Articles

Must Have Sea View

On the forklift truck on a grey morning Boz had a dream.  It was always the same dream; he was a man of stubborn allegiances and wild expectation. His luck would turn and he would retire to the seaside, the English seaside. He’d been happy there. Not so much the overpowering smells of vinegar, frying fat and sugar, nor the noises of crowds, amusement arcades, having fun. Even as a child his ideal was to do nothing. Contentment was lying in a deckchair, soaking up the sun which drenched his memory, and watching the sea come in, go out, come in, go out. His mates jeered at the smallness of his dream; they wanted world travels or at least Thailand or Tenerife every winter if their ship came in. Val had dragged him abroad of course, but the ocean was never the same, too tame, too distant, too fringed with the young and sleek. He knew where his dreams were to be realised and soon he knew when and how.

The dream took a lurch nearer and upended the forklift. On the ramp, maybe the wheels weren’t squarely on. He howled when lifted out and was signed off sick for six weeks. The company could find no malfunction in the forklift and alleged driver error, but Boz’s union rep was having none of it. “Mr Boswell has an exemplary record and there was another similar incident here with a truck some six years ago. He is now incapacitated and we have a medical report to indicate whiplash injuries with some trauma to the lower and cervical spine.  It is unlikely he can work again, we are told. I would suggest the fair way forward is a one -off payment, equivalent perhaps to three years’ salary. That way we can avoid any question of blame, or escalation through the Health and Safety process.” HR, as usual,  said nothing remotely useful; management said “Two years. Terrible worker anyway. Cheap at the price to get rid of him.” The haggling ended up with a nice little nest egg for Boz who was always careful to walk with a stick and a wince. There were disability benefits as well.

Val wanted to chuck in the part-time job at the drycleaners and go somewhere exotic, maybe even move to a little flat in Spain. But Boz knew he had to wait for his luck to flow in again. He went into training, absorbing himself in daytime TV, especially the property programmes and the surprise makeovers. Fortune favoured the bold, those who seized the tide when high. Then he went on the internet. It was a shock to discover how little his lump sum would buy, especially with anything that would pass as a sea view. He’d told Val, “What we need is a nice little place, with a sea view, maybe do it up a bit (he had a sudden fantasy of himself holding  a paintbrush), live well, away from all this.”

He found the auction houses for repossessed or unloved properties, got very excited by this lot or that and was cast down when the bidding went above his ceiling. He told himself he was just learning the ropes, realised what he needed was a property no on else wanted. And he needed to go to the auction house, not follow online. The next sale he waited for the fancied flat , bid fast and hard, but again it outstripped him; on impulse born of rejection he went after one for which no one else was bidding. He’d looked at it briefly, definitely sea view, bit back of beyond, a kind of chalet with two bedrooms. Very cheap. He couldn’t remember more – a scattering of neighbours, no pub (but who could afford to drink out these days?), not too far from Scarborough. But raised his hand anyway. The dream was docking. No one else bid, though he was aware of a kind of subdued ripple running through the room – amusement, excitement, applause, he couldn’t say. It was his.

Now he had to explain it to Val. She wasn’t thrilled but suggested they visit. The owner met them with the words, “You do realise the bid is a binding contract and you can’t change your mind?” Val was looking out to sea. “What happened to the garden fence?” “Bit of coastal erosion. You’ll have seen it in the report. But you’re cash buyers  so no mortgage to worry about. “

Boz said slowly, “So things do fall in the sea?”

“Yes, but it’s quite  a long garden. Most of the neighbours have put in coastal defences – quite expensive but effective. When I moved here twenty years ago, the surveyor said 70-100 years. You don’t need longer than that, do you?”

“As long as it lasts our time”, said Boz. Val gave them both the look she had perfected on clients bringing in embarrassingly stained garments. “We’ll have to make the best of it. But what’s that caravan near to the road? Is that part of the sale?”

“Not officially”, came the reply, “but I’ll throw it in for goodwill.” Val had always fancied a caravan and this appealed to her as a space soundproofed against Boz’s bellows for beer and snacks. The journey home to pack up their lives was less fraught than it might have been.

The paintbrush fantasy faded like sea mist, but the chalet was in fair shape. Boz soon settled into the deckchair, basking in the garden on the better days where there was even a tree to act as a natural windbreak, or gazing out of the sun lounge otherwise, while Val sewed or watched her portable in the caravan. The summer was a good one if not as golden as Boz’ s memory, but knowing good luck came in threes he waited for something else to fall into his capacious lap.

*

The winter was another matter; the house was ill-insulated, the window frames rattled and the draughts had the chill and persistence of benefits advisors. A calm March day drew him down the garden. The rest of the fence had gone…but something else. The rhubarb patch, a bank of nettles, a recycling bin were away. None of them were much missed but this was his domain and he was uncomfortable.

The next year the vegetable bed went – undug, overgrown but the unease persisted. His neighbour Frank said, “What do you expect? We’ve all paid up for coastal defences so the waves are funnelled directly at you.”

Boz went to demand help from the Council. The letter back said, “While we have every sympathy with your plight, we are informed you bought the property while being aware of the problem. Given the many demands on our budget, we regret etc”.

Year four was frightening. A sea surge took a messy predatory bite which swallowed the bench and the tree. Val moved permanently into the caravan. Frank advised, “Think about moving. A house fell in the sea five miles down the coast.” But Boz was planted.

Year six Val moved back to live with her sister in a house on solid ground; he simply found her gone like most of the garden and half wondered if the sea had taken her too. Now when Boz looked out, the sea seemed suddenly huge, its glittering hungry, the land fragile and friable. He cursed it for wrecking his dream. One day he awoke to urgent banging on the door from Frank and the men from houses further along. “Time to leave. Storm surge coming. Take anything you need.” They helped him clear essentials to the caravan. A TV crew turned up to record all this; he’d always wanted to be interviewed but not like this. Then with an almighty crash, more cliff fell, taking half the house with it. The Council later demolished the other half.  The footage brought Boz some celebrity, but also attracted the attention of a benefits adviser who had observed Boz moving a large TV with no sign of strain.

