This reflection was given by Fiona Daukes at a public meeting at the UK Initiatives of Change Centre in London on 21 April.
Though I don’t feel that I am much of an initiator as I would rather follow and support initiatives taken by others! I do feel however, there need to be cellos as well as the conductors, and making visions into reality requires inspiration. Where does that inspiration come from?
I’m going to talk about some of my sources of inspiration, after which I suggest we are quiet for a while, and reflect on what I have said but also on your own sources of inspiration, which may lead you to take an initiative.
Of course my father figures largely, for as many of you know (or if not you can look up his story which I told and which is on YouTube). He gave his life voluntarily, to pray with and comfort drowning men when torpedoed on a troopship when he was aged 42. It was this which had a deep effect on me and inspired me to give all my time to the work of IofC, when I was 17.
Although my mother lost her fiancé in WW1 and her husband in WW2 she was a serene and gracious person, full of faith, and like my father had found her life transformed through applying the principles of IofC—absolute honesty, purity, unselfishness and love—and listening to the voice within.
My parents passed this practice on to me, and it is a far more precious legacy than material possessions might have been. This is the most basic of all sources of inspiration, because it takes you to THE source. God’s voice, conscience, whatever we call it is a silver thread to follow. It gives courage when needed, and strength. It gives compassion and sensitivity when these are lacking. It gives clear direction when choices have to be made. It gives correction when there has been disobedience, error of judgement, or a simple mistake. It puts that outside power in control instead of my own self will.
I was privileged to meet Mother Theresa in Calcutta. An Indian friend had just taken my husband and me to the coalfields of Bihar, where we were amazed at the warm response from the miners to the ideas of IofC. ‘Oh, yes!’ said Mother Theresa, ‘people are hungry for God’.
Visiting her Home for the Dying, talking to and caring for one man—he was well educated but had fallen on hard times, become ill and destitute before being carried in from the street— affected me profoundly. Mother Theresa said that what they were trying to do by their work was to help people become better Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, and by being better come closer to God.
When last in India I read a translation of the Bhagavadgītā, especially for Westerners. I found it deeply enriching. At one point it says, ‘Higher than I [Krishna/Brahman] there is nothing whatsoever: on Me this universe is strung like clustered pearls upon a thread’ (BhG 7.7). I like this picture of each of us a pearl and the Almighty or the Divine holding us all together!
Recently I went to see the Hajj exhibition, and was struck by the millions, three million annually, who are prepared to endure the very testing experience of going on this pilgrimage, this Festival. The emphasis on equality was also striking, as all are searching together to come closer to Allah. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of us could live like that all of the time? What would it take to live like that?
I would like to quote something that I read quite often. It is sometimes attributed to Nelson Mandela, whom I find a source of inspiration, but is actually from a poem by Marianne Williamson:1
‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us: it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.’
Another source has been Frank Buchman, the initiator of the international movement known as IofC.
Someone described his work as a laughing, living, loving, obedient willingness to restore God to leadership. As individuals transform their lives so serious situations in the world can be changed. Without his initial experience of crossing out the I (ego) and becoming a free person none of us would be here today!
There are many examples of reconciliation and forgiveness, which are both challenging and inspiring to me: the part played by Irene Laure in bringing Germany and France together after WW2; the conciliatory work of Ginn Fourie, whose daughter died in a massacre ordered by Letlapa Mphahlele with whom she now works;2 Pastor James Wuye and Imam Ashafa whose stories of reconciliation have been put into several films, to mention only a few. Such stories have helped me to put right relationships that were wrong in my own life. For example, when I was in my 20s in the United States, an older woman and I had come to really hate each other but by asking her forgiveness we became friends.
The teachings of Jesus are a constant inspiration. He said:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,
Blessed are those of gentle spirit for they shall inherit the earth,
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God,
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom
of Heaven’ (Matthew 5.3-12).
Imagine a world where we all lived that way!
Finally, from the Psalms I gain help as well as inspiration. The 139th Psalm in particular, part of which goes :
'O, Lord, thou hast searched me and known me! Thou knowest when I sit down and when I rise up; thou discernest my thoughts from afar. Thou searchest out my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, lo, Lord, thou knowest it altogether. Thou dost beset me behind and before, and layest thy hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from thy spirit? Or where shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, thou art there, if I make my bed in hell thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say ‘let only darkness cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to thee, the night is as bright as the day. For darkness is as light to thee...Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting'’.
Our Deepest Fear
By Marianne Williamson
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.
We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us;
It's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.
(Marianne Williamson, Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of 'A Course in
Miracles', Harper Paperbacks, 1996.)
1. Williamson, Marianne (1996) Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of 'A Course in Miracles', Harper Paperbacks.
2. http://theforgivenessproject.com/stories/ginn-fourie-letlapa-mphahlele-s... (Accessed 20th April 2012).