Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Gift Basket

This colourful basket planted with spring bulbs was a gift from a couple of monks who where visiting a few days ago. You can see the courtyard through my window.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Millions of people, both local residents and visitors, enjoy Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty every year - many without realising they are in a protected landscape.

Well I certainly didn't know I was living a protected landscape, an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. We are within the North Pennine AONB, one of very many areas in England, Wales and Northern Ireland so designated.

This afternoon I was invited out for tea. We drove up the West Allyn valley, then turned left over the moors to Allenheads at the top of the East Allyn valley. There in a pleasant cafe within the lead mining heritage center where we had our treat. Later we headed down the East Allyn to Allendale Town, known by many as the centre of England. And then back up over the moor to home. That's all within outstandingly beautiful countryside, naturally. And now that's official!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Living Altar

It's always pleasing to come across a Buddhist altar in the home setting. This one is on a corner shelf and contains the usual flotsam and jetsam of items picked up and honoured for awhile, and then cleared off to make room for new things.

Altars can become the living expression of practice which is forever evolving and changing, or they can gather dust.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Faith to Leap Beyond Fear

I left meditation this evening thinking about cats and what a comfort they can be. Since I don't have one living close by I thought I'd publish this photo of Ms. Marple, an American cat. It makes a good lead into the teaching of Nanzan and the cat.

There is a famous koan about a Chinese Chan master called Nanquan or Nanzan, who cut a cat in two in order to teach his students about grasping. It appears in many different koan collections and is the ninth case of the "Shoyoroku" :

"One day the monks of the western and eastern halls of Nanquan's monastery were squabbling over a cat. When Nanquan saw this going on he seized the cat and held it up before them and said, ‘Say one true word or I'll cut it.'

“No one could say anything. Nanquan cut the cat in two.”

The above text is from an article, Cutting the Cat in One.

One will never know if this event actually took place. It was after all a long time ago and far away. However the koan (problem) is still alive because it is, like all the koans, an expression of the condition of the human mind which grasps at things, concepts, ideals. At base the purpose of koans, and the naturally arising koan of daily life, are presented to propel the mind past the grasping.

The answer to all of the koans, and problems of daily life, is faith. The faith to let go of even this. And then attempt to be the best person one can be.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

So Like Us

Things have moved on with vacuum cleaners. For one thing, in England we no longer refer to them as ‘Hoovers’. Now there are so many more manufacturers, sending them to our shores from all over the world. I've recently become intensely interested in all things to do with vacuum cleaners. That's because I volunteered to take care of ours, an extensive fleet of them. However my feelings towards them, up to now, has been ‘distant’. First task then is to hunt them down. Then check their bags and filters and see how they are doing generally.

This morning I went on a tour of inspection. There they were lurking in cupboards, in stair wells and the final three were found nesting collectively in a down stairs bathroom. Replacement bags there are aplenty. Sooo many different sizes. What next? Well, already I see myself nudging towards anthropomorphizing them. They are all different to be sure. Each has unique characteristics, particular strengths and weaknesses and special features. They have a whole host of attachments too, some concealed neatly out of sight and others sprawling all over the cupboard. So like we human beings?

Although my tendency has been to remain distant from these busy machines (there I go again!) I’ve generally treated them with respect. And, while they may be ‘just’ machines they do have particular needs to take into consideration when dealing with them. So I approach my new responsibility with enthusiasm and a thought for their general well being. So like how I'd like to be treated.

The next task? Find and read the manuals! See also...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Earth Landing

This hawk was particularly friendly and seemed to want to pose. He did a spectacular display of hovering in mid air after this photo was taken. Then he landed right next to the road, so we could say hello again. Sent to me by the same monk who took yesterdays photo at Tule Lake.

Today I went to Newcastle with one of the monks. Our mission was to fetch carpet samples and hunt down some fabric. Carpet was easy but no luck with the fabric although I saw the exact colour several times. That's: made up as sheets, boys shirts, shop assistant uniforms, and a pile jacket worn by a chap walking out of the cafe where we sat waiting for lunch. An interesting conversation ensued.

