A few years ago, while on retreat at a hermitage set high in the sun-parched landscape of Big Sur (California), I heard the most delicious chant. Walking in slow procession, with hoods obscuring their faces, twenty-or-so monks emerged from their enclosure to begin morning prayer. A huddle of visitors, made up of retreatants and neighbours who’d driven up from cabins and ranches along the coast, stood in reverence. As the men broke the night’s silence with their a capella rendition of “O Lord, open my lips, That my mouth may declare Your praise,” I burst into tears: such grace, such humility.
Much later I found that the words are from Psalm 51:15 — they continue to ring through me as I write. The late John O’Donohue speaks of such moments as “the primal intimacy in the soul … this original echo [that] whispers within every heart.” He continues:
There is within each of us, at the soul level, an enriching fountain of love. In other words, you do not have to go outside yourself to know what love is. This is not selfishness, and it is not narcissism; they are negative obsessions with the need to be loved. Rather this is the wellspring of love within the heart.
Through their need for love, people who lead solitary lives often stumble upon this great fountain. They learn to whisper awake the deep well of love within. This is not a question of forcing yourself to love yourself. It is more a question of exercising reserve, or inviting the wellspring of love that is, after all, your deepest nature to flow through your life.
source: O’Donohue, J. (1997). Anam cara: a book of Celtic wisdom. HarperPerennial, pp. 26-27.