Friday 30 January 2015

The wrong sort of silence

The silence of withholding
of not sharing what is in the heart
is painful, not healing.

Silence that is born from fear
instead of peace and contentment
is indigestible, uncomfortable.

Silence that feeds resentment,
frustration, anger, hatred
is a seed planted in darkness
fed on negativity and mistrust
and gives birth to separation
difference, disunity.

This wrong kind of silence
can be overcome with compassion
with gentleness
towards oneself and the 'other'.

The words that can break
this wrong sort of silence
feed love, openness,
trust and faith.

Let my compassionate voice,
my loving words,
my caring heart
be heard
as a means of overcoming
the wrong sort of silence.

© 22 Jan 15

Monday 26 January 2015

A journey to Plum Village

A car
a train
a pizza
a bunk bed
a Eurostar train
an underground train
a local train
a minibus
and so the journey begins and ends
a slow moving way of arriving.

A dormitory
a relocation
a mouse (many mice)
some mud
an orange sunrise
a red sunset
a beloved community
many bells
recognition of myself here and over there
and so the journey continues
a slow moving way of arriving
with each footstep, each breath.

A minibus
a local train
a delay and refreshment stop
being with uncertainty
an underground train
a rearrangements of tickets
a Eurostar train
adjustment to our plans
a train north
a car
and so the journey continues
meeting friends, making friends
leaving home to come home
to realise we can arrive
with each footstep, each breath
and so the journey continues.

© 9 Jan 15

Tuesday 20 January 2015

An early morning walk to Upper Hamlet

In the darkness we set off
a brisk wind chilling face and hands.
In the darkness the sky shimmers
with a profusion of stars.
Thay is here is the half slice of moon.
We are here
six feet and one stick
softly padding along quiet roads.
The frost glimmers brightly
on grass and fallen oak leaves.
The air is too cold to linger
or gaze for long into the darkness above
and the pinpricks of light.

Ahead in Thenac
a Christmas tree becomes our beacon
guiding us onward.
Reaching the familiar rustic fence
we turn towards the hamlet.
Potholes and puddles have to be negotiated.

Ahead the lights of buildings
become our beacon
guiding us home.
Thay is already here in the half slice of moon
we are already here.

The meditation hall is warm and cosy
after the outside chill.
My cheeks are zinging
with the warmth.
Outside night slowly turns to day
as we emerge from meditation.
A bold streak of orange
silhouettes the trees
announcing the coming sun.
Thay is still here
in the half slice of moon
and we are here.

© 12 Jan 15

Sunday 18 January 2015

The little we can do

We think we can do little
yet the little we can do
may be a seed of understanding
that becomes a tree of compassion
whose fruit spreads seeds of love
far and wide.

We think we can do little
yet the little we can do
is a pebble that drops silently
into a pond, but the ripples
undulate out far beyond the
reach of our vision.

We think we can do little
yet the little we can do
is a jewel that recognises around it
a net of jewels whose brightness
shines in each and every one
without end.

We think we can do little
yet the little we can do
is a flickering candle whose flame
lights up other candles until
darkness is banished in a
sea of light.

