Category Archives: Overcome Difficulties

Smiling Broadly Above Edinburgh

Portobello and beyond

Arthur’s Seat is the main mountain in Edinburgh, Scotland which form most of Holyrood Park, described by Robert Louis Stevenson as “a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design”.[1] It is situated just to the east of the city centre, about 1 mile (1.6 km) to the east of Edinburgh Castle. The hill rises above the city to a height of 250.5 m (822 ft), provides excellent panoramic views of the city and beyond, is relatively easy to climb, and is popular for hillwalking.

With a brisk wind blowing and brilliant views all around we walked up to the top of Arthur’s Seat late afternoon on Monday. (Thanks to my hosts for the walk, meals, bed, roof and good company.) An article in the latest Eugene Buddhist Priory Newsletter helped me turn the corner and move out of natural shyness of being seen, close up, on screen A Bit More about “Welcome”. To find it scroll down and on the way you may recognize the photograph of a Buddha statue amidst fallen trees.

I’ve found it hard, since mid November, to accept the deserter in the front row. Dentistry is a wonderful art and I’m grateful for the replacement tooth. But never mind the teeth thing, what stands out this evening is the gift of freely appearing. Just that.

2 – When Faith Seems Thin

Read and be inspired. Here is a remarkable and brave, not to mention cool-headed, woman. Mary Dohey an Air Canada flight attendant who in 1971, in the face of overwhelming danger appeased the hijacker (talked to him) and as a consequence saved the lives of passengers and crew. She was the first living person to receive the award Cross of Valour, Canada’s highest award for bravery, for her conduct during the hijacking.

At the risk of losing her life, Dohey declined an offer of a safe release from an Air Canada DC8 to remain with her fellow crew members and pacify hijacker Paul Cini, on flight 812 from Calgary, Alberta on November 12, 1971. During eight hours of terror, the hijacker, with a black hood over his head, was armed with a shotgun and two bundles of dynamite. Mary had to hold on to the wires of the dynamite and not let them touch.[2] Cini threatened to take the lives[clarification needed] of the crew and all the passengers on board the airplane. Although continually threatened with the gun, Miss Dohey spoke to the aggressor and succeeded in discouraging him from undertaking violent measures which would have killed many people. When the aircraft was diverted and landed in Great Falls, Montana, she was able to persuade the hijacker to allow all the passengers and part of the crew, including herself, to disembark.[1] With absolutely no assurance that she would come out of the ordeal alive and because of her concern for the welfare of the remaining crew members, Mary Dohey turned down the offer of release. The hijacker wanted $1.5 million.[3] The plane landed and the demands were passed over. There was only $50,000[1] in that briefcase unknown to the hijacker. Mary continued to appease the hijacker until the drama was brought to an end.

Wikipedia
Another hat tip to Rev. Master Koten for the link. The early 1970’s saw a number of plane hijackings. I remember the time well since I was flying back from Australia when there was a hijacking – thankfully not on the flight I was on. Can’t help but wonder what my response would have been had it been my flight.

1 – When Faith seems Thin

Read and be uplifted. Yes there are individuals in this world who show cool and bravery in the face of overwhelming circumstances.

In a rare display of coolheadedness and courage, René Jalbert, Sergeant-at-Arms at the Quebec National Assembly, subdued a man who had killed three people and wounded thirteen more on the morning of 8 May 1984. The man had entered a side door of the National Assembly building and immediately opened fire with a submachine-gun; moments later he climbed the main staircase toward the assembly chamber, known as the Blue Room, shooting repeatedly, and then burst into the chamber. As bullets peppered the wall, Mr. Jalbert entered the Blue Room and with icy calm convinced the man to allow several employees to leave the premises. Then he invited the heavily armed man into his downstairs office, in effect setting himself up as hostage while removing the man from the scene. At extreme personal risk, but with unflinching authority, Mr. Jalbert spent four hours persuading the man to surrender to police. The audacity of this retired Major of the Royal 22nd Regiment, a Second World War and Korean War veteran, almost certainly prevented a higher death toll.[1]

A hat tip to Rev. Master Koten for the link. There are more to come.

Is it the Pain That Hurts?

