For many years now, I have spent New Year’s Eve joined in prayer, reflection, song and laughter with a small community of women with whom I share life’s journey.
This year, for our evening prayer service we used as a reading a reflection from the Irish author John O’Donahue’s To Bless the Space Between Us. The reading speaks to the contrast between our Western, linear concept of calendar time and the ancient, indigenous Celtic understanding of time’s deeper meaning:
The nature of calendar time is linear; it is made up of durations that begin and end. The Celtic imagination always sensed that beneath time there was eternal depth. This offers us a completely different way of relating to time. It relieves time of the finality of ending. While something may come to an ending on the surface of time, its presence, meaning, and effect continue to be held and integrated into the eternal….This is how Spirit unfolds and deepens. In this sense, eternal time is intimate; it is where the unfolding narrative of individual life is gathered and woven.
As we approached the passing of the calendar year of 2010 and waited for the dawning of 2011, I felt exhilarated by the image of a whole new year ahead full of open space and new possibilities. At the same time, the reading from O’Donahue also captured an additional feeling I had been trying to bring into focus for myself. O’Donahue’s distinction between the ending that happens “on the surface of time” and the eternal nature of the “presence, meaning, and effect” of all the experiences we have had in time was helpful to me in naming this other feeling.
There are many threads of my experiences in 2010 and before that I wish to carry into the days ahead in 2011. I especially want to keep “present” with me in 2011 my experiences with the people I met in my leadership workshops as we continue to support one another in our growth toward becoming more authentic and compassionate leaders. I need to continue to explore more deeply the meaning and effect of my experiences in Kenya and India during this past year; the insights gained through the reading I have done; the wisdom and challenges that have come through the people I met.
Many years ago, I came to the conclusion that everything we do in life is remote preparation for what we will do next. Like the rings that become visible in a cross section of the trunk of an ancient tree, the yearly experiences we have shape and strengthen us. But, I realize in reflecting on O’Donahue’s words that only becomes so if we take the time to reflect on our experiences, and cull from them their deeper meanings and ponder the effects they have on our own growth and development.
During 2011, I look forward to adding another ring, so to speak, to the layers of my own growth. As I do so, I am deeply grateful to all those who have shared the journey with me thus far, and who continue to contribute to who I am becoming in time.
O’Donahue, J. (2008) To bless the space between us: A book of blessings. New York, NY: Doubleday.