He feels cheated, robbed. On good days he sits out in the deckchair  and waits for his luck to change. He stares at the sea wondering if it is friend or enemy.

 

KD lives in Edinburgh and writes for pleasure and distraction.

 

A LOVE CALCULUS

Multiply the number of groups of people you hate by the number of individuals in those groups. The sum equals the number of reasons, causes, and triggers for you to experience the feeling of hatred in your heart; not only at those times of direct encounter with those persons, but also in each and every moment of your life. Every one of those moments is a fertile ground for you to think about, imagine, and contend with those persons. Your life is literally a minefield you walk, constantly stumbling over the mines of hatred you have chosen to plant. You even intentionally run to those mines and jump on them, so great is your determination to hate.

You can never escape triggering the sensation of hatred, which is not pleasurable but instead is a sour current of misery and suffering you channel through every particle, cell, vessel, and organ of who you are. You have chosen to inundate yourself with hatred, a monsoon flood of never-ending ailment, all because you have decided that you have good reason to hate this group or that group. Your true joy has become a limp, lifeless carcass, drowned in the flood of your reasons to hate.

Some of us are passionate explorers of that barren terrain yielding reasons to hate. We expunge all awareness and memories of any possible goodness in a people, any hint or potential of worth or value, just so we can hunt freely for hate-reasons. We want the open-season without catch or kill limits. Whenever we come upon a flare-up of humanness, dimension, or texture in our idea of a people, fear and discomfort strike us as though we have encountered the beginnings of a forest fire. In the flush of this unsettling contradiction to what we seek-hatred-worthy characteristics in others-we reach for our water pail of mental erasing and douse the flame. We are here in this land, this place of strategic reasoning, to discover artifacts qualified for hating. We are not here to see beauty or worth. And so we kill with volatility whatever gets in the way of our expedition.

In the end, when you have multiplied the reasons for your hatred by the population size of your hated groups, you have unwittingly painted yourself into a corner in which you cannot step, look, reach, breathe, think, or even feel without stumbling over a self-chosen reason for hatred. You have harvested hatred and because your mind is magnificent in its power, you have accumulated a vast and burdensome harvest.

Now imagine a different harvest. Summon the Love you have for someone you hold dear. Experience that feeling of warmth and bliss cascade through your being. You have now blessed and baptized yourself in the endless reservoir of Love that you have in you, all because you have decided you have good reason to Love this particular person. Now you are drowning in Love, your joy a vibrant light illuminating this flood.

Ask yourself: Which feels better to my heart and soul? To hate or to Love? If Love is your answer, you are fortunate, for you have the means to fill your life and vessel with that which feels good to your heart, mind, and soul. All you have to do now is make another decision: Choose to expand your Love. That which you feel for that special person, people, or group, simply break down your stingy walls of exclusion and extend your Love! By nature, Love will flow anywhere you allow it. Like water, it will fill, soak into, and become the essence of all that you let it touch. It is the Bright Monsoon. All you need do is choose to Love.

Decide you have good reason to Love that group, and that group, and that one. Go crazy admitting more and more groups into your house of Love, regardless of their imperfections or the way they discomfort or challenge you. Become a stubborn Lover even in the face of those who scorn you. Become a seer of your Love’s roots in others. Become a graffiti artist with Love as your paint. Spray it over even the most desolate human souls. Beautify and resurrect them. Bring them to life. Your life of Love.

Eventually you will be able to calculate an incredible mathematics. You will be able to multiply the number of groups you have chose to Love by the number of individuals in those groups. If you decide to decimate all your walls and come up with reasons to let the whole world in, you will have blessed and baptized your entire life and every moment of your life. You will have blessed yourself with causes, reasons, and triggers for your heart, mind, and soul to be flooded with and experience the blissful sensation of Love. Not because the world came begging for your charity, its carts loaded with reasons for your Love, but because you chose to come up with your own reasons. Because you wanted to have endless triggers for your stream of moments in which you could not help but constantly, in your movement, thoughts, and imagination run into human reasons to let loose your Love. Make this choice and you will have solved the greatest calculus of them all. 

______________________
A Soul Water Rising Publication
Essay Copyright © 2010 by Jaiya John
January 2010 Draft

 

This essay is part of the Soul Water Rising essay series. All essays in this series are archived and available at jaiyajohn.com. New essays are announced through our journal, Soul Blossom. Dissemination and reposting for educational and inspirational use only is encouraged.

 

 

 

 

 

THE FINAL WORDS OF PADMASAMBHAVA

 

While strolling down the main boulevard in Shigatse, the home of the Panchen Lamas, in 1987, I see only a few people and almost no cars. Tibet has just opened up for foreign travellers and back-packers some months before. Standing on the pavement, perusing the items displayed on makeshift tables in the market stalls, my eyes had suddenly fallen on a tiny text. The print is on handmade-parchment, fashioned in the age-old style of inked woodcarving. It is a revelation from many hundred years back, and its Tibetan title means Refined Essence of Oral Instructions. It contains the parting words of Padmasambhava as he is just about to leave Tibet, the master who is admired and loved throughout the Himalayan countries and now all over the world as being the main teacher of Vajrayana Buddhism. My breath stops and my heart skips a beat. The words are like hearing him speak to you in person. I buy two copies without hesitation.

Homage to the master. Continue reading

ERNIE BUCK: AN INTERVIEW

 

When and how did you first discover Buddhism?

Oh heavens!  In a conventional sense I would say by accident.  I started doing TM in about the early nineties or late eighties.  I had a quite stressful job at Bradford Chamber of Commerce; lots of squabbles and small ‘p’ politics, that sort of thing.  I got into TM as a totally secular thing.  It worked fine.  The mantra I used to do – a couple of times a day, twenty minutes – it did what it said on the tin.  It was very effective for me.  I did it for about a year and then … you gradually get out of these things.  So that all finished.

