Category Archives: Out and About

Unapologetic Discriminator

As with dogs, so with us humans? I’m prepared to run with this.

Attention is an intentional,
unapologetic
discriminator.
It asks what is relevant
right now,
and gears us up to notice
only that.

Alexandra Horowitz
Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know

Horowitz introduces the reader to dogs’ perceptual and cognitive abilities and then draws a picture of what it might be like to be a dog. What’s it like to be able to smell not just every bit of open food in the house but also to smell sadness in humans, or even the passage of time? How does a tiny dog manage to play successfully with a Great Dane? What is it like to hear the bodily vibrations of insects or the hum of a fluorescent light? Why must a person on a bicycle be chased? What’s it like to use your mouth as a hand? In short, what is it like for a dog to experience life from two feet off the ground, amidst the smells of the sidewalk, gazing at our ankles or knees?


With a hat tip to Frank whose emails end with the Attention quote.

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Memories Locations

The place changes, the memory fades
The place changes…

It is said that one’s memories from early life remain sharp, clear and vivid. Partly because the first time one does something is so significant in ones growing up. For example ones first proper date, first proper job interview, first car, first time abroad, oh and yes – the first kiss. What is vivid is not only the experience itself but the physical surroundings. That’s how it has been for me. And then there are significant events, life changing events, which have their physical location emblazoned in my mind. This house, in the front room with me standing by the fire-place, letting my parents know I intended to be a monk was such an event. Seeing the windows and remembering I’d helped put them in, earning money from my parents doing up the house to pay my way as a novice at Shasta. That whole six months preparing to leave one life behind and enter another are vivid in my mind’s eye. (Thanks to my good sangha friends for taking the snap.)

You must remember this....
You must remember this….

Again, everything about my first visit to Throssel is vivid, less the physical place and more the monks and what was going on in my mind grappling with conscious self-reflection/meditation, for the first time! Subsequent visits throw up sharper image memories. (And thanks to another good sangha friend for sending this photograph. Taken 1981/2 when I’d already be at Shasta.)

Thinking about it there seems no reason why ones connection to people, places and things along with ones interior need be any less vivid the 20th or 200th time. Then there are those facing death, knowing they have perhaps just a few months to live, do memories and their associated physical locations again become vivid? Many report, in such circumstances, a renewed and welcomed encounter with everything. Not always or all of the time yet the last time would have a certain clarity and meaning wouldn’t it. But what is this all about. Surely we discourage thinking about the past and indeed that is true in the sense of living in or dwelling in the past and missing the shining hour right now. And that’s the point really here, to remember to open oneself to the depth and richness of life. Not with the intention to gather great and memorable experiences like beads on a rosary to tell in the future. More the intention to live full and ripe. Right now.

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Well of Suffering, Joy in Living- Video

Although this video is not directly pointing to the recent horrific events in the world however what’s behind it is a wish or intention to offer spiritual merit into the deep well of suffering that we all have been witness to. And are part of.

Traveling (air, land and water), walking, being on pilgrimage is considered to be a merit generating activity. Not in themselves of course. Its the attitude of mind which is open and embracing and generous that makes the difference. Hearts cannot be other than pouring out into the deep well of suffering all around.

Yesterday while walking along Striding Edge towards Helvellyn, the third highest mountain in England, my trusty monastic walking companion took some impromptu video. When he has edited the material down to a decent length I’ll post it. Scrambling along the Edge looks more scary than it actually was although, that said, there were ‘moments’! One can walk along the spine of the ridge which is a bit of a balancing act however for the most part I took the path to one side.

While taking my time, feeling no pressure to rush or be rushed, I found myself deriving great pleasure and along with that gratitude for the rocks as I placed my hands on them. And carefully placed my foot. Feeling the shape, the surface the temperature with my hands and feet finding their surfaces rough, smooth is a joyfulled matter.  As is washing pots and pans or walking across carpet bare foot.

Scrambling along I thought I would share my thoughts with others  using video. Not so much the physicality but more the gratitude that comes from simply being alive. Further to this: to be in a position where the support, of rocks and earth is so full of meaning. Life saving actually, because when up in precarious circumstances (nothing too very precarious by the way) in the high mountains a loss of awareness can have very serious consequences.

So too when walking along city streets. Or going about ones business indoors.

These past weeks have been heart breaking haven’t they. Its been a time of reflection and of offering merit. This post is for all those who have died, are suffering still and have had their lives pulled apart.

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Like Clouds and Water

See also photographs on FB: hounmugo is my name

A rare moment of rest during a long train journey. No complaints there.

For the past eight days I’ve been ‘on the road’. First in The Netherlands staying at the Clouds and Water Hermitage in Friesland, to the north of Holland, then in Utrecht to stay with a Sangha member. And now with a brilliant wi-fi connection on a German train on the way to stay at a temple within our Order in the Black Forest. I’ll be meeting Sangha members lay and monastic, sitting a session, attending a lay ordination and celebrating Wesak. That’s the Buddha’s Birth and Enlightenment. Oh, and sewing a robe for one of the monks.

It is awhile since I have ventured away from the lovely Lake District for extended travel. From now on until late July when I will fly to North America I’ll only be touching base but briefly. However there are plans for a few good high-level walks in the lovely lakeland fells.

As I’ve been filling in my diary for May and June I’ve noticed a certain gladness when I see a week here and a few days there open to be at ‘home base’. Away time and home time. Movement and (kinda) rest. Yesterday I turned a corner mentally, or in attitude, towards this division of my time. Basically counting days until I’m back ‘home’. This is no way to live obviously. What changed? I just stopped counting days into the future. Simple. Might have been something to do with a boat tour around the canal system in Utrecht. Being afloat seems to send me into a nowhere in particular time zone.

Or. It might have been the reminder of living the life of an Unsui, a traveling monk moving freely like clouds and water. Sounds great less easy in practice and more to do with a mind not dwelling anywhere (not for long anyway) than movement across the planet.

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Respect

From a train heading north to Friesland, The Netherlands
I’m in the Netherlands. Think tulips, think windmills, think water! And much more. This morning my host was driving us, and her Greyhound, to a forest where dogs can run free. Vast swaths of land have been reclaimed from the sea, we were at one point driving along the original dyke wall. For as far as the eye could see where once water now forest, fields and dwellings. Amazing engineering when you think about it.

Anyway, this isn’t a travel blog. I’ve a thought to pass on picked up from a meeting in Manchester Thursday evening:
‘Don’t judge my story
By the chapter
You walk into!’.

For a woman I was with today whose story I was invited to read, Respect. Never judge her, nor pity her either.

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