Category Archives: Overcome Difficulties

Keen To Lern!

When I wrote my first letter applying for a job I was unschooled and innocent (ignorant). Not only was I applying for a job I wasn’t qualified for (no, I didn’t have a driving licence, no, not (yet) 21 years old and no (save for amateur tinkering about) experience as a photographer). However, I wrote, I am keen to lern. Apparently my spelling learn wrongly got me an interview because the employer liked the spirit behind my writing – and I also shared my first name with his daughter! Anyway I got the job. I did learn a great deal and became almost a member of the family. Early learning, (I was probably 17 years old at the time) stays deeply embedded in ones self (body/mind) and I’m still at the point where I could probably  print black and white prints at speed, perhaps with my eyes closed!

Like most children I learned to ride a bicycle which when I started seemed completely impossible. But I persisted, fell off, climbed back on again until I could steer a steady course across the lawn. And in no time I was tooling up and down the main road and riding no hands down the local hill, on a minor road. Riding a bike is complex learning and to make the point a chap illustrates in this video how difficult it is to unlearn and then relearn riding a modified bike. His learning looks as difficult as that old childhood trick of rubbing your tummy while tapping the top of your head. That’s had many a youngster engaged, or distracted, while practicing something which is essentially useless!

But, or however, I’ve remained keen to learn and over the years my unschooled state has changed to something resembling ‘educated’. Not in a traditional sense probably. My point, and there is one, is that the brain can learn to do new things, it can and does change itself fundamentally.  And what we call the self, isn’t what we think!

Perseverance

Courage is
being scared to death,
but saddling up anyway.

~John Wayne

Hat tip to Willow Tree Counselling for the above quote. There is a wealth of well written articles on this site the most recent one Counselling Ruptures: Crisis or Opportunity? could well be applied to any relationship which has been ‘ruptured’. Wonderful stuff.

Yes, maintaining a relationship invariably involves perseverance especially when things slip sideways. However there’s two chaps in China who are getting a lot of attention who seem to have things worked out pretty well. One is blind and the other has no arms. Together they have planted 10,000 trees! Now THAT is perseverance.

Thanks to Michael in Canada for the link to the tree planters. Now I am practicing perseverance with my web hosting company. Or perhaps it is that they are persevering with my requests to fix a problem I’m currently having!

Damascene Moments

Look towards Keswick, Lakeland.
Look towards Keswick, Lakeland.

A moment of insight, a flash of understanding, the clouds part and one sees which way to go. Be that a move in a career, a decision to study a particular subject. Or seeing into the way things are in a most fundamental way, sometimes in a very personal and intimate way.  These are Damascene moment, life changing moments. They do not come in ones either since all through life, my experience anyway, there are many such moments.

Sadly however Damascene moments quite often remain hidden, buried inside. Even flashes of insight one could label ‘spiritual’ go underground for lack of context to place one’s fresh new Truth in.  Or, as in my case, the moment was thought to be one thing when it was something very different! Read on!

A girl of around 5 or 6 in the woods of Sussex. Alone. Suddenly, or so it seemed, the world went dark. The birds stopped singing and there was an air of lingering mystical stillness. After awhile the world returned to normal and she now had a profound secret. Yes, I’d witness the end of the world, and it’s return! Not something to spread around obviously. Obviously a total eclipse of the sun but what did I know about such things at the time.

Only years later did the truth of the moment dawn on me having lived with a background thought that I had a secret. I’d buried it deeply enough to have forgotten I’d witnessed the end of the world.

For those who carry a personal secret, knowingly or unknowingly. Or a secret which they may not divulge without serious consequences.

The Eternal Gem

The following was first published March 9, 2012. I’m republishing it now for all those who are arriving at the monastery today to participate in the week-long retreat called Jukai. During the week a number of people will formally make their wish to practice. Simply coming here and joining in everything wholeheartedly is a remarkable and potentially life changing event. Good fortune everybody.

The wonderful thing
about Zen practice is
that you get to do it
whether you like it or not.

I was talking to a woman the other day who is preparing to receive the Precepts during Jukai at Throssel in early April. This quote indicates that once you have committed to the practice it does itself. One thing that seems to happen during the lead-up to the commitment made during Jukai is to question ones ‘readiness’. Questions such as Am I able to keep the Precepts? Or, Am I adequately prepared, or would it be best to wait another year?

Like anything else one commits to, one enters with the understanding and depth one has at that time. Invariably that understanding deepens as one goes on in life. In the beginning taking up formal practice seems to be all about discipline. Not a word or concept some of us take so kindly too! The rebellious amongst us know how the internal pressure to ‘sit still’ works with that rebellious nature which…well…is in the habit of rebelling. There is always the need to be reflective around what we choose to do and not do. That is true for everybody.

Even after very many years of committed practice that little duality, Discipline v rebellion, can left foot us. At such times it’s good to take a kind look at oneself. Not sitting may not be a problem with discipline. It might be that something is pushing one to take a deeper look as to why one sits anyway. In the beginning it is a ‘good thing’ and becomes a ‘good’ habit which proves we are not the hopeless kid we sometimes think we are!

We have been told that over and over that ‘pure zazen must be done’, that sitting is a good thing. But what is the good, and what is the thing? The kid in us all, the rebellious one, gets some hard knocks along the way but not everything needs to be laid at her door. As the quote says, we practice whether we like it, or like it not. More importantly whether we know it or not. And along the way we struggle but that’s just a finger pointing back to us to ease up on ourselves. Why not sit still and enjoy and appreciate the gem we carry in our hearts. Sometimes we know it’s twinkle and most often not.

The gem, however, can be lost sight of. But not for long though.

Thanks to Chris Y. for the quote. And I’m sorry not to post more often of recent weeks. Right now my Internet connection has failed so nothing much will appear here for a few days. Sitting in the local gift shop where there is a free Internet connection I realize how I enjoy writing in such conditions. The statutory coffee and cake helps of course!

This post is for those who are stepping, those who have been stepping for years and all of us who have been stepping…eternally. For that’s, in truth, how it is. Practice has no beginning and no end. But receiving the Precepts formally is not nothing.

Now is Complete

Complete.
Complete.
I said in answer to a question about purpose:

Could you conceive
of the possibility
that right now
is complete?

The above was a question I posed during a Q & A session which missed the mark but made an impression on the person sitting next to the questioner! One just never knows where one’s thoughts will land. And take root.

Very busy at the moment unfortunately with little spare time for writing here. Hopefully that will change as I catch up with what needs to be done now I’m settled with a desk to return to. Regularly.