Inner light

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“Lead, Kindly Light, amidst th’encircling gloom… And with the morn those angel faces smile.”
– Saint John Henry Newman

I once visited the Solas Bhríde Centre in County Kildare, a place that unfolds the legacy of Saint Brigid, the female patron saint of Ireland. Among the attractions I came across was the ‘perpetual flame’, a candle that has been burning continuously since 1993. While I meditated next to the candle it struck me how mellow and calm the flame appeared. It wasn’t too strong and bright; just right to enable it to keep going throughout day and night. It also struck me that if I am to pursue a PhD I need to maintain my energy and direction like this perpetual flame. Continue reading

Promptings

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The heart works in slow ways, and we need great inner freedom to make real change.

In this time of new resolutions, it is good to say “Yes” to our promptings, our movement within. It is first helpful to get in touch with our inner teacher that quenches desires for riches, honour and pride. Listening to this navigational system points us in the direction of wisdom and wellness. The ‘little flame of love’ comes alive and we develop spiritual poverty (a deeply-felt sense of dependence on our world) and humility (from humus for earth or soil). We respond to the slow ways of the heart. Continue reading

Joy with the world

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The last of three pieces of wisdom from a ground-breaking book, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World. The New York Times bestseller is the product of the deep friendship between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. Along with author Douglas Abrams, it attempts to blend contemplative wisdom and modern science.

Joy is an interdependent reality.

To experience the light of ‘God’ in this world we must be in communion with all of God’s kingdom. We are born to share our talents and gifts with each other. Some of us have a great eye for detail, others are inherently intuitive, some have clarity of vision, and so on. When we truly express ourselves as members of the seven billion people on this earth we come alive with joy, light and love. If we find ourselves feeling lonely, it is helpful to remember the Ubuntu wisdom of South Africa that calls out: “A person is a person through other persons”.

Reducing our suffering

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The second of three pieces of wisdom from a ground-breaking book, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World. The New York Times bestseller is the product of the deep friendship between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. Along with author Douglas Abrams, it attempts to blend contemplative wisdom and modern science.

Aligning with the suffering of others decreases our own suffering.

Many people have colds at this time of year and it can be tempting to give in to low mood, self-centredness and despair. But if we simply be mindful of others who are spluttering, coughing and throbbing with headaches it actually makes us feel a little better. This is also an incentive for getting involved in charity work: whether this means dropping a few coins in a bucket for the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul or chatting with a homeless person on the street it all helps to reduce our own suffering.

Cultivating compassion

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The first of three pieces of wisdom from a ground-breaking book, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World. The New York Times bestseller is the product of the deep friendship between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. Along with author Douglas Abrams, it attempts to blend contemplative wisdom and modern science.

Compassion can be cultivated and nourished each day.

Although Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama come from very different traditions, Christianity and Buddhism, they both train their minds and hearts in cultivating genuine concern for the well-being of their neighbours. For example, the Dalai Lama refers to the Chinese oppression of the Tibetans. Essentially, he takes in their anger, hatred and abuse and returns this destructive energy with love, forgiveness, and peace. Archbishop Tutu speaks of a similar practice that he developed during his major struggle with the Apartheid regime in South Africa, and he is now known as a model of compassion throughout the world.

Warm hearts

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As things revved up in Dublin, I decided to unwind with another retreat. Notably, I forgot how to spell the word ‘beginning’ after my first evening meditating – a subtle reminder to start again. On the second day, I met for a few minutes with a facilitator. I told her how I had exerted a lot of energy in my career, that I was probably too wilful and that I felt drained, unmotivated and dry. To my surprise, she said that wilfulness was totally understandable for a man of my age and that I was placing a lot of judgement on myself. I breathed a sigh of relief, thanked her for her comments and saw things from a different perspective. Continue reading

Motherly love

Motherly love

Advent (from Latin meaning ‘coming’) is a time – about four weeks – of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, and is practised among many Christians throughout the world. Mary, mother of Jesus, is a central figure in this story. I look to her as someone who embodied a ‘big heart for a big world’. I imagine that God wanted to give new life to the people of earth through her willingness and cooperation. She completely opened her heart by saying “Yes” when the angel requested her to become the mother of Jesus. Continue reading