Veneer Of Confidence

The deep secrecy of my own being is often hidden from me by my own estimate of what I am. My idea of what I am is falsified by my admiration for what I do. And my illusions about myself are bred by the contagion from the illusions of others. We all seek to imitate one another’s imagined greatness.

If I do not know who I am, it is because I think I am the sort of person everyone around me wants me to be. Perhaps I have never asked myself whether I really wanted to become what everybody else seems to want to be. Perhaps if I only realized that I do not admire what everyone seems to admire, I would really begin to live after all. I would be liberated from the painful duty of saying what I really do not think and acting in a way that betrays God’s truth and the integrity of my own soul.
Thomas Merton

During a day retreat in Leeds on Saturday we talked about confidence and the giving over of oneself to the authority of others’ expectations. This quote works rather well in relation to our talks. …for me it’s a first cousin, if not sibling, of conditioned confidence and talks of that sense of vulnerability and panic when the veneer (of confidence) slips. Yes, I’d say so. Thanks to Nic for the quote and thought.

The Habit That Hinders

The hiss of the surf is muted, no birds cry. There is the feel of bare feet on wet sand and the slow accumulation of moisture in my hair and on my body. It’s as if the fog is pushing back on my senses, nudging me to stay closer to my body.

From Walking In The Fog – Jim

It is a mental habit for many of us to believe that the circumstances we are surrounded by, and encounter throughout our day, in themselves hamper and hinder our progress in life. We imagine, If this that or the other thing were different, I’d be able to do this that and another thing! On one level that might be actually true. And, taking a deeper look, one might do well to question that mental habit, or background attitude. The way I see it, it’s the habit that hinders. In other words it’s the (erroneous) belief that things need to be, or have to be, a certain way in order to….(fill in the gap) that needs to be sat still with….

I’ve some writings by somebody who has encountered incredible difficulties on all levels. She could have crumbled under the pressure, she hasn’t. I’ll be publishing extracts from her writings over the next few days.
(October 1st update – I decided, on advice, to publish the writings as one post.)

Walking In The Fog


There’s a story that people around here tell about how the local airport was built during WW II to train American pilots how to land and take off in the fog in the event they had to fly out of England. The spot was picked because the fog was so dependable. I don’t know if this story is true but it is true that the fog is dependable. It’s also varied. If someone came up with words to describe the different kinds of fog – snaking along the ground, catching in trees, or standing as a wall – the North Coast would have as large a vocabulary for fog as the Inuit have for snow.

But walking along the surf’s edge, none of this really makes any difference. The impact of such a shroud is so immediate that it requires no back-story. There is no horizon, visibility is reduced to less than 50 meters, and the gray-green color of fog and water mimic one another. The hiss of the surf is muted, no birds cry. There is the feel of bare feet on wet sand and the slow accumulation of moisture in my hair and on my body. It’s as if the fog is pushing back on my senses, nudging me to stay closer to my body.

Suddenly there is an invitation to step away from this closing in: thoughts. Oh, how interesting and different from yesterday I wonder if the El Nino is having an effect on the amount of fog we’re getting? I wonder….. but I step out of that thought stream and return to watching and stepping. Stepping and noticing. And then I notice that I have forgiven myself for something. Or maybe I’ve forgiven someone else for something. I don’t think it matters. There’s just the feeling of having put something down, of having a lighter load, of an unfurling of sorts. As my head goes back in a chuckle, I notice the strong glow of the sun above me. I stop and just gaze. The sun gently and firmly embeds a reflection of itself in my core. Any consideration of when the fog might burn off disappears.

Responding To Conditions

The other day I met a remarkable woman, a Buddhist woman in another tradition, who has achieved a great deal within the sangha she is part of. In our conversation, and I must say I could hardly keep up with her thinking it was moving that fast, she passed on something her teacher had said to her. Paraphrasing here the gist was, when acting, in this case setting up a meditation group, three factors need to be in place, the right time, the right place and the right conditions. The conditions and the place might be right/appropriate, but now might not be the time to act. Or the place and time are in place but the right conditions are not. All three need to be in place she was told.

The coming together of conditions, at a certain time and place, includes factors that nobody could have predicted or arranged in advance. The work that comes, the coming together of conditions, manifests in our lives constantly. As it has come to me the work is to be awake to this flow of conditions, to be free to respond. To be truly free to respond. Which means expanding within, embracing and giving of oneself, unfettered by the conditions themselves, both internal and external. When you fall over, how do you respond? When the windows are dirty and need cleaning, how do you respond? When somebody acts in such a way that is not appropriate in the present context, of time/place/conditions, how do you respond?

Our lives have a direction. Mostly that’s not a mystery. The bins need to be taken out on Sunday night so they can be emptied early Monday morning. We prepare our sitting place because that is the direction of our lives. Time, place and conditions coming together, to settle and sit still.

Oh, and I hope conditions come together for this climbing trip which I’m following. Expanding, embracing and giving of oneself, unfettered by the conditions themselves. Good walking, sitting, settling…climbing

Folk Wisdom

It is truly heart warming to be given simple wisdom, in a simple and straightforward form. Such is the little ditty received via email this evening. Thank you good sangha friend.

Experiencing isolation or damage,
can leave you with emotional baggage.
People ask how can you manage?
Should we just use a psychotropic bandage,
or take the chance to learn a new language?
Mental health problems are always symbolic,
they talk in a code that defies logic.
Listen deeply and together we will solve
conflict from the past that has continued to evolve
into a few demons we need to understand
with a respectful dialogue that can’t be planned
completely, but with a few skills,
we will no longer need to head for the hills.
So speak with the the body, the spirit and the heart,
becoming multilingual is the best way to start
a mutually beneficial process.
In our folk wisdom we already know this.