Welcome to the thoughts, reflections and insights of an Interfaith Minister and Ceremony Celebrant. I don’t know how you found me but I hope in the following pages you find postings and links that touch your heart, make you think and uplift your spirits.
The motivational teacher Anthony Robbins always says “Live every day with an attitude of gratitude”. Not always easy when the going is tough but sometimes the darkest hour is just before dawn, and we need to practice strengthening our gratitude muscle to cope with such times.
I recently read this quote by Joan Chittister from her book Uncommon Gratitude: “Darkness deserves gratitude. It is the alleluia point at which we learn to understand that all growth does not take place in the sunlight” and Swami Vivekananda says “In a day if you don’t encounter a problem, then you know you are travelling on the wrong path”. However it can be really difficult to say “I’m really grateful for all the crappy things that are happening in my life right now!” But actually we need to learn to be grateful for the challenges, because to quote myself “there is never a problem without a gift for you in its hands”.
How often has something that seemed really negative in your life turned out to be a gift? The first time I really learnt this was when I was desperate to get a job that I’d applied for. I can’t tell you how much I wanted it…but I didn’t get it. I was totally gutted and cried for two days! However six months later another opportunity came that was amazing and right in line with the direction I wanted to take. I remember clear as yesterday saying “Thank goodness I didn’t get that other job because I wouldn’t have been available for this one”. I was so GRATEFUL!
So now when things seem to be going pear shaped or I’m facing uphill challenges (and there have been a few this year!), I remind myself…..READ MORE HERE
So what is enthusiasm? Well the origin is from the Greek “En-Theus” which means “In God”, or as I tend to translate it “God Inside”.
But ignore any potential religious connection and think about the last time you felt enthusiastic about something. Maybe it was a new idea, a trip out, a holiday or the thought of a forthcoming celebration of some kind. How did that feel? Did you feel alive, connected, wide awake and filled with joy and anticipation? Was it just in your head or did it feel physical? Where did you feel it in your body?
No doubt enthusiasm will be experienced differently depending on the circumstances. It might be that you wake up and seeing that it’s a beautiful day outside, you feel full of the joys of spring, and can’t wait to go out somewhere to enjoy it. Full-on enthusiasm brings with it a sense of wonderment, the desire to have fun, to explore, to enjoy ourselves, to be creative and to play. However, enthusiasm might be experienced in a quieter way……….read more
And what a minefield it is, which sounds ridiculous because hopefully once you reach a certain maturity of speech, you open your mouth and speak words that are understood and interpreted in the way that you have intended. Is that actually what happens though? Most likely not. In fact it’s quite frequently the reverse. The listener, who probably hasn’t really been listening anyway because they are too busy with their own stuff, totally mishears, misinterprets, misunderstands and likely retaliates with a comment that could leave you feeling that you must have been speaking in a foreign language.
At best this can leave you feeling exasperated and at worst can create a range of problems. In the workplace it can ultimately lead to poor leadership, low morale, being overlooked for promotion or even edged out of a job. This is likely to mean that personal relationships will also suffer with either estrangement within the relationship, or ultimately separation and divorce. Obviously the two don’t always go together but they can become a negative spiral.
So why is this communication business so hard and how can it be improved? Well it can’t be summed up all in one go in this space, but here are three critical pointers …. read more
During my personal development workshops or corporate management programs, at some point I will always teach my #1 self-management tool: Breathing. It might seem crazy to think you have to learn how to breathe but the reality is that unless you are engaged in activities that require you to breathe correctly, most people just do it without due attention. Which is fine(ish) until you get into a difficult situation and breathing becomes even shallower than usual, with the end result likely to become a form of panic or hyperventilation.
It also occurred to me just how many expressions we have in our language around breathing. We find scenery “breathtaking”; we breathe down someone’s neck; we keep secrets “don’t breathe a word of it to anyone”. We need some “breathing space” and we “breathe new life into something”. It “takes our breath away”, we get “out of puff”, mutter under our breath, and leave a bottle of wine “to breathe”. The word inspiration links with “inspire” – to breath in, and finally when we take our last breath, we expire. And a personal favourite of mine is Spiritus meaning “breath of life.”
There are “free” divers who learn to hold their breath for long periods of time and ……..read more
I was brought up with the maxim that “honesty is the best policy” and this certainly paid dividends for 69 year old homeless busker, Alan Dent. Having found a purse with £70 cash and credit cards, instead of helping himself, he handed it into a local bank.
It was traced to a young mum who publicly thanked Alan for his honesty and the story was featured in the Manchester Evening News resulting in him being inundated with visitors to his busking pitch where he plays the recorder. As well as congratulations and praise for what he’d done, he made around £150 in a day together with receiving drinks and food. However the icing on the cake is that a homeless charity have offered him somewhere to live and he hopes to be in by Christmas!
The poignancy of the story is that being homeless could happen to anyone. Two years after losing his job in 2005, Alan lost his home and has lived in temporary accommodation. In some ways he might be luckier than some who just end up on the streets permanently, but it powerfully illustrates the fragility of so-called “security”.
