Challenges For Change

Here is a repost from 2009.

Challenge One: Trust
Challenge Two: Face up to change
Challenge Three: Access the source of Trust
Challenge Four: Trust that trust is not…what we think it is.

It’s not always so easy, it’s a personal challenge in terms of trust, to talk about one’s interior world with a monk who they don’t know. However, that’s what people can do when here for a retreat, or at other times too. It’s especially challenging to talk about a life change on the horizon which, on the face of it is life-changing, in every direction. The third challenge is to trust ones own heart while talking. Hearing ones own voice emanating from deep within, knowing that another is listening without judgment, can be life-changing!

Here is some correspondence with a woman I met at a recent introductory retreat. I’m publishing with her permission. Our exchanges, both in person and via email, are an example of how Taking Refuge in the Sangha works.

Dear Rev. Mugo,
The time that I spent at the monastery this weekend has been invaluable. No matter which route my spiritual journey now takes, it will not be the same as I thought it would have been on Friday when I set off. Many thanks to you and the other monks for your inspiration and a special thanks to you for listening and allowing me to honestly explore where I am right now.

My response:

Thanks for this. Glad the retreat helped and thanks for the thanks. As you will have read on Jade, I found being around all of you people this last week inspiring. Here we all are just attempting to take the next wise step in our lives. May your steps take you to the important thing, however that manifests in your daily life as a religious person.

This person has in actual fact made a remarkable step in her religious life. On the eve before going off on holiday for two weeks she asked me if I had any general advice you thought might be appropriate.

I responded thus:

Have a lovely holiday with your family. As for advice generally? I’d say to trust the deepest part of yourself and consult inwardly as you move along in your life. Rather in the way one does when out and about, shopping perhaps, taking a pause in an aisle in a supermarket and then remembering you need eggs and if you hadn’t stopped you’d have had to make an extra trip to get them later. The process is just the same generally. Pausing as you go to give those sideways thoughts and insights a chance to be heard. Maybe a slight adjustment suggests itself regarding ones intended direction. This is probably particularly important when, as you are, taking what seems to be a big change of direction in terms of religion. However, you more than likely already realise it’s not such a big step now because you can see how there have been lots of little steps which have come before this one.

Yes, just keep on with your life and enjoy each day, hour, moment. Perhaps appreciate would be a better word. I think one can’t help but appreciate when one opens ones’ heart and follows where it leads especially when a certain level of ‘leap’ has taken place. A life-changing change.

I’ve never used the example of pausing in the aisle of a supermarket before, it just came up when writing to you and thinking about it you can probably relate to it. Often people divide up there lives between spiritual and ordinary, I think this is a false distinction. Obviously one is not going to check with ones interior about getting white or brown bread or will it be cheese on toast or fish fingers for tea! We use our ‘common’ (sense) obviously.

Back from holiday recently my correspondent made a huge leap in understanding regarding listening. I bow to her continuing insights.

We are back safe and sound. We enjoyed the holiday but I am glad to be home nonetheless. Thank you so much for your reply. Yes, by all means, use your response on Jade. I found the supermarket analogy interesting but it did make me realise an aspect of myself which I have to be careful of, I think. My husband always offers to do the shopping, much preferring that I keep well away from the supermarkets and Costco especially. The reason for this is that ….. I spend too much money. ‘I had better put that in the basket because I may need it sometime in the future’. I never seem to be able to keep to what I have written on the list. It got me thinking that to pause in/for the moment is good but not to pause contemplating what I might need in the future. Your comment re, opening my heart and following where it leads, I am adopting as my motto to remind myself to follow the lead rather than trying to lead where my head says it wants to be. Patience is a virtue!

The leap, just in case you didn’t notice it, was to pause and not contemplate what might be needed in the future.

This Too Will Change

It is not that often we are forced to face our collective mortality. These past weeks have been testing for most of us on many levels locally, nationally and internationally. Anyone else talking about the weather? I have taken to routinely adding a weather report to the end of emails. I know of no other way than to ‘sit this out’. One thing is certain, ‘This too will change’.

Living high up on the Northumbrian moors there is little danger of flooding but the standing water on the roads is lake-like! My thoughts are with those whose homes and business have been flooded repeatedly and for those who await the order to evacuate.

For anybody who is warm and indoors here is this weeks nature video from the US magazine program. Sunday Morning.

Letchworth State Park south of Rochester, New York.

May the merit of our days of meditation and training be offered to all beings and the Great Earth.

‘The night encloses brightness and at dawn no light shines’ – video Dharma Talk

Oh goodness! What a treat to see Rev. Master Berwyn giving his talk in the Ceremony Hall at Throssel.

The Buddha’s Parinirvana ceremony revolves around light and dark and encourages us to look at how we deal with ‘darkness.’ This is different for all of us, but for most of us, darkness is associated with a drawing within, a time perhaps of loss and facing our own impermanence, a time when we wait for the coming of spring.

Perhaps the ceremony is more a celebration of darkness than a celebration of light, for without the darkness there can be no understanding of the light, and this is the main theme of this talk: the intimate relationship between light and dark.
Copied from Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey Dharma Talks page.

Unrequited Love

The poem below speaks of a love (of the universe) that doesn’t love us back. Unrequited love? Yet, and still, we love. Giving with open hands, a 1000 times blessed.

by W.H. Auden

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

What Happens After Death?

This evening we celebrated the Buddha’s Parainirvana marking the death and entering into Nirvana of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni. The retreat this (long) weekend will end tomorrow and there may well be, in due course, a video or just audio talk posted on the Throssel website. In the meantime here is a bit of Krishnamurti to be going on with.

Here below is the late Krishnamurti addressing the question of what happens after death. He talks in his particular way; challenging, enquiring and with that naughty twinkle of a sense of humour. I went to his talks at Brockwood Park Hampshire in the late 1960s. My family on my father’s side followed him and he was a huge influence on my thinking. It was probably his teaching that kept me at a distance from ‘organized religion’, which on reflection was probably a good thing. Anyway if you haven’t ever tasted Krishnamurti, here he is.