It’s all a bit weird…

Its all a bit weird and strange isn’t it?  The world is suddenly a very different place.  Our lives have changed radically .  A lot of what we were used to doing we can no longer do.  A strong lesson in impermanence!

I must admit it all threw me off course for a little while.  I must admit to not taking this virus seriously enough at first – I never really believed that it would be this dangerous and as widespread. I always try to look at things calm without catastrophising.   Obviously I was completely wrong! It is something to take very seriously indeed.

I am okay at home.  I had a very stressful and worrying few days when I thought that I would have to leave here and go elsewhere.  Fortunately I have a lovely friend who was fully prepared to welcome myself, my two cats and my dog into her home.  I think that we are both truly thankful that that didn’t happen.  We get on very well – but her flat is very small!  I miss my girls who are with their Dad.  However, I know that they are safe and looked after.  And we have FaceTime, texts etc.  I am okay here with Pretzel, JD and Smirnoff.  Pretzel and I have just had our one trip out for a walk for the day on Bexhill beach staying well away from others.  The cats come and go as they always do – they are currently asleep on Callie’s bed.  It is actually really lovely to have space and time to read, sew, crochet, meditate, watch a bit of TV and just be.  Life can get very hectic normally.

I do feel sorry for those who feel very isolated and alone though.  It must be very tough for those who haven’t got access to the Internet and / or people checking in on them.  I am also in awe of those wonderful people working in hospitals and care homes risking their lives in many cases and working extremely hard.  Also those working in supermarkets having to deal with stressed shoppers looking for toilet rolls and pasta.  There are a lot of people (Keyworkers) still working very hard.

And what about those poor teenagers who have spent the last couple of years studying hard for GCSEs and A Levels?   This must have thrown them a bit of a curve ball!

This is making me realise what is important to me.  Family, friends, a safe place to live. I am fortunate that I don’t mind a simple life. I enjoy being on my own. I have time to meditate, read, sew, work on a spreadsheet for the local hospice. When we get back to “normality” I hope that I continue to live spaciousness, calmly and peacefully.

If this hadn’t of happened; if we were living normally – not in lockdown – I would have been at my Sangha evening earlier.  I was planning to build a shrine to Amoghasiddhi, the fearless dark green Buddha of the North.  Instead I sat at home, in my caravan, and worked on a spreadsheet.

So this evening, I consider myself to be lucky.  The caravan site hasn’t closed its doors to us.  I have a home; I have food; I have my pets.  I can talk to family and friends on line.  I can read, sew, sleep comfortably.  I can play Zoo Tycoon, watch Law and Order SVU.  Once a day I can take my Pretzel out for a walk.  I can meditate, reflect and continue my study of the Five Buddha Mandala.

I am not sure that I would be taking it all so well a couple of years ago. The Three Jewels help me to stay balanced and calm. This human life is precious. It is full of suffering and impermanence but it is precious and can be joyful.

Simple pleasures


Life has been hard lately.  People I love are going through really difficult times.  It is sometimes  a challenge to keep remembering that things will change and that life won’t always be that way for them, or for me.  When life’s inevitable suffering seems stronger than usual, it can seem impossible to relax and enjoy anything; especially when there is a lot to do.

Today I am reminded that life is beautiful and precious.  A change of scenery has challenged my slightly jaded outlook.  I am staying temporarily (not for long) in a flat on Eastbourne seafront.  It’s such a beautiful flat.  And it has a bath!  I do miss having baths.  The view from the window is amazing and I walk out of the door straight onto the seafront.

Don’t get me wrong.  I adore my caravan.  It is home.  It has enabled me to change my life – at least for a little while.  And I am missing my daughters, my dog and my cats.  It is quite strange to be completely on my own.  But it is lovely to just be.  It is so pleasant to be able to leave the car and just walk to places (even though finding a place to park it in the first place was a bit fraught!).  Sitting here I can hear the sea and the church bells.

I know that I am particularly jittery and unsettled at the moment.  I find it difficult just to sit and reflect; meditation is nigh on impossible.  But I am hoping that this couple of weeks (with a few days of visiting family in the middle) will help to calm me.

Last night on the way to and from Dharma Study I walked along the seafront listening to music.  It was lovely.   I must do more of that.



