Saturday, 19 December 2015

2 haiku & 1 senryu

morning train -
in every tired face
my tired face

moon dog -
a memory of you
walking beside me

first frost -
a roe deer appears
from the woods

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Death Songs

A reflection on death as prescribed by Philip Kapleau’s The Zen of Living and Dying

death as having the appearance of an executioner, that is, as though a murder were standing in front of one ready to strike one down.

A cold breeze that strikes the gut pushing jelly through and into the viscera. Reaching and reaching on down and pressing on a cheap beer ponch. Home lost and found. A jolt in the legs. An awkward twitch - comes and goes. A freezing blue-white that washes the face inside out. Linoleum eyes violet shaded. They falter. The cold sweat blink. The commonness of consciousness drip drops forming a puddle in no form.

Gentle wild flowers bob in compassion realised on some summer courting hills. The town works clockwork beneath us all. A church slowly fills. Traffic forming on the hill. Traffic disappears. You take a cloth out to wipe your brow. Chewing a tall pice of grass - it’s sweet. Something muttered under breath.

A patch, a spot. The horse’s nape. Speckled and spotted. The undrained water on the road reflecting moonlight. The bough gently breaks - no autumn. A splish splash. Murky water distilled. No lotus. The man in the moon homeless. Hoof beats soft in their protein way. They, in themselves, a memory of the driveway framed by rhododendrons. Purple in its autonomous haze.

The wheat harvested. The hands rest on the table. Both cracked. A plate of potatoes steam. The steam collects on the ceiling. The window gently pushed open. A cat sneaks its way in. The fork cleaned on a cleaner bottom edge of a shirt once tucked.

The cotton bud ambrosia. The floating sandals and bathed feet. Clicks of lights. A crunch of floorboards. Something not quite there. A benevolence rooted in pity and despair. Forgotten scents. A memory. Snapshots of the pyramids. A film of sand on the windscreen. 

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Mikey goes to Hollywood

Friday 6th

I pick the hire car up from Arnold Clark’s on Allison St. It is past 10 and the morning is slowly slipping away into afternoon. The car is a powder blue Hyundai something or other. It is small and I know it will be hard to handle the further south I get on the windy motorway past Dumfries. On cue the weather starts to turn worse and slowly deteriorate the further south I get. 

Although the weather has started to be somewhat problematic I make it onto the outskirts of Carlisle sooner than expected. I have a notion in the back of my head to visit Hadrian’s Wall - so I do. Bank’s Turret. This section of the wall sits on one side of a valley. The wind howls and shakes. The Roman remains don’t seem to mind me or the weather. 

Curving down the rural leaf sodden back roads I notice a kestrel in a field I bring the car to a halt to watch it. After a while I decide to leave my bird friend in piece whilst doing this I check over my shoulder for a passing car and notice in the adjacent field a rainbow has formed. 

Finally arrive at the abbey. Wilfred, as he introduces himself and John, greet me and show me around the monastery. We make small talk. I make awkward talk. I feel both stupid out of place and strangely at ease. This contradictory theme carries on. The building is cool and calm. 

making my way
to the monastery 
geese overhead

Later as the sun pinkishly sets I reflect on my journey. There seems to be an objective beauty to nature. I’m not sure I should put anymore weight in it than that. What else can I or anyone say about such things? 

After evening sitting I take tea in silence. There is my ego wanting to say something about this and the day; there is also the loneliness in realisation that there is nothing to say about  the day or anything for that matter. 

Saturday 7th

Morning bell rings at 6 am. Not even the birds are awake. We stir beneath the buddha. Great golden solemn and peaceful. The sutras usually chanted at the end of a soto sitting are set to a style of music that is usually reserved for christian psalms and such. It is both beautiful and strange.

morning bell -
up before 
the sun or rain

Breakfast and meditation we are set to work. The job I have been given is to separate any stones that are in a  big tub of black eyed beans. I notice the faith and doubt I take in this is quite similar to my general practice. This is meditation. Is there even any stones? Why in  fuck am I sifting beans for imaginary stones? And so the chattering goes on and on. 
sorting beans -
the buddha

More sitting and more work. I scrub the kitchen floors and try to drive the doubt out with sweat and tiredness. By the late afternoon I feel tired. We sit some more. 

autumn night -
a spider prefers the toilet
over the meditation hall

Taking tea before the final meditation of the day. The sky is outside reflects my tea - black. I sit and sip reading a battered old copy of Basho’s Narrow Road. Pains in my back come and go. 

drenched in silence
every second
in every hour

Sunday 8th

Taking tea. Just 9am and meditation, breakfast and work done. The work this morning included sweeping leaves and cleaning the windows. There was shit from the long gone migratory birds. 

as I clean their shit
my mind shifts 
to absent swallows

The Japanese calligraphy reads: ‘this fleeting body reveals the light’. It was by Keido Chisan Koho Zenji. 

