Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Back Home

Tuesday died last Wednesday.
It's good to be back however posting may be erratic while I catch up. I've also got a deadline to meet on a piece of work and that takes precedence over my on-line activities.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Off Line

In Britain it is 'Mothering Sunday', let's have a thought for mothers everywhere.

I'll be back on line on the 27th March.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Intimate Space

Yesterday I drove north towards Scotland to meet with a blog reader and long time sangha member and his wife and three week old baby. They had driven down from Edinburgh on their first long run in the car with baby aboard. The moment they came to a halt in the car park of Otterburn Mill it was feeding time, again!

Being around a couple getting accustomed to a new little being in their lives is quite touching. The care and tenderness eminating from them spread out all around us as we went about the business of ordering and eating a meal. At one point I was asked if I wanted to hold the baby and I declined saying something like I'm nervous around babies and an upset one is the last thing you want on a long drive. But actually, on reflection, I realize there is such a bond of intimacy between mother and baby, and father too these days, I felt it not quite right to cross over into that space. Can't explain it.

Coming back across the Northumberland moors with drop dead views in all directions I saw lambs scampering about. Spring has reached these parts however not so in the West Allyn Valley. We seem to be a good week behind, no lambs, no daffodils or pink blossom. We have that yet to come.

But I'll be away when the buds burst. For the next couple of weeks I'll be off-line and in Wales. It's a rare opportunity for me to be able to take a complete break from my monastic responsibilities and retreat. Thanks to those who are making this possible.

On route to Wales there will be a couple of nights stay in Harrogate with a day retreat in Leeds on Saturday. I have to carry my laptop with me so I may post tomorrow, or I may not.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Handle with Care

According to a leaked memo from the Fish and Wildlife Service, requests by government scientists for foreign travel "involving or potentially involving climate change, sea ice, and/or polar bears" require special handling.

The New Scientist has blogs.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Go Empty Handed

Several people have been in touch recently, via email and in person, who have spoken of pennies dropping. That is by way of a deeper insight into the true nature of existence or being called into what was described as the Great Silence. And with these insights the doors have opened in remarkable, some might say miraculous, ways to going beyond fear, yet not out of pain, and left enveloped in calm.

When the Universe opens up a crack there’s no mistaking this and questioning what one sees is absurd since the gap between observer and observed has been shown as an illusion. What is obvious is simply obvious, where is the need for explanations? To be sure as the moments, hours or days pass the mind definitely wants to make some sense of what has been shown or understood, and tries. However the underlying message is that something has touch where the intellect has no foothold. BTW, we are not talking enlightenment here and at the same time there is nothing that is not enlightened, from the first.

One characteristic of seeing into the nature of how things are is the quiet knowing that words are crude tools in the face of what’s shown or known. Even so it is good to simply write. Quite often I am asked to witness these words, I do not take them lightly or hold them cheap and nor should anybody else, especially the writer. Humility is the watchword of such writings and if that is not present it does not bode well for the onward path.

I’m touched that relative strangers trust enough to speak about their interior, and rightly private, world. This is not stuff to bandy about the Internet, or at least not without a great deal of care.

Out of their Great Compassion the Buddhas and Ancestors have handed down their wisdom and we have the opportunity to learn from them through the sutras, scriptures and writings so easily available now. Collectively know as the Dharma. Their words point the way however we must go on alone, with empty hands.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Access to Tools

Tools foster conviviality to the extent to which they can be easily used, by anybody, as often or as seldom as desired, for the accomplishment of a purpose chosen by the user. The use of such tools by one person does not restrain another from using them equally. They do not require previous certification of the user. Their existence does not impose any obligation to use them. They allow the user to express his meaning in action. Tools for Conviviality - Ivan Illich

I wonder what Ivan Illich would have made of the Internet. In the early 1970's I drank in his Deschooling Society and later Energy and Equity. For some reason his name came to mind this evening as I sat on my bed after meditation, so I Googled his name and was pleased, and amazed, to find the full text of his books online. Wonderful!

