Saturday 28 December 2013

This moment

I know this moment well
this moment of seeming indecision
that is in fact a moment of being
when one activity has ended and another has yet to begin.
This moment that lasts an eye-blink
but can in fact be a yawning chasm
into which we tumble
to find ourselves.
This moment between one heartbeat and the next,
the space between the in-breath
and the out-breath,
between speaking and answering.
This moment so slight it can
slip by unnoticed,
unless we are with it
and then
and then
we fall through space
into meadows full of poppies and cornflowers,
feet-high grass that we let ourselves get lost in,
we fall through skies full of stars
so numerous we can leap from
one to another and the moon
cannot catch our coat-tails,
we ride the frothy whiteness of rivers
as a leaf tossed from one peak to the next,
tumbling in a joyous confusion.
I know this moment well,
this click of a finger and it has gone moment, or
this press the pause button moment
and experience a crazy, wild dance of being,
like children who live each moment afresh because
there is no other way of being.

© 20 Dec 2013

Sunday 22 December 2013

Go as a river

Sometimes I find poems get written that are most surprising. An idea begins to formulate from a moment of insight but what emerges can be a real surprise to me, and this one is exactly that. It came about during a walking meditation (the slow, indoor kind where the Sangha moves together in a circle) on a retreat this weekend. I was aware that not everyone takes smooth, even steps, we stumble and lose balance and move unevenly. This made me re-evaluate my perception of Thich Nhat Hanh's teaching that as a Sangha we should 'go as a river' rather than an individual droplet of water. I realised I held a perception of this being a jolly, smooth moving together where everyone holds hands and rolls along in perfect harmony, but of course this is not true. Although individuals make great attempts to be in harmony with the Sangha inevitably issues arise that cause us to bump up against one another and clash. This also made me consider the nature of a river, which is not a glassy smooth body of water that moves forward effortlessly, but an energetic and playful force that gets caught up against rocks and stones in its path, and doesn't always flow forwards. This is a more accurate description.

Go as a river,
not a smooth, serene, uneventful river,
go as a teeming force
smashing against rocks,
swirling helplessly into eddies and
crashing wave against wave,
stirring up mud at the confluence
with another bumbling, blundering river.
Go as a river
that rocks its banks,
forces pebbles shiny-smooth
from its own bed and
carries debris that wreaks havoc.
Go as a force of nature
creating its own new path
through fields and
wearing away even the hardest of
stone and rock.
Go as a vast, powerful waterfall
creating noise that cannot
be shouted over and
a deep plunge pool that goes on endlessly.
Go as a river that knows its own force
that arrives at the ocean not overwhelmed by huge majesty and size
but plunges joyfully to
meet and merge with itself.
Go as a river that rejoices
in becoming a sea,
rolling and unrolling,
playing and being played,
happy to merge with itself.

© 21 Dec 2013

Thursday 19 December 2013

On a silver night

On a silver night
when the sky is purple-grey
rather than black,
the moonlight is full
and the sparkling stars
dance into my bedroom,
making me glad to be awake
at 2am.

On a silver night
I am enticed from my bed
to hear the stars sing
their stories and adventures
of midnight liaisons,
mysterious encounters and
secret elopements,
of robbers and creeping thieves,
of folk who do not want
their deeds to be seen
by daylight eyes.

On a silver night
the purple-grey sky is lit
with adventures and myths
of heroes fulfilling impossible tasks,
courage beyond imagination and
loving and letting go
that renders hearts broken.

On a silver night
I am Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Tolkien
as the greatest stories
shine out of the stars and
weave into my imaginings,
as the ordinary becomes miraculous
and the purple-grey sky is a backdrop
for elves, fairies and angels to manifest.

On a silver night
the singing stars
dance into my bedroom and
I am glad to be awake
to hear their stories.

© 19 Dec 2013

Thursday 12 December 2013

Moments like these

It’s times like these,
these in-between moments
when the pull of diversions is strong.
These moments of rest
amidst the activity of doing
that are the hardest,
when I am just with myself
and no external distractions.

