Thought for the Week = just be a little kinder

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The Dalai Lama claims that his religion is kindness. And he goes on to say that, ‘on a simple, practical level, kindness creates a sense of warmth and openness that allows us to communicate much more easily with other people’.
 Kindness can seem a little soft and old-fashioned today – something for a gentler, less hurried age – a time less caught up with efficiency and maximising profit.
The truth is that kindness is one of the most powerful, transformational forces we have and can solve many  problems. It has no downside -and  it costs nothing – it is not age or class specific….we can all do it…
And we need to exercise our kindness not just to others but to ourselves too- Shakespeare tell us..’Self love  is not so great a sin as self neglect’.   And also to other creatures living on our planet..
Let us try this week to be just a little kinder to ourselves and to one another and make our world a warmer, nicer place to live.
Aldous Huxley, the English author and philosopher, spent his life working on how to develop human potential – he tried yoga, meditation techniques, dance, taking drugs of all sorts, hypnotic trance and Zen.
In one of the last lectures he gave towards the end of his life he was asked, what was the most effective technique for transforming life.   “It is a little embarrassing” he said, that after years and years of research and experimentation, I have to say that the best answer is  – “just be a little kinder.”
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Thought for the Week – Disconnected from Source 

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The issue of self-esteem is not new. Freud attributed the difference between a low mood and depression to self-esteem. He argued that low self esteem triggers depression.
Today we are surrounded by self-esteem concerns. David Tacey claims that the issue has grown because we look to the ego to supply our sense of self worth when the source is elsewhere – in the soul. Since we don’t talk about the soul anymore we can’t  come to terms with self-esteem. He says, “our ego based society cannot understand it because something other than the ego gives us our deep and secure sense of worth”. And we are out of touch, disconnected from this source. He goes on to suggest that this why so many young people are harming themselves, engaging in glue sniffing or attempting suicide. The problem is that they don’t know who they are – they are cut off disconnected from source.
Jung describes this as a ‘loss of soul’ and this disconnection undermines people’s lives makings them anxious and confused. This loss leads to a crippling emptiness which is expressed as anxiety, addictions and even suicidal feelings. We may look fine on the surface but underneath there is turmoil. We need to reconnect with our souls.
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Thought for the Week – Darkness v Light

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As we enter this darkening time of the year I find myself drawn downwards into my own darkness. And I am frightened to go there.
Growing up we were taught to avoid the darkness, to fear it and treat it as dangerous territory. Most of my spiritual training has also taught me to ignore this darkness and focus on the more accessible bright half of my being.  And our culture avoids the dark – light is everywhere – we never get time off to rest in the dark. We are always on.
We have witnessed the destruction that ignored darkness has spawned and the consequent disillusionment with the church.
The truth is that we are hybrid creatures, made up of dark and light and we must take both these parts seriously and we all have our own version of these.
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Thought for the Week – The Easy Option

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We all love stories – the story behind the Apple Mac Command Key has remained with me as a warning as to how I can get lazy in what I do and in the decisions I make. It stays with me.  Here is the story.

The Development team tasked with developing the early Mac computers came up with the idea of adding a command key to a standard keyboard. This key if used  in combination with other keys provides a shortcut to an array of menu commands.

They needed a symbol for the key and the team understandably defaulted to the now famous Apple logo.When Steve Jobs saw it he was frustrated – he felt the design team had become lazy and that the Apple icon was being overused.

He would not accept their proposal and sent them back to the drawing board – to come up with something better – something more original. The job fell to the graphic designer on the team called Susan Kare.

She searched through countless books of international symbols and then she came across an obscure sign found on campsites in Sweden and other parts of Scandanavia.  It is a square with looping corners – like a Bowen knot. It was the symbol used on information boards to indicate a cultural centre or a ‘place of interest’, such as a waterfall or other natural phenomenon.

Steve Jobs was very taken with this idea of a symbol directing users to ‘places of interest’ on the computer keyboard. He accepted the symbol and it has remained a unique feature of Apple keyboards.

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Thought for the Week – Screwtape and Wormwood

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In 1940 C.S. Lewis, wrote a book about conversations between two devils. In one conversation, Screwtape, a senior devil is advising his young nephew, Wormwood, on the best way to win souls away from God.

Wormwood is determined to be clever and invent his own ways of seducing people away from God. Screwtape is not impressed and becomes impatient and finally loses his temper.   “Listen”, he says,  “I have been doing this for years – I know what works and what doesn’t – you don’t have to reinvent the wheel”.

