Saturday, 23 May 2015

When Mountains Move


On Tuesday, May 12, 2015


I have included a video in this post because it is so powerful. The graphic here gives us an immediate sense of the incredible power of nature which, when it unleashes its force, is unstoppable.

Many videos were taken in Nepal during the first and second earthquakes, (April 25 and May 12/ 2015) both of which were massive events. However the 2nd quake, a 7.3 on the Richter scale had its epicenter in the mountains not far from Everest. This video was taken shortly after the second event in the Khumbu region.

I spent many months on end in the mountains just south of Mount Everest in the late 1980,s and remember well, that there were several earthquakes during the time when i stayed just below the towering summit of Kumbila, the peak which is revered as the 'protector' of the region by the local Buddhist folk who reside there. Each quake was accompanied by landslides on the neighboring mountain slopes. Each quake was a sobering reminder of just how fragile life is.

At that time, i stayed in a tiny wooden hut that clung to the side of the mountain. From this perch, at 12,000 feet, when ever i looked out of my window, i felt as though i were looking out the window of an airplane.

In the 1990,s under the guidance of the Tibetan Dzogchen Master, Chadral Rinpoche, i spent numerous summers camped out in a tent in the mountainous regions north of Kathmandu in an area now completely decimated by the impact of the first earthquake to hit Nepal. Namely that of Sindupalchowk. Rinpoche had several retreat centers dotted about the precipitous slopes of this blessed region.

By the time i started to make the pilgrimage up there each year, He was already well into His eighties and no longer able to make the long and arduous climb up into the mountains by foot. However, He would come via helicopter, stay a few days or weeks, instruct those undergoing their long retreats and the few of us stragglers who had come to spend the summer months in the high alpine pastures far from the crowded, noisy and polluted markets and valleys of Kathmandu.

It has been a dramatic and unnerving time watching the effects of the recent massive quakes, on two areas that i had come to know and love well.

Through the ages, since time immemorial, massive cataclysmic events have taken place on our planet yet when measured next to the span of our human lives, they seem far and widely spread apart.  We measure our lives by the days, weeks, months and years that we witness passing by. Our tunnel vision gives us a feeling of continuity and safety even as we live and move within the tremendous and ever shifting forces of the natural world which surrounds us.

The concept of the Earth as our 'Mother' is not by any means a new one. Since time immemorial people have felt that this earth upon which we 'live, move and have our being,' is in some profound and absolutely fundamental way connected to, not only our physical existence, but also our emotional and mental well being.

Yet despite this ancient and known interconnection we are now, perhaps more than ever, sadly disconnected from our 'Mother' Bhumi, routinely treating her with disregard and disrespect.

When the earth wakes up, stretches, sighs and heaves; all life upon it must take heed.

When mountains move, the very foundation and stability of all that we may have associated with steadiness and continuity comes into question. We are thrown back into ourselves, to find there, the truth of Who and What we REALLY are...


Thursday, 7 May 2015

The Guru of Impermanence


Our lives are as fleeting as a cloud...

On the 25th of April at 4.45 am, my long time winged friend, a species of dark iridescent blue bird found in the Himalayan foothills, landed with a thud on the  tin roof of my tiny hut.

This had become a familiar sound to me over the years. My eyes popped open in time to see one black eye peering over the side of the awning into my loft. She was letting me know that it was time for me to get up.

I took a little longer to heed her call that morning and paid the price as she jumped up and down at 5 minute intervals, reminding me, like a snooze alarm, that she was waiting for me to put out her cheese...

This had been our little ritual over a good many years. Despite the fact that i had been away for 2 long years, she had not forgotten and no sooner had i settled back into my 'tin palace' at Das Mile Retreat Center, than she resumed her old habit of waking me up in the mornings...

I was reluctant and slow to get going that particular morning.
No sooner had i taken my first gulp of Darjeeling tea than a furry head appeared at the little side window. Shortly after that there was an almighty crash on the tin roof, as a large simian male jumped from the tree above the hut onto the roof!

It was not a promising beginning to my day!

This was followed by various annoying and inconvenient visitations from hairy and hungry monkeys of all sizes and generations hailing from a large group that having been roaming about these forested hills for the past few years.

