Category Archives: Overcome Difficulties

A Hole in Samsara


There are those little moments, those sights or sounds, which have a powerful impact lifting the spirits when times are hard. Such was the case for a Jade reader, whose wife is on hospice care, who experienced the following while out of the house for a brief time of respite.

A grey drizzly Sunday morning in Lancaster. Walking the dog, we crossed the bridge over the canal and followed the glistening wet cobbles of the spiral staircase specially sloped for the long-gone horses that used to tow the barges. We stopped while the dog raised his leg to leave his mark on the wall.

The drizzle eased for a brief moment and glancing up I saw a tiny hole in the cloudy murk reveal the blue sky beyond. A soft “chug – chug” announced the slow approach of a narrow boat barely making a ripple as it traveled through the water. As the boat past, the man at the tiller and I waved to each other simultaneously and spontaneously. Then he and the boat passed under the bridge and were gone. The dog and I continued on our way.

Nothing special. Yet highly significant. A moment of total harmony. A glimpse of Nirvana through a hole in Samsara.
9th. September 2018

While we teach there is no gap between Nirvana and Samsara such experiences as described above touch a deep part of ones being showing ones heart some much appreciated ‘light’.

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Old Life Completely Past and Done

Here a poem which resonates with me today. It’s two days after a dear Buddhist Sangha friend, Brenda Birchenough died. ‘The Deer’ speaks of sitting with the dying which I’ve been doing for the past week. And before that there has been anticipation. Dear Brenda has spread her wings and taken off into the bright light of the ‘sun’. This short piece below came in an email which fits the moment perfectly.
I now have the impression of them (parents) having moved on and out into huge, sunlit spaces. I think of dragonflies, that spend years crawling in the mud at the bottom of a pond, and then one day just leave it all behind, climbing a stalk into the air; split their skins, and emerge winged, to take off into the sun. All the old life completely past and done.

The Deer
January. Empty days.
The deer, hidden among the trees,
don’t come out any more
to look for the cold, fallen apples on her lawn.

She lies there, not moving;
only her lips, only her hands –
two snails wanting water,
two dry leaves, hardly stirred by her breath.

Over the lawn, the rain,
a cobweb in the uncertain light,
and last autumn’s apples, never picked.

She lies there, not speaking;
only, Water
only, It hurts
only, Leave me now

And the deer, in the early dawn,
don’t come looking for her fruit.
They hide among the trees,

while she dreams, and dreams,
through falling threads of rain,
of ancient summers rich with apples,
and her hands freighted with gold.

By Mark Rowan

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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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