John O’Donohue: A Blessing For One Who Is Exhausted

Some months ago an older woman whom I greatly respect introduced me to the poetry of John O’Donohue. His poems, for me, occupy that rare space between humanity and the divine, a sort of linguistic thin place.

Today I returned to this poem, felt my breathing slow, a calm return. Perhaps it might bless you too.

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 ride 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.


2 responses to “John O’Donohue: A Blessing For One Who Is Exhausted

  1. Yes, “return to yourself”. That is the safest place to be and to start again. Love your neighbour as yourself begins with “yourself”. I tried reading the poem from bottom up, stanza by stanza and felt the rush of uselessness cascading back again. Pretty much echoing the emptiness expressed by the Wisdom preacher in the Book of Ecclesiastes. month with all of you and the kids was a “return to myself” which I have not felt for a long long time. It reminded me that Thanksgiving was never meant for a single day, but more because of the fact that the family is always there for us. When we inclusively embrace each other’s journey we “return to ourselves”.

  2. What a fascinating idea to read the poem backward by stanza!

    And for us to, we loved having you with us! đŸ™‚

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