Joining in the fray were three excited dogs, frantically enjoying the chase as they tore in and out of the bamboo railings of my fence and dashed about among the trees while the monkeys taunted and teased them from the safety of the branches above...

By 11 am i was worn out with trying to keep vigil on my little stock of food and remaining pot plants and stay sane... All possibility of meditation and prayers at the shrine in my loft had shot out the window the minute these visitors arrived.

Despite threateningly dangling my slingshot at the monkeys who were by now making a sport of leaping from the trees onto my roof making the loudest crash possible, there was little i could do to keep the group at bay, so i just got on as well i could with my usual daily routines.

Around midday i had no sooner sat down and taken a couple of mouthfuls of my midday repast, than there was a strange tremor and creak. My first thought was, 'monkey'. But then the tremor continued and increased, the hut began to sway and wooden beams made strange creaking, groaning sounds... Soon i heard an eerie rumbling sound. I quickly tried to stand up and noticed the water in the small pond outside splashing back and forth... It was a big quake accompanied by all of the unsettling emotions of surprise, alarm, shock and fear.

Cries soon started up from the villages on either side of our forested ridge and also from below... people were running in all directions in a bid to flee their houses...

Soon after i was able to discover that this was the big quake that struck just west of Nepal's capital Kathmandu at 7.8 on the Richter scale.

The next day at approximately an hour later than the previous day, we had another quake. This was the aftershock of 6.7 that struck close to the same region in Nepal...

The third day at 18.05 just after i returned to my hut from a walk around the Temple there was a much more powerful jolt. Screams, cries and shouts rose up from the neighboring villages yet again. Dogs began to whine and howl and pandemonium broke out on all sides.

I caught my breath and scrambled outside. The earth was still shaking even as i tore up to the main temple... Rigzen Dorje, the current care taker, appeared from the retreat center with a loud and startled cry...

My heart was pounding... This quake had given me a real scare. It turned out that the latest quake was nearby on the borders between Far Eastern Nepal and North Eastern India.

In the neighboring towns and villages people were engulfed by a wave of fear. The decimation and suffering caused by the first quake that had hit Kathmandu and surrounds was becoming widely known and struck terror into the hearts of their neighbours.

The little 'tin palace' that i had built on the forested ridge between two villages, both about 10 minutes from the Gompa, rests rather near to the edge of a precipitous cliff which drops about 250 meters below to another small cluster of houses which nestle at its base. I had often mused that i would not like to live just below this cliff, but when the earth becomes unstable, living on the top of it is also not such a pleasant sensation.

Heart breaking news of the devastation and loss of life in Nepal swallowed almost all of my attention in the days that followed. Many people left the hills in a great rush after the third earthquake. Being the height of the tourist season in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Sikkim, the multitude of Bengali visitors instantly preferred the heat of Kolkatta to the threat of earthquakes and promptly left. For a few days the roads were quiet. An eerie silence filled the air.

One, two, three days passed and there were no more tremors and slowly but surely the normal sounds of life and business began to return.

Jeeps could once again be heard plying the road above our forest and people began to forget their terror. Those that had been camping outside, in fear of their houses crumbling down on top of them, once again returned to their homes and life swiftly resumed its normal flow.

How brief are the memories of those not directly affected by a catastrophic event...? Brief. So brief, that merely the span of a few days could elapse before, by all appearances, it would seem that nothing at all had even happened!

From the forested mountains way beyond the Kathmandu valley came the message of a Yogi/Lama. Mingyur Rinpoche has been moving about in the Himalayas these past three years as a 'wandering yogi,' much as the Rishis of yore have done in these mountain chains from time immemorial. He had given up fame, money, comfort and security and without even taking a toothbrush or any money had simply wandered off one day to begin a new life.

After the first earthquake it had taken several days for him to reach a place with working communications to the outside world and from there he sent his family and students a message, letting them know that he was unharmed and well.

Among those few sentences were the words; "the guru of
impermanence..." These words struck a chord in my mind and heart.

 We know and hear so much about the uncertainty and unpredictability of life in this world, yet the reality of the fact often fails to move us. We hear, we know, we understand. We witness impermanence all the time, all around us and yet we still fail to be moved deeply by it.