Happy first birthday to Becoming More Tee


Well it has been a year!  A year ago today I wrote my first blog post.  It was about my walk with Pretzel.

I remember that weekend well.  I had been very miserable – lots of things were not going as I thought that they should!  I was in danger of giving in to it all and wallowing in sadness and depression.  But that Saturday morning I woke up and decided that things had to change.  I had to look at things differently.   I had to change what I could change and find a way of accepting what I couldn’t.  I spent most of the weekend setting up this blog.  Things hadn’t changed – the situation was still the same but I made up my mind to think differently about it all.

The mind is everything; what you think you become

Things have changed a bit since then. Everything is impermanent; nothing stays the same.   Some things I have managed to change for the better.  Some situations just got worse and new things are always surfacing.    Life is not perfect – but it never will be.  But I am handling it all better – well, most of the time.

I have just reread the “About Me” blurb for this blog.  I was considering rewriting it.  But – no!  It all still stands.  I am still on this incredibly difficult but exciting journey.  I still wander off my path all too often but get back to it and continue walking.  The man who showed me this path is, sadly, no longer very present in my life.  He reappears briefly now and then.  However, I am still so grateful to him.  I would not be where I am today without him.

I know that I haven’t been posting as much as I used to.  That isn’t because I am losing interest.  It is more that there are lots of things that I am still processing.  My thoughts are often not clear enough to be able to write about them in any coherent way.  But there are things coming up that I know I will want to write about so I am sure that there will be more posts soon.




Why hasn’t the bird stepped out of her cage and flown to freedom (Part 2)


I was talking with a friend – well messaging via Whatsapp actually rather than talking – yesterday and this morning.  This friend is an amazing man and always makes me think more deeply about myself and my life.  He is the one who introduced me to Buddhism in the first place so has witnessed a lot of my growth, frustrations, my journey.  He knows me very well, better than anyone in some ways.  Anyway as we were messaging I began to realise how much fear has played and is still playing in my life.  I knew that it was there (as discussed in Part 1 of this [possibly grandly named] mini series; but I hadn’t fully experienced how deeply seated it is.

In embracing Buddhism I have had to look deeply into myself and face what I am, how I have got to be how I am and accept it; not only accept it but to try to feel compassion and love (Metta) towards myself.  There is a lot in that which I won’t unpack completely here – it would take a book or two!   But what is relevant is this:  Buddhists believe that there is no set self as such.  The self is ever changing.  I might repeat the same behaviours, feel the same things etc over and over again but that is not because I am a set self.  When I studied the Self at University all of those years ago, the idea of a set self seemed prevalent and that is what I believed at the time: I am who I am; I may be able to tweak myself but I cannot fundamentally change. I seem to remember writing a few essays on the subject all with the same conclusion.  But now I see that I am who I am because of conditioning and how I have reacted to situation and events.   This means that I can change. Just saying “that’s who I am; I cannot change” does not cut it any more.

Back to the fear thing!  I think that fear has manifested itself and continues to try to manifest itself in many ways.  Fear of looking deep inside myself and facing what I might find; fear of doing something that is not conventional / not normal; fear of doing something new; fear of being someone new; fear of being alone; fear of doing things alone…..  So many ways in which fear has played a part in my life.  So many times I have moved towards a more authentic life, a life more suited to me – and so many times fear has played a part in pushing me right back on the same old path.

But not this time!  Now is the time when I accept the fears.  Accept that I am afraid.  Now is the time to confront those fears and to question them.  Look them in the eye.  I have made steps this year on my journey down this different path.  And I know that I need to rest here for a little while to do what I need and positively want to do now.  I need to work on myself, learn more about this Buddhist path that I am on and to reflect.  What I don’t need to do is to give in to my fears and go back to the same old well-trodden path to which I have always returned.

I have mentioned the fears involved in facing myself and what I am at the moment.  It means taking a long hard look at my reactions to events and situations over the years.  It can be so extremely uncomfortable to do this!  My past  behaviours, actions and emotions were often so flawed, so unskilful.  And yes – they often still are; I am just slightly better at using the gap between the event and my possible reactions to it.

Yes – fear has definitely helped to keep the bird in its cage.  I may have stepped outside of it a few times in the past but fear has pulled me right back in.  Now is the time to step outside and look around.  Ready for flight.