I see the buddha every hour observing the subtleties in the changing light from outside. I notice what I see in that face is actually my own projections. From the tiredness, sadness, happiness is actually coming from me. I see myself in the buddha. Fleeting, but I catch myself looking back at myself now and again. 

I am in and of this world. This world is and of me. The rain seems to have finally shifted. Autumn has hit its stride. Carrion birds flit over the valley the abbey faces. The red and yellows of autumn almost gone leaving just the green of pines. 

Goodbyes and gasshos. I feel a strong sense of compassion from the monks. I do my best to express my gratitude without sounding like an idiot. Taking my leave the rain starts again. All the way back I listen to a christian service followed by choir music on Radio 3

As I enter the outskirts of Glasgow the weather changes. A sun set sallow by the brooding clouds. The christian choir music has now shifted on to more contemporary renditions. A choir is singing The Power of Love by Franky Goes to Hollywood. There is nothing from the day so I cruise home tired from an arduous drive and happy to be home. 

Sunday, 1 November 2015


Autumn rolls along today pushing us further away from something and yet not. That nothing into nothing. The temperature not quite cool yet, even though the doomsday meteorological threats of winter whine over and over. Broken record headlines on cheap rags. 

The song birds wrestle and tussle mid-air amongst sallow and crimson leaves. Their markings pronounced and cut with the ragged death veins of the sycamore, beech and birch leaves. The first bare barren trees. The banks of the white cart river slowly becoming starved as the bramble and hogweed slowly die off and allow the river shore time to recuperate and remember itself. A rested motion. Oblivious the river rolls and the pebbles bob and ebb. The water birds out of site but still in time, some other curve or nook. 

There is something strangely resting yet purposive about the rainbow’s coloured arch that rises over the later midday scene. Staring dumbly at its wonder. Little spits of rain falling. The breeze bobs and crooks as the small birch shedding a few yellow leaves here and there. Cars endlessly motion by. 

Later sun set. Clouds seem to sulk into sallow submission eventually embarrassed willowing away. Children point up and mumble something to mommas that pretend to understand a little. Some diagnosis of love between loved ones. The diagnosis day done. Workers leak out of public transport. Some take short cuts through the park. Some momentarily stop and light cigarettes. Thick blue plumes of smoke mingles with the blue’s of twilight. 

The sound of fireworks sent echoing through the maze of tenements into proceeding early Autumn night. The air cool and heavy hanging over the long evening. At the community green between the houses the habitants are lighting fireworks. Kids howl at the colours, cracks, whistles and pops. Giggling under the heavy smoke. 

clearing father’s house - 
an old photo of my brother 
carving a pumpkin 

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Matthew McConaughey’s law

The only redeeming point in that god awful movie Interstellar is possibly the scene between Matthew McConaughey’s character and his on screen daughter, where he explains the reason why he named her Murphy. His daughter, Murphy, is very upset because she believes she was named after something that is bad. 

To calm her down he explains that murphy’s law means whatever happens will happen and that’s fine with us. This clearly echoes the points found firstly in Case 6 of the Blue Cliff Record where Unmon cuts through our fruitless discursive judgmental thinking with ‘Everyday is a good day’. This is a consistent theme or point in zen literature. Another example can be found from the voice of Linji, where he states: ‘I dislike nothing’ or ‘There is nothing I dislike'. 

It is our desire to change reality or to crave things getting better that enact sod’s law or murphy's law. If the grass is always greener then any event or endeavor is doomed. If we just accept reality as it is how can things turn out badly? Things, events, turn out as they are. Events, past, present, future as they are, are beyond judgement and are not even separated by time. Judgement in this instance is not only fruitless but not even nearly accurate. When we want something out of our reach it’s more likely than not going to come to fruition. We crave. We desire - endlessly. Therefore what sense is there in living a life of continuos craving and desiring things that one will never attain? What sense is there in not accepting things as they are? 

This mindset is not to be confused as passivity or a giving up and accepting everything as good whether it is bad or not. It is not looking on the bright side of life. It is, to reiterate a shift away from discursive judgmental thinking. If we accept things as they are we have a better chance of seeing things as they are, right? As Zen Master  McConaughey states: ‘whatever happens will happen and that’s fine with us’.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

3 haiku

full moon -
playing your voicemail
over and over


autumn hues -
the sound of rain
on a child’s balloon


autumn dusk -
the strawberry patch
in its second red


Join me on google+ for meditation

Sunday, 11 October 2015

2 haiku & 1 senryu

full moon -
porcelain buddha
on the mantlepiece


under this moon
even a cormorant
has a home


morning bell -
no sound
to follow


Sunday, 4 October 2015

Turning Time Around

So I presume we’ve all noticed this by now to varying degrees. Things come up when we sit. For some of us, myself especially, I notice, I really notice and focus on the bad stuff. It's almost impossible not to. Sometimes it seems that’s all that comes up. Those stupid things we said. The smart things we didn’t say. The love we didn’t receive. The love we didn’t give. Loosing your shit. So on and so on in this big and ever so unimportant drama through phenomena. 

Now my past wasn’t all that bad. No one’s was. That’s not to say some people haven’t had horror and trauma in their live’s, but there was probably some moments of bliss in all our lives, even if they were very small and fleeting, even if it was just a gentle spring breeze that one time in late May. So why do I, and many other people I know, doing this thing we do, seem to only access the bad or at least the majority of things that float up between breaths, seem to be bad? 

A fundamental point we can take from Buddhism and Buddhist teachings to help us understand this is that one should look very closely or carefully at things that seem to exist in a duality or in contrast to something else. When I look closely or I examine the things coming up when I sit, up in this moppy dome, it is not my reality. It’s gone - at best it is a representation of past events. It’s a time not necessarily of anything except a subjective interpretation of a moment that I might, or might not have been, in some time, but not time. And what of time? 

Lou Reed famously crooned that love is turning time around. There is an opportunity to love ourselves when we sit and to turn time around. Be gentle.  Let that shit go. Rather than focussing and obsessing on the dark shit that floats to the top we can choose to observe it and let it go returning to the breath. Just following the breath in time. Observing. And what exactly does following the breath reveal? 


sitting in sorrow  
lamenting the nature of things 
to feel the endlessness   
to find oneself in change 
on this autumn evening  

Saigyô (own translation)


Saturday, 26 September 2015


It is becoming clear. The way we interpret the different planes of past, present and future are based in ego and it is our ego that picks the channel, frequency or plane, if you will. Beyond the ego there is no judgement, let alone time, as there is just now and now is beyond judgement and critical thought. 

The ego also tricks us into such things as depressed or negative thinking - I shouldn’t have done that, it was a stupid thing to say, I shouldn’t have shown my anger, and so on and so on forever more - or not? Depression is a plane tuned into by the ego - it allows us to be distracted and offers a false sense of comfort and a reality that isn’t quite there. 

This channel allows us to feel like shit, because the ego knows if it keeps us on this plane then it survives and our true nature is suppressed. We buy into the game of non-living - the game of thoughts and illusions. On the other channels we have everything is fine, i’m having a swell time and other such delusions - delusions clearly work in many ways. The anger channel where we kid ourselves that it’s ok to loose our shit and get mad at our loved ones. So many frequencies for us to tune into - so fucking many. 

On the other end anything illuminated by what following the breath reveals, is of our ultimate true nature which is nothingness. And being in nothing you are ultimately everything. In the state of nothing we are in the true state where the only actions are that of compassion, warmth and so forth. It is in such things that are beyond concept, we find the beauty of emptiness. There is no true manual on such matters because they are of the deepest heart wisdom which is accessible for all beings if we just turn off the channels. 

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Saigyō 5 Tanka translations

on this peak
between the lull of storms
my only companions
are the loneliness of retreat
and the sound of water

after my death
through the pines
through infinity
no one will mourn these ruins
no one will follow my footsteps

through my door
comes no one -
this lonely
mountain village
where i live in desolation  

empty cicada husk
this body sighs
in vain -
my love bound
in hopelessness

all alone
in this rocky ravine
far from the town
- where no one can see me
I surrender to grief

(original translations)

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Let go!

