Judith Anne O’Sullivan
Without doubt Daniel O’Leary is a great favourite among those seeking to live a deeper and more integrated life. The centrespread of the May issue of Tui Motu featured some beautiful art together with the poem “The Quilt” by Daniel O’Leary. This poem was written to help the author understand the complexity of our lives, especially how the light and darkness of our experiences are intertwined. I have to say when I was first given this book Daniel’s poem stole my heart. These words, especially, touched my soul: “my darkest times were now the brightest patches and the ‘sinful’ pieces held them all together”. Like all good poetry, “The Quilt” is contemplative and it reminds me of something I read recently by Dr Barbara Holmes that art and contemplation lead us to wonder, but first they perplex us.
In The Heavenly Habit Daniel has invited 10 author-artists to share with us their experience of how grace that finds light in darkness leads us to transformation. This book is not one to be read but rather one to be dipped into like a well full of refreshing water. As we ponder the sentiments we are not reading for information but for transformation. This is where God works best because we are not in control. Grace and healing are happening in secret.
In his Introduction, Daniel says he hopes this book will brighten the lives of his readers by enabling us to look at what we see as unpleasant or negative in such a way that it will reveal the hidden goodness it carries. Thus, to acquire the “Heavenly Habit” we need to find the gold in our shadow. This same wisdom was expressed by the songwriter Leonard Cohen: “there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”. The paradox of life is that we need the darkness to discover the light. The Heavenly Habit encourages us to use our imagination and our senses and to let go of the negative — to let go of all those emotions that keep us imprisoned. In letting go or befriending the negative we create a space for the positive.
Having prayed with this book I would strongly recommend it to anyone who desires to grow and longs to choose life. You will feel challenged to put into practice what is written by each author before moving on to the next chapter. I believe it will be especially helpful for people who companion others on the journey towards growth and the fullness of life. Don’t read it unless you are aware that as Leonard Boff says: “within every heart abide angels and devils … they will always dance together within us.” If our energy is consumed in negativity, how can our creativity blossom? Develop a habit of encouragement, practise praise, express gratitude, acknowledge gifts and all will be well. Befriending our shadow side and integrating our negative emotions enables us to be awake to the Heavenly Habit and allows us to be surprised to discover all that is beautiful in the most unexpected places.
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