Find Your Bliss – Just Start Walking!

Have you ever met someone who instantly inspires you with their way of being?

I met someone just like that a few weeks ago on what was actually a very sad occasion. A long time friend’s wife lost her brave fight against illness and passed away at a young age.

The memorial service was beautifully run by John Merrill. I really liked what it said on his card – “Embracing and Honouring all Faiths”

What truly touched me was John’s deep compassion, humanity and genuine interest in people. He shared a lot of stories and has clearly led a very interesting and fulfilling life.

I asked John to share a story with us and this is what he sent me:-

“I want to tell you a true story.

A Leo boy was born in London, the result of a one night stand during World War Two. The father never saw his son and after just nine months, his mother was forced to give him up for adoption – she never saw him again.

The boy was adopted by a middle aged couple in Sheffield who did their utmost to bring him up as their son. He proved a troublesome and rebellious child, eventually spending ten years in boarding schools in North Yorkshire.

 Was he unhappy?

No, he was enjoying life to the full and everything that happened to him was all part of a divine plan and purpose, but he didn’t appreciate this until much later in life.

When only 6 years old, one afternoon his whole class was taken into the Peak District, to a gritstone edge. He had never been out in the countryside before, but the visit made a huge impact on him.

That sense of fresh air, freedom, rocks to scramble up, the views, the birds singing away and the wild flowers waving in the light breeze, all created a scene of paradise.

He knew instantly what his life would be.

The following term he was expelled – it’s not known why. Finally his adopted father found a boarding school in North Yorkshire, where he spent ten happy years, although always bottom of the class.

He created new records for being canned and new athletic records on the sports field!

By the time he was fifteen he was climbing up the school building and camping outside during the summer term.

His Quaker headmaster caught him one day climbing up the four storey hall and summoned him to his office – now!

Fearing expulsion, as he already been sent home 3 weeks early the previous term, he stood before the headmaster’s desk, only to be told to sit in the chair beside him.

The headmaster didn’t admonish him, but simply said he had better be properly trained!

A month later he was on a month’s Outward Bound Mountain course in the Lake District. His adopted father put his name forward for an expedition to Norway. He was accepted and enjoyed a month of climbing there.

“There are many paths up a mountain, but only one summit.” – John Merrill

Exams (O’ Levels) came and he took eight and failed them all; his highest mark was 14% in English!

His adopted father was horrified and he stayed on another year and swotted like mad; only to fail them all again!

However, he did take a ninth subject, Pottery, and made a figure of a climber on the top of Everest. It was marked 45% the lowest pass mark and he had finally gained one O’ Level subject.

After finishing school, he worked in factories in Sheffield and after eight years was a Works Manager. However, three nights a week and every weekend he was out walking and climbing; he knew this was where he should be, but how could he make a living from it?

He decided to walk around the Island of Mull, about 200 miles, and take photographs for a talk and write articles for magazines. He had never done of these things before.

As he walked down the Ross of Mull, he came to the Sound between the Isle of Iona. Already synchronicity was at work!

For as he walked onto the beach a boat from the island rowed ashore. The boatman asked if he wanted to go the island. He jumped aboard, the only passenger and camped beside the Abbey in the rain.

Visiting the Abbey he noticed there was a service at 6 pm and thought no more about it. At 5.55 pm. a voice in him told him to go to that service. He went wondering why, sang the hymns and listened to the readings, prayers and then the sermon.

He sat bolt upright as the message was –

“God gives you the chance to do what you should be doing. If you don’t take it he will give you again”.

He immediately realised he had the chance to follow his infant dream.

Back home, he was soon receiving lecture bookings and his articles on the island walk were accepted and published!

He wrote a book on “Walking in Derbyshire”, and sent it a publisher and was accepted. The book sold 150,000 copies.

Whilst on Mull, he dreamt of walking through all the Hebridean Islands on one long walk. Again he had never done a marathon walk before.

Six months later he set off and linked all the islands together of the Inner and Outer Hebrides, walking 1,004 miles in 54 days. It rained once and he saw no other walkers, just an amazing abundance of wildlife.

“For every mile that you walk you extend your life by 21 mins” – John Merrill

Over the following years, he took no advice from anyone, just following his heart and his love for the countryside.

He wore out 116 pairs of boots and walked more than 200,000 miles all over the world.

I cannot be defined, No label sticks to me, No pigeon hole do I fit. I am connected to everything, I am part of the whole. A part has no meaning on its own.”  – John Merrill

He continued to lecture and write, with more than 370 books so far. Then six years ago he received a letter; a complete shock. Derby University wanted to honour him with a Masters Degree at their annual awards ceremony, for his walking and writing!

The day was momentous and in his speech he said that his one regret that day was that his adopted parents and three headmasters were not there to see what had become of their naughty boy!

Through his walking in nature and wilderness, he always knew inside that he was cared for, protected, and watched over.

He has never broken a bone, got lost, been ill or had any trouble. He is deeply spiritual but never spoke about it or the real wonders he had seen and experienced.

Then, as he approached his 65th birthday a voice in him said that it was time for him to release and speak about his life and spirituality. Two days later the next issue of Kindred Spirit arrived. It had a competition and for the first time he wrote about his life’s journey. He won a book!

The next issue had an advert for the Interfaith Foundation – to train to be a Minister. The words Inter Faith rang a bell in his head.

Two months later he was training to be a Minister. Today he is ordained and speaking openly about his life. 

And who is this person? Me!

The message of this story is simple – follow your heart.