Hi guys! (I'm used to being mistaken for a male person, it happens quite often.) I finger his jacket, talked about looking for fabric just THAT colour. There were some awkward moments as we banter back and forth. Which way is this conversation going to go? And then his story emerged. Of having been in our valley one day mending a bridge as a workman for the county council. Then driving the empty road with trees meeting above him. In the distant gloom two lone figures, dressed in religious garb. Not something you see every day of the week, it takes people aback. Later on he had seen the sign for the monastery. He'd made the connect between that startling event and seeing us and obviously wanted to connect and to talk. So we did, until lunch came.

It seems that beings naturally wish to connect with others. That's when they land long enough, and find willing eyes and ears.

Heavenly Bodies

These are thought to be Tundra Swans however I have my doubts. By this time of year shouldn't they be in Northern Canada, on the tundra? Photo taken recently at Tule Lake Northern California.

And if you, or I, are in any doubt about the size of planet Earth in relationship to other heavenly bodies, ideas will be shattered in one moment....

Sometimes ones personal world seems so huge and overwhelming, knowing how small Earth is, in the greater scheme of things, helps get a more realistic perspective on everything.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Transition Chocolate

It was the autumn of 1993. I was at Reading Priory preparing to leave on a trip to Shasta Abbey. My elderly neighbour, Mrs Butcher, had given me a box of Black Magic chocolates as a leaving present.

We, Rev. Mildred and I, were relaxing after evening meditation when the telephone rang. Without thinking I answered with a mouth full of chocolate. 'Hello this is (gulp) Reading Buddhist (gulp) Priory'! Robust laughter met me from the other end of the line. It was a senior monk from the monastery in America. With a chuckle he asked,'Are you eating a chocolate Mugo'? He was calling about arrangements to pick up me and my traveling companion.

The same thing happened today during a long phone conversation with a fellow monk. 'Are you eating something Mugo'? Unmoved and unashamed, I responded that indeed I was and what's more it was chocolate. Particularly fine chocolate as it happened. What a wonderful surprise gift to find in my mail slot after lunch.

I have done a lot of leaving places since becoming a monk. One time, when moving back to the UK in 1989 due to immigration regulations, was a particularly hard leaving. 'Home', we would say, is where your Master lives and I had to go. Everybody seemed to be talking about my LEAVING. So sorry you have to leave Mugo. And then I struck on a different word that better described what was happening. Transition. I'm in transition, not leaving.

With very many more 'transitions' under my belt, many painful ones, I've learnt that 'home is where ones heart is'. And also where ones original Master lives. That's no matter where one happens to be, or transitioning to.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Self Reassurance

Sister Ruth, who is looking for a place to live, is one of just 600 Christian religious scattered around Europe who have made a vow to live as hermits.

This is her philosophy behind living a solitary life. "It is all about stopping the craving for interaction with other people - the addiction to all the things we think we need in order to reassure ourselves that we are loved and valued as beings," she explains. "Identity literally translates as 'to make a thing of yourself'. So much of our contact with others is hollow and about creating feedback about ourselves."

See also this, from a few weeks ago.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Bit stuck for words. Lots of talking one way or another today. Just one of those days. A day to remember in many ways. Meeting a regular reader. Kept him talking far too long. I'm interested in the lives of people. Just as I offer a window into my life so others open a window onto theirs. Many stories to tell, dreams to share. Worlds of endeavour I have never encountered, contemporary art.

And within and around dreams and stories, and a Scots man scrubbing the kitchen floor this afternoon, there's been the remembrance of my late Master. Today marks the 45 Anniversary of her Ordination.

There are very many talented individuals around, who visit here and practice in the Way. And I can see how Buddhism can be shown in the world through these talents.

All I can say is thank you and keep going on.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


From yesterday in the kitchen. A guest is slicing rind off fresh, rock hard, Parmesan cheese.

'Careful how you go there, don't want you cutting yourself'.
Answer in thick Scotish accent: 'Reverend Mugo! I'm a painter and decorator'!
' you are'.
'What's that got to do with it though'?
'You know, paint scrapers and that'?