Fast forward to about the early nineties now.  I got a phone call from an ex-colleague of mine from the chamber of commerce days.  “You used to meditate, didn’t you?  It worked for you.”

And I said, “I did.”

She had seen meditation classes advertised in the Bradford Interfaith Centre.  She didn’t want to go on her own.  Would I go with her?  Along I went.  It happened to be Buddhist. Having been brought up Roman Catholic, and spending some 5 years in the Middle East as both soldier and civilian, I was pretty much au fait with Christianity and Islam but I knew nothing about Buddhism at all.  So, that got me into it.  And that was with the New Kadampa Tradition.

Again, I got very interested in that to the point where I became connected to their new Losang Dragpa Centre in Todmorden, West Yorkshire. In the end I bought a derelict cottage which was in the grounds of Dobroyd Castle – the original name of the Centre.  Because they’d overstretched themselves with the initial borrowing, the bank made them sell it.  I bought it freehold for £35k (the independent surveyor’s valuation) and sold it for £150k a few years late so I made a bit of money on it.

Things I learned while I was travelling in Dharamsala and Bodhgaya about the setup of the NKT in the UK made me think, “Well, perhaps we had to part company.”  There was all the dorje shugden thing that you’re familiar with.  There was this split with the Dalai Lama and so on.  I wasn’t really comfortable with it.

Came back from my journey.  A friend of mine was coming up to Samye Ling for Christmas/New Year.  This was in 2007, I think, and I came up with her.  Ken Holmes was the course teacher.  I was very impressed. All though my experience so far had been with Gulugpa Tradition’s teachings, it wasn’t a subject that was new to me….….but all the lineage stuff is the same or similar in the Kagyu Lineage.  But he was a really, really good teacher.  So that’s what kept me coming to Samye Ling and finally prompted me to move here when I retired.

What was your first impression of Samye Ling?

Samye Ling, this was much more established than what I’d been used to.  The usual friendly atmosphere, but being a bit long in the tooth I knew that, if humankind is involved, it’s not all sweetness and light.  But it was very positive.  Put it that way.

What made you decide to come here to stay?

 I’ve got family connections but I’m free, single:  my family’s down in England in various places.  I was retiring…past retirement age so I thought, “Why not settle near Samye Ling?”

 How did you come across the property that you decided to renovate?

Again, from a conventional point of view, by accident.  On the last half day of the Samye Ling 2012/13 Christmas/New Year course, three of us went for a walk and we wandered up to Garwald; a mile and a half up a forestry track.  We met someone who was known as Irish Tony living in a cottage, part of what could be described as a little hamlet – all owned by Samye Ling, as we subsequently discovered. We had what was quite a surreal conversation with him.  Within about 20 minutes, the couple that I was with, and me, decided we would like to renovate a row of derelict barns; they would use two thirds of the row as a family home, and I would use the other third as a single person’s dwelling.

We rushed back to Samye ling and breathlessly related all this to the Abbot’s Assistant, Ani Lhamo.  She said, “Well put it in writing”, which we did.  That’s how it all started.

What was your very first action concerning the property?

A couple of days after arriving home, I received a phone call from the couple saying that they’d had second thoughts and decided to back out. They lived on the south coast of England and didn’t want to move so far away from friends and family.

Through Ani Lhamo I organised an official interview with Lama Yeshe (Abbot) to get permission for the build, which happened in February 2013.

To be honest, when I went in to see Lama Yeshe with my kata in hand, because of the enormity of the original row of barns project, I was half hoping he would say “No”.  I felt it would probably be too much for me, both physically and financially.  Lama Yeshe is a very wise old guy.  He pointed me in the direction of the site where I’ve subsequently built.  That’s how it got going.

How long did it take to finish the project?

From moving up there with a motorhome in April 2013, I moved in three years later in May.  So, it was basically three years.  That’s everything.  That was to get the planning permission sorted, get the building warrant, get hold of an architect and then literally do the work.  During this time, I lived in the motorhome.

As a rough estimate, how much would you say was your expenditure?

It’s hard to give you a straight answer.  I must sound like   a very bad accountant.  It was difficult because I had some savings when I came up and I thought I’d have that stretched to the limit.  But as I paid my way month after month some of it came out of my pension income so I wasn’t exhausting my savings so quickly.  I’d discounted any sort of income when I planned the job.  So, putting all things together I think it was about £65k.  That’s everything…fitting it out, kitchen, decorating, furniture, etc, the lot.  That’s not just the bricks, mortar and so on.

What happens to the property now?

I have a lease agreement with Samye Ling which gives me that piece of land and the house until I die and then it is bequeathed to Samye Ling which was the original intention; that’s what made it a good idea for me at the beginning.

Is there still an opportunity for others to develop a property in Garwald?

Yes, there is.  There are three barns which, at the moment have bits and pieces stored in them.  I was going to say derelict barns, but they are watertight presently and in fact, we’ve just renewed the guttering on them. The exterior is usable and they would make good single-person living properties with an open-plan living area downstairs and a sort of a mezzanine type bedroom.  So, there are three options there.  And there’s also that long row of derelict barns which I was talking about earlier.  So, there’s plenty of options to do what I did.

What advice would you give to someone who in interested in developing a barn?

Think carefully.  It might not be for everybody.  You might not want to do it the way I did.  Apart from the exterior stonework, I virtually did all of the rest of it myself.  Luckily, I’m reasonably fit.  I don’t have a building background but gradually accumulated a wealth of experience.  So, I was able to do that – and I had a really good architect.  If you’re the sort of person who sees self-build as a project management situation it would cost a bit more than it did me.  But it would still be doable.

Physically what would they do? Would they go and meet Lama Yeshe first?

I would advise anyone to do what I did.  See someone in authority in Samye Ling.  The people I’m thinking of are Ani Lhamo or Lodro Dorje.  Probably, they’d point you in the right direction.  I’m assuming that it would then be the same process as I experienced.  An interview with Lama Yeshe or Katin Lama perhaps and get permission to do it.

