Podcast #046: The problem of longing and wanting more

An ache that won't go away

Longing. Its something we all experience at one time or another, but find so hard to explain or define. On this podcast Andy Parnham and I discuss this "reaching out towards or yearning for something that you can't describe but which draws you very powerfully with a mixture of joy and sadness."

The writer C. S. Lewis put it even more potently when he called this longing  'joy' and described it as 'an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction...... anyone who has experienced it will want it again.' As you can see these are deep areas we don't often discuss!

Do come and join Andy and I as we explore

  • How a want for something (usually in the areas of wealth, health or happiness) tends to be clear, purposeful, driven by the will often with a sense of urgency.
  • By contrast with a longing the focus is not on ourselves, but someone or something that occupies our view and yet lies beyond our grasp or control (usually in the areas of relationships, meaning and fulfilment).
  • Our age-old quest for beauty vividly described by Lewis:

”The books or music in which we thought the beauty were located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them,it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things - the beauty, the memory of our own past - are good images of what we really desire, but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

  • Examples of this in longing for a person, place or people.
  • How homesickness and nostalgia as forms of longing combine very powerful emotions of loss and disappointment combined with hope and desire.
  • How these experiences are also understandable through neuroscience and the two sides of the brain.
  • Understanding the difference between what Henri Nouwen called ‘first loneliness’ (the emotional need for family, friends and home) and the need for a deeper life, which he called a ‘second loneliness.’ Here is how Nouwen described it:

”A deep personal intimacy and it is an intimacy that is very demanding. It requires letting go of many things that are emotionally, intellectually and affectively very satisfying. You must grow to realise and to trust that the deeper loneliness is not to be overcome, but lived. You must live it with trust, standing tall. You must try to say, ‘Yes I am lonely, but this particular loneliness sets me on the road to intimacy...It brings me closer to the source of love in the depths of my being.”

  • While this conversation may seem rather deep and esoteric, I do assure you we talk about practical implications for all of us in how we live our lives on a day-to-day basis!

You may also find of interest:

The Master And His Emissary: How the left brain has come to dominate Western culture

What Is It Like To Have A Stroke: How the two sides of the brain function so differently

Discovering Silence and Solitude: the gift we struggle to receive.

A video on my own personal longing for my true home.

 

Podcast #044 Lasting Happiness

In search of deeper meaning and fulfilment

Happiness! Who doesn't want it? A recent google search on 'how to be happy' turned up 626 million results. Compare that to typing in 'Donald Trump' and you get 237 million items or 'Brexit news' where there is just 90 million! We all want to be happy. But what do we mean by happiness? I can be happy eating an ice cream and I can be happy meeting a long lost friend. But those two experiences are clearly very different. How can I find a happiness that leads to deeper meaning and fulfilment?

On this podcast we interview Andy Parnham, author of the book, "Lasting Happiness: In Search of Deeper Meaning and Fulfilment." Do come and join us in this opening 30 minute conversation as we explore:

  • Andy's fascination with exploring this important subject.
  • Western's society obsession with defining the good life only in terms of health, wealth and the pursuit of pleasure while at the same time avoiding pain.
  • How the research and our own personal experience shows lasting happiness is ultimately found in relationships, meaning and fulfilment.
  • How the research shows the most significant factor in overall wellness is the presence of strong relationships.
  • The two problems of material pleasure being they fade with time and need ever increasing consumerism to produce the same 'buzz'.
  • How this is not just a Western issue, as the examples of Qatar (the richest country in the world), Japan and Bhutan illustrate.
  • A psychological understanding of happiness as 'subjective wellbeing' with the three components of pleasure, engagement and meaning.
  • Understanding the what, how, who and  why of lasting happiness.

We will be talking with Andy more in future podcasts, but for now if you would like to explore this further also see:

Podcast #026: The Search For Happiness

Podcast #006: Rediscovering Joy

Why I am working at becoming a happier person.

Why is joy more important than happiness?

The search for joy.

The lies we tell ourselves about joy.

Moving from disappointment to joy.

Podcast #042: What Does It Take To Live A Meaningful Life?

Podcast #035: What Is Life Really All About?

 

Podcast #043: What makes a good doctor or nurse?

An on-going conversation with Dr John Geater MBE

If your mother, father, brother or sister was rushed into hospital what kind of doctor or nurse would you want them to see? The answer to that question has been a passion 0f Dr John Geater for many years. So much so in fact that it led him to, with others, set up the organisation PRIME - Partnerships in International Medical Education. In 2006 John received an MBE for his contribution.

