Category Archives: Teachings

Is it the Pain That Hurts?

Where the Rivers Kent and Bela meet for Morecambe Bay and beyond.

Just sometimes, when you are smack in the middle of some trauma or anxiety provoking situation it is best not to jump too quickly to thinking about what the teaching was/is. But it’s tempting if only to bring oneself comfort in the midst of pain. So it is for me at the moment. I’m tempted to write about my recent dental travails however that’s still ongoing and better left to settle down. If nothing else I’ve come to accept that it’s no good blaming the dentist for my tooth problems and pain. I know where the responsibility lies. Really simple! In the scheme of things my troubles are small.

It is heart rending to hear about the hard places people find themselves in. A woman on the phone today with a serious heart condition. So bad the consultant is not able to do anything, too dangerous to proceed with surgery. She said, It’s the nights that are worse, wondering if this pain is a heart attack. or not.. The night magnifies everything especially if alone. I offered my mobile number. Call me in the night if you need to. Thank you darling, God Bless. She replied.

There is a litany of people I know who are facing or have just gone through major surgery. There are others who live with chronic pain, chronic fear of dying and diminishing cognitive abilities. What stories people have to tell, life lessons to learn. The most compelling story to tell is the approach of death and few people live well enough to tell the tale.

But something remarkable has been happening on Mondays on Radio 4 around 5.30 am. Star broadcaster Eddie Mair has been interviewing Steve Hewlett, star journalist and BBC correspondent and much more. Steve was diagnosed with cancer last September and Eddie for the Radio 4 PM program has been following Steve’s progress allowing his story to unfold with gentle good nature and with tender good humoured questioning. So how did it feel when you were told there was no more treatment that could be given? Asked Eddie, Steve’s response….? Here are all the interviews starting back in September last year.

The last episode:
Steve has had to continue his stay in the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, so Eddie Mair went to visit him again. During their conversation, Steve told Eddie that his consultant had said his liver would not be able to handle any more treatments and that the outlook in the long term was not good.
On a happier note, he and his partner Rachel decided to get married.

There’s a journalist telling his own story as it happens. He blames nobody. He speaks not for entertainment but for education and for uplift. For those who are in extremity themselves or who are beside somebody who is. Guess that covers all of us.

IS it the pain that hurts?

Wrinkling Skin Bag

Behold!
The Undying One
Walking, wailing,
Crying, laughing,

Enclosed with this
Wrinkling Skin Bag
Think to abandon?
Think not!

This is for a monk who is approaching a juncture in monastic training. And if the words seem slightly familiar I’ve taken the last few lines of a well known poem and reworked them. Song of the Grass-Roof Hut. Considerably!

When ‘Winds’ are too Favorable

Morecambe Bay – Jenny Brown point path, Silverdale.

When Danger
Encircles you,
Show yourself
Steadfast and
undaunted,
But when the winds
are too favorable,
fail not to show
wise caution and
haul in the billowing sail.
Horace

Oh how easy it is to run when the wind is at your back. To break out into a run, so to speak, when a steady, steadfast, enduring walking-on would be wisest all around.

Actively Objecting – Fierce Love

There will be a lot of gathering together today, all around the world. People, women and men, actively objecting and actively voicing and above all being active. When remaining passive might be an option.

Sticking to what one believes is right and true, in the face of abuse and ridicule, is not a one off kind of action. This story of a man in WW2, a Conscientious Objector (to not shedding blood/killing) is  an example of persistently sticking to what he held in his heart as right and true. Quite something actually.

He persisted to save lives in the face of losing his own. But what marks him out is that he was praying all the way, while he worked to save lives.

The message here is obvious. But I’ll say it anyway.

Hate is not conquered by hate,
Hate is conquered by love.
This is an eternal law.
The Buddha

There is however a fierce love (marked by extreme intensity of emotions or convictions).

Be careful out there people.

We are The Birds That Stay

‘Tis not that Dying hurts us so –
‘Tis Living – hurts us more –
But Dying – is a different way –
A Kind behind the Door –

The Southern Custom – of the Bird –
That ere the Frosts are due –
Accepts a better Latitude –
We – are the Birds – that stay.
Emily Dickinson

So continuing on with the theme of ‘the¬†immoveable/indestructible you’. And now adding to that thought, why is being mortal such a drag! Buddhism puts it bluntly: We have what we don’t want and we want what we don’t have! Living is about turning that little problem on it’s head. The continuing attempt to do that leads to constant frustration/anger. Which leads to our protecting ourselves by believing things are not the way they are. Or at least not as bad as we think, Oh, and we didn’t want/not want (what ever it was) anyway which is delusion. That’s suffering and the teaching contained within the Twelve Steps of Dependent Origination.is a detailed description of WHY it’s endless. That link takes you to an explanation that could be educational without too much brain pain!

I’m sure I’m not the first person who has thought or wondered about death and become afraid or at the very least disturbed. However for the most part we don’t, we get on with living. Best we can. However when in more reflective moments we may wonder why living is oddly unsatisfactory even when we have what we want. Being alive, or dead, are not choices however the HOW of living (and dying) is. Here is a story.

A nun I’m acquainted with told of a letter she had received from a woman in a prison in Asia somewhere. The details of why she was there I can’t remember but I think she might have been a political prisoner. The woman wrote, Every day the guards take me out of the cell and beat and abuse me. And every day I do my sitting and walking meditation. She concluded by saying, ‘And I am FREE!’ That is an example of spiritual indestructibility. She had passed through the gate, or door, of life and death and found ‘Kind’ behind it.

We are the birds that stay.