Category Archives: Overcome Difficulties

The Middle Way is Not Straight


Green is bursting out all over the place. This lane is in the Black Forest Germany where I’ve been spending some time.

Meanwhile, in the Southern Lake District, there has been a whole lot of ‘greening’ going on too. Lakeland Fells are on the horizon.

From my vantage point a small gathering of young deer lurk behind me. The sheep persistent in her presence.

Artful Nature

Then there is nature up close. This dandelion caught my eye,  extending one of it’s fluffy seed heads into a notch at the end of a rural bench.

As you will observe from these photographs the sun has been shining, the weather has been great. So much so one wonders if is will stay this way for ever. Well, nothing lasts for ever and rain today is in the forecast. There is the weather outside and there is the ‘weather’ inside.

This post is for those whose internal weather is testing them mentally/physically and in all ways. We call that having health ‘challenges’. Challenge covers a whole spectrum of pain, discomfort and worry. The question is, how does one meet the challenge. Practically speaking, how does one tread the middle path? That’s between: having ‘further tests’, ‘living with’ what one has, escaping. From my own experience the middle path includes all three: tests, living with (acceptance) and finding ways to escape if for a brief time. Oh yes, and medication.

In particular this is for three people I know who have had, or about to have, further tests or in one case a medical procedure.

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A Knowing Smile

He died 15 years ago yesterday, our late Head of the Order Rev. Master Daizui MacPhillamy. Many people who follow Hounmugo on Facebook have been leaving comments with personal memories of their encounter with this ancient monk. He left a lasting impression on so many of us. In memory here is a short verse he wrote.

The Great Silence
enfolds
the world.
Who could have
guessed its
Tenderness?

Daizui MacPhillamy

My memories are many and varied spanning over 20 years from the time of my ordination to his struggle with cancer early in 2003 and his death that April. A senior monk at the hospital in Redding California where Rev. M. Daizui was undergoing treatment called me in Cornwall, England. ‘If you want to see Daizui alive you had better get on a plane now’, and I did. The call came at 2.00 am and having caught a flight from Heathrow I arrived at his bedside late afternoon the same day. He smiled a greeting, ‘THERE you are Mugo’! Pleased to see me. That was the 20th March the day the USA invaded Iraq. The news broke as I was mid Atlantic. So that was my international dash to be by his side during the last days of his life.

He had many great qualities, for example while he cooked a meal he would wash up dirty dishes as he went along, leaving few for after meal clean-up – an admirable practice for any cook. I was particularly grateful for his compassionate acceptance of me. Memorably the time I came back from a walk by the ocean in Southern Oregon dripping wet! He said not a word, asked not a question! He just smiled a knowing smile. Showing his acceptance of our humanity, and his own.

Note: I’d lost my footing on a path and fallen into the ocean below! Thankfully I was in no danger, just thoroughly soaked.

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April Fooled? No Joke.

There IS a serious point to this post, right at the end.

On April 1st 1957 Panorama, a respected current affairs program on the BBC, buckled and broadcast a hoax news item. I remember watching it, tracking the news from Switzerland where a bumper harvest of spaghetti had surprised everybody. Something in me believed. For a short while. And then there was the Guardian in 1977 publishing an elaborate pull-out supplement reviewing San Serriffe, a fictitious  island in the Indian Ocean

There is history to the tradition of April Fools day. There back in the shadows of time in France for example.

Some historians speculate that April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as called for by the Council of Trent in 1563. People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize that the start of the new year had moved to January 1 and continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1 became the butt of jokes and hoaxes.

Tracking time and day accurately is a significant marker of mental health, as I understand. We all lose track and laugh it off. And we join in the joke, laugh in sympathetic understanding. But for some this is no joke. The other day I was cruising along the fruit and veg section in the local supermarket. A chap came up to me asking with urgency, ‘do you know where the avocado stuffed prawns are?’ No not a hoax. Immediately I ran with it. ‘Ah the fish counter is over here’ and then in a heart-beat I guided him to the avocados. I’m pleased to say this event passed with not a joke or nervous comment. It could have gone another way.

That encounter stayed with me though. Losing ones grasp mentally, temporarily or progressively, is not a joke. Remember well. Simple sympathy and kindness for friends, relatives and strangers is the order of the day. We can all be April Fooled any time.  Any day of the year.

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River of Stars

By Mark, taken in Spain.

The feeling of separation: what is there to say?
– but that the heart is an endless river of stars…

From 9th century Chinese Poem:
Thank you to Mark for the photograph and the poem. Make of it what you will. Separation and loss seem to be recurrent themes with people I’ve been in contact with. Keeping that river moving and flowing seems paramount.

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Our Bowls Are Empty-Fullness.

My email this evening brought news of three people close to or having just died. This post is for them, and for all who are grieving, caring and letting go. Which includes me too.

There are few things in life more inconstant and more elusive, both in the fist of language and in the open palm of experience, than happiness. Philosophers have tried to locate and loosen the greatest barriers to it. Artists have come into this world “born to serve happiness.” Scientists have set out to discover its elemental components. And yet for all our directions of concerted pursuit, happiness remains mostly a visitation — a strange miracle that seems to come and go with a will of its own. “Those who prefer their principles over their happiness,” Albert Camus wrote in contemplating our self-imposed prisons, “they refuse to be happy outside the conditions they seem to have attached to their happiness.”

The following poem titled happiness is copied from Brain Pickings where you can read the full post that came with this poem.

HAPPINESS
There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep mid afternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basket-maker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.
Jane Kenyon

Many thanks to Mark for the photograph.

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