Sunday 30 September 2018

We're Made Out of Water

“Living Waters” by Stephen M Shick 

We float on a sea
hidden beneath dry surfaces
covered by stones.

Isn’t this why we drink and dive so deeply
go down to the sea in ships
risk drowning, again and again?

Isn’t this why Moses parted the waters
to begin his journey?

Why Jesus crossed the waters
to comfort and challenge us?

We were born in water.
We float free in water.
We are washed clean by water.

Isn’t this why we long to find our inward sea?
To help us wash clean the world?

From “Becoming: A Spiritual Guide for Navigating Adulthood”

“We’re only made out of water, the full moon gets us high. We can bend our shape into anything, as often as we like.” 

I was pushing myself hard, the other morning, in the gym. I was truly present, in a kind of deep meditative state. I felt at one with what I was doing, with my own body and being and with life. There was no separation. I felt like water, just one droplet in the deep wide ocean of life. I noticed the salty water pouring out of my body and the water I swallowed as I re-hydrated constantly.

As the water poured out of me I remembered something a friend had said, in the meditation we had shared that morning; he spoke of the harvest moon he had observed that morning. It got me thinking of the moon and water. How it looks so beautiful against the water; it also brought to my mind how the moon controls the tides and made me think how much it is said we humans are influenced by the lunar cycles. I wondered if this was because, like the surface of the earth, we are mainly water. I thought about how we change shape, maybe not so much physically but in other ways, much like water. Although I am an example of someone who has changed shape and continues to change shape these last few years. As Chris they man who trained me in recent times once said. You have changed in shape so much these last few year. You were skinny fat and went to skinny and now you are bulking up to your natural shape. So we can bend our shape into anything, well at least to some degree, if we really want and truly try.

Oh yes “We’re only made out of water, the full gets us high. We can bend our shape into anything, as often as we like.”

Water is perhaps the most precious resource on this earth, our lives depend upon it. Just think about the number of times you have used water already today. Life is water, it is vital life. It is not lost on me that one of the companies that sell bottled water is “Vitali”. 71% of the earth is made up of water. Yes most of it is in the oceans and glaciers but there is enough of this vital resource for every one to have access to clean water, on this our shared earth. That said “Water Aid” state that “There are still one in nine people across the world who don’t have access to clean water near their homes. That is shocking in this world at this time. Clean water is vital to life, it is “vitali”, surely everyone on this our shared earth ought to have direct access to enough water to grow food, wash the food, cook the food and clean the pots afterwards. Water is vital to the food that we share and the people who care.

Just think about the last time you were without access to clean water, probably only for a few hours, just imagine what it must be like to live like that every single day of your life. Water the most basic element of life, both of the external life and our own bodies.

“We’re only made out of water, the full gets us high. We can bend our shape into anything, as often as we like.”

With water being so central to life it is hardly surprising then that it would play such a large role in the many religious traditions of humanity. It is central to many of rituals of most faiths. It symbolises birth and re-birth and is seen not only as a sustaining substance but as a cleansing and therefore purifying one.

God or the Divine is often portrayed by water. This is hardly surprising when you think of its many qualities. It can bend into any shape and cover and over power all life. It is life giving and sustaining and can be immensely powerful. It brings to mind some words by Forrest Church on God. Forrest said “God is not God’s name. God is our name for that power that is greater than all and yet present in each.” Isn’t that what water is a power that is greater than all and yet present in each.

You will find images of water throughout the Gospel accounts. These images symbolise chaos, rebirth, and new life. Jesus began his ministry by stepping into the Jordan River. As he rose from the waters he awoken to a new spirit symbolised by the dove. He saw a new vision and was awakened or re-shaped, re-formed by the spirit. I don’t see this as a once in a life time experience we can enter into the waters and awaken to a new spirit each and every day. We can bend our shape into anything, as often as we like.

The spiritual, the religious life, is about living in a certain way. The question I suppose is what is the right way? Well maybe water or the qualities it possesses can teach us the way. Perhaps the way is to live like water; to live with the qualities that water has.

Taoism teaches this, claiming that we must go with the flow of life, like water:

Nothing in the world is softer than water,
Yet nothing is better at overcoming the hard and strong.
This is because nothing can alter it.