Accidents do happen in the kitchen including some deep cuts needing trained medical attention. Being in the kitchen around sharp knives reminded me to draw attention to a posting, How to care for an amputated body part. Be warned there is a photograph of a dismembered forearm, not something one witnesses every day. Perhaps it is good to witness though.

In the article there's practical information on what to do with a severed body part. Yes, it is written with humour and a light hand, the subject however is serious. No mistake about that.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Festive Pie

Courgette and Feta Filo Pie
At this time of year the Chief Cook of the monastery has a break and we all can volunteer to be 'cook for a day'. To-day was my turn. I'd eaten this pie several times but not cooked it myself. So it was a bit of an adventure especially making it for around thirty people. Not a patch on the ones I'd had before in Cornwall however it is well worth trying again some time, when there is a festive occasion.

The recipe came from 'Food From The Place Below' by Bill Sewell. This dish was the 'dish of the day' the day they opened back in 1989. Apparently the restaurant is located in one of the most beautiful spaces in London - the medieval crypt of Wren's marvellous church, St. Mary-le-Bow. The church has a vibrant weekday community and among the most regular customers are the rector and members of the congregation. (text slightly adapted from the book.)

If you ever find yourself in Hereford Bill Sewell has a cafe there too. Not too distant is Hay-on-Wye renowned for its second-hand bookshops. So, double trouble in Herefordshire, if you are so inclined!

The Chief Cook came to work in the kitchen to-day, to share the joy as we sometimes say. It was a joy to cook with him again. Thanks.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Fly

A few days ago I mentioned the solitary fly between the pages of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. Here is a fable about a fly, which I rather like. And here can be found the possible explanation for Suzuki's fly, it's a quote from Meister Eckhart.
* * *
Keep a thought for us in Europe, hurricane force winds are blowing down trees and people are getting killed.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Calling for Help

It is late in the evening and too late to be writing a post. So I am really glad to have found a posting from Canada I can point you towards. It reminds me of a happy day out while I was in Edmonton last year, when I encountered real wild buffalo. Having already heard of the encounter described below I kept my distance and had no need to call on a 'higher power'. Interesting how god comes into the picture when the chips are down and extinction is close. If we had been raised Buddhist from the start we would no doubt call on Kanzeon for help. Calling for help is the important thing. It's an act of faith, the object is less important.

I dove into the bushes and hid behind a tree, suddenly finding religion and praying to God: "Let me get out of this and I swear I'll never do anything this stupid again." I couldn't see the buffalo from where I was crouched, but I could hear her stamping the ground and snorting. After a while the sounds faded, but I was too chastised to dare the trail again, so I skulked back to my car the long way, through the scratchy, tangled bushes, vowing never to take wild animals for granted.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

No Bad Stuff

If you get a chance to watch The Worlds Fastest Indian I'd take it. You will no doubt be waiting in suspense, as I was, for something bad to happen, but it doesn't. Nothing bad happens at all. I think that's it really, it shows how conditioned one is to bad stuff happening.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Expectations and Appearances

I’m in Hexham on the weekly town trip. A parking space opens up opposite the library and I race in. First assignment; return two library books and check-out this weeks copy of the New Scientist for one of the senior monks. My coat pocket strikes up a jaunty tune and I dive for my mobile phone. “Reverend Mugo, sorry to bother you, have you been to Tesco’s”? “No” I answer honestly, while remembering I wasn’t due to go there anyway. “Could you pick up five heads of winter greens please”? “Sure”. Then I ask jovially, “What’s it worth”? Serious silence prevails from the monastery end of the conversation. I interject hurriedly, “Oh never mind about that I’ll get the greens. No problem”. I make a mental note to not tease or joke around with the novices, until they know me better.

Onwards to three banking assignments, a visit to the one and only haberdashery counter in the town for ribbon and elastic, Boots the Chemist for cough medicine and lozenges, then drop off a bag of clothing at a charity shop. Each assignment has a separate piece of paper with detailed instructions; the shop, what to buy, the brand name, the number of bottles or packages etc. Doing the town trip reminds me of tests we did in Girl Guides. Go to this map reference, head due north ten paces, look up and read message, “Go to nearby village, buy five heads of winter greens and cook them on camp fire. And be back by 5.00”!

