Category Archives: Daily Life

Turning In Turning Out

Looking out - over Milnthorpe Sands
Looking out – over Milnthorpe Sands

This morning I bumped into the news of what happened in Paris last night and found myself deeply shocked. I felt oddly disoriented but knew that reading more about the event, keeping up with the breaking news is not the way to go. So I did all those things that are second nature; offer a candle, incense, recite a scripture and sit and meditate.

The disorientation remained although in a moment of clarity I realized that the spotlight of truth was shining on impermanence, one of the three signs of existence. And when that happens nothing escapes this truth, not one atom. No wonder there is disorientation, ‘what can one rely on’? So eventually, feeling in reflective mood, I went for a walk. I’ve a brown waterproof jacket and a bright terracotta one.  I had read the following in an email yesterday and I deliberately chose the brown one over the more cheery one. In a way I simply wanted to remain inward looking for a time. To reflect and be still as I walked out into the drizzle. And just sometimes one can be indulgent of oneself, which ever way one goes – bright or dark.

My correspondent (who is responding here to the post titled A Delicate Transformation), has a good point and I am glad to be able to share it with you.

I was very interested in your blog post on attention to dressing.  Many years ago I noticed that the way I was dressing was conditioned by my mood swings. The ‘highs’ resulted in extravagant behaviour and dress, the ‘ego explosion’ in the quote. The  ‘lows’ brought depressed behaviour and a loss of interest in all things, including appearance.
I started to pay more attention to this and decided that, no matter the feelings whether high or low, I should take care with my appearance. Even when my day starts in a landscape of bleak greyness, I can bring light in with a well-ironed, colourful shirt and well-fitting trousers. My mood lightens, I feel better about myself. The last attention to appearance is to put on a smile. I can leave home wearing nice clothes and a smile. People respond to a smile from a well dressed person and I benefit from their response to me.

What I am doing is turning outward from the inner pain, opening myself up to life and life always responds.

What ever the colour, what ever the weather, what ever the human tragedy, what ever it is the Great Earth (everything) rises up to greet us. Our job is to respond appropriately and with depth to our hearts. Much merit flowing into the world this evening.

Life/Death – Close Together

This morning tootling along narrow Cumbrian lanes between dripping hedges following the on/off brake lights ahead. Listening to the radio. A road diversion due to flooding I presumed but unprepared for. A 20 min drive took an hour! However, good old Radio 4 had me fully engaged (as well as driving of course) with an interview about death and dying. A popular subject. Here is the introductory blurb,.

David Schneider is terrified of death. In his two editions of One to One he wants to try to overcome his fear by talking to those who have first-hand understanding of dying. In this programme, he talks to Palliative Care consultant, Kathryn Mannix. With almost forty years of clinical experience and witnessing over twelve thousand deaths, she believes that a ‘good death’ is possible even when you are seriously ill. She explains the process of dying to David. This, she believes, if accepted by the patient, removes much of the anxiety and fear surrounding the end of life.

Two bundles of information stand out and I’ll remember them for myself (I am well and fine) and for others approaching death. For those in Britain who can listen to the podcast I highly recommend doing so.

One: The vast majority of people pop off when attending loved ones are out of the room for a moment. It just seems there is a preference to fade out of this world when there is a chance people who love you are not around to hold onto your heels! My mother chose her moment, I believe. My dad and I knew she was close to death in the hospital but decided to go home and finish cooking the Christmas Cake and would come back later. Our return ended up having us washing her body not seeing her breath her last. That was fine.

Two: Kathryn Mannix had witnessed thousands of deaths and the process  followed a similar pattern. Going from needing more sleep to sleeping more and being awake less and less and eventually drifting into unconsciousness and dying. Peacefully. Ones worries about being in agony and frightening people, happens but rarely apparently.

Oh I seem a bit cavalier on this subject but as a woman said to me the other evening on the phone, I don’t know how to put this Mugo but it seems life and death are very close together. I respond by saying I think you have put it very well indeed. This thought of hers and what I took away from this mornings program has me better informed and more at ease about death, mine and others.

The post is for the man who lost control of his van yesterday which then entered the swift flowing waters of the River Kent. Today he was found dead in the river.

On a Deeper Level…..

Flowers bloom in the desert.
Flowers bloom in the desert.

This image speaks of beauty and vulnerability. Something I’ve been thinking about these past days, not so much in terms of appearance though. More to do with those who are alone in their home, sick or diminished in some way.  Many of whom do not have anybody to reach out to. (Your might say they are deserted’) Or have anybody, a friend or family member, to check in on them to ask simply, Are you alright? Can I get you anything? People die in their homes and not found until days, weeks or even months. I heard recently. Imagine? It is too easy to recoil in horror and shame, to turn away. Perhaps inwardly complain about a society that lets this sort of thing happen. or point at families who let this sort of thing happen.

