Monday, 29 April 2013

"In sooth I know not why I am so sad"

"In sooth I know not why I am so sad",
yet sadness is here and I must embrace it.
Tonight in Sangha we practised
loving kindness meditation
and the effect was to pour forth
a torrent of tears and inexplicable sadness.

I was mean, unworthy, self-critical and self-indulgent.
These and other negative seeds
kept popping their heads up to say hello
and make their presence known.

Loving kindness embraced them
and in a sweet, gentle voice
allowed them to be.
And the sadness
and the tears continued.

The presence of Sangha sisters
practising beside me
kept me in the room
instead of running away.
And when, together, we walked outside

there was a tree to remind me
of the stability that is ever-present
in the trunk, rooted in the earth
despite whatever gales and storms
are shaking the branches.

The sadness did not go
but was acknowledged and
known to be a passing reality.
And this fragile being
with a painful, cracked heart
was nourished by the presence,
silent and spoken,
of my dear Sangha sisters.

© 29 Apr 2013

Sometimes feelings like sadness can come upon us unawares, and take hold with a fierce grip so there is room for nothing else. Last night I felt its grip and found I could do nothing but acknowledge its presence, and gently sit with why it was there. Feelings of inadequacy and wanting to be in control are familiar habit energies that surfaced and I felt very fortunate that I was with my Sangha (the group of people I practice Buddhist meditation with) to be able to receive their energy and nourishment when it seemed I had none. The title of the poem above is from Shakespeare (what a wise man he was!) and the speech finishes with "... such a want-wit sadness makes of me,
That I have much ado to know myself".
That much was pretty obvious last night, if we drown in sorrow and feel as if that is all there is we lose the ability to know ourselves. Again, I was fortunate to be with others last night who know that sadness as well as all other strong emotions that we can be imprisoned by are passing, are impermanent. And so this morning I was blessed to have to get up early to get my son to work for 6am, and the sun was smiling and the birds were singing and the moon was still showing its face and the roads were empty and everything felt ok. It is so important to remember that what feels permanent will pass.
Have a mindful day or mindful moments :)

Sunday, 28 April 2013

The world needs more love letters

Today I led a retreat for students from University of Leeds Buddhist meditation society, and as part of the day we were inspired by an article I read recently about someone in New York who felt lonely and started writing random love letters and leaving them in public places for strangers to find. I think this is an awesome idea! Here's a link to the article in Positive News (another great idea)

Some of the students who wrote love letters were reluctant to share what they had written because of an idea of rejection from the finder, but I'm definitely of the opinion that the right person will find the letter, the one who really needs it, we just have to trust! And it may just make the day of a total stranger that much better.

Here's what I came up with-

Because the world needs more love letters
I am writing this for you.
You are a miracle
and the world is a better place for you being in it.
The stars shine brighter,
the wind blows more gently,
the rain falls more softly,
and the sunbeams dance more playfully
because of your presence.
Your smile is a gift that lights up the world.
Pass it on.

Love does not grow if it is kept contained,
hidden from the light
or undernourished.
Love needs to be declared,
to be out in the open,
to be passed around like a luminous ball
that will dull if it stays in one place for too long.
I am expressing my unconditional love for you
through this random love letter.
It found you because it recognised
a heart that needed a virtual hug.
And you found it because the love in your heart
is ready to be expressed.
Let it be rattled from the rooftops,
bounced off the buildings and
shouted through shop doorways

© 28 Apr 2013

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

The earth is breathing out

The earth is breathing out,
taking her time.
Daily, the signs of a changing season are perceptible.
More light than dark in the day,
spring flowers appear overnight
violets in the hedgerows
daffodils on the roadsides
and the sharp scent of wild garlic
on the riverbank.
The wind has a softness instead of a bite.

On this light evening
there is a sense of calm
a sense of opening out,
awakening from slumber and hibernation.
The distant chiming church bells
call forth the awakening.
As the earth slowly breathes out,
we are expanding and growing also.

