Sunday 22 November 2009


To follow on from the last posting (Flight), the other side of the coin so to speak is the stillness of home, for we are already home in the spiritual sense, the journey to see that, to return to where we never left. Recent postings on Jade Mountains and got me to thinking about the stream of consciousness, the river of life. Becoming the watcher, the stillness, acceptance.

The river analogy can be pushed a bit too before the imagery fails. As we age, like the river, we broaden, run slower but deeper. The journey down river valley from mountain spring to the ocean does seem to resonate with the shape of the ageing our lives to some extent. But the watcher stands still in the stream and the stream ages.

The day to day practice of the journey home is I suppose, at the intersection of watching and action. The Jade Mountains post pointing for me to deep connection with what one is doing. Deeper than one might be aware. Knowing at some level that this or that action is an honest expression of life. The thinkingBuddha post looking at the nature of perception is a reminder that we don't in ordinary awareness get the whole picture. We move the center and size of our awareness and in the process co-create ourselves and the world. I am thinking here of my experience in zazen. And then there is time to consider and the gap between where my awareness seems to have just been and now, except now always seems to have just moved on ahead of me... This gap (and) the interplay between watcher and watched, stillness and movement.

(Is it that) somehow as we 'watch' the lark's flight and feel a gap (the gap?) we become aware of both this side of the the gap and the other, for we are already home and yet not(?) Who watches and from where?

Monday 16 November 2009


When I hear the lark ascend in Vaughan Williams' The lark ascending I feel a just out of reachness, like the lark can't quite get there, like we (or should I say I) can't quite get there. Where ever there is. Does the music point to that feeling of wanting to go home in the spiritual sense? Am I just confusing this with some existential feeling of being out of kilter? And in (an adult's) crying this same out of reachness, like the tears try to fill the gap. Such crying could be over any loss and not closely connected to spiritual home sickness. Yet there is I suppose, at the root of all pain, a gap between where we feel we want or need to be and where the universe appears to have placed us. A gap born of our illusion of separation, our incarnation in the physical body in the material world.

(Setting aside yet sparing a thought for those with terrible physical pain and) thinking of emotional suffering, the pain of impeded heart connection can't be so far from our spiritual home sickness. The desire for unity flavored by attachments, form desiring form. This way of taking an interest, that way of reacting to events etc. mirrored and projected in each individual's awareness as personalities interact. And in the mirroring and projections how much authenticity? How close the less adapted selves? And how close the path of adaption of each self? What is the complexity of our interactions with each other? How big the gap in each exchange? What is it that draws one into various forms of intimacy with others? How many aspects of ourselves can we connect with in an other? Such complex chemistry, each preference moving us from unconditional love to romantic attachment. Our aloneness reaching out.

Intellectualising it doesn't take away the feelings. Fly high dear lark.

Saturday 14 November 2009


What is the relationship of the evolutionary biology model of life on earth to the perennial philosophy? No, I am not thinking about why Richard Dawkins is wrong, or rather why is it that he misses the key to the whole does God exist argument? Namely that there is no Archimedian point, it's all interdependently originated and he doesn't seem to get the point about the definition of God. If you want to debate first define your terms and all that. But let's not get into that argument, Voltaire is attributed with 'God is a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere.

Evolutionary biology sits comfortably for me within interdependent origination. There seems to be in the void a desire to be, to give rise to as many forms as we see, and there are lots of forms, lots of creatures and lots of things. None of this sheds much light on the ground of being, the nature of the void, the unanswerable question 'is it divine?' It's not just about the mechanism by which forms emerge, the nature of the observer needs to be considered.

Anyway, the question I was thinking about is the relationship between desire and enlightenment. Now, as I understand it, most spiritual traditions can be summed up by the perennial philosophy, which broadly speaking, tels us to practice non-attachment, see the emptiness in things and aim to stop being dragged around by desire. With this approach acceptance or compassion arises and we become an expression of the source, charitable love. Bingo, enlightenment. Would that it were that quick and simple! But, to return to the question, 'what's this got to do with desire, and what's that got to do with evolutionary biology?'. Well, desire to survive is the basis of evolution and evolution seems to have given the universe human beings, the most aware creatures in the material world. You see that I acknowledge the problem of not having an Archimedian point; reality is bounded by our experience, so we can't limit it just to the material, so we can't rule out more aware beings. Indeed, from a spiritual point of view we assume that there are more aware beings, but at this point we move out of the limits of the material world away from form is form. Yet it is in a human life that we have the chance to practice a spiritual tradition, to seek enlightenment. And so the void in generating forms, in generating evolution (including desire) gives rise to the opportunity for enlightenment. Desire being an interesting link, an interesting way to look at things, a frame (which I think of as a device by which we might understand the way the void forms by folding forms over each other), is the driving force behind all this including the opportunity for enlightenment. Unless I've got something very wrong in my thinking. But then I recall, from my post in January on Vitality;

...that in his book 'Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist' DT Suzuki writes about trisna (tanha) as:...more deeply rooted than we imagine, as it grows straight out of the root of karuna.

So I've had this sort of thought running around in my head for a bit it would seem. And why is it of interest? Because, I think it points to a very important question; what is it that one should desire? What is a life well lived?

Wednesday 11 November 2009


I've just watched BBC4's Timeshift program about the Clyde shipyards and the men who worked there. The series has been looking at the great ocean liners and hence this program about the yards. It's the same old British industrial story; men like lions working in appalling conditions demonstrating some of the very best of human nature who were let down by under investment. There were some very moving moments in the program when determination, inventiveness, skill, comradeship and fantastic good will shone through. Most British heavy industry has gone now. No one wants to see the appalling conditions revisited but that we have not reshaped those industries into their modern equivalents forming part of a 'sustainable' future is I think, regrettable.

A thought for those who suffered in those yards.

Friday 6 November 2009


I was going to do the introductory retreat at Throsell this weekend but have just cancelled. This is the second time I have planned to go and then cancelled. This time it became apparent that I am at present in no fit state to do it. I am distraught. And that is no way to be at the start of a potentially fairly demanding retreat.

Why am I distraught? Can't say in public. But the big life shaping items are under pressure. And practice, is it the foundation of my copping? To be honest, it helps but it is clear to me that I am nowhere near the type for whom non-attachment and a relaxed view of life comes naturally. But then who is? To care, to really care in the widest way available to me, to try to be true to what I sense is before me, is f***ing hard. And I, like others have many attachments and when time takes things away I need to grieve. And that is painful, too painful I feel to cope with in retreat, I'd rather be in my usual surroundings with my usual degree of notional control; home. May the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas help me see the right way home, because the way has been unclear for me, let alone The Way. And I point here to one more loss; I will always let mySelf down because I am (only?) a self and that self can't at this point commit wholeheartedly to Self. At times I can't even separate out the conflicting demands of my head, heart and intuition. And I feel that I've not done well in recent years finding joy and purpose and integrating those in a playful way with practice.

But not all is maelstrom, no, a stillness is present.