Sunday, 11 December 2022

Waves and Stars

I am ready to admit that I am not going to 'make it' as a mystic. Yes there have been perhaps glimpses but basically I'm not given to it. Whilst it can't ever be ruled out, I've 'looked in to' my disposition for long enough and from various 'angles' and attempted to neither 'look' nor not 'look' in to what 'angles' arise and I see my koan arising time and again and it becomes apparent, or so it seems, that I'm really held so tightly by the koan that the jewel of direct appreciation is likely to remain for me a distant star by which I might at best steer but whose warmth is too distant to feel. I think it's fair to say I've not chased such 'warmth' in any event but I've tried to live in such a way that there might be the possibility... And this was because without doing so... without the star, there would be the darkness, however bright the lights of the everyday, there would be revealing them the darkness and the awful fear that one day it would cloud in so close and dense that the lights would only serve to illuminate it rather than each other. And I say ready to admit because as the image of the star grows so dim and the realisation that the fear arguably at the root of the koan is likely part of the landscape of experience for life then meaning and acceptance become as ever, the koan. Which is a roundabout way of saying that, that what? Indeed! And so I continue to put one foot in front of the other, observe the koan, struggle with the practicalities of the current situation and know that whilst there is inflection in my relationship with dharma there remains that star both distant and right here. The living dharma isn't negated or otherwise by an individual experience mystical or otherwise. 

Yesterday walking through the dunes (the tide was high and the beach impassable in places) back towards Warkworth DC and I conversed infrequently, rather we enjoyed the stunning vistas. Our walk was slightly longer in distance and time than typically it would have been due to the circuitous route up and down dunes trying to stay close to the sea yet out of its waves. It was frosty and in places slippery. However, at one point we came back to a familiar subject - consciousness. In different ways and with different language we converged around the question - are the physicalists right, is consciousness a product of complex physical structures and that's it OR is matter something that comes out of consciousness? Chickens and eggs? Well, actually the question was a bit more nuanced and the discourse somewhat more dendritic but I've not the impetus right now to go into the detail. Suffice to say we were of a mind on the unknowable nature of all this.

Just what is our true nature? It would be easy to write here something relatively smooth and affirmative, something pointing to that distant star which is right here and now. In truth, the question hangs and the thoughts and feelings are mixed and muddy. DC and I are fortunate, right now there is much strife and pain in the world yet we are relatively protected. There are some difficult problems with which we must interact and find ways of meeting and moving forward. Some of those have triggered past trauma and that is very challenging to sit with, find the way to place each foot and live each day. And so the ways we are fortunate and the ways I am dealing with trauma blend in a complex way and it is far from easy.

Sometimes the dharma is clear and there is joy. These are the times of peace and equanimity and wisdom seems simple. Sometimes the challenges are great, one is overwhelmed, it's difficult to find firm ground and wisdom seems elusive or at least one struggles to be settled by it. If one truly knew such times would end soon and all would be well we might better be able to steady ourselves in the storm, or possibly not.

I look forward to Christmas in the Scottish highlands with friends. Although the Findhorn Foundation has all but gone there remain embers and maybe one day something may rise phoenix like. Some of my friends there sit in the post covid flux and try to respond as best they can with a willingness to serve. For my own part, whilst I'd not seen myself returning to live in the community it's been saddening to witness its demise. The FF was a gateway for me and we served each other with a depth not necessarily apparent and I do feel it to have been my spiritual home. At times the 'floopyness' would infuriate me but more often times it was only holding a mirror to my inability to relax, trust and be confident that good enough was good enough. Riding the waves and trusting isn't something I find any easier as the decades pass, or maybe I do... Sometimes the waves engulf me but I've not forgot the stars. And beside me is DC who always keeps an eye on them.