That soft overcomes the hard
And gentle overcomes the aggressive
Is something that everybody knows
But none can do themselves.
Therefore the sages say:

The one who accepts the dirt of the state
Becomes its master.
The one who accepts its calamity
Becomes king of the world.

The Martial Artist Bruce Lee offered similar advice when he said:

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You can put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You can put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

I believe that there is real wisdom in this. We can’t physically bend and shape exactly like water does, but I don’t think this is what is being meant here. I think this is talking about how we live. It’s our persona, our spirit, it is this that needs to bend and shape in order to be in harmony with all life and that eternal spirit that flows like water through all life.

There is something in this formlessness and the bending and shaping that speaks to me of truth, particularly religious truth. In the introduction to “One River Many Wells” Matthew Fox states:

“Meister Eckhart says: ‘Divinity is an Underground river that no one can stop and no one can dam up.” Fox himself says that “There is one underground river – but there are many wells into the river: an African well, a Taoist well, a Buddhist well, a Jewish well, a Muslim well, a Goddess well, a Christian well, an Aboriginal well. Many wells but one river. To go down a well is to practise a tradition, but we would make a grave mistake (an idolatrous one) if we confused the well itself with the flowing waters of the underground river. Many wells, one river. That is Deep Ecumenism.”

Again this teaches something of the qualities of water that we can learn form. We can access water as we can access truth but we can never get the full picture, the whole truth and how ever we access the truth is always limited. That said if we come together we can drink from one another’s sources and share the one universal river of life.

We are one, we are interconnected, as we are with all life. We are water...

Water is the basic element of life. We are mainly made from it and we depend upon it. It unites everything that lives on this earth and links us not only to one another but to all that is. It is a power that we can work with and therefore live successfully or against and therefore struggle with. If we remain rigid in all things we will struggle but if we can be moulded and bend ourselves to fit with life and that spirit that permeates all life we can be in harmony with everything.

Today on this harvest Sunday I offer praise to water, that power that is greater than all and yet present in each. That vital resource that we cannot live without.

Water the most basic ingredient of all life, may we absorb the lessons you offer us.

Bend us, shape us, form us in your image.

“We’re only made out of water, the full gets us high. We can bend our shape into anything, as often as we like.”

Sunday 23 September 2018

A friend in need is a friend indeed: Weaving the threads of life

They say a friend in need is a friend indeed, well don’t we all need a friend? Oh yes indeed. Aren’t we all in need of a friend at times? Oh yes indeed.

I have recently spent some time with old friends. I attended an old friend’s wedding recently. It was great to spend time celebrating with them, it was also wonderful to spend time with mutual friends, some of whom I have shared so many experiences with in the past. Some wonderful, some deeply painful. It was lovely to sit and talk and share with them as I re-felt and remembered. We also remembered old friends no longer with us. A few days later I met up with some old recovery friends as we celebrated one of our numbers 16th sobriety "birthday". Again it was deeply moving to remember old times and friends and re-feel these experiences. Then a few days later I spent time with one of my oldest friends, someone I have known since I was a teenager, we were even in a band together. It was wonderful to talk about old days, to reconnect, to remember, to re-feel all kinds of emotions. Some so happy and joyous and again others much sadder, especially as we remembered old friends no longer with us or current friends who are struggling with life.

The wonderful thing about being with old friends, people you have been through so much with is that as soon as you come together it’s as if you had never been apart. We are bound together by threads, so strong and in some strange way so deep.

I think the greatest blessing of my life has been my friends. I have many friends, loyal friends and loving friends. Friends who have stood up for me and loved me at some pretty dark times in the past.

I have always been blessed with wonderful friends…What about you? Perhaps that’s something to think about…the friends who have blessed and continue to bless your life…

As I look back at my friends and friendships I wonder what it was and is that allowed the connection, that made the connection, or do I mean connections, a web of connections of mutual love. Some people became my friend quickly, while others took longer. I have weaved what Emerson has described as social threads of my own, a new web of creation. I wonder how many threads will be weaved what new web of creation will I become a part of. I love the way that these threads intertwine with the threads of others as new webs are weaved.