© 17 Apr 2013

Monday, 15 April 2013

I LOVE Mindfulness

Well this weekend was week one of the first MBSR course I am teaching, and it went really well. I enjoyed it and afterwards I felt really enthused and wanted everyone to know about Mindfulness. I'm really grateful to my teacher Thich Nhat Hanh for making Mindfulness a common, everyday word that people have some understanding of or want to know more about. I'm also really grateful to Jon Kabat-Zinn and the many other researchers and academics who have made it possible to offer 8 week MBSR courses to a wider audience.
If you're interested in learning more about Mindfulness and live in the Yorkshire region, check out the website for YorkMBSR
or if you know people who live in this area, make sure they know about it.
We also offer weekend and five-day retreats, so if you live further afield it is still possible to be part of a movement towards making Mindfulness mainstream and bringing it into schools and workplaces as well as for individuals.

I'm becoming very interested in the readership of this blog, as I receive stats from the blog as to how many people in each country are reading it. I find it fascinating that a particular post will suddenly spike in interest as many people in the USA or Romania (for instance) are reading it. How did you find out about the blog? Was it from a google search or from a friend? I think for many people the links to Thich Nhat Hanh's teaching are the major draw, but I could be guessing, so it would be great to receive your feedback on this.

On Sundays we have silent mornings at our house (, where we meditate together and then have 2 sessions of silence where people choose how to spend the time silently. This could be reading, meditating, walking, sewing or drawing,  it doesn't matter what activity takes place, as it is the being in silence that is most important. And this is becoming a very important part of my life. At the end of each session we feedback in answer to the question "what do you know?" A few juicy quotes came out of yesterday's session which I'd like to share with you -

"Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional"

from Shakespeare's Julius Ceasar, "Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look.
He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous". 

"Don't believe everything you think"

It's clear from these jewels that it doesn't matter what life throws at us, it is what we think about the situation that makes all the difference to how we then behave, react or not. Do we engage in storytelling to embellish what has happened, or do we let it go and move on?

A favourite quote from my MBSR colleague is
"thoughts come and go, which is fine, let them do that. Don't invite them in and give them a cup of tea".

And finally, a quote from Deepak Chopra,
"Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day". 

I hope you have a mindful day, week or moment :)

Monday, 8 April 2013

No daffodils

We took the daffodil walk.
No daffodils.
The snowdrops were still out.
No daffodils.
The ramson leaves were glossy and full,
the daffodil leaves were very much present,
but, as yet,
no daffodils.

The river gurgled and played,
the trees seemed ancient,
growing right in the middle of the river,
as well as decaying and composting at its side
returning to the earth to nourish new growth.
No daffodils.

Some are almost there,
beguilingly yellow among the greenness,
yet not a full flower to be seen,
although the Ranger announced
there was one,
somewhere along the walk.

We took the daffodil walk.
No daffodils.

Instead we enjoyed fresh, cleansing air,
open, rolling hills,
fields with baby lambs,
good company,
sharing conversations and stories
and did not miss the daffodils.

© 8 Apr 2013

Friday, 5 April 2013

"For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday"

Outside the birds are singing
and dawn is breaking,
why are you crying?

I am grieving.
Grieving for a piece of work
that has been nurtured and
carefully handled for four years,
and in its presentation to the examiners
was deemed to be not up to academic standard.
In term's of the world's suffering
this barely even registers
you may say,
but in my life, in my personal understanding
this is a painful blow to accept.

Yet it must be accepted
if I am to move forward
and amend and rewrite
this piece of work that has become
my child over the past four years.
It must be accepted if I am
finally, to let the child go,
to live by its own merits
and stand strong enough
to be buffeted by life's winds and storms.

The mind is quick to produce
a maelstrom of thoughts and objections,
of 'what if' and 'if only'
and 'isn't hindsight a wonderful thing?'
Yet deep in the quiet of the heart,
in the still pool of watching
that is miraculously unaffected
by all of this
I know this hurt will pass.
Steps will be taken,
new research will begin
"for life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday"*
and outside the birds are singing
and a new dawn is breaking.

© 6 Apr 2013
* Kahlil Gibran

for life goes not backward ... audio

Tightrope walking

Sometimes life can feel like
tightrope walking,
a balancing act between binary opposites.
If only I can negotiate between
good and bad,
right and wrong,
birth and death
without stumbling or falling.

Wanting to know the end
before the journey has begun,
wanting to be sure
everything will turn out right
before taking the first step.
Forgetting that it is through
these mistakes that we learn,
it is how we get up after falling
that helps define who we are,
it is the step we take
when preferring to stand still
that shows both us and the world
what we are made of.

The balancing act of tightrope walking.

If I do not begin I have not failed,
but if I do not begin I have not lived.

© 6 Apr 2013