Category Archives: Daily Life

In Prison, Or Not. Compassion The Key

Morecambe Bay – tide coming in

I’m visiting (and that’s taken up a lot of my focus recently) an elderly woman who recently moved to a care home on Marine Drive, Morecambe. I have struck it lucky these past couple of weeks with the waters in the Bay almost lapping up against the sea defenses. From her room my fellow Buddhist friend has a view of the Bay with the Lakeland Fells fringing the skyline. There is quite a bit of settling in arranging statues and pictures and treasures so she can be reminded and inspired of her Buddhist affiliations. Too bad she is not able to bend and twist sufficiently to see the view.

She has a single-sheet daily quote calendar beside her bed. When I’m there, if it’s not been done already, I tear off pages to bring it up to date and recycle the paper. Here recycling a quote from Albert Einstein:

A human being is part of the whole called by us “Universe”, a part limited in time and space. They experience themselves, thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to enhance all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
Albert Einstein

I’d replace “Universe” with “the Great Earth” which in Buddhist terms means Everything, seen and unseen or I guess “the Universe without edges” would work too. Anyway, hope this has inspired you on this long holiday weekend.

All merit goes to those who are not able to bend and twist so well. Either permanently or just at the moment.  Such a condition need not be part of being ‘in prison’ though it may well feel like that. Sorry.

Passing Years? Deeper Living?

I think I’ve reached that point which children do when they are PLEASED to see the number of their birth years rise. So I’m slightly wanting my years of living be a larger number and it doesn’t make sense. No, it isn’t my day today and I’m not telling when that was/is, for security reasons. However I can say I’m living/will be living my 70th year through 2017/18.

I’ve an image in my mind of a measuring stick (once called yard sticks) held horizontally representing ‘a life’. It starts at Zero at one end and somewhere over to the other end, its all over. Thus caught in a time-line with accompanying past stories and future imaginings. The present takes care of itself. Or does it. Now, in my minds eye the yard stick pivots on its axis where time (now) and space (here) intersect. From horizontal time-line with stories and imaginings to vertical where there is an up and a down.

We talk about deepening ones training and that’s often puzzled me as to what exactly that might mean. I do know what it means and as best I can say it is a deeper more three dimensional encounter with existence. The divide between self and others being less distinct somehow. We are not so dependent on past experience, although always influenced by the time line to define who we are.

Talking to a woman yesterday as we hiked in the Grizedale Forest in the Southern Lakes reignited this yardstick metaphor gently pivoting on its axis point. Ever in motion, dynamic AND anchored. We attempted to voice what that anchor was and looked/felt like. A pleasure for hearts to meet and words to give voice to that.

As when a child so when reaching a larger number of years, what one can and cannot do is significant, however that fades into the background. If one lets it.

Mabel Sit!

Ah Mabel. Yesterday a photo call by the milky white waterfall in the aptly named Sourmilk Gill above Grasmere.

I’ve know Mabel since she was a wee pup. She just turned three years March 1st and is as lively as ever and loves the lakes almost as much as I do. Whatever the weather, wetter the better for her.

I’ve traveled this path about four times in the last year and as I walked this time memories swam in and out. In my mind walks jumbled together along with the different companions, the walking conditions, stops to snack etc.

Memory snap-shots all jumbled out of sequence. And it maybe the out-of-sequence nature of memories generally that has me wondering just how much of memory is made up, unconsciously. Imaging, imagining, visualizing events and conversations so as to make sense of the jumble. Brains are brilliant at keeping us safe mentally and emotionally. But not necessarily accurate. As we know to our cost sometimes.

So my thought now is on what my teacher taught us. To remember to think when in contention, ‘I could be wrong’, or alternatively ‘I could be right’! An aid to nurturing humility and confidence, depending. All relative though.

Thanks to friends who tolerate my leaky memory. Wars are made of this! Careers are lost and broken because of this.

Plain outright fibs are another story. Mabel! Did you roll in Fox poo? Who me!

Memory Lost


A first for me on Saturday while walking up in the snow near Grasemere. Crampons! Wild looking devices and clearly they can do damage to both self and other when out of control. Not surprised to hear wearing them or not, needing them or not is a matter of debate when approaching snow. Perhaps that’s because they are ‘work’ to fix  onto the boot. Who knows. We watched a group making their way up to Fairfield, one chap used crampons a couple of others traction devices (mini spikes) and the majority stayed with ‘raw boot’!

I am reminded of being in Edmonton over ten years ago now. Snow, the sound of snow as boot lowers and raises. The quality of sound with varied ones according to the quality of snow and the temperature too. Do those memories sew my life together to make it a continuing story? Or are they simply snap shots stored away. A thread of a person moving through life. Yes, obviously. And in another sense she of five days ago, has died.

I’m thinking particularly about those who are suffering from memory loss, short-term memory loss which is so distressing and dimmed long-term memory too. I see on the face of those I visit the deep anguish in them as they struggle with, or give up on, their encounter with the outside world. Why is it you have come? she said. Are you giving a lecture here? Why are you here? No answer will satisfy because it’s forgotten instantly.

Errm, this reads a bit ‘random’. Happens to the best of us. Merit to those with random thoughts who are no longer able to string their life together. At all.

Smiling Broadly Above Edinburgh

Portobello and beyond

Arthur’s Seat is the main mountain in Edinburgh, Scotland which form most of Holyrood Park, described by Robert Louis Stevenson as “a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design”.[1] It is situated just to the east of the city centre, about 1 mile (1.6 km) to the east of Edinburgh Castle. The hill rises above the city to a height of 250.5 m (822 ft), provides excellent panoramic views of the city and beyond, is relatively easy to climb, and is popular for hillwalking.

With a brisk wind blowing and brilliant views all around we walked up to the top of Arthur’s Seat late afternoon on Monday. (Thanks to my hosts for the walk, meals, bed, roof and good company.) An article in the latest Eugene Buddhist Priory Newsletter helped me turn the corner and move out of natural shyness of being seen, close up, on screen A Bit More about “Welcome”. To find it scroll down and on the way you may recognize the photograph of a Buddha statue amidst fallen trees.

I’ve found it hard, since mid November, to accept the deserter in the front row. Dentistry is a wonderful art and I’m grateful for the replacement tooth. But never mind the teeth thing, what stands out this evening is the gift of freely appearing. Just that.