This Is The Time To Be Slow
This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.
Try as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.
If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet again
On fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.
(John O’ Donohue)
Lie low to the wall until the bitter weather passes…as light fades beyond sombre skies, we sense what is coming before it has arrived. The way ahead blurs into obscurity. Barren spaces rarely offer shelter when the weather turns. We feel alone and lost, estranged from the world we once knew, captive to the elemental fury of wind and rain as it sweeps down around us. Nothing can quite prepare you for the torment. Times of trial pushes each one of us to the edge. It takes courage just to hang on in there. Each step forward summons up reserves we never knew we had. It’s amazing what we discover about ourselves when we are tested most.
When the deluge arrives, it can appear like an ambush. Here along a mountain pass up the Comeraghs, 12 of us quickly discovered there was nowhere to hide. One minute, we were cruising along at low altitude in stunning sunshine; the next engulfed in a storm we could not escape. Remind me never to trust the weather app up the mountains. Rain, gales, hailstones can descend on you in an instant without warning. We were all soaked to the skin. The wind howled with ominous intent as we braced ourselves for the way ahead. Step by step, we trudged onwards. All we could do was check in on each other and remind ourselves of the safe refuge that awaited in the village below. We would make it…together!
Nothing beats the glow of a warm fire when you make your way back. We stopped off at Kiersey’s in Kilmacthomas for lunch. One of the group spotted a Charity Shop and within minutes everyone had dry clothes to change into. As we tucked into our toasted wrap and soup, little did we know that the Manager had collected our wet clothes, tumble dried them in her home up the road and had them neatly folded for us when it was time to go. It was a defining moment for all of us! Pure kindness of this kind is never just for show…it comes from a place we all need to find. People like Jenny lead by example. A day on Camino so often mirrors the story of our lives. In a world that can be cynical to high ideals, it pays to remain generous. You cannot beat basic human decency.
There’s a general anxiety out there that I have not seen before. You feel it in the atmosphere. It’s strange not being able to do all we once took for granted. The uncertainty it brings is affecting everyone differently. I guess collectively as a people we’re being tested now like never before, not just in the literal sense. We’re all in it together yet each one of us have our own way of coping. The spinning around us may not stop for some time. Now, more than ever, it pays to place your feet on solid ground, to process what is of real value and to let go of the rest. If we were all honest with ourselves, this is the reality check our lives needed.
Anthony de Mello tells a powerful story of the wise man, or Sannyasi, who had withdrawn from the world in his search for happiness. The Sannyasi had reached the outskirts of the village and settled down under a tree for the night when a villager came running up to him and said, ‘The stone, the stone, give me the precious stone’. ‘What stone?’, the Sannyasi replied somewhat puzzled by the strange request. The villager went on to explain. ‘Last night the Lord Shiva appeared to me in a dream and told me that if I went to the outskirts of the village at dusk, I should find a Sannyasi who would give me a precious stone that would make me rich forever’. The Sannyasi rummaged in his bag and pulled out a stone. ‘He probably meant this one’, as he handed the stone over to the villager. ‘I found it on a forest path some days ago. You can certainly have it’. The man gazed at the stone in wonder. It was a diamond, one larger than any precious stone he had seen before. He took the diamond and walked away. All night he tossed about in bed unable to sleep. Next day at the crack of dawn he woke the Sannyasi and said, ‘Give me the wealth that makes it possible for you to give this diamond away so easily’.
Maybe the world we’re in had lost its way long before Covid reached these shores. Seize on the opportunity this time presents to anticipate possibilities for yourself and for those you love that you might not otherwise have imagined. Dare to see things differently. Dare to be yourself! Now is the time to be true to you rather than drift anonymously into the slipstream of others. A reliance on social media is not good. It’s crucial to have a life beyond it. What we project of ourselves online and what we see and read of the world around us does not always correspond with the truths we know. So choose wisely how you spend your time. Find your very own way of trying to make sense of it all. Stillness is the key to navigating any storm.
A good book can elevate you to a space where you begin to see more clearly. Some people’s stories can inspire us to believe all over again. ‘My Journey: Jim Stynes’ is a book that has quite simply changed how I look at everything in my life. I loved Jim as a footballer but the imprints he leaves behind go well beyond his sporting achievements. You might remember Jim as the tall, athletic Dublin Minor Gaelic Footballer who went on to become an Aussie Rules legend. At 42, healthy, fit, President of Melbourne AFL and a married father of 2, Jim was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma and faced the battle of his life with stoic courage until his untimely passing 3 years later. He was honoured by a State Funeral in Melbourne on March 27th, 2012. Jim Stynes embodies all that is good in humanity.
Tough times help us to distil the ebb and flow of life down to what really matters. We strip it of the excess that we no longer need to sustain us on our way and start to build again on solid ground. The light breaks through darkened clouds to guide us on our way. This month, I want to leave the last word to Jim. He is the man! He inspires at the deepest of levels. Long may his star shine!
“If you get stuck, look around and there will be another way. Don’t be afraid to take a risk, take on a challenge, try something new. Improvise. Think independently!…
I had found, through my treatment over the past 18 months, that anything I was unhappy about or troubled by slowly rose to the surface. One by one, these light bulb moments would come to the front of my mind. I began to think of them as precious stones that simply needed to be gathered up and polished to help lead me to a better life. Sometimes they would force me to confront aspects of my life that I was not especially comfortable with. These were stresses that I had carried around with me for years. So I began to knock them off one at a time.
One of the most important stones was that of understanding the art of ‘being there – learning to be present, rather than being distant because your mind is on what happened earlier that day, not thinking about solutions to unrelated problems or sending a text message when someone else is talking to you…
In the city I would be too busy to stop, to look around and listen. At the beach there were times when the only noise was the birds calling, or the waves lapping at the shore. I noticed how the treetops stooped in the wind, the patterns of the tides and the clouds. There was time to think deeply, to contemplate what it all meant.
I had always believed that life was about becoming all you could be. It was about opening yourself to opportunities to learn and experience new things. In the end it’s not the years in your life that counts; it’s the life in your years.” (Jim Stynes)
Dr. Phil Brennan and his wife Elaine look forward to welcoming groups to Waterford again once this time of uncertainty has passed. Our website www.waterfordcamino.com has recently been re-modelled to reflect our unique offerings for 2021. For further information, email Phil and Elaine directly on firstname.lastname@example.org