Category Archives: Teachings

Mary Oliver – Great Woman

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Mary Oliver (b. September 10, 1935 d. January 17, 2018)

You can listen to Mary Oliver reading the above poem, Wild Geese, in this article in Brain Pickings.

‘The world offers itself to your imagination….’ Ah yes indeed.
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Exercising Faith – The Bodhisattvas’ Path (Dharma Talk)

This was first published October 2017. Will Pegg died in September.

Today at Shasta Abbey, Northern California, we celebrated the Festival of Bhaisajya-guru Tathagata, the Healing Buddha. I was honoured to be asked to give the Dharma Talk after the ceremony. The title is:  Exercising Faith – The Bodhisattvas’ Path.

Towards the end I mention three people by name: Michael Stone (who died mid July), Will Pegg and Rev. Master Meiten all from (or near) Vancouver Island  British Columbia Canada. I dedicated the merit of the talk to them, and although I didn’t say it at the time, the merit extends to all those who have supported them, learnt from them and continue to be inspired by them. All three clearly exercise faith and walk the Bodhisattva Path. The world is full of people, Bodhisattvas’, who each in their own way inspire others to live a life of faith and generosity.

That is enough for tonight.

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Ancient Monk Remembered – Rev. Master Meiten

This time last year I was in Victoria, Vancouver Island, Canada having traveled up from Shasta Abbey in Northern California. I knew my dear Dharma Sister, Rev. Master Meiten, was close to dying and as it happened she passed on while I was on the train to Seattle. That was January 2nd, her Cremation ceremony was on January 8th, tomorrow is the anniversary.

Rev. Meiten and I were novices together in the early 1980’s at Shasta Abbey. Training together we got to know our fellow novices rather well, not that we chatted a lot about our lives before ordination. Mostly we trained along side each other; washing dishes, sweeping, walking the cloister, informal ‘teas’, learning how to use a computer and enter ‘data’. We knew each other on a deeper level than our personal individual ‘stories’.

I took over Rev. Meiten’s job as Journal Department Assistant and keeper of ‘Master Mailing’, the hand written record of the monasteries contacts. Addresses were kept on 3 x 5 inch cards and stored in shoe boxes on my desk. We used an Addressograph machine, goodness, that thing was heavy, each address was typed onto a custom stencil card, primitive by todays standards of course. We’d use the machine to stamp addresses onto Journals and publicity pamphlets for mailing.

Those were our early days. As I sit here and think of Meiten all sorts of memories sift up to the surface. Perhaps the one upper most is how she would buy me a chunk of Baclavar and leave it, anonymously, in my mail slot when she knew I was in need of a treat. I just knew it was from her. Later still I’d visit her when she lived in Victoria heading up Vancouver Island Zen Sangha.

Anyway this is a long way around to introducing you to her writings which are available now in various formats, including for reading on Kindle. Originally the sangha published three books, now out of print. My last memory is waking to the sound of rapid typing, tap, tap, tap, either answering emails or writing more articles. She was fast and prolific. There is probably enough material for several more books.

Many of the people who gathered around Meiten still meet each week in Victoria. My love and bows to them. Oh and I have something particular to be grateful for, Meiten encouraged me to express myself especially writing. Thank you dear Meiten, you will not be forgotten.


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Be Aware the Bearer of News

Below is the start of a a short story in the New Yorker.  Gave me pause for thought. I’ll be noticing with more awareness when I am the bearer of bad news, or the bearer of good news for that matter. Enjoy. It’s quite funny actually.

On our kibbutz, Kibbutz Yekhat, there lived a man, Zvi Provizor, a short fifty-five-year-old bachelor who was given to blinking. He loved to convey bad news: earthquakes, plane crashes, buildings collapsing on their occupants, fires, and floods.

The King of Norway
By Amos Oz


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Our Yesterdays Remembered

First published 2009. The ‘time came’ for the chap who sent me this photograph, he died this year. He left many gifts, especially his offering in Edinburgh to the Buddhist Sangha. Rawdon, you will not be forgotten.

West Allen Valley

What might I leave you
as a last gift when my time comes?
Springtime flowers,
the cuckoo singing all summer,
the yellow leaves of autumn.
Zen Master Ryokan, translated by Sam Hamill

In the 1960’s there was a TV programme called ‘All Our Yesterdays’ in which we saw what life was like 25 years previously. Mostly it was black and white newsreel footage from WW2, if I remember correctly.

This picture was taken twenty five years ago in 1982. The priory, as it was then, was switching gears from being a lay retreat center to growing into what it is now, a full training monastery with a continuing guest programme. The chap who sent me the photograph, along with many others who read this, played an important part in the growth and development that has taken place over the years. Here is an opportunity to say thank you.

And the poem? I found it today in the monastic alms box. That’s a place we can put religious items for others to pick up and use, I thought you’d like it.

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