Friday, 31 August 2012

Personal Training for the soul

What do we mean by “fitness”. Anybody? Well, no it’s not about getting muscles or losing weight. To most people getting “fit” is an abstract idea, a notion, an idea, bantered about with no real meaning. As a Personal Trainer, to me “Fitness” is defined as:  a complete feeling of and state of physical, mental and emotional well-being.  Being a Personal Trainer or Fitness Instructor isn't just about about showing people how to lift weights!

Personal training and religion have a lot in common, and you know, I think we can apply a lot of the techniques of personal training for health and well being to our spiritual health as well.

Our American cousins define Fitness (or as they term it “Wellness”)as having six dimensions: Physical, Emotional, Intellectual, Social, Vocational and Spiritual.

Physical wellness encourages all issues concerning your physical body and daily life Emotional wellness emphasises awareness of and acceptance of feelings. An emotionally well person maintains satisfying relationships with others while feeling positive and enthusiastic about his life. You also maintain minimal levels of stress, develop healthy feelings and use nondestructive emotional outlets.
Intellectual Wellness encourages creative, stimulating mental activities including learning and adapting to and understanding change and the world we live in.
Social Wellness encourages contributing to human community and environment. A socially well person emphasises interdependence with others, with nature and within his own family and self.
Vocational Wellness is the growth and happiness in your own work, and jobs that are satisfying and enriching; vocational wellness emphasises being fit for purpose.
Spiritual Wellness is the universal quest for meaning and purpose. A spiritually well person develops, evolves and practices his religious, political, environmental and personal beliefs with integrity, truthfulness.”

Love your Dalek

“Love your enemy”

Who doesn’t know what a Dalek is? Who, when they were young didn’t cower behind the settee from those maniacal pepper-pot shaped baddies, armed with nothing more than a sink-plunger and egg whisk? Evil killing machines that couldn’t be stopped by the best that human arsenals had to offer? (Apart from a flight of stairs)

Religion and Spirituality....some thoughts...

I am reminded of the story of a cowboy who went to a church wearing jeans, ragged boots and a worn out old hat. As the cowboy took his seat, people moved away from him. No one welcomed him. As the cowboy was leaving the church, the minister approached him and asked the cowboy to do him a favour. "Before you come back in here again, have a talk with God and ask him what he thinks would be appropriate attire for worship." The old cowboy assured the preacher he would.
The next Sunday, he showed back up for the services wearing the same ragged jeans, boots, and hat. Once again he was completely shunned and ignored.

The preacher approached the man and said, "I thought I asked you to speak to God before you came back to our church."
"I did," replied the old cowboy.
"If you spoke to God, what did he tell you the proper attire should be for worshipping in here?" asked the preacher.
"Well, sir, God told me that He didn't have a clue what I should wear, seeing as He'd never been in this church."
I wonder if you have had the experience of being made to jump through hoops by the church. Maybe it was a catechism or some sort of membership system. Maybe your experiences and understanding of God was different to the orthodox teaching or perhaps you  felt excluded as you were not as enthusiastic and as sure as everyone else. Maybe you thought to yourself, “I'm a spiritual and moral person who believes in God. I try to live as well as I can, and do the right thing by others. And yet in church I am made to feel like a second class citizen because I don’t know the ritual or feel uncomfortable with the language and ideas.”

Jesus Saves?

Jesus Saves – but not like a Computer

So often one sees the words “Jesus Saves” bandered about, and like the cynic I am, cannot resist adding “with the Halifax” or “ but not as good as Johnny Wilkinson”. Or whatever pop reference I can come up with.

Many people see Jesus as being the equivalent of a religious Life Boat – literally dragging us, coughing, spluttering, from drowning in our own “sea of sin and iniquity”. Jesus as a life saver. A rescuer. Maybe he is. Maybe he isn't.


Many people have asked me, what is it that I, as a Unitarian believe, and, because we do not hold with a belief in the Holy Trinity, what do we do about Christmas, and, more fundamentally, Easter.
Well, traditionally, Unitarians have never had a problem with Easter; it is only in the past 50 or so years that it has become the vogue to dismiss Easter as, well, “too Christian” and therefore somehow not inclusive enough. Perhaps, Easter is, well, a bit uncomfortable for us as well. It’ easy to adopt the view held by James Martineau that reason is the seat of all authority. Using his logic, therefore, Easter as being miraculous and not conforming to the known laws of nature and science can be dismissed as being superstitious and un-reasonable. When you are dead, you stay dead, that much we can observe and know. But perhaps, perhaps, there is more to Life, the Universe and Everything than what is empirically observable and deemed to be rational. I believe that Life, the Universe and Everything is far more complicated than we give it credit; we as humans fear change and crave control and understanding. By subjecting Life the Universe and Everything to laws and observation in some way we can control and understand it, and that makes us feel safe, comfortable. The problem then is, what do we do when Life, the Universe and Everything doesn’t correspond to our laws and comfort zones?