There is an old Chinese proverb that states the fifth cup of tea between friends is the best. In days gone by Chinese Tea was made by simply pouring hot water over loose tea leaves in a cup. So it did not come in bags like today. When Yorkshire Tea claims “like tea used to be” it is not exactly being truthful. By the way a good friend of mine gave me some Lancashire Tea for my birthday last year, it’s nice to have good friends. I didn’t drink it of course. As I said at the time “Are you trying to poison me!?!”

Anyhow, back to the proverb…

The Chinese proverb is teaching that when friends meet, busy and tense from the outside world, the first drink shared is done hastily and with little grace. The second pouring of water takes longer to steep the tea leaves, by now the friends are more relaxed and thus the tea is better. The third cup requires even more time, so by now the friends are truly relaxed in one another’s company. By the time they get to the fifth cup it has to stand for quite some time to reach the required strength. It is this fifth cup that becomes the symbol of friendship at its best. This passage of time, measured in cups of tea, defines the deepest friendship. This fifth cup brings wholeness to the relationship, it is the quintessence, the fifth essence, which of course means wholeness.

I was thinking of this as I and my friend shared cups of Yorkshire Tea together as we caught up with one another the other day, as our souls caught up with one another’s bodies.

The great nineteenth century Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson recognised the true value of friendship and the many webs of relationship that make up our lives. Here follows his thoughts on Margaret Fuller after her death, as he describes his understanding of the value of friendship.

"She wore this circle of friends, when I first knew her, as a necklace of diamonds about her neck. They were so much to each other that Margaret seemed to represent them all, and to know her was to acquire a place with them. The confidences given her were their best, and she held them to them. She was an active, inspiring companion and correspondent, and all the art, the thought, the nobleness in New England seemed at that moment related to her and she to it. She was everywhere a welcome guest."

For Emerson “a friend is a sane man who exercises not my ingenuity, but me. My friend gives me entertainment without requiring any stipulation on my part…so that a friend may well be recognized the masterpiece of nature.”

For Emerson it mattered enormously that we matter to others, that we are not isolated beings drifting through life. Gosh how true is this? Doesn’t it matter enormously that we matter to others, and that we are not alone; that are lives are made up of webs of relationships; that our lives thread through many others and that this really matters? We are not isolated beings floating through life, only concerned for ourselves. To me this seems to strike right at the heart of what friendship is all about.

This becomes clearer as I look at the web of relationships that I am part of, but what about you, what are threads that make up your life?

Emerson said “Who hears me, who understands me, becomes mine, — a possession for all time. Nor is nature so poor but she gives me this joy several times, and thus we weave social threads of our own, a new web of relations; and, as many thoughts in succession substantiate themselves, we shall by and by stand in a new world of our own creation, and no longer strangers and pilgrims in a traditionary globe.”

All life is connected, everything is connected all of life is relational.

This brings to mind a rather lovely children’s story, that illustrates both friendship and unconditional love. The story is “Charlotte’s Web”.

Near the end of the story Wilbur the pig is confronted with the awful news that his 'true friend,' Charlotte, is going to die and will not return to their shared barn with her babies. Charlotte had saved Wilbur from the smokehouse and the Christmas dinner plate. He asks Charlotte 'Why did you do all this for me? . . . I've never done anything for you.'

To which she replied 'You have been my friend, that in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I like you. . . . By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that.'

To which Wilbur replies 'I would gladly give my life for you — I really would.'

Wilbur lives on and as he does he carries Charlotte’s love with him. He takes charge of her egg sac. He returns it to the safety of the barn and protects it until the spiders hatch, most fly off on the sticky webs, but three remain with Wilbur to continue Charlotte’s lineage in the barn doorway. As Wilbur lived on he had many friends, but none of them took Charlotte’s place in his heart.

Charlotte’s Web is a beautiful illustration of the power of love and friendship, of these threads that weave these mutual webs of friendship that make up our lives. It is a story of unconditional love, of friendship grounded in giving to one another. It’s about relationships rooted in humility, love and giving of ourselves to one another. It’s not about selfishness and self-centredness, but mutual webs of interconnection. Isn’t this the nature of life?

