Monthly Archives: January 2015

An Hour of Peace 2015

Ruth's cake

Written by Ruth Howard – founder of The Joy Story

What is an Hour of Peace?

An Hour of Peace is like a mini retreat. It has been offered ever since the attack on the Twin Towers in New York City on 9th September 2001. It is not a course. You can attend whenever you feel drawn to do so.

It is an hour of detachment from the material world, detachment from the active world, and in some respect it is parallel to a retreat, yet it only constitutes an hour of time. Music is there to facilitate the detachment, the retreat, and there is also silence and the music and the silence are very closely related.

It might involve a meditation yet it is not about meditation. It gives you an opportunity for an hour to reach a level of stillness and inner peacefulness, to focus on the simplest of all things like breathing, and response to music. Response to soft, evocative music to evoke peace rather than evoke excitement and mood. It is not about that.

It is not about preaching to you about anything. Whatever preaching or teaching or guidance takes place, takes place inside you, if that is what you wish, but it is not something that is thrust upon you.

The whole essence of An Hour of Peace is its simplicity. It is about a non-verbal experience that transcends. It is just that – experience that is sensory, that is outside of easy explanation, but is real.

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Dad and the (miracle) reunion

photo 2Written by Ruth Howard – founder of The Joy Story

In July 2014 my father Newton who is 95 ‘and a half’, (as he says), went to live in aged care accommodation in a beautiful town on the North Coast of NSW in Australia in order to be close to my sister.

He wasn’t there because he had dementia or was bed ridden or anything like that. He was there because as he was ‘getting on a bit’, it was considered better for him to be in a place where professional people like doctors and nurses could keep a watch out for him every day.

There he became friends with an Englishman, Peter.
One day Peter, who is 90, told Newton he had a younger brother, Hugh, who is 84 and who lived in England. Peter said that over the years he and Hugh had spoken to each other on the ‘phone however they had not seen each other face to face, so to speak, for such a very, long time. He didn’t tell Newton how long that was. He also told Newton, “I won’t ever see him again – unless a miracle happens!”

That night Newton hatched a plan to try and make that miracle happen for his friend.
His plan was to use his ipad to connect Peter with Hugh on Skype – if Hugh was on Skype too.

Newton told Peter his plan and asked him for Hugh’s email address.
Newton emailed Hugh and asked, “Hugh, are you on Skype?”
Hugh replied, “Yes”
Newton asked Hugh, “Would you like to see your brother Peter?”
Hugh answered, “Yes, of course!”
Newton said, “Well, let’s do it.”

At first a few minor technical problems thwarted the miracle. However, a week or so later, at seven o’ clock one Tuesday evening in December just before Christmas, in a bedroom in a small country town in Australia, and at the same time at eight o’clock in the morning of the same day, in a bedroom somewhere in England, two brothers, Peter and Hugh, sat in front of computer screens and saw each other for the very first time in thirty seven years.


Photo of my father Newton (left) and Peter.
Photo by Sharon, Aged Care facility staff.
Images used with permission.

Something about Mary

imagesWritten by Ruth Howard – founder of The Joy Story

Mary J. Blige, 42, singer. Real person.

American journalist Jane Mulkerrin brought Mary’s story to life over two pages of the Sydney Morning Herald on the weekend of Dec 20-21, 2014.

Mary’s is a typical rags-to-riches story. Brought up in the rough area of Yonkers in New York City, her father left the family when she was four. She was sexually abused by a family friend when she was five. Talented from the start, Mary recorded her debut album when she was 22.

The story within the story that I read in the newspaper that morning seemed to me to be one about the journey of Mary’s soul. Thirteen years ago drink and drugs took Mary to the brink. It was then she recognised she could make a choice between life and death. She said, ‘That was definitely the learning moment. I guess my own voice – or God – spoke to me and said, ‘Haven’t you learnt anything?’

Mary also said, ‘Because we don’t love ourselves enough, we hang out with the wrong people, we go out with the wrong guys, we don’t believe that we deserve better. Change the things you can change, accept the things that you can’t, and get to a point where you are satisfied with yourself.’

Reading the story caused me to reflect on a time I was brought to the brink and the decision I made. It was not drink or drugs, it was a relationship. I knew if I did not change the relationship I would ‘die’ on the inside. In that moment of choice I started to do my learning which was completed when I vowed never to have that kind of relationship again.

My point is we all have things to learn in our life. We can do it, we can learn these things. I encourage you to believe that. If I can do it, you can too.

For inspiration, comfort and courage, I offer you the original version of The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr 1892-1971, American theologian.

God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,
courage to change things which should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

Credit. Photo of Mary J. Blige provided by Wikipedia. Labeled for reuse.

What is grace?

Grevillea and bee ©Ruth Howard 2014Written by Ruth Howard – founder of The Joy Story

The energy of grace is lovely.

Grace is when a woman is looking at a butterfly and as the butterfly opens its wings and flies from flower to flower, in a most graceful way the woman raises her arms and moves them like the butterfly.

 Grace is when a woman pours tea into a cup and she is tuned into the rhythm of the tea, of the water, as it is pouring from the pot to the cup.

Grace is when man walks down the road in harmony with the rhythm of the air, of the earth, of the sun.

Grace is when a sail boat joins with the wind.

Grace is a joining of the movement, be it emotional, kinaesthetic or mental.

How lovely.

Credits: Grevillea and bee ©Ruth Howard 2014