in fact, more introverted types, and we feel that to survive, we must make like we are extrovert types, that this could be very fertile ground for breeding discontentedness and discontentment in the world.
Am I An Introvert Or An Extrovert?!
Do You Distinguish Yourself As One Or The Other?
Well according to the video below, there’s no such thing as being either an introvert or an extrovert. Oh … or an ambivert! These terms were brought to us by Carl Jung and he used them to describe the attitude types of people, not to label a specific person.
I always thought I was an extrovert type. But if I were to “label’ myself, I would say I have the ability and the tendency to be either, but I definitely lean towards being an introvert.
Especially as I get older – I seem to get more and more exhausted so easily, when in groups of more than say 2 or 3 people. I notice I am super sensitive to noise, smells, crowds, and basically just find I am not enjoying myself, and usually would prefer to be at home doing my thang. I have always preferred being at home than ANYWHERE, since forever.
I love having one-on-one breakfasts, walks and coffees etc. with friends, but if the conditions are not ‘right’, it really starts messing with my head, I literally get dizzy if the environment is too busy, noisy, loud, bright, uncomfortable!
Something else I notice is that rather than talking on the phone, I much prefer to communicate with friends via text message, email or use an instagram photo and few lines to capture my mood, portray how I’m feeling or (over?)share what I’m up to in that moment!
Guess these are definitely introvert aspects to my personality?!
And it’s not that I have any trouble talking when I want to … I know how to do that – I learned it in my 30’s! I can be quite gregarious … it’s just sometimes I don’t want to be so.
Sometimes I wish there could be more comfortable silence in the air.
Sometimes Often, I speak LOTS but I feel that I say nothing really. Sometimes this is by design … to go with the flow, and other times I get drawn into a conversation on a whim or a topic I can easily get passionate about. But I don’t often articulate what I really mean, or maybe I don’t find conversation adequate to cover whatever emotion or thought I am trying to share. I often find a song or a picture and some shared silence works better as a connection point with others. Is that weird? Oh wait – apparently not ….
… Back to Susan Cain. She’s got some interesting research for us. Some of it is a little worrying but not surprising really.
Below is a snippet from an interview with Cain in Scientific American, so you get her gist …
“Cook: You argue that our culture has an extroversion bias. Can you explain what you mean?
Cain: In our society, the ideal self is bold, gregarious, and comfortable in the spotlight. We like to think that we value individuality, but mostly we admire the type of individual who’s comfortable “putting himself out there.” Our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions are designed for extroverts. Introverts are to extroverts what American women were to men in the 1950s — second-class citizens with gigantic amounts of untapped talent.
In my book, I travel the country – from a Tony Robbins seminar to Harvard Business School to Rick Warren’s powerful Saddleback Church – shining a light on the bias against introversion. One of the most poignant moments was when an evangelical pastor I met at Saddleback confided his shame that “God is not pleased” with him because he likes spending time alone.”
… But please, do make some time to watch her TED talk here … I find it a fascinating take on the world, and it sounds pretty spot on to me. Though I’d love to know what do YOU think?
Posted on November 13, 2013
We’re going to HAVE to see this one, right??
Posted on November 8, 2013
I recently discovered this ‘SBS Chill’ Digital Radio Station … At my dentists actually!
I really liked it and thought if it can chill me out here, which it did, then it’s probably very effective. Sure makes the visit to the dentist less ‘angstie’!
I don’t have a handle on digital radio yet … but I sometimes listen to radio online on my devices, mostly Irish radio … love to do that at Christmas time, (why do I DO it to myself?!!).
Anyway, I mostly do podcasts now. It means I can listen to what I want when I want.
But this is a sweet lil’ addition to my radio stations, for more spontaneous occasions!
I like how it works as great background music … it’s world music with chill out vibe … hope you like!
You can view track information etc, when you look at the homepage, which I think is great – and responsible for my ever-expanding music library!
TURN IT ON & TURN IT UP FOR A HIGH … OR TUNE IN TO TUNE OUT ON THE LOW!
DO YOU KNOW ANY OTHER GOOD DIGITAL RADIO STATIONS … PLEASE SHARE IN THE COMMENT BOXES BELOW!!
HOPE YOU ENJOY!
Love Li. xx
Posted on November 5, 2013
So on the weekend, I completed this wonderful 3 day workshop with Stanford University teachers Margaret Cullen and Erika Rosenberg in Compassion Cultivation Training, a Wake Up Project.