Monday, 10 October 2022

Rob Fisher

 I think I first met Rob in Cluny lounge in 2011. He had returned to the Findhorn Foundation after a number of years away and hoped to join Cluny maintenance department. As things worked out what was on offer was to focalise the department and joining without focalising wasn't an option. I recall him saying it wasn't what he wanted, he just wanted to work without having to be responsible for running things. We must have got chatting and he must have told me something of his time in Cluny maintenance in the past. And so I ventured that well, it seemed that as he didn't want to leave he'd no choice really but to stay and focalise. And he agreed, and that was that. I had come to back Cluny for personal reasons (as everyone does) and to help get fire safety works completed. A project I'd work closely with India Brown to plan and procure and Rob would eventually liaise with during the installation phase when various fire compartments would be formed by the addition of fire doors. Rob and I would work separately and together on various Cluny projects over about three years, we share thoughts, food, work time and free time. It was a time of rubbing along. Things with Rob were generally factual or funny but rarely about feelings. In a place which could be swamped with people having this or that 'process' and unpacking and likely as not repacking their feelings he was generally 'process' free. Not long after I left Cluny Rob left and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He passed away on the 5th October 2022. My memory of Rob is that of a warm and gentle man, who although he could sometimes seem a little lost was content without too much and who I never heard say an unkind word. He was a Mr gadget, a boy scout, he had no idea how to cook, he struggled with the Cluny vegetarian diet due to various food intolerances, seemed not in the least bit a romantic but was at heart looking for the warmth of relationship. His previous relationship of some years had broken down but it seemed to me to have been a long one and he'd experienced something of the unfolding of a shared life. He's remembered fondly by a number of people and I think it fitting to remember him by the photo and my blog post from back in 2012 copied below. Please follow the link and think of him.

An Autumn Day - republished for Rob Fisher

The merit of this post is for Rob Fisher. He came to my mind with the memory of the above post (and with that of Richard Adams, former Cluny resident, now also passed away) on the day of his passing.

Bless you Rob.

And Bless you Richard.


Wednesday, 10 August 2022


 It is a beautiful day today; a clear blue sky, barely a breeze, the air warm and soft. Some memory of the summer of '76 seems to float through my mind. Six weeks of summer holiday from school, day after day of hot sunny weather, the burn at the bottom of our street still flowing but presumably more navigable by kids in wellies. We lived in wellies; up in the mornings and out to play, back only when hungry or called in because it was time to eat or time for bed, all day making dens, damming the burn, flicking green slime weed off the end of sticks on to the bridge over the burn, fishing with nets on bamboo canes for sticklebacks and putting them back. We had rings on our legs where the wellie tops would rub. I recall a steel washing line post in the lane at the back of the terrace of Tyneside flats where we lived. Unpainted, rust pitted and weathered by the elements and use to a semi-silk finish, the polished rust flowing on to the slopping concrete apron in which the post was set... Hot concrete, hot metal, hot lethargic minutes which seemed like hours and hours. And now it's forty-six years on. Other childhood days down the dene and in or on the edge of the burn now a memory. I recall playing with the idea of making a water-wheel to drive my bike dynamo in the burn. I badgered dad - could he not bring me from work a little wheel with some paddles set in it and an axel and a way of attaching to the dynamo splines? I knew he worked in a factory that made turbines for power stations. Surely if they could do that they could make me what I Neeeded. He did bring a wheel of sorts and a shaft of sorts, obviously not what was required but it didn't matter; there was something to try in the water. Although likely disappointed at the lack of suitable resource for the endeavour I must have learned a lot about the difficulties involved. Small steps to the future engineer. Much has unfolded in the intervening years. Time collapses like the remnants of a bubble when memories come like this and the unfolding of one moment in to the next that is life seems to be as much a dream as anything... Concepts such as 'my mind', past, present, self etc. seem to be in some way exposed and questioned, a faint sense of something, some no-thing emerges. Out of nothing or no-thing, emerges everything.

Monday, 1 August 2022


 I had planned to include the following image in my last post but forgot.

The picture is of the National Theatre, South bank, London. I very much like this building and find the architecture uplifting. I took the picture with the intention to write the previous post in mind and wanted to include a reference to the building. I wanted to point to the spirituality inherent in a work which illuminates our nature and that of the materials and forms around us. The spirituality in beauty. And there is beauty in this building. 

