Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Discovering the Space Inside and Out

The Way the Leaves Shine
Discovering the space which is within us and which surrounds us is a delicate matter that requires nothing more than a very simple shift of attention. If you can stay with the moment 'between thoughts' a whole world of infinite existence and beauty will begin to emerge as naturally as the sun rises bringing on the dawn...
*****
In the early nineteen-nineties, I spent several months in a retreat centre which was located near a pilgrimage place called Asura Cave in Parping, a small village on the southern fringes of the Kathmandu Valley. This cave was said to be the place where the great Master, Padmasambhava meditated and realized the state of ‘Mahamudra.’(That which is unchanging)
Day after day I would climb up the hill behind the cave. In the still, early afternoon air, which throbbed with heat and sleepiness, one seldom met anyone on the way. Indeed many were taking a nap during those very hours.
Each day, at the same time, I would walk past the cave and take a small dirt track up the hill behind. It wound its way steeply between rocks and shrubbery. The scent of ash from countless sticks of incense filled the air with a peculiar pungency which could almost be intoxicating at this time of the day. It was this smell, which rose in the heat from a large incense burner, which I associated with the place, the time and with the atmosphere.
At a certain point after climbing up the path the way opened out to a magnificent view which swept down the valley, across unfolding fields of rice paddy and on into the descending, dusty distance. Occasionally one could even spot the glistening spires of Himalayan peaks far, far away to the north.
Even though I knew those peaks were always there, it was only very infrequently that one could gaze upon the snowy summits from this vantage point and be thrilled by the spectacle of those distant giants.
A few more steps and one arrived at a small terrace-like a plot of earth which rested directly above the ancient cave. There were a few scrubby trees here and there. These had somehow escaped the knives of the women who came to gather fodder for their cattle and goats. The limbs of all the trees had been hacked and chopped so relentlessly, over the years, that they never grew beyond a certain height. Between these small trees were hung line upon line and row upon row of colourful prayer flags that fluttered and waved in the breeze.
I would invariably turn my back on the grand view that swept down into the valley of Kathmandu, in favor of a less spectacular vista which opened out onto a small group of hills which were dotted with tiny hamlets, nestled here and there between the folds of undulating, bare earth, greenery and layered rice terraces.
One friendly branch offered some welcome shade from the heat and glare of the westering sun and there I would sit, motionless.
At that time of the day, the light would appear to glitter on the leaves of a distant Bodhi tree at the base of a nearby hill. This rather ordinary and innocent reflection would invariably and very quickly engross my attention and still the wandering, restless mind.
I cannot say why a few shimmering leaves could hold my attention enthralled hour after hour, day after day, but come noon, the irresistible pull of that one spot on the hill would draw me from the dusky interior of my room and out into the light of day.
In the stillness of those hours, there was a silence so full and so overpowering that thought was not even possible. In the absence of thought came a spaciousness that would give wings to the current of life within.
The happiness and peace of those silent hours could assuage even the sharpest anguish, restlessness or pain that might appear at other times. If I happened to climb the hill with a heavy heart, burdened by the transient but nevertheless, sharp worries of the world, within minutes of arriving there, all would be swept away in the blessed glitter of those distant dancing leaves of light.
The eyes were open and yet unseeing, the breath came and went less and less. There was a sense of merging towards the hub of a gigantic turning wheel. While the world spun on its way, all that had been previously scattered, drew in and focused itself to a potent point that had no circumference.
Grace flowed like an intoxicating balm into the weary waters of the mind.
In stillness, wisdom arises spontaneously to reveal the space inside and out.
The one that ‘sees’ and ‘knows’ and ‘thinks’ ceases to be and there is only the being itself, only the seeing itself…

(This is an excerpt from my  book
Who Lives? Who Dies? What We Need to Know Before We Go)


*****

Sunday, 6 September 2015

For Kindness Sake

Leunig


"When in doubt,
It is better to err on the side of kindness..."

The immediate reaction of many upon seeing the cartoon above might be, 'oh, here we go again, another moralistic lecture...'

Potent images in the press and media of previous days have flooded cyberspace. In a world where the senses are overwhelmed by 'bad news' and where mass and tragic outcomes, which are often caused and then exacerbated by a relatively small group of selfishly motivated, greedy individuals, can cause the mind to shut off and tune the 'noise' out. There is always something going on. Recently I heard a new phrase, 'compassion fatigue...'

However, every now and then one image will emerge which will cut through all the indifference, through all the debate and all of the noise.

