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Standing Still


Doolin, County Clare, Ireland (photo by Mandy Hughes)

My first time visiting the Cliffs of Moher (it turned out one time wasn’t enough) I walked to their highest point from the town of Doolin, travelling five miles southward. It so happened the day I chose to see the cliffs was the clearest, sunniest day Ireland had seen all year. To my right as I walked, the view of the Atlantic Ocean and not-too-distant Aran Islands was breathtaking — but more surprising to me was the beauty to my left: bright green, rolling hills scattered with ancient ruins and grazing cattle. The contrast itself was stunning: to my right, a majestic and precarious threshold to a great unknown; to my left, earth and stone and feasters of grass. I'd come for a glimpse of the edge of the world and to ask my questions about an uncertain future; in the end, I was answered by a circle of cows, the most grounded creatures I know: "Hello! We are here," their staring eyes seemed to say. "And right now, it appears, you are standing here, too."


To borrow the words of Pádraig Ó Tuama, "Hello to here."


Lately, I’ve been wishing I were somewhere over there — though I haven’t figured out where “there” is exactly. So it’s probably no accident that when I travelled to Ireland I carried Ó Tuama's book In the Shelter: Finding Welcome in the Here and Now across the Atlantic with me. The book is an invitation to name the truth about where you are now, even when — especially when — you’d rather be anywhere else. At one point Ó Tuama quotes the poem “Lost” by David Wagoner:


Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you

Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here

And you must treat it as a powerful stranger...


Ó Tuama goes on to say it’s the “rooted things” in Wagoner's world that tell the truth about Here. And I think the same could be said of ancient stones and staring cows, and even your own body, too. (This is why my clients so often hear me ask, "What is your body saying right now?" When you let yourself be fully here, your body tells the truth that your soul wants you to hear but your mind would prefer you escape.)


“So ‘Stand still,’” Ó Tuama says. “...Learn from the things that are already in the place where you wish you were not.”


I wish I were not still in this season of uncertainty. I wish I knew more about the place over There to which Here might eventually take me. I wish I had more answers, instead of all these doubts and questions.


And there's truth right here, in these doubts and in these questions, waiting for me to stand still and listen. In fact, it’s the truth about Here that will lead me to confront my deepest longings and empower me to more freely live my future. After all, how will I move toward the future I most want if I have not named the truth about the ground on which I'm standing? And how will I welcome that which waits across the sea if I have not welcomed the “powerful stranger” standing beside me?


So hello to some great ocean, and hello to rooted things. And hello to here, where I am standing still.


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