Category Archives: Information

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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Retreat Response – Shasta Abbey

Well it was heartening to read this piece reflecting one persons recent experience of being on an introductory retreat at Shasta Abbey in Northern California. Here’s the concluding paragraph.

One of the great things about completing an introductory retreat is that after you learn the program, you are welcome back any time. The monastery works on the idea of dana. There is no set fee or even a “suggested donation.” This is by design. And dana comes in many forms, not just money. There is an understanding that when beings are generous with other beings, those beings will be generous back. And let me tell you, these beings are generous. There is an exchange of energy so strong it creates a swirling vortex of kindness, compassion, and giving.

Gassho, Shasta Abbey. You have shown great kindness and I will remember you.

And the same goes for Throssel Hole Abbey in Northumberland. Having completed an Introductory Retreat you are welcome to stay outside of retreat times and follow the regular daily schedule.

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What Dogs Really Think of Us – Brain Scans Speak!

From the way dogs thump their tails, invade our laps and steal our pillows, it certainly seems like they love us back. But since dogs can’t tell us what’s going on inside their furry heads, can we ever be sure?

Taken from Brain Scans Reveal What Dogs Really Think of Us

and this later on in the article

The scientists found that dog owners’ aroma actually sparked activation in the “reward center” of their brains, called the caudate nucleus. Of all the wafting smells to take in, dogs actually prioritized the hint of humans over anything or anyone else.

So the word is out our doggy friends delight in us because…of our smell and what it represents, in their brains. Who would have thought!

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Bare Foot In London

Years ago a friend who contracted polio as a young child, and was confined to a wheelchair until he was six or so, described how it was to walk for the first time, barefoot on grass. He luxuriated in the memory and I shared in it.

There is something about the contact with the ground which we all know about but lose touch with as we graduate from sensible sandels to fashionable foot torture!

So. Please join me in my joy and enthusiasm for my shoes bought in London today. Barefoot shoes, Vivobarefoot shoes. Yes the shop window says it all, Beautiful Feet…..are happy feet. Which makes for a happy memory of a chap from long ago. Imagine remembering in detail ones first steps!

This post is for all those who walked on the ground for the first time, and lived long enough and had the words to describe it. Viva Vivo!

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