A friend in need truly is a friend indeed, we all need good friends. Yes, we do indeed. We all need and we all need to be friends at times. As I look back at the web I am a part of I see many threads that make it up and I see there are many threads that will continue on when I am no longer weaving my own. We are all a part of the web of creation, we are all weavers of the social threads of life.

So lets keep on weaving those threads of mutual love and intertwining our threads with others. For a friend in need truly is a friend indeed.

Sunday 9 September 2018

Teachers Teach Us

Well this may shock some of you, but perhaps not all of you, but I have to admit it. I am a very naughty boy. I do hope I will be forgiven. A little while ago I received a letter through the post informing that I had been pictured travelling at 36 miles per hour (mph) on the Washway Road. The speed limit there is 30mph. I had two options pay a fine and 3 points on my license or go on a speed awareness course. I chose the latter and I am glad that I did. It was actually four hours well spent as it got me to think about my driving once again. As the course went on I remembered, I relearned, some things that I had forgotten. The course was taught well by two driving instructors. Yes there was one or two dissenting voices, who didn’t want to be there and thought that it was unjust that they were there. For me though it has had a very positive effect on my driving ever since. I am grateful for the lessons learnt and particularly the teaching.

I’ve been thinking a lot ever since about the many lessons I have learnt and re-learnt over the years and the many wise teachers I have known.

It came to my mind once again this week. I noticed picture after picture of friend’s children, in their uniforms, returning to school after the summer holidays. I’m sure that they had mixed feelings about this, some excited and others not too keen on the idea. I had thought about it too as I was returning to work last week after three weeks away. The day before I had experienced what I call “The Bulls Eye” effect. It is a familiar feeling to anyone who attended school in Britain in the 1980’s. It was a feeling that came on during Sunday teatime as the program “Bulls Eye”ended and I realized that in the morning I would be returning to school. I was talking about this feeling the other day as I was playing a board game with Sue. During the game I was asked which job do British people think is the hardest? I got the answer right, it was a school teacher. Now I’m sure that this would not have been the case thirty or forty years ago, but it is now. I can’t imagine what that feeling must be like over the Atlantic in America where some are suggesting that the teachers ought to be armed, due to increasing number of school shootings. Then of course there is the headteachers, there jobs seem the toughest of all.

It brought to mind the following…

Early one morning a mother went to her sleeping son and woke him up.

"Wake up, son. It's time to go to school."
"But why, Mama? I don't want to go to school."

"Give me two reasons why you don't want to go to school."
"One, all the children hate me. Two, all the teachers hate me, ..."

"Oh! that's no reason. Come on, you have to go to school!"
"Give me two good reasons WHY I should go to school?"

"One, you are FIFTY-TWO years old. Two, you are the PRINCIPAL of the school."

So I want to offer thanks and praise to the teachers I have known in my life, there have been many. Yes the ones from school days, but also the many who have taught me many lessons throughout my life.

There are teachers all around us, as there has been throughout human history. Some have specific names such as masters, gurus, crones, rabbis, elders, sages, priests, sheikhs, even ministers and they have played vital roles in revealing spiritual truths. They have done so both directly and or indirectly through parables, koans, stories, sermons and personal example and they have recommended methods that can lead us to enhance our spiritual lives and therefore open us up to everything and that which is more than everything and yet can be found in everything. Sometimes we need such people to get us started on our journey.

That said we can learn just as much from the ordinary people in our lives, the ones who encourage to give life a full go. You see everyone and everything in life can and is a teacher, even seemingly negative and painful experiences, if we remain open to them. As I look back at my own life I reckon I have learnt more from suffering than joy, from getting things wrong rather than getting them right for these experiences have humbled me and therefore opened me up to more than I could ever have even begun to imagine.

Rabbi Jesus is one of the great examples, maybe the greatest of simply teaching what it means to live in and by love. He taught in the fine Jewish rabbinical tradition, but he did so in unorthodox ways. He had the courage to break the rules of form and he put the people first, before the rules. This seems harder for teachers to do today. A classic example of this was in the healing of the crippled woman on the Sabbath. He was criticised for healing on this holy day of rest, but taught through his example that compassion out trumped societal rules, he lived, taught and died by the rule of love.