There's a movement to get people in remote areas of the world hooked up to the Internet and it's not all commercially driven either. Rural Wales, Africa, India and Nepal. I wrote an email to Dave Hughes, who has been the moving hand behind many projects around the world, wondering if he had some ideas on how to get the West Allyn Valley hooked up to Broadband. In the end I decided not to send it. There has to be more deserving cases in the world than us.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Cracks in the Curtain

I remember everything about the moment when it came to me that we don't train in order to become enlightened, more we train because it is enlightenment. Of course Zen Master Dogen makes this point over and over again in his writings. It is one thing to read something and quite another to make it ones own, so to speak. When a line of scripture suddenly becomes clear it is all too easy to jump to the conclusion that you now understand what it's meaning is. In one sense you do and in another you're no closer.

When the penny drops, as it did for the chap whose words I published the other day, great confidence can arise and that is good. There can indeed be times when streams of insights follow one another. Yet other times when you wonder if taking up tennis instead might be a good plan! The point is to carry on and not take what comes so personally, i.e. I'm great because I now know, or I'm a looser for even thinking about giving up meditation. Sometimes the wind blows and sometimes the sun shines. Where in this is the concept of progress on the path?

BTW, I didn't realize that 'the penny dropped' was a British term. If you see something here you don't understand please say so.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Blog Tour

In Edmonton Canada, Michael tests a child for ADHD and ponders on the possibility of meditation helping ADHD suffers. Michaels photographs are something to behold if you haven't visited his site lately. Mean while Thole Man has discovered a very ancient post box near Lancaster, England. I love these old boxes. As Norman says, what stories they have to tell.

Since I seem to be off around the world over in Australia Ian of Impacted Nurse posted on his mums nurse training back in 1957, photo's too. There are a few nurses reading this blog. Three I know of anyway, one of whom will see similarities with her early 1960's training.
Once a month a late pass was issued allowing the bearer to stay out till 10.30 PM. Within the residence, your room could be inspected for cleanliness and tidiness at any time. A single lockable draw was the only private space; all other draws and cupboards were inspected.

RB in Texas regularly posts links to Budddhist teaching video's, which unfortunately need a fast connection to watch. And last week-end he read a couple of books published by the Shasta Abbey Press. I'm glad you like the plastic covers by the way.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Edmonton's Just Sitting

Look what I received in the mail! A modern day thank you note from a small girl in Edmonton. I love the butterfly girl and the sunny mummy. Her mum is sunny too

During the last 48 hours Edmonton has been prominent in my life. A phone call to the company which hosts Jade Mountains making arrangements to pay for another five years of hiring the domain name. Edmonton was hosting the web site well before living in that city was ever thought of. In addition there was lots of emails back and forth with technical support and the billing department. Several people, who I knew previously, wrote for a variety of reasons. One person with news of her arrangements to attend the Ten Precepts Meeting at Shasta Abbey, another on accounting business.

This penny dropping message I will share with you:

After meditation this morning I had a thought that how we meditate is how we endeavour to live. Not grasping at passing ideas versus not grasping at people or things or ideas for that matter. Just being. Not separate but part of and with that which is around us. Not judging, not altering, not redirecting.

Am I correct in this view or am I reading it wrong? Is meditation that which sets the tone for how we ought to be?

I'd edit out the 'ought', that's all.

Then later came this:

It (the above insight) adds a whole new dimension to the directive/comment of "Just sit" I guess. Just do everything as you would when you sit. Sit when you work or rest. Sit when playing with the cat or when comforting a friend. Just Sit.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Renewal Day - Walk to the Chimneys

Armed with an Ordinance Survey map, my strongest pair of reading glasses and John Barker's Adventuring into the Allendales I set forth to walk to the chimneys. For so many years I'd driven past them on the way to Allendale, Hexham and Newcastle but I'd never ventured out onto the moors to get up close.

I started my hike from Allendale having caught a ride with a group going into Hexham for business and medical appointments. The weather was a bit iffy and I went prepared for what ever might come my way. Rain, hail, wind or snow.