It sparked so much wide-eyed fascination and joy and … well … a sorta renewed general love for the universe in me, I felt a desire to share some ideas on what I learned. It’s all still pinging willy nilly within the walls of my brain in intellectual terms, and bursting my heart with a feeling of excitement! I may be able to share the content a little later. But I’ve been looking around at related material and thought I’d share some cool stuff that I came across with you guys. I found this interview (see the bottom of this page) … something really worth taking the time to read.
The teachers from Stanford used many lovely references and quotes, including something from my favourite Irish spiritual writer, scholar, philosopher and poet – John O’Donohue who might be the most eloquent communicator of all things spiritual and human. And that got me wanting to share some his love on Lilapud!
His words alone, get the ol’ eyes hot and watery, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone there! It seems they could be carved out a beautiful wood, and placed into formation … a structure that is both beautiful to have around you, but also necessary to have around you. Practical and knowing. New, yet familiar. Guiding and comforting. The high artfulness of his beautiful imagery, is so rich in texture, so lyrical, it’s like some form of recognisable and hauntingly beautiful music.
I am lucky to have been raised by a mother and father both of whom have a deep connection to, and respect for their spirituality, and for compassion. I think it’s been well instilled in me, my sister and brother too. As I’m writing I’m realizing and acknowledging why, perhaps, O’Donohue’s message is familiar … that yes, it’s embedded in my heritage, my ancestors, it’s in my very cells, this familiarity to these concepts. It is a gift I will forever cherish, perhaps often take for granted, but is definitely strongly linked to the source of my happiness and contentment in life. I am lucky. Thank you family!
WHAT HE WRITES ABOUT IS SO PROFOUND, IT IS NECESSARY.
His subject matter is like some kind of manual on how to be the best human you can be. Perhaps the most rewarding and fulfilling thing to try and be ‘the best’ at?! So RTFM people!
While we may all be different and unique, while we may constantly look to find things that separate ourselves from each other, while we may spend our lives professing our differences from each other, classifying ourselves, etching out our individuality – which is very important, I feel it is equally as important not to forget that one thing that ties us together – WE ARE ALL HUMAN. The human experience is what we all share. So why not get good at it?!
I think reading this kind of well-crafted work is an excellent way to get better at being human!
The layers of truth and wisdom in his writing, are the kind that shine on some dulled light within you. What IS that? It’s like his words have seen or recognised or reflected something in you, that perhaps you never even knew was there before. But now you do and it’s sorta scary. You can’t ‘un-see’ what you’ve seen. You’ve got to carry on with the responsibility of holding this knowledge. And not just conceptually, like in the cartoon above! I’m sure you’ll agree it’s sometimes harder to have compassion for those closest to us than say just as an example, for the starving people in Africa. The work that goes with the sparkly-ness, yet weight of this knowledge is what’s scary! THE WORK!
His words are arresting to me, but not in an alarmist way. In a way that’s like they put me on the “gentle” cycle of the washing machine with some gorgeously scented soap, and they toss me around languidly, delicately, in a water that is soft, not too hot, not too cold, and I can look out through the glass circle and see things from new angles because of this gentle tossing, and I like it, I question it, I remember it, and then I come out all shiny, renewed and not just clean, but CLEAR and ready to be worn again, my senses alert and ready to absorb the goodness in life!
In a way that makes me sit up and pay attention, the work of John O’Donohue brings an awakening of my spirit, an acknowledgement of something greater in me, that IS me, something more than just the everyday rituals and external façade that is life as we know it. It’s almost frightening. Almost. But instead it’s mind-blowing. I feel an expansion and a heat from the top of my stomach up to my collar bones! A tingling sensation on my skin.
It is the feeling that tells me I’m ready, I am here to do the work.
So anyway! I found this lovely interview on a website called Personal Transformation and thought I’d share it with you.
The Presence of Compassion
An Interview with John O’Donohue
By Mary NurrieStearns
For three months, John O’Donohue’s book, “Eternal Echoes” rotated from the left to the right side of my computer. Each time my hand moved it, I stopped to read a few paragraphs, a few pages. Reading his words, I felt as though I was being embraced by a kind presence. Somehow, I felt seen, made visible, by the touch of compassion.
Compassion can be transmitted through many forms of words and actions. We recognize its energy when we feel that certain swelling in our hearts, for it is the heart that senses compassion. When compassion touches us we feel seen for who we truly are—as more than our troubles, our needs.
You will feel the presence of compassion as you read the interview with John O’Donohue. O’Donohue is a poet, scholar, and author of the award-winning and bestselling books “Anam Cara” and “Eternal Echoes.” He lives in the west of Ireland, which is where he was the day we talked on the phone.
