Category Archives: Daily Life

Challenges For Change

Here is a repost from 2009.

Challenge One: Trust
Challenge Two: Face up to change
Challenge Three: Access the source of Trust
Challenge Four: Trust that trust is not…what we think it is.

It’s not always so easy, it’s a personal challenge in terms of trust, to talk about one’s interior world with a monk who they don’t know. However, that’s what people can do when here for a retreat, or at other times too. It’s especially challenging to talk about a life change on the horizon which, on the face of it is life-changing, in every direction. The third challenge is to trust ones own heart while talking. Hearing ones own voice emanating from deep within, knowing that another is listening without judgment, can be life-changing!

Here is some correspondence with a woman I met at a recent introductory retreat. I’m publishing with her permission. Our exchanges, both in person and via email, are an example of how Taking Refuge in the Sangha works.

Dear Rev. Mugo,
The time that I spent at the monastery this weekend has been invaluable. No matter which route my spiritual journey now takes, it will not be the same as I thought it would have been on Friday when I set off. Many thanks to you and the other monks for your inspiration and a special thanks to you for listening and allowing me to honestly explore where I am right now.

My response:

Thanks for this. Glad the retreat helped and thanks for the thanks. As you will have read on Jade, I found being around all of you people this last week inspiring. Here we all are just attempting to take the next wise step in our lives. May your steps take you to the important thing, however that manifests in your daily life as a religious person.

This person has in actual fact made a remarkable step in her religious life. On the eve before going off on holiday for two weeks she asked me if I had any general advice you thought might be appropriate.

I responded thus:

Have a lovely holiday with your family. As for advice generally? I’d say to trust the deepest part of yourself and consult inwardly as you move along in your life. Rather in the way one does when out and about, shopping perhaps, taking a pause in an aisle in a supermarket and then remembering you need eggs and if you hadn’t stopped you’d have had to make an extra trip to get them later. The process is just the same generally. Pausing as you go to give those sideways thoughts and insights a chance to be heard. Maybe a slight adjustment suggests itself regarding ones intended direction. This is probably particularly important when, as you are, taking what seems to be a big change of direction in terms of religion. However, you more than likely already realise it’s not such a big step now because you can see how there have been lots of little steps which have come before this one.

Yes, just keep on with your life and enjoy each day, hour, moment. Perhaps appreciate would be a better word. I think one can’t help but appreciate when one opens ones’ heart and follows where it leads especially when a certain level of ‘leap’ has taken place. A life-changing change.

I’ve never used the example of pausing in the aisle of a supermarket before, it just came up when writing to you and thinking about it you can probably relate to it. Often people divide up there lives between spiritual and ordinary, I think this is a false distinction. Obviously one is not going to check with ones interior about getting white or brown bread or will it be cheese on toast or fish fingers for tea! We use our ‘common’ (sense) obviously.

Back from holiday recently my correspondent made a huge leap in understanding regarding listening. I bow to her continuing insights.

We are back safe and sound. We enjoyed the holiday but I am glad to be home nonetheless. Thank you so much for your reply. Yes, by all means, use your response on Jade. I found the supermarket analogy interesting but it did make me realise an aspect of myself which I have to be careful of, I think. My husband always offers to do the shopping, much preferring that I keep well away from the supermarkets and Costco especially. The reason for this is that ….. I spend too much money. ‘I had better put that in the basket because I may need it sometime in the future’. I never seem to be able to keep to what I have written on the list. It got me thinking that to pause in/for the moment is good but not to pause contemplating what I might need in the future. Your comment re, opening my heart and following where it leads, I am adopting as my motto to remind myself to follow the lead rather than trying to lead where my head says it wants to be. Patience is a virtue!

The leap, just in case you didn’t notice it, was to pause and not contemplate what might be needed in the future.

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The Golden Wave – Brenda Birchenough – Audio

The late Brenda Birchenough speaks about a breakthrough¬†in her training (in the 1990s) which gave her fresh eyes to look at herself and all beings. As she says, “I was brassed off, desperate to get out of the monastery”. Having been at Throssel for a five-week stay and with three days to go before leaving a breakthrough came which changed her perspective on herself and her relationship with others.

Sometimes one has to get so thoroughly fed up with oneself for an insight into the truth to happen. It was her intention to train and see into her habits which propelled her to see The Golden Wave. Being ‘brassed off’ helps, the intention to look at oneself honestly helps one not to slide off into despair.

