Monday, March 31, 2008

The Benefits of Breathing

1st April - Comments have been switched off for this post. You can leave a comment here though.

Have you ever paused to notice?
if your mouth is closed
when you breath in
and when you breath out?

Have you ever considered?
if your mouth is OPEN
while you walk in silence
and have you wondered why?

Have you ever paid attention?
to the soft touch of top on bottom lip
and noticed the wonder of it
in your toes?

Have you ever paused to ponder?
if mouth open or closed
while breathing through your day

A friend pointed out the merits of nose breathing, when ever possible, as against mouth breathing.

Why wander the world panting? Surely life is not one long emergency.
Is it?

This posting was edited on 1st April.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Alum Bay, IOW

From Alum Bay looking towards the Needles

Yesterday I took a couple of walks. First in the Parkhurst Forest near Newport, and very near the renowned maximum security prison. And then onwards to Headon Warren and Alum Bay attracted by the the coloured sand cliffs. My original intention was to walk to Freshwater Bay over Tennyson Down however it was a bit late in the day for that after exploring the beach. That walk have to wait for another day.
This is for those interested in the Geology of Alum Bay, with more photographs too.

Walking The Camino de Santiago

Just take a look at what Ruth, a member of our lay community in Vancouver, Canada is contemplating doing.

I've been mentally preparing for this trip for sometime now, however, I still have doubts as to the sanity of an old woman with worn out knees and other signs of impermanence, doing such a trip.

The British Buddhist Landscape – Transplantation and Growth

It's interesting how the word gets around. This morning I had an email from a Taiwanese Buddhist nun studying in England, with whom I've had periodic contact with over the years. She was kindly letting me know about the annual conference of the Network of Buddhist Organizations which will be held in June at Taplow Court, Taplow, Nr Maidenhead, Berkshire.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Remembering the Power of Respect

As they contemplated in this manner, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the off chance that one among them might be the Messiah. And on the off off chance that each monk himself might be the Messiah, they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect.

And respect extends to all that we encounter making our land the land of the Buddhas and Ancestors.

A bow to Angie for this story from the Jewish tradition.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Oceans of Merit Needed - Cat Adoption

A reader is relocating from Florida and needs to place her two cats before the end of the month. This is heart breaking for a devoted cat lover. She may need to drive West with them on the back seat...unless they find new homes.

Today I definitely got both cats up on the shelter website -- if you want something done it's necessary to do it oneself sometimes. There must have been a miscommunication last week, as I thought they were set to put Mitra up then. Anyway, now they're both up here, under adoption.

Looking at the cat adoption site it's clear oceans of merit is needed for them to find homes. Offering merit is just about all I can offer at this point.

Mitra Domestic Long Hair, Dilute Tortoiseshell

Suzy, a green eyed 'senior'.

Hidden Treasure

Getting out is a welcomed break from work on Jade Mountains. At the moment I'm adding categories to all of my postings, as well as poking around the OBC web sites for teaching material link to. I found hidden treasure!

Found on the Lions Gate Buddhist Priory website an extract from a letter Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett sent in 1979 in answer to one from a lay trainee.
I cannot explain how to keep the mind bright except to say that it is an internal looking up, a raising of one’s aspirations in the midst of it all. Faith is essential here.

And here's another treasure in the form of a Journal article published on the OBC web site.
The River is the Ocean; The how is as important as the why.
It is when we are spiritually on hands and knees that we learn the deepest meaning of bowing, of true gratitude and of asking for help. When the call of the Eternal is heard clearly, we must not stifle the uprising within in our heart, and "quickly, quietly and obediently say ‘yes’."

Good Food, and then Exercise by the Sea

With a break in the clouds I ventured forth for a walk after my very very vegi lunch. As luck would have it the sun came out and Culver Cliff turned a glowing chalky white. I can see the cliff way off in the distance from the front door of where I'm staying. I've grown fond of the view.

Lunch, I'm really packing in the vegi.

Culver Cliff at the extreme Eastern end of the Island, from Shanklin beach.

Looking southwest over a breakwater, taken from Shanklin beach.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Your Suggestions Please

Here is the text for the About section of Jade Mountains. As you can see I'm linking to a selection of postings. I'd appreciate your suggestions on what would be good to include.