Saturday, 30 July 2022

Travels in the South of France

DC and I have just returned from a holiday in the South of France. We had tried to rearrange this once it became apparent that we'd be in the middle of a heat wave (now accepted as the reality of climate change) but it proved not possible to do so. In practice our accommodation was able to keep the temperatures reasonable by airing in the morning and closing up the windows and shutters through the hottest part of the day. Transport (by trains and hire car) was air conditioned and we gradually adapted to the heat by staying in the cooler indoor spaces during the hottest parts of the day and giving our bodies a chance to acclimatise. Travel was affected by various delays and we ended up spending an unplanned night in Paris travelling both Southwards and back North again.

In the Ardeche we stayed first with our friends at their place near Le Teil then at The Lotus Tree a gay guesthouse we'd last visited almost twenty years ago. It was delightful to see our friends Nick and Kalyani again and to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the place they've worked hard to create. Nick is one of a limited number of people I know who I feel understands me deeply and I miss having him geographically close. DC and I participated in a tea ceremony with some other guests held by Nick and as ever he brough the practice to life and for me at least dharma shone through as the water was heated, tea and bowls were prepared, placed, turned and offered. Wisps and turns of vapour rose from the kettle spout and vanished in the air. The beautiful shape, colour and fine matt texture of the bows and kettles evoked in me that indescribable glimpse of I know not what yet know it deeply... the tea preparation and pouring bringing them to life and illuminating the space in which they and I existed as the ever present moment. I love the aesthetics of the paraphernalia of tea ceremony and would take the environs of any retreat venue off in that direction but I know it's not for everyone and Nick and Kalyani have their own tastes and need keep an eye on that to which a broad spectrum of guests are drawn; I let the attraction arise and pass in me, recalled at some point Nick's comment years ago that I was looking for something very pure and inhaled the aroma of the tea. Outside it was hot. There were other opportunities to share time with Nick and I noticed that I didn't have a whole lot of words to share but rather just needed to 'land'. Time for that process can't be rushed and so in practice turned out to be short. Hopefully we can all connect more by Zoom or WhatsApp in future.

Nick and Kalyani have a young dog. He's a trained truffle hunting dog and will work in the season to find the precious fungi and I'm sure he will love that. He was full of play and as he looked at me and I at him I thought he had a dragon face and so I would play with him and call him dragon face. He teased me as much as I teased him when we played at throwing and fetching. Bless him. He's a kindly dragon me thinks. How wonderous this seeing each other even though we're not the same species. Those comments made years ago in conversation when Nick referred to the search for something very pure were made in response to comments of my own about an engaged 'spirituality' out in the world and as authentic as possible. But it isn't so much a search as just putting one foot in front of the other as the clouds pass. Attraction to or interest in something - that deeper 'helpful' aspect of desire provides a 'natural' steer.

Our relocation for the last three nights in the Ardeche to The Lotus Tree - named not after any allusions to any kind of spirituality but rather and quite simply after the two Lotus trees at the entrance to the property brought a change in culture. When we last visited times were different and so were we. Whereas in the past it felt important to have gay venues such as this it now seemed not only far less important but slightly isolating to me. It did however, illuminate the way in which I'd felt at home in our previous location. As ever moving between cultures revealed our made-ness and DC indicated he felt the same - his gentle warmth as ever imparting a positive appreciation of the extents of our travels in more ways than one.

As we'd visited the Ardeche before we'd 'done' the 'must go see' and felt at liberty to stay put. In the heat this was in any event the only sensible approach. However, we did get out to visit a couple of caves whilst staying at each venue. We knew they were cool and thus a perfect outing. We were both impressed by these and felt the sublime in the size and timescales of their formation. Geology, if you stop and really take it in shows how tiny our everyday lives are. BUT, our seeing this is something truly vast. In all the billions of stars in the vast vast universe there is the Sun and in its orbit is Earth and on Earth in a tiny moment of what we have come to call time has arisen LIFE! And yet there is more! Humans are part of this life and they have the capacity to reflect upon and appreciate that which they see, that which they are. Like the cosmos, geology evokes wonder in us. Exploring the earth or exploring the sky we come face to face with the sublime and our capacity to appreciate it. And we are not separate from this and so we are moved. And so it was that in the second cave we visited I stood contemplating the vast timescale of the making of the vista before me (huge stalagmites which take thousands of years to grow millimetres, in caverns which took thousands of years to form as seas formed and dried...) and my own arising to be there taking this in and was moved not only by the beauty of the vista but also by the awakening of stardust in conscious human life. One can only blink in amazement at that. I stood and let it sit in me, me in it... drips of water landed on the top of a stalagmite and exploded into myriad smaller droplets and were gone. The cave as patient as the air that held the wisps of water vapour from the tea kettle. I knew it again deeply although it eluded me. Photos below from the two caves. Click on them and look closely and note the majesty.

