Category Archives: Daily Life

Trig Pillars

Trig Pillar on the moors above Throssel.

A testament to surveyors of the past
Although 6,500+ trig pillars were built, hundreds have been lost to housing developments, farming, coastal erosion and other causes. The vast majority follow the standard Hotine design, but some are stone built, and in Scotland there are some ‘Vanessas’ which are taller, cylindrical concrete pillars.

You can only imagine how hard it was for surveyors of the past to not only map Britain, but to also locate sites for trig pillars and carry the materials to remote sites to then build the trig pillars too.

It’s a true testament to their skills that such an accurate map of Britain was created from such humble beginnings as the trig pillar 80 years ago.

Ordinance Survey Blog A history of the Trig Pillar

There is something special about our Trig points in Britain to the point of fond (perhaps sentimental) affection. We love to go and visit them, some people even ‘bag’ them in the same way others ‘bag’ mountain tops. Because Trigs are located in high places the views on a clear day are 360 degrees of unincumbered Britain. Today we could see the Cheviots to the north and in all directions we had crystal clear views. It was a fun walk with fellow monks and Brenda Bear came too, named after Brenda Birchenough a fond friend in the Dharma.

With thoughts for those whose day is not clear or bright, whose view is limited and who are alone, and not by choice.

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Is That Not Enough?

This was first posted late December 2009 and links in with yesterdays post, ‘Everybody has to be somewhere’.   (There were a lot of good comments added to this post by the way.)

Taken on a sunny afternoon above Ambleside in the Lake District while on a walk.
 For most of my early adult life I looked for a purpose. A purpose to life, for living. Returning after my first retreat here at Throssel it occurred to me that I didn’t need to think about having a purpose any more. It was not that I had found a purpose. I did however wonder if I had and what it might be but nothing came to mind. No it was simply that I didn’t need to concern myself about a purpose for living any more. It was such a relief.

We hear of people in extremity who derive meaning, or purpose to live from simple things. For example I heard of a girl in a concentration camp who left behind, for she died in the camp, a diary. In it she recorded how each day she glimpsed a tree and it was this tree that kept her going and gave meaning to remaining alive.

Another story is of a Korean woman incarcerated for something she had not done. Each day the guards would take her out and beat and abuse her. Each day she did her walking and sitting meditation and, she wrote, I am free!

What is it that sets us free to simply live? Free as the tree to spread its branches and send its roots deep into the earth. To have our leaves turn brown in autumn and fall off and then to bud and blossom when the sun warms us. We are not plants, we are however filled with life. Is that not enough?

An after thought. At a certain time when I was almost at the end of reasonable life options I met a person who must have seen something in me. Anyway, he most seriously advised me to learn to meditate. And I couldn’t but take notice of him, he was in earnest. I distinctly remember him saying, It doesn’t matter where you do that, under a tree for example! So there you have it a link between trees and meditation

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Passing Years? Deeper Living?

Here is a post first published in March last year. There is much in this which relates to the general theme which seems to be developing here over the past days.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, it’s 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 mind’s 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.

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Life/Death – Close Together

This is a post from December 2015. Could help people to gain a perspective on the dying process, not half as horrible as one might imagine. The person I mention at the end of this post was Brenda Birchenough, who died 1st July this year.

This morning tooling along narrow Cumbrian lanes between dripping hedges following the on/off brake lights ahead. Listening to the radio. A road diversion due to flooding I presumed but unprepared for. A 20 min drive took an hour! However, good old Radio 4 had me fully engaged (as well as driving of course) with an interview about death and dying. A popular subject. Here is the introductory blurb,.

David Schneider is terrified of death. In his two editions of One to One he wants to try to overcome his fear by talking to those who have first-hand understanding of dying. In this programme, he talks to Palliative Care consultant, Kathryn Mannix. With almost forty years of clinical experience and witnessing over twelve thousand deaths, she believes that a ‘good death’ is possible even when you are seriously ill. She explains the process of dying to David. This, she believes, if accepted by the patient, removes much of the anxiety and fear surrounding the end of life.

Two bundles of information stand out and I’ll remember them for myself (I am well and fine) and for others approaching death. For those in Britain who can listen to the podcast I highly recommend doing so.

One: The vast majority of people pop off when attending loved ones are out of the room for a moment. It just seems there is a preference to fade out of this world when there is a chance people who love you are not around to hold onto your heels! My mother chose her moment, I believe. My dad and I knew she was close to death in the hospital but decided to go home and finish cooking the Christmas Cake and would come back later. Our return ended up having us washing her body not seeing her breath her last. That was fine.

Two: Kathryn Mannix had witnessed thousands of deaths and the process  followed a similar pattern. Going from needing more sleep to sleeping more and being awake less and less and eventually drifting into unconsciousness and dying. Peacefully. Ones worries about being in agony and frightening people, happens but rarely apparently.

Oh I seem a bit cavalier on this subject but as a woman said to me the other evening on the phone, I don’t know how to put this Mugo but it seems life and death are very close together. I respond by saying I think you have put it very well indeed. This thought of hers and what I took away from this mornings program has me better informed and more at ease about death, mine and others.

The post is for the man who lost control of his van yesterday which then entered the swift flowing waters of the River Kent. Today he was found dead in the river.

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Smelling like Roses?

Ok world, there are thorns and there are roses, lest we overlook this in the rush to come up smelling like, well roses! It’s relatively easy to see, talk/post about and appreciate the ‘roses’, less so for the ‘thorns’ of our lives.

I do so love this extract from a letter written by Tchaikovsky in this article, Tchaikovsky on Depression and Finding Beauty Amid the Wreckage of the Soul.  This article and so very many others worth reading can be found on the wonderful website Brain Pickings

Tchaikovsky notes his cyclical lapses into depression, undergirded by a dogged dedication to looking for beauty and meaning amid the spiritual wreckage. This intimate tango of sadness and radiance is ultimately what gives his music its timeless edge in penetrating the soul.

I am sitting at the open window (at four a.m.) and breathing the lovely air of a spring morning… Life is still good, [and] it is worth living on a May morning… I assert that life is beautiful in spite of everything! This “everything” includes the following items: 1. Illness; I am getting much too stout, and my nerves are all to pieces. 2. The Conservatoire oppresses me to extinction; I am more and more convinced that I am absolutely unfitted to teach the theory of music. 3. My pecuniary situation is very bad. 4. I am very doubtful if Undine will be performed. I have heard that they are likely to throw me over.

In a word, there are many thorns, but the roses are there too.

One through number four says it all. I know I could come up with a list, perhaps a longer list to be honest. This morning as I looked out of my window, taking in the expanse of the valley, I once again realized that ‘no matter what life circumstances will unfold, pains and worries are present and will change. And all in a timely way but not to my schedule though. A moment of deep appreciation, and confirmation.

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