Did you have to take out some kind of insurance for this job?

Yes, I did.  I took out building insurance…a conventional  self-build policy.  I got the details from my neighbour Steve Kent, the only other person who’s done this at Garwald and he built his house about six or seven years before I arrived.  And I used the same insurance company as him.  It wasn’t too expensive.  I took out eighteen months of cover and renewed it as necessary.

As far as the facilities were concerned, did you have any problem with electricity or anything else?

No more problems than anybody else in a remote area.  In fact, the infrastructure, the lines up the valley have been refurbished very recently.  Whereas, we used to get power cuts every week it’s a reasonably rare occurrence now.  To be honest, Scottish Power were brilliant with me.  I submitted a plan to have electricity on to the property which had meters put into one of the barns temporarily.  I had to move somebody else’s meter which was serving another place about a quarter of a mile away up the valley.  I made my application.  When the surveyor came, he was very, very helpful and he said, “Look you can do this temporarily much more simply than putting it in this barn.”  And that helped me a lot.  I’ve got a standard meter box which was literally stood temporarily on a couple of cement blocks and is now embedded in the finished wall.

Did you have any problem getting materials up there?

No, I didn’t actually.  I had accounts with Keyline and Jewson, nationally known builder’s merchants, and various other organisations.  Samye Ling regularly use them.  The Garwald track is not the best in the world but passable.  I got to know the delivery guys and it worked extremely well.  There was hardly ever a weather situation when they couldn’t deliver up there.

I’ve absolutely no regrets and I’m really pleased with what I’ve done and I’ve been living in it now for eighteen months.

Tea or coffee?

Tea.  A preference by taste is coffee but it scours me out.

TV or radio?

A bit of both.  I like radio 4 but I like BBC television.

Meat or veg?

A bit of both but very little of the first. Once a week perhaps.

Folk or rock?

Well, given my hearing disability, probably folk.

White bread or brown?

Brown.

Bath or shower?

Shower.  I haven’t got a bath.

Rain or snow?

Snow for the aesthetics.

Dogs or cats?

Dogs

Summer or winter?

That’s difficult.  Spring.

Zips or buttons?

Zips.

Phones or mobiles?

Landline.

Cycling round the world or building a home?

[Laughs] With hindsight, I think cycling round the world was easier.  It wouldn’t seem like that in people’s minds but it was more straightforward.  

 

 

 

 

 

The motorhome accommodation at Garwald which served as ‘home’ for three years; situated about 30 metres from the building site.

The first two scaffolding bays erected at the rear of the site and boards being prepared prior to knocking out most of the unsound existing wall in order to ‘rebuild’.

A skyline shot of the blockwork centre part of the walls up to roof height, showing the concrete lintels above the upstairs windows.

This shows a section of the ground floor open-plan living area – giving a flavour of the finished interior.

Ernie Buck is 68 years old and has lived in various parts of Yorkshire for the last 30 years. A continual commuting cyclist, he has done a number of long distance solo expeditions within the UK, but dreamt of cycling to India and beyond for years. 

THE ENJOYMENT OF SOUND: THE WORDS AND POETRY OF JEAN PAIRA PEMBERTON BY DIRK DE KLERK

I remember, many years ago, visiting the Samye Ling monastery for my annual vacation from Germany to meditate, reflect and to attempt to recover from the existential anxiety of a young, displaced composer. I spent much of the time in silence, hoping to accelerate the process.

I met Jean Paira Pemberton when she joined me on my long walks. I was silent; I listened to her as we walked along farm tracks along streams of water or in the hills, covered in pine forests.  I was enjoying listening to a remarkably erudite and intelligent person, flattered by her trust, relaxing in her warmth. She often talked about the recent loss of her only son, and of her poetry.We were both engaged in our processes of healing. Jean and I have been friends ever since, our bond deepened through our relationship with the dharma and Ringu Tulku. It also proves that a difference in age is no barrier to friendship. Jean was born on 20 May 1930, which puts three decades between us, but I have always found her ageless. ‘Between ages’, as she might have put it, because she talked about her being ‘between two cultures, two languages and two disciplines.’
When I met her, Jean was in the process of doing what she was doing all her life: turning experience into word. This is how she herself explains the process.

Continue reading

KEEP SWIMMING

This summer I went swimming,
This summer I might have drowned
But I held my breath and I kicked my feet
And I moved my arms around,
I moved my arms around.

Loudon Wainwright 111 “Swimming Song”

Greatness in Small Things

After contracting polio as a baby it was deemed, thankfully, that swimming would be good therapy for me. So I learnt to swim and by the time I was eighteen months old I was splashing freely in pools, rivers and in the sea. It was and is a wonderful thing to feel fully mobile and free of gravity. It feels good to be able to let go of my cumbersome caliper and move swiftly and easily through the water. Ever since childhood I have swum regularly and now at the ripe old age of 58 I swim three times a week. I taught all four of my daughters to swim and I realise now that through swimming we have all learned a great deal about life from the art of keeping afloat in the water.

Continue reading

HELLO FROM GOA

 

AUGUST 30, 2017 in ARTICLESPERSONAL STORIES.

Hello from Goa, land of blue skies, sunshine and palm trees swaying in the balmy breeze. But lest you think that Liz and I are living the languid life of lotus eaters (okay, occasionally…) we are of course as trumped and brexited as the rest of you – but in true Indian style.

Luckily we weren’t here in November when the demonetisation policy kicked in overnight. It caused mayhem and chaos and is still not fully resolved. Basically there is still a shortage of bank notes as they scrapped the 1,000 rupee note and replaced it with a 2,000 note. That’s now £25 quid in UK money with the current crap exchange rate and if you try and pay with it few shops have change to give you or they want plastic money instead. Yes, they are trying to move to a cashless economy where hundreds of millions don’t even have a bank account or their own mobile phone. There are still unreported riots and violence and the poor have no money to pay for fruit, vegetables or milk. Unemployment has risen. Nobody can afford to buy locally built Hero motorcycles, for example, so they’ve had to close the factories. Continue reading

THE DANGERS OF DILUTED BUDDHISM

                                                         Jeremy Bishop

Some charismatic leaders take advantage of Western misconceptions rather than correct them, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher from the UK argues.

