The Blessings of Presence


A couple of years ago, while traveling in western Ireland with David Whyte, I was blessed to spend three luscious hours with the Irish poet and mystic, John O’Donohue. I’ll never forget the very first words that flowed from his mouth: “Life is all about presence. Presence is what we are all looking for, and it’s really all we have to give each other.”

I am reminded of John’s words as I drink in the profound presence of the stand of trees in the photograph above. Knowing how trees play a foundational role in sustaining our planet, I also recall a sacred blessing placed during an ancient Druid ceremony honoring the planting of a grove of trees:

We ask for the blessing of the Inner Guardians of the Order and of our
Druid forebears that this Grove might become a truly holy and sanctified place.

We respect and honour and admire you, O trees, for you represent both
Peace and Power. Though you are mighty, you hurt no creature. Though
you sustain us with your breath, you will give up your life to house and
warm and teach us. We give thanks for your blessing upon our lives
and upon our lands. May you fare well in this chosen place. Amen.

Most of us often find it easier to connect with the beauty of nature’s presence than with the beauty of those we are close with in our lives, which reminds me again that we have so much to learn from nature. I can’t imagine a tree thinking to itself that it feels unworthy, or that it hadn’t done enough to be productive on a given day — or that it was tired of being a tree and wished it could be a hummingbird for just a day. Day in and day out, year after year in such a timeless way, trees gently and patiently serve us all the while extending their roots deeper and deeper into the ground and their branches higher into the sky.

The life wisdom reflected to us through the life of trees is captured in this excerpt from one of my favorite poems:


by Ivan Lalic

Learn, my heart, what any tree can tell you.
How to assign its roots
to drive them right ways down into the
loosened darkness.
Not through the stone,
but round the stone.
Not into the clay,
but towards the water close at hand.
Not into the unyielding,
but into the love ready to answer
the pressure of rootlets
with a rush forcing up a ringed access
to the fork and beyond,
with an upland rise of branches
repeating the pattern of a nether thirst.

The further along I travel in life, the more it is evident that it is the power and simplicity of presence — mine and others — that nourishes the heart most. This evening as I type these words I am sitting next to a wonderful woman on the plane as our family flies westward home from New England. One of my favorite experiences in life is meeting someone for the first time. As our conversation fluidly ranges from the many ways we treasure our sons and daughters — to the particular ways we each enjoy water in all of the ways it blesses our lives — I find it is her beingness, her unique loving presence, that touches my heart. I’ve never met a woman like her before, and I never will again, and I find her breathtaking as we share and get to know each other.

“I write a lot about the importance of seeing one’s true inner beauty,

to nourish it, trust it and act from that place of clear presence.

But I have come to think more this past year about how we truly “see”

another’s essence — the beauty that glows under the ego-generated

behaviors driven by fear and self-protection. It is a beautiful thing to walk

around and expect to see it in everyone you meet. More often than not,

when you quiet the mind and look with your heart, you will see it.”

~ Anne O’Shaughnessy

Reflecting upon the powerful impact of our presence — the mysterious way that Spirit radiates continuously from within us all the days of our lives — I am reminded of the insightful words of Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people
won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

With blessings of Love to you and your life this week, Gavin

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Your Comments

  1. March 10, 2009 at 6:18 am

    Gavin, this is a beautiful blog, artistic, wise. You are speaking truth that is very important at this time. Thank you for including a quote from The Dancing Animal Woman. I think from the sounds of your voice, that you might also enjoy Awakening the Energies of Love which just came out this year. (More about it on the website). With blessings, Love, Anne

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