Could it be that our servitude to the 'idea' of our existing as separate, individual entities, comes with an inbuilt safety valve that lulls us into the belief that somehow you and i will not be affected?

Or, is that our innate sense of 'self' is much more closely instilled in us than we can comprehend with our minds? Perhaps in the very depth of our inmost nature we know that we will always 'exist,' even if this is not something that the intellect can grasp. To assume that what we 'know' intellectually, all that there is to be known, is one of the greatest arrogance's known to humanity.

Yet, even given this propensity, 'the guru of impermanence'
remains ever at our side, the silent and unseen companion that will accompany us throughout all our numbered days..


Sunday, 26 April 2015

Is Unconditional Love Really Possible?

Update: 28/4/15

It seems appropriate to say a few words here prior to launching into this post. I had actually put this article together before i left Arunachala, but had not had time to edit it as i was preparing for the journey up to Darjeeling in the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas. Therefore i finally got to finish it just a few days ago, in fact just one day after the massive quake in Nepal, which incidentally, we felt very strongly here as well.

What has struck me very deeply and movingly in the interim, is the outpouring of spontaneous love and support that has been flowing towards Nepal and all those caught up in this unfolding tragedy...

We may at times question our ability to feel and be moved by the pain of others, particularly of those whom we have never met or known, yet in this instance, as in many others around the world, we have direct proof of our inner sense of interconnection with others.

This inner sense is not 'sentimental' it is utterly 'fundamental...'


We are inclined to think that unconditional love is something rather idealistic and unattainable and yet it is more a part of our lives than we might previously have noticed. Not only is it part of our lives, the fact is that, without it we could not exist!

True and unconditional love arises from such a pure place within us that it cannot be contrived and is in no way intellectual. We cannot control it, it just flows from the inexhaustible source of 'being' itself. 

Yet, isn't it true that we can often feel quite disconnected from this?

The love of a parent for its child is one expression of 'unconditional love' and this is something we can witness easily all around us and on a daily basis, whether human or otherwise. Unconditional love is not an unrealistic form of love that one might only read about occasionally in a fiction novel, it is the very fabric and weave upon which life plays itself out.

We have been led to believe that a 'pure love' such as the unconditional kind is something that only a few lofty or heroic souls may ever come to know, and yet it is not at all unattainable or even uncommon. Our lives are filled with expressions of unconditional love, in all shades and in all varieties. 

The squalor of hatred, indifference and all the accouterments of our so called 'modern' societies are pre eminently brought to our notice day in and day out with an almost obsessive repetition and yet life is also filled with spontaneous expressions of love and generosity and we don't have to look far to find them!

I remember coming across a chapter in a book, years ago. The book 'White Sail' was written by Tinley Norbu Rinpoche, an extra ordinary Tibetan Lama/Teacher/Writer, who has since passed on.

In this book he has written a chapter called 'Love and Faith.' I had not come across anything quite like it anywhere else, at least not at the time that i first read those wise words.

He did not admonish us to 'love one another unconditionally' from a moralistic stand point, he simply took a long and hard look at the nuts and bolts of what we know or 'think' we know about 'love.' At the time and still now i find his clarity very relevant and inspiring.

Within various religious institutions; the phrase 'unconditional love' rolls easily off the tongue, but much more challenging is our capacity to actually find this kind of love within our own hearts and to spread some of it about in our world.

To simply admonish us to 'love unconditionally' is a call to action that for most of us is unrealistic. We all struggle to some degree or another with our various likes and dislikes. Nevertheless we are also all 'plugged in' as it were to this inexhaustible source, simply by virtue of the fact that we even exist at all. 

When we look around us and within us, we can begin to notice the spontaneous moments of joy and out reaching that can come our way, almost imperceptibly throughout the day. This broadening of our understanding of 'love,' is extremely important. Even something seemingly unrelated or trivial can be a doorway into greater understanding and our re-connection with this inner source. This can be triggered by something as simple as the glint of sunlight through leaves. If we allow such a moment to touch our souls, it awakens within us the stirring of our inner heart, and this is the smoke that can precede a fire, if we are prepared to fan it.

Indeed true love is not something rare, we are surrounded by expressions of it and we ourselves can easily create moments in which this spontaneous flowering can arise.

