Rest and Peace

Tonight we have a ‘friendship meeting’ about Work and Rest at the Baha’i Centre. For some strange reason I always associate rest — contemplative rest with looking up at the clouds. It is as if the clouds talk to us, and remind us of the wisdom of rest, peace and the beauty of meditation.

There is a beauty in rest
The moment one stops
Looks at the sky
The wise clouds
Floating overhead
That look down
On our struggles

There is a perfection in rest
An opportunity
To take stock
To count one’s breaths
Connect with the heart
Give peace to the mind

There is a kindness in rest
A healing touch
The gentle reminder
That says
“All that chaos
All those demands
Places to go
Things to do
Unimportant ideas
Matters to attend to…

Let them go
Drift away
Like the clouds
The wise clouds
Floating overhead
That look down
On our struggles.”

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Wake up to Joy… A Recipe for the Spirit

Yes please, wake up and feel joy… but if you feel you can’t find joy… there are tricks and messages to your deepest self… that can make it happen.

This is my recipe for waking up to joy. First of all check in. It’s morning, possibly… and you have just woken up. Time to ask yourself the question “Do I feel joyful?” You have two choices here… if the answer is ‘yes!’ just bask in joy. Lie there and accept the beauty of yourself, the feeling that you feel good about yourself, the ceiling, the sky, the clouds, the weather… above all things the world. Let joy pour down on you like the very best and most exquisite sunshine. Simply bath yourself in a cloud of joy that stays with you for the rest of the day.

But if you don’t feel joyful, try the dialogue game. OK… you don’t feel joyful, but part of you, tucked away like an old friend has known how to be joyful at other times. We don’t talk about this often, but human beings have access to just about every emotion in the book – anger, fear, sorrow, wisdom, depression, uncertainty, enthusiasm, conviction – we have the lot. So go into the library of your soul, or the hotel of your dreams or wherever you might find a corner of yourself, and seek out the part of you that has known joy in the past. Remember joy. It might have been when you were a kid, or having a good time with friends, it might have been when you were walking through a beautiful garden, or lying in the sunshine on the most exquisite beach; maybe you were sitting on a mountainside or swimming in clear beautiful water but somewhere you will find that piece of yourself when you felt joy… joy just for you, you and only you. Look for that spark – that spirit of joy. Relax and look for the voice and the feeling of joy. It’s all about you.

The voice of joy will love you. Give that imaginary voice of joy a chance to talk to you. Give it a chance to remind you that you do know how to feel joy, you have felt joy before, and you will find and hold and keep joy in your life again… in fact you are asking to have it now.

Lie back and allow yourself to let joy in. If you are in pain, ask the pain to move aside to let joy in. If you are depressed, just push aside any sad or bad feelings… maybe you will even see yourself pushing the those feelings aside… allowing the fresh air, the sunshine and the radiance to enter your life.

I may not even know you. But I do believe that waking up to joy, the feeling of goodwill about oneself and others around one (that includes compassion for oneself and others around one)… is one of the most powerful tonics ever. Joy in the heart is a loving gift for the mind and the spirit; it needs to be taken regularly. If you are able to remember joy… you can experience joy and also express joy… right now. Knowing joy you can make the world around you and for those around you such a beautiful place, a place to be shared.

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Handwriting and the Writer

I have always loved handwriting. I have endless notebooks that open with phrases like “I love this pen, but this other one is much less fun…” and “What’s wrong with this bloody pencil? It won’t do as it’s told!”

When I went to school I took great care to make my handwriting as aesthetically pleasing as possible. I thought I had succeeded until Miss Gilson told me that the lower loops on my ‘g’s, my ‘y’s and my ‘p’s were ridiculous and unnecessary. I was 12. I felt deeply hurt, and a zillion years later I still feel slightly miffed about this, which is hardly wise.