A year ago

I posted the picture at the top of this post onto my Instagram account a year ago. I look all smiley don’t I? I had just had my hair cut and coloured and loved it. But … at that time I wasn’t having the best time to say the least! What was happening? Well…

I was in a job which no longer gave me much satisfaction. I loved and admired many of the people I worked with but the job itself had changed. I was never made to be at the computer all day everyday! The service had changed; Children’s Centres were not as they were; families were not helped as they used to be; Health Visiting is still universal but….

There was a lot going on with my family and friends. Much illness and suffering. I felt that I was not able to help and support them as much as I should.

I was living through the long tortuous end to a relationship which, although short lived in time, was very precious to me.

But there were flashes of light! I had been going to the Sangha Evening for a couple of months and was making friends there. I was beginning to see myself as a Buddhist and knew that this was where I wanted to be. I was yet to take the step into becoming a Mitra but I knew this would happen some day.

Since then! I have become a Mitra and am now training for Ordination. I have sold my house and now live in a caravan which I love. My eldest daughter did fabulously in her GCSEs and is now at college. My other daughter is homeschooled which is much better for her. I left my job and am fortunate enough to be able to not work for a while.

Sad things happened … incredibly sad. My Dad becoming ill and passing away; my Mum having to move into a home. My childhood house is being sold. My Mum is so strong though and is making the most of her life.

So yes – a lot has happened since I posted that picture. It’s strange to think that, at that time – I hadn’t even had the thought of selling my house and leaving my job !

Nothing is permanent; everything changes

How did I ever live through it all before Buddhism?


Last week I was checking in at a Buddhist Group and I found myself wondering aloud, “Just how did I get through everything before Buddhism?”.  Before the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha came into my life?  Before I knew to go to refuge in these Three Jewels? How did I manage to survive this life before I was introduced to Buddhism?  How did I get through the constant struggles that life always presents us with?  How did I enjoy the good times which I knew would end?  How did I manage to be any way near happy and content through the struggles which seem to have hit over the past couple of years?

I can say how I attempted to do all of that.   Some of the ways were good or, at least not dreadful!.  I am fortunate that I have some incredibly good friends and we support each other.  My girls always helped just by being there just as my lovely Pretzel, JD and Smirnoff did.  A walk with Pretzel is always a great mood enhancer.  Having a cat or two on my lap is always lovely.  I would book holidays and have things to look forward to …  this was a good strategy as long as there was always something to look forward to.  It did mean that a lot of life wasn’t appreciated as I was always awaiting Friday evening or the holiday in the sun.  This strategy involved a lot of living in the future or recalling pleasant memories of the past but helped to get me through. There were other strategies too – alcohol was definitely a big help!  Not in large quantities but a few glasses of wine to numb the senses and dim the worry for a while.  I got involved in things – running, Power lifting….  exercise is always a good thing to do (unless done to excess which may have been a problem at times).  Boxsets were a feature – a way of forgetting about life for a while. 

These ways of living life weren’t bad in themselves – unless taken to excess.  Friendship, pets and family were always a positive feature in my life.  But now, looking back, a lot of my ways of coping seem to be very short-term strategies. They were strategies which took me away from my life, emotions and thoughts.  They took me away from me.  Life was passing me by because I wasn’t living in it properly!  I was always trying to numb it or to be somewhere else! 

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that I now try to live my life differently.  I don’t always succeed in living in the present but I am at least trying to do so.  Buddhism has given meaning to my life, a sense of purpose.  It also gives me ways of thinking about my life and thoughts on how to live it.  Buddhism doesn’t provide me with a step by step plan – I have to work all of that out for myself!  But it does provide pointers and methods!  All that I have done to change my life in the last year has been down to my new world-view – simplifying my life, putting myself and those I love ahead of convention and the supposedly safer way to live.  I still have a fair way to go but I have made a start.

Because I see life differently now, it feels more full of meaning.  Life is so precious!  It is so short and can end at any moment.  So I need to build a life which I love living rather than trying to escape it.  I need to live life fully and gratefully rather than craving something else.  And everything changes – those things which make us suffer will end at some point, or at least change.  And when something happens (the first arrow strikes), I don’t need to make it worse by firing that second arrow of worry and “why me?” at myself.  I now try to face it all head on and work my way through it.  (I try – doesn’t mean I always succeed!!).

I still use strategies for dealing with life when things aren’t going as well.  I still take Pretzel for a walk.  I still talk to friends (and my friendship circle has increased so much in the last year).  I still look forward to things.  I do all of that.  I still have the occasional glass of wine or watch a Boxset (NCIS is the current favourite) but I don’t do these to escape my life any more.  I do them because I want to do them for a little while.  But I have other ways now – meditation!  I never thought that I would be that person who has meditated at least once a day for over 130 days.  Meditation is so powerful – it calms my mind and provides a sense of peace and stillness.  Not always!  Sometimes meditation throws up important truths which bring temporary discomfort but lead to me being a better person eventually.  Mindfulness – trying to live in the present…  living with intention… trying to make each moment count.  This has led me back to doing some of the things I used to love to do but haven’t been able to concentrate on or have the energy for (reading, sewing, embroidery….). 

Yes – I am grateful to the Three Jewels and to the man who introduced me to them.  I definitely have a way to go but I am living my life a little better than I used to do.  I feel more.  I am living in my life more.  I am not just “getting by”.

No giving up

Well that was a week! Hospital tests involving starvation, potions and cameras going where cameras are definitely not wanted! But I was looked after well in the hospital. The staff were wonderful. Thank you NHS. A few things were found – but, as expected, nothing to explain my joint pain. So more tests I expect!

This week is also the start of a restructure at work. It’s not going to affect me I admit but it will affect some dear friends, wonderful colleagues and families in East Sussex. There will be lots of changes to the lives of many people – changes that they do not want in a lot of cases.

In the midst of all this I am starting to live again. To feel like me again – even to make a little progress in becoming more Tee. I am finding ways to manage the pain, and to structure my life around it. Morning meditation, for example requires a hot water bottle! There are things I can’t do – I cannot take my little Pretzel on a lot of long walks, I cannot drive 200 miles to see my Mum. But there is a lot I can do if I just try, push myself a little and believe that things are possible.

Back to the subject of friendship which I know I talk about a lot in this blog. I am so blessed to have some lovely friends. Those who check up on me, take me to and from hospital, invite me to dinner. The friend who reminded me of Mara – the demon who attacked and tempted the Buddha with everything he had. The Buddha sat still in peace and openness. And the words, arrows, weapons and pain drifted away from him as soft petals. And during this notice period I am realising how many friends I have made during my time with Children’s Centres. I must try to keep in touch with them.

My pets – they help! Well most of the time. They can be a pain admittedly especially when they want food NOW. But my cats – JD and Smirnoff are good for cuddles and very entertaining to watch as they play. Pretzel – also very cuddly and fun to be with.

I still feel sorry for myself at times. Who doesn’t? But it’s ok. Suffering is intrinsic to human life. And things could be an awful lot worse! There are also a lot of things to be thankful for.

And – This too shall pass.

So no giving up! Acceptance of what cannot be changed; taking action where it will be helpful. Trying to attain the perfect blend of Kshanti and Virya – patience and energy.

What do we do when life is “out to get us”?

Mornings are difficult at the moment. This is sad because I am, naturally, a morning person. I am used to getting out of bed, getting dressed and taking Pretzel for a 5k walk. I would come back ready to face the day…

But now I cannot do that. For some reason – yet to be explained – my body is letting me down. During the night it seizes up and, by morning, I am in pain. Neck, shoulders, back, hands and fingers, legs, knees, feet – all locked. Getting out of bed takes a while!! During the day the pain is always there… I cannot use my hands properly, walk totally upright or turn my head… but mornings are the worst.

I try very hard not to let it get me down. I am trying to do something about it – going through loads of tests. I am about to start investigating possible food allergies. I am trying to stretch, keep moving, use painkillers. But I am getting grumpy. I feel angry that I have come through a lot of stress, done a lot to change my life – just for this to happen. It is very tempting to just be totally grumpy, to feel sorry for myself and to give up. And sometimes I do just for a little while (especially first thing in the morning).

But I’m not giving up. There are things I can do about it – find out what is wrong. See if I have some intolerances to food. Try to keep calm. Try to keep living my life. Keep using the hot water bottle on my joints. Keep meditating. Ask friends for help when I need it (I am so bad at that). And remember that “this too shall pass”.

