Posted by: ritagone | August 26, 2015

What I Learned From the Irish…


If you’ve seen my posts on Facebook in the last weeks, you’ll already know that Michael and I spent five days in Ireland earlier this month.

I love Ireland.

In fact, I must confess to you that it is my favorite country to visit. While I feel a unique kinship with Russia for many reasons (i.e., my mother was born there), there is something about the Emerald Isle that really speaks to my heart and soul.

Western Ireland, in particular, where we were recently (County Mayo), is filled with mysticism and spirituality and quite a bit of superstition all rolled into one. The people are open-faced and friendly, and of course their accent is lilting and musical. I could listen to Irish people talk for hours and hours; it’s a good thing that they are for the most part a talkative people, and I easily get my wish.

Because I am intrigued with most things Irish, I read a book upon my return to Southern California called “Anam Cara,” by John O’Donohue, which deals with the concept of a soul mate or a friend who is a part of the intimate fiber of your life in many ways.

In the book he spends a great deal of time talking about fear, what it does to us and where it comes from, because fear is a part of your experience and mine. The root of fear and its presence is something that every one of us can relate to and has to deal with. And so he told this amazing story (and no one can tell a story better than an Irishman or woman), which I will quote in its entirety:

“The best story I know about the presence of fear is an old story from India about a man condemned to spend the night in a cell with a poisonous snake. If he made the slightest movement, the snake would kill him. All night the man stood petrified in the corner of the cell, afraid even to breathe for fear of alerting the snake. As the first light of dawn reached into the cell, he could make out the shape of the snake in the other corner. He was deeply relieved not to have alerted it. Then as the light of dawn increased further and became really bright, he saw that it was not a snake but an old rope lying in the corner of the cell. The moral of the story suggests that there are harmless things, like that old rope, lying around in many of the rooms of our minds. Our anxiousness then works on them until we convert them into monsters that hold us imprisoned and petrified in small rooms in our lives.”

Does this story strike a chord in your heart in terms of how you deal with fears, both real and imagined, in your life? It certainly did that for me. I realized how often I am paralyzed by something I see as a monster only to find out that it’s an old, harmless rope that can do me no damage.

I wonder how many of us need to take this metaphor to heart and ask God to show us where we are fearful for no reason.

Ireland – for me, at least – has the ability to soothe my fears and make me feel that God is right there with me, leading the way and offering help and protection.

What is your Ireland? Where are you when you feel the most protected and soothed? When was the last time you feared a snake and found a rope instead?

Some good questions to ponder, I think.

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