Monday, 30 March 2015

How can I know?

How can I know
what is in the heart
until I stop listening to the head
and tune in?

How can I be in touch
with the pulsing rhythm of the heart
until I let go of clock-watchng
and just be?

How will I hear
the music of the heart
until I stop dancing
to an external song?

What does the music
in my heart sound like?
What are the words
to this song?

Tune in
let go
just be
look inward.

The song of the heart
is silence.

© 29 Mar 15

Sunday, 29 March 2015

motivation and intention for meditation and mindfulness

Last week in Sangha the facilitator asked us to consider our motivation and intention for meditating and practising mindfulness. At the time I was a bit nonplussed. I have been meditating for so long I couldn't now imagine not doing it, so it took a little while to think back to when I first learned to meditate. At the time it was probably for selfish reasons such as being calmer and more peaceful. But as I thought about it more over the next few days I realised now my motivation is about helping people, especially those who are new to meditation, through the MBSR courses I teach.
Now I recognise meditation as a wakefulness that is an antidote to the way we tend to sleepwalk through life, unaware and therefore often uncaring. Meditation for me is about recognising our innate oneness and it is not about what we do but how we be.
Throughout my meditating life people have spoken about the effects of meditation going out into the universe and going to where it is needed most. This always sounded very mysterious and vague to me, as there is no proof. In a world that requires evidence there is no noticeable difference whether I meditate or not, but in a world of trust and intuition, which is often felt in a way that is not easily expressed, it does matter. Even if you consider it from the scientific viewpoint of mirror neurons, if I am peaceful this emanates out and can make others feel more peaceful too. To me this felt sense of trust and intuition is coming out of the head and operating on a heart level, something I am appreciating more and more as a vital way of being. In an age of science and the need for proof we can forget to trust our instincts and what we 'know' from a heartfelt point of view.

Indeed, I am not looking for or needing proof that 'my' meditation benefits others because this is the wrong way round of looking at things, looking from the point of view of the individual that ignores our innate oneness. If we consider things from an interbeing perspective meditation is happening all the time and one may choose to join in or not. It is not something 'I' can do, indeed, it is only by letting go of 'I' that meditation happens at all. If we continually focus on an individual meditating we miss the real picture and get lost in concerns of being comfortable or being in pain, restricted by time and forget the timeless quality meditation has. If we continually focus on an individual meditating we bring along a whole host of unnecessary ideas that can become barriers, such as striving and judgement. We speak of a 'good' meditation if we feel relaxed and at ease at the end, or a 'bad' meditation if it seemed we could not still the ever-present thoughts. This is all looking at meditation the wrong way round; meditation is, there is no good or bad about it.

Meditation has been called the real undoing and it is about giving ourselves permission to let go of the small in order to dance and bathe in the ultimate reality. It is what Marianne Williamson described as 'our deepest fear' -
our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,
our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure ...
we are all meant to shine as children do,
we are born to manifest the glory of love* that is within us ...
and as we let our own light shine
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
(* she uses the term God, but I think love is more universal).

This is what happens in meditation in my experience, that by practising deep looking and being peace we can also allow others to do the same. We are spreading seeds of peace when we meditate, without minding where they will fall; that is not our concern. We can be like the sun, shining on all without judgement or preference.
By practising meditation we can demonstrate it is possible to be peaceful, to be steady and unmoved like the strong trunk of a tree, instead of being tossed around like the branches, at the mercy of every whim and thought that crosses our mind. Being peace doesn't mean we are unmoved by what we meet in life but that we have a more stable foundation from which to meet and cope with our experiences.

In the end it comes down to, how can we not meditate? This is the most accessible way of being in touch with ultimate reality and from that perspective helping others, not by what we do but by how we be. And I thought I didn't have much to say about motivation and intention!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Miracle of Mindfulness: A UK monastic retreat with the community of Thich Nhat Hanh

Good News!
Our brother monks and sister nuns from Plum Village will be joining us to lead a 5-night retreat, from 24th – 29th August in Stourbridge, West Midlands.  Full details can be found here and we expect to fill the retreat very quickly, so do visit the Miracle of Mindfulness retreat page and if you would like to join us, don’t delay in booking your place, or contacting us to find out more.