Allendale had a smelting mill, Allen Mill, where lead ore from the Dale was smelted for over two centuries up until 1897. So that the noxious gasses produced by the smelting process at the mill, which was sited close to habitation and grazing, two underground tunnels were constructed which acted as flues. These carried the gasses two miles up hill to the chimneys. They were cleaned each year and the deposit or 'Fume' was so rich in lead that not only did it cover the cost of the flue building - a profit was also made! To my mind the engineering and the amount of labour involved in constructing these flues was incredible.

The two flumes divide at this point, the chimney is a speck on the skyline.

Looking back down the line of the flume with part of the tunnel exposed here.

This is a 'finger post' pointing the way. There is a very extensive system of public footpaths and bridleways in Britain. And now we have Access Land too which means there are even more places one can walk off roads.

Out onto the moor and onto the old 'Carriers Way' along which the Galloway ponies carried ore and building materials from Dale to Dale.

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Each stone in the chimney is slightly curved, it's a work of skilled craftsmanship. Two miles away in the distance is Allendale Town.

It's fairly hard going up on the wild Northumbrian Moors.

Frog with spawn, note the blurred left leg. One has to be quick to catch a a photo of these little critters.

A Wesleyan Chapel built in 1853, sited on the road between Ninebanks and Allendale.

After the Chimneys I continued on for a couple more hours ending up in not quite the place I'd intended. Ninebanks to be precise. High winds to be sure and rain only as I approached the monastery, four hours after I started.

Many thanks to John Barker's and his wonderful hand written guide book. It was written in 1990 and I don't know if they are still available. I've used some of his words in this post.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Moon Watch

We all know the moon is made of cheese. Right? Cheddar I always think. Well last evening, later than I tend to be abroad, it transformed to something akin to Red Leicester.

I guess I'm not the only soul who stood moon watching in the cold night last night. What an evening! A clear navy blue sky with our moon having increasingly large chunks bitten out of it until at around 10.45 it was almost completely red, and strangely pulsating. Or was that my eyes getting tired from gazing heavenwards for too long.

We even have a Moon Watching ceremony. I can only remember us doing it a couple of times when Rev. Master first introduced it in the early 1980's. Both Zen Master Dogen and Kaizan died on the full moon night in Autumn and this ceremony is to remember them in particular. There is teaching embedded in the ceremony, with the food that is on the altars. The juice should be pomegranete since the small seeds in one fruit represents the all is one and the all is different. In the book of instructions for ceremonies I see there are receipts for dainties, all having a symbolic meaning. There is one for Moon Cakes.

At the start of the ceremony the priest gives a brief talk. Just as the moon reflects the sun so too Keizan and Dogen reflected the Unborn Buddha Nature, and continue to do so down to this very day. As we observe the moon we should think deeply on how we too may be as 'moons' of the Unborn, reflecting its light.

It would seem in the East there is a long tradition of celebrating the Autumn Equinox with the Mid-Autumn Festival. So we have that to look forward to, however first we have the Spring Equinox on the 21st March when traditionally we hold a Segaki ("feeding the hungry ghosts"). This year the ceremony will be on March 17th.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Throssel Ancestors

Hello O multi-tongued one.
What language do you speak?
My O my what a lot you have to say.
Your trilling, warbling, chipping, chopping song.
And again.
Trilling, warbling, chipping and chopping.
And again!
There! I see you up in the bare Field Maple.
Who are you?

I see you are kind of tan in colour with speckles and, if I may say so, really quite plump. Could you be the noble Thrush, the Thrush of Throssel Hole Farm? Well, if you are your descendants have been serenading monks here since 1970.

Sing on please. Bring us spring.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Just Biking

As I was biking to work the other day, I got to thinking about how I take the same route all the time, and how sometimes the ride is interesting and sometimes boring, and it occurred to me there's an analogy to be drawn between biking and sitting meditation.

The Logogryph
has just past the one year mark. Congratulations!