If there is a saturation point at which the mind's ability to cope with and embrace demands upon our 'conscience' then those which touch us directly at the level of the heart, have the capacity to summon inmost and boundless compassion. That fount taps into an inexhaustible ocean of grace which can swiftly bring all the other barriers down in one great crash.

Suddenly the excuses, the arguments, the ignorance and the indifference dissolve.

Like a bottomless spring that bubbles up, seemingly, from 'nowhere,' spontaneous acts of kindness spring from the depths of our being. They are not contrived, nor are they limited.

Imagine a world in which beings could exist without this?
Would you or I want to live there?

There is a favoured spot where I often go to watch the sunset and enjoy that final hour of daylight. It is on a small stretch of road some miles from the town. It lies in a rural area among rice paddies and open fields and has been slightly elevated. The only source of shade on this stretch is one isolated Tamarind tree of considerable age. Its generous branches have sheltered many a wayfarer over years and decades...

Yesterday I ventured there for a little respite from the noise and dust of the road and town and to my dismay found it had been cut down!

Little pieces of it remained scattered about. It felt to me, as though a senseless murder had just been committed. What has taken years to grow had been hacked down in just a few miserable minutes.

The scene of this 'crime' is now completely changed. The 'tree of refuge' which had harmlessly and silently abided in this place for so many years, was, no more. Gone the gentle atmosphere of shade and refuge; in its place a shade less expanse, strangely empty and now entirely at the mercy of the relentless tropical sun.

In contrast to this and not far away, the careful and back-breaking work of planting numerous Banyan trees goes on afoot. The vision of a few far-sighted souls who may never personally enjoy the shade or grace that these trees will bestow, but who, nevertheless are sowing the seeds that future generations will enjoy.

The effort required to plant and nurture each and every sapling is considerable and yet it is going on in striking contrast.

Every day we can witness acts of kindness if we make it our business to notice such things. Even when they may express themselves in the smallest of gestures they still belie something deep and fundamental to our inmost being.

There is much misery in this world; the sort that is often caused by careless, thoughtless destruction, yet the very same hands that are the cause of the destruction are equally capable of bringing about the most amazing transformations.

We need be in no doubt at all as to how important and crucial are the collective and small individual thoughts and doings of each one of us.

The fact of our very existence must, in time give rise to the awareness of what we all 'create.'  A single thread in the great tapestry of life may seem unimportant and yet each thread is crucial to holding the whole great mosaic of life together.

So even if we feel overwhelmed at times by senseless acts and by the suffering and sadness which engulfs so much of this world, there is also much that each and every one of us can do to offset it, at least within our own small orbits.

We cannot know the power of our goodwill and intentions until and unless we believe in them utterly. Herein
lies our true strength and ultimately, our joy!

In knowing that we can BE the change; that we can plant that tree, or extend that hand, be the listening ear,  or the shady bower. That we can be anything and everything we want is the springboard to true and actual freedom.

We are never separated from this freedom in our inmost being yet amid the clamour of the world one can forget.

As for 'the world,' the words of Nisargadatta Maharaj are something to aspire towards. "You don't have to change anybody; you just have to love them."

In concluding, there comes to mind the final words in the classic Middlemarch, by George Eliot;


"But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on un-historic acts and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs."

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

The Precious Present


The Tibetans have a saying;

You will have to stand for a very long time 
with your mouth wide open
before a roasted partridge will fly into it...


It is a rather droll way of expressing high levels of improbability, but nevertheless useful, in reminding us that some things that we may pine and hope for are simply
'unrealistic.'


The fact is that we could stand outside 'forever,' with our mouths agape and there is no way in the world that a 'roasted partridge' will ever fly in!

The odds are completely against this ever happening and it is like this also with a lot of things that we may cling very vehemently to as aspirations, hopes, dreams and wishes.

This is not to say that we should not have any. It is only to point out that it is wiser to actually get out and take the needed steps that would enable an 'outcome' to eventuate.

We must measure our wishes against our ability to create the causes that will engender the hoped-for 'conditions.'

When we wait too long, the chances are we may miss out altogether.
If you are into 'roasted partridges' it makes more sense to scour the markets.

There is a huge advantage in learning to 'surrender' to life and accept what actually 'is.' Instead of dancing through our days like animated 'puppets,' tossed about here and there, in a relentless cycle of 'hope and fear,' we can simply learn to relax and allow our attention to fully greet exactly what arises before us.

Most of the time, we do the opposite. Our 'attention' is fixed elsewhere, anywhere, but right 'here' and right 'now.'

We need not to live our lives as slaves to longings, hopes, desires or fear. We ALWAYS have a choice.

