I have a problem with the word God even though I use it blasphemously dozens of times every day. I’ll happily declare ‘oh God’ when things go wrong, but look me in the eye and ask me if I believe in God and I’ll squirm.
I used to think that anybody who believed in God was a nutter and for me the word has all sorts of connotations – abstemiousness, hellfire and damnation, piety, boring church services and tambourines…and I really hate tambourines
Thinking about it some more, I realise that the intelligence that created all that is and ever was, is unlikely to applaud any of the above and probably thinks that tambourines deserve as much love as any other musical instrument.
The attributes I associate with God were learned – from school, several awful years in the church choir where I was the only person who couldn’t hold a note and my own family.
My late father had no time for religion and therefore God, due to the fact that he remembers his mother hiding a radio beneath a blanket in case the Plymouth Brethren found out that she owned one. Bonkers, but is God really to blame? Would the same force that dreamed up cherry blossom and chaffinches really give a shit about a woman in Burgess Hill who liked listening to the radio? Her son died at the age of three for God’s sake (oops) at least let her have the radio.
But religion is not God. It’s a human construct and therefore deeply flawed in parts.
I didn’t truly believe in God until I went on a four-day silent retreat in Wales and experienced a bliss so sublime, it felt like I’d taken a class A drug (not that I ever have).
Since that moment, I’ve known without doubt that God exists, but still, that word. I’ve tried several others – Universal Life Force, Source, Chi, Higher Intelligence etc but what I have settled on is HP, which is short for Higher Power. I didn’t coin the phrase, it’s well known among AA circles, but I rather like it. These days, there are certain friends who I’ll greet with the words ‘How’s the HP been for you this week?’
Frankly, the HP has been going over and above for me. It always has, but I didn’t really take much notice – apart from the time I lost a hard copy of an article I’d written about pelicans. A magazine wanted to pay me £300 for it and I couldn’t find the damn thing. Anywhere. And I hadn’t saved it onto my floppy disk (It was a long time ago). I went through the same pile of papers dozens of times and just as I was about to give up and stick it back in the filing cabinet, a lone piece of paper fluttered free, and slowly drifted towards my feet. Yep…it was the article about pelicans. At the time, it felt a bit spooky, more than a coincidence and it preyed on my mind for years.
These days I don’t believe in chance – any time something like this happens, I high-five the HP and say a big ‘thank-you.’
I grew up thinking that life was one long struggle and then you died. That is my default setting and I still fall back into that way of thinking, but I have also learned that the more I lean on the HP, the easier life is.
Barely a week goes by these days without an HP surprise. The other week a friend told me about a colleague of hers who had just done a Tony Robbins course. ‘Changed her life,’ she said. I explained that I’d love to talk to said friend about this. I forgot about it and a week later, I bumped into this person (who I’d never bumped into before, ever) while I was running along the riverbank. We had a short, uplifting conversation and that afternoon, she sent me a link to a fantastic exercise, that I have used several times since.
The HP does that. If there’s someone you need to see or speak to, they miraculously cross your path at the right time. It’s the same with books. If you are on a spiritual path, you’ll find that the right book and/or teacher falls into your lap the minute you are ready for it.
It’s been a strange year, but a good one for me. I’m moving forwards, trying not to listen to internal negative chatter, nurturing my relationship with the HP and remembering to smell the roses along the way.
That last bit, about the roses, was a tip given to me by my hero, the late Frankie Howerd. It had always been a dream of mine to meet him and it finally came true when I was a young reporter. ‘Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,’ he told me, before gently explaining exactly what he meant by that.
It was one of the highlights of my career and thinking about it, I probably have the HP to thank for it. 🙌🏻