Do join John and I as we discuss:

  • How the foundation of his relationship with God, his wife Jane and family makes everything else possible.
  • The importance of the values of integrity, compassion, altruism, excellence, continuous self-improvement and teamwork in underpinning all medical training.
  • The question John likes to ask his students of "Is it right to smile at a patient?" and the responses he gets.
  • Understanding the mind-body-spirit connection of human beings
  • Seeing God at the intersection of science and humanity.
  • How losing the humanity of our patients is so often a root of burnout and cynicism in the medical profession around the world.
  • Understanding the person of Jesus as healer.
  • How a lack of connection with others is one of the biggest predictors of mental health problems.
  • Unpacking the Hebrew concept of 'shalom' to understand complete flourishing in body, mind and spirit and relationships.
  • The legacy of PRIME to "inspire those who inspire others who go onto inspire others alongside developing their medical skills."

You may also find of interest:

An Incredibly Brief History of Medicine.

What Does It Actually Take To Be A More Caring Person?

What If You Could Read Other People's Minds?

Podcast #042: What Does It Take To Live A Meaningful Life?

The Royal College of Physicians Report Doctors in Society: Medical Professionalism In A Changing World that emphasises the importance of professional values to all medical training.

To find out more about PRIME click here.

Podcast #042: What does it take to live a meaningful life?

A conversation with Dr John Geater MBE

Dr John Geater is at the time of writing aged 73. He is married to Jane and has three adult children. He is a medical doctor and has worked in Bhutan, New Zealand and in England. In 2006 he received an MBE from the Queen for his work in setting up the postgraduate medical education charity, PRIME (Partnerships in International Medical Education). He has taught holistic medical education in 26 different countries around  the world. Just before Christmas 2017 he was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Do join us in this  fascinating podcast conversation as we discuss John's life and explore questions such as:

How do you respond when bad things happen to you?

How do you make sense of being diagnosed with cancer three times in your life?

How to embrace life's mysteries when things don't go the way you want or expect.

We also ask John:

What was it like running a leprosy hospital in Bhutan at the age of 25?

What would you say to someone who has a terminal illness and is scared?

To explore with us from Bronnie Ware's book the five regrets of the dying:
I wish I lived a life true to myself and not what was expected of me.
I wish I had not worked so hard.
I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
I wish I had let myself be happier.

What he is looking forward to in the life to come?

You may also find of interest:

Podcast #017: The Last Taboo Subject?

Podcast #028: The God I Don't Understand

Podcast #029: The Literal End Of The World?

Podcast #032: How To Know Joy When Life Feels Tough

Podcast #033: Practical Ways To Find Joy Through Disappointment

How Would You Define Success Part 3

When science demonstrates truth is stranger than fiction

It is a commonly held assumption among many people that faith in God is incompatible with a scientific world view. Our largely secular media would have us believe that science and faith in a universal creator God is an irreconcilable contradiction. (See We're All Materialists Now!).Yet the more closely you examine the evidence the more you realise this does not have to be the case at all.

Brian Enderle holds graduate degrees in both science and theology. In this 13 minute TED talk he explains how scientific understanding of the universe is even more amazing and fantastic than we could ever imagine.

The more you look at the findings the harder it is not to use hyperbole and extreme descriptions. Take the finding of how much of atoms are empty space. In case you were wondering a single atom is apparently a million times smaller than a human hair. Within an atom there is, according to Enderle, 99.9999999999999% empty space! That means everything around us that appears solid, physical and real is actually practically all empty space! We assume because atoms are so tiny and so numerous objects appear solid to us, but in fact they are not!

What does this have to do with faith?.....

Podcast #041: How can faith and prayer enhance mental health?

I was recently pleasantly surprised to be invited by a prestigious financial institution to speak on the subject of how prayer and faith can enhance mental health. It was a wonderful privilege.

On this podcast I unpack the main elements of my talk along with exploring how money is such a helpful analogy in pointing to understanding spiritual treasure.

In particular we explore:

How faith and prayer enhance mental health as I am able to delight in God for who He is rather than what I can get out of Him.

The key to this is understanding and experiencing grace in my life.

How faith rather than being a vague and nebulous concept is actually incredibly specific. Indeed our entire global financial system is based on faith.

Why faith can only enhance mental health if it is based on something specific and reliable.

How the highest form of prayer is delight.

The problems with defining mental health.

How the Hebrew word 'shalom' conveys the highest form of mental health as complete wellbeing or multi-dimensional thriving and fulfilment.

For more on this also see:

How can faith and prayer enhance mental health?

Podcast #033: Practical ways to find joy through disappointment.

Podcast#032: How to know joy when life feels tough.

Podcast #013: How to grow in resilience.

Podcast #011 Money.

Why does a loving God allow pain and suffering?

Podcast #007 Religion

Podcast #018: Spiritual Maturity.

How can faith and prayer enhance mental health?

Using the example of money

I was recently asked to talk at a financial institution on this subject from a Biblical perspective.