I'm delighted that this is coming together at last as I am one of the core retreat team and we have been working hard over the past few months to help bring this about.

‘This is the greatest Happiness,’ the Buddha said, ‘to persevere and be open to change, to have regular contact with monks and nuns, and to fully participate in Dharma discussion.
                                                                                                (Discourse on Happiness)

Thursday, 19 March 2015

May the dance continue

The sparkling stream
of stars at night
has become a morning
full of birdsong.
The moon smiles upon me
gently resting in
a pale blue sky.
Clarity and wakefulness
are present
in each circumstance,
inviting me to join them
to partake in a joyful dance
of meeting and recognising
our innate oneness.

I am the sparkling stream
of stars at night.
I am the morning
full of birdsong.
I am the moon
gently smiling
upon an awakening world.
I am clarity and wakefulness
inviting you to a joyful dance
of recognising our innate oneness.
May the dance continue.

© 14 Mar 15

Wednesday, 11 March 2015


At last, after 6 years of blood, sweat and toil and many late nights, my Ph.D. thesis is complete. And here is the proof -
The title is 'In the Tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh: the Theory and Practice of his Key Teachings'. It is such a relief to see it at this stage, and I am hoping to get it published soon. Next step is to talk to my supervisor about how to achieve this.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Mindfully Exploring Drawing and Poetry in Helmsley Walled Garden

Here is a lovely opportunity to give yourself a treat and enjoy the beauty of Helmsley Walled Garden (YO62 5AH) from a different perspective, exploring it through drawing or poetry. Whether you are experienced in these areas of drawing, poetry and mindfulness, or brand new and slightly terrified, this retreat has a lot to offer you.
This 2-day non-residential retreat offers an opportunity to experience drawing and poetry supported by mindfulness.  Please note you can book for either one day (Saturday) or for both days.

Day Retreat Overview
Helmsley Walled Garden provides a superb setting for exploring our relationship with nature through words and images. On each of these two days we can spend time discovering a new way of creating, whether this is through drawing or poetry, by using mindfulness as the foundation.
Each day includes gentle mindfulness practices that will enable and support your drawing or writing, as well as refreshments and lunch and entry to the Walled Garden.
This provides an ideal opportunity to:
  • Leave behind the hustle and bustle of daily life and set aside some time to refresh yourself through the creative pursuits of drawing and/or poetry.
  • Tune into what feels right for you 
  • Explore the benefits of mindfulness

Who Should Attend
This event is suitable for anyone who is interested in combining the creative practices of drawing and/or poetry with mindfulness. Tuition will be provided in mindfulness as well as the craft skills of drawing and poetry. Each day will happily accommodate those who practice regularly as well as those new to drawing, poetry or mindfulness. Beginners and the terrified are all welcome!

The Venue
This event will be held at Helmsley Walled Garden, Cleveland Way, Helmsley, York YO62 5AH.
See eventbrite for more details

Thursday, 5 March 2015


Today is world book day, and as I haven't posted for a while this is a good opportunity to talk about Thay's latest book, Silence. Even the title really intrigues me. I love silence! The full title is Silence: the power of quiet in a world full of noise. Something that is very much needed. I think we should encourage people to turn off the radios and tvs and computers and phones more often and notice silence instead of ignoring it, or trying to cover it up. Silence can be very powerful, as it allows the heart to be heard. I have often written about silence in my poems but here is one I don't think I have posted before.

Silence is more eloquent

No more words
the silence is more eloquent.

The deep rest in conversation
between one comment and the next
lets the words settle and resonate,
lets the beating heart be heard,
opens up the space in which
being replaces doing,
acceptance and contentment
replace rushing and getting things done.

No more words
the silence is more eloquent.

The heart yearns to be heard.
When internal and external
words are silenced
the heart is set free
like a caged bird learning how to fly.

No more words
the silence is more eloquent.
2 June 2013

And Thay's book is available soon, with this beautiful quote, inner silence does not require external silence. You can get it from here in the UK