I take a break for coffee and toasted tea cake before proceeding, not to Tesco but to the newly opened Waitrose. Haven of peace and plenty as it is, since most people are at Tesco’s! Lingering over coffee a booklet catches my eye, the word BALTIC stands out boldly. It’s a catalogue for a Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead Quays near Newcastle. Later, back in the monastery, I discover the centre was started by a congregation member, who is not a million miles away from here either. It’s a small world.

People are sometimes surprised that monks do, so called, worldly things. For example that a monk would carry a mobile phone, or that they would ‘dive’ for it. Would we be more likely to reach sloooowly and serenely into our well organized pocket, then press the right button first time? We would probably be thought not to joke around for sure!

Will the novice I spoke to doubt because I joked with her and she didn’t get it? Probably not. However doubt in the practice can set in as a consequence of such seemingly inconsequential events and events of great seriousness too. The arising of doubt and loss of faith, and their place in practice, is a worthy subject to take a look at…another time.

I hope you enjoyed shopping with me today. While everyday life may look ordinary, below the waves of activity the life is extra ordinary. If one is not swayed by appearances, or holding to expectations. This is not easy or simple, yet leads to deepening understanding.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Keeping On Going On

I'm not sure how it could have got there. A squashed fly between pages 122 and 133, Day fifty three: to Annapurna Base Camp. It's moving for heavens sake! A breeze from the window, the wind is up again tonight, causes the fly to quiver and shake on the page. I'm reminded of the image of a fly within the pages of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. The meaning of the fly was lost on me at the time, and even now! Tomorrow I'll deal with this desiccated fly.

But it's the end of day fifty two, actually the entire day, that remains with me because the author clearly was close to giving up, but didn't.

Wongchu wants one of the Sherpas to come and sit with me through the night, but I dissuade him, and, watched over by an inanimate but impressive array of tablets, tissues, ointments, creams and sprays, I close my eyes and wait.

The whole book, Himalaya by Michael Palin can be read on the Internet.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Sub Zero Coffee

I was sent this via email today. Published now with permission.

I saw something this morning that either was pure optimism or really defined and said something about Albertans. With temperatures around -27 c as I passed Starbucks this morning they were setting up their patio chairs and tables outside and I know that when I go by there tonight on my way home they will be full. It had never struck me how unique this was ( I was going to say strange ) until today when I was talking to someone in Vancouver which is around the zero mark and they said it was so cold there were no patios open!

All a matter of perception apparently! Funny!

My thoughts are with those of you in Edmonton who continue to visit here.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Wonders of Water

Plunging my hands into a great vat of washing up water this evening I once again realize what a great blessing doing simple things can be. Just the familiarity of the pots and pans, the ladles, the brushes and worn out green scrubbers are balm, not to mention the water itself. All of these things add up to a sense of much appreciated groundedness in the midst of feeling somewhat disorientated.

Earlier in the day I'd had some routine eye tests and had drops to dilate my pupils. The effect takes quite a few hours to wear off and in the mean time the world is rendered mighty strange. I found myself thinking what it must be like to be a refugee. Disorientated, vulnerable, not able to trust ones experience of the world and to a greater or lesser extent, reliant upon others.

I remember somebody who was working to supply a refugee camp with water having to make a decision about the use of the water supply. To send it here, to provide showers or there to provide for some other need. I can't remember the details so well. But I can imagine the joy of being able to have water, for what ever use.

We have a lot of water here at the moment, and high winds too. I'll have a thought for those in the air and on the sea tonight.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Signs of Good Health

Now then, did you ever wonder how medical people keep their sanity? Did you ever wonder how anybody in high pressure jobs keep their sanity? Take me for example. How do I manage to keep a sense of proportion in the midst of all that comes into the life of a priest. The answer is, among other things, blogging!

If you are in any doubt at all about the medical people take a look at The First Draft, a mediblogging project. Here several bloggers, probably upright and upstanding professionals in the medical world, write a paragraph in turn, coming up with a somewhat bonkers story. It makes compelling reading, all the while thinking, 'I could be facing one of the authors across a consulting room desk'!