Personal Transformation: Let’s begin with a general discussion of compassion in order to deepen our understanding of its nature.
John O’Donohue: Compassion distinguishes human presence from all other presence on the earth. The human mind is one of the most gracious gifts of creation. The human mind is the place where nature gathers at its most intense and at its most intimate. The human being is an in-between presence, belonging neither fully to the earth from which she has come, nor to the heavens toward which her mind and spirit aim. In a sense, the human being is the loneliest creature in creation. Paradoxically, the human being also has the greatest possibility for intimacy. I link compassion immediately with intimacy. Compassion is the ability to vitally imagine what it is like to be an other, the force that makes a bridge from the island of one individuality to the island of the other. It is an ability to step outside your own perspective, limitations and ego, and become attentive in a vulnerable, encouraging, critical, and creative way with the hidden world of another person.
Compassion is an ability to feel pity for an other. One of the greatest problems in post-modern culture is the problem of otherness, because many of the forces, like electronic media, commerce, economics, and the ideology of rush and speed that we adhere to leave us few possibilities to really engage the difference that we are and that each other is. Compassion is the ability to enter into a world that may be totally different from you, in an imaginative way, naturally, and feel what the others feel. It is related directly to justice. A lot of evil happens because of ignorance and of numbness, and compassion is one of the forces that invites and permits us to step outside our own complacency and see what life beyond our own skin is like.
Within the word compassion is passion. There is an intrinsic connection between passion and compassion. Someone who feels no passion is in pain, a pain that is always a lonesome pain. One of the loneliest things is to encounter somebody whose longing has been numbed. Her personality becomes a mere contour of externality around vacancy. Those who are compassionate are people whose passion and imagination are fully alive and vital.
Transformation: Is compassion innate to our nature, something to be released, or is compassion something to be developed?
O’Donohue: It’s a bit of both. Compassion is somehow innate to our nature. We have a natural attraction toward the other, a fascination with the other, and are deeply touched when we see the other person in pain. It is natural in those ways, and it is easy to awaken, intensify, and extend. Compassion needs development. If a child is raised in a context where he is taught blame and hate, it is probable that his compassion will be damaged. It is interesting, in psychological terms, to look at the narratives of those who have done awful things in the world. Often, the root of the evil in perpetrators is found in an incredible numbing that happened at a time when they were most vulnerable. Great pain sometimes numbs the soul and quenches the potential for compassion.
Transformation: Is there an innate relationship between our yearning to belong and compassion?
O’Donohue: I think there is. The creator of the universe loves circles: time and space are circles, the day is a circle, the year is a circle, the earth is a circle. But when creating and fashioning the human heart, the creator only created a half-circle, so that there is something ontologically unfinished in human nature. That is why you can’t enter your own life or inhabit your full presence without a vital and real relationship with some other person. Your awakening and the fulfillment of your identity requires that you belong together with others. The need to belong to yourself, the deepest need of all, can only be fulfilled through the beautiful force-field of friendship. Our hunger to belong is actually an expression of our compassion for ourselves and our passion for the other.
Transformation: Are you saying that the basis for compassion with oneself is the yearning for the other?
O’Donohue: Yes, that’s not an absolute claim but it is a huge proportion of the force field. The beautiful irony is that even though we’re housed in separate bodies there is a profound hidden tissue of absolute connection between us. The Celtic tradition sensed that no one lives for herself alone. Your call to discover who you are and to bring your soul into birth is also a great act of creativity toward everyone else.
Transformation: What other understandings about compassion have you extrapolated from Celtic thought?
O’Donohue: Celtic thought contributes magnificently to a philosophy of compassion, deriving from its sense that everything belongs in one diverse, living unity. On an ontological level, the exercise of compassion is the transfiguration of dualism: the separation of matter and spirit, masculine and feminine, body and soul, human and divine, person and animal, and person and element. The beauty of the Celtic tradition was that it managed to think and articulate all of these presences together in a profound, intimate unity. So, if compassion is a praxis which tries to bring that unity into explicit activity and presentation, then Celtic philosophy of unity contributes strongly to compassion. The Celtic sense of no separating border between nature and humans allows us to have compassion with animals and with places in nature. For the Celts, nature wasn’t a huge expanse of endless matter. Nature was an incredibly elemental and passionately individual presence, and that is why many gods and spirits are actually tied into very explicit places, and to the memory and history and narrative of the places.
