Living The Teaching – A Recorded Talk

Goslings in a community park in Mt. Shasta.

The posts of the past few days were, in part, a way for me to prepare a talk which I’d agreed to give here at Shasta Abbey, today. You can download the talk from the Shasta Abbey website. There are about three long pauses between sections, so it can be listened to in chunks. It’s one hour in length total.

Pilgrimage Revisited

Wind, water, sky – together.

Back in 2005 when I was about to fly to East Asia on Pilgrimage I wrote a poem on a scrap of paper while out walking in Vancouver, Canada. The underlying message behind what I wrote was let go and trust – continuously. When in mental, physical, emotional extremity, as I was then, basic teachings take on a renewed meaning, and urgency. During the trip my advice to myself proved in practical every-day ways to be both a life saver and a very good thing! Circumstances and conditions repeatedly came together in near miraculous ways and we, my traveling companion Iain and me, were ushered into places and meeting people it would not have been possible to plan for in advance. Travel stress was a constant and I guess trust/faith must have been there.

Over the next few days I’ll be revisiting and reflecting upon my poem with the spotlight shining on what it means in practical terms to let go. I speak of rising up in the poem implying a ‘place’ from which one moves. Sitting down perhaps? The keystone and well-spring of pilgrimage, daily living, is sitting still in the midst of it all. Meditation is present in the midst of living out our day, even within the seeming chaos most of us experience. One doesn’t need to travel or otherwise enter stressful circumstances to prove this true. Opportunities arise quite naturally!

Formal meditation is practiced in subdued lighting with the emphasis of turning ones attention inwards. Into the darken hall of ones mind/body. Sitting still, allowing the senses to still, we enter into a metaphorical darkness of unknowing by allowing the known to fade. This is however an illuminated darkness, bright aliveness of body and mind rises naturally – given half a chance. So, within compassion/acceptance for all that comes and goes, letting go and trusting is…about how it is.

The habit is to follow the arising and the passing. To entertain, wine and dine, thoughts, sensations, emotions, bright ideas, memories etc. It is enough to notice the arising and passing, simply noticing is the letting go. Noticing over and over again, the known fades in importance.

BTW. Iain didn’t get due credit for a number of the early posts from Japan which he wrote. Thank you Iain and thank you for making the trip possible.

Worry Walking

There has been a retreat here at Shasta for the last four or so days which I’ve been involved with. Thus little time to write here. I’ve not so much been leading it as walking beside or perhaps walking along behind! However, it has been an intense time, with morn to night activity.

One evening instead of sitting talking together we went outside and wandered around. (Not normal retreat activity by the way.) The instruction was to refrain from naming what entered our eyes and to simply allow the sight to enter in. Remembering at the same time that it is at the back of the head, the visual cortex, where vision registers. Refraining from naming and labelling, no like/dislike just simply allowing what is there to be there. Refraining from staring or fixing on objects. Just wondering about with no destination, no place to go, nothing to do. Twenty minutes later we came back together and many found this an interesting exercise. Try it yourself why not.

When going from one place to another its all too easy to worry walk. And worry walking tends to bring one’s eyes down onto the ground. To look down rather than look ahead, or up, to where one is going. Looking down coupled with mentally being ahead of where one is physically is surely no way to live. Is it?

This sweet pug can no longer see and gets about with the assistance of a wheeled cart. Walking and then coming up against an object is its way of navigating space. Bump, turn, bump, turn. With opened and flowing eyes we need not bump into objects, and our minds perhaps, in order to navigate.



Spare a thought for Muji who is in declining health and for Jim and Nancy too who are looking after him. Intense times.

Buddhist Attitude To Other Religions

You may find this article of interest.

The Buddhism holds that truth – especially religious truth – is something that everyone has access to and of which no one has monopoly. It could be understood by everyone for himself. The Buddha did not believe in distributing ready-made transcendental wisdom for everyone. He wanted people to get at the Dhamma by themselves (paccattam veditabbo). When someone presented a theory the Buddha would naturally ask him “Do you know and see this yourself?”.

Article in Daily News – Buddhist Attitude To Other Religions by Professor Chandima Wijebandara

Thank you to the Reverend who sent me the link to this article.

The Cat Enigma – Variation

Just what is it about cats? Nora for example, a cat completely absorbed with the piano. Absorbed with the sound of the piano. If you enjoy classical music, and enjoy cats, this video is for you.

Thanks to the reader for sending in the links to Nora the Piano Cat, and for this question. I’d love to know exactly what it is that is so fascinating – is it the sense of self possession she – and all cats – seem to display? Maybe you’d have some thoughts on it … Well, there has to be something more than the fascination we humans seem to have for performing animals.

I met two new cats today. Both tabbies. One sat in her bed with moon round eyes, yellow and SO expressive. Does she always look like that? I asked. Oh yes, that’s normal, came the reply. Rather like Nora in the video she drew me in. She communicated. But what? The word enigma comes to mind. There is something that is baffling about cats, they defy understanding. They cannot be explained. And since we are talking about Enigma how about Elgar’s Enigma Variations. Here’s how that famous piece came into being.

Elgar’s account of the piece’s genesis was that after a tiring day of teaching in 1898, he was daydreaming at the piano. A melody he played caught the attention of his wife Alice, who liked it and asked him to repeat it for her. So, to entertain her, he began to improvise variations on this melody, each one either a musical portrait of one of their friends, or in the musical style they might have used. Elgar eventually expanded and orchestrated these improvisations into the Enigma Variations. Wikipedia on the Enigma Variations.