For Each Accustom’d Visitor

Found (just for this morning) on the office door of our IT monk. Bless him!

Here below is the stanza and the whole poem, by Shelley.

Away, away, from men and towns,
To the wild wood and the downs-
To the silent wilderness
Where the soul need not repress
Its music lest it should not find 25
An echo in another’s mind,
While the touch of Nature’s art
Harmonizes heart to heart.
I leave this notice on my door
For each accustom’d visitor:-
‘I am gone into the fields
To take what this sweet hour yields.
Reflection, you may come to-morrow;
Sit by the fireside with Sorrow.
You with the unpaid bill, Despair,-
You, tiresome verse-reciter, Care,-
I will pay you in the grave,-
Death will listen to your stave.
Expectation too, be off!
To-day is for itself enough.
Hope, in pity mock not Woe
With smiles, nor follow where I go;
Long having lived on your sweet food,
At length I find one moment’s good
After long pain: with all your love,
This you never told me of.’

The hand written note reads, i.e. I’m in the garden. In gassho, Berwyn


Even although I invited them in, gladly, now I’m slightly put out by their presence. They are not me. They write about things I don’t write about. And what’s more they don’t write like me! In the future there will, no doubt, be more contributors taking up space. What to do? What to do?

Can I, and I guess that makes it a we since you are part of the home page of Jade, handle this growing number of people making posts. Can we accept these contributor people and what they contribute without submitting ourselves to; a dull resignation, or to nursing a dualistic mind which picks and chooses, one person over another. Lets see now, there are other options. There could be a move to evict them! On my part or on yours. Out of this house! Away to your own place! Write your own blog! No. We are tolerant people, and still there is a sense of something coming in from the outside. The other has joined the me. What to do, what to do?

Ever wondered how marriages/partnerships, or any human relationship survive? There is always the me and the not me, and the not at all like me, tension. The subtext can go something like: I love you, but keep out of my house, or as it is put into words: I’m not ready for long term commitment right now. Contributors and guest posts however are here to stay. Until something changes which will happen, sooner or later. In the mean time, there is commitment on all sides to continue to have guest contributors. What to do, what to do?

I’ve some thoughts to help deal with so called impostors. Here’s internal practice you might like to adopt. The tension of inside/outside is at the very heart of sitting still. Most people think their thoughts are noisy impostors which must be evicted before peace can be found within ones body/mind. Thoughts are not like aliens from another planet, however tempting it might be to relate to ones inner world in that way! They come and go in response to stimulus, triggered from within ones own being, as well as from the stimulating world we all live within. Even up a mountain, away from it all, there is still the shrieking of birds and the fear of..impostors? Perhaps.

In the mean time: read, sit still while reading, listen internally, listen to the wind as it blows through the temple of your body/mind (your home), allow yourself to hear the rattling of windows and the banging of doors. This is active reading, active listening and active sitting still. It’s sitting still within conditions. In this case the arising and falling of thoughts in your mind, as you sit and read this.

Have fun.

Standing By The Well

The day started off with a series of minor irritations. Small stuff really, but noticeable because they were adding up and starting to highlight the major irritation: I had to run errands and go shopping in at least four or five different locations. Not my cup of tea.

I don’t consider myself a lazy or inactive person. I’m generally not sitting unless I’m meditating, reading, or watching a movie. Most of my friends prefer to walk and talk unless there’s tea involved. My favorite type of day is to step into the back acre and start walking around the garden. There’s always something that needs doing, and then something else, and then something else…. So a pleasant day is moving from chore to chore, listening to the birdsong, chatting with the chickens, and taking in the weather of the day.

I was determined to make short work of the errands and get back to the more relaxed unfurling of arising chores. But then one of the nose pads on my glasses came off as I was looking for my car keys. I know from experience that a few hours of metal poking the bridge of my nose would soon be painful and even more of a nuisance. Another stop would be required.

I set off for the optometrist’s office brimming with resentment and irritation. But better the burr of irritation than hiding it to myself and letting it fester into anger. I kept it away from other driver’s, pedestrians, and cars with bumper stickers I didn’t agree with. Sort of like limping for awhile after stubbing your toe, aware of the discomfort but patiently taking the next step.

I pulled into the optometrist’s parking lot and a convenient parking spot presented itself. It was a good sign but I wasn’t sure I wanted to let go of the irritation quite yet; what else might show up? The receptionist was warm and genuinely, well, receptive. My irritation was beginning to melt and I considered thinking about what I had to do the rest of the day in an attempt to drum it up again. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has irritation in their repertoire of defenses.