The example I see from the great sages is that the “way” that they speak of is truly about love, good teachers teach truly from the heart. The real lessons of living that matter the most is about teaching others to live by heart. This takes courage, which as I have taught many times is rooted in the French word for heart. As Parker J. Palmer has highlighted “Good teaching requires courage—the courage to explore one’s ignorance as well as insight, to yield some control in order to empower the group, to evoke other people’s lives as well as reveal one’s own.”

Good teachers help us to fully engage with life and encourage us to overcome the fears that can hold us back from living the lives we were born to live. It’s not about finding ways to rise above life but to fully engage with life, in its messiness and its rough and tumble. Again as Palmer has highlighted “Fear, not ignorance, is the great enemy of education. Fear is what gives ignorance its power.”

The great sages, the great teachers lived in the mess and muck and life, in the rough and tumble, they did not live apart. Those who have taught me how to bring my spirit alive have shown me the same. They were simple ordinary people and yet they were the professors of the heart. Again to quote Palmer:

“In is original meaning, a “professor” was not someone with esoteric knowledge and technique. Instead, the word referred to a person able to make a profession of faith in the midst of a dangerous world. All good teachers, I believe, have access to this confidence. It comes not from the ego but from a soul-deep sense of being at home in the world despite its dangers. This is the authority by which good teachers teach. This is the gift they pass on to their students. Only when we take heart as professors can we “give heart” to our students—and that, finally, is what good teaching is all about.

I have known some great teachers in my life; my life has taught me many lessons. Sadly though I have forgotten far more than I ever thought I could have known in my life. This is why I have to keep on learning and re-learning these life lessons, as I discovered during the summer at the speed awareness course.

Life and the people we share our lives with have so much to teach us. All we have to do and be is awake, to keep our hearts open enough to be fully awake.

Life is the greatest teacher of them all and we as a part of life can teach just by our presence in this world. People have taught me many things, in so many ways without ever really realising it. I have often only realised those lessons many years later. Lessons I have tried to pass on to others.

You don’t have to be academically inclined to be a true teacher, just a professor of the heart. The best lessons in my life have come from ordinary people living in the mess and much of life. One of my greatest teachers was an ordinary man, from Oldham of all places, who taught me , amongst many other things, how to listen. This all began by practising and noticing when I wasn’t listening, especially when others were talking. He taught me to observe when my mind wandered off or to notice when I was listening how much of my time was spent on working out what “brilliant” response I was going to make, in an attempt to refute what the other person was saying. He taught me that when we are listening to another we are extending ourselves to that person, we are giving them a gift; a gift that we can both share in. In making space for the other, we create a sacred space, we make space for God and we get a taste of heaven.

This truly opened me up to people in a way I had never been before; it brought me alive to life in ways I had never been before. Now of course not all the great sages come from Oldham. Those of ancient times taught similar lessons to this ordinary man. That said I am not sure that I could have accessed what they taught all those years. It required simple language from an ordinary man. He spoke the language of the heart and I was prepared to listen. I learnt a valuable lesson that day; I learnt that the language of the heart is universal, it can break down any barrier. Those simple words opened me to experiences I never knew were possible. Those experiences opened my senses, particularly my ears, I finally had ears that could hear and I began to finally hear so much more than mere words. The ears of my heart were opened and as a result I began to live by the heart and found the courage to truly be.

Everything, all life, can be our teacher if we are open to it. If we have ears that can hear, if all our senses are awake to everything and that something or perhaps nothing that is are the core of everything and yet beyond everything.

We can all become professors of the heart.

Monday 3 September 2018

Pass it on, pay it forward

recently spent a beautiful week at Great Hucklow, attending and participating in the annual summer school. The subject this year was “How then shall we live?” We were exploring how we live with the fact that we will inevitably die; we were looking at grief, love, loss and legacy. The legacies of those who have touched our lives and are now gone as well as what might be our legacy when our time comes, perhaps the ultimate question. It was said that the panel had been brave in choosing the subject. I agree with this sentiment, it was very brave indeed.