In today’s Western society, where the dominant cultural systems are failing to provide explanations for life’s philosophical questions, a space has opened up that Buddhism is uniquely suited to address. Continue reading

FAIRYLAND

Warm, five o’clock, Scottish, June sunshine bathes my old ripening skin as I sit here by the Harbour Cottage Art Gallery, overlooking the deep muddied channel of the river. A faint smell of diesel is in the air. Fishing boats are queued up, blue and white, some a little rusted, moored and waiting.

Empty lobster pots are stacked alongside the neatly cut grass the other side of the chain railings which enclose a small park. The inevitable ‘anchor statue’ graces this park. The one which really tugs at the heart strings is the carved oak sculpture of two female figures clinging desperately to each other, representing family awaiting the return of a loved one lost at sea; shows the true emotions connected with such a perilous occupation.

Going back is never a good thing. Better to have the memory. The insulting sanitisation and gentrification of such hardship and honourable work is too much, for the likes of us, to bear. We had work, we had pride in ourselves; we slept from exhaustion, driven by the next day of expectation. It wasn’t a bad life!

Times change you see. Should I feel guilty, now, about what I was doing then? I was merely earning my living. Cold unpleasant work it was. My sons feel the guilt, not me! For me it was blood, sweat and tears. I saw terrible things, a man with his legs ripped off him, caught in the capstan; he never worked again.

They were long hours on board ship, in all weathers, in shocking conditions, you wouldn’t want a dog to experience. I had two littl’uns at home, but I never saw much of the little buggers! They were ‘mummy’s boys’, they hardly knew me.

Looking back, it wasn’t a good thing, killing those beautiful animals. It was barbaric and a truly life-changing experience, but, I’m glad I did it…and the money was good especially if you got a job on the Norwegian factory ships! Paid no dues to any governments yer see. Could be away for 4-5 months on those damn ships, had to travel further afield when the stocks got low.

It was work… and you just got on with it! You could warm yer frozen hands in the blood of a freshly killed whale, but a dead’un, a week old and stinking… boy, you wouldn’t want to be there!

So you see, when I sit here and look at these ‘namby pamby’ tourists drinking their Pinot Grigot and eating their fancy scallops in that garlic and ginger, I get a peculiar feeling in me belly. Very nice life they have, very nice! Soft hands and Nancy shirts, they don’t know what real work is; the horrors I’ve seen. They see these cute fisherman’s cottages all prettied and painted up, think nothing of paying the mad rents and they thinks they’re in Fairyland?

This is an empty, pale ghost of a town haunted by the dead whaling men who didn’t make it back home. I keeps me own thoughts to meself, like. Got big emotions and profound memories of what this place has meant to me over the years. It’s not the place I remember now…I won’t be stayin’ long and I won’t be comin’ back!

Bio-Data
Ianthe Pickles
Lives in Liverpool
Aged nearly 68, birthday 18/12/1950
Retired full-time Primary and later Secondary/Special School teacher and college tutor, worked for 37 years.
Read many books related to work only. After retiring, joined a Creative Writing group, with an inspiring tutor, attended courses, and achieved ‘A’ Level in Creative Writing.
Writing (especially poetry) was often a release during emotional and turbulent times in the 1980s working in an area of severe deprivation and unemployment in Liverpool.  Now I write for fun!
A group of us meet regularly in each other’s homes to read and discuss our scribblings!

LET’S DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

 

Question: How does one stop making the story real? Sometimes I feel the story, my narrative is so crystalized and I can watch a pattern happen again and again and it’s frustrating to continue repeating the same hurtful patterns. I am interested in learning to keep my heart open, even though it’s scary.

Dear Friend,

That is a question I bet everyone can relate to! But first, let’s take a moment to rejoice in your ability to recognize a pattern that does not serve you, because that marks the beginning of the possibility for change. Furthermore, it is remarkable that you have an aspiration to open your heart and face it even though it is scary. That’s brave.

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately about how crucial it is to identify where we have “agency” in our lives, and why we sometimes forfeit our agency either knowingly or unknowingly to make choices that don’t support our own or other’s wellbeing. By “agency” I am referring to our ability to make sane and conscious choices that allow us to bring our actions together with our intention to lead a sane and healthy life. I thought I would take your question as an opportunity to see if I could identify some choices in the context of a stuck and painful narrative—kind of like a helpful game.

Yes, it can be painfully hard to change our narrative—the way we see the world and who we are in it. I think it is important to begin by recognizing that there are many things we cannot control: old age, sickness, death, loss, a traumatic event, the pervasiveness of suffering in the world. We live downstream from infinite causes and conditions, and inherit both helpful and unhelpful narratives from our parents and culture. And so we will never know why we see the world as we do in any given moment. There is no singular cause for it, although I’m sure we can connect some of the dots and identify patterns and situations that have influenced the way we experience things. And it seems important to recognize that there is something quite innocent in our noble search for happiness. Being human is all very humbling, isn’t it?

In our pursuit of genuine wellbeing, if we are lucky, we will run into a quiet but potent irony:  genuine happiness demands that we allow ourselves to feel “profound disappointment” in life. What I mean is that life doesn’t necessarily lend itself to our preferences. We are not in total command. Of course, the Buddha pointed this out from the very beginning…but it just seems very hard for most people to accept, doesn’t it? However, to accept how things as they are is a powerful and freeing CHOICE. We might consider this choice seriously. In the buddhadharma, we call this choice “taking refuge”.

