Category Archives: Teachings

Regrets? – No Permanent Mooring

I was talking to a woman last evening on the phone. Her health is ‘not what it was’ and she is noticing she is not as quick on her feet. Yet, non the less, she keeps up her meditation practice, has a sangha (community) of like minded people to call on and generally stays buoyant within the ups and downs of medical tests, new and unexplained symptoms and coming to terms with the approach of the end of life.

During the course of our conversation I asked if she had any regrets. There were none that came immediately to mind. Well, except a wish to go to Greenland! Ah well, there is a lot of world out there. Since a child I wanted to climb Mount Everest however having watched a film or three of Everest climbs confirms I DO NOT want to climb that mountain!

Towards the end of life, and not necessarily leaving it that long, it’s good to keep up with regrets one might have. That’s not always about doing something to ‘set things right’, more about recognition and acceptance. Clearing the decks, so to speak. Regrets might for example include an action or something left undone or unsaid. Regrets can find a place within oneself where they can find a safe mooring. Nothing is safe or permanent about moorings – ask a boat owner!

Last thought. Being open to oneself in this way does send a signal to others around you who may have regrets of their own. Ones they would like to deal with. In relationship to you perhaps!

The following is taken from a website called, The Art of Dying Well, a Catholic based site. However you don’t need to be of any particular faith tradition to benefit from taking a look around. The following is about a woman with no faith tradition yet had a love of mountains. She reached up past the known.

Sister Elizabeth (a Catholic nun) a retired palliative care worker, remembers a patient called Olive who was dying of lung cancer. She lived alone, seemed to have no close friends or relatives, and refused to go to hospital. She was an atheist and at first unhappy to be visited by a nun. But Sister Elizabeth discovered that Olive had loved mountain climbing and won her trust by helping her visualise her illness by using the language of mountaineering. When Olive’s bed had to be moved to the ground floor sitting room because she could no longer manage the stairs, the nun called it “base camp” and arranged for one wall to be covered in landscape photographs of mountains.
Late one night, Olive phoned Sister Elizabeth and asked whether she could go into hospital for a couple of days.

“Olive said to me ‘I’m glad I’m going in because I am going to do the most difficult climb of my life but at the top I am going to see the most wonderful sunrise.’ That’s the nearest we got to God but to me that was a totally spiritual saying. She died about three hours later”.

The journey towards death is as much about getting to know yourself as any part of life. Learning to recognise your needs – be they medical, emotional or spiritual – is something that may become more acute when you are closer to death. Being able to identify these needs is another central part of what it means to die well.

The Art of Dying Well

Many thanks to my Sangha friend and walking companion for sending me this link from the Guardian newspaper where the site mentioned above is discussed. Given my love of being up high in the fells and how easy it is to fall off I endevour to keep the decks clear!

Bess Is Best!

And there she is, the lovely Bess up there on the tops in snow on the 10th November. You can see how popular she is if you follow the link text to a Facebook page edited by her ‘person’, an equally wonderful person. (My mother always talked to dogs by saying something like ‘what a lovely person’!) Anyway dear Bess, and all who know her and Rachael, were is a bit of a concerned state following news that Bess had ‘a lump’. Turned out to be a consequence of something that happened during her routine procedure to be spayed. Not go into the details enough to say Bess has nothing life threatening and now sports a fast healing scare on her belly. (Cousin Jess in the US, no stress please. All is well, your vet hat can remain happy on your head.)

The other day there was a bit of a gathering in the place where I am staying at the moment. There is always a space for Bess, and a bowl of water for refreshments too. We had a few quiet moments together and, unusual for her with relative strangers, rolled over to reveal her wound patch. Just a small window of opportunity to hold the palm of my hand over the wound to ‘bless’ it. We are taught in our tradition to do this. Bit of love offered to the lovely Bess and also to seal up the hole created my the surgery. Similar to making sure the door is closed and locked when you leave a building, only this works on a subtle (spiritual) level.

