Overcoming Great Difficulties

Below is the first post I wrote for Jade Mountains when I was in Idaho, during the summer of 2003. It is dedicated to my parents. In particular my mother. She lived to be 86 years old. What a trouper! During her last few years she had to deal with declining health. Though you wouldn’t know it. She was from a generation that ‘got on with it’, she didn’t winge or seek sympathy or consolation. Early in life I thought her to be overly forbearing, now I’m thinking she was on to something.

Here it is, the first post.
I used an ex US Army entrenching tool this morning. It was good to do some physical work for a change since I, of necessity, spend a large part of my day using a computer. The task at hand was to break up and clear away a ridge of gravel and earth on the side of the road created by a snow plough in the spring. The ridge was in the way of getting a good wide swing around into the drive, so I ‘had at it’ with the entrenching tool. The ridge was baked solid by the Idaho summer heat. The sharp end worked well to
The Entrenching Toolbreak up the concrete-like obstacle. The spade was good for breaking down the remaining lumps and moving the dirt to make a smooth surface to drive over. Half an hour later and the obstacle on the road had been dealt with. An obstacle, a simple tool, applied effort, obstacle smoothed out, road cleared.

I’ve been pondering the first entry for this web site. In fact I have been pondering the whole question of persevering with a web site. It has, at times, seemed a daunting project especially for one with no previous experience in this field. This morning, while I was breathing in dust on the side of the road, one potential purposes for the site came to me. It was to do with roads and obstacles and ‘taking the next step’. The other part was ‘insights’, those thoughts that pop into consciousness to inspire, teach and encourage. They come, are learned from and then forgotten, however some times they are worth repeating.

Some years ago my mother asked me to choose some books from the mobile library since she and my father would be away shopping when the van turned up at the gate (this is a system in rural England where the library comes to you). “What kind of books do you like” I asked her. Stories about people overcoming great difficulties – biographies, she replied. I related this book choice to a fellow monk who, it would appear, knew my mother better than I did. She likes them because she has to overcome great difficulties herself! In my eyes she had been a tower of strength through out her life. It hadn’t consciously occurred to me she had grown strong through working hard and enduring tough life circumstances. My mother was an avid reader; she read for personal inspiration and did so to a ripe old age.

So, these pages are here, hopefully, for spiritual inspiration; inspiration to keep traveling the road and overcome difficulties. They also provide information and insights; information about the practice of the Serene Reflection Meditation Tradition (Soto Zen) and insights into how that practice unfolds in daily life.

May the spiritual merit accrued creating and writing for this site be offered in eternal gratitude to my parents, Dorothy and Tony White, and to all beings.

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The Eyes of My Eyes – are Open

We meet in high places.

Will Pegg. The poem is an offering of thanks and gratitude to Wills friends, family and fellow 12 Steppers, as well as fellow life travelers. The poem comes at the beginning of a long post on Facebook by a man who is facing death. Very soon. He is saying goodby. godde is his word.

i thank You godde for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is YES

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

e.e. cummings
1894-1962

Unimaginable You, the infinite ungraspable! Indeed. A poem; a prayer echoing in the hallways of all existence, where the idea of a separate self dissolves. Sir Edwin Arnold in The Light of Asia says it seeking nothing, he gains all; foregoing self, the universe grows “I.” What is there to say? Well lots as it turns out. We can imagine a Bodhisattva as superhuman, but watch out when they blaze in! However no, a Bodhisattva, this chap Will, is no super human. He’s every bit human with the human frailty that comes with this state. Countless people have benefitted from his living his life and countless people have taught him too. Humility is the watch word.

I met Will in a cafe in Victoria, Canada July before last. In the way that it can happen between people our eyes met, and a deep spiritual connection comes about, well past words or understanding. So it was and so it will be. Here I sit in England, Northumberland. Merit and meditations winging their way to a far off bedside. Join me why not.

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The Great Ungraspable

Really.
Get a grip!
All those tears
aimless arms
Flailing.
Is that so bad?

Really.
Get a grip!
Oh, deep sighs.
Furrowed brow.
Is there an end? Ever?
Is ‘ever’ so bad?

Really.
Get a grip!
At what ever age
We ‘lose it’
Early, middle Elderly.
Is that so bad?

For all those who, from time to time, feel like their grasp has deserted them. Happens to me sometimes. And at the end of life, sooner or later, our grasp will open to an embrace unimaginable. This is for Will in particular who is fast approaching the great ungraspable. If we didn’t hang on how would we know about letting go?

I’ll have to think about all of this. It’s getting late, better get to bed.

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A Hole in Samsara


There are those little moments, those sights or sounds, which have a powerful impact lifting the spirits when times are hard. Such was the case for a Jade reader, whose wife is on hospice care, who experienced the following while out of the house for a brief time of respite.

A grey drizzly Sunday morning in Lancaster. Walking the dog, we crossed the bridge over the canal and followed the glistening wet cobbles of the spiral staircase specially sloped for the long-gone horses that used to tow the barges. We stopped while the dog raised his leg to leave his mark on the wall.

The drizzle eased for a brief moment and glancing up I saw a tiny hole in the cloudy murk reveal the blue sky beyond. A soft “chug – chug” announced the slow approach of a narrow boat barely making a ripple as it traveled through the water. As the boat past, the man at the tiller and I waved to each other simultaneously and spontaneously. Then he and the boat passed under the bridge and were gone. The dog and I continued on our way.

Nothing special. Yet highly significant. A moment of total harmony. A glimpse of Nirvana through a hole in Samsara.
9th. September 2018

While we teach there is no gap between Nirvana and Samsara such experiences as described above touch a deep part of ones being showing ones heart some much appreciated ‘light’.

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Natural Great Peace

Peace in The Way

Rest in Natural Great Peace,
this exhausted mind.
Beaten helpless by karma and thought,
like the relentless fury of the pounding waves,
in the Infinite Ocean of Samsara.
Rest in Natural Peace.

Taken from Sorrow Mountain
I have not read this book however a correspondent recommended it to me. So I’ll explore it further. She is a light of strength in adversity and no mistake. I was thinking about what I am for her since she already has fundamentally all she needs to move through this testing time. This is what I wrote to her:

I think of myself as a person who stands on the touch-line of the game of life and at half time, or whenever, I’ll run on with Orange slices! So when you are in need drop me a line and I will remind you of your fundamental…..can’t find a word however Nature as Buddha will do for now. We can all do with an Orange slice from time to time being human and frail, yet strong.

The merit of this post is offered for all those known and unknown who are currently sitting with and facing death. It’s not a mistake.

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Practice Within The Order of Buddhist Contemplatives