My handwriting was not like anyone’s in my family; both my father and my sister had strangely similar writing – orderly, controlled and elegant. I assumed that their handwriting was an expression of their true selves — they were both writers and intellectuals, and that controlled handwriting was an expression of their literacy. Tragically, when my sister was dying her handwriting changed beyond recognition. She died around my birthday, and I had to destroy all the dear little cards and notes she struggled to write at the time; they were nothing like her usual elegant script — they just served as a horrible reminder of the cruelty of her illness.

For most of my life I have made my living as a writer, starting out as a copywriter for silly products, books, technology products and later for lawyers. At various points in my life I worked as a journalist employed by several weekly papers and later as a freelance writer. When I became an interfaith minister, I started to write ceremonies – funerals, weddings, services and baby blessings. I also wrote meditations, but the great bulk of the writing done since ordination in 2007 has been prayers. I have a website of funeral readings and another called prayers for everyone.

For many years I never, ever thought of myself as a writer, and I suspect this was because I was always comparing myself to my father and my sister, and reckoned that only clever people were writers. How naïve I was… there are numerous twerps out there who reckon they are writers… and indeed they are… and they are absolutely dire.

One day I had a Damascene moment. After a serious illness I left London and my company and decided to return to freelance writing. I moved to Brighton, and felt so much more free as I wandered around the South Coast without the responsibilities of old. One weekend my wanderings took me to a craft fair. In the corner was a gentleman with a Graphology stall; he was in the process of packing things up. I asked the graphologist to do an assessment of my handwriting. He was in a hurry to go home, and didn’t seem to care that I only had twenty quid on me. With some impatience he agreed to take the money and do a quick appraisal. He told me to write down a phrase like ‘the quick brown fox…’ and also a few words of my choice. Then he sat back, and looked at my handwriting and said ‘You’re a writer.’ That’s all he said. He had seen my handwriting and he knew what I was… and in that moment I realised that he had it right. I am a writer. A prolific one… and an interfaith minister sometimes as well. 

Sometimes it takes somebody else to tell you who you are… somebody in this case who didn’t give a fig but just wanted to go home. 

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An Angel Fell to Earth

These words came to mind a day or two ago. They were written for my funeral readings website, but most importantly for those that seek comfort in the midst of great sadness.

An angel fell to earth
She tumbled like a stone
A meteor
A speck of space rubble

She laughed
As she entered
The outer atmosphere

Just a dot of light
She fell from space
But then suddenly
She swooped
Into the stratosphere
And unfolded
Her magnificent
White wings
Sailed and soared
Progressing
Through the blue

She dived 
Like a hawk
Then turned
And wheeled upwards
On a breeze
Like an eagle
Her flight was dreamlike 
Perfection 

Flocks of birds
Swerved round her
Surprised
Humans looked up
Marvelling at the shooting star 
Appearing and disappearing

For a while
She floated on a crown of clouds
Then dived earthwards
Riding on air currents
Tasting the perfume
Of distant flowers and trees 

She came
To meet departing souls
She came for me

My fading light 
Slipped into her hands
And her wings opened 

As she left the ground
I looked back
But the spirit of love
Carried me to a place of joy
Outside time itself

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A Kind of an Angel

When people die we sometimes view them differently… in ways we didn’t see them when they were alive. We recall the good and the bad with a degree of uncertainty – sometimes guilt, sometimes sentimentality. There is no harm in being realistic, and with this in mind I have written a funeral reading for someone – very much like someone I knew, who was ‘almost an angel, but not quite’ in other words ‘A Kind of an Angel’.

Were you an angel? Sometimes
Were you playful? Often
Were you nice? Very often
Could you be funny? More than often

Yes, you were a kind of an angel
Yes, you were kind
Yes, you could be angelic
You were… 
A kind of an angel

When you were funny
We laughed,
When you were cheerful
We cheered,
When you were sad
We felt bad

How we will miss you
With your way of being
We’ll never forget you
Your way of seeing
The funny side
Of funny days
Funny and silly
In funny ways
Yes, you were kind of an angel

So now you are an angel
For real
An angelic one
And definitely
A funny one

You’ll make them laugh
You’ll make them cry
You’ll make them jump
You’ll make them fly

