My first posts were about my Pretzel walks. I remember writing about what I had seen and experienced as I walked. So a return to this today.
I have been forgetting to be mindful – present as much as I can in all I do. So for the past few days I have been making an extra special effort. Whether it be eating my dinner, washing up, talking to a friend, watching “Eat, Pray Love” (Julia Roberts – Always a winner), I have tried to be more present in them. Not letting my mind wander off on to other things, not checking Facebook, not looking at my “To Do” List.
So this morning I tried extra hard to be “in” my morning walk with Pretzel. It is amazing how much I noticed. There are a few brightly coloured flowers out in some plots which are just lovely to look at. The trees with the sky as a backdrop were so crisp and present this morning. Some of the plots on my morning route are so beautiful to look at – their owners obviously spend a lot of time tending them. Being present makes even the mundane more interesting. I do the same Pretzel walk every day – and usually I am cold and half asleep, The walk was so much more enjoyable this morning. I had snuck in 20 minutes Meditation before Pretzel woke up (yes she is a dog not a baby) and was very chilled and present as a result. I had actually felt good after that meditation – meditation does not come naturally to me so I take that as a win.
So this morning I stopped to say “Hello” to a couple of people with their dogs – a lovely lab and a small bichon frise in a brightly coloured knitted jumper. I gave my usual greeting to the gold coloured Buddha in a plot not far from here. I took a detour to smile at the skeletons on the battered decking owned by an older, rather eccentric man (a very kind and friendly person),
I didn’t take my phone with me as I walk around the site so no pictures of this walk…. But maybe tomorrow. So instead – a photo of Pretzel my Pug / Chinese Crested Cross (Pugese).
It’s strange isn’t it – how a little scruffy creature can mean so much! This little puppy keeps me going. She is always available for a cuddle. She curls up with me to sleep. She makes me smile. I honestly think that this little dog has kept me going when things get hard.
The alarm went off far to early this morning. I hadn’t had a great night’s sleep and I just did not want to get out of bed. My back and joints had done their usual thing of seizing up over night so I knew that I was in for some pain until my body had loosened up. Mechanically, like a robot in mind and body, I went through my morning routine until I came to the point where Pretzel had her lead on and I was ready to go for our walk.
I so nearly did not step out of the door this morning. I felt all of the strong winds battering me and I just wanted to take shelter. But habit took over and off we went.
The first part of my walk was not enjoyable – and it was totally my fault! The weather was lovely, the moon was still shining and Pretzel was happy to be out for once (she is not a big fan of early morning winter walks). But I was feeling very sorry for myself – those pesky worldly winds were getting just too much. I let myself list all of the things that I felt were “going wrong”. I let myself dwell on the pain in my back, shoulders and legs. The list kept getting longer and longer… Then I came out of my head a little and looked up. The moon was still out – it was beautiful. Obviously, my first thought was a negative one – wishing I had a decent camera so that I could capture it’s beauty! You and I will just have to put up with my substandard iPhone snap! But then something switched in my brain. At my Dharma study last night I had been talking about responding to situations rather than responding… thinking skillfully. So I went back through my long list of woes and considered if there was anything that can be done about them. I came up with one or two things to do which I filed away for later. But, for the most part, I have to leave them be and see what happens. There is nothing to be done.
Just as I came to the end of my list, I heard the beeping of a car horn and turned to see a friend smiling and waving at me. It was at that moment that my mood switched. It was light bulb moment. I realised in that moment that, yes – there is a lot going on. People I love are suffering. My back still hurt! etc etc. But – there is a lot that is right in my life. My friends – so many friends who care about me and check in on me. I remembered all of the cards and presents I received on the day of my Mitra Ceremony and for my birthday. I reflected on the messages of love and support that I have been receiving. I thought about the lovely, beautiful women at my Dharma study last night. And – I am doing what I can to change what isn’t positive in my life. I am doing all that I can at the moment- some things just have to play out as they will.
I turned the corner and was confronted by the sun – cue for another bad picture (cannot always blame the iPhone! I am just not good at taking photos!). The sun will always rise. Whatever is going on in my life… the sun will always rise. The carousel continues to turn. Life is not satisfactory – The first Noble Truth of Buddhism – The truth of Dukkha – dissatisfaction, unease, suffering. If we base our state of mind, our happiness on the changeable world we will be unhappy a lot of the time! My journey to becoming more Tee is helping me to see the truth of suffering and to loosen my grasping, my craving for life to be different.
So I returned home feeling positive and ready to face the day. Those winds are still blowing as they were when I awoke this morning. But, at least for now, I am navigating my way through them a little better.
The Four Noble Truths:
The truth of Dukkha – dissatisfaction, unease, suffering. We always want things to be different
The truth of the origin of Dukkha – craving, grasping. The way that we look for satisfaction actually causes us more suffering
Dukkha can be overcome. We can go beyond suffering and dissatisfaction
We can follow a progressive path of spiritual development that affects every aspect of how we live our lives.We will then no longer build our quest for happiness on getting short-lived pleasure. If we have peace of mind we can weather any storm.