Heraclitus is possibly most remembered as stating that one cannot step into the same river twice. This is a very famous over used and somewhat misunderstood quote. One way to interpret what the pre-socratic philosopher was stating is that one cannot step into the same reality twice. Reality as a river then. We the pebbles and stones bobbing and ebbing, weaving and crashing along. Does a pebble know its nature? Can we? 

Generally we are pebbles that are generally unawares about what we know and cling to things rather than letting go into things as they are. Sometimes though we get a glimpse into reality as it is. There is a great existential weight to this realisation of ourselves coursing along in this stream. Dylan notes and bemoans in Like a Rolling Stone as the lead character in the song is bitterly thrown out of the hip life of rolling drown the river unawares trapped into the phenomenal clinging - 

You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin' out
Now you don't talk so loud
Now you don't seem so proud
About having to be scrounging for your next meal.
How does it feel?
How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone ?

How does it feel? That metallic hollow lonely dredged as ghosts drag the chains of time through your sternum. How does it feel? Loss and the ills of reality. What remains? What can remain? 
If we look finally towards medieval Japan we can perhaps find our answer from Basho: summer grass - the ruins of a soldier’s dream
Let go! The grass will grow. The pebbles will roll. Float down stream. Dislodged and help the other pebbles along the way. The river will remain. The grass will grow. You can’t step into the same reality twice. You can’t live the same situation twice. Let go. Why hold on?

Monday, 7 September 2015

The Sangha hymnal

we take our seats
we follow our breath
everyone of us single and together
nothing and everything
in this world we resound
from and of this world we route
the life of this and that - judgement clinging ego
we follow the path
the mountain path
we humbly accept the invitation and guidance
offering prostrations to our guides
like lilly roots
through the mud we are nourished
invisible boundless
all nations all hearts indivisible
we follow the bell of our sangha

Monday, 31 August 2015

The simple things

In a certain regard we are all moral and ethical philosophers. What i mean by this statement is we work around our world making thinking and non thinking decisions. We don’t kill for reasons we have learned and developed. We show compassion for reasons we have learned and developed.
In this framework we are honest to societal degrees that we find suit our lives. For instance we’ve all done the job interview. For most people, myself included, I had to adapt my honesty to a level where I can get the job but don’t go too far and blatantly lie. Why do you want the job? I don’t answer honestly, it’s not possible because I need to pay my rent, I need food. The correct answer would be, something like, your company is amazing and i’d love to use and develop my skills within this institution. The bs just starts to roll and roll.
So does this make my actions not right? Am i being deceitful? Well, yes. But lets look at the grand scheme of being dishonest. All actions contain other actions. Like an acorn contains the oak tree. It’s already there. With my dishonesty I don’t want to plant something that could be harmful. I don’t want to plant my acorn too close to my neighbors or even my own house because it would ultimately destroy it, right. You see where i’m going w/ this?
If i was to be honest it would cripple my life and a lot of people around me too. Hey you, you over there? You’re fat and stupid looking. How does this work? Are morals and ethics are clearly malleable. I don’t steal. I don’t cheat on my partner. Why? I don’t want to plant the acorn too close to the house, right?
So I conclude that observing my life and its unfolding through honesty being honest or dishonest is neither relevant or applicable and in both instances I’ve created a dichotomy that is fictitious or non existent -this is seen by the fact that one can never actually be either honest or dishonest, or more accurately our lives won’t work if we choose either extreme. Everything seems to be in the intent. So where do we go? It’s obvious and simple - we follow the middle path or a meeting in the middle, if you like. The integrity of this middle path is heightened when we just sit. So we sit, cultivate and act. No good or bad. Just the intuitive thing.

Come meditate with me tonight through our community page at 8pm (UK time)

Sunday, 23 August 2015

3 haiku

twilight -
the tops of tenements
tumble into memory


father’s old records -
our silence
between songs


summer storm -
the river swells
beyond the graffiti


Sunday, 16 August 2015


As a child i remember going to a joke shop. They obviously had many many fantastic and wonderful things for sale but one thing I see to vividly remember being sold was a love potion. On the packaging it stated whoever ingested the potion the first thing they see they would fall in love with - the package illustrated  this by a man seeing a plant and falling in love with- love hearts emanating from his head and all. 

