Category Archives: Overcome Difficulties

Time for Celebrations

Next week a loyal reader of this blog is going to receive the Precepts at the Ten Precepts Retreat at Throssel. The retreat will start on Saturday. We have been in correspondence talking back and forth as she works through the inevitable

Shall I, or shall I not, cancel? Will I, or will I not, be able to go through with the commitment to formally become a Buddhist?

Her story is much the same as my friend and her steps towards surgery. I find them both inspiring in their willingness to lay themselves bare, to examine what’s there and keep going on into the unknown. Congratulations to them both!

By way of offering encouragement I wrote the following:

You do realize that the first ceremony of the retreat is the journey to the monastery and you are well on the way to completing the most testing ceremony of all.

Her reply:

I hadn’t thought of the journey to Throssel being the first “ceremony”, but now you have said it, it makes perfect sense. It’s funny how this practice gets to one, even though it is so subtle and you aren’t aware of it happening at the time. I have already told you of some of the things that have changed for me like the drinking, smoking, watching less TV and being more discriminatory about what I do watch – but the wonderful thing is that they have all happened without any conscious effort. (Because she wants to follow the Precepts, and is.)

Today is the anniversary of a significant step I took some years ago, which involves rededicating ones life to keeping the Precepts. After the coffee and desert pictured here I walked for a few hours to reach home base. Close to where I’m staying is an old woodland. The guidebook describes it as one of the Island’s most delectable spots. I reclined there for awhile against a tree and gazed up at the clear blue sky listening to the spring birds tweeting. Yes, time for celebrations.

This post is dedicated to yet another friend who is undergoing the ceremony of the journey to the monastery, literally and figuratively. Make that two friends.

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Small Steps Big Changes

A good friend has been readying herself to have hip replacement surgery. Here follows excerpts from our recent correspondence.

So I phoned today for my annual medical check-up, and as I put the receiver down, a little voice said, call your surgeon, to which I replied, Oh, I don’t think so, this is enough for one day to which the little voice replied, call your surgeon, to which I replied, well, I don’t have the number to which the little voice replied, look it up in the phone book. So I did and then reached for the phone, and hesitated, and you can guess what the little voice replied, so I reached again, and hesitated. And that little voice, in a rather exasperated tone, said how will you ever explain this to Mugo? so I (reluctantly) dialed and asked to speak to Dr. Watson’s nurse. A cheery voice said You got her! Oh well, no backing out now.

The nurse answered all my questions and the surgery coordinator will call me next week to talk about possible dates. And as if that wasn’t enough, after I hung up the phone I went into see my department head and we sat and talked about possible dates and what would work best for him. I was also able to talk to him about some of my anxieties at having the surgery done at all. When it was all over (the phone call and chat), I felt much better. It’s actually a big relief (to have started the ball rolling), and I am immensely grateful to you for your encouragement. Please consider this my first installment to my helpful mentor. Is mentor the word I want? Yes WordWeb has given me a definition that describes what you are, for me.

Here is part of my response:

I think your story is not uncommon when it comes to taking a major move in life. And let’s face it having major surgery is a major move in life. It just takes that first leap over the voices, familiar ones I know about too, for the next steps to roll out before one.

…and her response:

Thank you for your reply. It was very encouraging to hear you say that my story is probably not uncommon. I had never thought of that! (And after all those years of mothering and nursing!) I actually think writing what I wrote to you helped me along in my process. And by all means you are welcome to use whatever of it for your blog, I trust your sense of privacy. In addition your comments have given me the thought that perhaps I will try to write a little more about the voices we hear in our own minds.

I hope this posting speaks for itself.

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Way Markers

The rain slants across the open field. My windward pocket is filling up with water, I shift my guide book to leeward. Five solid hours on my feet and still a long way from home base. The question has to be asked, Why am I doing this? There is no good answer. Just keep on walking, one heavy booted burning footed step after the other.

I know it is a sign of tiredness when I know better than the guide book, or perhaps I’m just past being able to following the instructions in sequence.