© 18 Jan15

Some reflections on a Plum Village retreat

I just spent a week in PV with some order members from the UK and for the first time we got to stay at Upper Hamlet. As always with a retreat there were challenges as well as insights and beautiful shared moments.
Here are some thoughts.
It is important to recognise our habit energy of moving forward, always wanting to be on to the next thing, next day, next week, next year. This energy takes us away from the present moment and stops us recognising what is here, now. We can miss so many beautiful, miraculous moments because we are always propelling ourselves into the future.
In a Q&A session 2 monks were asked about how to bring Thay's teachings more fully into our lives in the light of the Charlie Hebdo attack and the horror and sadness we experience because of it.
The answer was firstly to do nothing and this felt somewhat surprising and counter-intuitive, but it comes back to recognising the habit energy of wanting to react, feeling we have to express an opinion or do something. This may not be a skilful way to behave as reacting can often be a desire for vengeance, motivated by very strong emotions. So the first recommendation is to do nothing but calm ourselves. Come back to the breath and allow the emotions to calm down.
The next thing is to embrace our sadness, our fear. To recognise that this is what is present right now, to acknowledge it and not shy away from it. Only when we are present to what is arising within us can we see the strong emotions as it is (without the second arrow of attachment to the feeling).
Then we can take the next step of allowing the wound within us to heal. We embrace it with mindfulness and compassion. We don't turn away from it, we don't try to pretend it's not there or try to avoid it, we meet it from a standpoint of mindfulness because we have already calmed ourselves.
Then we can take the final step of getting in touch with the wonders of life that are also present around and within us (the sun, the trees etc.). When we are consumed by sadness, anger, or any strong emotion it feels as if that is all there is, but in following this 4-step process we acknowledge that as well as strong emotions there are miracles of life happening all around us, and we can be grateful for our health, being warm and well fed etc. In the midst of a strong emotion it feels as if it will last forever but this process helps us to recognise impermanence; the emotion rises, lingers but also passes away.
1) Do nothing and calm yourself
2) embrace the sadness
3) allow the wound within us to heal
4) get in touch with the wonders of life in this moment.
These 4 steps very much echo Thay's teaching that was such an important part of his response to the Vietnam War - we have to be peace in order to do peace. Any action should start from a standpoint of non-action and presence. This really resonates with me in terms of recognising a habit energy of wanting to fix, sort things out, answer a question immediately, find a response. But without the first step of stopping and doing nothing our response is merely a reaction, probably fired by our habit energies. Another aspect that is important to recognise is that in doing this for ourselves we do it for others because we are not 'an island, entire of itself. [we are] a piece of the continent, a part of the main'. We are all interconnected and what one person does has an effect on others.
This has been demonstrated so clearly in the Charlie Hebdo incident. The actions of two men had a tremendous ripple effect on many, many people and whilst it will have stirred up emotions of fear, anger, hatred, revenge it has also brought out beautiful qualities of compassion, togetherness and love. The response from many people in Paris, France and around the world was one of unity, of standing together to demonstrate such actions of killing don't have their desired effect. Instead they have nurtured emotions of reaching out and connecting with others. Being peace, being calm and recognising our innate oneness is a much stronger force than our individuality and separateness. It seems to take horrific events like this one in France to waken us up to our interconnected humanity an see we are not so isolated, not so different after all. What a powerful message to send out into the world!
The monks also posed two questions which didn't need answering because they are for personal reflection.
1) am I being compassionate when I think I am right?
2) what will happen if I stop judging?

I appreciate this is a very long post compared to normal but it felt important to share. I hope you agree. :)

Wednesday 7 January 2015

In what can I put my trust?

Hope is too fragile a post
to bind my flag to.
Fear is a two-faced ally
full of deceit and disappointment.
Doubt is unworthy of the name ’friend’
as it fails last minute.
In what can I put my trust?
In uncertainty

The cosmos does not stand still
it ever rolls onward,
providing freshness
Can we really think we are so
powerful as to be able to
set down unshakeable roots,
create permanent foundations,
stopper death?
Foolish humans!

We are only one part of this
magnificent universe,
one ant on a gigantic anthill,
one atom in a sea of dust.
In the historical dimension
mind occupies the space.
In the ultimate dimension
space occupies the mind.

Anything is possible
to a mind free from conventions.
“Should” is the deadliest of enemies
with a smiling mask of comradeship.
Freedom comes with eyes open
ears open
heart open
arms open
ready to embrace the now.

© 1 Jan 15

Saturday 3 January 2015

New Year's Eve walk

A walk by the river
here a chance to turn back
not taken
a slow uphill walk
past moss-grown stone walls
winding up onto moors
a walk too slow, too late
to really enjoy the view
already dusk
a stumbling descent, unsure
yet we are already here
we have to proceed.

Black mud
sharp stones
treacherous ice
where is the path?
as darkness falls
the valley twinkles with
Christmas lights
a good day or a bad day?
determined only by the state of the mind
foolhardy or adventurous?
only thinking makes it so.*
Shall we go again?
but in daylight!

© 1 Jan 15
* "there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so" (Shakespeare, Hamlet).

Friday 2 January 2015


Let the wind blow through me
sweeping away unnecessary thoughts.
Let the sun shine on me
lighting up dusty corners, where
familiar, habitual thought-patterns lurk.
Letting the spinning earth spin me
dancing away thoughts that linger.
Let the rain fall down upon me
washing away smallness.
Let me be free from conventional
human thoughts tied to a lifespan
a beginning and an end.
Let me embrace the life of the cosmos.
Let me be like the leaf, blown
hither and thither by a stronger force
dancing to an unheard tune
beating in time with
the rhythm of my heart.
Let me be elemental
dancing to an unheard tune
beating in time with
the rhythm of my heart.
© 1 Jan 15