Dec 07 2012

John O’Donohue – For Freedom

Published by at 9:47 am under Poetry

For Freedom
by John O’Donohue

As a bird soars high
In the free holding of the wind,
Clear of the certainty of ground,
Opening the imagination of wings
Into the grace of emptiness
To fulfill new voyagings,
May your life awaken
To the call of its freedom.

As the ocean absolves itself
Of the expectation of land,
Approaching only
In the form of waves
That fill and pleat and fall
With such gradual elegance
As to make of the limit
A sonorous threshold
Whose music echoes back among
The give and strain of memory,
Thus may your heart know the patience
That can draw infinity from limitation.

As the embrace of the earth
Welcomes all we call death,
Taking deep into itself
The right solitude of a seed,
Allowing it time
To shed the grip of former form
And give way to a deeper generosity
That will one day send it forth,
A tree into springtime,
May all that holds you
Fall from its hungry ledge
Into the fecund surge of your heart.

— from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings, by John O’Donohue


/ Photo by Kaysse /

A blessing poem for us all by John O’Donohue. Here at the end of the year, this poem of freedom, death and reawakening, of renewed vision, renewed possibility, and renewed self… feels deeply right today.

Wow. This is one of those poems where every time I re-read a line with the idea of writing some commentary, I get drawn in so deeply that I read all the way to the end again, whispering several times “Ohh, that’s nice!” along the way.

There isn’t much to comment on here, really. The meaning isn’t particularly obscure. Reading these lovely lines doesn’t fire any of those chatty parts of my brain: the meditator’s ‘Aha!’ corner, the esoteric nerd, the historian, the editor. When that happens, I often fall back on plucking a few choice lines from the poem, holding them up to you, and saying something rather feeble, like, “Aren’t these wonderful words?”

As a bird soars high
In the free holding of the wind…

But even that fails me with this poem, because it isn’t just a few isolated lines. Each phrase that grabs my attention pours into the next line and the next, until I have half the poem reproduced.

Clear of the certainty of ground…

Opening the imagination of wings…

Into the grace of emptiness…

To fulfill new voyagings…

May your life awaken
To the call of its freedom.

So I’ll just say reread this poem, savor it, let the words and ideas settle on you and in you like a healing balm, restoring breath and self and the courage to let go in order to step forward and profoundly be.

May all that holds you
Fall from its hungry ledge
Into the fecund surge of your heart.

Sending much love to everyone!






John O'Donohue, John O'Donohue poetry, Christian poetry John O’Donohue

Ireland (1956 – 2008) Timeline
Christian : Catholic
Secular or Eclectic

John O’Donohue is an inspiring Irish philosopher, poet, mystic who passed away unexpectedly in early 2008.

John O’Donohe had degrees in philosophy and literature. His writings, though grounded in academic philosophy and theology, are immediate, personal, very human. He was as much a mystic and a poet as a contributor to philosophical dialog.

Much of his writing and poetry drew deeply from Irish Celtic perspectives, both in Christian and pre-Christian wisdom, while speaking to a widely diverse, modern audience.

More poetry by John O’Donohue

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “John O’Donohue – For Freedom”

  1. marrobon 09 Dec 2012 at 7:40 am

    Yes, there’s really very little to say after
    reading & rereading O’Donohue’s poem, again & again.

    Except one wants to acknowledge the efforts (that
    seem so effortless)
    that went into orchestrating and sharing this nudge into
    awe and silence.

  2. Michael K'shatria Youngon 11 Dec 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Ivan, of course I’m appreciating John O’Donohue’s blessings.
    In checking out your poetry video, it made me think of my own
    production of Poetry Moment and Peace is Possible on our local
    access cable tv. The special effects are just green screen in the
    background to project nature scenes that might enhance the mood.
    You can check out the videos at http://vimeo.com/40598209

  3. Ian Stuarton 23 Jan 2013 at 8:32 am

    “grace of emptiness” works really well.

    There’s a balance about the whole poem which draws you on and

    “Thus may your heart know the patience
    That can draw infinity from limitation.”

    makes a clever, but unostentatious point.

    It reminds me of Yeats.

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