In many movies and other forms of dramatic entertainment love and it’s manifestation into  relationships with others is often used as a defining point of the story and ultimately the human condition. The plot arcs and pivots around the characters creating a fictional world bound on interaction. It is in this we see how we give ourselves to our world of friends, family and loved ones. There is no action we commit that is isolate of the influence from these circles. We are inseparable from these circles in a very real and beautiful way. 

From this it seems like love is something we can tap into rather than falling into. It is sharing this universal feeling that is our common sense of being in love and having it be requited. A timeless secure feeling. And just like love meditation is something that we open up to. An opening up to the world. We drop out insecurities, likes dislikes and be in that moment.

We notice the annoying traits of our friends, families and loved ones but don’t let ourselves be carried away by them and their shit. We notice the sounds outside that distract us while we sit but we don’t spit and hiss with anger and loose our minds at the taxi driver honking his horn outside. No. We put our work in. We get stuck in. We notice. It’s all work and it’s all surrender. 

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

3 haiku

high sun -
a layer of dust
on her wedding band


picnic bench -
the green crowns
of strawberries


mother's sympathy -
the endless green
of these sycamores

Friday, 10 July 2015

The fox delusion

So at the end of spring coming into summer three fox cubs started making appearances around the hogweed covered banks of the white cart river that runs behind my house. As I’d go for my walk their grubby faces would greet me from the opposite side of the river. They seemed safe with the barrier of the river between them and me. I also presumed mother was watching under the cover.
Anyway a few weeks passed and I became quite fond of the little cubs. I’d even call out to them and there dirty little ears would pick up. But as soon as they had appeared they disappeared. Now logical rational thinking would tell me that momma fox had moved ‘em on down the river bank, or perhaps somewhere more inland. Instead I remembered every story and photo I had seen of the atrocities committed on foxes throughout the British isles. I fully engaged in the idea, with no rational or even a shred of evidence that the little cubs were anything but safe in their den. In my minds eye those poor little guys had met an awful fate. Let us look at the third of the bodhisattva vows, ‘delusions are inexhaustible. Got it?
This is not an isolated thought pattern unique to my nature ramblings and musings. Perhaps your boss said something to you recently that was a little short or rude. Did we presume it was nothing or even because he was tired or stressed? No the monkey mind let rip, delusions flooding. What did they say? What did they mean? The second part of the third vow reads  'I vow to transform them'.
So ‘Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to transform them’. It seems contradictory or impossible to attain, right? But that is the nature of any buddhist vows, unlike christian morality vows buddhist vows are more to be worked towards, we don’t become attached to them we just continue you to chip away or scale the mountain of delusion all the while aware of them.
So rather than becoming upset or too carried away by the disappearance of my fox buddies I should remember that these delusions are inexhaustible and I must continuously work to transform them or over come them and realise that they’re probably living in the woods downstream having  a great time of it having some magical fox adventures.

Creations are numberless, I vow to free them
Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to transform them
Reality is boundless, I vow to perceive it
The awakened way is unsurpassable, I vow to embody it
(Roshi Joan Halifax's Bodhisatva vows) 

Tomorrow morning, as with every Saturday, at 8am, I'll be hosting a meditation and discussion on google hangouts. Link here

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Dream Flag

This is the dream flag and was designed by the 16th Karmapa from an image he saw in a dream. The blue of the flag represents the insight we receive from our practice, the absolute truth, the noumenal world, things as they are in themselves while the yellow represents the phenomenal world where our cultivated compassion is enacted. The symmetry in the wave pattern shows their independence and inseparability. 

More information here

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Oh Wednesday :)

Oh Wednesday! What a day. A theme that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is attachment, especially attachment to the practice and such things. Well my ego caught me for a doozy the past few weeks. Out of nowhere walking in the morning sunshine following my breath the scent of flowers, bees buzzing, children skipping, beatific bliss, the revelation hits me like a big black blue wall - wallop!

The walking meditation must of allowed my ego a slight reprise and I saw it all - the marathon of delusions and with it a nice southerly scattering of anxiety and depression. In a split second the delusion was revealed and with it the ego comes back with a ping-pong 30 round boxing match. The embarrassment. All those hours staring at a wall - I should be immune, right? How I’ve justified anger, attachment, ignorance, addiction, impatience and so on and for ever and ever.

