Magazine article Psychotherapy Networker

Beginnings: Embracing the Terror of Possibility

Magazine article Psychotherapy Networker

Beginnings: Embracing the Terror of Possibility

Article excerpt

Beginnings Embracing the terror of possibility

by John O'Donohue

There are days when Conamara is wreathed in blue Tuscan light. The mountains seem to waver as though they were huge dark ships on a distant voyage. I love to climb up into the silence of these vast autonomous structures. What seems like a pinnacled summit from beneath becomes a level plateau when you arrive there. Born in a red explosion of ascending fire, the granite lies cold, barely marked by the millions of years of rain and wind. On this primeval ground I feel I have entered into a pristine permanence, a continuity here that knew the wind hundreds of millions of years before a human face ever felt it.

When we arrive into the world, we enter this ancient sequence. All our beginnings happen within this continuity. Beginnings often frighten us because they seem like lonely voyages into the unknown. Yet, in truth, no beginning is empty or isolated. We seem to think that beginning is setting out from a lonely point along some line of direction into the unknown. This is not the case. Shelter and energy come alive when a beginning is embraced. Goethe says that once the commitment is made, destiny conspires with us to support and realize it. We are never as alone in our beginnings as it might seem at the time. A beginning is ultimately an invitation to open toward the gifts and growth that are stored up for us. To refuse to begin can be an act of great self-neglect.

Perhaps beginnings make us anxious because we did not begin ourselves. Others began us. Being conceived and born, we eventually enter upon ourselves already begun, already there. Instinctively we grasp onto and continue within the continuity in which we find ourselves. Indeed, our very life here depends directly on continuous acts of beginning. But these beginnings are out of our hands; they decide themselves. This is true of our breathing and our heartbeat. Beginning precedes us, creates us, and constantly takes us to new levels and places and people. There is nothing to fear in the act of beginning. More often than not it knows the journey ahead better than we ever could. Perhaps the art of harvesting the secret riches of our lives is best achieved when we place profound trust in the act of beginning. Risk might be our greatest ally. To live a truly creative life, we always need to cast a critical look at where we have become stagnant and where new beginning might be ripening. There can be no growth if we do not remain open and vulnerable to what is new and different. I have never seen anyone take a risk for growth that was not rewarded a thousand times over.

There is a certain innocence about beginning, with its excitement and promise of something new. But this will emerge only through undertaking some voyage into the unknown. And no one can foretell what the unknown might yield. There are journeys we have begun that have brought us great inner riches and refinement; but we have to travel through dark valleys of difficulties and suffering. Had we known at the beginning what the journey would demand of us, we might never have set out. Yet the rewards and gifts become vital to who we are. Through the innocence of beginning we are often seduced into growth.

Sometimes the greatest challenge is to actually begin; there is something deep in us that conspires with what wants to remain within safe boundaries and stay the same. …

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