I’m not writing this for sympathy or anything. There are a lot of people out there, reading this who are a lot worse off than me. I am writing this because it is part of my journey. And this blog was never intended to be just about the good bits. This is how it is at the moment. And I can choose how to deal with it. First thing in the morning my actions and thoughts are not skilful – but I am trying and some mornings I manage to face calmly (SOME). I am trying to keep my sense of humour.

Life always involves some element of suffering. And, sometimes, the suffering threatens to take over. I allow myself to be bad tempered. I spend a lot of time apologising to people and pets. But I have choices about how to deal with it all. And life is better when I face and live it skilfully.

This too shall pass!

The truth of life

The truth of life is that everyone will die. That’s the one thing we have that we can be sure of. Yet – when it looks like it will happen soon – the pain and sadness is so great and it comes as a shock even though all the signs are there.

My Dad is growing weaker. But he has accepted this. His wish is to leave this world peacefully – so we are doing all we can to make that happen. That’s all that we can do.

All being well…


So many thoughts going on in my head today.  I have been realising this week  that there is so much going on in my life, so much that can cause stress and pain.  I know that there is always suffering; that no one’s life is perfect.  I know that there are many people who are suffering way more than me.  But, for me personally, I am becoming aware of just how much is going on with me and people I love and care for.    This means that there is an underlying sense of anxiety every day.  When the phone rings there is the real possibility that there is bad news.  Every day there is the possibility that there is even more suffering in store for the people I love most.  It means that I can never plan anything with certainty (as if anyone ever can!  But that just seems to be more true at the moment). For me it has led to a feeling that there is a lot to bear.  That the worldly winds are battering me and just won’t stop.  That there are different stresses, people, situations pulling at me for my attention, for my time, for my thoughts.

And there is guilt!  Because there are moments when I am happy / content / at peace.  Not everything is going wrong!  A lot seems to be going very well.  I (very selfishly?) went on the retreat I have had booked for months at the weekend.  A weekend of peace and inspiration which meant that I have come back to my world with more calmness and purpose.  I have moments in meditation when all just clears away and I am just me.  I laugh with friends.  I become immersed in a book.  I become utterly involved in the latest episode of “Call the Midwife”.

Her ears looked so funny this morning!

Walking Pretzel this morning was lovely.  I look at all of the stresses from a Buddhist perspective and feel calm – but, because I am not perfect, I feel guilt about not feeling more stressed and anxious about it all in that moment!  Yes – I am weird!  I am not even sure  I have explained that at all well.

I write a lot about what I am learning that is helping me through.  How I am learning to go to refuge to the Three Jewels – the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha.  This is becoming increasingly important to me.  I have also written a lot about changing what I can change.  Choosing a different path which may lead to a better, more fulfilled life.

This week I have been feeling particularly fragile.  But I am standing firm.  Staying calm.  Three “things” are helping.  The first is something that a dear friend said on retreat – when we plan things we cannot be sure that they will happen.  I might want to meet a friend for coffee on Saturday but I may have an emergency trip to Hereford or I might feel ill or a hundred and one other things.  The most we can say is “We will meet on Saturday all being well“.  I was reminded of that phrase again last night and it helps.  It helps keep things in perspective.

The second is individual friendship.  Last night I went to the Sangha night and was immediately enveloped in warmth and love.  It was a beautiful healing, calming atmosphere.  However, the one thing that helped me the most last night was the big hug that I got from a friend. I was leaving at the end of the meeting and he stopped what he was doing and just hugged me.  My friendships are becoming increasingly important to me.  Those people who just text or call me to see how I am.  Those people who never fail to check in with me.  Those hugs, those words of understanding.  These friends cannot change what is going on but I am so comforted by their presence.  Interacting with them, talking with them and listening to their stresses, their happy times, their adventures through life help me greatly.  They make me feel connected to the world.  I feel great love / metta.  There have been times this week where I feel that I have been helpful to others which makes me feel warm and useful – it gives me purpose.

And the third.  This came to me at the retreat.  I have to just let some things be.  I just have to accept what is sometimes.  A particular friendship which feels difficult – I can just let it lie for a while.  See what happens.  Just stop trying so hard.

I will stop here.  There is so much more to explore in everything I have said but enough for now.  If you are one of the people still reading this blog –  thank you xx

I have just had a lovely text from a friend which has warmed my heart and made me smile.