 Its a huge subject and I was given only 10 minutes along with speakers from Jewish and Muslim backgrounds! This is a summary and transcript of what I was able to say. As it was at a financial institution it made sense to use money as an important theme! Indeed as we have previously discussed there are 2350 verses in the Bible on money - more than there are on faith or prayer even!

We can summarise the question by saying faith and prayer ultimately enhance mental health when I am able to delight in God for who He is rather than what I can get out of Him. To break it down further into one word then it is to use the word grace.
Grace means undeserved mercy and favour. When I truly understand grace then that has a profound impact on my mental health.
The best way to convey that is with a simple story.
Imagine you came to my house to stay. I had to go out and left you in charge. When I returned you say to me, Sunil while you were out someone came to the door with a bill to pay and I paid it. Now there is one vital piece of information you are lacking. It is how much was the bill? If the bill was £1 then that is hardly even worth saying thank you for. But imagine it was £20 billion and you had the resources to pay. How would that make me feel? What would that do to my mental health?
But it gets even better! Not only do you pay the £20 billion bill you actually credit my account with a further £20 billion and you buy me a new house!
Sounds crazy an even ludicrous.

But that is what the Bible seeks to convey how grace impacts the mental health and life of someone who understands it.

Let’s  explore this further.....

When Jesus seems just so confusing

It is the story of an encounter with Jesus in the Gospels that is so puzzling and even confusing.  A certain rich man (we don't know his name or much else about him) comes running to Jesus, falls on his knees, and asks "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" The more you think about it the more radical and even shocking is the way Jesus takes the conversation from there. 

You can read more about what happens in three of the four gospels. Each provides a different perspective on the same encounter. (Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31 and Luke 18:18-30).

It seems like a great question to ask and in terms of who you ask the question to, I think you would be hard pressed to suggest anyone else who would have a better handle on knowing what it takes to inherit eternal life. This young man has achieved a lot in terms of worldly success and significance. You have to commend him for hungering and thirsting for wanting something of more lasting value in his life than his apparent success and achievements..........

The power of money to transform a life

The book Les Miserables by  Victor Hugo is a classic novel from the 19th century. Its complexities and twists and turns remind me of a traditional Hindi Bollywood movie with the intense emotion and complex story line. In fact, Les Mis (as it has colloquially come to be called) is now internationally famous as a sing through musical. It has been seen by more than 70 million people in 44 countries and in 22 languages around the globe. It is still breaking box-office records everywhere. The original London production celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2015 and is the world's longest running musical.  There are also two film of the same name released in 1998 and 2012. The most recent one has also become a widely acclaimed with three oscars and a further four nominations.

The film and book follow the life of Jean Valjean who has spent 19 years in prison. This was made up of 5 years for stealing bread for his starving sister and 14 years for numerous escape attempts. On becoming a free man he is turned away by innkeepers because his yellow passport marks him as a former convict. He sleeps on the street, angry and bitter.

However, the local Bishop Myriel gives him shelter. At night, Valjean attacks and runs off with Myriel's silverware. The local paramilitary police officers (gendarmes) bring Valjean back to the Bishop. Valejan is expecting to be convicted and to return to prison. This is the point of radical transformation in Valjean's life. Here is how the 2012 movie in song describes what happens when the gendarmes arrive with Valjean:

Monsignor, we have your silver
We caught this man red-handed
He had the nerve to say you gave him this
That is right
But my friend you left so early
Surely something slipped your mind
You forgot I gave these also
Would you leave the best behind?
Monsieur, release him
This man has spoken true
I commend you for your duty
And God's blessing go with you
But remember this, my brother
See in this some high plan
You must use this precious silver
To become an honest man.
By the witness of the martyrs
By the passion and the blood
God has raised you out of darkness
I have saved your soul for God.

Valjean is the recipient of radical undeserved grace and realises he cannot live the way he did before. The Bishop's mercy in not convicting Valjean but by giving him candlesticks in addition to the stolen silverware changes something deep within his soul.

(For copyright reasons I cannot show the actual videos on the website. You can access on YouTube the 2 minute clip from the 2012 film here and the 3 minute clip from the 1998 version here.)

Here is how the book describes the scene from when Vlajean realises the undeserved kindness of the Bishop to him:

What is money?

A helpful perspective

As money is such an integral part of our lives that can seem like a  ridiculous question to ask. Money can occupy so much of our thinking. It can also be the source of so much emotion, both negative and positive.

But what is it? Put most simply money is simply a tool to facilitate deferred bartering.
Of itself money is just a piece of paper. But what that paper has come to represent is access to products, possessions and ultimately dreams. The 2 minute video below captures some of these sentiments:

Money is so more than just paper, or plastic, or metal or numbers on a screen. It is an amplifier of who we are and the impact we can have on the world we live in. If we are basically living selfishly then money increases the opportunities to be more selfish. And if we want to live lives of generosity then money can increase the potential to do that in so many more ways. The simple equation is: