The dust of change

Downstairs emanates the whirring of a floor sander as our good friend redoes the floorboards in our kitchen and front hall. Throughout the house, despite coverings and hangings, floats dust: the product of this work, of the removal of past work of varnish and some of the life of the tree which provided these floorboards. This is change, this is an ending, this is an opening. This is life.

An aura around HH

Behind me on the bed, HH rests beautifully. In the preparation and maintenance of the house (in between intensive courses), my concern has been with his sense of continuity, safety and routine. And yet, he too is subject to change and is of course remarkably flexible in all senses of the word.

Once again, he is my great teacher. Wherein lay my concern or even anxiety that this work, which provides a supportive context to the many yogis we have passing through our home, will be detrimental to his well-being – and consequently mine? Fear of the loss of he whom I hold so very dear. The stripey lord. Our dearest cat.

As a friend of mine commented when this tabby gentleman first joined us – nearly three years ago now! – ‘attachment will find its way’. I am grateful for this attachment and all I learn from him.

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Annual transitions

A morning sadness, sense of loss has gradually been replaced by a quiet sense of step by step, just take things one at a time. As my best friend talks about, ‘doing the next best thing’.

But sometimes when I read that, I pause and wonder. Perhaps before doing that next best thing, we need to remember to just be. To stop and see, remove the blinders, the filters (to the best of our ability) and see with inner Panavision. This can feel quite overwhelming. And then I remember that I don’t need to do anything about all that is there. I am a spectator, a student, a perpetual visitor and tourist. Which does not mean a lack of responsibility or commitment. Indeed, quite the opposite. The seeing allows me to be far more aware, far more present to what is around and in me and so more fully, more consciously commit, take responsibility for my actions, speech and thoughts. For that is all I can take responsibility for and channel.

These thoughts are neither new to me nor anything radical and unexpressed by many over the centuries. So why mention them now?

Transitions. End of one year, beginning of another. Reflecting on what has past, seeing how it might impact and nourish what may come.

2018 was a challenging year for me, with complete surprises as well as soft openings. January saw the unsatisfactory end of 7 years of research, with an MPhil awarded instead of the intended (and deserved) PhD (the details of this debacle may appear at some point here). February my first visit to India (Goa and Hampi) – though I was still in a daze after the January disappointment, March and April were taken up with research tidying up and then a serious fall by my mum. A fortnight visit to her in the States while she bravely and determinedly recovered. 13 weeks in hospital and rehab, then returning to her retirement community. 93 and still a powerhouse! Early June, my brother-in-law died by suicide. Shocking, sad, so very sad, but not surprising, as his last year had been increasingly full of inner turmoil, depression, bipolar behaviour and suicidal thoughts and actions. Supporting my husband and niece and nephew. Early July, the commemoration for him, which I was honoured to lead. Second half of July, a gathering at our home of the American contingent to celebrate the end of the research. What a joy those weeks were! July-November, editing a most challenging book on sexual abuse and cult dynamics in yoga and positive ways forward. Late September, seeing my oldest friend on a visit to the States and knowing something wasn’t right. His diagnosis came through in a few weeks: multiple myeloma. Chemo is having a good effect but it is early days. October another wonderful time teaching in Crete – despite slight cat sitter problems. Once again, our good friend quarkping came to the rescue And December – more on the book and lots of trainings. Yet through it all I was generally quite healthy. For that I am so grateful.

So here we are. A beautiful new page with so much valuable material to process, let go of, learn from, let go again and use to grow more, be freer and emptier.

Wishing everyone the chance to enjoy the inner Panavision and the outer being/doing the next best thing that comes from that.

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More furry teachings

This says it all…

(many thanks to my eldest sister for sending this to me)

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Furry breathing

As you might have guessed from one of the photos on this website, I am blessed to be living with a most remarkable teacher in the form of a rather handsome Tabby gentleman. Quite generally a calm and friendly being, he, like most of us, has his moments of skittishness, unexplained (to we ignorant humans) times of irritation or even the odd swipe, moodiness or explosive bouts of hysterical energy.

So all these, he implies, are teachings in themselves. Take things as they are, try not to fix or catastrophise if they are not endangering anyone, remember how such episodes pass, and remember that it’s only a carpet and can covered with a scratchy bit for more fun.

But perhaps one of the most potent teaching he offers is that of furry breathing. No, it’s not something I do – he is by far the model of furry breathing – but it is the wondrous¬† opportunity for me to just stop and watch his graceful, smooth, alive and gradually grounding furry breathing.

Have you ever noticed that cats seem to breath down by their lower flanks? Yet their lungs are further up, over their arms (some people might call them front legs but I think that is rather condescending).

Aha, a distraction right there from the just watching… How talented are minds are at leaping about, tentative or perhaps even frightened of letting their attention, their curiosity rest on one object for 1 second, for 5, for 30 seconds, for a minute or even more! Let go of the pondering, the questioning – and just enjoy the in, the out, the beauty of this feline friend breathing.

If you are a friend of another semchen (mind-haver), please do not feel you are excluded from this teaching. Indeed, our Tabby gentleman reminds us that all teachings are provisional and it is important not to confuse the messenger with the message (or in this case, the breather with the breath).

Miaow…

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Dharma rain in north London

The ongoing opportunity to turn gray into technicolor. Our wondrous and most handsome cat, Vajra Rinpoche (or as my partner reminds me, Lord Vajra Rinpoche the Brave in full), is enjoying a nap on our bed. Curled into a furry comma, he acknowledges and breaths, stretches and breaths. Ever my wise teacher.

The sound of the raindrops on the porthole (aka the skylight at the top of the stairs to the Zolder, our loft studio) have taken over from the tap, tap, tapping of earlier peckings of pigeons. Puzzled at the sound (the pigeons, not the rain), I looked downstairs and then thought ‘Aha!’ and looked up at the porthole. It appeared that Charles the plump Wood Pigeon was doing a trial run at playing Santa and attempting to peck his way into the house through the porthole.

So this Dharma rain. What it is? Why isn’t is ‘just’ rain? Maybe it’s acid rain? Or we can see it as nourishment for the plants, filling reservoirs and water butts for future hydration, cleansing the sewers. Like the Dharma. Entirely plastic to its circumstances yet underneath its apparent form, its content and intent can be interpreted widely.

Your choice. Cold, soggy, uncomfortable, dreary. Or refreshing, cleansing, nourishing, flexible.

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Summer sounds

After a day of more painstaking analysis of The Spiritual Exercises, I sit here in the late afternoon, windows wide open to the sultry London summer (it does happen). And suddenly one of the neighbours has put on an incredibly violent and abusive form of music – the content of which I happily cannot understand for the shouting and music overtones the aural carnage contains. This makes the squawking and fighting of the starlings at the bird feeder sound angelic! But in fact, it all is just sound. The ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or ‘violent’ or ‘amusing’ are labels our thinking minds attach to the sound. And from there the emotions flow.

But how many of us can realistically stay as open to sound that emerges out of an emotion of anger or hatred as we do to that arising from kindness, love or just basic mechanics? It’s all part of the journey, learning when our ears (and heart) can be open realistically and when we must protect.

Soon the ear anarchy will cease and the sound of chatting neighbours and mewing pussums will return. All change, all change.

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meditating with the Jesuits

As part of my academic research, I have recently begun a six-week course on Ignatian spirituality. As a ‘card-carrying’ Buddhist (actually, I do have one from the Buddhist order into which I am ordained) and someone who spends some time teaching the Dharma from different approaches (meditation, Buddhist art), it is a welcome expansion – as well as a good opportunity to turn off my ‘teacher’s head’ and just imbibe. Invariably, comparisons and criticisms come up, but so do acknowledgements of ‘ooh, that’s a helpful way of expressing it’ or ‘yes, this IS important’.

This week we went through the Examen – a five-stage reflective exercise based very much in our own daily experience. Phew! Turning it into a form of a formless practice (or just sitting, if you prefer that term), dropping with a gentle thump straight into an understanding of the oneness of …. umm, what do you call ‘it’? Reality? Life? Beings? Everything and nothing. Beautiful. And grateful for the opportunity to see the benefits of practice, manifesting in a context explicitly grounded in a particular spiritual tradition.

And then the transition. Engaging with the others in the room, all of whom are practicing Catholics. Leaving the building and walking along Piccadilly during an evening (itself a sensory deluge regardless of what had just occurred). Trying to find something to eat, as the pit in my stomach asked for sustenance. The tightness in my chest curious and broad, almost blue and light if visible.

In short, you never know what’s going on inside each and everyone’s head!

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space is sultry

A smooth transition at the airport (ah, if only Heathrow or US airports were as efficient), a long metro ride and back into the contrasts of People’s Square, Shanghai. Space-age buildings abound yet right outside the door there are people sitting in plastic chairs on the pavement,¬† having prepared food, or waiting to rent the well-worn scooters parked higgledy-piggledy (my fat hen!). Sitting here in the reception of the youth hostel (once a frugal lass, always one), more contrasts – connecting via wireless to write this while condensation from air conditioners above drips on the plastic roof above me. I stayed at this hostel 18 months ago and it is convenient and safe as well asextremely helpful – which is important for Jents!

Now out to get something to eat from Yunnan Road (?) which is food city, apparently.

Although I am writing this to beings not here, I do feel very here. Well…

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In transit – but no, being here

Well, this is posted three days after the first post. Hmmm, I wonder if this will be indicative of this blog.

In any case, we are on the move. At the moment, we are sitting in Helsinki airport with this rather interesting fellow representing an Art Gallery, apparently. He seems in competition with the Moomins everywhere.

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Perhaps this is a gentle introduction to the combination of magical and mundane, imaginative and practical that awaits the next weeks. Not surprising to those who know me, the cartoon-like features of this gentleman appeal greatly to me.Then again, she (for gender is insubstantial in some senses) may be a new take on the ‘big ears’ of NVC.

To persist in this non-human mode, let me introduce the other being constituting the above mentioned ‘we’. No, it is not Mr JN Blair but a small and rather radiant lagemorph know as Jents (pronounced ‘yents’), who does have a certain habit of nibbling the ears of the aforesaid Blair. I first met Jents in transit during an earlier voyage a la Chine – in Vancouver when wandering about with my beloved elder sister, the Pos(s)sssssss. Pos(s) (just two esses for simplicity, here) was standing by a rack of animal puppets and Jents just jumped on her hand! As rabbits do in our family. He spent some months with the Pos(s) until she decided he should come live at Babaloka. So now he happily perches atop the eponymous Baba’s head at times and generally keeps things light. Here he is, in Paris this spring (you’ll notice La Tour in the background).

GE DIGITAL CAMERA.

Enough for now. To meditate and read some more about Master Zhiyi.

— some time later after a sometime sleepy meditation yet open

Jents continues to keep the energy going.

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Almost there – where is there?

Incredible to believe I’ll soon be wandering around big Buddhas in China. Perhaps even more incredible that I am writing this blog! As an anti-social networking type, it seems odd. But doing this has been recommended to me by several friends and I have enjoyed those of other flaneurs (you know who you are!). So let us try.

In the meantime, a photo from the Zolder, which sits atop Babaloka.

Zolder rainbow

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