Don’t listen to anyone, simply do your own thing, what you love doing.

All will unfold as you follow this path. Obstacles will disappear, opportunities will come in abundance and money will always be there when needed. Simply trust and have absolute faith and go with the flow of it.”

So there you – thanks very much John for sharing your inspirational story.

Remember – always follow the calling of your heart.

May you have faith in your worth and act in your wisdom” – John Merrill

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I look forward to seeing you here again soon. Thank you for reading! – Arvind


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  1. Patrick Mathieu says

    Thanks for sharing this story. It has inspired me to get back to my love of walking (although not with the same devotion as John had!)

    I love the quote that every mile you walk adds 21 minutes to your life. Now where are my shoes…?

  2. Alex Blackwell | The BridgeMaker says


    This story is exactly what I needed to read this morning. Thanks for sharing the story – and the inspiration.


  3. Rahul Singh says

    This is very inspiring Arvind. I was thinking about some of my own troubles when I came across your article. It left me with such a good feeling in my heart. My faith is renewed. 🙂

    • Rahul, good to see you here again – and I am glad John’s story came to you at the right time.

      Our own troubles are usually nothing compared to other people’s – it’s all about getting things in perspective.

  4. Holly Wilcox says

    Arvind, thank you for sharing this inspiring story! From this I looked up an Interfaith homeless shelter in my community and will sign up to volunteer there. And try to start walking more too!

    • Holly, wow! Such is the power of truly inspirational stories – you are now spreading John’s good vibes around the world. Thank you!

      And happy walking every day.

  5. I dropped you home in my cab tonight; Cheers for sharing that tale, it makes me more determined to get on with the Degree!

    • Ian, it’s so good to see you here. I am glad our little conversation has prompted you to pursue your dream of getting a degree in hortoculture.

      Ian, good luck – the world needs YOUR green fingers!

  6. But how do your go about following your Heart? How do you discern with what you should be doing. I’ve so many ideas of what I should be doing with my life but I don’t know where to begin!

    • Mitesh, it’s great that you have so many ideas about what you should be doing with your life.

      You can begin by getting started on the one idea that really fires you up more than anything else. Give it some time – but not too long. Begin to focus on one idea and see how it feels.

      Deep down, you already have the answer. Please do let us know what it is that you really, really want to do in your life:-)

  7. marc van der linden says

    Inspiring story about how far you can get just by following your heart!

    Thanks for sharing!

  8. Kira Withers-Jones says

    A great story. I struggle to hear my heart sometimes and certainly to have the conviction of listening to it and following faithfully but this story was beautiful and inspiring – and well written too, I can see why his guidebooks have sold well.

    • Kira, welcome to my blog and I am glad you liked John’s true story – and as you say, so well written.

      Actually most of us struggle to hear the calling of our heart as we got so embroiled in our day to day challenges. I do find that taking some time out every now and then, especially early in the morning really helps me to reconnect.

      Have you considered meditation?

      Kira, I wish you all the best with listening to and finding your heart’s calling:-)

      • Kira Withers-Jones says

        Yes, I have tried meditation but haven’t been very successful at it yet. I have a very busy mind due to a mental illness but perhaps doing some mindful work might help me on the path towards meditation. Plus I’ll keep reading inspiring pieces from a range of people and hopefully that will spur me on too.

  9. A lovely story! I love walking, especially hill walking, and the UK is one of the best places in the world for it! I’m truly inspired by this story and just what I needed at this exact moment, thank you Arvind!

  10. KenWert@MeanttobeHappy says

    That was great, Arvind! I feel so lifted. An absolutely inspiring story. The human spirit is a powerful thing if unleashed! And when we read examples of others unleashing theirs, it inspires us to do likewise.

    Thanks for that, Arvind!

  11. Great story. I love real life stories like this. It’s amazing that he was able to take a love for walking and turn that into something to earn an income. His story also speak mountains about following your intuition or inner voice.

  12. Rodney C. Davis says

    I think I just met that someone, Arvind. People who live their lives to the fullest like you do, always inspire people like me, who have conformed all our lives until we hardly know who we are sometimes. Keep blazing the trail. It only helps us to see what’s possible for us when we become true to our core selves. Your story strengthens me to continue doing things that I know I was born to do. The rest will fall into place. Thanks!

    • Rodney, welcome to my blog – and thanks for your kind words.

      I wish you all the best with following the calling of your own heart. Having looked at your blog, it seems you are already doing that:-)

  13. Hi Arvind,

    How are you? How was your Diwali and Garbas? Walking is one of my favorite exercise. I like fresh air when walking out, specially in park, national park or even busy road, each site has its own beauty to offer. I am reminded as I read this post, that I simply do not do enough of walking as I should. Thanks for healthy reading, I shall just do that.


    • Hi Preeti!

      Good to see you here again:-)

      My Diwali and Garbas were really fun and enjoyable – it’s always good to spend quality time with family and friends.

      In this Indian New Year, perhaps you will get to do even more walking.


  14. Wow. So many people need to hear this message. Your life can only be full and rich if you are doing what your heart is calling you to do.

  15. Hi Arvind,
    how would you know what your heart wants? I am going through some very confusing times and need to figure my life out. any tips?

    • Neelo, welcome to my blog.

      We are always getting clues to what our heart really wants! Look at those things you have really enjoyed doing in the past and also look out for clues in your daily life.

      What makes you really excited?

      What makes you come alive?

      Clearly there is scope for a future blog post here for me:-)

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