Category Archives: Information

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?

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Sitting In The Midst

Thank you all for leaving comments pointing to the sections of the video I linked to in my last post. So grateful we now have some time markers to go to although listening/watching the whole things is good too. That gravel voice is attractive in a certain kind of way. Here at 9.16 mins into the video Cohen voices what many of us know about. Namely the intensity of energy that floods ones body and mind while sitting zazen/meditation.  Sometimes refered to as sitting in the midst a fire. Obviously not an actual fire. PLEASE! Later, around the 11.00 mins meditation is mentioned again.

Things arise that are very disturbing and there’s no way around it… you have to sit in the very bonfire of that distress and you sit there until you’re burned away.


What he says does indeed reach the heart. In gassho, Matthew
Thanks to Matthew for this quote. We met, briefly, at Throssel where we, along with many others. remembered Rev. Master Jiyu. The 20th anniversary of her death November 6th 1996. Also thanks to Nigel for his poem, yet to be published here. The video seems to have hit the spot.
altar-for-rev-m-jiyu

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Leanard Cohen – Video – Meditation

I didn’t realise the talents and sensibility of Leanard Cohen until his passing. I did know about him ordaining as a Zen Buddhist monk and remaining in robes for five years, I think it was. In this interview he talks about his song writing etc. however what caught my attention was his description of meditation. His actual personal experience described so eloquently.

Of course words about that which is outside of, or past, word descriptions are just that, descriptions of an experience. Because of his poetic sensibilities and skill what he says reaches the heart.

If anybody listens/watches this video and gets to the part I describe please make a note of where it appears, the time, and let me know so I can add that to this post. Needles to say I have been SO full on with activity these past months (few posts here I’m sorry to say) I’ve not the extra time to watch the video again.

Thanks to Julius for the link to the video.

 

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Regrets? – No Permanent Mooring

I was talking to a woman last evening on the phone. Her health is ‘not what it was’ and she is noticing she is not as quick on her feet. Yet, non the less, she keeps up her meditation practice, has a sangha (community) of like minded people to call on and generally stays buoyant within the ups and downs of medical tests, new and unexplained symptoms and coming to terms with the approach of the end of life.

During the course of our conversation I asked if she had any regrets. There were none that came immediately to mind. Well, except a wish to go to Greenland! Ah well, there is a lot of world out there. Since a child I wanted to climb Mount Everest however having watched a film or three of Everest climbs confirms I DO NOT want to climb that mountain!

Towards the end of life, and not necessarily leaving it that long, it’s good to keep up with regrets one might have. That’s not always about doing something to ‘set things right’, more about recognition and acceptance. Clearing the decks, so to speak. Regrets might for example include an action or something left undone or unsaid. Regrets can find a place within oneself where they can find a safe mooring. Nothing is safe or permanent about moorings – ask a boat owner!

Last thought. Being open to oneself in this way does send a signal to others around you who may have regrets of their own. Ones they would like to deal with. In relationship to you perhaps!

The following is taken from a website called, The Art of Dying Well, a Catholic based site. However you don’t need to be of any particular faith tradition to benefit from taking a look around. The following is about a woman with no faith tradition yet had a love of mountains. She reached up past the known.

Sister Elizabeth (a Catholic nun) a retired palliative care worker, remembers a patient called Olive who was dying of lung cancer. She lived alone, seemed to have no close friends or relatives, and refused to go to hospital. She was an atheist and at first unhappy to be visited by a nun. But Sister Elizabeth discovered that Olive had loved mountain climbing and won her trust by helping her visualise her illness by using the language of mountaineering. When Olive’s bed had to be moved to the ground floor sitting room because she could no longer manage the stairs, the nun called it “base camp” and arranged for one wall to be covered in landscape photographs of mountains.
Late one night, Olive phoned Sister Elizabeth and asked whether she could go into hospital for a couple of days.

“Olive said to me ‘I’m glad I’m going in because I am going to do the most difficult climb of my life but at the top I am going to see the most wonderful sunrise.’ That’s the nearest we got to God but to me that was a totally spiritual saying. She died about three hours later”.

The journey towards death is as much about getting to know yourself as any part of life. Learning to recognise your needs – be they medical, emotional or spiritual – is something that may become more acute when you are closer to death. Being able to identify these needs is another central part of what it means to die well.

The Art of Dying Well

Many thanks to my Sangha friend and walking companion for sending me this link from the Guardian newspaper where the site mentioned above is discussed. Given my love of being up high in the fells and how easy it is to fall off I endevour to keep the decks clear!
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Not Racing

A field of faded Glory near Edmonton, Canada.
A field of faded Glory near Edmonton, Canada.

Yesterday I took a fairly long walk which included climbing up through old slate quarries to Coniston Old Man. And then returning to Coniston via historic Copper mines. It was a long walk, six hours or so, the sun was ‘out’ and the wind ‘down’. I met many people on the trail most memorably an elderly woman walking out confidently and steadily. Nice day I remarked as we passed. Yes she responded, Not a day to race! I know just what she meant. Having ever-so-slowly gained the top of a mountain it is all too easy to charge off if the ground is flat or slopping downwards. She knew all about that and wasn’t tempted. A lesson for life on so many levels. I’ll always remember her.

What is the appeal of those grand places and venerable artifacts that are left to decay. Then revisited and appreciated all over again in all their faded glory through photographs? Abandoned places the worlds left behind Is a collection of sumptuous images. The photograph above is one I  took some years ago but no match for the photographs published by the Guardian.

So, what’s the appeal? The aesthetic of Wabi Sabi fairly much answers the question. Here quoting from Wikipedia:

Japanese aesthetics and a Japanese world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.[2] It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence (三法印 sanbōin?), specifically impermanence (無常 mujō?), suffering (苦 ku?) and emptiness or absence of self-nature (空 kū?).

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