Sunday 15 November 2015

Friday night

On Friday evening I went out to the cinema and saw Alan Bennett's The Lady in the Van. I'd read the book years ago and was looking forward to the movie. I was not disappointed. Like many in the audience I was, at times, moved to tears. As ever, what moves is the depth of humanity, our care of and compassion towards each other; true love. Bennett found the homeless woman who lived in a van on his drive for fifteen years a troubling and difficult woman. He was not captivated with the joy of a delightful encounter. Yet there is obviously recognition of and care for another human being. Caring for those that are far from easy to be with because that is what the situation requires, because our basic humanity, our heart mind, knows that this is the only way to peace, (peace of the heart irrespective of the mind) this springs from the enlightenment that gives life meaning. The story starts in 1974 and something of the times comes across. But it is not nostalgia that moves us, although it is hard to see it unfolding in the same way, if at all in this day and age. What we are touched by I think, is the knowledge that at the root of life is a sadness. It more than dukkha it's that some part of us also knows that we long to love, to transcend our all too human failings and reside in the unconditional love that holds all experience. We sit between heaven and earth, samsara and nirvana two sides of the same One.

I returned home from the cinema to the news of events in Paris. Hundreds killed or injured by terrorists. People who like me had just gone out to enjoy their Friday evening. The number of people who's life is now filled with pain and suffering as a result of this even higher; those who love those killed or injured have also be injured. We are not separate. I'm filled with sadness.

As I write live news headlines are of 'massive attacks on Isis'. I'm torn. I feel anger at the hideous acts by Isis and I want them stopped. I see that there is no negotiating with what seem like madmen. Isis seems fueled by layer upon layer of delusion. There is no rationalising with that. We have to do something. And I'm concerned that actions springing from anger don't have clear intentions. Something needs to be done. It needs to be motivated by the heart. It is difficult. When we forget that we are all connected, when we disappear into our own experience of pain and seek salvation in the suffering of what we think of as other we lose our humanity. Yet we can't reside solely in a space of unity. We are both interconnected and separate, both One and many. We must act with care.

The merit of this post is offered up for all those affected by the events in Paris on Friday night.

Sunday 20 September 2015

Life & Death

I've just been in the garden cutting the grass and tidying up. It's still looking green and quite lush even though the flowers have now all but gone. Adjacent our garden is a communal plot and some time ago a tree was removed. Putting the clippings in the compost bin I see that the roots seem to be food for this crop of mushrooms! You can see the tree stump (flat to the grass) just left of centre in the picture.

Mushrooms are the fruiting body of a fungus. Fungus forms an important part of the decay process, helping to breakdown wood and recycle the material. This picture shows part of the death of the tree root and the life of the fungus. But whenever I see fungus I can't help but focus on the decay side more than life side of this process. For me, fungus is a process of death. I think this is something to do with the fact that we are so connected with sunlight. Growth for us is connected with light. Plants are green to assist with photosynthesis. Fungus uses the work of the plant it is consuming to get its energy.

Friday 18 September 2015


A few weeks ago DC and I visited his dad and stepmother. DC's dad has dementia and is thus somewhat confused and appears to confabulate. Yet I wonder just what the relationship between his experience and 'reality' might be. It's quite a question if one stops to consider it. As he has no real purpose there is a sense of waiting about him. Waiting for the next thing to happen, be it say a meal or time for bed. The comings and goings of people seem to exercise him greatly. Most of these people appear to be in his imagination. Again our passing through space and time both in the physical world and in our imagination is perhaps more of a question than we might realise. All this seems to point to our construction of self and its dispersion in dementia. Yet what is it that remains? Our Buddha nature, life energy, ongoing relationship with others? I would say a resounding yes! In a way I can see DC's dad slipping away and yet in another only the form has changed, there is no 'slipping away'. The visit made clear to me just how 'married' DC and I are and how his dad and I are without doubt bonded through that. As we left, DC's dad kissed me goodbye (he's not done that before) and I was moved to tears. I think (before 'enlightenment') we are all waiting in one way or another. And what we are waiting for is the acceptance found in unconditional love. Visible to me in our departure was the connection between the four of us, a connection which at root is this love. Like views up the mountain this love can be seen with degrees of clarity (and sameness). I once directly experienced it as God's love (though it is perhaps better not to try to speak of such things). And I'm quite convinced that our everyday experience of the bonds of a family are of the same love if a different view. I've experienced my own self being somewhat shattered by stress and ill health and yet the glass is not wet by the water, the mirror reflecting experience is not shattered though it does reveal the shattering. Will I wonder, 'I' ever experience that love and the mirror together as my True Self? Not one glimpsed in the other but the unbounded. Paper does not refuse ink, it accepts all, like the mirror, like unconditional love. My experience still contains this duality of loved and lover yet it feels cut through with one. Yet not (yet) One.