We can do ourselves the greatest possible favour and recognize the treasure of the 'present moment.'

The 'present moment' deserves our closest attention, gratitude and even devotion.

Take the hint and look again more carefully, you will never regret it.


Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Surrendering to Life





Allowing ourselves the freedom to surrender into the present moment is a profound and joyful 'letting go.'

Only our fears, expectations and preconceptions hold us back from realizing the true potential of what is right here and right now!

We have so many preconceived 'agendas' as to what we think should be; as to how things should work out and yet 'life' hardly ever happens just as we would like.

Most often the things we want we do not get and the things that we don't want come uninvited and all the while the unwelcome shadows of impermanence and disappointment are ever trailing us, so that when we actually do get something we want, we must be alert, for it can be snatched away from us at any moment.

When we carry preconceptions in our mind and heart we can never hope to find real happiness or peace in this world because the reality of what is unfolding moment to moment is almost never what we expect.

There fore, life ends up being one long disappointment.

Drop the agendas; let go of expectations; free the heart from hope and fear and what do we have?

Moment to moment choice-less awareness of what 'is.'

It may not be a 'tropical island' but it is the ever present abiding essence and its inmost nature is spontaneous 'joy.' That 'joy' is within the grasp of each 'conscious,' living being.

In the graphic and highly relevant words of Chogyam Trungpa;

"We can hold back, not really surrendering because we feel that we are very genteel, sophisticated and dignified people.

"Surely we can't give ourselves to this dirty, ordinary 'street-scene' of reality.

"We have the feeling that every step of the path we tread should be a lotus petal and we develop a logic that interprets whatever happens to us accordingly.

"If we fall, we create a soft landing which prevents sudden shock. 

"Surrendering does not involve preparing a soft landing, it means just landing on hard, ordinary ground, on rocky, wild country-side.

"Once we open ourselves then we land on what is."

*****

And 'what is' is always waiting for us to notice it! 

From moment to moment, day to day, week to week and year to year; the 'awareness' that fuels the entire 'drama' of life; be it pretty, be it harsh, be it stressful, or satisfying, that 'awareness' awaits the moment of our 'recognition.'

So open the doors to your mind and heart and take that leap of 'surrender' into the present moment of whatever arises...


Monday, 1 June 2015

When the Earth Begins to Tremble


Contemplating life from a lofty ridge in the Himalayan foothills can be a risky business, perhaps none more so than now!

Naturally, we feel that our meagre 'existence' is, in some inexplicable way, important to the world.

However, the 'reality' is incredibly humbling.

'We live, move and have our being' upon a mighty, living and moving organism, for such is this Earth that gives us the very foundation, sustenance and refuge that we often so roundly take for granted!

When the Earth begins to wake and tremble we all must stop and take notice...

"It’s more than unnerving to be tossed about in an earthquake, the whole mechanics of being caught up in the movement of the earth’s plates and tectonic zones potentially lays us open to a complete shakedown and not just physically but psychologically as well.
When I was about eight years old, I remember waking up one night in Nelson, my home town in New Zealand, and thinking I was being driven in the back of a horse-drawn carriage that was bumping over a potholed road at great speed. Moments later, I understood that it was the earth itself that was heaving, not some imagined carriage.
Now, so many years later, I find myself in a tiny, fragile hut, clinging to a small outcrop of rocks several thousand feet up in the Himalayan foothills and pondering over the impermanence of life.
I built my “tin palace” some years ago. It sits on a forested ridge about 2000 meters from any other human habitation, save a small retreat centre and Buddhist Temple. It is rather near the edge of a precipitous cliff that drops about 250 meters to a small cluster of houses which are nestled 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 pleasing sensation.
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. 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 five-minute intervals, reminding me, like a snooze alarm, that she was waiting for her cheese.
This had been our little ritual over a good many years. Despite the fact that I had only recently returned from 24 long months away, she had not forgotten and no sooner had I settled back in than she resumed her old habit of waking me up at the crack of dawn.
I was reluctant and slow to get going that particular day. No sooner had I taken my first gulp of Darjeeling tea than a furry head appeared at the little side window in my kitchen. Shortly after that, there was an almighty crash on the tin roof, as a large simian male dropped down from the tree above the hut. 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 had 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 through the bamboo railings of my fence and dashed around the base of trees as monkeys taunted and teased them from the safety of the branches above.
By 11am 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 quiet time in the loft had flown out the window the minute these visitors appeared. Despite threateningly dangling my slingshot at the monkeys, who were by now making a sport of leaping from the branches onto my roof making the loudest crash possible, there was little I could do to keep the group at bay, so I just continued on with my usual daily routines as best I could.
Around noon, having no sooner sat down and taken a couple of mouthfuls of my midday repast, 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 the wooden beams made strange creaking, groaning sounds. Soon I heard an eerie, deep rumbling sound. I managed to stand up and noticed that the water in the small pond outside was 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 the ridge and also from below. People were running in all directions in a bid to flee their houses. The quake that day was the 7.8 that rattled Nepal to the west of Darjeeling.
The next day at approximately an hour later than the previous one, we had another quake. This was the aftershock of 6.7 that struck close to the same region in Nepal.
The third day at dusk, 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 neighbouring 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 the path to the main temple. Rigzen Dorje, the current care taker, appeared from the retreat center with a loud and startled cry.
In the neighboring towns and villages people were engulfed by a wave of fear. Never in their lifetime had they been so rudely shaken three days in a row.
One, two, three more days passed and there were no more tremors. Slowly but surely the normal sounds of life and business resumed. 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. How quickly we all resumed our egocentric lives, but then wham!
On the 12th of May another large quake struck, this time much nearer. Eerily, it unleashed its power at almost exactly the same time as the first large quake. But this time in the mountainous region not far from Everest. Those “pillars” of all that stand for “solid” and “stable,” quite literally began to crumble—an appalling and unforgettable sight for those who witnessed it.
The story is still unfolding and by no means passed. At any moment the Earth can shake us off her back. We may disrespect her, ignore her, mistreat her, adore her, even pay homage to her. But at no time are we ever anything more than her guests—just visitors passing through.
Mere specks riding on the back of a mighty and vastly mysterious “being.”