So this holiday season as well as rejoicing at Alan’s turn in fortunes and doing what I can to ease the hardship of others, I will also be giving heartfelt thanks for having a roof over my head, food on the table and someone to share it with. As the motivational teacher Anthony Robbins said “Live every day with an attitude of Gratitude”. Definitely another maxim to live by. Happy Holidays.
Earlier today I was enjoying a Costa coffee when two young mums wheeled in their respective youngsters, a boy and a girl both aged about 21/5. They duly positioned their buggies, got some drinks and set about the important task of talking to each other and ignoring their children.
Suddenly, the little boy began to cry. I don’t know what had happened but they were genuine tears. So mum picked him up and sat him astride her lap with her arm around his waist, whilst she continued to chat. Meanwhile the little girl was just left in her buggy with nothing to do – so she too started to wail loudly but I could see quite clearly that it was just hollow noise, because when nothing happened she stopped for a moment, looked round to consider the situation, and then started again.
Barely pausing for a break in her conversation, mum then half-heartedly leaned into the buggy and waved the child’s comfort blanket at her. It was taken but clearly not having achieved the desired effect, the noise went up several decibels. Mum “schss’d” her and carried on talking. Only when the noise went up yet again, was real notice taken, but even then only in the form of putting the comfort blanket directly into the girl’s hands.
Normally this behaviour drives me nuts and I wasn’t overjoyed this time. However, I could also see exactly what was going on in terms of “learned behaviour”. The little girl had spotted that when the little boy cried, he got picked up and cuddled by mum, so as she wasn’t getting any attention, she decided to give it a go too – and when it didn’t work, she upped the anti in frustration. It is so obvious when a child is just crying for attention because there is just noise but no real emotion – except for anger! Even if tears do appear, often called crocodile tears, the sound is still hollow.
I can’t believe that the so called “yummy mummies” aren’t aware of it, so I can only conclude that their chat with a friend is far more important than actually paying attention to their children, or at least providing them with some stimulus which at that young age, they really need. As we know a minute for an adult is like three hours for a child so “schhh” doesn’t really do it. Just picking the little boy up had been enough for him. What a pity the other mother didn’t follow suit – then maybe we’d all have enjoyed our coffee a bit more.
I have heard that a number of people are decrying the storyline in Coronation Street (long running British soap) where Marcus, a lifelong gay man has fallen in love with heterosexual Maria. They consider is to be a stretch too far and unrealistic.
This is actually a brilliant storyline as it happens more often than many people obviously realise. In fact with three of the civil partnerships I have conducted, one partner in two of the relationships had previously been married and had children, and in a third, both men had been married before and had children. One of the men had always been gay but told me “I just happened to fall in love with a woman”.
This was similar to a close friend of mine who having been divorced some years said “I’ve fallen in love” and when I was overjoyed for her, she said quietly “with a woman”. I remember still being overjoyed and saying “So what, love is love!” She was so relieved because that’s not the reaction she received from a number of other friends.
What is also true is that many married men are in fact suppressing gay feelings for fear of how they would be treated if they “came out”. Given that in the UK until 1967 homosexuality was a criminal offence and psychiatrists, believing that it was a form of illness, would often use horrific techniques to try and “cure” someone, maybe it’s not surprising. Yes it’s the 21st century and whilst in western culture predominantly, there is vastly more acceptance of gay relationships, there is also still a lot of overt, and underlying prejudice even from those who might profess to be cool with it.
But at the end of the day, love is love and when cupid’s arrow strikes, let’s hope that you are happy with the gender opposite you!
Diwali starts today but Robin, my stepson in India told me that there were already fireworks everywhere yesterday evening as excitement mounted for probably the most famous festival celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs (although the last two cultures have different meanings for the celebration).
The Festival of Lights, also known as Deepawali or Dival, takes place over five nights, and starts with a thorough cleaning of the house which is then decorated throughout with strings of lights and lamps.
New clothes are often purchased and the outside entrance is decorated with rangolis, elaborate drawings frequently depicting the lotus flower which honours Lakshmi, the goddess of beauty, wealth and prosperity – who it is hoped will enter the houses displaying lamps in the window to light her way.
Such is the belief in the auspiciousness of this time, that special Lakshmi shrines might be created containing pictures of desired material possessions. In India this time marks the end of the harvest season, and prayers of thanks are not only given for past prosperity but for another successful year. Diwali is also considered a good time to start a new business.
It is a period of much joy, where Diwali cards and gifts are exchanged with the wishes of “Shubh Diwali” (Happy Diwali), and googras, a popular Diwali pastry of sweet coconut are offered to friends. There are huge firework displays and in some cases a lot of gambling, which has its origins in the legend that tells of Parvati playing cards with her husband, Lord Shiva, and declaring that anyone who gambled at this time would be lucky!
For some Hindus the occasion celebrates the triumphant return to the city of Ayodha of Lord Rama and Sita, twenty days after the defeat of Ravana. It is said that they arrived to find avali (rows) of deepa (lamps) displayed in homes in honour of their return – hence the name Deepawali.
However, amidst the materialism, it is also important to remember that the deeper spiritual meaning of Diwali is to celebrate an awareness of the inner light that shines through the dark of ignorance and fear.
Taken in part from my book “Do I Kneel or Do I Bow?: What you need to know when attending Religious occasions”, (Kuperard, 2010).