Sunday 16 August 2015


Although I find libidinal desire much diminished from those younger days when, in hindsight, it was almost a kind of madness, every now and then I see someone who I find so attractive that I'm reminded once again of just what it is to be gay. It's not so much that they are a turn on, so much as that they are the very raw embodiment of whatever it is that gives rise to the turn on. And in that moment of perceiving there is the visceral understanding of something quite at the root of one's self. Today DC and I saw such a man. We both had the same response; a sort of stunned humorous joy. There was humour in it due to the absurdity, the absurd being the sublime and the everyday colliding together; one needs time to recover and is amused at having been so affected. I mused afterwards that my response to this man's body showed something of the way my attitude towards my own body has changed over the years. In my twenties I was so concerned with my slightness of build that I'd have found this man's musculature intimidating and would have likely been thrown into a bit of a storm of negative emotion. Now, more comfortable in my skin, I'm free to admire and be amused at my response. There's some peace in not being 'dragged about' by one's libedo and there's ammusement at this very enjoyable desire thankfully still residing within us, quite refreshed! How nice to enjoy desire without being overcome by it.

Thursday 13 August 2015

Between Heaven and Earth

Last  night DC and I traveled out to the Stonehaugh stargazing pavilion to watch the Perseids meteor shower. We took tea and plenty of warm layers - even in summer it can be chilly out there. Located on the edge of a small relatively remote forestry village the pavilion was a good destination away from the street lights of the city. It was about 11pm when we arrived and it was still, quiet and peaceful. The moonless sky clear but not fully dark; at this time of year in these parts a vestige of sunlight remains. The air perhaps slightly hazy. The night had a sanctity which imparted a natural respect for and willingness / need to remain in silence. In the starry, still, quiet night there was almost nothing but now. Under this benevolent firmament past and future started to slip away out of mind. DC enjoyed the adventure with a certain child like wonder. A family with children joined us and there was a lovely warmth. Time passes at a different rate for children and one soon asked in a natural and innocent voice 'mum, when are we going back?' Meteors were to be seen, some quite impressive but I guess he may have been a bit underwhelmed. I was feeling that sense of our being both spiritually at and away from home that such nights afford so 'back' had its own resonance for me. Suspended between Heaven and Earth we live our lives as best we can. We each seem to have two drives within us; the one to come out of unity, to experience and the other to return home. Nights like this one help us merge with the experience, we feel a resonance within the sky and within us, we feel still and yet vibrantly alive. Whatever all too human desires and associated grasping we get caught up in, taking us away from ourselves, we do have our times of returning home.

Literally returning home (to our house) we rinsed the tea flask and prepared for bed. But the sight in passing of young lovers as we set off to leave had triggered an old wound in me. They were blissfully loosing and finding  themselves in each other and in their youth. Those years did not grant me such routes to unity; I was lonely and fragmented. This night I remained capacious enough to observe this old wound; cast into this night of stillness and being came samsaric teaching. Although there was pain there was pleasure too; I was feeling the sense of having missed out yet was I not also aware of some pleasure of which I missed. Had anything been missed? To know it sufficiently to recognise it was it not as much within me? And the sanctity of the night did not become wiped out by this wound. It was time for bed. This morning DC brought me tea in bed. How lovely to live in each other like this, the everyday reality of interdependence in the joy of giving and receiving.

