I have been deep in the heart of Celtic spirituality during these first weeks of Lent. John O’Donohue’s potent little book, To Bless the Space Between Us, has been my morning prayer companion. I have turned to this book to seek blessings and solace so many times over the past few years. My book falls open (actually falls apart) at the Blessing for a New Beginning . . . the Blessing for a Leader . . . the Blessing for Work . . . the Blessing for One Who is Exhausted . . . His blessings are eloquent, poetic, poignant.
He begins each of his chapters with a reflection on the theme – Beginnings, Desires, Thresholds, Homecomings, States of Heart, Callings, Beyond Endings. They are beautiful and thoughtful and invite me to sink into the words that follow. But he ends the book with a longer essay he calls “To Retrieve the Lost Art of Blessing.”
In my world of spiritual companioning and leadership, people often speak of blessings. “Bless you”, someone says. “What a blessing”, another exclaims. I often end my emails with, “many blessings.” Like saying “hi” or “how are you?”, these words can often become so familiar that we/I forget what it is we are invoking; what power we are aligning with; what intention we are committing to; and what a difference this act of love can make in the world. So O’Donohue’s last words about retrieving the lost art of blessing brought me back to the center and ground from which blessings come. I share it here as a reminder . . . and an invitation. And it comes with these words from my heart to yours . . . Bless you.
“The Inestimable Power of Intention”
There is incredible power in the mind when it directs its light toward an object. I heard recently of an ongoing experiment in an American university. There is a sealed-off room; in that room there is a coin-flipping machine. All day and all night it flips coins. The results are usually fifty percent heads and fifty percent tails. Nearby there is another room into which people are invited. Each person is asked to make an intention. Which would they prefer? Heads or tails? Having made their choice, they then write it down on a page that is put in a sealed envelope and addressed to the team who conducts the research. The results are astounding. If a person wishes for heads, the machine ends up flipping up to a seventy-five percent majority of heads and vice versa. They found the distance that the power of the intention to affect the outcome held for up to a hundred-and-fifty-mile radius around the experimentation room. Now, if human intention can substantially affect the outcome of something as cold and neutral as the working of a coin-flipping machine, how much more must our human intentions achieve as they relate to one another?
I have also heard of an experiment in meditation. For a certain number of days, some years ago, a group of people made a circle around the city of Washington and meditated continually. Gathered unknown to itself within this circle of loving kindness, Washington changed. The statistics for that period in the city showed a remarkable and unprecedented decrease in violence and crime. The power of intention to bless is not some utopian fantasy; it can be shown factually to effect concrete and transformative action.
We have no idea the effect we actually have on one another. This is where blessing can achieve so much. Blessing as powerful and positive intention can transform situations and people. The force of blessing must be even more powerful when we consider how the intention of blessing corresponds with the deepest desire of reality (I call this reality God) for creativity, healing, and wholesomeness. Blessing has pure agency because it animates on the deepest threshold between being and becoming; it mines the territories of memory to awaken and draw forth possibilities we cannot even begin to imagine!