Living with Pain

For many people physical pain is ever present in their lives, it is something they feel they could well live without. However there are those who have learnt not only how to live with pain but find it has helped them to deepen their practice. Recently a book, Turning Suffering Inside Out A Zen approach to living with physical and emotional pain, came into my hands. It’s written by a woman who knows what she is talking about, she is also a teacher of Buddhism connected to the San Francisco Zen Center. Here between the covers can be found practical advice and accessible Buddhist teaching for all. I’ve made a note to read it all the way through. In the mean time here is a taste.

Darlene became bedridden with rheumatoid arthritis gradually needing more and more help with basic daily life activities such as cleaning, doing laundry and washing her hair.

“At first, my conscious life was all pain. Acknowledging the pain and its power eventually allowed me to explore my body fully and find there actually were experiences in my body beside the pain–here is pain, here is bending, here is breath, here is movement, here is sun warming, here is unbearable fire, here is tightness–something different where ever I looked….I kept telling myself this must be the world of babies and animals. Everything is fresh and fascinating.”

Darlene Cohen writes about pain in a recent edition of the magazine Buddhadharma, as does Bhikkhu Bodhi and others.

Lonely Moon

Walking along the lane to the second meditation period. Six forty and light is in the sky, rosie red on the rim of the Eastern moors. Gazing around, the moors to the West are pink frost. All is quiet, not a sound, no bird song, not a hint of wind. So very still, whisper still. The moors draw my eyes further westward and then WHAM! what a surprise, the moon is resting on the horizon. How did that get there? It’s a huge round orb, yellow-orange hanging in space, what a treat.

Morning moons are not sulky or moody like the night ones. At Shasta the moon over the mountain at night could have had even the hard hearted out writing poetry about loneliness and lost love. I just gazed at it in awe. But the morning moon, this mornings moon, had me wanting to scuttle back for my cameras – still and video. Silently I walked on congratulating myself for my restraint. Meditation comes first, the choice was clear, it wasn’t a struggle.

This post is for the late mother of one of the monks. Some of her belongings and the contents of her food cupboards came here today to find a home. It’s important for a deceased persons belongings to be cared for with respect and love. My teacher once said the belongs of the newly dead should not be lonely. By that I understood her to mean one should not abandon items out of hand but to give things a home where they will be taken care of. I have an old biscuit tin, which I love.

Perhaps it is good to remember not to abandon ourselves to loneliness. Just a thought.

Mountains Have Been Moved

You know how it is when you know it’s time to move house but well, you think of a million good reasons to stay where you are. Who likes change? Who enjoys packing up and moving and then having to learn new ways. That’s how it has been with both Moving Mountains and also Jade Mountain. Each for different reasons needed to be moved, it was that or build on extensions to both of them!

Today with deft hand and steely nerve, the content of Moving Mountains was copied from here to Jade Mountains by a kind volunteer in Texas. When all is ready and presentable the doors of Jade Mountains will be opened and I’ll blog on. There will be more options to post audio, video and a whole host of other stuff. Gently as she goes though, we don’t want to scare the horses.

Here is how the move was made:

We have a minor miracle here (in Texas). Your moving mountains posts are now in drupal. To do this I had to install two different versions of wordpress, import your blogger content into wordpress 2.3, export that and import it into wordpress 2.2, then export it again. After that I had to install special software to convert the content into the drupal format, break your content into 5 sections and run the program for several hours – while not being sure that the whole process would work. Now I remember why I decided to move out of programming and into management.

Well done, and more thanks than I can say.

Age Will Not Weary

When my mother reached 60 she was jubilant. Any reductions for O.A.P.’s? she’d ask, fairly much anywhere she might be in with a chance. She’d be proud of me to-day since I applied for my National Bus Pass Scheme pass at the local Council offices in Hexham. Senior Citizens (over 60?) have long been able to travel free locally during off peak times. Come April 1st that privilege will be extended to cover all of England. The woman at the council offices praised the scheme, Helps them get out of the house she said, then looking at me and realizing I was about to be ‘one of them’ moderated here enthusiasm. Well obviously I’m talking about the elderly, not the younger ones (like you?). All taken in good part and I’ve not quite achieved 60 years however when I do I’ll be ready to climb aboard and proudly, jubilantly, show my fancy new pass. There are amazing opportunities to be thrifty. I wonder what my dear mother would make of all this. Born in 1908, would she have embraced the Internet had she lived on?

O.A.P? = Old Age Pensioner, a term we tend not to use these days.

Preparation for Retreating in Traffic

In March 1997, the year after my teacher died, I stayed at our hermitage in the mountains of Northern California. I’m glad I made the time to reflect on her passing and benefited greatly from the opportunity to concentrate on just sitting. Her death, like any death, brought about profound changes for those remaining. The retreat time helped me to adjust and redirect, it was however a testing time both spiritually and physically. Being out in the woods on my own dealing with the complexities of running a generator and ‘fetching’ the water from a distant hillside via a garden hose, not to mention the wild life, all contributed towards an interesting time! I remember particularly the day I caged a small mouse and walked three miles to liberate it so it might live, but not return? Being on retreat in such conditions is not all one might imagine, the stress of simple survival and the fear of not doing so can occupy a mind. Yes and it is sometimes ‘good’ to retreat in solitude, to be with oneself and ‘be’, especially when life changing events are calling for some reflection.

Yesterday during a conversation I remembered how I’d come out of my first retreat, in Wales as it happens, knowing I could live with myself. Not a small realization which comes in handy when sitting in stationary traffic on the M25 for unending hours. Of course knowing this is not dependent on camping out on a mountain side in bear infested woods, but it does press the issue, as does being stationary on the M25.

For those of you who have a yen to retreat alone Solitary Spiritual Retreat Facilities is a good first stop. Or if closer to home, your back garden for example, is all you can manage Shedworking is an absolute must. Or if you are bonkers about sheds anyway do take a look, but be warned reading about sheds is addictive. I was particularly pleased to see outhouses have been included on this site.