Sunday 5 July 2015

Returning to nature

I'm delighted at just how well the camomile I planted has taken in the gaps between the paving slabs of the patio. It's flowering now. The garden is looking lovely now and I'm considering getting some bees too. It's late in the season so this may not be the best time as a small nucleus colony may not have time to establish sufficient numbers before the autumn. I enjoy a 'potter' in the garden and I have enjoyed starting to get into beekeeping even though as luck would have it things have been stressful during the time I took the beekeeping course. The stressor has as ever been around work. Redundancy (having only just got the job), getting a job but feeling I needed to leave it and the further search... Now another opportunity has arisen and whilst I await details I've accepted an offer of employment. Being with what is and seeing my own mind search for structure and goodness knows what during protracted periods of non-working either whilst in or out of employment I can resonate with comments made here in Ajahn Sucitto's post. Incidentally I also resonate to some extent with his tale of eye contact with a tiger. Not in my case a tiger I would add! But a moment of... well, raw seeing and being seen, nature recognising its self. A moment which unfolded into an experience I prefer to honor by leaving it without crude attempt at explanation. _/\_ . Returning to chopping wood and carrying water I only hope this latest job (which is likely to involve a lot of travel) is both as successful and potentially calming as the camomile! Certainly not working pulls me into a most unnatural state of mind.

Saturday 16 May 2015

Altar unfolding

In the autumn of 2013 I posted this post about alters. Since then my physical sitting place has changed, the altar of one's life continues to unfold and the home to which all this points remains immanent and transcendent.

At the end of one of my bookshelves. The soft (cashmere) toy was a gift; see this post to see who made it. The little painted stone a gift from the same person. The little red book is plain and blank inside. It came from a Christmas cracker. I (laughingly) think of it as a little book of emptiness. Note the confetti angels too. 

My formal sitting place. I love the way this room is so calm and is used for meditation, clothes drying and spare bedroom. The picture on the wall is of a landscape with a bare tree in the foreground and the moon and a star in a twilight sky. To me it points to home. 

This Buddha is made from cement and was probably intended to sit in the garden. He was a gift from my mother. One or two of his toes were a bit damaged so I repaired them before spraying him gold. The frog reminds me to sit like him - bright and wide awareness. Thanks to Shunryu Suzuki for that.

But let's not forget the altar is not just a set up of forms, it's the interplay of the forms of life and the intent behind our actions. The merit of this post is offered to the (physically) homeless person I saw sleeping by the fire escape of my ex employer's office on the morning of my resignation.


Friday 8 May 2015


I remember driving to work the morning after the first night with DC. I felt great and thought to myself 'it feels like I'll feel great forever even though I know I won't'. We were never crazy in love but it felt right from the start. There were, as ever in life, complications but somehow we started to become a couple and the weeks grew into months and the months into years. Now in our twenty fourth year together I love him more than ever. He has been and remains one of the most influential people in my life and I know that his wisdom and kind heart spread a light in the world that touches many. We've had our difficulties and life continues to throw up challenges but his love continues to guide me. Thank you for being you my love, may we continue our journey growing old together sailing both outward and homeward and (sometimes) knowing we are home.

Friday 1 May 2015


It's spring and all around life is starting to burst out. From the kitchen window the cherry blossom is poetic and to the distance is a haze of green and copper chocolate as the leaves open on the trees. It's gently beautiful and laced with exquisite agony. I'm tired and I want to go home (to the source).

The karma that I am is struggling with itself; myself. It comes from various angles and there is little capacity for self forgiveness.

Yet the water doesn't wet the glass, the mirror is not coloured by what is reflected. What is reflected colours only itself. I'm tired and I want to go home.

And yet there are people like this in the world.

Saturday 4 April 2015

Priceless time

Listening today to The Eagles; Wasted Time, I came again to that place of reflection. It's a song about the death of a romantic relationship but I wonder is it also just as much about the little and some not so little deaths we face on our journey through life. And that line 'you're afraid it's all been wasted time' is so poignant. Has it been so far, a life well lived? Were the 'right' choices made? Well, were they ever choices? Coming out of the void, entering samsara we make our way seeking experience and perhaps eventually sensing the longing to return home. At this place is there a looking one way at the life so far lived and the other towards home; the source? And if there is doubt or sadness then what part is it that feels sad? And sad for what? The line 'So you can get on with your search, baby, and I can get on with mine' reminds us that we do seek. But it's the line 'And maybe someday we will find, that it wasn't really wasted time' that moves me to tears. Can we ever but square the circle of our own life? I'm reminded of this post on Jade Mountain Buddha Hall. Is this moment anything but complete? Whatever it might seem, we are the answer to our koan. Bodhidharma is indeed the red bearded barbarian! I just need to keep saying YES!