The above article was written for and published in the May 31st 2015 edition of Elephant Journal

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 two long years, she had not forgotten and no sooner had I resettled 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 corrugated iron sheets.
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 have 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.


Read More in Masters, Mice and Men
Volume Three in the series, Shades of Awareness

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Is Unconditional Love Really Possible?


 Update:

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, but the fact is also 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 accoutrements 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 extraordinary 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 standpoint, 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 outreaching 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...

Addictions of one kind or another seep into the way we live our lives, stifling the inner sense of the precious present moment


We may not call them addictions or think of them in that light and yet these 'habits,' whatever they may be, have a hold upon us. Addictions imply that we are not free, that we are not unfettered.


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 have taken refuge in the false sense of security that they provide. They keep us from perceiving what is nearest of all. By binding ourselves to our habits we prevent ourselves from living in the dynamic uncertainty of the present moment.

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

Gary Goldstein


So it is with our habits and addictions. We may think we have relinquished one but often we have merely replaced it for another. Like rabbits, our habits breed incessantly, born from our misperception.

So how do we pull ourselves out of this conundrum?
The answer is simplicity itself.

By acknowledging our existence as 'awareness'  and then by
holding firmly to our recognition of it, we begin to break the shackles of our bondage. 

By living in a state of utmost simplicity which implies complete acceptance of what is we discover how to ride the waves of uncertainty and impermanence, holding only to this simple moment which is right here and now.  

Our addictions imprison us only because we continue to doggedly to cling to the 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 words point us squarely towards to an incredible mystery which surrounds each and every one of us and yet amazingly, we somehow fail even to notice it!

When we believe in ourselves as individual identities we cover over what is always present and shining. Most of the time we are so distracted by the 'noise' within our mind that we cannot perceive the thundering silence in which we live, move and have our being.

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

And just what is that 'true nature'?

Our true nature is the inexhaustible presence out of which all existence, in whatever form it may take, arises...

The first step in freeing ourselves is to become aware of our awareness

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

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.

To do this, however, requires a high degree of weariness with the trappings and ways of our usual habitual reactions to life and what we perceive happening around us. Most people are not quite at such a stage in their dissatisfaction levels as yet, to bring about the kind of focused inquiry needed for this sort of investigation.

We can, however, keep certain things in mind as we go about our daily routines. These shifts in attitude can greatly assist us in dispelling any negativity while at the same time helping us to generate a far more positive mental atmosphere, which in turn, can make our living environment so much more pleasant for us and all those around us, to live in.

1. Perspective.
In the bad moments and on the bad days we can turn the mind outwards to take in a much vaster perspective. We have only to look up at the sky in order to do this. Remembering that countless worlds are circling around in the universe, that we are so much more than we can ever think we are. We may not be able to understand fully what this really means just now, but we can take it on good faith that it is true. After all, how could we exist in the first place? This is truly a mystery beyond anything the mind is capable of comprehending!