Transformation: Let’s look at a narrow component of this philosophy. What do animals have to teach us about compassion?
O’Donohue: The predominant silence in which the animal world lives is very touching. As children on the farm, we were taught to respect animals. We were told that the dumb animals are blessed. They cannot say what they are feeling and we should have great compassion for them. They were tended to and looked after and people became upset if something happened to them. There was a great sense of solidarity between us and our older brothers and sisters, the animals. One of the tragedies in Western religion is the way that we have been so elitist in reserving the spiritual exclusively for the human. That is an awful, barbaric crime. When you subtract the notion of self from a presence, you objectify it and then that presence can be used and abused. It is a sin and blasphemy to say that animals have no spirits and souls. One of the cornerstones of contemplative life is going below the surface of the external and the negativity. The contemplative attends to the roots of wrong and violence. Because the animals live essentially what I call the contemplative life, maybe the most sacred prayer of the world actually happens within animal consciousness. Secondly, sometimes when you look into an animal’s eyes, you see incredible pain. I think there are levels of suffering for which humans are not refined enough, and maybe our older, ancient brothers and sisters, the animals, carry some of that for us.
Transformation: Let’s move to the presence of compassion. How do we recognize it?
O’Donohue: We recognize compassion in the willingness of someone to imagine himself into the life of another person. We recognize its presence in the withholding of huge negative moralistic judgment. We see compassion in the expression of mercy, in the refusal to label someone with a short-circuiting terminology that condemns her, even though her actions may be awkward. We see compassion in an openness to the greater mystery of the other person. The present situation, deed or misdeed is not the full story of the individual, there is a greater presence behind the deed or the person than society usually acknowledges. Above all, we see the presence of compassion as the vulnerability to be disturbed about awful things that are going on.
Transformation: What is the relationship between absence and compassion?
O’Donohue: Absence and presence are sisters. The opposite of presence is not absence, the opposite of presence is vacancy. Vacancy is a void, a space which is hungrily empty, whereas absence is a space of spatial emptiness, but there is a trail of connection toward the departed one, the lost one, the absent one. To feel absence is to feel connection with the one who has gone. There is still a huge affective involvement with the person. In exploring compassion and vacancy, vacancy is a sinister pain, because of its hunger, its emptiness. A form of vacancy that is prevalent in post-modern culture is indifference, the inability to imagine or show compassion to others who are in trouble. Absence is different. The feeling of absence can create an incredible feeling of compassion.
Transformation: In “Eternal Echoes,” you refer to “the sanctuary of human presence.” What does this phrase suggest?
O’Donohue: The visible presence of the body is the sign of the invisible presence of the eternal, the divine. One of the fascinating tasks in every human life is to engage and experience oneself as a unity. The idea of the sanctuary of the human presence implies a lovely lyrical unity in the human person. When you stand in front of another human being, you stand before the presence of an unknown and infinite world of love, belonging, imagination, and ambivalence, negativity, darkness, and struggle. It is sad, in post-modern culture, that human presence is diminished, rendered vacant, and not acknowledged for the wild divinity that it is.
Transformation: The sanctuary of human presence is the basis of anam cara friendship, or soul friends. Does that kind of friendship bring forth compassion?
O’Donohue: The Celtic tradition was very complex. It was a vigorous warrior type tradition, yet within it was this poignant icon of the anam cara, the notion of soul friendship. Anam is the word for soul, and cara is the word for friend. When you had an anam cara friend, it was as if you were joined in an eternal way with a friend of your soul, in some incredible recognition of the sublime affinity between the two. Originally, the myth was that each human was two in one, but they were split and separated, consequently they spent most of their lives searching for their other half. In the Celtic idea of the anam cara, the anam cara is the other half that you have been missing. In coming into the gift and grace of friendship, you enter into your own fullest completion. You are also being gifted with a dimension of your soul that was hungry and lost and is now found. That kind of attraction, passion, affinity and belonging is a profound experience of birthing one’s own identity. The human body is born in miniature form, but completely there. I believe that the human heart is never fully born, and all our lives, we bring new kingdoms to birth in the hidden world of the heart. Maybe death is that moment you are fully born and you are received into another world where the laws of separation and dualism no longer operate. Unless you experience friendship, affinity, and belonging, it is very difficult to feel compassion. Therefore, friendship, especially the Celtic idea of friendship, is a profound, nurturing ground for extensive and intensive compassion.
Transformation: Talk about human vulnerability and compassion.
