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

Tuesday 5 November 2013

The light of Diwali

Darkness knows the light
and welcomes it,
even though its presence
banishes darkness itself.
The light of knowledge
has been lit
and cannot be extinguished.
Burning brightly,
shining far.
The light of knowing,
of being
pure, free forever
has been lit
and cannot be dimmed.

Darkness knows the light
and welcomes it.
A great battle is concluded
with an embrace,
an acceptance
a bow of submission.
Welcome light.
Know the light as
pure, free, forever.
The light shines brightest
in the darkness.
Let all who can see,
see the light.
Let all who can hear,
hear the shouts of exaltation,
of joy.
Darkness is defeated.
The light shines bright.

© 5 Nov 2013

Saturday 2 November 2013

I have come to know silence

I have come to know silence.
I have come
on this retreat
to find silence.
And I found
I brought silence with me.
I carry the means of silence
all the time.
Every cell of this body
is teeming with silence.
Every molecule of blood
is streaming with silence.
And side by side
are the means of disturbing
the silence.
I have come
to find silence here
and found it came with me.

I have come to know silence.

© 30 Oct 13