Where courage meets integrity

Where courage meets integrity

When I was 5 years old and in my first class at school we used to end the day with a little ritual. Sr Anselm would stand at the front and make a BIG, exaggerated sign of the cross say the prayer, say “Good afternoon children” (“Good afternoon Sister” we would chorus back), tell us to line up by the door then tell us “off you go”. Came the day that Sr Anselm wasn’t in the room when the bell went (an older boy clanging a bell up and down the corridor) and we watched, horrified, through the glass partition as all the other children filed down the corridor to go home. We were going to be left. We’d be stuck in school til tomorrow.. I remember realising what had to happen – WE HAD TO DO THE RITUAL. So I walked to the front of the class. Stretched

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Four Myths about Enlightenment

Four Myths about Enlightenment

I was raised a Catholic and so was very used to the concept of Heaven – you live a good life and ultimately you will be rewarded by eternal bliss in Heaven with God. You only had this life to get it right and all was about clawing our way into God’s favour and being rewarded by Him (of course – ‘Him’) for our efforts. So as I gradually moved away from Catholicism as a way of life and started to consider a more spiritual approach. I came across the word ‘enlightenment’ and for a while I replaced ‘Heaven’ with ‘enlightenment’, while at the same time beginning to see the idea that we only had one lifetime, as untenable. So my beliefs evolved to include reincarnation – you keep coming back until you’ve got it right and THEN you...

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The Role of a Spiritual Teacher

The Role of a Spiritual Teacher

I met two people recently who are in their 40’s and have both just given up their jobs, sold their house and clothes and are on a 5 year trip to Asia to deepen their Buddhist practice. They have been Tibetan Buddhists for over 20 years and have been studying with their teacher Rinpoche for 10 years. Next year they begin a 3 year retreat with him in India. They said they researched their teacher for 10 years before committing to him. Contrast this story with the story of a Swami who runs a tantric yoga extensive training of up to 45 modules (each one lasting one month). He is a learned and clever man who speaks many languages and he has a charismatic personality. He has been expelled from at least two countries because of his methods including advocating free...

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The fear of surrender

The fear of surrender

I had been brought up to be obedient – to my parents, but more importantly to God’s will. No-one ever really explained to me what God’s will was but it was translated as obey the Pope, obey the Priest, obey your parents. And when I tried to get away from Pope, Priest and parents and get on a direct line to the main power, it seemed a bit scary to me to trust that God would always know best. I had already had a close shave when I thought He wanted me to be a nun when I was 18 years old and I used to pray fervently “If this is a vocation please, please take it away”. My impression at that time was of God as a king, judge, conductor – removed from me but having control over me. Yet He had been so wrong about the nun thing. How could I possibly...

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Out with the old – in with the new!

Out with the old – in with the new!

I went to the dentist this week to have the last 2 mercury fillings in my mouth replaced by white ones. I have had these fillings for years but became concerned about the increase of reports on mercury poisoning and the harmful affects of amalgam fillings which contain mercury. Of course I have no idea if I have been harmed all these years. Maybe my liver and kidneys are not functioning as they should as a direct result. And if ever I have kidney or liver problems who will be able to attribute them to mercury fillings. I didn’t feel instantly better. I assume that it will take time for the effects of the mercury to wear off and my system to be cleansed and back up to full operating strength. I will have to monitor myself and my health. But at least I know I have...

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What I learned that day in my kitchen

What I learned that day in my kitchen

It seemed to me that my mother was often critical of how I ran my life – she thought I was away from home too often, didn’t look after my husband enough, spent too much time on things unconnected with my family, was too old to dye my hair, shouldn’t work so hard which meant I neglected my children…… the list was endless. I was forever screaming at her (in my head) to accept me as I was and stop wanting me to be different. I would tell my mother that I was a wife, a mother, and a business woman; that my family were happy; that my children were great; that they were all leading their own full lives but my mother didn’t seem to listen. I was caught between being irritated and angry with my mother yet wanting her approval. Then one day, in my...

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What I learned from Jo Jo

What I learned from Jo Jo

Jo Jo isn’t my dog. He lives near me but spends a lot of time around the five houses where I live. I named him Jo Jo because his owner is called Jo. I have no idea what his name is but he answers to Jo Jo. For the first few years I lived here I never let him in the house. Then one day, when it was raining (I’m in Ireland – pick any day of the year) he looked so forlorn outside I let him in. I dried him with a towel and he lay gratefully at my feet and went to sleep. The next time it rained he barked outside to let me know he was there and when I appeared with a towel he lifted up his paws to be dried. Whichever room I am in he follows me to lie at my feet. When he wants some affection he sits by me with his paw on my knee or rubs his head on my...

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The thorny issue of forgiveness

The thorny issue of forgiveness

Many years ago there was an acrimonious split with my co-director. Acrimonious in that she just left, suddenly, and wanted to sever the friendship as well as the business relationship. I had no idea why the business partnership wasn’t working and absolutely no idea why the friendship had to go too. As the families were very close (she had 3 girls, I had 2) that meant that a lot of our social life was wrecked as the 2 families used to spend weekends, Christmas, holidays together. I was angry for a long time (about 18 months) and would daily go over and over conversations in my head – what I did say, what I should have said – all usually ending with the wail “how could she?”. As it was a small town and we both used to travel on the early train to...

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My father was dying and I wasn’t there – was there any way NOT to feel guilty?

My father was dying and I wasn’t there – was there any way NOT to feel guilty?

It was 18 years ago. My father had been taken into hospital with a lung infection. He had a history of heart problems but this infection was nothing to do with his heart. He had been in hospital for 4 days and I was in close touch with my brother who lived nearby. I lived two and a half hours drive away. On the evening of the fourth day I asked my brother to ask the doctor if it was serious and if I should come. He phoned me back at 10pm when he got home (no mobile phones in those days). The doctor had said that everything was fine, there was no cause for alarm and...

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What I learned from my little green car

 What I learned from my little green car

I used to have a little green MG Midget. I loved it. It was in the days when I was a school teacher and the first time my husband and I became a two car family. We lived equidistant from the schools we both taught at which were in opposite directions. His route to school was on a motorway, mine was through villages, roundabouts and junctions. The car was old and was ailing and not very user friendly. The catch to release the bonnet was behind the front wheel. Occasionally, the engine would cut out (like at traffic lights) and I would have to jump out of the car, crouch down and grope for the bonnet catch under the front wheel, lift the bonnet and while holding up the bonnet with one hand hit some part of the engine with a hammer (I had no idea what I was hitting...

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Ask for help? Yes but ask who?

Ask for help? Yes but ask who?

When my daughters were 6 and 3 and I was working hard to set up my business, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer. She and my father-in-law came to live with us for 6 months and she died with us. Although my father-in-law was actually her 24 hour carer, she looked to me to prepare for her, and eat with her, the totally tasteless food that she thought would cure her cancer. My husband was stressed and also running his business, and I couldn’t explain to my children that she was dying because she never accepted that she was and I couldn’t risk their reaction in front of her. Worse – there was I willing to talk to her about dying but I couldn’t because she would only talk about getting better so I had to play it her way (of course). It was an...

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