Being Deliberately Useless

We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, men (and women) are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have – for their usefulness.

Thomas Merton

It takes a deliberate decision, and a difficult decision at that, to decide to NOT do something one could do. That is exercising ones ability to choose and it is a choice that can only be made by oneself, alone. Formal meditation is based on a deliberate decision to agree with oneself to not do anything, and then there is the flow of attention, of being finely present. A very private flow, an intimate connecting beyond all reason. We long for intimacy and there it is, right there!

I was thinking of small children when they are found or caught ‘daydreaming’ by their parent or carer and brought out of themselves to ‘go and play with the other children’. So-called daydreaming, being alone with oneself, and thus not usefully being a child doing what children are expected to do is not understood. Or appreciated. No wonder as adults one can feel slightly embarrassed to be ‘caught’ or discovered by accident sitting in formal meditation. Even as a monk I can remember sitting formally in my room and with a knock on the door I’d find myself being apologetic, ‘Oh, I was err…just sitting’!

Yes, we are wired for action, for doing the livelong day. Being with oneself, spending time alone with oneself, not necessarily sitting in formal meditation, has to be a deliberate decision NOT to do something else. Being ‘useless’, resting in uselessness!

Refuge in Foliage

Look at this little beauty, the first of the Nasturtium crop hanging on the railing outside the door to where I live. Passing these plants many times a day they cause me to smile. I think of this flower as a smiling face smiling back, with many more to come. What a pleasure to have a little ‘garden’. That said I’ve quite a few house plants scattered around the monastery which I’m responsible for. They are like close friends I visit and pause for a moment to ‘commune’ with. And in this warm weather, give them a spray of water to keep ’em going.

Many people, I know, have been taking refuge in foliage; be it indoors, in the garden, an allotment or just in the ‘great outdoors’.

Ah! Nature.
smell, name,
touch, care for,

Food-note: And yes, we do eat our foliage! I may, or may not have designs on those smiling faces! Such thoughts bring me into an inner ‘place’ not easy to articulate. Humility comes close.

What is ‘The Present Moment’? – Livestream Talk

I’ve been back and forth on whether or not to publicize this afternoons talk I gave via Zoom. But having viewed it I’m reasonably OK with what I see and what I said. Unlike a previous short talk on Zoom where my brain blanked which, I have to confess left-footed me for some time afterwards. Such things happen to the best of us and the only way is to ‘move on’!

Question and Answer

Onwards to Basics – Audio talk

I can do no better this evening than to point you towards a talk Rev. Roland recorded titled Learning How to Live. It is intended for people contemplating doing Jukai. A week-long retreat usually held in the spring which unfortunately we were not able to hold this year. We title this retreat or have done in the past Giving and Receiving the Precepts. A fabulous rich retreat which I attend as if for the first time, every time.

What remains with me having listened to the talk a couple of days ago is the kind and compassionate addressing of our humanity; habits, attitudes, views formed early (sometimes out of conscious awareness) and in innocense which benefit from tender reflection. The talk is intended for ‘beginners’ but I feel this is good for anybody however much, or little, they know about Buddhist practice.

Long Longest Day

‘In the midst of darkness, light persists.’ Martin Luther King.

This is for those who, on this day of long light find themselves in deep darkness. Take heart. The sun will smile and warm you tomorrow. And always.