Given the state of the human condition, let’s now look at some choices we can make:

Choice #1: Accepting

I will define choice #1 as our choice to place our unhelpful narratives into a bigger context. What is this context? Seeing that everything that comes to be does so due to limitless causes and conditions. For instance, the way we see ourselves and the world is not due to a singular linear cause. Two children growing up in the same household who go to the same school will see the world in completely different ways. One child might be introspective, while the other one might be gregarious. They will have different relationships with their parents, and from a young age they will begin to develop their own narratives and strategies for dealing with life: one might  take on the responsibility for keeping everyone else’s emotional life together, the other may push people away, or find unhealthy ways to distract herself. Of course we have healthy narratives as well. But the point is, there is no singular truth about how things are, and that the way individuals view the world is based on limitless contingencies, most of which we can’t even identify.

So when we place our story into the bigger context of infinite contingencies, its truth is challenged, and it begins to fall apart a bit. To look at the nature of causes and conditions allows just a little bit of air into our hermetically sealed narrative. We begin to see that, yes, we can read patterns, but in a bigger way, we only ever see a piece of things. We might begin to doubt our story a little: “Maybe it is not so seamless after all.” To recognize that our story finds its place in the natural play of contingent relationships, is a very kind thing to do for ourselves because it protects us from being a “knower” who tries to justify her story by simply laying blame on another person or situation. How can we free ourselves from our narrative when we are always looking for a logic to reinforce it? What is it they say?: “While holding a hammer everything looks like a nail.” When we disrupt the logic of our story through placing it in a bigger context, all of a sudden the mind becomes humble, curious, and poised for seeing things in a fresh way.

Choice #2: Owning It

Continue reading

BULGAR WHEAT WITH SPRING ONIONS AND MUSHROOMS

(Serves 6.)
4 tbs vegetable oil
2 spring onions, trimmed and sliced in fine half rings (including green)
6 medium-sized mushrooms, wiped with a damp cloth and sliced
1 teaspoon of salt

Medium or coarse-grained bulgar wheat, measured to the 15fl oz level in a glass,  measuring jug, or weighed.

Heat the oil in a heavy pot over a medium flame.  Put in the spring onions and saute them for 30 seconds.  Now add the mushrooms and saute for another minute.  Add the bulgar wheat and the salt.  Stir and saute for another minute or until the grains of wheat are coated with the oil.  Now add 1 pt of water and bring to the boil.  Cover, turn the heat to very low and simmer gently for 25 minutes.  Turn off the heat.  Put a tea towel between the lid and the pot, covering quickly so as not to dissipate the heat.  Leave in a warm place for another 20 minutes.  The wheat will puff up and not turn soggy.  

Extracted from Eastern Vegetarian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey

 

 

 

AUTHENTIC GENDER EQUALITY

In ACTIVISM by Kim Roberts6 Comments

I live a short drive away from what was, until recently, known as the sex-change capital of the world: Trinidad, Colorado. As more people explore the option to alter their biology, gender issues have surfaced in so many ways it’s hard to recognize certain facets of culture we used to take for granted. There is no longer a ladies room or a men’s room for that matter in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. My Indian friend was aghast to learn recently that her 18 year old daughter’s dorm at Princeton has co-ed shower rooms, with flimsy shower curtain separating her from the male students in the adjacent stall. At a program I recently taught at a university, I was instructed to refer to one particular student as they, despite appearing as a young woman, they did not identify as either male or female. So they was not a she, as I had assumed.

These cultural changes provide the backdrop for a larger issue coming to light: gender equality and specifically, women’s rights. Is it a coincidence that the gender issue is arising at same time as #metoo? It seems there are two issues: gender fluidity and gender equality. We seem to be asking collectively, what is gender? And how do we implement basic human rights, and authentic gender equality, in the face of its evolving nature?

Gender is a mental construct: From an ultimate perspective, it’s fantastic we are disposing with entrenched labels. From another, I wonder: are we simply creating new trenches? Labels are still mental constructs, even if they do replace worn-out ideas. HH 17th Karmapa Urgyen Trinley Dorje notes:

“The social meaning of our biological differences is created by our ideas about gender that is, what gender means socially is determined by the mind, and not by the body. Masculine and feminine are fabricated identities that societies create, not nature.”

“Although gender constructs are mere concepts, we can see that they can be terribly powerful forces that shape our experiences and affect how we treat others.”

 

17TH KARMAPA URGYEN TRINLEY DORJE

I think the most important question we can ask is not, how do women get equality in an era of patriarchy, but rather: What does an authentic, empowered masculine look like? Because if we keep insisting on equal rights for women based on a lopsided paradigm, we are going to end up in a different unbalanced situation, on the other side of the spectrum. It’s up to each of us to identify our inner masculine and feminine -something we contemplate in any tantric tradition- and develop a sane relationship to those energies. And this can’t be done on the sidewalks of Washington DC. As helpful as social activism can be, I think most of what confronts us as we untangle the knots of patriarchy is inner work.

Karmapa writes:

“When a problem is rooted in society’s habitual outlook and habitual thinking, then legislating change will have limited effect. After all, you cannot legislate a change in thinking.”

What does equality look like? 

It is long overdue for women’s rights, and safety, to be given the respect it deserves. But equal does not mean identical. Equality denotes balance, fairness, a portioning out of things so that everyone ends up with an advantage, no one with an advantage over another. But how can we assure fairness when each has our own karma?

Karmapa continues:

“Women’s rights have to do with respecting the value of human life and freedom. It has to do with acknowledging our shared humanity and the basic human bonds that link us.”

Obviously the biological roles of men and women differ, so it’s never quite made sense to me how we can be equal. What would make more sense is to aspire to treat each and every human being with an equal amount of kindness and respect.

Equality Or Ahimsa? As we evolve into more acceptance of gender fluidity, and more awareness of gender equality, it seems to me that what we need more than a tired concept of equality. The real issue at stake here is ahimsa. Kindness and acceptance, or at least a commitment not to cause harm. Equality has to do with ahimsa.