It’s moments like these
when the mind engages an extra gear
and starts creating a to-do list,
leaping from idea to idea,
running fast and out of control.

It’s times like these,
these in-between moments
that are the ‘gap’ to mind,
the trap that snares
and catches me unawares.

It’s moments like these
when the mind is most resistant
to being quiescent,
to let being be uppermost
and doing take a rest.

It’s times like these
when the pull of diversions
and distractions are most inviting
and the wisdom of my teachers
seems forgotten
that silence is most needed,
just being with myself
and no external distractions.

It’s times like these
recognised by vibrations,
stirrings of restlessness,
irritation and doubt
that inner experience and knowledge
are forgotten and what remains is a reliance on the external world.

Moving from doing to being,
leaving behind the ordinary concerns
of the everyday world,
I can go beyond
the pull of diversions.
The door opens into a whole new world,
of limitless possibilities and
daring greatly.

© 12 Dec 2013

Monday 9 December 2013


Yesterday the Cotinus bush
stood in glorious sunshine
blazing radiant colours of autumn.
Today strong winds and stormy rain
have ravaged the bush,
scattering its leaves to all quarters of the garden.
Yesterday was calm and clear,
today is wild and blustery,
who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Accepting impermanence
seizing the moment
enjoying what comes while it manifests
and watching it pass
without regret or disappointment.
Seeing what is here right now
without expectation or planning.
Meeting the present moment
in each Cotinus leaf,
as it shines on the tree
and as it decays in a heap of mould,
turning to compost.

Yesterday the sun was shining.
Today the sun is shining
while the wind blows.

©  9 Dec 2013

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Tell me a story of falling in love

Tell a story of falling
from being friends to being lovers.
Tell a story of one moment
when I knew we were bound to be together,
without even knowing what that meant.

Falling in love,
not a vat of warm, syrupy goo
to be immersed in.
Falling from
being an independent individual
to being part of a couple,
widening my circle of awareness.

Tell a story of boy and girl meet,
boy and girl marry,
involving family and friends.
Love increases
as the circle grows larger,
encompassing more and more people.

Falling in love
happens in a moment,
being in love,
staying in love
is the work of a lifetime.

This is love -
"it is such a joy
that whilst seeking in the world of forms
I found you sitting in my own heart"*

©  3 Dec 2013
* words by Swamiji

Monday 25 November 2013

Is it possible to use technology mindfully?

Is it possible to use technology like facebook and google mindfully? In a recent talk [] just before the 90 day winter retreat began in Plum Village Thay says retreatants have no permission to go out from Plum Village, not even on the internet. They should only use a collective email address so people are not checking their personal emails and they should not use facebook. He mentions although it is neither good nor bad, there can be more negative than positive effects from using it, and we lose a lot of time. It is a question mindfulness teachers pose regularly, because the internet and facebook are means of reaching a wider audience but they can also be incredibly addictive. I am aware of the irony of this question, as I heard the talk over the internet and it is over the internet that I often receive Thay's wisdom as his Dharma talks are streamed online.
What I am hearing from Thay's talk is we need to use the internet responsibly, being aware of whether it is watering positive seeds within us or negative; whether it is bringing us happiness and joy or feeding our seeds of loneliness. Does it help us to come back to ourselves or are we consuming technology in order to avoid our suffering? These are really powerful points to consider.
For myself, facebook is a means of keeping in touch with people who are geographically distant and I often find stories or poems that other people post which I can also pass on to my Sangha and other interested parties. However, I have noticed recently I often use it to see what other people are posting without posting anything myself. Is this just wasting time? Also, am I really keeping in touch with people by looking at their statuses and photos? Or is that just an idea that keeps us returning?
There definitely are positives to facebook, and one is that I have access to a group of worldwide practitioners following Thay's tradition and I can ask them questions, read what they are sharing etc.
Thay's talk has made me reconsider my use of facebook, and certainly made me aware that I go onto it each morning as part of a routine of checking emails, and I don't think that is necessarily useful. So I have decided to monitor my usage to the end of the year by only using it every other day and seeing if that makes a difference. If we are using facebook addictively then it does not water positive seeds.
Something else I have recently introduced onto my computer is Stillness Buddy [] which has pop up boxes every so often (you can regulate yourself how often) to remind you to stop and breathe, be mindful and also get up from the computer and walk about a bit! There is an option to choose quotes from different teachers, so sometimes the box will have a quote from Thay and sometimes his picture! What a joy it is to see his face in front of me!
What I intend to do is shine the light of mindfulness onto my usage to see what it shows me. I'm sure it will be revealing! :)