Who? I'm a female disciple and Dharma Heir of the late Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett having been ordained by her at Shasta Abbey California in 1981 and named a Master in 2000. Since 1996 I've served as the international O.B.C. Lay Ministry Adviser. I started to write a blog in 2003 however it was only in April 2005, when I embarked on a Pilgrimage to East Asia, that I started writing regularly. Initially I just wanted to share the sights and sounds of my journey with fellow monastics and lay friends. And I guess that's what I'm still doing...

Here’s a selection of postings to give you an overview of what I write about.

Why? Good question! In the end I think I continue to pump in text because this is a way I can pass on the teachings of Buddhism, given my set of monastic circumstances and responsibilities. There is a pull towards Compassion, that's why.

What's Offered? Apart from the blog, which tends to take center stage at present, there are links to basic teachings and scriptures we use within the O.B.C., some book recommendations, articles addressing themes in practice, Dharma Talks. This is work in progress, I'm limited by the amount of time I can devote to developing the site.

In Brief What you will find here is a medley of expression and to derive benefit from it, like a musical composition, there is a needs to listen with attention, within oneself. Somewhat poetic, yet true.

Just so you know, the views/ideas/teachings expressed here on this site do not necessarily represent those of the Order as a whole.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Have a Taste or Two

While out and about deciding on sites to link to for Jade Mountains I stumbled across a post about Telford Buddhist Priory which gives a taste of the place and people. The whole blog is worth a look see:

Buddhism in Britain A journal of a year spent communicating with and visiting Buddhist groups, organisations and individuals around the UK, on behalf of the Network of Buddhist Organisations (UK). Please note that all entries are personal reflections and do not necessarily represent the policy of the NBO.

And there is a posting about a visit to Dragon Bell Temple in Exeter too.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Walking, Sifting and Sorting

Freshwater Bay in the morning.

Yesterday was a long day. Freshwater Bay at 9.30 am on a cold morning was not inviting at all especially as I was about to follow the coast, on foot, for twelve miles. Like my friends I've been reporting on recently I enjoyed a lively back and forth in my mind about continuing on with the plan. I continued on, for better or for worse.

The trail ahead towards Chale, 12 miles away!

Looking back towards Freshwater Bay with the white cliffs marking Tennyson Down beyond

Everywhere there is evidence of erosion. The land is falling into the sea and we humans are in retreat.

Sifting and sorting in the background while I'm here on the Isle of Wight for rest and renewal are questions and contemplations on a number of matters. At first they seemed to be unrelated, aspirations to do this, inner nudges to do that, the ordering and timing of a number of projects. I can't say I've sat down purposefully and thought about all of this. However today after a very slow start, which was preceded by inner dialogue and confusion, matters have fallen into a workable, almost sensible, pattern. The journey continues.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Time for Celebrations

Next week a loyal reader of this blog is going to receive the Precepts at the Ten Precepts Retreat at Throssel. The retreat will start on Saturday. We have been in correspondence talking back and forth as she works through the inevitable Shall I, or shall I not, cancel? Will I, or will I not, be able to go through with the commitment to formally become a Buddhist? Her story is much the same as my friend and her steps towards surgery. I find them both inspiring in their willingness to lay themselves bare, to examine what's there and keep going on into the unknown. Congratulations to them both!

By way of offering encouragement I wrote the following:
You do realize that the first ceremony of the retreat is the journey to the monastery and you are well on the way to completing the most testing ceremony of all.

Her reply:
I hadn't thought of the journey to Throssel being the first "ceremony", but now you have said it, it makes perfect sense. It's funny how this practice gets to one, even though it is so subtle and you aren't aware of it happening at the time. I have already told you of some of the things that have changed for me like the drinking, smoking, watching less TV and being more discriminatory about what I do watch - but the wonderful thing is that they have all happened without any conscious effort. (Because she wants to follow the Precepts, and is.)

Today is the anniversary of a significant step I took some years ago, which involves rededicating ones life to keeping the Precepts. After the coffee and desert pictured here I walked for a few hours to reach home base. Close to where I'm staying is an old woodland. The guidebook describes it as one of the Island's most delectable spots. I reclined there for awhile against a tree and gazed up at the clear blue sky listening to the spring birds tweeting. Yes, time for celebrations.

