Thought for the Week – A simple gesture

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In Africa, the Kikuyu tribe use a hand made bag to bring a gift when visiting another home – the bag is returned when they are leaving.  But it is always returned with something small inside – a simple gesture of gratitude and appreciation.
They also use a gourd to carry porridge or beer as an offering and whoever receives the gourd polishes it with castor oil before returning it. Over time the gourd becomes highly varnished. The deeper the colour of your gourd the more generous you have been and the more connected you are to the world around you.
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Thought for the Week – Furoshiki

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A furoshiki is a piece of cloth, often brightly coloured, which the Japanese use to wrap gifts. In Japan, as in many cultures, it is traditional to bring a gift when you visit someone.

Once your host receives the gift, he or she removes the furoshiki and returns it to you for future use. The giving of a present is a ritual of exchange with the formal handing over of a gift balanced by the receiver’s returning of the wrapping.

It made me think of the packaging and wrapping we throw away after a present is opened the made me aware of the genius and simplicity of the furoshiki.

Not only can the packaging be reused but the giver and receiver both recognise that their friendship is not only contained between them but it is part of a longer chain of givers and receivers who have, over time, been handed the furoshiki and returned it.

I wonder if there could be an Irish equivalent?

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Thought for the Week – Stress

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Most health issues stem from stress of one form or another. Bruce Lipton of Stanford University Medical school believes that 95% of all illness and disease is linked to stress.

The Harvard Medical School says on their web site….”too much stress for too long creates what is known as ‘chronic stress’ which has been linked to heart disease, stroke, and may influence cancer and chronic respiratory disease.

The New York Times online health guide points out that ‘stress can come from any situation or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry or anxious. What is stressful to one person is not necessarily stressful for another.

John O’Donohue suggests that stress is due to ‘a perverted relationship to time’. He says;

“Seven out of every ten people who go in the door of a doctor’s surgery are suffering from something stress related. There are big psychological books written on stress but for me philosophically, stress is a perverted relationship to time.”


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Thought for the week – Disgust

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The psychologist Paul Rozin, an expert on the psychological experience of disgust, noted that a single cockroach wrecks the appeal of a bowl of cherries but a single cherry will do nothing at all for a bowl of cockroaches!

He points out how the negative trumps the positive in many instances. Bad emotions, bad parents, and bad feedback have more impact than good ones and bad information is processed more thoroughly than good.

We are more motivated to avoid bad, self-definitions than to pursue good ones. Bad impressions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to change than good ones.

John Gottman, an expert in marital relations observed that the long term success of a relationship depends far more on avoiding the negative than on seeking the positive! Gottman estimated that a stable relationship requires that good interactions outnumber bad interactions by at least 5 to 1.


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Thought for the Week – A simple message

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“And he summoned the twelve, and began to send them out in pairs; and he gave them authority over the unclean spirits; and he charged them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no bread, no wallet, no money in their purse; but to go shod with sandals: and, said he, put not on two coats.” Mk 6: 8-9

In this short section from Mark’s unified Gospel message – we have the disciples being ‘sent out’….…..

‘Sent out’ – what to take with you? – nothing to pack other than a simple message – a message free from spin, not cloaked in fancy packaging – repent!

What has to be done, what we have to do as God’s chosen ones, is to be aware of the ‘good news’, spread the message of truth, of freedom and this requires no-thing, no possessions, no bread, no money, no haversack.

Yet our culture tells us different  –  tries to convince us that we need lots of things, tries to convince us to use our every waking moment gathering more and more stuff to take with us – possessions, money, cars, a haversack….weighed down – too full to be sent  –  and stripped of these possessions what are we left with – an empty shell with nothing to deliver.

Jewish culture sees things differently. It urges us to use our every waking moment not working to accumulate more and more stuff but to gain time – working to harvest time, time for family, for God, time to spread the Good News, to discover the truth.
While we are busy building great cathedrals in space, Judaism builds great cathedrals in time – festivals, sacred moments, the Sabbath – one day in the week – time guarded.
Mark, the Jew, echoes this emphasis – if you enter a house stay while you are welcome, but don’t waste time with those who don’t listen – walk away, wipe the dust from your under your feet…

And they went out proclaiming a message of Repentance – turn – wake up – don’t be fooled- taken in – become alert, attentive to what is happening – for attentiveness, as Nicephorus the hermit puts it,  is the sign of perfect repentance. Attentiveness the sign of perfect repentance.

Without the Sabbath day, Sabbath times in our days, time to pay attention, we remain slaves in Egypt, slaves to the Pharohs in our lives….and the whips and chains of busyness and possessions.

