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I just published the Guest Post ‘Realizing body/mind Together’ prematurely! I’d not added ‘Guest Post’ to the title so you might be wondering if I am, or was, training to climb mountains. Not. Absolutely not. That’s John, he recounts his efforts to get fit to climb mountains, which he did quite a few years ago.

I’ve known John since 2006 and have enjoyed many a phone call and received much help and encouragement and advice around my blog and online presence.

And for those of you who are not subscribers…you can do that by filling in your email address in a box, top left of the website. I don’t do anything with subscriber emails. They are private and only I see them.

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Realizing Body/mind Together – Guest Post

One day, several years ago, I woke up and decided (quite out of the blue) that I was going to climb a mountain. Now a lot of people do that, it’s sort of a primal urge, but most of them aren’t middle-aged, overweight, asthmatic, and firmly planted on flat, sea-level, ground. To this day I can’t really explain the origin of that idea or why I didn’t shrug it off as unrealistic.

Of course, I couldn’t get anywhere near a mountain in that shape. I had to embark on a punishing training and diet regimen and stick to it for many months before setting foot on a mountain would be possible. So I did my research, started my training, and even reached out to a famous mountaineer who would become my mentor, my friend, and eventually my climbing partner.

Training at that level is really something. In the months leading up to some of my climbs, I was working out at 5 am before work, during my lunch break at work, and a couple of hours each evening after work. I would run 100 stories of stairs in 100-degree heat or freezing cold, put in several miles, and lift weights every single day. And at no point during this did I ever think that I was “in shape”. At no point did I ever consider myself a mountain climber. I thought of myself as a person who was climbing mountains to learn how to be a mountain climber. That title was a goal that moved further off in the distance with each accomplishment. I was focused – arguably too focused.

Which brings me to Zen practice and the similarities between it and climbing – at least from my view. Both require persistence and faith. Both are made easier with the assistance of mentors who have travelled the way and who understand the inevitable pitfalls. We can even say, with no disrespect, that both undertakings are also a little bit crazy – unconventional if you’re trying to be polite. And once undertaken with some seriousness both can become goal-driven in a way that blinds us to an important truth; perhaps what you seek to attain is already there.

My climbing mentor once told me that you don’t have to feel good about your training. You just have to do it. You just have to show up every day and do it. Take your expectations, feelings, likes, and dislikes and set them down. Perfection is manifested in the act of showing up each day and putting one foot in front of the other. He also said that climbers are defined by the act of climbing, not summits reached. For the climber, form, the act of putting one foot in front of the other regardless of feeling or outcome, becomes a refuge.

Form can feel superficial when we’re focused on the divergence between it and our inner dialogue. But that divergence doesn’t change the fact that we are in touch with perfection at every single moment – realized or not. When we practice zazen we are the physical embodiment of our teaching and the greater wisdom that it points to. In this way form can be a refuge for us as well. Unlike the climber, we can sit quietly and know, feelings and conditions aside, that we are already on the summit. It is there – waiting to be seen.

Contribution by John.

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Nature: Monet’s garden – video

And again a short moment to watch and listen to nature. Nature: Monet’s garden

From Sunday Morning, CBS Magazine program. Worth taking a look at the site generally.

And more on Monet.

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What Am I?

We struggle to know who we are, to define and be defined. To be valued, to be of value. To know and be known. To understand and be understood. In this tradition, humans are regarded as intrinsically empty of independent existence. Yes, we know and experience ourselves as individual and separate, functioning in the world along side other ‘separate’ beings. However, the sense of being a separated self, separate from other ‘selves’, fades. If given half a chance!

I am what I do?
I am what I think?
I am how I appear?
I am what I feel?
I am what I understand?

Doing, thinking, appearing, feeling and understanding are known as the five Skandhas or five aggregates or ‘heaps’ which are: form (or material image, impression) (rupa), sensations (or feelings, received from form) (vedana), perceptions (samjna), mental activity or formations (sankhara), and consciousness (vijnana).
Wikipedia for starters:

This post is for those suffering from long term degenerative conditions, and those who partner them. Over time and increasingly: no longer able to ‘do’ as they once did, not able to ‘appear’ thus ‘invisible in the world’, feelings are extreme/diffuse/confusing (you name it) thoughts are muddled and understanding dimming. This too is Buddha, we take care of Buddha. Note to self: ‘Aging’ is not a long term degenerative disease, however it surely does feel that way! sometimes.

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Sewing – reclaiming calm and Solitude

And finally a brilliant article in the Guardian about sewing. I rest my case.
"When I began to research my book, exploring the social, emotional and political significance of sewing, I discovered that during the Second World War, women who had crafted quilts and signature cloths in POW camps hadn’t made them in jolly spirit-reviving sewing bees. Instead, each woman sewed privately, reclaiming solitude and individual expression among the overcrowded and claustrophobic atmosphere of a camp where they were registered as a number. Through their embroidery they made time for themselves and through their sewn autographs they asserted their identity."

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Practice Within The Order of Buddhist Contemplatives