Wednesday 1 April 2015


I have a new job. I got the news two days ago. It's a relief not just to me but to DC too. Reading DC blog it's clear just what a wonderful man he is. Of course I don't need to read his blog to know that. We will travel on Sunday to see friends in Scotland and it should be a time of renewal.

Friday 20 March 2015

Redundant but hopefully not for long

It was great to be working as an M&E Manager for a principal contractor again. But then their cash flow problems started to ring alarm bells. Then with virtually zero notice the administrator arrives and we are all made redundant. Against my better judgment I decided to accept the administrators advice to sign on. I found that a stressful thing to do. The people working there seem ok but there is a feeling that the system seems setup to make you feel bad.  Making you wait outside the building for example because you are five minutes early. I say early not late. Job hunting is stressful. But some good leads are unfolding and I may well soon be back in a good job.

Sitting in compassion with all this is a challenge!

Wednesday 11 February 2015

How it is just now

Sometimes I see the enormous challenge that being human is. Trying to be the best person I can be and feeling so much less than the task seems to demand, there is realisation of the huge heart that is the willingness to try in each of us. I find it difficult to describe the sense of a still power which runs with the profound sweet sadness at the root of human life. At times I feel old and tired and half want to return home to the source. Yet the giving up is not yet a giving up and looking up. There's attachment and fear and some depression in there. There is working through the koan. There is interest to see how the koan arrises. There is in these mid-life years reflection; snapshots of the past sometimes vivid, perhaps more vivid than was seen at the time, at least in some ways. Or maybe that's just one more storey. What is seen at any time is not the whole picture, it's just what is salient. I wonder if there is any rhyme or reason to the salient and how much reality or truth there is in it. The saliency is not just the drama of life - all the world is indeed a stage and all the men and women indeed players, but awakening through the enactment of the drama and watching of the play. My life energy is not as open and free flowing, as joyous in this as a true letting go would generate. There seems to be much going on in all this at some level.

Saturday 24 January 2015

Life force

The pictures above are of tulips I bought to welcome home DC a couple of weeks ago. They were soon spent as I knew they would be but they were cheerful. Even spent like this they have a charm I think. They seem to be saying 'darling, it's all too much, yet what a blast'!

In various ways my OCD among other things has been draining energy away from me over the winter. This I know is part of a spent feeling I've been with for some time. That feeling is also part of mid-life and quite a lot of experience of various kinds of dukkha. Sitting with this I see both tiredness and acceptance. Cutting through ties of the past in faith and humility with compassion for myself is challenging; I find the inner critic all too active. And there is a sense of the value of experience, of life. I've heard it said that one should embark upon a spiritual life with compassion as a focus and not emptiness. Well my own experience, I think it fair to say, has been of spiritual life turning a dark emptiness full of fear into one of light, pregnant with possibility. Of the three poisons (ignorance, attachment and aversion) it's probably aversion that has had most hold over me for most of my life. The illusion of separation drives the whole process and I have my share of attachments as do us all, but you get the picture; it's fear of it all going wrong rather than craving for more experience which has been my pattern. So, with this feeling of spentness I've come to consider the life force behind both fear and desire, the birth coming from the pregnancy of emptiness. This raw energy of being in the world, described in various ways by various traditions, is for me generally dissipated in a complex web of experience. I suppose that over the years I've held the intention to cultivate awareness, and to see the reflection of experience and awareness in each other. And with this to accept what is. I'm sure that in this I've not been really present with what is, really felt the living energy of it. I know my mind will drift from part experience to part experience. As well as cultivating spaciousness there is also being with the very aliveness of the space and I probably could do with remembering that.