True and unconditional love' is the very essence of 'who and what we really are.' It lies at the very heart of existence, radiating outwardly as the profound interconnection that binds all expressions of life.

Breaking everything down into the simplest and most uncomplicated universal energy, love brings us directly into the presence of what lies right at the very heart of being.  

 It is not something that can ever be contrived or in any way fabricated, as Pooh so rightly pointed out to Piglet.

Our modern world so highly regards its material values, the individualism and competition which those values often generate. Yet such values divide and isolate instead of unifying and nourishing, and they tend to encourage a growing sense of imbalance and disharmony.

As the Dalai Lama so rightly and succinctly pointed out, 'love and compassion are necessities not luxuries.'

Unconditional love flows most naturally, so let it, it will transform you and the world...





Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Ultimate Panacea for Cutting Through Our Addictions







And we all have them...

One kind or another. Addictions. Whether we are addicted to TV, to being in love, to running in the park, to smoking, to our mobile phones, to music, to anything whatsoever. Yes, and we can even be addicted to 'meditation!'

All addictions, whatever they may be, point to one thing;

We are bound by them. We are not free...

"Issues are like tissues. You pull one out and another appears!"

Gary Goldstein

So how do we pull ourselves out of this conundrum?

The answer is simplicity itself. The actual 'living' of that answer however, is quite another matter, but only because we continue to doggedly to cling to greatest addiction of all, our unquestioning trust and belief in a separate, individual 'self.'

'Undeceive yourself and be free. You are not a person.'
Nisargadatta Maharaj

Those few words point us squarely towards to an incredible mystery which surrounds each and everyone of us and yet amazingly, we somehow fail even to notice it!

The only true and lasting way to give up 'addictions' forever, is to stop identifying with 'ourselves' as the 'doer.' To recognize, once and for all, our true nature, which is utterly beyond 'doer-ship.'

And just what is that 'true nature'?

That, my friend, is the 'inexhaustible presence' out of which all existence, in whatever form it may take, arises...

So take those addictions, whatever they may be, and offer them unconditionally, to the 'vast and absolute expanse' because you were born to soar high and free...!

We are so much more than we can even imagine...

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Eight Tips to Help us Overcome Negativity


In these days and times it can sometimes feel as though we are surrounded by negativity. Our own negativity; that which
other people convey and also the negativity that we see going on around us in the environment.

Yet, it is said that 'all of our moods and emotions arise from the mind', which basically means that, to find any peace and happiness in this world, it is essential to understand what the true nature of the mind really is.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Chatral Rinpoche, No Mind


It is not easy to know where to start  when trying to describe someone like Chatral Rinpoche.   Imagine a Master, 104 years of age.  One hundred and four years of life experience! He is like a living, walking, breathing encyclopedia of knowledge. His areas of expertise cover fields from astrology and medicine right through to such mundane things as construction and masonry. In His younger years He walked the length and breadth of Tibet in the days well before Chinese occupation and He did so in the simplest possible way, with little more than a flimsy tent, a pot for boiling water, a few bricks of tea, dried cheese and tsampa (barely flour). All i can really do is bow down in wonder and recall some of the multitude of memories that come to mind and that so beautifully reflect the many facets of this amazing being. How fortunate i have been to have been able to live near such a Master. This alone is the most sublime of teachings!

In the presence of a realized Master one must be prepared for everything. In the space of a single hour the display of 'samsara' can fluctuate so wildly that one can do little but watch, listen and learn and of course try to keep up with the flow of events....

One morning Rinpoche, me and Rinpoche's daughter Semo Tara Deva, were strolling about inside His temple compound at Salbari near Siliguri in West Bengal.  Rinpoche was stretching His legs and looking over some small construction jobs that were going on, when He suddenly turned to the gate and strode out towards the main road mentioning, almost as an after thought, in His deep, booming voice that we would go and purchase such and such building materials from the market.

We had no time to grab a bag, or any money, nothing.  When Rinpoche got an idea, He would just act on it spontaneously in that very moment. Everything would happen around Him in this way and could be very stressful for those of us who were attending Him at any given time. One had to be constantly prepared for any possible eventuality!

