Category Archives: Out and About

Inside Eiheiji – Video

In 2005 I was witness to the training going on here at Eiheiji. We, the late Iain Robinson and I were escorted everywhere and left in no doubt as to where and what was expected of us. Interesting, informative, educational and stressful! The highlight for me was being invited to offer incense at the main altar during Morning Service. All very formal, we survived! Thought readers would want to view this ‘window’ on how young monks are trained to be priests in Japan.

Eiheiji is a world-famous Zen monastery located in the mountains 200 kilometers northeast of Kyoto. As the temple’s founder Dogen prescribed, the core practice is zazen: simply sitting to calm the mind and examine one’s self. Most of the 150 monks are in their 20’s. They live at the temple, devoting themselves to uninterrupted Zen practice. With unprecedented access inside this remarkable temple, where Dogen’s teachings have been practiced unchanged for over 770 years, the program follows the monks’ lives over the course of 6 months.

This video is available until May 2, 2018

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Trees Are?


….as lace tracing intricate patterns across the sky. Trees rooted and flying, simultaneously. As are we.


….relational. Generational. Alive and decaying, simultaneously. As are we.

Ah the wonders to behold, our friends yet to sprout into greens and fruits. Holding Great Potential in their tracery. As do we.

Dear Readers,
Yes, it has been a long age since I sat before my laptop and so easily uploaded photographs, formatted them and now about to publish. I’ve been using a phone and tablet these past…could it be true? Nine months! The call has been getting louder to return to posting on Jade so here I am, answering. I have been active as Hounmugo on Facebook since May. Not at all sure how long that will last though.
Bows, Mugo

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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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