However from a deeper perspective, and from a less emotive one, could it not be that our living and our dying, our flowering, fading, shrinking,  falling over, decaying flow together with impeccable timing. Even the circumstances we travel in and lay our heads down in. And births too. impeccable timing. But on the surface of things, quite often, it doesn’t look that way. We see the suffering and we know the pain and share in it. As is right and good. We are familial creatures designed to take care of our own. And still it is good to know the deeper rest.

Being born a human being, in the great scheme of things, is a flowering most rare. And most precious. We have the opportunity, as conscious beings, to rise up out of our prickly abode – and that’s as far as I am going this night. Enough to say that I do all I can to reach out to those I know who are alone in a prickle patch. Yes, keep an ear out for those vulnerable, who know you. The winter months are hard.

Thanks to those who have sent texts, emails and made phone calls to make sure I am still alive. I am. However the cold I brought back from Latvia was a doozie!

(thanks to Mark for sending in the photograph – this cactus blooms ‘once in a blue moon’! Rarely in other words. And a long time family member!)

Sleds and Storks – and the rest

We had heard tell that it was the custom in days gone by to have a coffin (empty) stored in the rafters of rural dwellings. And sure enough there in an ancient house in an Open Air Rural museum outside of Riga was a coffin – in the rafters of a simple home. While there at the museum, we caught a few moments of a Lutheran service in a wooden church with painted ceiling, scratched around, inside and out, of wooden buildings used by farmers and fisherman and crafts people, buildings housing carts and sledges and memorably – a horse-drawn funeral carriage.

But as we toured the countryside taking in sea and sand dunes, a reconstruction of a medieval castle (circular tower and lots of steps) and a Sacred Oak the large bundles of sticks purched  on top of telegraph poles caught my curiosity. Storks nests! The Latvians seem to hold the Storks, now in Africa, in high regard. Never removing nests when poles no longer carry wires and our guides for the day had much to say about the birds in general. Touching actually.

And the rest? After the history and the culture and the national pride, and not forgetting the fancy (many crumbling especially the wooden ones) old city buildings, what remains to mention? A shop where the clothing was sold by weight! The old women begging for money outside of the Russian Orthodox church. Inside the Orthodox church just sitting for a few moments of peace. The way people waited at cross walks for the little green man to light up before crossing. Civic discipline?

And the modern, fresh face, English-speaking young men who will go far. Contrasted with bent over, looking at the ground, old faces carrying heavy history. Theirs and of a nation.

Basically I fly away tomorrow thinking about nationhood. Grateful to have stability in my lifetime, and to live forward with hope.

My thoughts Latvians. Hope on.

Full of Emptiness

empty shelves in KSThis is how the bookshelves were on Saturday, in the house I was ‘sitting’ since Iain Robinson’s death in 2011. Iain well remembered.

Yes, the house felt empty on Saturday when I opened the front door to pick up my remaining belongings. Empty yet oddly….full! Not of any persons, or memory, or sadness, regret, happiness. All potentially there however the utter sense of stillness eclipsed anything and everything. I’d wondered how it would be to come back after 15 months to a house I’d lived in. I’d shared with visitors, helped fill with Iain’s possessions in 2009 and then gradually helped empty it of them. Of books and SO much more of those things he treasured. His wife hardly had the opportunity to accumulate before the sudden death. Heart breaking for her.

People said after he died we, Iain and I, were close and I’d say, Well not particularly. Yes, he was always there via email to advise on matters to do with written English and sundry other things especially to do with the house or his car, which I had the use of. And he consulted me, or talked through, personal and spiritual matters on the telephone or in person when he was back from Japan. I was his religious mentor, a student/teacher arrangement. Close but not close close. The teaching relationship between us prevailed. Though I’d be hard-pressed to describe it.  Ones humanity is not excluded.

I knew it and from time to time it was obvious and on entering the house and walking about collecting things confirmed it. Anything personal which one would describe as ‘being close’ was eclipsed by…..stillness. One could call that emptiness or better, a full-emptiness. What I know of is the gift we give to our fellows,   which most often gets lost in the wash! Lost sight of that is,  in the cut and thrust of daily living with it’s warmer and cooler moments. But pausing for a moment, as I did on Saturday, the truth of the gift is confirmed. But nothing to get excited about though. No sadness at losing something nor joy either. Full-emptiness does the job, an expression my teacher frequently used.

Then I walked up to the Nine Standard Rigg, and on the way down the sun picked up Cross Fell. Although my monastic friend might tell me otherwise….! Put me right Reverend.

Looking towards Cross Fell.
Looking towards Cross Fell.

This post is for all those who are or who have lived through the pain and suffering that comes with loss. It fades.