This post is dedicated to yet another friend who is undergoing the ceremony of the journey to the monastery, literally and figuratively. Make that two friends.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Small Steps Big Changes

A good friend has been readying herself to have hip replacement surgery. Here follows excerpts from our recent correspondence.

So I phoned today for my annual medical check-up, and as I put the receiver down, a little voice said, call your surgeon, to which I replied, Oh, I don't think so, this is enough for one day to which the little voice replied, call your surgeon, to which I replied, well, I don't have the number to which the little voice replied, look it up in the phone book. So I did and then reached for the phone, and hesitated, and you can guess what the little voice replied, so I reached again, and hesitated. And that little voice, in a rather exasperated tone, said how will you ever explain this to Mugo? so I (reluctantly) dialed and asked to speak to Dr. Watson's nurse. A cheery voice said You got her! Oh well, no backing out now.

The nurse answered all my questions and the surgery coordinator will call me next week to talk about possible dates. And as if that wasn't enough, after I hung up the phone I went into see my department head and we sat and talked about possible dates and what would work best for him. I was also able to talk to him about some of my anxieties at having the surgery done at all. When it was all over (the phone call and chat), I felt much better. It's actually a big relief (to have started the ball rolling), and I am immensely grateful to you for your encouragement. Please consider this my first installment to my helpful mentor. Is mentor the word I want? Yes WordWeb has given me a definition that describes what you are, for me.

Here is part of my response:
I think your story is not uncommon when it comes to taking a major move in life. And let's face it having major surgery is a major move in life. It just takes that first leap over the voices, familiar ones I know about too, for the next steps to roll out before one.

...and her response:
Thank you for your reply. It was very encouraging to hear you say that my story is probably not uncommon. I had never thought of that! (And after all those years of mothering and nursing!) I actually think writing what I wrote to you helped me along in my process. And by all means you are welcome to use whatever of it for your blog, I trust your sense of privacy. In addition your comments have given me the thought that perhaps I will try to write a little more about the voices we hear in our own minds.

I hope this posting speaks for itself.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


I've spent quite some time this evening leaving answers to comments left over the last couple of weeks or so. I'm sorry not to have kept up with the comments lately.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Photography Revisited

Waves at Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight

At the moment there are severe gale warnings posted for northern Britain. Last night the Isle of Wight and the south coast got a beating with much flooding. These waves bursting up over the sea defences at Freshwater Bay had a small group of photographers trying their luck to catch a big one without getting soaked. Fortunately I remained dry.

Just up the road is the Dimbola Lodge, former home of Julia Margaret Cameron and now a museum exhibiting her work and telling her history. I've long admired Cameron's photographs and was glad of the opportunity to visit the westerly edge of this windswept island and take a look around. As a present to myself I bought two prints.

One is a striking image of a woman titled "Proserpine" and I think refers to Proserpina whose name comes from proserpere meaning "to emerge." (Wikipedia) The woman was a professional model unlike most of Camerions subjects who tended to be relatives, friends or servants. The other print is of Sir John Herschel. Herschel played a part in the history of photography including coining the word photography as well as discovering how to 'fix' photographs. He was also a photographic mentor to Julia Margaret Cameron.

I'll keep those two prints, treasures, tucked away to remind me of the day I turned sixty and of my long interest in photography.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Way Markers

The rain slants across the open field. My windward pocket is filling up with water, I shift my guide book to leeward. Five solid hours on my feet and still a long way from home base. The question has to be asked, Why am I doing this? There is no good answer. Just keep on walking, one heavy booted burning footed step after the other.

I know it is a sign of tiredness when I know better than the guide book, or perhaps I'm just past being able to following the instructions in sequence.
At a particularly large crop field, walk across to the lone tree in the middle and keep on the same line to a stile at the far side. Now turn left, with the hedge on your right, and aim for the bottom right-hand field corner, round the stile and into trees. I'm on Walk 6: Shanklin to Brading via Culver Cliff and Bembridge. 12 miles (at least!) A Walker's Guide to the Isle of Wight.

They say that people with Alzheimer's go on for a remarkably long time without diagnosis. Living on familiar territory, having a daily routine, working around difficulties a sufferer can pass for years. It's when they go on holiday, visit relatives, move house, change their familiar routine that the cracks start to show. I'm not suffering from Alzheimer's however being away from my ordered life in the monastery certainly shows up my mental quirks. Which can be disturbing.

