Monday 9 December 2013

Made Things

There is something of the utmost importance about made things. Every thing is made and in symbiotic relationship with its maker. This is life; the unknowable ground of being folds upon its self giving rise to forms which seem separate and in interaction. There is the longing to make which is the void's fecundity and the longing to return which is form's remembering its true nature.

Twice in recent days I've been near the sea and her song. Once in the darkness of a moonless night with a storm way off out to sea so that although it is calm on land the waves roll heavy onto the shore, roaring in from the horizon. And once in the day when less dramatic, the waves seem moody and hint at the feminine; the sea full of subdued emotion and pointing at the sublime. At the shore we sense the amphibian and this stirs our own longing; form and emptiness, separate yet one, longing to make yet longing to return home to merge back in; on in. Shall we approach this longing as in internal journey or an external one; foolish to draw distinction, naive not to know the difference. Beware the siren's call and yet... But the song on that moonlit night was less of the siren and more of the sea; both the sea I could see and the sea I could feel...

A while back I took these pictures (click to enlarge):

Is it a person; blue hat, red coat, stick aloft?

Sculpture - arm raised, red sleeve stick in hand

Less like a person viewed from the side

Then more recently:

a Viking in cashmere  sitting next to its maker

The photos reveal the need to make (and especially in representation of our own form). I see humour and warmth in these made things too. And while the waves of our made-ness pass by there is the faint sound of the sea; the sound of one hand clapping.

Sunday 10 November 2013


I looked up embarrassment on the (in)famous Wikipedia. Here's what I found:

Embarrassment is an emotional state of intense discomfort with oneself, experienced upon having a socially unacceptable act or condition witnessed by or revealed to others. Usually some amount of loss of honor or dignity is involved, but how much and the type depends on the embarrassing situation. It is similar to shame, except that shame may be experienced for an act known only to oneself. Also, embarrassment usually carries the connotation of being caused by an act that is merely socially unacceptable, rather than morally wrong.

The unquestioned part in this might be said to to be the notion of self and the beliefs leading to notions of 'right and wrong'. To put this another way, embarrassment is the feeling which arises to fill the gap between what I want my sense (or storey) of self to be and what the moment is demonstrating it to be. Or to be more accurate what it might be. Might, because when all is said and done I don't have the full picture in any moment. And that seeing only part of the picture is at the root of embarrassment. There is judging in all this. If I can see the illusory nature of a small separate self and / or illusory nature of the solidity of those beliefs giving rise to notions of 'right and wrong' then where is the embarrassment? But that can require a lot of spaciousness and simply being with what is arising. So embarrassment can be a gift because it's pointing to notions that might have been previously unseen; notions of separateness and unworthiness. And there is more here too. This 'what I want my sense (or storey) of self to be' needs some consideration. I believe it points up. Surrendering into any emotion has this gift and ultimately the koan unfolding. The koan or paradox of separation and unity; my own experience of a sense of separate self doing its best to survive and the bigger picture of interconnection in which this sense of separation is formed. At the level of that picture there is only acceptance and the part that is feeling embarrassed (or anything else) is held in compassion. If I am judging myself or others then where is the compassion? If my embarrassment is rooted in the belief that others will judge me then I am judging them and accusing them of judging me. And if they do, again where is the compassion? If I am not held in compassion why feel any less (than those judging)? Expanding and softening into any situation, drawing back but without creating a further separation the stillness holding the drama is revealed. The small (embarrassed) self has afforded this revelation and there is gratitude. This is personal growth as a small self grows and looks up and the sense of self diminishes.
If embarrassment arises when I feel I am not what I want or should be, from where then do these wants or shoulds come? And who is it that is feeling them? These questions are answered in the spaciousness if I can be with the feelings and let them soften. But this all takes time and as ever insight alone is not enough; I still need to give each emotion time to unfold. And in there will be found someone trying their best, looking up. A one reaching out to see. It's not a separate one seeing but One seeing. And when we smile at our foolishness in good humour we can come together, we cease judging our self and each other, see our humanity and in that seeing experience our divinity. We come out of Oneness to see, seeing takes us back.

The merit of this post is offered to Sue who is sitting with her dying mother.

Monday 4 November 2013


DC and I attended an impressive fireworks display on Saturday then had dinner with friends. The display is paid for each year from the previous year's donations. I recalled contributing last year as I dropped my money in to the collection bucket. This for me generates a great sense of community; here we are, this crowd of people collectively contributing and collectively enjoying the fruits. Great stuff.  As the winter starts to set in bonfire night is as a much a festival of light in the short dark days as it is a reminder of gunpowder, treason and plot and DC noted that Diwali would start on Sunday. I enjoyed the fireworks yet noticed too some sadness; a similar feeling to the one generated by new year's eve. It's the empty celebration. This is not the pregnant emptiness of our true nature but the hollow emptiness of jaded form. Yes it's fun to see the display and be in a crowd of cheerful people yet somehow the very scale of the display and impersonal nature of the crowd left me feeling remote. The streamers, starbursts and showers of lights formed by the fireworks seemed to distance me from the excitement they are supposed to create. It's a trait in me to slip easily in to this sort of melancholy and I observed the slip and shifted my attention but not before I recalled that feeling in childhood. I turned to DC so as to feel our closeness and not focus on the fact of aloneness; the eternal paradox of interconnection and separation. More rockets flew upwards some with whistles. Great explosions of stars formed a carapace of smoke which gave greater dramatic effect to subsequent multi coloured explosions by reflecting their light; a slowly shifting and fading backdrop glowing with the shifting play of light and dark. The huge bonfire a conflagration of leaping flames lay off to the side sending sparks off into the night sky. 'Heretics be warned' said DC. 'Mm' I said. The noise of the blasts grew and could be felt as a shock wave in the torso. I looked at the smoke and thought of those who have suffered in war. Beyond the smoke and any cloud the firmament remained.