Forrest Church said that “Religion is our human response to being alive and having to die.” Surely the ultimate question for all of us. That said I would add a little more, the theme of the week, knowing this…then how shall we live?

Now the week did not go exactly as planned. We were given a big dose of the ups and downs of life. The troubles started before I’d even set off. I was to be co-facilitating a group exploring grief and our legacies of love and loss. I had spent some time with the co-facilitator preparing the group we would lead throughout the week. On the morning I was setting off I received a message telling me he was unwell and would not be travelling that day. I received news the next day informing me he would not be coming at all. So I had to quickly make adjustments and do things alone. People were very supportive and the group was a truly moving experience. More beautiful than I could ever have dreamed possible; a beautifully deep and engaging experience that I was blessed with leading and experiencing. Thank you.

Now this was not the end of the challenging experiences. Early in the week trouble began to strike. First all the water went off in the whole village. As this occurred people began to be struck down with what we used to call sickness and diarrhoea but is now called the norovirus. Each day three or four would go down with it and would have to quarantined for 48 hours as all kinds of measures were put in place. The quarantine room became known as the leper colony as they were fed and socialised together until they were deemed fit enough to join the rest of us as they were no longer infectious.

Great Hucklow is only three miles from Eyam, something that was not lost on any of us. Now for those who don’t know Eyam is known as the “plague village”. It was the village that basically quarantined itself during the plague of the seventeenth century. It cut itself off from all the surrounding villages so as not the spread the plague that had arrived on cloth from London. Of the 350 village inhabitants only 83 survived. Incredibly one of the survivors was the grave digger.

Sue and I decided to pay Eyam a visit one afternoon. As we drove towards it there were signs saying the village was cut off, due to roadworks, it gave us a deeply earie feeling. A local told us to ignore the signs and to just drive through, which we did. We walked around for a couple of hours and took in the sights and sounds, visiting the church yard and reading the history of the place which was sign posted everywhere. I was particularly moved by the list of dead outside each little cottage, I felt the pain and grief that they must have experienced as one after one family members died. Whole families were wiped or just one or two survived. I also noticed that commemorative service which was to be held in open at near by at Cucklet Delph. The church services were held in the open air at the time of the plague to stop the spreading of infection.

As we left Eyam and returned to Hucklow I thought how incredibly faithful these people must have been and how willing they were to sacrifice for a greater good. A wonderful and beautiful example to us all as to how we might want to live. The village is a beautiful example to humanity of how we can be at our best. By isolating themselves they protected others, by not infecting others with the illness they had passed on something beautiful, a legacy of love and self-sacrifice, an example that still lives on today many centuries later. Just a beautiful counter to the selfish and self-centred ways in which so many of us live today.

Now this sounds like the kind of infectious disease that ought to be passed on; the kind I would love to see grow and pass on throughout the whole world. A kind of blessing to humanity that could spread through us all.

It brings to mind the old nursery rhyme “ring a ring o’ roses”

Ring-a-ring o' roses,
A pocket full of posies,
A-tishoo! A-tishoo!
We all fall down.

Cows in the meadows
Eating buttercups
A-tishoo! A-tishoo!
We all jump up.

It used to be thought that this is about the Great Plague, although folklore scholars do dispute this, some suggest that its origins maybe the spreading of disease amongst the early American settlers in New England. Who knows, certainly not I.

The reason it came to mind is the A-tishoo! As I’m one of life’s great sneezers. Oddly one of the things that Sue first noticed about me was my unapologetic sneeze. Now whenever anyone sneezes don’t we all say “bless you”, we wish one another well for the sneeze may be a sign of impending illness. We pass on a simple blessing, gosh don’t we all need more blessings.

As the week at Summer School went on and we explored “How then shall we live?” I thought a lot of all the wonderful people who have blessed me with their loving presence. I thought of how I could possible pay them back, to give back to them the blessings that they had so freely given me. And then it came to me. I don’t need to pay it back, in order to live out the legacy, what I need to do is “pay it forward”

Pay it forward is an interesting term. It is a phrase I have heard many times before. Now just like there are disputes as to the origin of ‘ring a ring o’roses’, there are also disputes about the origin of “pay it forward”

Some say it began with the ancient Greeks. Luminaries such as Benjamin Franklin and Ralph Waldo Emerson made reference to the principle. In a letter to Benjamin Webb in 1784 Franklin wrote “I do not pretend to give such a sum; I only lend it to you. When with another honest man in similar distress, you must pay me by lending this sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro’ many hands, before it meets with a knave that will stop its progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.”

