Category Archives: Overcome Difficulties

Why Write?

Brenda Birchenough. These hands wrote,  I plan to quote some of it in the near future.

Years ago I was talking to a chap who studied creative writing, ‘Why write’ I asked him. He replied, ‘There is only one reason and that’s to understand oneself better’. This holds true for me to this day. Yes, there is altruism involved in the case of writing for Jade Mountains, to offer the teaching, however, the element of understanding myself better is lurking in the background. Here is what I’ve said in the past about my purpose in terms of ‘offering the teaching’. Oh, and a bit about the history of Jade, started propper in 2005.

The following has been copied from a post from 2012 titled Looking Back Looking Forward. This website had just moved from a program called Drupal to WordPress. It is no small thing to migrate all the content from one ‘platform’ to another. With the change I found myself reflecting on my original purpose for writing this weblog and the refining of that. So here is a bit of history for those who are relatively new readers. My first post, Entrenching Tool explains my background intention.

With the aid of the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, I retrieved Jades original About page published sometime in mid-2003. I didn’t write a lot back then however I was glad to see the post The Road Not Taken was logged in the archive and so I have pulled it back into the current site. And at such times as these, moving house, it is perhaps good to reflect on the original intention that inspired me to maintain an online presence in the first place. So here is my first post, The Entrenching Tool!

Reflections on why I write from November 2011. Edited 2020.

On first sight Jademountains might look like an exercise in self-indulgence! A monastic going on about herself. However do explore the Archive, there’s frequently teaching embedded within a post where I’ll be talking about something I’ve experienced, thought about or otherwise found interesting and worth passing on. Hopefull the material ammased here will be a useful ‘tool’ to find inspiration, information and encouragement to continue to practice. Return frequently. Do subscribe if you want to have posts come into your inbox.

The underlying teaching is Buddhist practice is not separate from living an ordinary daily life what ever ones circumstances.

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Vocation – Dedication – Imperfection – Acceptance

We had a monastic ordination ceremony this morning. Yes, a brand new monk, Koun (there is a line over the o making it a long o, ‘aw’). Roughly. For days there have been rehearsals for this and that, ceremonial details to be gone over, last-minute re ironing of a robe, robe seams checked, preparations for moving into the monk’s zendo. This is where novice monks live for the first years of their monastic lives. I did that at Shasta Abbey in the 1980s, it’s a Zen tradition that goes way back.

The about to become monk make their own vestments and some are learning the art of needle and thread and the sewing machine as they go along. One of my contemporaries and a seriously good seamster said ‘the hot iron is the lousy seamster’s handmaiden’! The hot iron can go so far but only so far in correcting wrinkled seams etc. Nobody likes to unpick, least of all me however sometimes one has to accept that ones sewing skills are wanting. Those early lessons are paving the way, strengthening the way to accepting one’s fallibility and so-called imperfections. Both as a selfed person and as a functionary.

It is common to think of ‘vocation’ as being about having a ‘calling’ to the religious life which indeed the word does point to. However, I regard vocation in a much broader way to include a calling to dedicate one’s life path in a specific direction. As a young woman I was moved to be a photojournalist having seen pictures of emaciated children in Biafra and stories about Whaling Ships and the like.* I wanted to expose injustice. Although I trained as a photographer and loved to write, eventually I realized my vocation was in the direction of religion. Not to achieve becoming a perfect person, more a completely human person. Fallible and OK with that. Not so easy.

Here is a telling excerpt from an article titled The Importance of Singing Badley! Thanks to Chris Y for posting the link to this article on FB.

From this point of view, the greatest glory of collective singing isn’t performance by a famous choir. It’s rather, in the back room of a pub or around a campfire or in someone’s house, when people who can’t really sing, manage to sing together and what they sing gives a collective voice to the buried longings of each of their flawed, lonely and yearning hearts.

And this moment singing isn’t just about singing. We’re encountering a fundamental idea: that we don’t need to be good at something, anything for us to join in. That we belong here anyway. That we deserve to exist. Others – much more than we think – are like us; they’re not judging us harshly most of the time; they’re wishing that they, themselves, could take the step we’re taking and – in fact – they are finding some of the encouragement they need precisely in our own inept, gloriously out of key but utterly genuine and beautiful efforts.

The Importance of Singing Badly from the site: The Book of Life

*Japan announced last year it was leaving the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and would resume commercial whaling on July 1, 2019 sparking global condemnation and fears for the world’s whales. Japanese whaling ships prepare first commercial hunt in more than 30 years.

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Nothing Lost

Dad grave, Cornish slate.

There seems to be a wholly different language and vocabulary around poetry and creating to the point where I’m thinking ‘this is not something I can connect with, or ‘do’. However, I will continue to read the book somebody kindly lent me recently. Here is a quote which does ‘ring’, somewhat.

It is not any moment, but this very moment, that a Japanese poem contemplates and preserves; not any feeling, but the emotion pressed like wine from its underlying events. And there are underlying events – behind almost every tanka stands the essence of a particular story, a set of circumstances.
From Nine Gates, Entering – The Mind of Poetry by Jane Hirshfield

emotion pressed like wine from its underlying events. For me, emotion is welded to the event. No amount of pressing is going to sever the feeling from the underlying event since all of one’s senses are invoked. Recalling the circumstances surrounding my father’s death for example. It played out like a movie both at the time and now – filled with pathos yet from one place removed. Not exactly detached, that would be cold, more both in the film and watching it at the same time. I’m not having a problem with that.

he died
beating the odds
He won!
Nothing lost.

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Dad Death Day

Herons, Willow and Camellias in snow.

This card arrived today from a good sangha friend. She wrote, “I believe I’m right in thinking that it will be 20 years since your Dad died. I think it’s on Wednesday 29th so you and he will be in my thoughts that day”. Many thanks, and even more thanks for taking care of me during the days following his death. I was not the easiest of people to take care of at the time. So sorry. Heck! I was getting around on crutches having broken my leg recently. I needed to be taken care of, obviously. Not obvious enough for me though.

Twenty years and much has happened since then. And, in a way, nothing has changed. The fact that he died on a railway platform and I was present, all be it several tracks from where paramedics were trying to revive him is emblazoned in my memory. Knowing how much he would not want to be revived, in my thoughts I spoke to the chap (for I didn’t know it was my father at the time) saying, “If you want to go now that’s fine. You are free to go”. And he did! He would have been glad to have beaten the ‘system’. I love him all the more for that and for going where and how he did. I’d imagined I would fall to pieces when he died, but I didn’t. Not then, later I howled.

My parents are burried side by side in our cemetary at Throssel.

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Perfectly Balanced – With Poise

This evening I learnt a sangha member in North America had announced to her community of trainees that their cancer had metastasised involving lung and other parts of the body. The merit of these images and this post is offered for the benefit of this dear woman who has been dealing with cancer for a number of years.

Dear Rev. Mugo,

Here are shots of a heron we saw at the north end of Druridge Bay on 17th (January). It was quite as cold as it looks. There’s something extraordinary about the stillness of a heron – how it stands, and stands, and stands, as if it had never been anywhere else.

And then it took off and I just happened to have the camera trained on it and caught that moment of perfectly balanced but dynamic form. But that we may all remain still, so still and then spread our wings and take flight in reflexive response to the air around us. I wish that for our sangha member and for all. It is a matter of faith, which has no object. Faith, or trust in that which underpins our lives.

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