Well the past few days have not been without their challenges but I am slowly climbing up the rock face… managing to grab a foot or hand hold here and there. Sometimes I slip backwards but mindfulness and skilful thinking catch my fall. I am pleased and proud to say that I have not fallen back into my old ways of coping – sparkling water instead of wine. Drawing on the three jewels – looking at my wrist reminding myself that this too shall pass.
I was challenged to post 10 books which I love or have had an impact on me ( one a day). It is difficult to choose just 10! For Day One I chose the first book of Simone de Beauvoir’s autobiography which I first read at university many years ago. This book and the subsequent ones showed me that I could choose how I live – although choices have consequences.
For Day Two I have chosen “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk. http://amzn.eu/d/2xCjzvB. This is an incredible book which shows the impact trauma of any kind has on the body. Medication and talking therapies are not sufficient to change these physical imprints – in fact talking therapies have the tendency to strengthen the harm inflicted.
“Trauma constantly confronts us with our fragility and with man’s inhumanity to man but also with our extraordinary resilience”. There is no romanticising of trauma in the book – it is shown in all its horror and suffering. However, there is the recognition people endure terrible trauma and their symptoms are part of their strength, the ways in which they have learned to survive.
The book is concerned with trauma, with specific events which cause immense suffering. However, I was also reading it through the eyes of someone who knows and loves people with deep depression and anxiety which have not been brought about by specific events but are every bit as real and painful. It would seem to me that their experiences have also left physical change requiring an approach which recognises the whole person and the depth of the suffering.
I have had this book on my kindle for a while now but only started reading it a couple of days ago. Perfect timing. If I had read it before now I would not have applied it to me. The 12 Step Plan Russell is describing is for alcoholics, drug users… I would not have seen that I needed the liberation from my addictions, self-centredness and illusion. I would not have appreciated that I needed to totally rethink my life, world-views and attitudes. I would have seen it as a brilliant, useful, courageous book written by someone who I deeply admire but it would not have applied to me. It would not have resonated with me in the way that it has. I would know that “I am a bit fucked” (Step One) and I was beginning to see that “I could not be fucked” (Step Two). Step Three – I cannot do it on my own – was obvious. I haven’t worked through the rest in the way that Russell recommends (YET) but I need to get to the stage where I am brave enough, courageous enough to “live in a new way that’s not all about [me] and [my] previous fucked up stuff “ (Step Seven).
I started reading this book a few days after discussing world-views in my Dharma study group. All of us have views about how we think we should operate in the world, in our relationships, at work, everywhere. We believe and hope that they will result in the life we want to live. “If I act like this at work, I will do well and get promoted. This will lead to me having more money and power. I will be happier. My family will be grateful to me”. That sort of thing. “If this man does not want me – my life isn’t worth having”. “I need to have the latest iPhone, iPad, huge flat screen to be happy”. We all have views and ways of living life – for a lot of us they are seriously flawed. As Russell says, “We are trapped in a way of ‘being’ that is not working”. I am in the process of trying to change mine – to become more Tee.
It’s a hard journey. I told someone about the ups and downs – the downs are huge craters; the ups tiny. He reminded me that it is the toughest thing that I will ever do. Recovery acknowledges and addresses this. Russell knows first hand that it cannot be done alone. But crucially, it is not a one time thing. Steps 10 – 12 are about being committed to daily growth, to stay connected in these new, more authentic world views, to live life for others – not to concentrate on me, my ego.
When Ananda, the Buddha’s friend asked him if friendship was half of the spiritual life, the Buddha replied that it was “actually the whole of the spiritual life”
Yes I am talking about Sangha AGAIN! Yes, the Buddhist community is becoming increasingly important to my life. I will make this a short post 🙂
Last night at the weekly Eastbourne Buddhist meeting, four Mitras gave talks about the preciousness and joy of Sangha. All four are very different people, different ages, experiences, personalities. They all talked very differently. However, from all of them there shone the light, the jewel of Sangha radiating the importance that the different communities of Buddhists have in their lives.
Throughout the evening there was a common thread… the three jewels are inextricably linked. The Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are all precious jewels which shine in the world inviting people to take refuge within them.
Really did not want to get up and take Pretzel out for her walk this morning… It was cold, grey and wet. Pretzel was reluctant – she tried extremely hard to stay warm and cosy in her basket.
But we wrapped up warm (I looked a sight!) and off we went.
The skies were grey. It was as cold and wet as I feared. But, in the end, I enjoyed my walk. I listened to music (songs from Nashville – my current obsession) and just enjoyed being awake and out in the fresh air.
I think Pretzel came round to the idea after a while as well 🙂
Yesterday evening was spent in the company of 8 women talking about the Dharma. It was the first session of our new Buddhist Study Group and we had come together for the first time. We meditated, talked, reflected, listened and shared experiences. We laughed and drank tea. In that room, sitting around the small shrine to the Buddha, sat a diverse group of women with different lives, personalities and experiences – all at different stages on the Buddhist path. However, in that community, as part of that Sangha last night I felt comfortable and cared for. For the first time in a very long time I felt that I belonged. I didn’t feel as if I was standing on the edges looking in. The overwhelming feeling was the thing that we had in common – the desire to explore the Dharma.