Gender Fluidity: It’s interesting that the vast majority of sex reassignments are male to female. From a darker perspective, you might take the gender fluidity we now insist upon as another attempt to appropriate the feminine. This darker view might see the patriarchy plotting against women as we stand up and demand justice from oppressors. As if saying: society accepts this shift in consciousness, then let’s attack the very foundation. Let’s deny the paradigm of femininity itself. We’ll kill mother nature at its root – denying the importance of our physiological roles, and so anyone who wants to can simply change their minds and decide to call themselves something different.

So when I hear about gender fluidity, and the pronoun they I have a hard time understanding. It seems pretty clear to me that if you have monthly periods and the ability to bear children, you are a woman. If you don’t have this possibility, then you are a man. Forgive me if this seems to black and white, but manand woman are different than masculine and feminine.

From a Meditation Viewpoint: Mind is neither male and female. All of my teachers have taught that both men and women have an equal opportunity to attain enlightenment. But Padmasambhava is recorded as saying that all other factors being equal, a woman is more likely to achieve enlightenment:

“The basis for realizing enlightenment is a human body. Male or female, there is no great difference. But if she develops the mind bent on enlightenment the woman’s body is better.”

This then begs the question: where are all the women teachers in Tibetan Buddhism? And how do we contextualize – and accept – the sexual escapades of male teachers? 
Tenzin Palmo asked her teacher Khamtrul Rinpoche why he thought there were not more female incarnations. He replied:

”My sister had more signs at the time of her birth than I did, and when she was arriving everybody said, ‘wow, this must be some really special being coming.’ but as soon as she was born, they said, ‘Oh, we made a mistake!’ You see, if she had been male, they immediately would have tried to find out who this child was, and he would have been given a very special kind of upbringing. Because she was only female, she was not given a chance. She had to marry and so on. This was the problem,that even if you came back as a female it would be very difficult to receive the kind of training and opportunities you could get as a male.”

Karmapa writes in his book, The Heart Is Noble:

“ I think a note of caution is in order here. Although there may be aspects of Buddhist teachings that can help us in thinking more wisely about gender issues, I want to warn you against looking to Buddhist societies to provide ideal examples of healthy gender constructs and practices. You should expect to come across things you do not want to adopt for yourself. Not everything in Buddhist institutions is perfect, and this is certainly the case when it comes to gender discrimination.”

I appreciate the openness and honesty of recent months, but where does this leave us? I have watched over and over the splitting of sanghas due to the misbehaviour of teachers. And yes, #metoo.

#metoo: I was groped by one of my yoga teachers, Pattabhi Jois. I did not speak up. Nor did any of the other many women I knew who he had touched inappropriately. Why did we remain silent? Because our voices had been cut off at an early age: the rule as a young lady is that you don’t cause conflict or confront injustice directly. I hope this movement of sharing can help us show up and educate men and women to be kind and decent human beings, so we can shift the tide to make respecting women and the power of the feminine the norm and not the exception.
Karmapa writes:

“If we continue to devalue what women have to offer, we will continue harming women and continue overlooking and devaluing these virtues that are considered feminine and these are precisely the virtues that the world needs most now.”

Letting go of identity: How do we as practitioners let go of fixation on identities while acknowledging this re-balancing of power. How do we say with a straight face that there is no gender, while supporting a woman’s right for basic human dignity and respect?  I understand the value in thinking about ourselves as human, rather than as men or women. But middle path is not neither. Middle path arises when we have 2 distinct polarities that play off of each other. If we lose the polarity, we lose the juice. Karmapa reminds us that gender constructs are nothing more than social fabrications.

Without attention to the details of our worldly experience, the fabric of our society may unravel. As practitioners our greatest contribution is to embody the wisdom of a larger view while embracing compassion as we meet each individual.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kim Roberts

KIM ROBERTS

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A graduate of Naropa University’s M.A. Contemplative Psychology program, Kim Roberts has been a devoted student of Ashtanga yoga and Dharma since 1992. She spent 15 years living in South Asia and now makes her home in Crestone, Colorado, where she is finishing her second book, Toward A Secret Sky: A Guide To The Art Of Modern Pilgrimage, to be released in Spring 2019. She also makes encaustic art. Learn more at KimRoberts.co or KimRobertsArt.com

Originally published in Levekunst

 

How can we best prepare ourselves for death?

 

That’s the same way, actually. In a way, the way you prepare others for death and the way you prepare yourself for death is more or less similar. You have to see what would work and what would not work for yourself. It’s important that as a practitioner facing death you try to prepare yourself, because when you are prepared then you don’t leave things unfinished. If you have a property, or if you have money you do whatever is necessary, you just give them to whoever you want to give to, make things clear, so that there are no problems afterwards for those left behind, fighting and things like that. Then you can concentrate on your own path and not on other irrelevant things.

Also, I think that it is important that in your life maybe you have done some good things, maybe not so good things but that’s all past so we have to forgive everything, forgive everybody, including yourself and then start a new way of life, from now. The past is past, whatever I have done, something not so good, that’s ok, it’s done, finished; if it’s something good, that’s very good. Now this moment I don’t have to feel guilty, I don’t have to feel bad about things because there’s nothing I can do about it, it’s all done but now I don’t hold onto it, I start fresh in a positive way because if I can do that, that’s the best purification.

So, about yourself, you just do what you want, really preparing yourself to die, be ready to die and then concentrate on your practice, inspire yourself, remind yourself of the teachings, listen to inspiring teachings and as much as possible you can kind of put your mind on something positive. That’s why thinking about the Buddha, thinking about the Buddha realms like the realm of Amitabha, or any other Buddha, whatever is interesting to you and also listen to the teachings of Bardo and things like that is also important. And if you can read yourself, or listen or otherwise if you cannot listen then whatever abilities you have, the main thing is that as everybody has to die, then just get ready for it, just let go, relax and don’t hang onto anything positive or negative of the past, just let go.

Q- Would Rinpoche say that we die as we have lived, that our experience of death reflects the engagement we have had with dharma and life generally?