In his essay “Compensation” Emerson wrote: “In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody.”

During the 1950’s the phrase “Pay it Forward” was popularised by Robert A Heinlein, initially by being referenced in his book “Between Planets.” Heinlein preached and practised this principle in his daily life and this led to the formation of the Heinlein society, a humanitarian organisation based on this principle.

In the year 2000 Catherine Ryan Hyde published the novel “Pay it Forward” which became a best seller and was soon made into a film by the same title. This led in time to the formation of the “Pay if Forward Foundation.” It even has its own day. Did you know that April 26th is “International Pay It Forward Day”. This is a day when millions of people intentionally commit to acts of kindness and caring.

Pay it forward is based on what is known today as the “ripple effect”, which is really based on Confucius concept of “Concentric Circles of Compassion”. Like a pebble dropped into a pond, our actions create ripples that go out and affect others beyond what we can imagine. It works on the premise that we can make our world a better place if we share, if we care as much for others as we do for ourselves. It is firmly grounded in the ethos of the “Golden Rule of Compassions” a concept found at the core of every single one of the world’s great religious traditions. It is an effort to change the world one small act at a time. Everything we do and everything we do not do really does matter. We affect our world, for good or for ill, with every feeling, every thought, word and or deed.

One of the great movements for social good of the twentieth century is enshrined in the concept of “paying it forward”. Alcoholics Anonymous and the near two hundred other fellowships that have sprung from its principles have brought about recovery for millions of people from all manners of addiction. When a person is released from their destructive addiction they are not asked to pay back what was freely given to them, instead they are asked to pass on what has been given to others in desperate need and when doing so to also pass on that they do not have to pay back what has been given to them, instead they too must pass it forward. This is the basis of the simple movement that has saved millions of lives.

When I look back at my life it blows my mind to think of all the good that people have done for me. During the group, I had the privilege of leading at Hucklow, we spent time remembering the gifts that had been given to us the blessings of the lives that had touched and inspired ours, that deep love that had turned to grief when those lives ended. As we considered how we should now live, the conclusion that we came too is that surely what we need to do is to make of these lives acts of remembrance by passing on these beautiful examples to others, in the hope that they would be caught up in the love and pass it on also. This is the kind of infection that does not want to be quarantined, this is the kind of blessing that the whole world needs and is a true antidote to the disease of selfishness and cynicism that seems to be taking hold in humanity these days.

To bless the world all we have to do is remember those wonderful examples that have touched our lives and blessed us with their loving example. No we cannot pay back to them what they so freely gave to us, but then we don’t have to, all we have to do is pay it forward and become the blessing that we have all been waiting for.

It is easy to look at our world and despair and give up and say “what’s the point? Everyone is out for themselves. If I go out of my way to help another, they’ll just keep on taking advantage and what will I ever get back in return?

There is though another way; this other way is the purpose of the “Pay it Forward” movement. We can change our world, one act at a time. This is religion in its deepest and simplest form, binding up the broken manifesting God’s love in life. At its core is this life affirming principle that in spite of a great deal of evidence to the contrary faith, hope and love do in fact still remain. You see these ripples touch everybody both the giver and receiver and all who are eventually touched by them; both the giver and receiver are transformed by the experience; both giver and receiver are blessed abundantly.

So let’s become the blessings we have all been searching for; let’s remember all those times in our lives when someone has gone out of their way to help us with no expectation of anything in return; whether they have helped us materially, intellectually, emotionally, or spirituality; let’s re-feel these occasions and to meditate on them and to come up with ways that we can pay these debts forward; let’s think of ways we can give back to our world; let’s create ripple effects that can impact in our shared world in ways we perhaps can’t even begin to dream of.

We can change our world today; we can become the blessing that we have all been waiting for… Atishoo…Bless you…