The display over the crowd dispersed filling the streets. A queue had formed at the chip shop and others made their way through the supermarket. DC and I hurried back to our friend's house to get dinner going and meet up with others who would have been in the crowd watching the display. There was a sense of people moving towards their food.

It's taken me a couple of days to get round to writing this post and the ideas I had on Saturday for it have faded. Today I visited someone in hospital. His company has done some work for me and we have got on well in the short time we've spent together. I knew what this visit could be about before I arrived at his bed side to hear him tell me that he had been given twelve months to live. He only received the news a few days ago and it is still 'sinking in'. Our lives are a strange mixture and very fragile. Yet as the fireworks end and the embers of the fire cool beyond the clouds of our delusion the firmament remains; not as a solid carapace above us but as the unborn.

The merit of this post is for Bill and those who love him.

Monday 28 October 2013

What is it that wants to happen?

There has been a lot of toing and froing between Scotland and Newcastle for me of late and various job interviews. One such led to an offer of employment. But the offer was to go back into a design office with a very unhealthy set up. No thankyou. The process has confirmed for me my desire to stay related to the industry but not under crazy conditions. Truly looking at what one wants and facing the consequences can be both painfully difficult and liberating. The thing with desire is not I believe, so much that it is a 'bad' thing so much as truly looking into the desire to see what it is about at a deeper level is scary. This is not clinging to the surface features of desire but listening to its depths. Yet this deeper calling is what gives life its meaning and purpose. It may or may not bring happiness but it will if given sufficient time and energy bring an honest expression to life. This expression is I believe the very reason for our coming out of unity, out of the void. And, it is by looking into the depths of desire not just the surface that we might find our way back to unity and to a peace within the midst of the storm. Such looking and listening, sitting with what is emerging and acting from the deepest gut is in my experience often clouded by a whole range of thoughts and emotions. Which of the panoply of these stories and sensations is the deep gut, the heart mind? That is the question I ask in challenging conditions. Or put another way, what is it that needs to happen? It was tricky sitting with the panoply arising in the job chase of late but I am now sure I made the right decisions.

Recently a friend sent me a link to the revolverheld unzertrennlich music video. There can't be a gay man (particularly of my generation) who isn't touched by this video. The beauty of the video is I would suggest, in the acknowledgment of the (deeper) desire for unity, in the response of the heart mind. As ever, our humanity is in form's expression of emptiness. This is desire's true meaning and purpose. It will not always bring the surface fun, joy and excitement shown in the video but it gives body to the life we lead and life to the body we live it with. It is not so much work to live verses live to work as living the work of one's life.

Friday 4 October 2013


Occasionally I consider setting up a more formal altar. I sit zazen each day and do have a Buddha figure in the location(s) I sit but I have not set up the usual altar arrangement. Why not? Because despite the help that 'props' of one kind or another can be, at bottom I am not given to formalistic ritual; I am more given to the aspiration to be in meditation not just 'on the cushion' but off it too, to see the world as the altar of my life, my life as the unfolding of a deeper movement of which I might glimpse. I don't want to set up 'out there' or other spiritual places and I find formal altars allegorical. And yet, I notice that I do have in each of the places I regularly sit some setting which represents the divine, a divine here and now, immanent and transcendent. The arrangement and location of altar and the place to sit zazen for me immediately bring to awareness the form of meditation and ask the question 'what is meditation?'; to just sit, to take aim for no target without trying, to notice as much of what is unfolding without becoming, not to reject and not to cling, an open, alert awareness including inside and outside the notion of self and other. Where in this is the altar? Where does the heart mind sit? And if this is a koan on the cushion how much more so in daily life!

We each have our way of being in the world; life's expression of itself in each other. I recall:

‘Peace is the state of distinctness without domination, with the distinct participating in each other.’
(Adorno, ‘Subject and object’, in The Essential Frankfurt School Reader, ed. Andrew Arato and Eike Gebhardt (Oxford: Blackwell, 1978), 497–511 (p. 500).)
A quote DC finds 'always brings a lump' to his throat.
Can we find the altar of our lives in our interactions and treat each unfolding moment be it a joy or a challenge as a sacred theatre? Even if I fail in this aspiration is the holding of and returning to it not an altar? Without the failing there would be no challenge and no meaning in the aspiration. Can I remember to keep returning to the precepts? I can given time. I can't all the time. Each time drama unfolds it takes me time to work it through, to gain insight into what has been brewing. I need to stay with it yet not become it. The place holding this is the altar and the drama is the offering. When at last I see it, there is the heart mind.
Small 'altars' integrated into (physical) items of daily living:

Music is a great pointer to spirit

Nature inside and out

Unfolding in time; growing and flowering before passing

Confetti angels with trumpets - my dear friend always puts them in his cards to me 

