A Saving Grace

Here’s a wonderful observation from Henrey Miller. I subscribe to the thought of not taking things too seriously. My response to a seeming disaster is ‘nobody has died, been maimed, abused or needs to be taken to hospital’! Let’s be grateful’. Often I’ll laugh with the thought, ‘how human’. Of course, we all do have to take responsibility for when things go wrong or a mistake is made but getting all worked up about it doesn’t help the situation. Retraining a sense of humour helps to maintain a sense of proportion. A saving grace.

Perhaps the most comforting thing about growing old gracefully is the increasing ability not to take things too seriously. One of the big differences between a genuine sage and a preacher is gaiety. When the sage laughs it is a belly laugh; when the preacher laughs, which is all too seldom, it is on the wrong side of the face.

Henry Miller, (December 26, 1891–June 7, 1980)

Cheap Tin Trays!

A bored child
In Sussex
By the sea.



Today guests arrive for an ‘intensive retreat’, with a difference. Here is the write up on our website introducing the retreat.
One of the themes of this retreat is around seeing the reading and writing of poetry as a potential ‘path of awareness’. In finding ways to express what seems unsayable, poetry can reveal and clarify our understanding of ourselves. During the retreat, there will be talks/discussions on this topic, which will be integrated with sitting periods.

Those coming to the retreat were encouraged to bring a poem. Below is my poem.

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amethysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

John Masefield

Everything from the exotic, hard to pronounce words, to those cheap tin trays, pig lead and firewood captured my bored wandering attention. Sitting at my desk I could picture that dirty British coaster filled with earthy items, contrasting with emeralds, amethysts, peacocks and palm-green shores. How unlike Sussex by the sea! The poem fired my imagination and pointed to a distant world beyond the waves I knew. It probably set me yearning to see the world.

There is something to be said for poetry.

Tree Protection – Re Publish

2020 February 18th. One of our trees blew over last night. Always sad when one goes horizontal.

This lunchtime I went out for a walk to stretch my legs. In the fields around the monastery there have been thousands upon thousands of trees planted over the past thirty or more years. Each year more young and tender/vulnerable trees are planted. How they need protection too. From the high winds and from the animals, mostly rabbits, who eat them. There are special plastic tubes that slip over the young single stem whips, as they are called. Then around the tube is a chicken wire tube for extra protection. I could not help but notice the care and attention that has gone into making sure the rabbits are not able to make a break in. Guarding the trees as they grow strong enough to fend for themselves has become an art. Large rocks cover gaps between the chicken wire and the uneven ground they rest on. And I see a square of cardboard slotted around the tree inside the plastic guard to inhibit vegetation growth close to the treelet! We want these trees to survive and the majority do.

There is a link in my mind to what is happening here in the monastery this week. New Baby Buddhas protected by their fresh new promise to keep the Precepts and follow where they lead in life. Tender flowers and we do everything to guide people in what is perhaps the most important journey of their lives. Inwards. The journey had no beginning and has no end yet taking the formal step to commit to religious practice is not nothing. No vow or promise is taken lightly. However, there is much that comes into one’s life to cause one to fall over. And much that weighs one down, causing the picking up of the practice again hard. Really hard.

A ceremony which happened the other night is especially significant. It reflects the need to recognize at all times when one has acted in ways which takes one away from ones own good intentions. Mistakes. Recognize AND accept mistakes – that’s what causes one not to be weighed down by all the self-recriminations, guilt or denial. Acceptance is like the care we take to protect the young tender trees. The wind blows, snow comes in the winter and we get nibbled at from time to time (Oh and we nibble on others too don’t forget!) Recognizing our vulnerability, taking care to take care of ourselves is paramount. During the long and slow procession in dim light which is at the start of the ceremony, there is a chant. Hail Shakyamuni Buddha. Over and over and over again. Hail Shakyamuni Buddha. Over and over and over again.

Just sometimes, when in extremity or not, all that is left to us is to look up. The chant and the ceremony is about looking up in darkness. Faith.

There are no articles of faith in Buddhism, and trust can be used in place of faith. But faith in….what? Trust what? Hail Shakyamuni Buddha. Always we are on Vulture Peak listening to the Buddha.

The Will of The Wind

The plants and flowers
I raised about my hut
I now surrender
To the will
Of the wind


This post is offered for all those who are caught up in the weather drama currently hitting Britain. High winds, flooding and much suffering. The flowers were a donation which we have enjoyed for what seems like weeks. So bright and cheerful. We can all use a bit of ‘uplift’ from time to time as we plough our way towards spring.

Nature – North Dakota & UK River with Birds Tweeting

Looks like Wood Bison in this video. Enjoy the sounds of nature and the absence of words.

Here is a very short ‘citizens video’ filmed while out on a refreshing walk by a reader. Let there be more such videos. Film some nature not longer than 2 mins on your phone in MP4 format. Let me know in a comment and I will be in touch. Can’t wait.

river flowing (2) from Mugo on Vimeo.