2. Investigate and ask yourself, 'is this true?'
Whatever is happening in and around us is always changing. Our moods and our thoughts are constantly coming and going. Happy one moment and sad the next. How can we trust in any of these transient things? We can look into and ask ourselves, again and again, 'is this real? is this true?' What seems true and real in one moment can appear to be quite the opposite in the next.

3. Remember the basic goodness of beings.
We hear about so many bad things in the news, we are constantly barraged with negative advertising and images and such brutal and awful news. The media seems to have become a monster for endless negative regurgitation, and it can be such a 'downer.' Yet we have only to look around us to see how much beauty and goodness there is as well. In fact, if we are open to it, there are so many things in our environment that can bring us joy and they are simple and free and abundantly available. We have only to stop a moment and notice.

4. Be the witness at the centre of all happenings.
Being a witness of our lives and of our thoughts, we can create a little space between what is 'going on' and who and what we really are. As the 'witness' we can be in this world and yet not of it...

5. Give yourself moments of deep quietude. 
If we can give ourselves the gift of moments when we do not engage our mind in any kind of thought activity then, in the very midst of life, we can experience a deep silence and peace which is very refreshing. Even just a few moments spent inquietude can change our whole mood and perspective.

6. Put aside some time each day to do something that you find uplifting.
Some people get immense pleasure from gardening, others delight in their particular work, some are transported by music, still, others take enjoyment in swimming, or running or sailing...
Whatever it is that lifts our mind out of the drudgery of daily routines and thought patterns and reminds us that often the greatest joys can be found in the simplest of pursuits, we are blessed with a gift which is far more precious than anything that money can buy.

7. Smile at someone or extend a helping hand.
It is so easy to miss an opportunity to bring a little happiness or ease into another beings life, yet these chances can appear at any time and invariably they require little more than a slight effort. I remember one of my teachers telling me, 'if you see a beautiful flower, take note of it and offer the merit born of your delight, so that all beings may find peace and happiness.' This simple gesture can be practised in a whole multitude of situations and in an instant can transform the ordinary mind into a positive creator for the good.

8. Think about and remember impermanence and change.
Our world and everything in it is subject to the law of impermanence and change. This is a fact that we encounter every single day of our lives. Somehow we learn to live on in spite of it and yet how much more beneficial might it be if we could but remain alert to this fact with a freshness that makes each day matter and each moment count.

If none of the above tips really resonates with us then at the very least we can remember...


Which just about sums it all up!

Have a great day and put a smile on yours and somebody else's face. Go on, its easier than you think...

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Chatral Rinpoche, No Mind


Chatral Rinpoche at Yangla Sho

It is not easy to know where to begin when trying to describe someone like Chatral Rinpoche. Imagine a Master, one hundred and four years of age. One hundred and four years of life experience! He was like a living, walking, breathing encyclopedia of knowledge and wisdom. His areas of expertise covered fields as diverse as 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 (barley flour). 


All I can really do is bow down in wonder and recall some of the multitudes of memories that come to mind and that so beautifully reflect the many facets of the character 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 realised Master, one must be prepared for everything. The intensity of life is greatly magnified within their sphere of activity. 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, and his youngest daughter Tara Deva, and I were strolling around 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. Suddenly, he looked up, turned to the gate and strode out towards the main road. Mentioning, almost as an afterthought, in his deep, booming voice that he was off to 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 and every 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 before we could even react. 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-wheeled 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 into 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. It whined and puttered and puffed its way down the road towards Siliguri. Every few minutes or so the creaking conveyance would belch and backfire as it lurched its way along the road, skirting potholes and various creatures that were wondering about and minding their own business.

I cannot forget the image of this 'Lion of the Mountains,' his long white beard splaying 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 at ease, joyfully attuned to even the least trifle, be it a passing smile on the face of a child, the flash of green leaves in fields of tea bushes, ripe for the harvest, or the white wing of an egret as it sprang from a river bed.

We bumped along like this for about ten minutes when suddenly another vehicle closed in alongside ours. A gold coloured Mercedes Benz, silent, large and sleek seemed to appear like an eagle in a dream. At that time and in that place such a vehicle was as rarely seen as a flying saucer, at least in North-Eastern West Bengal, in the nineteen nineties.

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 bodyguards, in sumptuous Bhutanese royal regalia had leapt out and begun to make full-length prostrations right then and there on the side of the road, regardless of the dust and muck.

Never a man for formalities, Rinpoche quietly got out of the rickshaw, 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 quoted from my book; 
The second volume in the four-part series; Shades of Awareness

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 surfboard 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 uncomplicate 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 ransom by 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.