In the above photo an urn can be seen - this holds the ashes of the cave explorer who first ventured into this network of caves.

A manakin suspended to indicate the first people who descended into the cave.

Our return journey was delayed such that we had time to spend late afternoon and evening in Paris. We decided to visit Notre-Dame and I was struck by the efforts to build and now after the fire rebuild it once more. Again I found myself moved, in part by the sublime but more by the very best in what we humans can be, in our ingenuity and capacity to care, to love. Once more little Ox footprints...

A crane and scaffold erected - springing up out of our determination to create.

Storyboard showing workers inside the fire damaged cathedral - they wear breathing apparatus to protect themselves from the lead. The restoration will be so complex...

Moments in our trip seemed  to hold out for me those glimpses of our deeper nature, our 'spiritual' roots but maybe I was simply 'wearing those goggles' time to time.

Thursday, 30 June 2022

Good Luck To You Leo Grand

 DC and I have just been to see Good Luck To You Leo Grand at the Tyneside cinema. (I love the Tyneside cinema it's a great independent cinema and so much nicer than the multiplex chains.) We both enjoyed the movie and commented to each other on the humanity and genuine care depicted whilst at the same time staying clear of sentimentality. (Follow the link above to get the plot.)

What kept coming to me throughout the movie was the word tissue and an image of a sheet of gently forming and disappearing tissue paper sort of between us the viewer and the body of the actor, not directly between but to the side and within the movie. It's not so much that the various selves, persona etc. are a tissue of lies but rather that the fabric of our selves is fabricated and more mesh than solid. This is a movie put together I think by someone who knows their transpersonal psychology and clearly the character behind Leo knows his. We have layers here and we pass through them - Leo Grand, Connor, McCormack, Nancy Stokes, Susan Robinson, Emma Thompson. The vehicle taking us through is the depiction of Susan's fantasies and the crossing of boundaries as she looses sight of the professional relationship in which Leo exists and imagines extending into the 'real' life of Connor. Here we start to see the fuzziness of 'real' and that tissue paper forms and disappears in my mind. Overlaid in this I consider their conversation about sex work and the question set by Nancy to her religious education students asking if sex work should be legalised. Like the periods of history when acting was regarded to some degree as immoral we see that the question might be more usefully framed as to what degree can sex work or any other work keep Leo separate from Connor and Nancy separate from Susan? As ever the interesting thing about human sexuality is its complexity and ability to reveal. The revelation might be as small as the details of a fantasy or as enormous as the realms of existence. If ever an aspect of humanity might bridge the formless and the formed and be captured by a name that name is sex. In this it is essentially spiritual. Connor is towards the sacred intimate end of the sex work spectrum. By the end of their sessions together Susan is substantially more free to wander playfully in the garden of her existence and we are touched by the honesty of her and Connor seeing, respecting and caring for each other without attachment.

We need a self solid enough to see its fluidity, fluid enough to be in the moment without being washed away. Well, something like that... some pithy epithet that captures the sage like wisdom needed to enjoy what is to be enjoyed in the challenge of a human life... 'There is no test..' says Leo to Nancy whilst trying to relax her '...only a dance'. Of course there's no test but we are tested. Life is not without challenges. What comes back again to me in contemplation of all this is perhaps summed up by the meditative question 'who sits?'

Leo is good looking and has a gym toned body. At the end of the movie Susan admires her aged form - it's a nice touch and thinking about it now I can imagine a different version of the movie with a less attractive Leo... and I seem to recall that sort of territory (as well as a woman searching for her first orgasm) is rather beautifully explored the movie Shortbus which I think I'll watch again...

