Category Archives: Overcome Difficulties

Dad Death Day

Herons, Willow and Camellias in snow.

This card arrived today from a good sangha friend. She wrote, “I believe I’m right in thinking that it will be 20 years since your Dad died. I think it’s on Wednesday 29th so you and he will be in my thoughts that day”. Many thanks, and even more thanks for taking care of me during the days following his death. I was not the easiest of people to take care of at the time. So sorry. Heck! I was getting around on crutches having broken my leg recently. I needed to be taken care of, obviously. Not obvious enough for me though.

Twenty years and much has happened since then. And, in a way, nothing has changed. The fact that he died on a railway platform and I was present, all be it several tracks from where paramedics were trying to revive him is emblazoned in my memory. Knowing how much he would not want to be revived, in my thoughts I spoke to the chap (for I didn’t know it was my father at the time) saying, “If you want to go now that’s fine. You are free to go”. And he did! He would have been glad to have beaten the ‘system’. I love him all the more for that and for going where and how he did. I’d imagined I would fall to pieces when he died, but I didn’t. Not then, later I howled.

My parents are burried side by side in our cemetary at Throssel.

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Perfectly Balanced – With Poise

This evening I learnt a sangha member in North America had announced to her community of trainees that their cancer had metastasised involving lung and other parts of the body. The merit of these images and this post is offered for the benefit of this dear woman who has been dealing with cancer for a number of years.

Dear Rev. Mugo,

Here are shots of a heron we saw at the north end of Druridge Bay on 17th (January). It was quite as cold as it looks. There’s something extraordinary about the stillness of a heron – how it stands, and stands, and stands, as if it had never been anywhere else.

And then it took off and I just happened to have the camera trained on it and caught that moment of perfectly balanced but dynamic form. But that we may all remain still, so still and then spread our wings and take flight in reflexive response to the air around us. I wish that for our sangha member and for all. It is a matter of faith, which has no object. Faith, or trust in that which underpins our lives.

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Home is Nowhere at all

The tree that fell.

Just the other day a large tree on the edge of the Throssel property blew over blocking the road. It appeared it was rotten and about due to fall over. So sad to see the gentle giant on it’s side, beached and dying. Now the tree has almost gone having been sawn up and stacked for firewood by a neighbour and one of the monks too.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. . . . Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

By Hermann Hesse (July 2, 1877–August 9, 1962) taken from Wandering: Notes and Sketches

The above quote is part of a longer one in Brain Pickings titled Hermann Hesse on What Trees Teach Us About Belonging and Life.

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Reflections on Physical Disability – republishing from 2006

I recently received an email from a long-standing friend in the Dharma, and reader of this blog. Reproduced below, with her permission, are personal reflections on disability, sparked by an audio posting, (2006 – now long gone.)

Lovely to hear your voice Reverend Mugo. I saw a documentary on TV about a year ago about the lady with autism who is quite a character I think. I worked with some autistic children and was/am fascinated by the whole thing.

With reference to transitions–as you say, and sometimes we don’t realise till later that we’ve been through one. I am currently in a funny one which I find interesting. I’ve spent the last 2-3 years being ill and incapacitated with osteoarthritis. At first, I tried to hide it and was embarrassed when I first began to use a walking stick. Now I would never feel self-conscious about using a walking aid or any other kind of aid.

I didn’t know what was wrong for a long time. I’ve discovered it’s common for people to be relieved when diagnosed, no matter how bad the diagnosis is. It’s better than not knowing. Since having to stop work I’ve hung out with other disabled people and with older people in my village, especially a lady in her mid-seventies who uses a wheelchair and can move one hand only. She can talk and hear well though. I know well two more women with MS who use wheelchairs and a lady who was very close to death after a brain bleed, and many more suffering from various forms of arthritis. They are all very individual characters with real determination to get through each day positively.

I feel privileged to have been a part of these communities. When I first went to a hydrotherapy class run by the local physiotherapist at the swimming pool it was wonderful to be with a bunch of other people with problems. The non-disabled community had begun to seem like they spoke a different language from mine and didn’t ‘hear’ or understand what I said. The disabled people didn’t need to have many things explained to them. We were in the same boat and could discuss our problems without feeling we were complaining or ‘harping on’ about our difficulties or being boring. We were interested in each other.

Now I have recently had my second knee replaced (well, partially replaced to be precise). I have 2 rectangles of metal above and below each knee with a plastic bendy bit between. Soon I will be able to walk ‘normally’ and should be able to stop the painkillers I’ve used on and off for 3 years. I won’t be classified disabled any more and won’t be entitled to an allowance or a special parking space. Unlike some people’s daft ideas I won’t be bouncing around like an 18-year-old! I will still have the body of a 56-year-old after all – and I won’t be running marathons.

My friends in the disabled community have been encouraging and supportive all the way through. They never say how lucky I am to be getting a second chance, luckier than they are perhaps. Sometimes I stop and think after I’ve said something to my friend in the wheelchair, like grumbling about what nuisance crutches can be. she would probably love to have that problem.

I actually didn’t care if I never walked again but was desperate to be free of the constant pain which is so incapacitating. Some of the people I know have a lot of pain and use various devices to control it. Others are not very mobile but don’t feel pain. Painkilling drugs bring their own problems and most of us have gone through periods of trying to do without them. Most people have good days and bad days which is something many non-disabled people find difficult to comprehend.

So, soon enough I have to return to the ‘real’ world. I may have to get a job. I am hoping to do a training course in counselling and maybe work with dying and terminally ill people. I hope I never lose sight of how it is to be overlooked by the majority because I can’t run around or walk like them. Or of how frustrating it can be to be ignored or simply not understood when in pain or discomfort. Or not considered ‘interesting’ because I don’t do an important job or have much of a social life.

I think I’ve said mainly what I wanted to say.

Thank you Reverend Mugo once again for being there and for having sparked off my flow of expression on this subject.

With love, A

Thank you, and good fortune for the future. Mugo

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Selfless Service and Simply Living

The late Iain Robinson left this poem as a comment to a post about Servant Leadership. It is one of the best known modern Japanese poems, ‘Ame ni mo makezu’ by Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1933). This translation is by Hiroaki Sato
With our modern ears, this poem may not sit well however the background sentiment of selfless service sits well enough with me.

Neither yielding to rain
nor yielding to wind
yielding neither to
snow nor to summer heat
with a stout body
like that
without greed
never getting angry
always smiling quietly
eating one and a half pieces of brown rice
and bean paste and a bit of
vegetables a day
in everything
not taking oneself
into account
looking listening understanding well
and not forgetting
living in the shadow of pine trees in a field
in a small
hut thatched with miscanthus
if in the east there’s a
sick child
going and nursing
if in the west there is a tired mother
going and for her
bundles of rice
if in the south
there’s someone
and saying
you don’t have to be
if in the north
there’s a quarrel
or a lawsuit
saying it’s not worth it
stop it
in a drought
shedding tears
in a cold summer
pacing back and forth lost
a good-for-nothing
by everyone
neither praised
nor thought a pain
like that
is what I want
to be

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