The simplest way to win those souls for us, is to block their attention – create so much noise and distraction that the only voice human beings hear is their own – and above all make sure you block out the voice of God or the Holy Spirit in their lives.

At one point Screwtape proudly announces, “we will make the whole world a noise and in the end and win every soul away from God.”

And today,  they seem to be winning – with our addiction to technology we are making it a whole lot easier for Screwtape and his nephew – they can’t believe their luck – all they have to do is sit back and watch us addicts unable to resist the next ping on our phones or iPads – we are full on addicts,  our attention compromised – seduced away from life.

The truth is….. that our attention is one of our most precious gifts and we need to mind it – don’t let it be hijacked too easily – our relationship with our environment, with people and with God are based on it……if we don’t mind it and continue to give it away cheaply  we WILL miss out on many of the riches that life has to offer.

Let’s not make life too easy for Screwtape or his nephew or google or Facebook. 


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Thought for the Week – Pay Attention

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’Pay attention Sleeman’ – how many times did I hear that?  In the classroom …not so much on the playing
fields. I am not sure it did any good. But now I know that paying attention is key – if I don’t
pay attention I may miss out on many of the riches of life.  Even the All Black’s discovered that success
is about controlling  attention under pressure.
Religion used to hold our attention – its rituals, fasts and feasts all designed to direct our attention to the
sacred. Lent used to get my attention when I was young – Ramadan certainly gets the attention of the
Muslims among us… fasting from sun rise to sun set.
But today it is our gadgets – social media – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter,  online shopping, box set
bingeing which are busy harvesting our attention – and we  let them have it cheaply – And we DO miss out on
many of  the riches that life has to offer.
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Thought for the Week – The glory of God is manifested as light

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There was a time when family homes in Ireland had a picture of the sacred Heart and perhaps an altar of holy pictures. At one time, when I was growing up, I had an altar in my bedroom.
These holy pictures depicting various saints, had a yellow rimmed halo around the saints head. This halo was not attached to them but radiated out from their heads and was expression of their sanctity. Somehow these people had become so transparent to the sacred that the invisible world of divinity was shining through them.
In many religious traditions, the glory of God is manifested as light. For me there were moments during Pope Francis’ visit last week that he seemed to radiate that very light.
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Thought for the Week – Words have Power

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Words have power and deeply influence our lives. They seep into our consciousness and influence our emotions and our behaviour.
They shape how we see the world. The effect can be very harmful especially if our language is judgemental and cruel.
Because of this it is important to take note of the language you use. It took me a while to notice many of my words were harsh and judge-mental. Since that discovery I have tried to change them and use words that are more compassionate and kind.
Instead of  ‘but’, I use ‘and’, instead of ‘have to’, I use, ‘want to’, or ‘choose to’, instead of saying, ‘that is impossible’, I say, ‘it has yet to be done’.
Someone I read recently says that, “language exerts a hidden power on us like the moon on the tides.”
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Thought for the Week – Wood Wide Web

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In his  classic work on Being and Time, Martin Heidegger discovered that at the heart of time dwells ‘reverence and care’. “The ability to care”, says John O’Donohue, “is the hall-mark of the human, the touchstone of morality and the ground of holiness. Without the warmth of care, the world becomes a barren graveyard. In the kindness of care the divine comes alive in us.”
And care and co-operation are not just the hall-mark of human beings – they are also found in nature and especially in forests.
In 1997 it was discovered that forests are not a collection of individual trees – instead they are connected by an underground biological internet which enables trees to communicate and co-operate and even care for each other. It is known as the Wood Wide Web. The internet connection is provided by fungi – the threads that form fungi provide the information highway allowing trees to care for each other.
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Thought for the Week – Beware of the super chicken model

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A biologist at Purdue University, named William Ure did an interesting study using chickens – he was interested in what makes one group more productive than another.  The productivity of chickens is easy to measure – you just count the eggs produced.
First he got a flock of normal, average chickens and left it for 6 generations letting chickens do what chickens do.
Next he created a flock of super chickens – made up of the most productive chickens he could find (ones that laid most eggs!) and in each generation he added the most productive chickens to keep the flock going and did this for six generations.
At the end of the six generations he compared the two flocks – the average flock was doing very well all plump, fully feathered and they were more productive then ever but the super flock all but three were dead – the rest had pecked each other to death. The productive chickens achieved their success by suppressing the productivity of the rest.
Our culture tends to run organisations on the super chicken model – pick the superstars, the brightest and off you go. According to Bill Ure it does not work. The super chickens kill each other as they try to get ahead.
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