Category Archives: Overcome Difficulties

Appreciating The Impact of Words


Words cannot express things;
Speech does not convey the spirit.
Swayed by words, one is lost;
Blocked by phrases, one is bewildered.

Mumon’s Verse for Chao-chou’s Oak Tree, Case 37
– Two Zen Classics: Mumonkan & Hekiganroku, p. 110
Translated with commentaries by Katsuki Sekida

A word came my way the other day and looking into it’s meaning one could understand it in two, or more, almost completely opposing ways. A shadow side and a non shadow. Positive or negative, or somewhere in between. As children in the playground when a child was ‘calling somebody names’ which nowadays would be classed as bullying we had a well-worn retort. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. Of course they hurt but to tackle the name caller was to court more than nasty names. See, Sticks and Stones: When Words are Used as Weapons, By Miriam Adahan There are some wonderful teachings from the Torah on right speach in the link to the book.

Words or phrases applied to oneself or to others can have a devastating and have a long-lasting impact especially on the young. Words stick and if they come with the background intent to hurt they can stick for a life time. Choosing words and phrases carefully is obviously important however even with the best of intentions people grasp the wrong end of the stick! I’m eternally sorry for all those who have found themselves hurt by words and phrases I’ve written or uttered.

What was the word that came my way the other day? Insouciant. Meanings listed as follows: showing a casual lack of concern; indifferent.
synonyms: nonchalant, untroubled, unworried, unruffled, unconcerned, indifferent, blasé, heedless, careless; relaxed, calm, equable, serene, composed, easy, easygoing, carefree, free and easy, happy-go-lucky, lighthearted, airy, blithe, mellow;
informal: cool, laid-back, slaphappy.

Perfectly Pink!

Clearly Mt. Shasta our close neighbour here at Shasta Abbey has moods. And equally clearly people have preferences when it comes to the mood of the mountain. Be that the Alpine Glow of the evening light as below.AlpinglowOr the Perfectly Pink, over the top could pick it up and take it home, look which is one of my favourites. Thanks to the monk who captured these two photographs. And now I’m thinking of a correspondent who wrote recently of her fond memories of the mountain while visiting here some twenty years ago. Fundamentally it is the same mountain, as close as it was back then.

Pink Mountain 2And just as with the mountain and the weather conditions which produce images redolent with feeling, so too with us. We show our moods  in how we appear and in how we respond to those we encounter,  conditioned by our own weather – mental, physical, emotional.

Of late I’ve been holding off a cold and I’m seeing myself responding to hands of concern and voices of sympathy and advice in a somewhat frosty way. The other evening I pulled a face  so unlike me that I even shocked myself! Yes, I guess we would all like to appear as we would wish others to see us. If not perfectly pink at least something close to a glow. And certainly not appear such that others recoil in horror! As happened the other evening.

This post is for a cat who is struggling to live and for her care taker who appeared in my dream last night – her face a saintly glow. Oh and for my patient and caring fellows who can see past appearances. Thank goodness!


In The Morning – Light Shines

Mt. Shasta, Northern California in late December.
Mt. Shasta, Northern California in late December.

One of the monks took this photograph of Mt. Shasta this morning. I’ll call him an ‘associate photographer’ for Jade – there are others of course. This image really struck a note with me and so here it is for readers and viewers to enjoy. Last year the mountain had only a light dusting of snow and this year it’s fully iced. I’m thinking in cake terms as we are heading into cake decorating tomorrow. Something I always loved to do with Rev. Master Jiyu presiding over the holiday treat making.

The longest night passed without comment this year. Over on Warp and Weft Knitting there is this post, Lightly Held, on the Longest Night and wanted to draw your attention to it. If you are a knitter, there is much on this site to appreciate. And if not there is much you will appreciate especially the light touch and humour behind the whole blog. Keep on blogging. In the morning light shines, unrelentingly.

Thanks you people for returning again and again. Please do subscribe to receive blog posts directly via email. If you have trouble doing that leave a comment and I’ll write back. I’ve not sorted out the contact form and there is little chance of doing that before the end of the year. Oh, and please do leave comments. Reading them and responding is all part of the blog which I continue to enjoy writing and photographing for.


Barb and Barb with loaves.
Barb and Barb with loaves.
Where I am staying two woman friends are baking bread to give away as gifts to just about everybody they know in the area. They started early at around 7.30 am and now at midday it’s looking like all the dough has been made and most of it baked. They are obviously enjoying each others company and there’s much laughter and reminiscing. It is quite a production and they have been doing this faithfully for 24 years!

They have kept a diary which includes news of who’s around, children and then later as they have grown to adulthood, their boyfriends. Recorded – the cat eaten on the porch by a Mountain Lion, their resolutions which have remained much the same. More laughter and merriment. Their highs and lows shared in diary form now read aloud and remembered with sometimes laughter and sometimes serious and thoughtful silences. One woman remembers with a wistful glance. Not many birthings, lots of deaths though.

I’ve been reading a book recommended to me some time ago called The Gift by Lewis Hydes. Of course the ‘holiday season’ is a time of gift giving. I’ve been looking at ‘things’, gloves, boots, coats and the like and imagining letting my parents know what I’d like for Christmas. With no present giving parents alive now I may well purchase a few things on their behalf, with the money they left me. I’ll give myself gifts. I think that counts as gifts.

Now the gift tags are being written and the loaves bagged…Remember when I made my (very elderly) mother seal all of the bags?. The whole process is obviously brings so much for these two women before the bread reaches receiving hands and anybody and everybody in the house gets drawn into the process. Perhaps I’ll venture into the kitchen and start the clean-up. By the end of the day all the loaves have been delivered.

How to…..

Talking to somebody the other day. Talking about being the best person one can be. How do you do that? she asked. Off the top of my head, which is where so many of my responses come from, I replied – Well it has to do with intention, doesn’t it? Our intention to exercise compassion, unconditional love and matured wisdom in our daily dealings. Best we can. Sounded OK at the time anyway.

It was the first time somebody had asked ‘how to….’ which was a good question.

Soon (the 11th November) it will be the twentieth anniversary of my mother’s death. Just having a thought for her, a grateful thought.