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Demon to tea

A couple of weeks ago with a little too much time on my hands one of my demons came to see me. I decided to really invite him in, to deliberately put myself in the place where we face each other; the place the button gets pressed. The result was a complex mixture of emotions resulting in a fairly deep depression. Fortunately I retained objectivity and knew that this was 'the black dog' and not some sustaining truth. The 'black dog' moved off on Friday. Depression it is said is anger spread thin. There certainly seemed to be truth in that this time; the emotional mix was grief, sadness, shame, anger, and confusion. And there is self loathing lurking in the roots of it. I believe in looking at my demons because I think they have something valuable to tell me. I know I have to 'invite them to tea'. The trouble is that they have such poor table manners and I don't always remember that the tea party can take longer than perhaps I'd reckoned on! The depression was just part of the party. This demon is a big one. It's complex and I can't see it all in one go. I also have a feeling that my relationship with it is at the level of my life force; the desire to have experience, to live, to be in the world. All demons are about our wanting our experience to be a certain way; the nature of samsara. But beyond little and/or unwholesome desires there is the very will to live. I believe we come out of unity in order that the very unity of which we are might see itself. This is my understanding of nirvana in samsara; that the two are one and the same. So, I notice I experience desires which seem to run very deep and although they may not be clear I feel they point to my reason for being in the world. It is as if some part of me is saying 'look closely; this is what you came here (into human form) for'. Now a demon tied up with this is guarding a treasure. Not a trinket or a toy but, I believe, a dharma gate and the path back to the market place. Could it be that the gift of this demon is to see the nature of the very will to live; the nature of birth and death? I've got shame around this demon; the shame is part of him. This is because I feel I've wasted time in my life through fear and perhaps (for me) worse, ignorance. I find it difficult to accept not knowing, being ignorant. This too is about fear. When triggers in everyday life get mixed up with feeling that I have in the past and/or still am in the present wasting my life I am looking at this demon. There are complex issues of feelings from the past which I believe were not fully felt at the time together with feelings about the present. This makes it difficult to know how much is historic and how much is contemporary. As ever with such things all one can do is to invite softening, keep breathing and gently hold the question 'what is it that wants to emerge?'.  Not pushing away/repressing, not getting too caught up. But I have to say I don't find it easy to keep the master at home when big demons come to tea, even if they do get invited! Perhaps an interesting question is 'just who is it that invites them?'

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Desire; not so simple methinks

A few times recently I've recalled this post about Blue. There is intended in the post a pointing to my sense of a sort of coming home to myself. I find this post on Jade Mountain Buddha Hall interesting in that there is a picture of a blue moon lit sky starting a post about desire.

Tuesday 6 August 2013


Sitting at my desk, looking at my computer I notice a small patch of light slowly drifting, as if floating through the air. I pay it attention to realise that it is a small rainbow and one of a number now cast upon surfaces in the room. Ah, I thought, the sun is now low enough to shine through the small glass angel shaped rainbow maker hanging in my window. A pleasant way to be reminded that autumn is approaching. Another year is slipping gently by, sometimes at an alarming rate. By August gardens take on a spent look and September is preparing to make that clear. Soon it will be fast approaching Christmas. But summer is not gone yet.

I feel an acute need for a new spring in my own life. This is a chronic condition and one requiring both the effort of action and the non-effort of patience! There is a need to notice saṃkhāra-dukkha and the necessity of the creative act. The economic conditions are still difficult and new opportunities seem few. I find it challenging to face what can seem like my own lack of imagination yet I know that there is a lesson in surrender; not a giving up but accepting. In many ways it is a good summer, one still here, and I must not let desire for any kind of spring bring on the worst parts of winter! It is another glorious day today and I feel it calling me to walk in the countryside.

Thursday 1 August 2013

Eros v Control

I started this post some weeks ago.

On a Friday evening:

Looking out my window I see him
Lovely in a boy next door way
Late teens early twenties
Clean, relaxed and happy
She stands next to him in her socks
Throws her shoes down
He kneels, puts them on her feet
She stands (child like) and lets him
I notice my objection to her (playing the child) and also
my awareness that I could be mistaken
He reaches around her leg to tie the lace as if it were on his own foot
She runs her fingers through his hair
I feel it - soft and thick
Pangs of longing and sadness - she has what was out of my reach...
He stands, they kiss tenderly for some time
I feel the desire in him
I note (my fancy of?) the manipulation in her
Suddenly they part and run off together
I feel a familiar wretchedness

What is wretched for me is the recollection of my own experience in those years. Struggling to accept my homosexuality and with low self esteem I was not playful and relaxed and not enjoying intimate relationship. For years I thought the only loss was the simple erotic connection. But of course the real loss is in the wider emotional aspect. The pain remaining is rooted not just in what was not but in the deeper who I was.

Ah well, the years since then have passed and now the weeks since looking out my window upon this scene have also passed.

Last night I watched program about a number of people with OCD undergoing intensive treatment at a camp in the USA. Seeing this group of people I recalled just how debilitating my own experience of OCD was from about age nine to thirteen. Back then the term was not in common usage and I thought I was the only person in the world with the feelings and rituals. I was scared people would think I was crazy and that I would have to undergo some treatment that might make me worse. I never went to see a 'professional'  for help and that may or may not have been wise. I was ashamed and exhausted. At eleven I so wanted a holiday from myself and realised that that was not possible. By thirteen I decided to go cold turkey and just stop. I must have intuitively hit on what is now known as exposure and ritual prevention and I freed myself from the prison of OCD. Or, maybe it just faded in intensity as I somehow learned to cope with uncertainty. For many years I thought I had just a few residual habits left over from OCD. But of course that's not quite true, in reality OCD is a condition which in my experience has receded to virtually nothing and can resurface under certain conditions. Thankfully though, I've not been imprisoned by it the way I was as a child since deciding to stop. But it is nevertheless, an insidious condition from which I think one is always recovering. OCD is a coping strategy to deal with risk, with the uncertain. I was trying to gain control to strike a bargain with the unknown; I do this ritual and the bad thing I've just thought of or feel won't happen. I must have been feeling a pressure of uncertainty from a very young age to come to OCD. Now I see this in terms of emptiness; I saw the frailty of everything, that things are insubstantial and subject to change as conditions arise and pass and that the change can come sudden and 'out of the blue'. This is seeing emptiness, interdependent origination and the arising of the moment from the reality of a single point of consciousness at an age when I simply did not have the wisdom to cope with it. Scary stuff. At about eleven I was shocked by the realisation that I would be a different person had my surroundings and family been different; where was the essential me?