Some Prayers

God, help me remember that the higher human within me is in constant development.
Help me achieve the state of calm and serenity required for an orderly development of my higher being.

Let me enter lovingly into the merits, those things worthy of praise, of each person I meet.

Let what calls me to action be motives of admiration, delighted approval,and reverential regard everywhere in my environ


Give me the confidence to remember that such devotion gives me power to attain higher knowledge.

When I discover in my consciousness adverse, disparaging, and critical judgmentof people, the world, and of life, help me find the strengthto cultivate thoughts of devotion -- centering my personal attention,activities, and prayers toward truth, knowledge, and love.

God, help me to remember that labour and suffering are given and enduredfor the sake of a great, spiritual, cosmic whole -- that the most insignificant action that I have to accomplish,
the most insignificant experience which offers itself to me
stands in connection with holy beings and holy events.
Fountain of Everlasting Peace and Healing Balm,
Wash over our wounds of war, violence, and hatred,
Scrub deep the stains that destroy the fabric of Your Existence,
Mend the tattered threads of the Cloak of Your Majesty,
The delicate web of the universe which is Your Life and Love...
A prophet of non-violence You have raised up for Truth,
Reflecting the Source of Your Unfathomable Wisdom,
Flowing from the One Great Abyss of Creation's Glory,
Open our minds to hear Your Voice speaking Peace this day,
Born from One Cosmic Egg, we are one family in You,
Help us to learn forgiveness, kindness, tolerance,
Greatness of mind and heart,
So that destroying all weapons of war,
Burying all animosities and differences,
We may hear the Divine Harmony of Your Love,
Preserving our blue-jewel-earth-planet,
Spinning the dance of a Mother's Infinite Tenderness,
That draws all into Unity in one Compassionate Heart.
Bestow the Blissful Smile of sun and rain which is Your Divine Presence
Making Peace grow in our hearts as seeds for a new era,
Birthing the song of non-violence
Which blesses our world with Peace
prayer for peace day - sister rosemarie - 2006
 Beloved, to Thee I raise my whole being,
a vessel emptied of self. Accept, O Lord,
this my emptiness, and so fill me with
Thy Self --- Thy Light, Thy Love, Thy
Life --- that these Thy precious Gifts
may radiate through me and over-
flow the chalice of my heart into
the hearts of all with whom I
come in contact this day,
revealing unto them
the beauty of
Thy joy
of Thy Peace
which nothing can destroy.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Sport and the Sacred

I am a rower. To me sport is something meaningful both personally and spiritually.When you sit in a boat with eight other guys, you put your faith in the boat - quite blindly- that it will float (famously rowing boats have sunk even during the Boat Race)  and also in your team mates. In the cox that he will stear you safely (especially because he's the only one facing the front of the boat and can see where you are going!) and in the three or seven other guys: you put your faith, and trust in them that they will perform to the best of their ability, you believe in them, you believe in the team. Similalry, they trust you to be as good as you can be. And finally, you trust yourself to be the best you can be. Its about putting aside the self, the ego, in favour of others.

Being a ‘sport’ or ‘good sport’ means you are willing to play. Willing to play means you are involved or alive to the situation in which you exist, and that is the essence of life. If there is anything that is truly close to a spiritual process, in the normal course of life, that is sports: One Hindu Swami said, “In kicking a ball or playing a game, you are much closer to the Divine than you will ever be in prayer." You can pray without involvement, but you cannot play sports without involvement, and involvement is the essence of life.

The fundamental of any sport or game takes care of this; that is, if you want to play a game, you must have the fire of wanting to win but also the balance to see that if you lose, it is okay with you. You never play a game to lose, you always play a game to win, but if you lose, that’s OK with you as well. If you maintain this fundamental with every aspect of life, you are a sport. And all that the world expects from you is, that you are a sport. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, whatever kind of situation you are in, you are still a sport.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Revolutionary Unitarians

2012 sees the 220th anniversary of the conferring of French citizenship upon some of the most prominent Unitarians in British history: Rev. Dr. Joseph Priestley, Rev. Richard Price and Jeremy Bentham. Also granted citizenship was the abolitionist William Wilberforce and his ally Thomas Clarkson. This honour was due to their religious and political radicalism, and indeed Priestley and Price were elected as members of the French National Convention (the revolutionary government which replaced the ‘ancien regime’ Monarchy of Louis XVI in 1789). We often forget the radical message of our Unitarian movement and with the likes of jingoistic popular historical fiction such as ‘Sharpe’ o r ‘Flashman’ forget that not everyone in Britain was opposed to either the French Revolution or to Napoleon Bonaparte.  Unitarians in South West Wales sang the Marseillaise and even translated it into Welsh and it was sung well into the 19th century! The Revolution and Napoleon had vocal and active supporters in this country, especially amongst religious and political radicals, not least amongst them Unitarians, who agreed wholeheartedly with Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.