Where the Rivers Kent and Bela meet for Morecambe Bay and beyond.

Just sometimes, when you are smack in the middle of some trauma or anxiety provoking situation it is best not to jump too quickly to thinking about what the teaching was/is. But it’s tempting if only to bring oneself comfort in the midst of pain. So it is for me at the moment. I’m tempted to write about my recent dental travails however that’s still ongoing and better left to settle down. If nothing else I’ve come to accept that it’s no good blaming the dentist for my tooth problems and pain. I know where the responsibility lies. Really simple! In the scheme of things my troubles are small.

It is heart rending to hear about the hard places people find themselves in. A woman on the phone today with a serious heart condition. So bad the consultant is not able to do anything, too dangerous to proceed with surgery. She said, It’s the nights that are worse, wondering if this pain is a heart attack. or not.. The night magnifies everything especially if alone. I offered my mobile number. Call me in the night if you need to. Thank you darling, God Bless. She replied.

There is a litany of people I know who are facing or have just gone through major surgery. There are others who live with chronic pain, chronic fear of dying and diminishing cognitive abilities. What stories people have to tell, life lessons to learn. The most compelling story to tell is the approach of death and few people live well enough to tell the tale.

But something remarkable has been happening on Mondays on Radio 4 around 5.30 am. Star broadcaster Eddie Mair has been interviewing Steve Hewlett, star journalist and BBC correspondent and much more. Steve was diagnosed with cancer last September and Eddie for the Radio 4 PM program has been following Steve’s progress allowing his story to unfold with gentle good nature and with tender good humoured questioning. So how did it feel when you were told there was no more treatment that could be given? Asked Eddie, Steve’s response….? Here are all the interviews starting back in September last year.

The last episode:
Steve has had to continue his stay in the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, so Eddie Mair went to visit him again. During their conversation, Steve told Eddie that his consultant had said his liver would not be able to handle any more treatments and that the outlook in the long term was not good.
On a happier note, he and his partner Rachel decided to get married.

There’s a journalist telling his own story as it happens. He blames nobody. He speaks not for entertainment but for education and for uplift. For those who are in extremity themselves or who are beside somebody who is. Guess that covers all of us.

IS it the pain that hurts?

The Indestructible You

When all around is falling trees
to run?
to hide?
to freeze to the spot?

Life threatening
circumstances?
RUN! HIDE! STOP STILL!
Obviously

Within fear
there is that
Which cannot
be destroyed

The photograph was sent to me by a friend in Oregon.
I wanted to share a photo with you which is my reminder to remain still. I had 3 large trees hit my roof in December during a particularly harsh ice storm (they’re saying the worst in 50 years) and after they were removed from the house, my back yard was pretty much demolished. And yet here’s Buddha, sitting still in the middle of it!

Yes, Buddha images have a way of reminding the beholder of immovability and by extension indestructibility. And it isn’t just because a Buddha statue isn’t going to physically move anyway! They seem to reflect back a Truth about ourselves which lies just below everyday consciousness. There are many ways to talk about this however talk will not make it real. Even sitting still physically oneself,  in formal meditation, most likely will not confirm this truth in your own mind. Although it can be confirmed for those who are in hugely vulnerable circumstances. (More on that another time.)

What does bring this deeper truth to the surface is AFTER  pulling through something which you thought would destroy you. Grief can be like that. Unbelievable physical or mental pain can be like that. And having your home nearly destroyed can be like that. My correspondent wrote: Of course, I am also grateful for my many years of Buddhist practice, which has helped me to deal with the stress of the consequences of the storm and the continuing wintry weather we’re having.

I’d like to say that the The indestructible You is ever-present, in all circumstances,  you don’t need to manufacture or conjure up something more than you are already. I’m reminded of when I was walking (scrambling) along Sharp Edge with my walking companion, back in the glory days of late summer. Reflecting on the climb he remarked I didn’t appear that scared. I was! But somehow I was able to remain reasonably composed in the midst of testing physical circumstances. Call it survival instinct, call it what you like.

Up there on an arm of Blencathra  that which is ever-present PROVED  present. That’s the case too for the ordinary every-day of the very ordinary week – we just don’t notice. Which is just as well.