For a long time, I was hard-pressed to find a good definition of “blessing” that encompassed its quality of kindness, possibiity and subtle transformative power without referencing formal religion. I found it in To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings by poet and philosopher John O’Donohue, in his long essay about blessings and in the many blessings he wrote.

A blessing is a circle of light drawn around a person to protect, heal, and strengthen. Life is a constant flow of emergence. The beauty of blessing is its belief that it can affect what unfolds.

…Regardless of how we configure the eternal, the human heart continues to dream of a state of wholeness, a place where everything comes together, where loss will be made good, where blindness will transform into vision, where damage will be made whole… To invoke a blessing is to call some of that wholeness upon a person now.

…It is not the invention of what is not there, nor the glazed-eye belief that the innocent energy of goodwill can alter what is destructive. Blessing is a more robust and grounded presence; it issues from the confident depth of the hidden self, and its vision and force can transform what is deadlocked, numbed, and inevitable. When you bless someone, you literally call the force of their infinite self into action.

…Perhaps we bless one another all the time, without even realizing it. When we show compassion or kindness to another, we are setting blessing in train.

In “Beannacht” from O’Donohue’s book Anam Ċara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, read by him in the video, he gives a purely poetic definition of blessing:

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets into you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green
and azure blue,
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

An invisible cloak
to mind your life.

With thanks to Ellen Silverman for throwing this blessing over our transom.

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