This particular morning we could do nothing but follow because Rinpoche was already out the compound gate and well on His way to the main road. Unprepared as we were, at least, on this morning Rinpoche was fully attired, not always the case on these early strolls around the compound.  

Before we knew it, He was out on the highway and had flagged down a three wheeler auto rickshaw and deposited Himself on the front wooden plank of the rickety vehicle next to the wizened, rather decrepit Indian driver who still had the remnants of a partially smoked bidi stuck in the corner of his mouth. We quickly jumped into the back seat and off we went with a spurt of fumes and the splutter of the two stroke auto engine as it whined and puttered and puffed its way down the potholed road towards Siliguri.

I cannot forget the image of this 'Lion of the mountains', His long white beard splashing outward as wind buffeted us in the un-closed vehicle, His right hand clasping a small metal bar on the roof, and His left in a position of command on His knee, His back straight and His attention focused on the way ahead.  
Looking at Him, anyone would think, that He was at the helm of a mighty ship setting forth on a journey to undiscovered continents.

He was always completely ease, joyfully attuned to even the least trifle, be it a passing smile on the face of a child, the flash of green in field of tea, ripe for the  harvest, or  the white wing of an egret as it sprang from the river.

We bumped along like this for about ten minutes when suddenly along side us another vehicle closed in, a golden colored Mercedes Benz, silent, large and sleek. At that time such a vehicle was as rarely seen as a flying saucer, at least in that dusty little neck of the woods.  

The window in the second seat unwound and out popped a Bhutanese head.  It was the Queen Mother and her royal entourage. Evidently they had arrived from Bhutan some minutes after we had left the compound and were giving chase.  The driver was motioned to pull over. Even before the car had stopped in front of our shoddy conveyance, the body guards, in full Bhutanese royal regalia leapt out and began to make full length prostrations right then and there on the side of the road.  

Never a man for formalities, Rinpoche quietly got out of the auto, gave the driver his dues and strode over to the open back door of the car, quickly disappearing into the lush interior of this new conveyance.  

He never missed a beat and was never phased or surprised or put out by anything.  He could seamlessly transfer from the rickety, decrepit auto of a peasant to the richly gilded vehicle of a Queen without even blinking an eyelid.

This excerpt is taken from the book; 
Tibetan Masters and other True Stories

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Remembering that Life is Brief


Remembering that our bodies are but transitory temples in this world,

gives us the power to remember what and who we really are...

Death is near, much nearer than we ever usually think. But what is it in us that actually dies? It is not our true nature that dies, only the fragile body, our impermanent temple. 

We tend to live our lives as if they will continue forever, even though we know that every single person on the planet will face death sooner or later, including us.  Somehow our own death just does not register in our minds, as a reality.  It is something we hear about, happening somewhere else, to someone else.

Some might think that it is morbid to remember the fact of death. However it can also be empowering. The remembering brings us nearer to recognizing what we really are.  
It gives our lives a perspective that is lacking when the mind is completely distracted by moment to moment happenings.  We have countless chances to understand this inevitable transition before it actually arrives, yet we seldom choose to take them.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Why Meditation is So Important


Leunig

Isn't it true, that we experience almost all of our lives as a series of ups and downs?

We are like surf board riders on a vast ocean of experience. Sometimes we can ride the waves, while at others we are buffeted and bullied about by the endless ebb and flow. We get so caught up in the 'drama' that we seldom, if ever, take note of the screen upon which it is all being played out.

No screen, no drama. Yet who notices the 'screen'?

If only we knew how near and how unspeakably simple the greatest truths of life really are. How much more peaceful and joyful our lives would be. How quickly we would un complicate things to give ourselves and others ease.

Meditation, in its truest form, helps us to re connect with who and what we really are. It helps us to become aware of the 'screen.' 

In its purest form, meditation is effortless, formless and completely un-contrived.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Are You Bored or Distracted?

The Life you Lead, Leunig
“As it is, we are merely bolting our lives—gulping down undigested experiences as fast as we can stuff them in—because awareness of our own existence is so superficial and so narrow that nothing seems to us more boring than simple being.  

If I ask you what you did, saw, heard, smelled, touched and tasted yesterday, I am likely to get nothing more than the thin, sketchy outline of the few things that you noticed, and of those only what you thought worth remembering. 