When I started thinking about this post, about what I would write I thought that this would be about studying the Dharma. I thought that I would be writing about the three steps to developing wisdom, the importance of exploring the Dharma with others. This was important. The Dharma held us together. However, the overwhelming feeling I been left with is about the importance of the Sangha we created. Sangha – the Buddhist community in which we can take refuge. Relationships, friendships can always falter and fail but the Sangha will always be there.
I am so much looking forward to our study sessions. To getting to know this lovely group of women. To exploring the Dharma; to exploring how I can follow the Dharma more fully and thoughtfully.
Anyone reading my blogs would get the impression that I am moving along my path quite smoothly. I am reading the right books, thinking the right things. I am living in the moment. Everything is going great!
Unfortunately, that is not the whole story. There are a lot of things happening in my life which causes me stress and worry. I have not got anywhere near to the point where I can accept my emotions as they are. Today, on my morning Pretzel walk I reflected on the poor choices I make when trying to relieve stress. The main one being a couple of glasses of wine at the end of the day. Only a couple, but I do not feel it is healthy for me and it goes against the 5th precept which is concerned with avoiding intoxicants as they cloud the mind.
Those who have known me for a long time may remember that I first gave up drinking at university. I spent the first year drinking at the extremely cheap university bar as practically every other student did. But, after waking up with a hangover a couple of times I decided to stop – the night of the cheap neat vodka helped make that decision I seem to remember! I was at university to get my degree and wanted to concentrate on my work. I have given it up a few times in the past few years. I should stress at this point that I do not drink rum for breakfast! And I do not drink loads in the evening… Before anyone starts panicking!
A couple of months ago I was going through a bad time but felt strong enough to stop again. I stopped for 6 weeks and felt much better ! I was reading more in the evenings, staying awake longer, I felt healthier. Then… something happened which hit me like a ton of bricks. So I went back to this detrimental way of handling stress – I turned to the couple of glasses of wine / rum and cokes in the evening to try to make me feel better.
As I was walking this morning I acknowledged that I am doing very positive things. I am walking a lot! And I mean a lot! I am definitely going to win this weeks Workweek Hustle. I am reading. I am trying not to watch so much TV (well I have finished the 5 seasons of Nashville available on Now TV). I am attending the Buddhist meetings and about to start going to the new study group. I am meditating ( albeit not enough). BUT… I am still having those couple of drinks in the evening.
Now I know that this will not sound a big deal to many people. It is a couple of drinks. Lots of people do it. But in order for me to progress on this journey I need to stop. This is my next step.
So I say to myself and to you (as someone reading this post) – from this moment forward I will be not be drinking. Sparkling water will be my new best friend. I will keep you updated.
“The orange heart emoji is associated with joy, warmth, heat, sunshine, enthusiasm”
Until a few months ago, my favourite colours were dark and dramatic… my wardrobe is filled with black, purple and the occasional red. I wore skinny jeans with skull covered T-shirts and hoodies. My house is filled with neutral tones…. Then suddenly, I became drawn to bright colours. I bought some brightly coloured harem trousers, a predominantly orange mandela duvet cover. I started Pinterest boards devoted to boho fashion and rooms. I have become drawn to the colour orange.
I see the colour orange as a warm colour signifying a deeply caring, soft yet strong love. For me, it is the colour of metta / loving kindness.
I want to research the psychology of colour more. I am interested in your views…. How do you see colour? What do your favourite colours say about you?What do they signify for you? Post comments below…
“Buddhism is not dogmatic; it is very much about the intelligent and sensitive application of principles to the many and varied situations we find ourselves in”
The Eastbourne Buddhist Group have a fantastic box of books which I am working my way through. The quote at the top of this post is from the introduction to a book of essays written by women who have been ordained within the Buddhist tradition. These women look at how they bring together different aspects of their lives with their Buddhist practice and ideals. These aspects include motherhood, relationships, work and feminism. These women lead very diverse lives but all follow the Buddhist path.
This book has got me thinking… even with my girls being teenagers, it can be hard to reconcile Buddhism with motherhood. I think about my lifestyle and my work – both are not always compatible with my Buddhist ideals. Actually – lets be real, “not always compatible” is very much an understatement. I am so early on in this journey. Reading this book makes me even more determined to find my way to a simpler life.
This book appears to be out of print at the moment but second hand copies are available! The amazon link is below.
Introducing my pug / chinese crested cross – Pretzel. According to google she is a “thing”. She is a “Pugese”. Look them up. She seems to have more hair than most. Being biased, I think she is prettier than most.
Anyway – although impossibly cute – she is not to be the point of this first blog post.
I go for the same 5k walk around the streets where I live at least once a day. Most days I am listening to music (the Nashville soundtracks are my current obsession) and fantasising about a life that is certainly not going to happen. Now this is obviously not healthy! My real life has not got a hope of matching up to this one! And – I am definitely not “living in the present moment”. This is not following Buddhist teachings and will not make for a happy Tee.
So today, whilst listening to Russell Brand’s “Under the Skin” podcast with Charles Eisenstein, I actually looked around me and took notice as I walked. I lived in the present and appreciated what was around me – the sky, some flowers hanging on from summer, autumn leaves. I even managed to notice and, hence, pick up a discarded McDonalds bag. I stopped to talk to an elderly woman walking her very sweet yorkie.
After a very enjoyable walk, I returned home and have had an extremely productive day.
Let’s hope I learn all of the lessons from this! And do the same tomorrow – and the next day.
Today has been my most positive day in a long time. It is all in the mind. It is all about how I deal with my thoughts and my emotions. It is about skillful thinking.