So it was against this background that I came to the realisation at about fourteen that those feelings of being different from a young age now had another aspect; I was attracted to the boys not the girls. I decided that I would grow out of it. I knew only too well the mental pain of self loathing and I knew I would likely feel terrible about myself if I acted upon those oh so deep cravings to be intimate with another male. So started the compartmentalisation of my sexuality. It would take years to take the compartment walls down. There would be no relaxed youthful intimacy. Sexual freedom as a gay man would be won only as a process involving considerable risk and uncertainty. The very things OCD is about avoiding. Eros, the creative impulse, is stifled by excessive control and yet without control Eros is powerless.

Monday 24 June 2013


I was struck by the vibrancy of the poppies shown here. The display 'pulled me up sharp' as I suddenly saw it before me.

Sunday 16 June 2013


This past week the weather has been fine; summer has finally arrived. By June the cold, late spring came to a fairly abrupt end and everything which had been waiting to grow sprang into life in the gardens and countryside. Now the first flush of spring is fading, early flowers have past and I note a slight feeling of distress. It feels like summer has only just arrived yet it is already racing into autumn! Soon it will be the longest day! In my mind it is only the turn of the year yet here we are halfway through! It's something I forget;  each plant has it's own annual cycle, not all flowers have a long season, although some do, and there are early and late bloomers. Nonetheless, my favorite time of year is the late spring / early summer. Everything seems full of promise. Funny how as that promise unfolds into the present there can be a sense of loss; maybe it's because I live in Northern Britain where the winter is long and the summer short or maybe it's something more in my own conditioning. There's no getting away from impermanence. And thank goodness for that! What would life be without it? And interesting to see this little bit of dukkha spring up as I see the fallen flowers. Did I soak them up enough when they were in their prime? Is that very thought just more craving? As I write I see that my reaction to what is going on in the garden may well be a reflection of my feelings about my 46th birthday tomorrow. I'd no idea I was going to write that! Anyway, life is good and the Buddha land is ever present. More and more this becomes my reality.

Saturday 15 June 2013


I was washing some things by hand this morning and as the sun shone in through the window it illuminated this deep Red. 'Wow, what is it?' I thought. Followed by, 'Don't think, be'. I noticed some sense of a Red seen long ago, some essential RED, vibrant, fun and joyous, somehow full of promise. A vague recollection of, of what? Childhood? I dashed for my phone to take a picture. The sun had faded a bit by the time I got back but here is the picture.

Under water the colours are bright and rich. Above water the light is reflected and the Red is replaced by White. The contrast of other colours lends vibrancy to the Red. Stripes add playfulness.  :)

Wednesday 22 May 2013

And then released...

A morning this week:

Me: 'How are you?'
My friend: 'I feel happy!' Bright smile and an element of surprise.
Me: 'So do I; I wonder what it is... I wouldn't worry; it'll pass.' Bright smile.
We acknowledge each other and the fleeting nature of it all; things arising and passing. Joy.

Later this week followed a separate exchange with someone else about psychological 'baggage' and therapy. We agreed that acknowledging but not becoming our stuff requires ongoing effort. We mused over the balance between feeling as opposed to repressing on the one hand and indulging on the other. Further, we agreed, sometimes therapy is good; it can move things on, help get a clearer and more helpful picture. But too much going over stuff is just running ones finger around the groove. It doesn't help, it just wears the groove deeper. At some point one has to just stop it. Bob Newhart's comedy sketch came to mind.

Oh if it were that simple! Some wounds are deep and it's probably true that they can't be fully healed or at least there will always be some scar tissue and some pain. And yes this can be enriching, it can make one wiser and more compassionate. As in the words of the Leonard Cohen song;

    Forget your perfect offering
    There's a crack in everything
    That's where the light gets in

Today there has been drama unfolding and passing in my life; buttons being pressed, roles being lived out. I am still a bit mystified as to just what personal scripts of mine seem to have been running in all this! Sometimes I feel like a caricature of myself.  Actually it can be a bit of a one man pantomime! Life as an other of my great friends points out is a great gift. He is of course pointing to life's wonderful way of teaching.

Then tonight over dinner with my friend moments of open and honest sharing of long held suffering and the ongoing journey to feel it, understand it and turn it from suffering into (just) pain and to heal that into acceptable discomfort unfolded and passed. The moments pass and our connection is gently deepened.

Then I read Jade Mountain Buddha Hall and see that RM Mugo points to the need to put things down. And to do this with compassion. Yes! Coming to see what is being held and to put it down with compassion especially when we do this together is a very deep aspect of our humanity. Our stories are not to be thought of as just baggage to be put down; they need to be honoured, held in compassion and then released. Going, going, going on beyond, always going on beyond, always becoming Buddha.

Friday 17 May 2013

What it is about blue

Last night reading in bed with Satie gnossiennes - 1. lent playing I glanced up at the window opposite. It was the blue hour and through the curved top sash window the sky was deep blue and glossy; blue glass. Both the music and this blue glass each individually take me to a space of contemplation, together more so. A portal opens. I think of those Rothko paintings that though muted somehow form a pulsating portal through which we might almost step through. Almost; the transcendent remaining somehow visible and yet remote. No, this blue glass forms a frame through which it seems I've already passed; somehow although it remains 'out there' on the other side of the room, I am already through. The sky beyond though not visible as such is much deeper than the distance to the window and I am somehow there; through the window. And there is the sensation of BLUE. No other colour has this energy.

