Category Archives: Daily Life

Sit Like a Frog

When I think of Shunryu Suzuki I think of frogs! In his talk To Polish a Tile he talks about how the frog sits; becoming one with its surroundings.

When you become you, Zen becomes Zen. When you are you, you see things as they are, and you become one with your surroundings.

To Polish a Tile Suzuki Roshi, Transcript of this talk given in 1967 and also found published in Zen Mind Beginners Mind, page 80.

In 2010 I had the honour of visiting the Founders Shine at San Francisco Zen Center where Suzuki Roshi is remembered. My companion and I made bows and offered incense and we couldn’t help but notice all the frogs on the various side altars! Frogs featured in a number of his talks during  his short time teaching at SZC. Twelve years and what a huge influence.

I’m on Vancouver Island at the moment where there are numerous walking trails between housing estates. Yesterday I walked past a large pond with ducks cruising up and down. A sign announced this to be a sensitive area and to keep to the paths, so I did. There was a strange noise coming from the Bull rushes. Perhaps a frog!

Like so many others in the 1960′s, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind was my introduction to Zen. I remember the page with just a fly on it, page 69. That more than anything left a lasting impression. But I don’t know why.

Still Moments

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Along with all the preparation to travel, so many details to attend to, I took the opportunity to spend a moment or two doing nothing. That was yesterday. Today its Heathrow and I’m taking another opportunity to do not very much. Well writing this of course – and also gorping out of the window at the hustle and bustle.

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Worlds apart one might think. But in a certain way of thinking – there is no gap. Come sit and travel with me. Oddly there is more time/space to write here when ‘on the road’.

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Sit and be at ease, where ever your sitting place is.

Lacking In Ambition

My father went to the kind of school where they developed character, encouraged creativity and generally turned out half way decent people. Passing exams and going onto higher education was not a high priority. As a consequence I had a pleasingly unambitious father who could turn his hand to most things but would not be said to have had a ‘career’ in the usual sense. I could say the same about myself.

Here is some of his creative work which I recently sent to my American relative to be passed down the generations as a link with their roots in England.

Lino Cut by Tony White
Lino Cut by Tony White
By Tony White aged aprox. 9 years.
By Tony White aged aprox. 9 years.

In the 1960′s it was probably easier, more sociably acceptable, to drop out of higher education and then follow a career path than it is now. The best youngsters seem to be able to do currently is cram in as much adventure into their gap year before going on to university.

And I’m in the thick of preparing to travel on Saturday. Adventure? I’m not so sure about that however there will be tales to tell. But before signing off I will link to a Guardian article about a man who inspired me at my final school speech day. Freddy Spencer Chapman, an SAS officer who some say is the most unsung hero of the war in East Asia. I was impressionable, he said those of us who hadn’t received prizes or who did not have exam passes could get on in the world and be a success. I took heart at the time. Sometimes a word or two can change the direction and outlook of a whole life. My fathers unambitious presence was a passive influence and Spencer Chapman’s words that day inspired confidence. He was an army man and man of his time. My dad was a private in the army, a conscript. All of his life he remained a man outside of his time. He would have been 94 come August 20th.

Bless This House

The evening of my time in Eastern Cumbria.
The evening of my time in Eastern Cumbria.

I snapped this picture the other evening while talking on the telephone. Just a moment, I need to take a photograph. My caller understood. The light was perfect and somehow the whole scene spoke to me. I’ve sat and worked beside this window in all weathers. Yes, and sometimes it seemed the weather can come indoors it being a chilly Victorian house with high ceilings.

This afternoon having vacuumed, cleaned, checked the window locks, picked up stray items, emptied the rubbish and everything stowed in the car I made my final bow at the altar. I wished the house well and those who come to live here in the future. Houses have a life to them. My father would say he wanted to leave a house better than when he and my mother moved in. On a physical level they certainly put in a lot of work with the fabric of the houses they lived in. However my father firmly believed, as I do, that one’s attitude of mind permeates one’s living space.  I didn’t know that adults argued until I went into the world of work! So that alone would have made their homes a happy place to walk into.  The left behind a good impression. They left a good impression on me.

Bless this house and all who find a home in it.

Rev. Samual White – Nurturing Roots

Rev. Samual White
Rev. Samual White

What a smasher! This is my great grandfather who died when only 49 years old. The original photograph, measuring 20 by 16 inches, has just landed in America where my lovely second cousin Jessica will frame it and hand it on to future generations. A reminder of their family roots nurtured in Northern England. I don’t feel it is mere sentimentality to honour such family threads. They are just that, threads which hold us steady just as our feet hold us steady with all the marvel which is our body/mind rising up out of the ground. Here is some information about Rev. Samual, which if this blog remains on-line into the far future, will serve as feet planted into the soil to hold the reader steady when the wind blows. And when it doesn’t.

Rev. Samual White (1843 – 1892) was the first incumbent of St. Cuthberts church. He was a member of Hatfield College, University of Durham and took his Batchelor of Divinity in 1865. He was vicar of Marley Hill from 1874 – a good ‘living’ – house plus £300 a year. Before becoming vicar of St. Cuthberts Marley Hill he was the curate of Thornley 1865-67, Seaham Harbour 1867-70 and Marley Hill 70-74. Rev. White is listed in the 1868 University of Durham Calendar under Hatfield College as “White, Rev. Samuel, student in arts”.

It is a simple thing, to look behind oneself, stretch out an arm and catch hold of something from the past and hand it into the future. Recipients derive their own meaning.