Was thinking about my mitra ceremony on my Pretzel walk this morning. I was in a bit of pain from my back and joints (stress and cold,damp weather do not help them) so was trying to distract myself. I found myself smiling over the candle fiasco. I remembered the way in which everyone laughed with me and celebrated when I finally got my candle alight. It made me think about how things in my life often don’t go as I think they will. Something comes along to threaten the imagined perfection of the eagerly awaited event. But I always get through. Often I get through on my own but this time I had a whole community of friends with me supporting me.
Life does not always turn out as was expected / hoped / wished for. But with the example of the Buddha, his teachings and the Sangha I can make it through and become a better person in the process. I just have to keep remembering this.
One of my heroes has to be Ben Fogle. I admire his courage and his perseverance in tackling physically demanding challenges. I am slightly jealous and in awe of the way in which he has built his career and life around his passion for travel and adventure. I love his TV series on people who have managed to escape “normal life”, the rat race and are living differently. So “Up” was definitely on my list of books to read.
I actually ended up getting it as my free audible book. It was a different experience for me – listening to a book rather than reading it. I listened whilst walking Pretzel on her daily / sometimes twice daily walks so finished it in a few days.
I enjoyed it. I liked the fact that it was read by Ben and Marina – it brought something special to the account. I was intrigued by his internal debates on being a good father whilst being true to himself. His respect for his fellow climbers and for Victoria was evident throughout as was his love for his family. I was interested in the process of climbing Everest. The book portrayed a man who was very aware of his responsibilities towards others – sometimes overly so! He seemed to think that other people – his father-in-law, Victoria – were his responsibility when in fact they had made the decision themselves to join the trip. It showed someone who struggled at school but has managed to be successful despite that. It showed someone who actually lives a very privileged middle class sort of life with lots of holidays to exotic places. I think that his children are very fortunate to have Ben and Marina as parents. They encourage physical activity and taking risks; they are able to travel and see a lot of the world. Marina’s chapters were a definite asset to the book. I liked her writing style and she came across as a very strong, likable woman obviously devoted to her family.
But – I was left feeling a little dissatisfied with “UP”. Ben’s TV programmes always leave me wanting to know more. He only seemed to scratch the surface of the monk’s solitary life and the nomadic life of the couple walking the world. The TV programme on Everest felt the same so I was hoping that the book would go deeper. I wanted to know more about the process, about the practice climbs. I wanted to hear more about Victoria and her struggles – in some ways her experience would be more interesting than Ben’s. I wanted to hear more about his life when he got home. The book was a little repetitive. Ben came back to the same topics (fatherhood v travel for example) many times without going any deeper, without developing his thoughts; using the same words and phrases.
I did enjoy this book and would recommend it. I just felt that Ben could have gone deeper. It is almost as if he needed to have someone there when he was writing to ask him searching questions, to make him think.
So now I need to listen to another audible book. But I can only have one free one a month (I am taking advantage of the free Amazon Prime 3 month trial) and they look to be quite expensive. Until next month I will have to continue to listen to Podcasts on my Pretzel walks.
It was Sunday morning. I wasn’t feeling that great. I thought that I was coming down with the cold that seems to be attacking everyone at the moment. But I had 15,000 steps to do that day. I am stubborn – I will get those steps in if I possibly can. I couldn’t face doing my normal Pretzel walk. I knew that if I did, I would plug in my headphones, switch to Spotify and listen to my favourite playlist which brings up emotions and memories. I decided to get in the car and do the short drive to the Downs. I used to take my dogs Lara and Dana up there a lot in years gone by. The Downs are beautiful and hold great memories of a Jack Russell and a Rough Collie ( a “Lassie dog”) running off lead having fun.
So I went to the Downs. What a beautiful walk. It was a cold and grey morning but, at first, there were not many people around so Pretzel was happy to be off the lead. Later she was spooked by the biggest German Shepherd I had ever seen who jumped up at me (I didn’t mind) and then chased my poor, tiny pugese. After that she was clearly nervous so I kept her close to me. For the first half of the walk though, Pretzel as free to run around and sniff and play.
I worked hard to stay in the moment that morning. I knew that there was a good chance of me getting low as I was feeling unwell and fragile. So I took in the views, took pictures and smiled at the people who went by. There were lots of runners up there that morning – all going strong.
It was a lovely walk. I was so pleased that I went. And I am pleased that I chose not to wear headphones. I am pleased that I chose not to think, to dwell. Every time sad thoughts came into my wandering mind, I managed to push them away. I just walked and enjoyed watching my little dog have fun.
I look back at my pictures of this Summer. Of Snowdonia, of Morocco. I look at Instagram. Those beautiful Instagram pictures by amazing photographers! I cannot get enough of the beauty. I gaze at pictures of Snowdonia and other fabulous landscapes and just wish I was there! All my thoughts of living in the present moment evaporate as I recall treasured memories of Llyn Gwynant and the surrounding area. All my thoughts of living in the now fade away as I long for a distant future of travelling, walking and exploration.