O’Donohue: One of the most vulnerable living forms in creation is human. Around the human body, where we live, there is emptiness. There is no big protective frame, so anything can come at you from outside at any time. At this moment, there are people in a doctor’s office getting news that will change their lives forever. They will remember this day as the day their life broke in two. There are people having accidents that they never foresaw. There are safe, complacent people whose lives are managed under the dead manacle of control falling off a cliff into love and into the excitement and danger of a new relationship. In life, anything can come along the pathway to the house of your soul, the house of your body, to transfigure you. We’re vulnerable externally to destiny, but we’re also vulnerable internally, within ourselves. Things can come awake within your mind and heart that cause you immense days and nights of pain, a sense of being lost, of having no meaning, no worth; a kind of acidic negativity can knock down everything that you achieve in yourself, giving your world a sense of being damaged.
Another way to approach this is to look at the huge difference between sincerity and authenticity. Sincerity, while it’s lovely, is necessary but insufficient, because you can be sincere with just one zone of your heart awakened. When many zones of the heart are awakened and harmonized we can speak of authenticity, which is a broader and more complex notion. It takes great courage and grace to feel the call to awaken, and it takes greater courage and more grace still to actually submit to the call, to risk yourself into these interior spaces where there is very often little protection. It takes a great person to creatively inhabit her own mind and not turn her mind into a destructive force that can ransack her life. You need compassion for yourself, particularly in American society, because many people in America identify themselves through the models and modules of psychology that inevitably categorize them as a syndrome. Lovely people feel that their real identity is working on themselves, and some work on themselves with such harshness. Like a demented gardener who won’t let the soil settle for anything to grow, they keep raking, tearing away the nurturing clay from their own heart, then they’re surprised that they feel so empty and vacant. Self-compassion is paramount. When you are compassionate with yourself, you trust in your soul, which you let guide your life. Your soul knows the geography of your destiny better than you do.
Transformation: A sister to vulnerability is suffering. Earlier you talked about how immense suffering can numb us. How does suffering both numb and teach?
O’Donohue: Yeats said, “Too much pain can make a stone of the heart.” We’re only able for so much. The real heroes in human life are the mainly silent, unnoticed ones who draw no attention to themselves but through their daily acts of love and gentleness and compassion keep the tissue of humane presence alive and vital. Some people are called to awful suffering. Down the road from you, in South America, a woman is searching through a bin for crumbs for her starving children, whom she loves just as much as we love our own children. I am often disturbed that she is there, near starvation, and we can talk about something that we love in the comfort of our homes. I don’t know the answer to that, but I do feel that the duty of privilege is absolute integrity. The suffering of the world is not relieved because of our inability to realize how privileged we are, because of our blindness to our duty to help others. I also don’t understand why innocent ones are called to carry awful cargoes of pain at their most vulnerable time. There is no doubt that pain damages. Often, the most beautiful people are those who have been badly broken, who have accessed a place of grace and light and healing. They come back, cohered together beautifully. There is also suffering which numbs you, deadens you. Out of dead vacancy, great darkness and sinister negativity can arise. Therein is the need for prayer, forgiveness, and mercy, which are sublime presences beyond human achievement that visit and mend us.
One of the best teachers in the world is suffering. Sometimes we suffer because we are reneging on our own growth and suffering comes along to unsettle, disturb, and break up some of the false constellations in which we have become atrophied. You may be atrophied in a position you don’t even know you’re in. Unknown to you, a shell grew around you and your life, rather than being a vital presence, was becoming a mere echo. Nothing breaks that shell like suffering. Suffering teaches you what you don’t want to learn, bringing you the gift that you can only receive through suffering.
Transformation: Discuss the growth of integrity and compassion.
O’Donohue: Human identity is about individuality. One of the greatest duties we have in the world is to become the individual we were called to be, to inhabit the destiny which we were prepared to follow from ancient times. Individuation is a call to holistic identity, to the fullness of identity, and it is a complex journey. The awakened life is the true life. I have been around death a lot and have noticed that people who have been faithful to the call of their own complexity and identity feel that they have attempted to realize what life calls them to. To renege on that is to settle for a life in a little ledge somewhere in your destiny and not to go out onto the ocean of the full voyage. That is where integrity comes in. There is a connection between integrity and integration. An awakened life has diversity and harmony within itself, and is a life which is integrated. Whatever is integrated means that the parts are in communication with each other. In the world, you find that destructive actions, which damage, come from energies which have broken off and set themselves up as a whole when they are incomplete, just a part. Integrity is the praxis of creation and compassionate being derives from integrated presence.