Sunday 24 November 2013

An empty vessel

I am an empty vessel
teach me to move, to speak,
to breathe, to dance.
I am an empty space
ready to be filled with
awareness, love,
consciousness and bliss.
I am a candle ready to burn,
a star waiting to shine,
a footpath ready to be trod,
a seed yearning to grow.
I arise, I live, I rest,
one moment,
many moments,
one lifetime
many lifetimes.
I breathe in
I breathe out.
I am the moment of rest
between the in-breath
and the out-breath,
the empty space
waiting to be filled.

©  24 Nov 2013

Monday 18 November 2013

Creating empty spaces

On Saturday the York Sangha had a Day of Mindfulness led by order member Lesley, who works as a potter and spoke about her work being creating empty spaces. This had a lot of resonance for me, in terms of the Sangha I understood it to mean that we provide an empty space for people to enter and share the silence. In this space it is easier to see and understand what the mind and, more importantly, the heart are saying.
What is it about this phrase that made my heart sing? If we are not offering an empty space what are we giving people? Our opinions, judgments and ideas, whether they ask for them or not.

In terms of my own practice we offer Sunday mornings at our house as a space for being in silence with others. Beginning at 8am with an hour's silence then meditation at 9am (for those that can't get there for 8), after a refreshment break we have 1 3/4 hours of silent space in which people 'do their own thing', yet in the feedback at the end the reflections confirm our interbeing, despite pursuing seemingly different activities (such as walking, reading, sewing, meditating etc.). The session finishes at 12.30 with an optional lunch available. The next session is next Sunday, 24th November, then December 8th and we hope to offer more frequent dates next year including a mid-week session. Do get in touch if you are interested. You can also view the website

Here are my reflections on creating empty spaces -

Creating empty spaces
begins in the mind and heart,
laying down thoughts,
concerns and anxieties
and opening up to the
spacious present moment.
Here is the empty space
that has room for possibilities
instead of certainties.
Empty of dogma, ideologies
and 'my' perspective.
Open to freshness
and another way of seeing.
Here is the empty space
that has room for acceptance.
Here is the empty space
that has room for allowing,
allowing mistakes to be made,
growth to happen.
Here is the empty space
that has room for meeting,
without anything in between.
We can leave our baggage,
our burdens and our suffering
at the door and freely enter,
opening up to the
spacious present moment.

© 18 Nov 2013

Friday 8 November 2013

I am an angel

I am an angel
whose wings are fettered
trapped inside a human body,
trying to fly freely
bound to an earthly form.
I am an angel
whose wingspan is immense
and cannot be contained
by bodily limits.
I spread my wings
and break my shackles,
imaginary shackles
created by the idea of
being bound in a bodily form.

I spread my wings
and soar into space.
From this side
the earth is tiny
humans pinpricks
barely discernible.
In space
my wings take up
their full dimensions,
stretching from galaxy to galaxy
dusted with moons and stars.

I am an angel
flying freely.
A human form
is my vehicle
for conveying a message
of compassion, love,
interbeing and generosity.
I am coming to land,
an angel
with an immense wingspan.

© 8 Nov 2013