Repent, become aware – turn – value time, not as a commodity but as a moment to share with your neighbour, with God and to spread the good news! Valuing time over space – a necessary corrective for us all.

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Thought for the Week – Angels anytime anywhere

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“You might see an angel anytime of anywhere. Of course you have to open your eyes to a kind of second level but it is not really hard. The whole business of what’s reality and what isn’t has never been solved and probably never will be. So I don’t care to be too definite about anything. I have a lot of edges called Perhaps and almost nothing you can call Certainty. For  myself, but not for other people. That’s a place you just can’t get into, not entirely anyway, others people’s heads. I’ll just leave you with this. I don’t care how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It’s enough to know that for some people they exist and that they dance.” Mary Oliver

My confidence in angels is based on their steady presence in my life. They come in all sorts of disguises – as a parent, a sibling, a friend, a teacher, a helper….good people dotted round the landscape of my life …and they come is all sorts of acts too – acts of kindness and of generosity – we can miss these angels but they are there to help us turn the sometimes bitter water of our lives into vintage wine…

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Thought for the Week – Remaining close to Nature

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When the plough was invented in neolithic times, the straight line became necessary and so Neolithic people began to shape the landscape. They made square fields – for when you plough you need to go in straight lines. Having invented the square for ease of agriculture the next step was a square house. This may have altered our way of looking at the universe.

Straight lines are rare in nature and right angles are practically non existent…the earth is a globe and so are the planets.

When we began to think and feel in straight lines we took a big leap towards separating ourselves from nature- to feel that we were not a part of nature but something different.

Until the white man came, the Bantu tribe in Africa did not have a plough.  Cultivation was done by women once the men had cleared the ground using fire. They used a simple hoe or digging stick. The shape of the area didn’t matter and they had no need for straight lines or corners. In Africa everything is a circle – their cultivated land, their huts, pots and they remain closer to nature.

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Thought for the Week – Perfectionism

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Perfectionism is the story of our times and channels much of what we do  – from the search for the perfect home, the perfect partner, the perfect body, striving to be the perfect monk, the perfect woman – our culture packages and sells it effectively …skinny, thin, beautiful,  great relationship, work is great too,  life is perfect – it conforms to the all the norms.
This striving for perfection, conforming to the standard of this world, makes us ill at heart – we loose touch with our truth and become like everyone else – with our many dull vices – the general, the ordinary rotten mud of human meanness and cowardice and cruelty and evil and hate- we are all the same. Saints resist this temptation – they are virtuous – unique – in touch with their truth.  It is in their virtues that saints are original – hating what is evil, holding fast to what is good, ardent in spirit, offering hospitality to strangers.
It is in our virtues that we are original and unique  – virtues are particular, vices are general. We too can become saints – in touch with our truth  – but truth is a risk that most of us find hard to face.
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Thought for the Week – be filled with enthusiasm.

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‘Nothing great was every achieved without enthusiasm’, according to Ralph Waldo Emerson

At one time enthusiasm was a religious term but not any more. Now one can be enthusiastic about almost anything from water skiing to good food, without religion entering it at all.

At Pentecost the followers of Jesus were filled with enthusiasm – the word comes from the Greek ‘en theos’, God within.

They were filled with the spirit, the life giving breath of creation – and they were transformed from being terrified people into people of enthusiasm and commitment.

Christian theology and popular devotion have neglected the spirit’s crucial role in the world – kept it off stage. And yet the spirit was promised to all and belongs primarily to our world and not to any church and religion. It is defined most by its movement – it blows where it wills.

The truth is that this life giving spirit is available to us all. What we need to do is tune into its promptings and be prepared to follow its nudges and so be filled with enthusiasm.

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Thought for the Week – Scarcity

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We live in a culture where the clear message is that there is never enough.  We  always need to get more/buy more to be happy.
Images and feelings of this scarcity surround us – we are not good enough, safe enough, can never be certain enough, nor perfect enough,  not extra-ordinary enough…..we worry about having enough food, enough money.
This attitude and the felt sense it generates acts as a block to the flow of life and of grace.
And the search is on for more – life becomes a scramble to accumulate in case of a shortage.  We find it difficult to imagine the infinite – abundance – especially the infinite love of God.
The many multiplication stories in the gospels should give us some confidence even though the apostles who were constantly worried about scarcity advise Jesus against feeding the multitude.  Jesus wants them to change from a world view of
scarcity to one of abundance – to believe that there is enough manna in the desert for all of us.
A distinguishing feature of saints and the current Pope is that they know abundance – infinite love – that there is enough.
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