Friday 3 May 2013

Surender (and you are home)

Last Sunday I returned to Cluny. I would have been back sooner but I was laid low by some kind of 'flu and so a week at home turned into two. I'd returned home to be with DC when he came back from a month in India. The thing is, 'home' starts to feel like 'holiday'; I live and work in the Findhorn Foundation in Northeast Scotland and have a home a whole day's travel away in the Northeast of England. I've been living this way for the best part of the past three years and DC and I have developed a long distance relationship. I have disassociated home from one physical location; I have a life spread over two places. However, 'home' remains our house and us together in England. This way of living has changed things and I've no idea where it is going or how long it will continue. Reflecting on this yesterday I felt I was treading water and generally stuck. Then I reflect over events of the morning and see that life is calling me to become involved in yet another project in the FF. I make a further contribution, reflect on my day and see that there is no stuckness  in it. There is a lot of engaged surrender to life. This surrender does not come without fear and some resistance; some not surrendering, but largely I am at home with things as they unfold including the fear.  And in truth how much control do any of us really have? I / we fear what may unfold and feel a need to control events to prevent fears becoming facts. We are not without influence, we do have some stear over the direction of our lives if not the road it travels, but our control is limited and so much fear is wasted energy. I am guided by a 'spiritual' aspiration, practically that is an aspiration to follow the Buddhist precepts. I don't hold the words of these in mind. I hope the core of the precepts has entered into my way of being and living, that I live by the dharma. Of course at times I fail to follow the precepts. Meditation off the cushion shows this up and in so doing demonstrates the dharma. This is 'home'.

I check Lee's blog Future Health 2020  later in the evening and see he refers to my words to him about surender. I am touched that I may have given him something of use on his journey. And deeper, I hope that in someway the dharma is becoming part of his reality too. His blog is a real inspiration.  Then later my friend Susan and I talked; it was a wonderful and deep sharing. Not hugely emotional but very deep. Each of us seem to have worked through many of our demons and have surrendered to life as it unfolds in each moment. Susan is going 'non-res'; moving out of living in community and into her own home. One way or another we reflect on 'home'.

My friend (and spiritual guide) Rev Master Mugo says 'give up and look up'. This points to surrender, to giving up and not giving in, to accept what comes and doing what needs to be done. Be it a quiet day, a busy day, a healthy day, a day with the 'flu or a day with cancer it is an other day. We surrender and find we are at home. May we all be at home and in good health and may the merit of this post be with you Lee.

Thursday 18 April 2013

Blessings to you Lee

A number of times over the past few weeks I've thought to write about what was unfolding. Usually it's been one of those times when both the drama of human life and the stillness holding the drama have been visible to me. Those times when it's possible to see not just (possibly unreasonable) behavior but the pain generating it in an other person together with a sense of my own emotional response and an awareness of holding the situation without becoming it (well, at least not too much). The extent that 'the master is at home' varies in my day to day experience and there is nothing like a bit of a drama to let me see just how aware I am; do I get hooked and carried away in habitual response or remain present and compassionate? Those were the seedlings of a post, but the time and energy to write did not collided; the muse eluded me. Then a friend pointed me in the direction of Lee's blog Future Health 2020. Reading it I feel Lee writes well and conveys the depth of his journey. In this post Lee writes of 'the call to action' inspired by this:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor (sic) all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!” 
 William Hutchinson Murray (1913-1996), from his 1951 book The Scottish Himalayan Expedition.

I first came across these words when doing The Mastery workshop some years ago. The workshop was originally developed by Dan Fauci and the one I did was run by amongst others, the very insightful India Brown who lives and works in the Findhorn Foundation. It's probably fair to say that a slight 'Findhorn twist' is given to the presentation of the workshop (by virtue of the language used) as it is run by India. The 'call to action' was however, very much a part of the workshop. What holds us back? What stops us living each day as if this (moment) is all there is? It could be a projection, but I've a feeling Lee is taking a moment grabbing approach to his journey with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and I imagine it will take him to a deep part of himself, a part that in its stillness holds all. Blessings on you Lee, keep putting one foot in front of the other doing what the moment is asking of you with as much heart as you can muster. There is a majesty in that.

Sunday 31 March 2013

Happy Easter

Saw this today on a notice board; I find it very funny!

Interesting is the notion of a self, sort of separate from but affected by the body... The joke is around awareness... Or so I suppose.

However you view the resurrection of Christ, however you interpret 'spirit' may the light be with you. Happy Easter.

Saturday 30 March 2013


Comming down from Cairngorm

 Lock Morlich

After many grey days today was bright and beautiful. I knew it would be exhilarating on Cairngorm and at loch Morlich. It was; the white snow, blue sky and green evergreen trees were truly stunning. I took a visitor to these parts with me and he loved it. Sharing adds to the experience. Solitude brings a particular connection with one's self and the world and has a place. But sharing a thing, a view, whatever, can add to the enjoyment of it. On a day like today, with no worries in mind and having been busy and productive yesterday and in the moment taking in a wonderful view, life is good.

