Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Talk for Radio Glamorgan

I performed my first real duty as hospital chaplain yesterday - recording a message for Radio Glamorgan.  On their Sunday afternoon programme they include a five minute ‘thought for the day’ from the hospital chaplains.  Mothering Sunday had been suggested to me as a possible topic so I created a script that referred to the Buddhist teaching that everyone has been our mother at some point in the endless stream of rebirths.  Below is my script.

As we approach February, the New Year may not be feeling quite so new any more, yet for some the New Year has not yet arrived. Losar—the Tibetan New Year— is a three day festival that will be celebrated around February 22nd.

In the west we have a tradition of making resolutions in the New Year and perhaps these are starting to slip a little towards the end of January. There are only two resolutions that are of the utmost importance however, and we can renew these every day or even every moment. These are the resolutions to be kinder and more aware. Kindness and awareness are the basis of spiritual practice. If we attempt to act kindly towards other people we will discover that we become more aware. If we attempt to be more aware we will find that it becomes easier to be kind.

Sometimes it is the busy-ness and pressure of our lives that gets in the way of awareness and kindness. We feel rushed, stressed and overwhelmed. In order to feel more relaxed and to discover the inner spaciousness that helps us with our good intentions, it is important to give ourselves time to be quiet everyday. We need to ensure that we have five or ten minutes every day to let go of the endless stream of things-that-need-to-be-done. The things-that-need-to-be-done will never end, so we have to decide to take time out from them. Sit quietly every day. Sit and watch the breath, letting go of tension and thought as we breathe out. This simple practice develops calm and inner peace so that over time our capacity to access this inner spaciousness increases. This inner peace then starts to become available to us even in times of fear or anger, illness or loss, depression or confusion.

Another reason that we find it difficult to be kind and open towards others is that we feel a lack of connection with them and hence feel the need to protect ourselves. Yet we are all intrinsically connected. We have all been travelling through an endless cycle of living, dying and being reborn. This cycling of birth, death and rebirth means that it is likely that we have experienced every relationship with one another that it is possible to have experienced – we have all been each other’s mother or father, sister or brother, uncle or aunt, friend or enemy, teacher or student, doctor or patient. Although we may not recognise one another in this life, we have inevitably had a strong connection in a previous life, and so our sense of disconnection with others is illusory.

Understanding that we have had every possible relationship with one another at some time over countless lives, we can realise that therefore at some point in that stream of lives, everyone has been our mother. This is perhaps pertinent to consider as we approach Mothering Sunday. When we celebrate the kindness and love of our own mother in this life, and enjoy the love we feel toward her, we can remember that people that we do not currently recognise as a loved one have been very dear to us in previous lives. Contemplating this possibility we can allow our hearts to open so that it becomes easier to act in a kindly way toward others – even those that we do not know or do not get along with. A kind and aware attitude are the key to peace and happiness – our own, and everyone else’s.

So when we are celebrating Losar or Mothering Sunday we can remember that we are all intrinsically and endlessly connected to one another. Through this understanding, and through allowing ourselves to be still and quiet for ten minutes every day, we will gradually be able to let go of our prejudices and self-protection so that our capacity to be kind and aware becomes stronger and stronger.

Happy Losar to you all – may the year of the Earth Dragon bring peace, joy and happiness.”

Note added 27-01-2012: many apologies - it will actually be the year of the Water Dragon.

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