I set out on my usual dog walk this morning, dragging a reluctant little dog behind me. I was going to do my usual route – this does not require thinking – I just do it. I know it takes an hour; I know it is just over 5k; I know that it will hit a big chunk of my daily steps. But – this morning I turned right instead of left and headed for the park.
Now some of you reading this (if anyone does! I need more subscribers – insert sad face) will say “You stupid woman. Why don’t you go to the park every day? It has to be prettier than the streets”. And you will have made a very sound point. I don’t know the exact reason why! I know that the route I take is my old 5K route in my running days. I remember that Pretzel used to be really nervous of people and dogs so the park would have been a little too much for her. Maybe it is just habit, though. I don’t know.
As I walked I listened to the latest Russell Brand podcast (well worth listening to by the way! A live conversation with Radhanath Swami). I walked thinking of those beautiful pictures and images of mountains, beaches, oceans. I entered the park on this cold, dark winter morning. At first all I could see were sad, unhappy, brown colours and bare trees. Then I began to look properly and saw that there was beauty… I took off my gloves, took out my phone and started taking pictures of trees, ducks, the lake.
So yes – I will continue to look at pictures of Snowdonia, Wales, the rest of the world. I will make plans to visit some of these places. But I must live in the present and see the beauty in now.
And that is the secret to happiness, I think! Or at least one of the secrets. I must look at the beauty. Whatever is happening, wherever I am, whatever I miss or yearn for – in all of this there will be beauty somewhere. I could concentrate on the negative emotions – on pain, regret, yearning, sadness. I could look at what is wrong with my life. I could keep wishing away the winter. OR I could look beyond those things to the beauty which exists in life.
Christmas morning. I remember this time when I was little. A stocking on the edge of the bed filled with presents. The stocking was one leg of mum’s American tan tights – it is amazing how much they stretched! My brother and I would go into my parents’ room and show them what Santa had left us. Then downstairs to have breakfast and then open the presents. During the morning there would be mince pies followed by the traditional Christmas lunch. In the afternoon we would play with the toys we had for Christmas. I remember the year my brother got Subbuteo – the dog kept walking across the pitch and causing mayhem. And the year my Nan helped me with my 1000 piece jigsaw which consisted of a brown horse’s head and blue sky.
So this morning I am on my own until my girls return later. So I decided that I would take advantage of the lack of traffic and drive to the seafront. I am so pleased I did. It is only 3 miles away – I should visit it more often. The views were lovely. I let Pretzel off the lead on the beach – pebbles rather than sand sadly. She had a great time sniffing new smells and just being free. People walking / jogging / cycling. Lots of happy dogs – no doubt they are hopeful that they will get a special Christmas dinner. For once I walked without headphones which left me free to say “hello” and “Happy Christmas” to fellow walkers.
So a lovely walk this morning! Not as long as usual – but a break from my normal route. A great way to start the day.
So – yesterday I wrote, rather optimistically, about not getting back on the roller coaster. I wrote about continuing to follow my path calmly and with focus. Umm – yes – right….
It is easier said than done isn’t it? Especially when more things happen which make life more painful, harder. Especially when I am trying not to use the coping mechanisms I have used before – those which seem to work at the time but are just temporary fixes, covering the cracks but actually making things worse. Especially when I am trying to use more skillful methods but I am not practiced enough in them yet.
But I have moved forward – I have made progress. I am on the rock face. I may not be pulling myself back up yet – but I have halted my fall. It would have been easier in many ways just to let myself fall… But no. I have a journey; I have a path. So I am using the unfamiliar foot and hand holds to cling on to. I hope to be able to start pulling myself up soon.
So here I am. I am continuing on my path. Following the 5 precepts as well as I can. Meditating and practising the Dharma. Trying to live more mindfully and skillfully. Doing everything I can to avoid the temptation of that roller coaster.
Well I seem to have managed to delete a post! Clever me. Can never leave things alone – have to tinker, have to play, have to try and make things better! Lol. So this new post can combine yesterday’s and today’s. Lesson to self – stop being such a klutz!
I didn’t take Pretzel for a walk yesterday. The weather was awful – storm Diana (Dirty Diana as a very dear friend called her) was around in part… Not much because of where I live but she obviously likes to make her presence felt as far and wide as she possibly can. The main reason for the lack of walking though was that my very lovely but silly Pretzel has stolen my Callie’s dinner the night before… I did not know that such a small dog could be quite so sick! Anyway, because I didn’t go for that walk the day didn’t start as calmly as usual so I felt a bit out of sorts all day to be honest.
This morning – yes we walked. And because it was not too wet and cold, Pretzel was quite happy to walk beside me. She trotted happily around our usual 5K route. I listened to some music (Man of No Ego – he can be found on Spotify and YouTube), thought about my forthcoming day and watched the sky change as the sun came up and the darkness faded away.
Thinking back to yesterday – I was right not to take poor little Pretzel out. She was a sad little dog. But I did not need to go back to bed for an hour! I could have gone for the walk on my own or used some of that time for meditation. Never mind – lesson learned!