Sunday, 1 May 2022

Forty Years

DC and I visited the Granary Gallery in Berwick on Saturday and saw an exhibition of prints from various artists. Details from MutualArt website:

The Printed Line showcases the work of nearly 60 artists who have used a variety of printmaking techniques to exploit the potential of the printed line, from the thick velvety line of drypoint and the heavy cross-hatching of etching to delicate wood engraving and boldly coloured screenprints. The use of colour will be explored in screenprints by Bridget Riley and Kenneth Martin, as well as Simon Patterson’s witty lithograph, which reworks the lines of the London tube map.

The exhibition features a number of celebrated artists, spanning the 20th century to the present day, including: Walter Sickert’s masterly cross-hatched etching The Old Middlesex (c.1910), Ben Nicholson’s rich drypoint Halse Town 1949 (1949), a bold etching by Eduardo Chillida and David Hockney’s pared-down linear etchings.

All the prints in this exhibition are from the Arts Council Collection, which is the largest loan collection of modern and contemporary British art and includes fine examples of work by all of this country’s most prominent artists.

We'd not researched this exhibition and I'd no expectations arriving at the gallery.

The following print by Hockney I found delightful. More naturalistic than the stylistic work which has become his trademark, and dated 1966 just before the 1967 sexual offences act, the picture conveys a beautiful and gentle connection between the two men depicted. This connection, clearly post coital, is one of calm peaceful presence - the men are at one with themselves and each other - spiritually speaking, sex has done its work; union at multiple levels flows between them.

Returning home I listened to Shine on You Crazy Dimond by Pink Floyd and let Spotify wander off to play what it considers related tracks. The Spotify algorithms seemed to get it right for me and played stuff which fitted my mood. A mood which has been growing over the past day or so. I'd captured part of it over lunch before we went to the gallery in a conversation with DC as follows: I was 12 in 1979 shortly after the general election which brought Thatcher to power. Effectively as I started leaving childhood and developing more adult ways of thinking neoliberalism was taking a pernicious hold and aided by the industrial woes of the time, perhaps one might say under cover of those woes, it would dismantle and redirect the zeitgeist. It could have all been so different, a progressive, inclusive left, focused on improving life for the many, taking due consideration of emerging environmental understanding and building on and cherishing the progress made in the earlier post war period both those immediately following the war and those of the 1960's, might have taken the need for individual freedoms and woven them into a collective engagement rather than exploited greed as a vehicle for all that has inevitably unfolded as did the right.

Sensitive and in many ways the classic gay boy I'd hated competitive sport and was painfully aware I think of the vulnerability of human life as a child. In another version of the universe things might have unfolded so as to be fertile ground for such a child to blossom. But in the one we're in the ground would be more grist to the mill... a feeling of going against the grain or bumping over the tracks has been I think, an underlying current throughout most of my life. Doubtless we all feel this in some way at some times but that turn in direction in 1979 has I feel, set things in a mode ill conceived and tiring. 

I suppose I'm indulging in a fantasy that some fictitious alternative history would have been more fulfilling. This is dukkha. However, there's more here than tanha. Desire as I've said before isn't so simple - it has its pitfalls but without it where are we? What's important here is a feeling of connection with one's integrity. At the moment conditions are challenging me greatly and so connection with my integrity is essential. What does this mean? At present it means acknowledging the fears, being with the thoughts and feelings and giving life time. Time to let deepest desire become clear through the fear, not to let only part of experience fill awareness. Being with and not judging, not trying to control but still having care. I'm blessed to have DC with me. He's so steady and a natural optimist. His mind and heart are of the very best. Together we allow each other to be the very best, the very most we might be. This is the unfolding of deepest desire. What do I mean by deepest here? I mean life's desire to be - to exist to create. In our depths we know what is good, we recognise it by its warmth. We know beauty, wonder and peace. Perhaps that fantasy of an alternative history isn't so much an indulgence as a reminder that we need to remember our humanity. That I think is what has been almost totally abandoned by neoliberalism. And the kick back is seen in populism. You might find calling anything an 'ism problematic - any definition by nature is partial, we know that. But I think the use here is a convenient and reasonable shorthand. In truth I have faired well economically and I'm grateful for that. I see the progress made through my lifetime, I was remember, born about the time of the picture above in1967 the year of the sexual offences act and looking about it's plain that much of the 'revolution' of the '60's has come to pass. Much is good. Yet many of the traditional political ills play out - plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. What is delightful in the picture above is how we see the hubbub, the drama, the travails, all that,  fall away... and left is being, being together. Being together with DC continues to deepen and I'm grateful for that. Being, doing, intention, time / timelessness and our creativity... These I think are present in the Hockney picture above. And implicit I think is a message about an individuals truth - that they can only be who they are. This would come over in a depiction of any couple in unity but it's more stated in a work showing two gay men drawn in 1966. It's nice as per my previous post to see that this last point has faded - that a work showing two gay men is no longer as significant. Progress has been made and depending upon your politics you'll say either because of or in spite of the individualism which has marked the past forty years. It's a complex picture.