And then she came into the room and called my name. I thought perhaps it was a play of sunlight causing her brightness. Clearly this young women was happy, healthy, and very, very pregnant. She had a shine as penetrating and clear as a flame reflected in a diamond.

We walked to her workstation. Nose pads were briefly commented on. They didn’t seem all that problematic to either of us. I asked her when she was due. Less than a month, she said and beamed. Let me get you those new nose pads, she said, I’ll be right back.

I sat at her desk basking in the great grace that radiated from her immersion in her situation. It was a blessing for me to be in the presence of someone drawing so deeply from the Well.

She returned with my glasses and I tried them on and they fit fine. We looked at each other with this sort of I see what you see recognition. Peaceful, energized. I told her that I wished her well with the delivery and wished her and the baby good health. I asked her if it was her first. She smiled and said, Yes, it is and every good wish is welcome, thank you.

We shook hands and I left the office, the remaining errands now less urgent.

Direct Encounter – Direct Response

On Monday I drove to Newcastle Airport to pick up a monk returning from America. Walking through the wide open space in front of the check-in counters a man stopped me and started talking. He hardly drew breath. He was giving a pitch. Raising money for Shelter, the charity for the homeless. I had the option to cut him off and make a run for the toilets. Which is where I needed to be! But I didn’t. I listened. For no reason, I continued to listen knowing I’d not be donating. As he went on the content was fading into the background of my awareness as my admiration grew for this chap. Eventually I drew breath. He thought I was about to exit. Yes, I know you are busy. Just need to tell you a bit more… I responded thoughtfully, Well to be honest I’m just so impressed at your ability to keep on talking! That’s no small skill and what you are doing here must be really hard. Probably demoralising too. Said just what came to mind. Soon afterwords with his words Just five pounds… and my, sorry I’m a Buddhist monastic and don’t receive a wage (excuse?) echoing in my mind, I beat a retreated.

I love airports. Love all that open space, and the shops too. Since it was early and I’d not eaten yet, I had a treat at Starbucks. A muffin and small drink for breakfast. Now alert; watching out for flight arrivals, watching shoals of passengers flooding into the concourse with their luggage. All the while looking out for my arriving passenger. Enjoying my breakfast, while thinking about that five pounds and contemplating going back to offer it. I’ve that much with me and a bit more.

Out the corner of my eye as I finish breakfast I spot the man just feet away from me. He’s talking. I wait until he stops. Can you take change for a ten pound note? I call to him. Turns out he can’t take cash. Too bad. More ensued about donating on-line but he seems to be abandoning his pitch… Engaging me in conversation. Taking an interest. Is it like spiritual what you do in the monastery? We talk and in the end I gave him the address of the Throssel web site and this blog written on the paper bag the muffin came in. I told him, his name was/is Chris, that if there is one thing to come out of our conversation it’s to get some cards printed. I’m always writing address on scrappy bits of paper. But cards seems…well pretentious somehow.

It’s the subtexts I’m particularly interested in. The subtext of this encounter and encounters generally. And the non stereotypical response, mine and his. There’s the words people say. That’s one thing. But there is much much more, to any encounter, who ever is talking and who ever is listening. What is interesting to me, and the challenge, is to take in the whole picture while at the same time allowing the parts to come and go in awareness. That’s to stay with the detail long enough to be able to respond to the whole. To respond past ones preconceived ideas and prejudices. This can happen at work, at the dinner table, in the street even when reading this blog. Nothing special really.

Hum! And when I really think about it I’m really relying on you reading past the text. Not using that little old trick of reading between the lines which really means adding in ones opinions and preconceived ideas. No not that. Please! Reading past the text is to encounter yourself while you read, and to encounter the writer too. Directly.

Learning From Experience

I was driving a friend of my wife’s to a hospital fifty miles away. It was a thunder, lightning and rain Summer’s night. At one point I had to almost go off road to get around a large tree that had blown down on to the road. After a few more miles I suddenly saw two cows next to my window and then saw a bunch of them ahead of me. I slammed on the brakes and to my horror we plowed right into a group of them, a dozen or so filled the road way. I felt an impact and the hood of my truck folded up into a tent shape and all I could see was a calf walking toward the edge of the road dragging a broken leg.

Contemplative Spaces post: Driving

Contemplative Spaces
, with ace content, is a relative new blog written by a chap I know through my work within the OBC. He lives in rural Washington State with his wife. From time to time Helmut has agreed to make a guest appearance here on Jade.