Transformation: Where does desire fit into compassion?
O’Donohue: The heart is a theater of desire, of different longings. Desire is the call of fulfillment. One of the etymological origins of desire means being away from one’s star. In a sense, the call of desire is the call to come home. You can talk all you like about the spiritual life. Very often, the more talk there is about it, the less presence of it is actually around. One of the tests of spiritual integrity is whether a person is at home in his own life. That makes for poise. You can trust somebody who has poise and balance in his own spirit, because he is in unity and he is in rhythm, and you can always trust what is in rhythm. Distrust and fear are usually caused by an absence of rhythm and the unpredictability of the threat of destruction that it brings. In a deep, deep way, being at home in your own nature makes for a real sense of belonging. We always imagine that our desire is a call outward, toward something outside. In many instances, it can be, but in its fundamental intention, desire is the call to come home and to discover that which is sought outside is actually hidden under the heart in the home of your own soul.
Transformation: Coming home into your own soul gives presence to human life. What is the difference between being present and presence?
O’Donohue: Objectively, everything that is here now is present. The stones outside this house in Conamara are present, the mountains over the road, the lake outside my house, they are all present. The neighbors at the houses in the village are present in the world. But the fullness of human presence is an awakened and focused presence toward a receiver, a listener, or a hearer. Being present is what we spiritually yearn to be. To be present is to inhabit your own presence with clarity and luminosity. One of the most awful things in modern life is the consistent and insidious diminishment of presence in life. You see it in the corporate world, in relationships, at home, in families. I like to pose a simple question, one that quickly tells what is going on in your life. Ask yourself: to whom can I be truly present, where can I be truly present, in what context is my presence diminished, not desired, or felt? The spiritual hunger so prevalent in our times is a hunger for true presence. There is something ultimately divine in presence. Presence is what life is about. When we come into real presence, the eternal becomes fully active in us and around us. In other words, when we hit real presence we break into eternity.
Transformation: Let’s close with a discussion about Celtic prayer and how prayer can help us develop compassion.
O’Donohue: In Celtic tradition, time had a secret structure and events had their own sacredness. The Celtic mind practised what I call reverence of approach to experience. Experience was a profound threshold of creativity and transformation. Anything and everything that happens in experience unfolds, expresses, and embodies your identity. The Celtics had blessings for starting off the day, blessings for encounters, blessings for work, blessings for eating and for cooking. The last blessing at night was a blessing for the soaring of the fire. In the Celtic tradition, most of the wisdom was handed on around the fire, which was a lovely image of the heart and warmth. The coals of one night’s fire would be the seed for the fire of the next day. The Celtics had this intimate and almost domestic sense of divine shelter and divine activity in the world. When you approach life like that, you are acutely aware of your own gift in the world. When you are aware of your gift, you are aware that your purpose is somehow tied into the deepest hunger and the deepest call of the world.
Additionally, prayer takes you into another kind of space. It takes you into that oblique interim place where the connections between things are born and where there is secretness together, where secret togetherness becomes active. Therefore, prayer is not about anything specific. Meister Eckhart said there is a place in the soul that neither time nor space nor no created thing can touch. The intentionality of prayer is to take us as frequently as possible into that serenity and tranquility and purity of space where we can heal and renew. The insight of prayer means that you are not identical to your biography, you are not just a psychological matrix. There is a place in you which is beyond psychology, and that is the eternal place within you. The more we visit there, the more we are touched and fused with the limitless kindness and affection of the divine. The ultimate goal of prayer is to learn to behold yourself with the same gentleness, pride, expectation, and compassion with which the divine presence beholds you at every moment. If we can inhabit that reflex of divine presence, then compassion will flow naturally from us.
I hope you enjoy this interview, and may you continue to enjoy it as much as I do. Everything he says in this interview is recognisable to me. I am a Celt, I am Irish, I am Australian, I am a Yogini, I was raised a Catholic … all different, separate, individual, and yet all the same at the core. I can read it and understand it from these individual points of view and also from a collective one. Because I am human. I am broad. I am opening. And I care about evolving, acknowledging my frailties and those of others, working towards strengthening mine, and seeing past those of others.
DOES THIS TOUCH A CHORD WITH YOU?
Posted on November 3, 2013
Another one from my weekend course in Compassion Cultivation Training with Stanford University & Wake Up Sydney! This heart-lifting, life-affirming story, will help and inspire you to face your challenges today … and to remember how precious and incredible, the gift of life really is.
Enjoy with a full heart,
Posted on November 3, 2013