Is it surprising that an existence so experienced seems so empty and bare that its hunger for an infinite future is insatiable? 

But suppose you could answer, “It would take me forever to tell you, and I am much too interested in what’s happening now.” 

How is it possible that a being with such sensitive jewels as the eyes, such enchanted musical instruments as the ears, and such a fabulous arabesque of nerves as the brain can experience itself as anything less than a god? And, when you consider that this incalculably subtle organism is inseparable from the still more marvelous patterns of its environment—from the minutest electrical designs to the whole company of the galaxies—how is it conceivable that this incarnation of all eternity can be bored with being?”
~ Alan Watts, The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

It is quite likely that few who read these words really understand what they mean... Its not that this is hard to understand; its incredibly easy, but the mind has a way of circumventing simplicity. It has a way of by passing the present moment to seek out and constantly engage in either a projected future or a remembered past.

It is amazing just how much of our lives is held to the random of passing emotional 'infatuations.'

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Don't Forget to Look Up




Being distracted and preoccupied seems to be the norm in modern, high-tech societies and what a high price we have to pay for it!

Gone, our peace of mind, gone, our sense of ease, our health our happiness and in return for what? All the things that make life worth living fly out the window the more we fill ourselves with the values and business of a life that bases itself around the value of dollars and cents.

Yet, right above our heads is this incredible window into infinity. Many times i have looked up into the sky and felt an immediate shift. The sky is like a window which can convey the mind into a space where unimaginable mysteries exist. If anything can bring us into a state of instant perspective it is the 'sky view.'

However, despite this amazing 'view' which is free and readily available, it is easily and often overlooked and forgotten.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Natural Mind

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, with a friend. Photo by Matthieu Ricard
Late one afternoon, as the evening sun was sending its final shafts of golden light into the silent, incense filled air of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche's room, i found myself alone with the great Master.

Even though I was some distance away, nearer to the farthest end of his long carpet filled shrine, Khyentse Rinpoche had such an enormous presence that it felt as though he filled the entire room.

I was quietly fingering some beads and basking in the tremendous silence and sanctity that permeated this blessed space. The atmosphere felt utterly charged and in it i felt complete and whole.

This particular evening there were very few visitors around, something which was rather unusual. However before long there was a rustle of activity in the outer guest waiting hall and i looked over just in time to see a well known Lama enter with a handful of his western students.

Soon they appeared before Khyentse Rinpoche, bowing and offering scarves of welcome as He greeted each one. They seated themselves before Him and all fell into an expectant silence.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

What can we Expect from an Authentic Guru?


Some years ago my Master Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, wrote down a verse in which he describes the qualities of a true Guru. I have not come across another writing that does this as well or with such poetic eloquence.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Re Claiming Our Inner Space




We are as wide as the sky...

Without limits, borders or endings...

All that we need to 're claim' the inner space that we
often feel we have lost, is to remember who and what we
really are.

We might think; 'how do we do this'?

But there is no how, no process, no distance between
who and what we really are and the actual 'being' of that...

People can hear and read these words and then think,
'how is it possible,' what do they mean, how is it done?

This is the great paradox of our existence.

We are every moment only 'that,' but the simplicity and
proximity of this confound us. Mind jumps in and stirs up
the still waters of our silent inner space and deludes us into
believing that we have to achieve, through some long and
drawn out process, what is already ours and inseparable from us.

May we swiftly re claim the inheritance of our un-contrived and natural awareness...

Polished Stainless Steel
David Harber


Sunday, 12 October 2014

Ahead of the Game

Leunig
Does this remind you of someone...?

The mind creates all sorts of thoughts and often the
body has a tough time keeping up.
If we hang tenaciously onto every thought, allowing it to
proliferate into a multitude of new thoughts we soon find ourselves in the never ending chambers of the mind.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Original Mind

I want to share with my readers a wonderful verse by the Poet
Gary Rosenthal. It is so lucidly written and so evocative of the simple awareness which is the true, but too often overlooked source of glory, peace and happiness within each and every one of us...

Sunrise in Cairns


How many evenings 
have you turned away?
As if the life you really want
could only begin
once something else had happened, 
something else that was not yet here…