Sunday 24 March 2013

Spiritual Deepening

Towards the end of the week I found out that I did not get either of two jobs for which I'd attended interviews the previous week. All interviews had gone very well; a phone interview then a face to face in each case. Feedback at all stages was very positive yet in the end the permanent job was given to a 'slightly stronger candidate' and the other, a temporary job is now on hold until they work out if they can use existing resource. I was disappointed but this disappointment was tempered by the knowledge that I had a 'gut feeling' that both jobs had some issue / problem around them. So emotionally the task was to feel in to the various options that might arise; one offer, two offers, timing etc. to best be able to make a decision without getting too attached in case the result was no offer. I seem to have managed that for the most part but obviously it's also rather draining. Expanding beyond the wish to have job, relationship and house all in one area, there is the need to make home be where 'I' am and with what is. And as part of that to hold 'I' lightly; not to beat myself up and / or make 'things heavy'. There is no separate 'I'. DC reminded me today as we skyped that this is about more than just 'a job'; it's about the place (or mind set / awareness) which I am in. This is something which I was sitting with when considering the potential of each job and my being back in the Findhorn Foundation holding a number of built environment projects. Added to this consideration at the mental and 'gut' levels were several comments made by people that there is work here for me to do. I was also asked to consider really letting go the fears and attachments; the aspects that drain energy away and to truly responded to what is in front. In this place we must 'eat our rice'. All of it! No shoving it around the plate, no wanting some other rice or ignoring part of it and yet also no thinking that we see the whole plate. This is where the job is - holding and delivering projects in the Findhorn Foundation. Some part of my own process probably fears losing the skill set to 'get things done' out in the commercial world and even without any fearful aspect there is just the difference in sensibility between the two ways of working and living. And DC was making a point not just about holding whatever arises lightly. More than that, his point was that not only do I still have the 'get things done ability', I also have a spiritual awareness.  And as DC pointed out, I am at home in both the world of the commercial construction sector and the world of a spiritually focused community. His point was to see the ongoing spiritual deepening in this interplay between purpose (or job), self and home. In a way this is a point about the interplay of being and doing; being the fullest person possible who does what there is to do. That's more than just a job.

RM Mugo points to this being with what is in this post on Jade Mountain Buddha Hall and the post links to a post on Field Of Merit by Rev Alicia. I suppose both posts in a way point to the creative moment and the liberation of not just tolerance but acceptance. The rice is rather enjoyable then, even if it's not quite what might be otherwise chosen. Although sometimes I find some spoonfuls most unpalatable! That opening paragraph in RM Mugo's post certainly struck a chord with me. And I am not talking about job rejections here. No, sometimes life is very hard. Yet this very difficulty, the very sadness inherent in it, affords the most beautiful meaning to our lives.

At present my job is in the FF and it is here because I've the ability to get things done in the built environment as part of a practical spirituality.

Tuesday 19 March 2013


Time flows on; an other windowsill, an other bloom. Compare with a post last year. Again I have the amaryllis on loan whilst my friend is away. I recalled last years pictures but until I looked I'd not known the post title was 'Time passing'. The wheel turns. Although the weather is still cold and there has been snow this past week in parts of the UK, there is more than a hint the winter is drawing to an end as hints of spring start to swell in the buds of garden plants and house plants like the amaryllis do their thing. There has been much toing and froing over the last few weeks and I am sitting waiting to see what the results will be; where I wonder, will I be over the summer?

Friday 8 March 2013

Nicholas Heiney

On Wednesday I listened to a program on Radio 4 in which the writings of Nicholas Heiney were brought to life. I was at times in tears. He was clearly a beautiful and gifted 'soul'. He committed suicide aged twenty three and I wondered; would I feel so moved by his writing if he was still alive? I think the answer is yes! For me he seems to have touched (at such a young age) and described with great clarity, and wisdom the very kernel of human life, the very heart of spiritual awareness.  There is (for me) something of the utmost importance in the expression of such wisdom in the life of a person. Bless you Nicholas.

His writings have been collated in to a book:


Monday 4 March 2013

A Little Aside

I overheard this today and could not but chuckle;

'Our group has been decimated; half of them have gone over to the park.'

One in Two

There is a Oneness to be found in two which is not so distinctly accessible in say three. I am thinking of the communion possible between two people, especially lovers. A pairing of two people in the sexual act gives rise to a sense of oneness / Oneness which is quite possibly available in groups but certainly much harder to locate. What is interesting in this I think is the axis that exists between a sense of aloneness / separateness and unity ( / Unity), and in particular the part that sex and various forms of love play in the location of this axis. In making eye contact with an other person we form a connection which (inevitably) excludes (except perhaps in our imagination) the other eyes that might be around us. In this connection we see / know ourself and the (so called) other to be joined. This knowing is not the same as the a concept or thought held in the mind, a concept such as the awareness of others being there but not looked at. It is a direct communion. This  direct communion happens in groups but not in my experience in the way and depth of my communion with one (so called) other.

Friday 22 February 2013

Feeding Each Other

DC and I have had a lovely sociable time of late with friends coming round for dinner; I've done some lovely meals if I do say so my self! I am due to return to Scotland for an unspecified time and I'll miss being here with DC. Last night with friends we were talking about the terrible direction the ConDem coalition government have taken and the dreadful effects of thirty odd years of neoliberalism. It's depressing and frightening; we are being driven back to the way things were (in terms of social care) before WWII. And I am convinced that this and NOT any so called balancing of the budget is the motive of this (Tory for that is what it is) government. We all agreed that everywhere is fear and that seems to be what the government want. I commented that there is a general agreement in 'spiritual' traditions that an axis exists with love at one end and fear at the other. To generate conditions which fuel fear is to generate conditions which reduce love and that is evil. I don't want to start listing the catalogue of crazy and harmful policies this government have pursued. It was bad enough watching Tony Blair and New Labour continue down the neoliberal path but this head long smash and grab charge is something else! At a time when the world so needs to look towards collective care we are being driven in the opposite direction. The majority of people are finding it harder to feed (in the broadest terms) themselves let alone feed others and that is a recipe for disaster. We have to move in the direction of love not competition.

Sunday 10 February 2013

Fire and Brimstone Zen

I couldn't resist this title! This morning putting on my T shirt:

'I like this T-shirt; I've had it for years and it has lasted very well'. I commented to DC.

'And we never tire of seeing you you in it.' He returned.

'I'd wear the same things all the time...' I started.

'No you wouldn't, we wouldn't let you.' He returned. He probably could see I was slipping into an anti fashion rant.

'There is just a fetish for change. The universe is changing all the time, there is no need to seek change for its own sake. It's about two different types of desire; the universe's natural desire for things to happen, which is the desire that makes trees grow way up there and the kind of desire which is like chasing a carrot on a stick' I said.