You’ll make a great angel
Which is why
We’ll miss you
Our favourite
Kind of an angel

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A Happy Easter with Flying Bunnies and a Tasty and Very Chocolatey Egg

Grab your coat and get your egg
Leave your worries out on the landing
Just direct those dancing feet
To the sticky side of the street

Can you hear that scrunching noise?
Granny’s munching on her cream egg
Grab your own with hands and feet
And get chewing your Easter treat

I used to walk in the rain
And get drenched from here to Spain
But whatever you do…
Don’t over-egg it, Babe, just leg it

Grab your coat and get your egg
The bunnies are flying off the landing
The sweeties are floating West
Go put on your flying vest

A Happy and Joyous Easter…

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Cosmic Spirituality

The Overview Effect in Life and Meditation 

This beautiful view of the earth from beyond – the overview – is reported to have affected a number of astronauts quite profoundly. After seeing the Earth from space, many astronauts have described their transcendent awareness of this sight in strongly spiritual language. Understandably they are greatly changed after seeing this view of their home planet for the first time. Predictably such opinions by space travellers are interpreted pretty boringly by scientists. The scientific fraternity compare this profound change of attitude as simply the effect of seeing something beautiful… like viewing the Grand Canyon for the first time. But it’s clear that experiencing the cosmic view of the Earth enables the observer to take in both the greatness and the insignificance of our planet and its multi-billion occupants – animal – vegetable and mineral. Here is a bit of ourselves – a simple seed – ancient and complex – mystical and physical. This image, once seen in all its glory, enables us to appreciate and relate to the spiritual self… whether one is on Planet Earth or far from it.

It is no coincidence that the image of The Earth from space -– The Blue Marble (first taken by Apollo 17 on December 7th, 1972) is the most reproduced image of all time. It is the seed of cosmic totality (possibly one of many) as experienced by those that have the privilege to be held within its life force. It may be the most powerful spiritual image you will ever get to see in your life-time.

Cosmic spirituality is something we can all share. Using the image of Earth from space is something that I have used in meditations many times, and it enables us to step outside of ourselves and think about other people, places and ideas in our fabulous world. The power of a meditation (like the Metta) is made even more meaningful with an awareness of this image as part of the process.

One thing that this image tells us: religion is man-made. Spiritual awareness is cosmic.

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Peace Comes to Mind

Sometimes meditation brings total connection with all things

Just as peace comes to mind
So love resides in the heart.
Just as calm meets the soul
So time diminishes.

Then grace fills the being
And the heart opens
Like a flower.

These are the moments
Of meeting with everything
Touching every sound
Hearing all colours
Drinking the music of forests
Hearing the song of the ocean,
The chattering of birds and beasts
An instant of love,
Connection,
Harmony,
And Joy.

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Eternity

To believe or not to believe… That’s the real question. Here’s ‘A Prayer in Honour of Eternity’. It is also to be found on my websites – Prayers for Everyone and Funeral Readings

Some say:
‘This is the end’
And think
‘I am coming to the end’
But there is no end

For eternity 
Is in the soul…
It is in the mind
The bones
The body
The heart

Others say
‘I know about the end’
They imagine
They understand
Nothing

I only know
That any belief in the end 
Is an idea
A passing thought
Without beginning 
Or end

For eternity 
Is in the soul…
It is in the mind
The spirit
Music
Laughter

And because I see and feel
And hear and taste
And sometimes remember
And sometimes do not remember
I welcome mystery

For I am eternal
And I know eternity 
I have met eternity
I am without end

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Best Baby Blessing

Here is a loving baby blessing without religious references.

You are
The best baby
The most beautiful
Best baby

You are
Usually joyful
Sometimes tearful
Occasionally fearful
Always delightful

Your smile
Is sunshine
Blooming and beaming
Laughing or screaming
Shining across a sea of smiles
You make me smile
You make us all smile

This blessing is for you
Best baby
It is our gift to you

Because you are the loveliest
We hold you in our arms
And smile
And our hearts
And smile
And bless you
And smile
And love you
Best baby

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