Of course, we die as we live, it is about a state of mind, it’s not so much what I do but how I experience. So whatever happens, if I have certain emotions, strong emotion like too much attachment, too much ignorance, too much anger, too much fear then that can become stronger so therefore what I experience in my life now creates the circumstances for what I do in the practice; that we try to let go of our fear and our aversion and attachment are the three most important things. And if you can a have a little bit of control or have a little bit less aversion, less attachment, less fear and not too much clinging then I think you can face death with much more clarity, much more confidence.

So, therefore, it’s like that but when we are in a disturbed state of mind at the time of death, death is not easy, death is not always easy, it can be a challenging time. Some people are lucky and they don’t have much pain but, because of different circumstances, different diseases, different situations, some people have more pain, some have less pain. But the most important thing is that the life has to be a preparation for the death, the practice for life is actually the practice for death. If we look into most of the vajrayana practices, the sadhanas, the creation stage and the completion stage practices, all of them are actually a direct preparation for death, this is very important to understand.

Ringu Tulku Rinpoche

Article first appeared in Living and Dying in Peace

2 Comments

Your Policy

[How to let a reader know from a one-sided conversation on the phone what the person at the other end is saying.  The obvious ploy would be to have the recipient of a phone call continuously repeat what the other is saying. But this may abrade the reader with such an obvious and redundant repetitive strategy. 

I recall Bob Newhart and his sketches about the driving instructor and Sir Walter Raleigh’s introduction of tobacco and potatoes to Queen Elizabeth I.  He had a subtle way of crafting his monologue by letting the listener infer and predict what is going on at the silent end of the conversation.]

*

[Scene]

First you pay attention to the buzzing of your phone against your thigh.  The phone’s in your pocket.  You’re sitting at your computer and really don’t want to be disturbed.  Ah!  That’s the reason, it’s on silent.

Stand up.  Remove from pocket.  Look at the screen.  Sit down.

This is an unidentified call.  Danger!  Danger!  Must be a stranger.  A Nigerian gang are after your bank details; or an Indian girl with a sweet voice wants to tell you there’s something wrong with your computer and to switch it on; or it could be a friend of a friend with some bad news … so better to answer.

  • That’s me.

  • No, I don’t think so. She didn’t mention speaking to you.  Yes, go on.

  • She did mention speaking to someone from the bank the other day.  Oh, it was you.  So, you’re Doris.  OK.  Go on.

  • I’m not on the system! What system?  My date of birth?  27 01 59

  • Hold on or phone me back? … Eh! … phone me back.

*

Switch off call.  Back to your computer screen.  Now, what were you doing?  Let’s see.  Napier University.  Published writing … that was quick.  Phone buzzing again on your desk.  Unknown call.  It’s Doris.

*

  • Yes, it’s me. Hi Doris.

  • Per month?

  • No, I don’t have my home insurance policy handy. Nineteen pounds and thirty three pence … per month?  I’m not sure how much I’m paying.

  • A cooling off? A cooling off from what.  No don’t send me the policy.  I can tell you now I don’t want the policy.

  • You mean the money is taken out of my account if I forget to cancel? What if I forget to tell you within the fifteen days that I want to cancel the policy?  I’m a bit absent-minded. Can you not just send me the policy and I’ll consider?

  • No, I don’t think so. I don’t think I like this method of selling.

  • Give me your number and I’ll check it out online and if I’m interested I’ll get back to you.

*

You don’t bother to write the number down.

One week later.

*
  • Yes, this is Mr McHaggis.

  • No, you didn’t speak to me and I don’t think you spoke to my wife. Someone called Doris called and spoke to me.

  • Why did she put me on the system?

  • Yes, she gave me a quote but I told her I wasn’t interested in the sales method and that I wanted the details in writing before I make a decision.

  • Why don’t you do that? Oh, you don’t do that.

  • No, I don’t want a cooling off period. I’m feeling cool just now … and what is there to cool off from.  Should I be feeling hot?  Do you want me to feel hot?  I have an idea, why don’t you improve your conditions of sale and get back to me in about five years and I’ll consider your offer of a policy?  Oh, and take me off your system.

  • No, don’t contact me at a later date.

  • No, I’m not interested. I have to limit my interests at my age.

*S

You hang up feeling less cool than you did five minutes ago.  You are more than a little rubicund.

Ah yes.  Bar that damn number.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Heart Sutra

 

A New Translation from the Chinese by Hanh Niêm with Commentary
______________________________

Prajna Paramita Hridaya – Heart of Perfected Wisdom

The Bodhisattva Avelokiteshvara,
Practicing the perfection of wisdom, going deep within,
Was illuminated and perceived that
All five skandhas are empty of intrinsic existence.
Thus being at one with all things,
Experiencing things directly without the intervention of thought,
All suffering and doubt ceased.

Shariputra, the appearance of form is not separate from emptiness,
Emptiness is not separate from the appearance of form,
The appearance of form is one with emptiness,
Emptiness is one with appearance of form.
The same is true for feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness-ego.

Shariputra, all dharmas – all appearance of phenomena – are mutually empty:
There is neither birth nor death,
Neither defilement nor purity,
Neither gain nor loss. Continue reading

Each Morning You Awake…

Each morning you wake and begin your inner story about the day ahead.  Much of this story is a repetition of the thousands of stories you have spu in your life. What if you could birth a new story, completely untouched by your old stories?  Would it take you somewhere you have not been before?  The beautiful thing about you is that you are a storyteller.  The challenging part is that we are not immune to our old stories or those others tell.

Bless you for being a storyteller.  May your heart’s desires write the fresh new script for your mind to direct and your behaviour to act out.  May the performance be so moving that you decide to write a new play each morning.  The seats are sure to be filled with patrons like Healing, Wonder, Discovery, and Renewal.  The sellout streak will never end.  And friends will wonder how they can get a phenomenal life like yours.

 

From Fresh Peace:  Daily Blossoming of the Soul by Jaiya John