'That's your fire and brimstone Zen' DC said.

Now, I stopped and reflected on that. Because for me 'fire and brimstone' has a negative connotation. Negative because it is judgmental and more often than not preached by those with a fragile, maladjusted egoistic self lacking in compassion. Or to put it an other way, those who in one way or an other are chasing some kind of a carrot; a carrot promising salvation by being better than others. Was I coming from some unwholesome attachment and if so to what? Two risks come to mind; 1) propping up a self by being better than those 'less spiritual' - spiritual materialism and 2) lack of engagement with pleasurable things (as they naturally arise) in order not to have to deal with the subsequent loss when they go. In all honesty I think I can answer no to both of these. I like the things I like to stay the same; I don't want a different version just for the change, I find that sort of change tiresome. This is the attachment for me; I like consistency, I am averse to a lot of change. And this was my point; things change all the time, we don't need to press the accelerator and fuel it with carrot chasing desire. Too much of life has been steered by the belief that we do and I would argue that the whole financial crisis we are all now facing is as a result of this. I put on more clothes. I like the feeling of thinking I look good in some item of clothing. I like my T-shirt, blue 501 jeans, and trainers look. I know it's a bit dated but I like to think it's also a bit timeless; the sort of look that actually still looks viable in photos ten, twenty, thirty years later. This I think is the mark of good aesthetics; the test of time. Fashion by its very nature dates.

Of the three poisons (which in Buddhism are ignorance, attachment and aversion,) aversion is probably the one that gets a hold over (the ignorant self of) me! Recently I've realised that a lot of my difficulties have come from what might be seen as a lack of desire and an excess of aversion. A lack of desire? Can that be right? No; it's not lack of desire it's probably more lack of interest. More specifically lack of interest in what seems to be on offer and lack of imagination to do something about it. Which is to judge that I am not making the most of life. Umm... that sounds like a trap... And one without much self compassion. Judgmental and lacking in compassion... fire and brimstone. It seems I might be coming from some unwholesome place after all...! The mirror having no stand and no place for dust to land is still there waiting to be dusted!

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Is That All There Is?

Soul music on Radio 4 featured the song 'Is that all there is?' this week. If you are reading this post close to today's date then listen to the program on iPlayer. Here on youtube is a recording of Peggy Lee singing this wonderful song. There is great acceptance and warmth in the lyrics and music and Peggy Lee's performance is perfect. Life is bitter sweet, full of disappointment yet also full of meaning and depth. It might not be at times all we would wish for, yet also for the most not as awful as we might fear. We can accept what is, we can keep dancing. What else is there? There is no need to despair, no need to haste our exit from this life. And those final lines of the song go on to remind us that when the time comes to face it, even death may well be one more experience for which the response is - 'is that all there is [to death] then lets keep dancing'. In a less playful way Adorno would remind us - ‘Grayness could not fill us with despair if our minds did not harbor the concept of different colors, scattered traces of which are not absent from the negative whole. (Adorno, Negative Dialectics, 377–8.) But let's not end with a negative note, no, lets keep dancing. Keep facing the koan, keep breathing, keep dancing. And, supported by a 'spiritual perspective' we can keep dancing with awareness (we need not break out the booze). We are all connected in one big mixed bag of a dance, remembering that can save a lot of suffering and bring a lot of fun. For me, in its own way the song 'Is that all there is?' goes some way to pointing to the four noble truths and remembering the koan which inspired the title of this blog (case 5 Mumonkan) it reminds me that the only way to give an answer when hanging in a tree by your mouth is to keep dancing, but dance with compassion.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

UN Trade Report 2012

Further to my post of the 20th I followed some of the links in George Monbiot's article, specifically this one to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development report 2012. The summery and conclusions sections speak for themselves (even if the body of the report is a bit financially technical). Why has this not featured VERY CLEARLY in the news? As Monbiot says this report 'should have been an obituary for the neoliberal model developed by Hayek and Friedman and their disciples. It shows unequivocally that their policies have created the opposite outcomes to those they predicted.' Given the economic difficulties we are now facing it will be even more difficult to envision an economic system not based on continued growth and able to deliver true prosperity for all. Yet our so called leaders can't even seem to free themselves from the neoliberal model yet alone consider stable, sustainable models not based on continued growth. The world so very much needs true visionaries, elders, statesmen and stateswomen. I wonder if they will come forth.

Considering my own position on all this I ask myself 'is this so David or are you caught up in your own prejudices?' My feeling is that I've always mistrusted this whole neoliberal movement and that I've been right to doubt it. I wonder what place doubt in the minds of our politicians? There doesn't seem much evidence of the kind of doubt spoken of in spiritual practice.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Black & White

These pictures were taken with my phone, which takes colour pictures! But winter trees and snow under a heavy sky and more falling snow produce a black and white world!

Sunday 20 January 2013

Time to see how we are connected

I usually start the day with a check of email followed by a look at the BBC news website. I found this article about soldiers returning from Helmand very moving, so sad. And other even more devastating stories could be told. And they are so young. Just why do we (as a species) do this?

A bit of an internet trawl to see how people are feeling about the austerity measures we are being made to undertake produced this result with which I find I am in deep agreement. The UK government economic policy is not about sensible solutions it's ideology.

There is a link between fighting wars and neoliberalism. I am not referring to the whole grubby business of making money out of arms trading, no, the link is far more basic; a belief that we are separate beings in competition with each other. And this is my fundamental objection to right wing politics and the awful neoliberal experiment of the past thirty years; it ruins communities. And as the failure of the Western economic system has shown, it also ruins economies. The big problem now as I see it is how to generate stable communities, finances, work, environments and services to enable people to live reasonably peaceful and meaningful lives. Clearly any sustainable solution can't rely on continued growth; we live on a finite planet and can't keep digging stuff out of holes in the ground to make things to throw away into other holes in the ground. Nor can we throw huge numbers of people into unemployment and expect society to thrive. We have to move away from this failed experiment and make the financial sector the servant of nations, not the master. And George Monbiot is right; it's about power not economics. There is yet an other war going on here; the one between the ultra-rich and the majority of people on the planet.