Yep. Bess is best. Collie dogs are very loyal and Bess is no exception joined as she is to Rachael.

The Past Supports Action Into The Future – Video

Embodied Mind – Moving From Support from Mugo on Vimeo.
Remembering Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett who died 20 years ago with great gratitude.

You need no further teachings than the above in order to show gratitude, and you must show it truly, in the only real way, in your daily life; our daily life should be spent constantly in selfless activity with no waste of time whatsoever. Time flies quicker than an arrow and life passes with greater transience than dew. However skillful you may be, how can you ever recall a single day of the past? Should you live for a hundred years just wasting your time, every day and month will be filled with sorrow; should you drift as the slave of your senses for a hundred years and yet live truly for only so much as a single day, you will, in that one day, not only live a hundred years of life but also save a hundred years of your future life. The life of this one day, to-day, is absolutely vital life; your body is deeply significant. Both your life and your body deserve love and respect for it is by their agency that Truth is practiced and the Buddha’s power exhibited: the seed of all Buddhist activity, and of all Buddhahood, is the true practice of Preceptual Truth.

From The Shushogi, Zen Master Dogen chapter title Putting The Teachings Into Practice And Showing Gratitude.

It’s The Impeded Stream That Sings

The quote below by Wendell Berry echoes a recent text conversation with a friend. The texts referenced a decision I’d made while on an early visit to Throssel in around 1979. I’d decided I would take the steps to become ordained as a monk. My decision was set in the context of a life which had hit against a wall. And I was open. To make sure I didn’t go back on the decision I’d written a note with ‘I Know’ confirming what I ‘knew’ and put it with my toothbrush. It would be the first thing I’d see in the morning – the best of us go back on decisions especially ones which are life changing. More than one bride/bridegroom has been left standing at the altar!

The Wendell quote came recently in an email from a chap I’d met at Throssel. He was telling me about developments in his life since coming on an Introductory Retreat. Last year I believe. The words summed up an understanding he had come to.

​It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work
and when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Wendell Berry

The texts:
Friend: Your phrase ‘I know’ has been burning into my brain since I heard you say those words! Incredibly powerful and helpful. 6.20 pm
Me: Errm, in what context did I so impress you with my words ‘I know’? 8:56 pm
Friend: We were talking about the note you left for yourself about deciding to become a monk. It was so powerful and decisive. 10:17 am following day.
Me: Now I remember. In a sense I think one always ‘knows’ and the stuff of life is sifting through ‘the rest’! And allowing that to fall away, recycle etc. My ‘I know’ was life changing and the rest did fall into place. Magic! And still does, given patience. 10:37 am
So, The impeded stream is the one that sings. How amazing is that?

Where Spirit Meets the Bone

From Crinkle Crag looking into the Langdale Valley
From Crinkle Crag looking into the Langdale Valley

Who knows what ‘wars’ were going on down in the valley on Sunday, much yelling going on. The Fells just carry on as usual in Autumn – being what they are.

Have compassion for everyone you meet
You do not know
what wars are going on
down there,
where the spirit meets the bone.

Lucinda Williams
Full lyrics on Brain Pickings. + YouTube link

Yes, once again this Sunday I was out on the fell-tops where indeed ‘spirit meets bone’! Do I need to say more?

Once, over twenty years ago now, I mentioned to Rev. Master (Jiyu-Kennett) I’d been up on a Tor on Dartmoor in Devon while back in England to visit my family. She paused and smiled and said ‘you like being up high don’t you’. To which I replied, ‘Yes’! Up on the South Downs was about as high as she would have probably reached. But who knows. What I saw in her was Mudita, sympathetic joy. She shared in my obvious love of being out, looking out, on the vast landscape. Sunday was the perfect day to sit quietly up high and allow the majesty.  A slight difficulty in my bones (ankle) a blessing, causing me to turn around before reaching Bowfell, the destination, and make a slow and careful descent, pausing lots.

My intention in sharing with you some of my ‘up high’ adventures is for you to join me in the joy.