Category Archives: connection

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

And Jean said, ‘this is my friend’

IMG_9642Many years ago a young woman, about twenty years old, went into a church and knelt down on a little wooden platform to pray. To pray to God, to pray to Jesus, to pray the way as a Christian she had been taught to pray.

She sat there on her knees with her hands in front of her head and chest and she asked God for happiness for herself and for everyone else.

There was real integrity in her request. She was not asking because she just felt like it or because someone told her what to do. She did it because she wanted to.

She knelt like this for about twenty minutes, then got up. As she did so she saw an older woman standing near her. She recognised her because she had seen her in the church before but she didn’t know who she was.

“Can I join you?” said the older woman.
The younger woman replied: “Oh well, yes, but I have just finished and I have to go.”

Then the older woman said: “Do you mind staying with me for another two or three minutes? I want to tell you something.”
The younger woman replied: “Yes, of course, what do you want to tell me?”

Both women sat on a bench inside the church and the atmosphere was beautiful. They were the only two people in the church at that moment. There in that peace and quiet the younger woman heard the story of the older woman who had been through a huge amount of pain and suffering with her family. Huge. By the time she finished, in quite a compassionate way, the younger woman said to the older woman: “Why did you tell me all these stories? Why?”
The older woman looked at her and didn’t actually know what to say, and answered: “Well I don’t really know but I felt that you were the person that I would like to tell my story to.”

In that moment, the younger woman experienced a moment of fear and a moment of love. Her fear came from her thinking: “Why does somebody need to tell me all these very, very difficult things?”, and her love came from her thinking: “I really feel close to this woman.”
She thought to herself: ‘Shall I leave or should I stay with her?’ She said:
“Would you like me to stay with you?”
The older woman replied: “Yes.”
Everyday for the next three months or so the younger woman went to the church and the older woman came and told her the story of her very, very sad life with her family.

One day the younger woman said: “Do you think there is anything you still wish to tell me? “
And the older woman said to the younger woman: “No, but you taught me something very important, you taught me about friendship. You taught me that I can have a friend in my life.”
The younger woman looked at her with very big tears in her eyes and said: “As you have learned about it I have done the same. As you learn about friendship, I learn about friendship. Thank you for all that. I have learned quite a lot from you.”
The older woman looked at the younger woman and said: “Without you I would never, never, never have an idea that I can have actually a friend as I never had any friends.”

The two women left the church. The younger woman never saw the older woman again because a week later she died. She died from a heart attack or something. She wasn’t old, but she died. And at her funeral the young woman sat in the church and thought herself: ‘I lost a friend but I learned what it means to be a friend.’

I am telling you this story because last week ago my 89 year old friend Jean went to ‘live’ in an aged care facility. I don’t know if her stay is going to be permanent, I don’t think anyone does, but as her medical team told Jean ‘it is time’, she agreed to ‘give it a try’ as she has great difficulty walking. From the waist up she is a trickster, but those legs and right hip of hers are another story entirely. Jean was born in her house and I could understand that she was reluctant to leave it.

I started helping Jean a little more than a year ago. She lives across the road from me. She lives alone as her husband George, who passed away last year, had been in a nursing home (the same one she has gone to) for nine years. Her family are loving and supportive – food purchased, washing done, house  cleaned. Although Jean received a hot meal at lunchtime every week day from her local Meals on Wheels service, I became aware that she was making herself a sandwich for dinner because she could not operate her microwave oven as she has Macular degeneration of the eyes and her hands shook as she has Parkinson’s disease. So I offered to come over every evening (when I could) to pop a frozen meal in the microwave for her.  I felt this was an easy thing for me to do and I believe this is what members of a community might do for each other. She accepted my offer and as the months went by I sat with her at her little kitchen table while she ate her dinner and told me her stories. After dinner I would help her put her ‘patches’ on and administer eye drops or change a dressing on her legs. She was always bumping those legs!

She was always so very grateful – and often gave me ‘points’ for how much I had helped her that evening. I laughed about that and inquired what I had to do to get four points as it never seemed to get above two! That trickster in her never told me.

As the months passed by I found myself acknowledging and actively welcoming the energy of friendship with Jean into my life. I accepted her as she was, I did not judge her and I did not want anything at all from her and I am happy that I have connected with this very, very deep part of myself. I did not intend it, force it or push it, it simply happened. An example of embracing life’s experiences and not trying to control them.

I visited Jean the day after she went to her new abode. She was with a group having morning tea and she introduced me to the group by saying: “This is my friend Ruth.”

Looking for Patricia

PatriciaLast week when my friend Patricia passed to the light I went looking for her.

We met in 1970 when we were both teaching in an infant’s school in Sydney. We lost close contact over the years but always sent each other a Christmas card and when her husband passed to the light, she rang me from the hospital to tell me. In the last few years we would regularly meet up for lunch in the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney and talk about everything that seemed to matter in our lives. We had God in common and I feel this underpinned our renewed friendship. I took this photo of her in February 2013, because she was looking so radiant that day!

When I found out she had died I experienced a similar response to when my Mother passed away nearly four years ago. I wanted to know where Patricia was, where she had gone to, because I knew she was more than her physical body and to me it did not seem that she was dead. Where did she go when I had an awareness she was still alive? Where did her Spirit go? I know the Spirit goes somewhere because as I was with my Mother when she passed away I felt it leave her body. As my mind was not making any sense of anything I thought I would go to my heart to ‘try and work it out’  (Ha ha!) So I started my process of contemplation around it, to take me from confusion to clarity and on Sunday morning that clarity broke through.