Tuesday 15 January 2013


This picture is not the one I was looking to take this morning but it will suffice to illustrate what came to mind as I looked out on the snowy scene about the house. We are fortunate to have a view across several tree filled large gardens and this morning the trees were white with snow and the scene was still and clear. I immediately thought to take a photo and write a post but I knew my eye and mind together were capturing (/ making) an image which the lens on any digital camera device to hand would not replicate. Sure enough, as soon as I looked at the image on the screen my doubts were confirmed so I headed out for a walk with a view to getting an image. By the time I'd arrived at my intended subject(s) the snow had started to melt and  the image above was the best I could get. There is too much action in this picture, movement is prevalent; the tyre marks, the car, the foot prints, the people in the distance... BUT, there is also the stillness in the snow covered trees. And in that respect it's not a bad picture. The picture I was looking for was all stillness, all white branches, spacious and light filled. Why? Because that was what greeted me in my first glimpse looking out this morning and I responded with a silent  ah! The 'ah!' I then thought, is because scenes like that show the stillness which even the busiest times and places are cut through with; the very stillness which holds all. The poets write of such scenes because they do indeed seem to point to the very truth of reality; we find ourselves in zazen. The scene seems to help us 'take aim for no target without trying'! I guess this happens in part because snow covers up variation and smooths everything out into basic forms. Colour is reduced yet where present it is more vivid. The extraneous noise (literal and metaphoric) is stripped away and we are left with a more direct experience.  Of course this is in part because the scene is novel for us but it is also because virgin snow implies that movement has not (yet) taken place. Foot steps are not present, moving and melting is yet to come... Not that zazen is about stripping away anything. Zazen isn't about anything. Just seeing moment to moment, non-dual.

I had my porridge and looked at the news on the internet. Two stories took my attention, one about garlic smuggling and one about DNA samples from gay men. The first story just sounds bizarre! But in fact it's about trade and not paying import duty. The second story raises questions. The thing that jumped out of this story for me though, was this: 'a former soldier from Salford, was convicted of gross indecency in 1983 because he had sex with another soldier when both men were under 21, which was then the homosexual age of consent'. When I beat myself up for not coming out sooner it is because I forget that that was the climate back then! I turned sixteen in 1983. I went out for my walk.

Normally in a post I like to tie-in the various strands to one common theme and that gives me the title. This time I am going to leave it at that... 

Wednesday 9 January 2013

Misguided feeling

Somewhat out of the blue came an OCD flare-up at the end of last week. Well, maybe not out of the blue; there was a bit of stress to trigger it. It has passed now. For many years I used to think that I had got over OCD and just had some residual habits left. I used to think this because I would recall how it was as child up until about thirteen when it would be excruciating. At about thirteen I found I could control it; I could just stop the rituals and tolerate the discomfort and it would subside. I would go cold turkey, I had discovered what I now know to be called Exposure and Ritual Prevention. At that time I (and for that matter most people in my world) had never heard the description Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and I had no name for what I was experiencing, was terrified that people would think I was crazy, was ashamed about it and received no professional help. It must be six or seven years ago that a therapist suggested to me that my OCD was probably not so much cured but (well) managed. Thinking back to the excruciating times between nine (when I think it started) and thirteen I thought 'no, it's nothing like that'. And that was and is true and I am not consumed by the compulsive need to carry out nulling routiens. But the therapist was right in some respects and much of my anxiety did and does still manifest in OCD. There is a particular flavor to it; an insidious gripping doubt coupled with a feeling of great peril a sense of responsibility and a need to make it safe. It being some aspect of life and more generally life its self. Such feelings cloud rational judgment and skew the perception of the odds of things going wrong towards the bleak. As a child I had seen emptiness too soon, way before I could cope with it let alone fully understand its fullness. OCD was a desperate attempt at control. In some way it probably helped me survive the awful feelings that triggered it; that is why we adopt such strategies. And like all attempts to control the world out there, it ends up controlling one's internal world. I am experienced now in observing my own body-mind and see much more clearly how thoughts and feelings resonate. So called rational thought has a lot more to do with the feeling of the thought than might be supposed. And it is in the feeling of things that the stickiness of OCD resides.

As a child I was particularly sensitive to unwholesome energies. I still am. This colored how I understood my OCD.  I perceived some malevolence that I felt I needed to protect myself against. It felt like somehow my (intrusive?) thoughts could make bad things happen and I would have to cancel them out with (what I now know are called) nulling routines and magical thinking. I realised that I was making some kind of a deal; I do the routines and the bad things won't happen. And that meant that there was some force that had power to do bad or stop it. And that force was thus not nice because the default seemed to be to do bad. There must have been (at least) two things happening here; 1) OCD - a psychological response to the feelings of vulnerability and the associated need to control, 2) a sensitivity to the energies around me. A mix of genuine spiritual insight (and sensitivity) and magical thinking was playing out in the experience of a sensitive small boy. When I look back on that boy now I see he has a radiant sensitivity to his inner and outer world and I wonder just how separate they seemed to him.

Now OCD is part of common speech (although I wonder how much people understand about it) and I have a far greater appreciation of the nature of life / the universe. And that appreciation is inextricably linked to the Three Jewels. The interesting thing about last week's flare up is that yet again I see that insight alone is not enough. The same stuff comes up. BUT it passes quicker. In that respect insight is enough.