Category Archives: Teachings

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!

Jedi Order (Star Wars) vs. Buddhist Quiz

Bit of fun for you.
Yoda vs. Buddha. Enlightenment means stepping away from the dark side, something on which both masters of Buddhism and the Jedi Order agree. But can you tell the difference between the insight of Yoda and the insight of the Buddha?

Enlightenment means stepping away from the dark side, something on which both masters of Buddhism and the Jedi Order agree. But can you tell the difference between the insight of Yoda and the insight of the Buddha?

From the BBC Radio 4 website

The illustrations on-line for the BBC Radio 4 series, Incarnation: India in 50 Lives are worth taking a look at.

Thanks to my walking companion for pointing out this quiz. I got 5 out of 10. However, I was guessing the answers so that’s fairly good I thought.

Expanding and Contracting Self – Who ‘s Measuring!

1Zen Ivy
Young creatures grow and expand at an alarming rate. Before you know it they have outgrown their shoes and clothing tugs tight. Hair gets longer – and longer and the first cut is an event to remember. Sometimes with tears and screams. Depending. Some save a lock so precious is that sign of development. So fast this expanding, each day, week, month brings a gasp of amazement. Soon speech and exploration, nothing is sacred for a toddler. Yes, an expanding and exploring self, developing before our very eyes. In no time that toddle is walking arm on arm to music and applause. Another cycle about to begin.

Then the slow trickle. Imperceptibly expansion turns around into contraction. For sure there is some breathing out and breathing in, the growth and decline and growth again however, imperceptibly, contraction. The world, the horizon, extents just past finger tips.   Hair thins, clothes hang, nails horn like. Ballance once a challenge towards standing now a challenge of a different kind and magnitude. Vastly different.  The self contracts? Diminishes? Or so it might appear.

I have been using the expression ‘diminished capacity’ as a catch-all phrase for those whose world is closing in on them. Mentally, physically and emotionally. I’m shaking, she tells me on the phone. Another and another speaks of what life has become. However while my elderly friends might smile ruefully at my recently, severely diminished, ivy plant picture above, (and that’s another story) there is dignity and  depth in the sedate stepping. Gnarled hands indeed but the vital life, inner life, does not fade from the eyes. However sunken or hooded they may become.

What we call the self is not what we think!

True Healing – present/listening/silence

Bhaisajyaguru with healing herbs in the right hand.
Bhaisajyaguru with healing herbs in the right hand.

We held a special ceremony for Bhaisajyaguru  at Throssel this last Sunday. Here is the dedication made by the celebrant, Rev. Master Olwen during the first incense offering. She spoke slowly drawing one into the depths the words point towards. It is a meditation

We stand
in silence
listening silence
this presence
standing here
now.

Does it listen
to anything?
Does it find other?
We cannot have ‘our silence’ or
‘our stillness’.
This silence is all of us.

With all our senses left alone
to just be,
we re-turn to the stillness –
the heart and
wellspring
of the Buddha’s living Vow.

Always totally
now
here.

When we re-turn to just BE this present-listening-silence, our thoughts and theories left alone, we look beyond our imaginings, identities, and in entrusting, dropping, there is nothing to stand apart. All Buddhas are never separate or apart from the minds churning waves. They sit with great compassion for beings. We too wish to vow to look beyond the suffering of boundary-making.

Homage to the Buddha,
Homage to the Dharma,
Homage to the Sangha.

Thanks to Rev. Master Olwen for allowing me to publish this dedication verse/teaching. The talk that followed the ceremony will, in time, be on the Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey website.

Such Sweet-Sadness

1Wabi Sabi
What IS it about peeling paint? Decay? A moment caught in the flow of time. There is the Wabi-sabi Japanese esthetic which, I’ve discovered, has a basic Buddhist teaching at it’s roots. Namely the Three Signs of Existence: impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukkha), and non-self (anattā). (Sometimes referred to as the Three marks of existence.) However that’s all very well and good, and one can get caught up in thinking about and analyzing why peeling paint and the like is so…..’beautiful’, but why the attraction? Why, for example, is the wrinkled face of an elderly person so ‘can’t keep my eyes off’ alluring?

1Garden Station LangleyThis is the The Garden Station, Langley where last Sunday we had tea and scones: that’s after a walk along the old railway line, a sandwich in the lee of a stone wall (the wind was almost gale force), and a pleasant return along a wide and sheltered path through the woods. The station cafe is a delight, the conversation was stimulating and the scones home-made.

1Walkin and TalkinMy Sunday walking companions. What a pleasure to move across the earth, together.

1the way aheadThe conversation that emerged while we had our tea and scone (and jam) has had me contemplating this question of peeling paint! Or rather the underlying question of consciousness and Being – of self nature.  Could it possibly be I’ve a blogging theme lurking here to explore? I certain hope so. For, when day after day I am simply not moved to write here, I find myself bereft. Ah! Perhaps it (the lurking theme) is the sweet-sadness of the passage of time, layer upon layer, showing the flow of….what is that? Being?