I found out I have a mild case of dyslexia in 2000 while on a basic computing course. I was ecstatically happy! My, often difficult, life of learning and functioning up to that point was explained. A sangha friend took me aside at that time and told me I'd better be less up-beat because err...dyslexia is a PROBLEM. In other words something to be ashamed of, I supposed.

Having difficulty with sequencing is a well known symptom of dyslexia, as is having a really poor short term memory. Now, getting to grips with changes to this web site and having to learn the new language that drives the whole thing, is a real test. Why am I doing this becomes a real question in the face of difficulties and frustrations. There's no real answer. Some would say it seems like a 'good' thing to do, to me it is a very difficult thing to do and feels bad. I'd rather avoid it and that's precisely why I'm having a go. Firstly I have to get my hands dirty with understanding HTML, sequencing hell.

Thank goodness training points to a deeper place than feelings and uses trials and tribulations as way markers. Places to pause, take stock and move on. Hallilula!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Walking and Talking

To-day I was walking on the narrow light green strip marked South Downs. Wonderful!

On Stane Street crossing the South Downs going south.

Stane Street, sometimes called Stone Street (Stane is simply an old spelling of "stone" which was commonly used to differentiate paved Roman roads from muddy native trackways), is the modern name given to an important Roman road in England that linked London to the Roman town of Noviomagus Reginorum or Regnentium renamed Chichester by the conquering Saxons.

Detail of knapped flint and Flemish Bond brick work in Chichester

There has been much walking and talking these past couple of days which has been both inspiring and instructive. For example my appreciation of brick walls and their construction has expanded well past anything I'd have imagined possible. Walls were walls, bricks were bricks now I see the art, the creative use of materials involved in the building of structures. Barns, walls, churches and dwellings are a sight to behold in this area of England. And now appreciated bricks all the more for knowing what I'm looking at....

Steve MacLean, Canada’s chief astronaut, who defended Icefields by Thomas Wharton on Canada Reads last week said something rather interesting about perception. What you see is (very often) a function of what you know.

Listen to Steve MacLean talking about Thomas Wharton’s Icefields and Tom talking about what glaciers taught him about time and change.

Here we are again back on the subject of time and knowing.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Here and Now

Here are my hosts of the last two days moving towards Chichester Cathedral.

We walked around the old walls of Chichester this morning. There's Greyfriers where William Blake was tried for....? Following the thread of interest (and curiosity) Wikipedia gave us the answer.

He (William Blake) rejected all forms of imposed authority; indeed, he was charged with assault and uttering seditious and treasonable expressions against the King in 1803, though he later was cleared in the Chichester assizes of the charges. The charges were brought by a soldier called John Schofield after Blake had bodily removed him from his garden, allegedly exclaiming, "Damn the king. The soldiers are all slaves."[17] According to a report in the Sussex county paper, "The invented character of [the evidence] was ... so obvious that an acquittal resulted."[18] Schofield was later depicted wearing "mind forged manacles" in an illustration to Jerusalem.[19]
Wikipedia entry for William Blake.

Blake lived in Sussex as do my hosts. At the renewal of their marriage vows they had the following piece of Blake read out. After some research we found the quote is from J.B.Priestly's *Time and the Conways and not Auguries of Innocence.

Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born;
Every morn and every night;
Some are born to sweet delight;
Some are born to sweet delight;
Some are born to endless night.
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine;
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.
It is right it should be so:
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know
Safely through the world we go.

The play (Time and the Conways)emerged out of Priestley's reading of J. W. Dunne's book An Experiment with Time in which Dunne posits that all Time is happening simultaneously ie that past, present, future are one and that linear Time is only the way in which human consciousness is able to perceive this.

Nothing like following a thread of thought and interest leading back to here and now. I think this post is about creativity.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Balance Matters

Photographer unknown, great picture.

Whoops! It is time for me to leave Reading Buddhist Priory and be on my way further south. There is not much more south to England and after that there is an island just off the south coast. That's where I'll be, the Isle of Wight, for most of March with the intention of resting before flying to North America in late April or early May.

My thought today is about balance, balance in all matters. Balance matters.

Thanks to the blog reader who just walked into the priory with a card and a dana offering. I've been talking about your blog this week-end during the retreat! he said.