Somebody wrote me saying they appreciated the sense of fun coming through the writing here. While religious practice is deadly (there goes that word again) serious pointing as it does to realizing the cessation of suffering, there is room for laughter. Hopefully not at the expense of others. To do that would not be right.

Over there in the medical blogging world, which I have obviously been exploring of late, they are casting votes for various categories of medi blogs. I went over and cast my vote for our ER nurse, down-under.

Hah! I wonder what happened to the Buddhist blogger awards this year.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Breathing Lightly

It is early evening, there is something missing. No rain lashing at the window panes, no wind rattling the doors, no draughts coming from anywhere. Shush! Hush! I open the window; it is inky black out there. How about a walk? No, far too dark, no street lights on our country road. This is a time to just appreciate the world, breathing lightly for a change. Ahhh.

As we sat in our meditation hall this morning all was peaceful within and all manor of pandemonium was breaking loose outside. The weather was definitely happening in all its full-force glory. Walking back after morning service, bracing into the gale, one of the monks mentioned he had been advised to 'not battle the wind' since he would be 'battling with a good friend'. I'll remember that one.

We are surrounded by gales this evening No sign of them here, yet!
* * *

And here, especially for the Brits abroad, settle down under the bed clothes and listen to the Gale Warnings!

Sea area gale warnings, issued by the Met Office, on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
Last updated on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1732.

All gale warnings currently in force

Viking, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1612
Severe gale force 9 now veered westerly.

North Utsire, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1612
Severe gale force 9 now veered westerly.

South Utsire, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1612
Severe gale force 9 now veered westerly decreasing gale force 8 soon.

Forties, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1612
Severe gale force 9 now veered westerly decreasing gale force 8 soon.

Cromarty, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1612
Severe gale force 9 now veered westerly decreasing gale force 8 soon.

Forth, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1612
Severe gale force 9 now veered westerly decreasing gale force 8 soon.

Tyne, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1612
Severe gale force 9 now veered westerly decreasing gale force 8 imminent.

Dogger, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1612
Severe gale force 9 now veered westerly decreasing gale force 8 imminent.

Fisher, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1612
Southwesterly severe gale force 9 decreasing gale force 8 soon.

German Bight, issued on Monday 8 January 2007 at 2216
Southwesterly gale force 8 increasing severe gale force 9 soon.

Humber, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1612
Southwesterly gale force 8 increasing severe gale force 9 soon.

Thames, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1612
Southwesterly gale force 8 increasing severe gale force 9 soon.

Dover, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1612
Southwesterly gale force 8 increasing severe gale force 9 soon.

Wight, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1612
Southwesterly gale force 8 increasing severe gale force 9 soon.

Portland, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1612
Southwesterly gale force 8 increasing severe gale force 9 soon.

Plymouth, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1335
Southwesterly severe gale force 9 decreasing gale force 8 imminent.

Biscay, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1021
Southwesterly severe gale force 9 decreasing gale force 8 soon.

FitzRoy, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1335
Southwesterly severe gale force 9 decreasing gale force 8 imminent.

Sole, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1335
Southwesterly severe gale force 9 decreasing gale force 8 imminent.

Lundy, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1335
Southwesterly severe gale force 9 decreasing gale force 8 imminent.

Fastnet, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1335
Southwesterly severe gale force 9 decreasing gale force 8 imminent.

Rockall, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1612
Northwesterly gale force 8 imminent, backing southwesterly later.

Malin, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1612
Gale force 8 veering northwesterly imminent, backing southwesterly later.

Hebrides, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1612
Southwesterly gale force 8 later.

Bailey, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1612
Southwesterly gale force 8 expected later.

Fair Isle, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1728
Southwesterly gale force 8 expected later.

Faeroes, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1612
Southwesterly gale force 8 expected later.

