More on the Story of your Life

This excerpt from John O’Donohues book, “Eternal Echoes” is meant to be a companion to the “Practicum of a Soul Friend.”  It is meant as a deeper contemplation on the story of your life:

Regardless of how you look back on your life, you cannot force it out of the order in which it has unfolded. You cannot de-sequence your life. The structure of your life holds together. That is the unnoticed miracle of memory; it is the intimate mirror of the continuity of your experience.

Even the severest and most shocking change insists on its belonging to the moments that preceded it… we attempt to understand the parts of the sequence in a clear and linear way. The difficulty here is our tendency to jump to conclusions about how one theme or thing grows out of another in our lives. When we make the connections too easy for ourselves, we let the mystery, like sand, slip through the openings…

Many of the places in our lives at which our growth has arrested are places where we have carried out negative baptisms. We have put wrong names on many of our most important experiences… We have kept some of our most beautiful longings as prisoners in our hearts, falsely imprisoned simply because of mistaken identity…

Reawaken respect for your inner life

A first step towards reawakening respect for your inner life may be to become aware of the private collage of dead names you have for your inner life… let yourself just slip back into the rhythms of your intimate wildness. You will be surprised at the lost terrains, territories, wells, and mountains that you will rediscover, territories which have been buried under well-meant but dead names. To go beyond confinement is to rediscover yourself…

The Place of Failure in our Story

There is a tendency now in revisionist history to explain the past in terms of movements and trends of the contemporary time. This is inevitably reductionist. The suffering of people is forgotten; they become faceless, mere ciphers of a trend or dynamic of history. To sanitize [your] history is to blaspheme against memory. Equally, to become obsessed with the past is to paralyze the future…

Failure is often the place were suffering has left the most special gifts… [a friend] was surprised and excited on looking back at his life to discover that much of what he had understood as the successes in his life did not hold their substance under more critical reflection… his failures now began to seem ever more interesting and substantial. The places of failure had been real points of change and growth.

Wonder: key to compassion

Wonder never rests on the surface of a fact or situation. It voyages inwards to discover why something is the way it is… if you begin to wonder what made a person become like [they are] you may be more open to the hidden story that has shaped [him].  Wonder can often be the key to compassion.

The sense of wonder can also help you recognize and appreciate the mystery of your own life.

A key to the temple of your life

When you really tell how and who you are, you offer your listener a key to the temple of your life. You allow that person a huge voice in your conversation with yourself. Listening is such an underrated activity. In fact it is hugely subversive. Because when we listen deeply, we take in the voice of the other. The inner world is so tender and personal, and the voices that really enter assume great power.


Thus with great power comes great responsibility – the great trust of listening well – of listening like an auditory mirror of the soul.

For more, go to “Practicum of a Soul Friend.”

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About R.H. (Rusty) Foerger

As I enter the third third of life, I am becoming aware of the role of elders today “to enlarge spiritual vision, being devoted to prayer, living in the face of death, as a living curriculum of the Christian life” (Dr. James M. Houston). I am a life long and life wide learner who seeks to: *decipher the enigma of our worth *rescue from the agony of prayerlessness *integrate spiritual friendship.
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