Maintaining a Sense of Proportion

#lovethelakes #cumbria #lakedistrict #picturecumbriasharp-edge-and-tarn

Hold a true friend with both your hands.
Nigerian Proverb

Amen to that! And my new friend? Blencathera, mountain of all mountains. Last Monday I walked up one (of a number) of the ‘edges’ that lead to the top. Perfect weather with views out to the very edges of the Lake District. A day to remember with an inside smile. But that’s how I’ll remember today. Nothing dramatic. And yesterday visiting a long time known Buddhist trainee living on one of the edges of the Lakes, Walney Island. The high fells stretching like a frill across the skyline, from one side of her living room window to the other.

Yes, I’ve been taking the opportunity to get out and about and to climb up into the mountains. How fortunate am I? Great Stickle, Swirl How, Crinkle Crags, Bow Fell and the Old Man of Coniston. High Street from Haweswater and more. On the Band and back again, for more. The names are the stuff of poems, there is a rhythm in their walking and I’ve chanted their names as I’ve neared the end of a long day walking.

Yes, and I’ve taken the opportunity to get out and about and meet old friends. How fortunate am I? By phone and email, driving and Skype calling. No mountain climb, however testing, can ever match up to the lived-lives of the people I’m privileged to spend time with. Many of their names I remember as I walk and chant a verse for. Each morning.

It’s the end of a long day and a long hot summer. With rain beating down on the skylight of my just-moved-into new room I’m thinking. Thinking that all experiences pass, relationships all end, shelter keeps the rain out no matter where it is and being able to smile in adversity helps.

Note route marked in yellow when out of view and red when in view.
Note route marked in yellow when out of view and red when in view.

Whats not to love about this mountain? See trailer for Life of the Mountain, film by Terry Abraham released in May.

I’m smiling now, inwardly, remembering the long crampon scratch marks on rocks high on Crinkle Crags. Winter walking? Winter talking? More towards the level of the sea, around Morecambe Bay, visiting an elderly woman there. Enjoy the Autumn golds and perhaps the Winter whites.

Fabulous Fungus Fanciers!

Let not this day end without acknowledging the truely decent, humble, dedicated and above all peaceful gathering of fungus explorers from Kew Gardens who I had the honour to go walk-about with today.

Not only was it a window on a whole area of the natural world largely hidden from the naked eye but also an insight into the minds and hearts of people, unknown and unsung, who care about the wellbeing of unglamorous – fungus!

It was not a day for ‘racing’! Five hours didn’t get us far physically however in terms of the micro world we traveled to the moon and back! Who would have imagined what fungus get up to! It’s a circus down in the woods – everyday.

Explaining Death – Religion Meets Science

The following is taken from an article titled What It’s Like To Die by Jennie Dear

In her last couple of weeks, when my mother’s mind seemed to be floating off somewhere else most of the time, she would sometimes lift her arms into the air, plucking at invisible objects with her fingers. Once, I captured her hands in mine and asked what she’d been doing. “Putting things away,” she answered, smiling dreamily.

This half-dreaming, half-waking state is common in dying people. In fact, researchers led by Christopher Kerr at a hospice center outside Buffalo, New York, conducted a study of dying people’s dreams. Most of the patients interviewed, 88 percent, had at least one dream or vision. And those dreams usually felt different to them from normal dreams. For one thing, the dreams seemed clearer, more real. The “patients’ pre-death dreams were frequently so intense that the dream carried into wakefulness and the dying often experienced them as waking reality,” the researchers write in the Journal of Palliative Medicine.

Seventy-two percent of the patients dreamed about reuniting with people who had already died. Fifty-nine percent said they dreamed about getting ready to travel somewhere. Twenty-eight percent dreamed about meaningful experiences in the past. (Patients were interviewed every day, so the same people often reported dreams about multiple subjects.)

For most of the patients, the dreams were comforting and positive. The researchers say the dreams often helped decrease the fear of death. “The predominant quality of pre-death dreams/visions was a sense of personal meaning, which frequently carried emotional significance for the patient,” they report.

The predominant quality of pre-death dreams/visions was a sense of personal meaning, which frequently carried emotional significance for the patient Seems to me we are given what we need in a form, scientific/religious/mystical, which eases our way, be it near death experiences or approaching actual death. We will never know what happens at these times and no explanation will ever, I believe, be enough to explain that which at base is a mystery.

Instructions for Meditation – Audio

Time to inject some formal Buddhist teaching while I’m out and about appreciating this ‘warm snap’ we are having here in the North West of England. Nothing lasts though! And thank goodness for that!

Rev. Master Koten of Lions Gate Buddhist Priory has recorded five talks giving instruction on how to meditate . (Don’t get confused about the numbering of the files. They skip from #4 to #6 and there isn’t one missing.) You will find all of the Dharma Talks on this page, all good, and the ones I’ve referred to are at the bottom of the list. The first one takes us back to the time of the Buddha and his Enlightenment. It was not all plain sailing either. Struggle and letting go were as much part of the picture for him as it is for us. The details are different, the ‘path’ is fundamentally the same.

Many thanks to Rev. Master Koten and his disciple Rev. Master Aurelian up there on Dragon Flower Mountain British Columbia, Canada.

Keeping on Walking

Walking along a narrow pavement this afternoon, in walking shoes and wearing a small day pack (to carry shopping in), a woman stopped me. Have you got far to go? she inquired. Errrm, about 3 mins to get home I replied, wondering at the question. She then, without drawing breath, proceeded to describe the walk she had just done. She’d been on a huge long hike around the lanes even though not exactly kited out for the project. More like going shopping clothes. We could have swapped! Now, remembering that brief conversation, I can remember so much about how she looked, just as in the same way I can remember details about the woman I mention in the above video. Face, hair, clothing, hat, (in the case of the woman today – impressive gold teeth!), foot ware. However, most especially I will remember the bright ‘spirit’ shining from their eyes. Walking can do that. Cause people to shine.

But I’ve been ‘racing’! Racing to complete a few tasks by days end. It’s one thing to put structure into ones day quite another, as the day draws to a close, to readjust/restructure in the face of fading light. Unfortunately, as happened to me the other day, when out on a walk in the hills in the face of fading light, I had no option but to keep on walking! This short video was taken as the sun slid behind the ridge I’d been walking along earlier, On Returning from Coniston Old Man.

Practice Within The Order of Buddhist Contemplatives