South-east Iceland, issued on Tuesday 9 January 2007 at 1612
Southerly gale force 8 expected later.
I still can't recite the sea areas off by heart even though I've listened to them hundreds of time in my life. How about you?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Land Marks

As with body scars;
our marks upon the land
show us
the miraculous capacity
of nature
to heal

and to forgive.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Scared for Life

This blog is a re-write of the one I did earlier, a couple or so hours ago. I'd published in haste. Perhaps because I didn't want to think too much about the subject. Scars. That's scars to the body, physical scars. Perhaps also in haste because I needed to get to community tea and I was already late.

Dr. Charles who writes a medical blog attended on a young woman who in the prime of her life was in a serious car crash. Her story is told and it is disturbing, yet good to read.

It just so happens I have been talking about scars with somebody. I don't find them easy. Now I've had pause for thought after reading the young woman's story. Scars are so associated in my mind with shame and blame and fury and secrets and guilt and just about every other kind of negative thought. However, it need not be this way. The good doctor sees scars as having a story, sees a way to turn around the mind. Few of us remain unscathed. One way or another we carry the marks of our lives.

Once one faces something which is disturbing or frightening it ceases to have the power it once had. That is one of the blessings of meditation.

Now here is the origin of the word scar.

The word scar was derived from the Greek word eschara, meaning fireplace. Traditionally the fireplace was in the heart of the house, and around it most domestic activities took place. It was the center of family life and an area where children gathered to be with family. It was a common setting for injuries, many of which resulted in wounds. Eventually these scars became so associated with the hearth that the language used to describe the end result of healing became indistinguishable from its cause.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Of Our Time

So there is a good reason to visit Brighton Beach. There is now a wifi hotspot spread out between the two piers, free surfing on the beach. Not bad, not bad at all.

I'd go there as a child, to Brighton, to visit my Great Uncle who lived in a square with a very large garden with lawns in the middle. It was exactly north of the West Pier, Regency Square I think it was called. He had been in the first world war and latter he was an Oxford Don. I knew I should be impressed by this. He had a rug which was actually a tiger, the remains of a tiger that is. There was a head, I remember it's teeth particularly, and the rest of it being the furry pelt was spread out behind and around the head. I always asked where he got it from and he said he had shot it in the square. Believe it or believe it not!

So Brighton has some memories lodged in my skull. Wonder what happened to the tiger! And if you follow that link you will discover lots of other beaches around the world with Wifi Hotspots. No, I doubt if anybody is going to rush off and visit them however it is an interesting concept. To take ones laptop to the beach! Not something I will be doing for sure.

And while on the subject of laptops there is an initiative to supply One Laptop Per Child. That's specially developed laptops that can be mass produced at remarkably low cost. They look and sound rather good, they're green too.

Mobility, the ability to compute and connect almost anywhere. There is something about this that catches my attention. Maybe I'm just a hopeless case, but maybe not. I heard of a women in Alaska held hostage in her home. She got on the Internet in the room where she was being held, and got help. She could have been anywhere.

I wonder what my old Great Uncle Artie would have thought about all of this. As an Oxford Don today he would no doubt embrace technology, as he embraced shooting stuff in the war.

People are of their time.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Bees Knees

The phone was ringing. I dive out of my room to the office down the hall where I work. It's an old sangha friend. Just wanted to let you know I am well and doing fine. Great! I reply. I realize I'm quick enough to call you when I need help, so I thought I'd call with the good news for a change. Nice!

It was her daughter who had put her on to the concept. As a shop assistant her daughter commented how it was rare for somebody to come in and thank her or express their appreciation for some service the shop had been good at providing. She'd said how rewarding it was to have customers express their satisfaction. Satisfied customers who speak up are rare, the ones with problems all too common.

As it would happen by complete coincidence I'd had the woman's name on a sheet of paper by my phone. I'd been intending to call her, to see how she was doing! Weeks ago when we'd talked, as a passing shot, I'd mentioned the helpful effect simply looking up can have on the spirits. Looking up at the tree tops, the sky line, roof tops, clouds anything which requires looking up to.

Our conversation continued. Seems she pulled herself through the last black-hole weeks through dint of determination, 'being with it' as she put it and, looking up as I'd suggested. Having a dog to walk twice a day also helped.

