Discomfort Zone

Filmed in 1955 Snowdrift at Bleath Gill follows the actions of railway workers who are sent to rescue a snowbound train in the north Pennines.

For those of you who are not caught up in the drama of the unseasonal snow and frigid temperatures we are enjoying in Britain, the news is…we are snowbound! Much of the UK is white, again. Schools are closed, two in the town where I am staying. This morning I swept off the car I am borrowing intending to go shopping, then watching the snow blizzarding across the road I went indoors. And stayed there.

This film seems like a good one to watch given the current weather. Perhaps a reminder to remember those who are out there tonight helping to keep the roads and rails clear for travel. Even so two major crossings of the Pennines are closed this evening. One, the A66, crosses close to where the film was shot.

Meanwhile in Antarctica….a band of climbers are gathering to make the summit of Mt. Vinson. This climb, this being the first of seven climbs, is to raise Alzheimer’s awareness and $1M for research.

And for the intrepid armchair traveler, this.

Extreme conditions, and I am not just talking about the weather, has the effect of helping us to rally round. To rise above and do, and think and achieve great things. Like Alan Arnette and his fund-raising efforts for Alzheimer awareness and research. Like people simply getting out and shoveling snow, when they could be indoors by the fire. Like…well at one time or another most encounter extreme life conditions. And it seems to me it is not the details so much, the drama if you will, it is the heart/mind of those caught up. Our deep ability, built in, as human animals to face adversity, and win through.

However facing adversity isn’t necessary in order to know this. Simply going indoors is an option.

Striding Edge

Striding Edge – Lake District. If there is any doubt about the Lake District being simple wonderful take a look at the photographs taken one spectacular morning when all conditions came together for photography heaven. No, I did not take the pictures.

I walked Striding Edge as a thirteen year old. We came up from the south, a school party of noisy teenagers, on the train. We finished the journey by steam train on the last leg from Kendal to Windermere. I’ve probably mentioned this trip before. The whole experience. The train journey, being up north in a different country almost, and the fells. All new to me. They, the fells of Cumbria, remain to this day all new, ever renewing. Who would have thought I’d be staying within striking distance of Striding Edge. Not that I would go up there alone.

Metta Running On An Oregon Beach


She lived at the Portland Priory and now enjoys her retirement out on the Oregon Coast. Her name? Metta. Ms. Metta. Her breed? German Shepherd. Her pedigree? Impressive.

Metta is most commonly translated as loving kindness. The Metta Sutra instructs on the various practices of loving kindness. And the link goes to a very good translation and explanation of the Metta Sutra by the way. We were not instructed in formal Metta practice. And it is not one that I have picked up either. The closest we come to metta is benevolence. That being one of the four signs of Enlightenment. The other qualities are tenderness, sympathy and charity.

What a great photograph. What a great dog. She was rescued, I believe. What an apt name. Our animal friends don’t practice metta, they ARE metta! And I guess we can be the same. Can we not?

Where To Start?


We say to start where you are. To deal with what’s in front of you. And, the next step is found within present conditions. There are probably lots more ways of saying the same thing. However in the end one just has to move and do something, but what? What a clamor there is in our lives and it’s good to remember there is more to living a life than clamor. Even sitting still can become another doing clamoring away. As is obvious I chose to first write a post here. It’s so good to have the time and space to devote to this activity.

Here’s what’s in front of me this morning. My computer is opened and ready to write a post for Jade Mountains. Further out a dish with two walnuts from Butchart Gardens, Victoria Canada and a piece of picked-up-and-passed-on pumice found during a trip to Medicine Lake and Glass Mountain, California. Next a Kanzeon holding a lotus. Outside, a dusting of snow. This is the view from an upstairs window where I am staying this winter. This then is what’s before me this morning.

Then there is the rest of the desk with papers and items all calling and competing for attention. Petty cash to balance, a short video calling from a flash drive to watch and respond to, a book of poems by Seamus Heaney (Human Chain) quietly whispering to thank the couple who gave it. Oh and there is the bank to deal with, personal business, that announced they had closed my account while I have been away, and to my right a pile of cards ready to be written and sent off. They are thank you cards to temples and their communities for hosting me this summer.

Behind, beside, above and below. The phone, the email, Google Talk, Skype, Twitter (my ID is revmugo for those who even know what Twitter is) and now back to this. This. THIS! And this is what’s here in the midst of the up, down, above and below. How very easy it is to loose contact/awareness with oneself. The skin, flesh, bones, brain, mind, consciousness of oneself.

We in Buddhism call what I am broadly talking about as the five skandas. Form, sensation, thought, activity and consciousness. That which constitutes self and which (very important to remember this) are not fundamentally separate from conditions. And even more import, to know that the important thing is not something other than THIS. All is all in the up, down, beside, below and behind. (I will be had up for sounding Zen if I am not careful!) At Shasta Abbey there are, I think there still are, five red lights hanging in lotus flowers above the altar. We call them the skanda lights. Jim reminds me that I pointed these out to him years ago, it was our first conversation together.

Anyway. Now as I drive off into the tasks calling to me I’ll take a look in my rear view mirror. Like any good driver knows, first check the rear view mirror. For me this has the effect of bringing me back to THIS. Which embraces the this and that’s I’ve been talking about.

At least, at last, here is an actual post for you all. It’s my first thank you note of the day.

An Old Friend

From a coaster…

He knows not where he’s going
For the ocean will decide –
It’s not the DESTINATION…
…It’s the glory of THE RIDE

Edward Monkton

This quote was mentioned while sitting over a cool cup of tea with an old friend on Sunday. Thanks Friend. I had a look at Edward Monkton’s website. There are certainly some zany thoughts coming out of Mr. Monkton. I’m left scratching my head a bit….

Anyway I am posting this quote because it reminds me of the happy Sunday meeting. Twenty years it’s been. How fortunate we are to have shared training in the Way – and can still share a joke, and talk about the important thing.

Thought I was
done with going about.
But I was wrong.

A week of here and there
only to come back again
to rest and hopeful repose.