However before I tell you how I came to clarity and a soft peace, I have found that if I accept the concept of reincarnation of the soul then what I am about to say makes complete sense to me. I accept the soul is on a journey, lifetime after lifetime, until it becomes enlightened. It becomes enlightened when all the ‘blotches’ on the rays of light of our Spirit are cleared and the light shines through fully – there is no resistance, so nothing stops the light. Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi (1207-1273), Sufi mystic, Persian muslim poet and theologian said this in another way when he wrote: Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it”.

I can’t yet tell you about these ‘blotches’, how they arrived there as I have not had an experience about it to share with you. Yet the concept that they are there and it works like this satisfies me. I cannot prove this concept to you but it ‘works’ for me.

My ideas that morning, and these are my ideas, formed from contemplation, experience and a commitment to judge less and less, went something like this.

When the Big Bang happened (and we don’t know about anything that happened before this event) the Universe as we know it was created. It exploded into something – our Universe – what we can see and what we can’t see. Matter and non-matter. Physical and Spiritual. I therefore deduce that everything, seen and unseen/of the senses and not of the senses, that now exists is part of everything that existed when that event happened. I don’t see how it cannot be – however I cannot prove this concept to you either. I have an idea lurking in me that if we can accept this concept we can maybe accept the concept of One Soul, of which we also must be a part. To me, its existence is a bit like when you take a bucket of water from the ocean, the water in the bucket is still part of the ocean. In my contemplation when this idea came to me I trusted it and continued on. I have no clarity on how the Soul came into being. I accept that it did.

If I am the One Soul what then makes me an individual? Basically it is my mind. My mind is different to others because of my ‘ideas’. 

When I was contemplating all this a vision came to me of a big round circle which represented the Soul and then hanging off the edge of the Soul were all these little suitcases. The suitcases were us as human beings. Each little suitcase (albeit 7 billion of them) was like a little tool kit for the Soul, yet each suitcase had its own mind. Patricia had finished her life as Patricia, and her soul had done what it needed to do in this life, and needed to find a way to leave her body which it did and she died peacefully at home, aged 85. If her long journey is not yet over I presume her soul still exists as part of that One Soul but of course, how would I know?

Thoughts of my own journey started to arise – who was I then, what was I doing here, where was I going? If we are all One I don’t have to fight so hard to be that ‘individual’. What a relief! Because this contemplation process was my actual experience, the essence of it became me and something inside of me calmed and that was very beautiful.

On Sunday evening I slept deeply. No dreams, just a deep sleep. I awoke feeling at peace. I had a feeling there was nothing I had to do or had to be. I didn’t feel connected to everything, I actually felt I was everything. I felt safe and some of the fear of my own death had lifted. I don’t care when I die because it will happen despite of myself, I can’t control it. Just like my Mother and Patricia could not.

I found Patricia in the moment I experienced I was everything.




A thought on ANZAC Day

Dad Yesterday, 25th April, was ANZAC Day in Australia and I was a little sad.
Sad for humanity of course and sad for those Australian and New Zealand Army Corps soldiers who landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey early on the morning of 25 April 1915 during the First World War (1914 – 1918). *
I become sad when I hear my neighbour Jean tell of two of her bothers who were killed there and when my husband tells of his two Uncles who died at Gallipoli. I can feel the sadness of so many.

What I really want to talk about here is mass consciousness, something that seems to affect us all. Mass consciousness is like we are all in the same great, big casserole pot of energy. Some of us are potatoes, some of us are carrots, some of us are the peas.  But we are all in that pot together, all taking on the flavours, the energies of each other. We  cannot help being impacted by mass consciousness. It is ‘in the air’. The point is we can really get caught up in it if we are not careful. Emotions do seem to run high on ANZAC Day – everyone’s sadness and grief surfacing, it all building and building. No wonder some of the old diggers just want to have a drink to forget. No wonder I just want to have a cry.

The 25th April is extra poignant in our household as it was the day my husband’s mother passed to the light. Every ANZAC Day for the past 26 years he and his brother have risen early and visited the place where their parent’s ashes lie together. This is followed by a quick visit to their childhood neighbourhood to have a drink at the local RSL Club with men with whom they went to school. By mid morning my husband is home – sombre, sober and reflective. Naturally. He gets through it by talking about it and getting on with his day. For some reason this year he talked more than usual about the morning and about his associated feelings. I simply listened. He gets not one, not two but three impacts of  mass consciousness on that one morning and in a very short space of time – ANZAC Day, his Mum and his childhood.

40's 1941 Dad in PalestineMy ninety four year old father fought in the Second World War. He doesn’t like to talk about it much. I feel his energies change when he does. It seems his grief and sorrow may be just below the surface. I am mindful not to scratch there.

Natural emotions can, on a day like ANZAC Day, be overwhelming and that is when we are in danger of being diminished by them, of contracting. And we don’t want that because we only ever want to expand. I am planting this story an an imaginery Garden of Connection, because we are all connected through mass consciousness. I am also planting it there because I have a sense that it is through pain that we do somehow, in a funny way that I cannot yet articulate in words, connect. I will water it with compassion and nourish it with memories.

Lest we forget.
** Photographs of my father, used with permission.