Friday, 29 April 2022


 DC and I usually take an early evening walk along the Derwent Walk, a former railway line. It's decades since any trains ran the alignment and the route is for pedestrians and cyclists now but we sometimes note that looking down the path you almost get the sense of a steam train, like a ghost train, trains that once were... a past time that almost passes through present time. The past in the present. I suppose it's the vestiges of the old railway that we see and our knowledge of other railways fills in and colours what we perceive with things that might be assumed missing from a certain picture, a picture of railway that's been awakened by those vestiges. It doesn't seem like that of course. It seems like you can almost see a train, sense the motion and perhaps steam and smoke...

Yesterday on Radio 4's Today program there was an item about a TV series called Heartstopper. Apparently it's about gay teenage love and the interesting thing is that the drama frames this as a simple first love, teen thing with little gay angst and all the usual 'old gay stories' of coming out and struggling for acceptance. So things have moved on, it's a non-issue. The guest talking about this drama said it was the drama he would have liked to have been on TV in his teens rather than being a teen in the time of Section 28 - a horrible piece of late 1980's legislation by the Thatcher government aimed at banning the 'promotion of homosexuality'. His comments about shame and feeling he'd committed a 'thought crime' for fancying another boy and trying to purge such thoughts from his mind for fear they would show on his face struck a chord with me. My own teens were in the early '80's so I'm a little older than him but yes, that's how it was and I felt the usual sadness well up. The interview continued to explain that a number of men of our age feel a melancholy over this and there are comments about the teen romance that we so wish we could have had but of course did not have. This is ground I've written about before, usually when something triggers the memory and the past comes into the present. Of course the past is in the present, as is the future. It's not that there's some person who would be as they are irrespective of the past, that those experiences we didn't have somehow can be said not to matter because that's all gone now, all in the past. Things we didn't have like things we did have, have made us what we are in the present. The melancholy isn't so much about the past as the present, the scars are still with us. But not just the scars. All human life is difficult and in the words of the song 'there's a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in'.

Long gone trains appearing on repurposed alignments, memories reawakening, shared memories, shared stories, vestiges of the past... this is part of the nature of the present and ultimately the future. And as DC and I have said a few times recently, time isn't as linear as we assume. More and more I see the interconnectedness of things not just in the present but across time too. It is spring now and everything in nature is bursting out - fresh green leaves and wonderful flowers. There are Bluebells, one of DC's favourites in the woods and it is lovely in the sunshine. I remember to look up and be thankful that here we're not directly affected by the wars that are taking place in the world and that despite the environmental emergency there's still nature to cherish. I'm glad times have improved in many ways and I hope as a species we can more and more see the interconnectedness of everything and act with wisdom and from the heart - a new spring in our ways.