Wednesday was the definition of an off day. Old buddy ego was drenched in its warrior paint intent on fucking my shit up. The point to all of this rambling is don’t let your guard down. The ego can manifest in many ways. You’re not safe on your zafu and there is literally nothing into which the ego can’t manifest. We must put our faith and everything into following breath as it is the only way to see things as they really are.


when the snake comes out
there's a brave soldier...
blossom viewers


Sunday, 28 June 2015

2 poems and a haiku

all signs
from within
nothing lost
everything found


beginning the practice

the first steps of practice will be of great pleasure
consciousness, forms, motion
every animal beating and running a course through your veins

senses, eyesight, love
the first steps awe and are woven in great pleasure
hardly gone a step or two and now you want to sing


dawn -
a snail scales
the hedgerow

Sunday, 21 June 2015


A lot of people partake in sports initially as a way to let anger out. Although they will receive the numerous obvious benefits of sports, nothing can cure anger and it is not something that can be let out like an infection. Nothing can cure anger because it is not a disease or malady, it is something we face as humans, part of our experience and existence. What we can do though is control our anger, or more accurately not let anger control us, by understanding the nature of anger. 

Anger is a karmic reaction of sorts. It is useful to forget concepts such as ’karma is a bitch’ and perhaps initially more so ‘cause and effect’ although this too is incorrect as it linguistically implies cause and effect are separate. It takes immense courage to acknowledge your behavioral patterns are inherited from the people around you. It is no coincidence that I am overcome with anger whilst driving and my father is the same (this is where I learned all my swear words from too). This is the karma he is continuing on to me - it’s not going to help anyone if I continue this tradition.

Let us not identify with our anger. I think the first step any one should take is to not identify with their anger - no one is an angry person, no matter how many times you lost your shit today. If we look at how many different states you were in during the day it becomes absurd to identify yourself as an angry-person. For instance most of us sleep for more than 6 hours a day, I’d be very surprised if you were angry for that amount of time during the day, so I think if we were to describe ourselves based on our experiences, or state, it’s probably more accurate to call yourself a sleepy person. 


summer grasses -
all that remains
of the warriors’ dreams


Sunday, 14 June 2015

URL Sangha update and schedule

So I’ve been hosting now for three-four weeks and I guess it is a good idea to organise a proper weekly schedule that we can all work towards. With this the official schedule has been decided and will be for four days a week, giving enough space to encourage any future hosts. So the day and times going forward: Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays at 8pm & Saturday 8am. When I started hosting I planned on doing four a week but I’ve rarely missed a day and I will continue to organise impromptu events as long as there is a need and I have the free time to do so. All these can accessed on the google hangouts page and keeping up-to-date with the redditation page is also advised. 

The group has been growing lately and we now have regular attendees. It is starting to feel like a regular sangha. I’ve the  noticed unique personalities and started to understand the individual needs of the people in the hangout sits. It’s a unique privilege to gain insight into the different needs of people on this similar yet different path. Highlighting my own way in knew and exciting ways it helps me assess my own progress and realign and focus on what I am learning. 

And it is learning. I tend to avoid calling the sits a class because it naturally reverts to a traditional understanding of a class dichotomy made up of teacher and student relationship. This is not the case as everyone naturally teaches and encourages each other, so in one sense it is like a class, but in another it is not. It’s not helpful to get bogged down in these semantics so it’s time to shut up and sit down again. 


a starry night -
going back home 
through a longer path

Zohreh Zahedi

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Three haiku

Three Haiku from the Shamrock 31

father’s old house –
his voice both here
and gone

dusk –
swallows weave
through bails of hay

twilight –
waves breaking
with the fisherman’s casts

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Visiting the temple

This week my father visited from Ireland. It is the first time I have seen him since the previous summer. As with visits from my father we usually take long rambling trips around whatever part of the world I happen to be living in at the time. This trip was no exception. 

The main focus of our ramblings this visit was a trip to Dumfries to the Samye Ling temple in Eskdalemuir. My partner Aoife also travelled with us. My father and partner have no connection to any form of buddhism and to my knowledge have never meditated. Nonetheless the historical significance, general architecture and location of the temple made them both curious enough to visit with me. 

I have had little to no interaction with tibetan buddhism before my visit and this was my first visit to any kind of buddhist temple (my sangha usually sit in a rented secular building on the southside of Glasgow). I’ve visited the mandir, gadarwaras, mosques, churches and temples of the various religions and cultures in the areas in which i have lived in over the years, but have never lived near a buddhist temple. 