The title of the talk is Let Flow the Golden Tide.

Brenda would frequently question the validity of what she understood to be true saying, “I experienced the compassion of the eternal so how come I’m still judging (she would use stronger language, to be honest)”? I can’t remember what I would say, probably something to the effect that thoughts are habit-forming when repeated over and over. She was blessed with a faith she didn’t recognize and I would point that out to her. Frequently.

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Why Write?

Brenda Birchenough. These hands wrote,  I plan to quote some of it in the near future.

Years ago I was talking to a chap who studied creative writing, ‘Why write’ I asked him. He replied, ‘There is only one reason and that’s to understand oneself better’. This holds true for me to this day. Yes, there is altruism involved in the case of writing for Jade Mountains, to offer the teaching, however, the element of understanding myself better is lurking in the background. Here is what I’ve said in the past about my purpose in terms of ‘offering the teaching’. Oh, and a bit about the history of Jade, started propper in 2005.

The following has been copied from a post from 2012 titled Looking Back Looking Forward. This website had just moved from a program called Drupal to WordPress. It is no small thing to migrate all the content from one ‘platform’ to another. With the change I found myself reflecting on my original purpose for writing this weblog and the refining of that. So here is a bit of history for those who are relatively new readers. My first post, Entrenching Tool explains my background intention.

With the aid of the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, I retrieved Jades original About page published sometime in mid-2003. I didn’t write a lot back then however I was glad to see the post The Road Not Taken was logged in the archive and so I have pulled it back into the current site. And at such times as these, moving house, it is perhaps good to reflect on the original intention that inspired me to maintain an online presence in the first place. So here is my first post, The Entrenching Tool!

Reflections on why I write from November 2011. Edited 2020.

On first sight Jademountains might look like an exercise in self-indulgence! A monastic going on about herself. However do explore the Archive, there’s frequently teaching embedded within a post where I’ll be talking about something I’ve experienced, thought about or otherwise found interesting and worth passing on. Hopefull the material ammased here will be a useful ‘tool’ to find inspiration, information and encouragement to continue to practice. Return frequently. Do subscribe if you want to have posts come into your inbox.

The underlying teaching is Buddhist practice is not separate from living an ordinary daily life what ever ones circumstances.

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Perfectly Balanced – With Poise

This evening I learnt a sangha member in North America had announced to her community of trainees that their cancer had metastasised involving lung and other parts of the body. The merit of these images and this post is offered for the benefit of this dear woman who has been dealing with cancer for a number of years.

Dear Rev. Mugo,

Here are shots of a heron we saw at the north end of Druridge Bay on 17th (January). It was quite as cold as it looks. There’s something extraordinary about the stillness of a heron – how it stands, and stands, and stands, as if it had never been anywhere else.

And then it took off and I just happened to have the camera trained on it and caught that moment of perfectly balanced but dynamic form. But that we may all remain still, so still and then spread our wings and take flight in reflexive response to the air around us. I wish that for our sangha member and for all. It is a matter of faith, which has no object. Faith, or trust in that which underpins our lives.

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What Am I?

We struggle to know who we are, to define and be defined. To be valued, to be of value. To know and be known. To understand and be understood. In this tradition, humans are regarded as intrinsically empty of independent existence. Yes, we know and experience ourselves as individual and separate, functioning in the world along side other ‘separate’ beings. However, the sense of being a separated self, separate from other ‘selves’, fades. If given half a chance!

I am what I do?
No
I am what I think?
No
I am how I appear?
No
I am what I feel?
No
I am what I understand?
No

Doing, thinking, appearing, feeling and understanding are known as the five Skandhas or five aggregates or ‘heaps’ which are: form (or material image, impression) (rupa), sensations (or feelings, received from form) (vedana), perceptions (samjna), mental activity or formations (sankhara), and consciousness (vijnana).
Wikipedia for starters:

This post is for those suffering from long term degenerative conditions, and those who partner them. Over time and increasingly: no longer able to ‘do’ as they once did, not able to ‘appear’ thus ‘invisible in the world’, feelings are extreme/diffuse/confusing (you name it) thoughts are muddled and understanding dimming. This too is Buddha, we take care of Buddha. Note to self: ‘Aging’ is not a long term degenerative disease, however it surely does feel that way! sometimes.

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