At a particularly large crop field, walk across to the lone tree in the middle and keep on the same line to a stile at the far side. Now turn left, with the hedge on your right, and aim for the bottom right-hand field corner, round the stile and into trees.

I’m on Walk 6: Shanklin to Brading via Culver Cliff and Bembridge 12 miles (at least!) A Walker’s Guide to the Isle of Wight.

They say that people with Alzheimer’s go on for a remarkably long time without diagnosis. Living on familiar territory, having a daily routine, working around difficulties a sufferer can pass for years. It’s when they go on holiday, visit relatives, move house, change their familiar routine that the cracks start to show. I’m not suffering from Alzheimer’s however being away from my ordered life in the monastery certainly shows up my mental quirks. Which can be disturbing.

I found out I have a mild case of dyslexia in 2000 while on a basic computing course. I was ecstatically happy! My, often difficult, life of learning and functioning up to that point was explained. A sangha friend took me aside at that time and told me I’d better be less up-beat because err…dyslexia is a PROBLEM. In other words something to be ashamed of, I supposed.

Having difficulty with sequencing is a well known symptom of dyslexia, as is having a really poor short term memory. Now, getting to grips with changes to this web site and having to learn the new language that drives the whole thing, is a real test. Why am I doing this becomes a real question in the face of difficulties and frustrations. There’s no real answer. Some would say it seems like a ‘good’ thing to do, to me it is a very difficult thing to do and feels bad. I’d rather avoid it and that’s precisely why I’m having a go. Firstly I have to get my hands dirty with understanding HTML, sequencing hell.

Thank goodness training points to a deeper place than feelings and uses trials and tribulations as way markers. Places to pause, take stock and move on. Hallilula!

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Reflecting on Darkness

I visited a female monk this evening, she is recovering from a cold. Recovering slowly. This cold has gone the rounds of the monastery. It’s tapped on my door a few times, entered briefly, but not stayed. This time of year, leading up to the winter solstice, with ever shortening days can be hard on the whole system. Add to that sickness and the best of us can feel low, depleted and miserable with it.

Each year my father would write to me around this date to announce that we were going into the ‘black hole’. That’s the days before and after the solstice when the length of day varies by only a small amount. The expression was my dads invention. It was black because I think he found this time hard to get through. There is less light and with that a tendency to turn within. It’s a low energy time with little inclination to do much. That’s how it is for me. Just last night it dawned on me, low energy and lack of get-up-and-go need not become depressing of the spirits. December’s black hole can be positive because it can lead us inwards, there to reflect.

It also has to be said there are very many people who suffer terribly from lack of bright light. This time of year can be particularly difficult. There is however something practical that can be done to help this condition.

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Appreciative Joy

Two women. One in America the other in England. Both have recently received acknowledgment of the contribution they have made in their professional work. They have been promoted. One made President of the company she started out with by doing their accounts from her home. The other potentially being made Head Teacher of the school where she teaches, and as I understand it, in extremely challenging circumstances too.

Such recognition of ones professional ability is no small thing. Yes, there is likely to be all those things that spell ‘success’ in the world of work: all that comes with greater status, more money as well as extra privileges and ‘perks’. Who knows what promotion brings but one thing which is likely is for a rash of jealousy and envy to rise up amongst the ranks. Who has not been disappointed when others receive the public recognition you privately longed for.

I learned about mudita, or more correctly the teaching was pointed out to me, when I was suffering from the private hell of envy. I can’t even remember what that was all about now. Mudita is the possibility, the human potential, to have arise naturally a sense of sympathetic or appreciative joy. It’s chief characteristic is a happy acquiescence in others’ prosperity and success. Knowing that this is possible and can arise out of ones depths naturally, even in the face of crushing disappointment, is one of the great blessings.

One might imagine that Buddhist, religious practitioners, would be ‘above’ such matters as recognition of ones contribution to society. That it might not have any meaning. Water of a ducks back in fact. Or could it be that there is a natural pride that grows in doing ones best and that we humans wish to join our hands, and applaud such efforts. Effort’s which all benefit from, ultimately.

Well done my dear good friends. It really doesn’t matter if you accept the accolade or not, the important thing is it was proffered.

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