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Enlightenment - Warp and Weft

It was back in early 2006 when I first started to explore what is somewhat vaguely called 'the spiritual aspect of our existence'. I say vague because by its very nature any definition of 'spiritual' is only approximate or tangential. I was finding my way after the rug had been puled out from under me and Findhorn Foundation (FF) Experience Week (FX) quickly led me to Zen Buddhism. How I ended up doing FX  is a whole other story but it's fair to say that the eyebrows of a number of friends were raised. I had been what might be called a rationalist fundamentalist and the FF was out there floopy - woo woo. In practice though that woo woo would be a swift gate to wu (wu Chinees or mu Japanese). And it was in that period of fairly rapid shift when my friend John Kennedy recommended The Doors of Perception by Aldus Huxley. I read it with interest and my recollection is that the concepts fitted with much else I was studying although I knew that the chemical way to adjust what Huxley referred to as the 'reducing valve of the mind' was not for me. No, my path would be zazen. (And zazen has been my way from that time to this.) The Doors of Perception has sat unread in my library since that time. So then, it was interesting to read a quote of Huxley in a work colleague's email:

“To be enlightened is to be aware, always, of total reality in its immanent otherness - to be aware of it and yet remain in a condition to survive as an animal. Our goal is to discover that we have always been where we ought to be. Unhappily we make the task exceedingly difficult for ourselves."

I responded that Huxley captures it well and that I recall Meister Eckhart is quoted as below by D.T Suzuki in a chapter titled ‘A little point and satori’ in his book Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist

"The union of the soul with God is far more inward than that of the soul and the body… Now, I might ask, how stands it with the soul that is lost in God? Does the soul find herself or not? To this I will answer as it appears to me, that the soul finds herself in the point where every rational being understands itself with itself. Although it sinks in the eternity of the divine essence, yet it can never reach the ground. Therefore God has left a little point wherein the soul turns back upon itself and finds itself, and knows itself to be a creature."

And as I also said in my response I have investigated this quite deeply over the years. The rug pulled out from under me had left me one way or another with little choice. Now what is tricky to convey concisely here is how the terms self, soul, God, creature and awareness might be understood. It is here that mu the first koan in the Mumonkan (The Gateless Gate) sprang up for me and still does. Because in some ways as Huxley (among others) points out that we have always been where we ought to be, that is to say that mu is clear, it is yet also hiding in plain sight. We are conditioned, dependently originated and deeply connected. Whilst constantly in flux (indeed we are that flux) there is that which sustains and there is a movement between the absolute (the unborn) and the relative (of everyday life). Not nothing but no-thing, form and emptiness mutually revealing. That of course is all very well but do I remain in playful samadhi? Nope! And so here I remember the inspiration for the title of this blog- Case 5 in the Mumonkan - Kyōen's "Man up a tree". Now I've interpreted (or imagined) this koan as pointing to a number of aspects of my life - my Buddha nature and my everyday interactions. And in particular a bit like Kyōen when the rug was pulled from under him what was I to do, how would I put one foot in front of the other? That is to say with much of what I'd thought I could rely upon as who and what I was shattered, what place in the world and what place the world in me could I find? Painful as those times were the gift was nothing less than the flowering of an understanding which surpassed anything I would have come to I think had the rug remained. There would be other challenges too, most notably the Red Thread koan. And here I return to my love, my DC who has been with me on the journey of my life for thirty years. He is a most wonderful man, the finest of heart and mind. And vicissitudes or not I'm grateful that we have always been where we ought to be - warp and weft weaving our life together.

"To be enlightened is to be aware, always, of total reality in its immanent otherness - to be aware of it and yet remain in a condition to survive as an animal." I sort of see this as the warp and weft of form and emptiness - our Buddha nature. I've tried to take care not to grasp for enlightenment as a salvation but rather to stand as a dear friend says - on shifting sand with one foot on a rock. And I very much doubt that Kyōen's experience upon hearing a stone strike bamboo will be even approximated in my awareness. I'm still far too 'intellectual', too 'in my head' I see that little point with my rational mind. But, I see also that the years have deepened early experiences. Experiences where might I say the point became at least seen through a glass darkly and perhaps not so darkly. And I'm as caught up in my dramas as ever! The birds leave no trace in the sky yet not I. 🤷

It's enriching to work with colleagues and good to be able to stand on that rug whilst remembering - shifting sands and one foot on the rock. At times I've wondered this past winter if I'd come to the end of my relationship with the Buddha Dharma; the challenges have once more seemed immense and so intense that I've have to let formal sitting go for a while. But the email exchange referred to above triggered writing this post and in writing the depth of the Dharma is remembered and the Dimond shines.

Homage to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. And blessings to John Kennedy as he lives the later stages of his terminal illness. His light is one of the warmest.