The first thing that you notice visiting a place like this is the statues and stupas. The rich iconography and imagery forces you into a mind state not dissimilar to meditation (all my time there I followed my breath). It is a place designed for practice. This is a refreshing or even confirming feeling - it felt like a glass of water when you’re thirsty. 

Sitting in a shrine room for the first time was truly wonderful. A golden statue of chenrezig reflected the light from outside as I sat underneath. My father and partner sat on the chairs in quiet reflection. Afterwards they noted how they were both taken back by the atmosphere and rich beauty of the surroundings. I wanted to encourage them to try and meditate but I really didn’t want to be that guy. 

I’ve never visited a place for such a short time and felt so at home there. The whole experience was simply amazing and it felt unpleasant to leave. That night I got home and sat online. Although sitting under wonderful statues is obviously amazing it is the practice itself that matters. As long as I can sit, online or in a secular building, or wherever, it truly doesn’t matter. 

(all photos by Aoife O'Neill)

Sunday, 24 May 2015

The URL Sangha

This week saw me sit online for the first time. I’ll be honest I was quite dubious. I was of the understanding that one of the key factors of what makes a sangha work, is the actually having the people physically around you in a room or designated space of some description. A physical gathering of people on the same path working towards similar goals. From my experiences this week it is simply not true or at least non-essential. It seems when you sit with a sangha you sign in to some unwritten contract or vow to sit through regardless of how bored, restless etc. you get. It’s like you’re all here for each other and this contract isn’t diluted or compromised because of a webcam or a physical distance of thousands of miles. 

The initial mechanics of the meditation were initially quite difficult but were overcome very quickly. In the zen tradition I practice we face the wall with our gaze focussed downwards. The problems of facing a computer screen and other people was easily overcome though. The main difference I have noticed thus far is the ease of adding length of practice on top of my own personal sitting which is of obvious immense benefit. The meeting of similar people on this path, or whatever it is, is the same as the ‘real world’ sangha in that you console share and help each other. It is of great comfort to meet like minded people regardless of distance and such obstacles. 

I also hosted my first online sittings this week which were both terrifying and amazing. I have never organised or hosted any kind of meditation practice for others before. It was a completely new experience. My main concern in the whole process is when people ask me questions regarding the practice as I am immensely unqualified in experience to answer their questions sufficiently. From my own experiences I have had some very bad or dark stuff brought up from meditation and without my own teacher this could have been much worse and lead to a very bad situation. A lot of people come to the practice w/ many problems, as a people we generally have quite a few problems, I have very few if any friends that have not either been prescribed medication for mental health issues or at least worked through a mild depression. Fortunately, thus far, the two questions I have received were on reincarnation and how to sit. In both instances I offered my sincere reflections from personal experience attempting to steer away from any intellect or learning from books and such that I may feel I understand but could be confused learning. It is my sincere hope that everybody I practice with has or finds an experienced teacher in which they can sit with at least once a month and can guide them on this sometimes very arduous path. Making their own island or light to shine upon themselves through the guidance of people that have tramped these mountains before. 

deep within the stream 
the huge fish lie motionless 
facing the current

James W Hackett

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Capital Punishment

What if the death penalty is part of a cycle that causes people to inhabit a place of such suffering and disturbance that they cause such offenses in the first place? I mean isn't the death penalty, and similar ideologies, part of the problem not necessarily the solution? 

It doesn’t seem befitting of a state or governing body to act in any other way than that of a path of pure compassion or at least a path where the ultimate good is the course. Benevolence and grace above any mode of anger or vengeance. What does it say to its people if it rules in a state of corporal punishment? Lead by example. Can there exist a state where people believe revenge is an option? It is the simplest, crudest and most unhelpful way. 

Firstly the obvious problem where violence begets violence. Secondly it creates a false duality from people around us. We must move closer together towards an understanding of the interdependency we all share - whether it be culturally, environmentally or even economically. There is no me and you. There is an us, which is me and you. This is the only way to understand our shared lives. 

With this premise taken as a given what else can there be but compassion? What way to serve an act that can not be returned or rectified? That has no further repercussions of violence? In such cases it is hard to differentiate the cause from the effect. It is like looking through a lens of dirty water. The cause here is the effect and it is only a war if you say so. 


praise Buddha's
compassionate saints!
pure water