Yes it is good to get the good news and expressions of appreciation too. This must be true for everybody. I certainly make a point of expressing appreciation when the opportunity arises, especially to nurses while I'm hospital visiting.

I inherited an appreciation of nurses and what they do from my father. If you want medical advice, he'd say. Ask a nurse. Interestingly, and by chance, it was a nurse who first attended him as he was dying on a railway platform. He would have appreciated that.

The woman who called this evening was a nurse. Needless to say my dad thought she was the bees knees.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Take Heart

That's enough nerve wracking fun for one day. And if you are using the Old Blogger and are thinking of moving over to New Blogger, and you will have to do it soon anyway, take heart. If I can do it, so can you!

Here's a thought:

The the basic article of faith for Buddhists is: If the Buddha could see into his True Nature, we can do that too. Take Heart.

The other two articles of faith are: Faith that what Shakyamuni Buddha knew has been passed down accurately through the ages. And faith that there are those who are the spiritual ancestors of Shakyamuni who are pointing that out directly at this time.


I'm just about to switch to the new Blogger. If anything should go wrong, fingers crossed, I'll post information on my web site, Jade Mountain Buddha Hall.

Here goes....
YES! The switch was successful.
Now I will be able to categorize postings with a label. Not sure how this works however I hope it means that the archive of articles will be more accessible, and therefore viewed more frequently by new visitors.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


And then a scholar said, 'Speak of Talking.'
And he answered, saying:

You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts;
And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude
of your heart you live in your lips, and sound
is a diversion and a pastime.

Is that not interesting, to be at peace with your thoughts?

So often practice is misunderstood as getting rid of thoughts, to replace 'bad' thoughts with 'good' ones. Or indeed to get rid of them all together. The basic delusion is that 'I am my thoughts'. Then follows, if my thoughts are bad, I'm bad. There is a world of difference however between dwelling in thoughts and dwell in the solitude of your heart. Thoughts are not excluded, you are at peace with your thoughts.

Take a look at the whole poem why not.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Realising Buddha

The winds in this part of the country were so strong many of the New Year civic celebrations were cancelled. Not so many fireworks out there and not so many casualties to deal with in the Accident and Emergency Departments in the North of England either.

We welcomed in the New Year with a ceremony, one of my favorites, with the wind and rain lashing against the windows as we sat in meditation during the evening before the ceremony. Brrr! Over in Newcastle a reader and his friends went out for a meal in China town where this Hotei was found. Hotei is very prominent in Chinese Buddhist temples and is regarded as being the Bodhisattva Maitreya.

For years we celebrated the festival for Maitreya, the Buddha to come, on the first day of the year. Now since my teachers death we remember her as it was her birthday. It was my mothers too, she would have been 99 this year. I thought they would live for ever. And in certain way I was right!

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Mountain Remains

Sun and mist come and go -
And always the Mountain remains.
H.Y. 1.1.2000

When the above was written in my book of scriptures I could not have been more miserable. At the time I knew a lot about mist and very little about sun. It was one of those times of wall to wall pain, on all levels. The Mountain remained, in the background. For one thing I'd broken my leg and not known I'd done it. My leg hurt, I hurt. A few days into the new year I was able to get to a hospital for x-rays. Quickly my leg was encased in a plaster cast and I was on crutches, for six weeks.

It was only a little slip on a frozen bank - my ankle turned - I heard a slight click. Yep! the doctor said happily. People can fall off a roof or out of a tree and not break anything. It's the little slips and trips that, more often than not, result in major fractures. Isn't that just the way of things. You make a mistake and you think you are in big trouble and you are not. You let slip an ill timed word or three and you are dead in the water.

At the time I viewed the above text through a haze of unhappiness. I didn't appreciate it, as now. Seven years latter, seeing this text, remembering the turn of the millennium and how things were at the time, I started to silently repeat a well worn mantra. Uh! That was the very worst New Year of my entire life. But I stopped mid sentence, changed my mind and decided not to continue.

It is possible to change one's mind -
And, no matter what, always the Mountain remains.

Now it is here, Happy New Year!