The many blessings of longing and joy

Thirteen years ago I came across a book in a local bookstore by Rachel Naomi Remen called My Grandfather’s Blessings.  A book of stories  of strength, refuge and belonging.  For me it became a book of change, a call to action.  I had been struggling with how to re-imagine my work, my calling, a longing to work more closely with myself and with my patients within a relational space of being.  At the time I had little mentoring or modeling of a different way that I could turn toward other than a longing to be more present to myself and for my patients. Reading this book, and her previous one – Kitchen Table Wisdom, stories that heal – gave me a sense that there were clinicians engaged in finding a different way to be present.  The journey I then embarked on had me leave general practice, meander through various courses of applied psychoneuroimmunology, art therapy, hypnotherapy, counseling courses, set up an integrative mind body medicine practice, start palliative medicine training, and eventually, by listening to what my patients had to say in what was helping them, to train in mindfulness based interventions.  I allowed my longing for a deeper connection to myself, and for my patients to their own lives, to lead me.  And in so doing mindfulness has become far more than a meditation practice in my life.  It has become a way a being.  And along the way it has enabled me to show up just as I am and have the courage in that to accept not just that I can walk alongside my patients through the full catastrophe of their lives, but also that I can turn toward the full catastrophe of my own life, and finally accept and rejoice in living a complete non-dual three dimensional experience of that full catastrophe.

As Rachel Remen says in her book Kitchen Table Wisdom: ” Over the years I have seen the power of taking an unconditional relationship to life.  I am surprised to have found a sort of willingness to show up for whatever life may offer and meet with it rather than wishing to edit and change the inevitable.  ……  I had learned a new definition of the word “joy”.  I had thought joy to be rather synonymous with happiness, but it seems now to be far less vulnerable than happiness.  Joy seems to be a part of an unconditional wish to live, not holding back because life may not meet our preferences and expectations.  Joy seems to be a function of the willingness to accept the whole, and to show up to meet with whatever is there.  It has a kind of invincibility that attachment to any particular outcome would deny us.”

Finding myself in this very moment now.  A moment that holds all – the joy, the longing, the full catastrophe.  This moment I have intimately come to know as the only moment of time that I have any choice over to act, to decide, to chose what I will do, as Mary Oliver asks in her beautiful poem, The Summer Day – ‘What is it you plan to do with you one wild and precious life?’  And as a person who has a fair amount of anxiety around being ‘seen’ and ‘showing up’ in public I seem to be inquiring deeply into that vulnerability this coming year with writing more, developing more, teaching more, and speaking more.  To add to that this week I started writing a weekly mindfulness series for  This won’t be going out as a regular post but will be updated as a static page on my blog – ehospice pages: mindfulness – our sixth sense.  Visit weekly to read the latest offering or go onto the website itself.


For Longing

Blessed be the longing that brought you here, And quickens your soul with wonder.

May you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire, that disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.

May you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease, To discover the new direction your longing wants you to take.

May the forms of your belonging, in love, creativity, and friendship, Be equal to the grandeur and call of your soul.

May the one you long for long for you.

May your dreams gradually reveal the destination of your desire.

May a secret Providence guide your thought and nurture your feelings.

May your mind inhabit your life with the sureness with which your body inhabits the world.

May your heart never be haunted by ghost-structures of old damage.

May you come to accept you longing as divine urgency.

May you know the urgency with which God longs for you.

John O’Donohue

About amindfullife

Passionate about living every moment as best I can. Continually emergent and a work in progress
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