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.

Mindfulness on a dog walk


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).


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”.

Sangha Evening


Usually Sangha evenings are led by Order Members – those people with the Kesa around their neck with special spiritual names who have spent years in training.  I am in training to be one of those ordained members but am nowhere near there yet.   But this evening was led by a group of us Mitras.  A Mitra is a term meaning “Friend”.  Not all of us are planning to be ordained but we have all gone through a ceremony in which we say that we see ourselves as Buddhists in the Triratna tradition and pledge to follow the five precepts as well as we can.

I arrived at the Deerfold Centre tonight not in the best of moods.  I wasn’t feeling well and I was having doubts about what I am doing (not in terms of Buddhism but in terms of work etc).  There are a few things that are worrying me.  If I wasn’t involved in the leading of the meeting, I might well have not gone this evening.  I am so pleased that I did.

So this evening started as always with the Sangha Night Team which includes Order Members and Mitras setting up the shrine, meditation mats and chairs.  We all do a check in before the rest arrive.    So we checked in,  I shared some of my worries and doubts – and was met with such love and kindness.  By the time the evening started I was already feeling more balanced and at peace.

The two guys leading the first half were fantastic.  One led the salutation of the Shrine and the Refuges and Precepts.  These are difficult because they have to be timed just right and are in Pali!  One led the Mindfulness of Breathing meditation – he had a difficult job because there were a couple of new people there this evening so it needed a proper introduction and commentary.  Both did so well!  A female Mitra led the second half giving a fabulous talk on Puja.  Puja means worship.  I have had difficulty connecting to Puja in the past – it is going beyond the intellectual and the emotional to the spiritual.  We split into groups to discuss it further before I led the Worship and Salutation in call and response.  One Mitra had the job of leading the mantra – he had been practising it all week.  It has a rhythm and tune to it which has to be done precisely – he did it perfectly.  I ended the evening leading the Transference of Merits.  It was a first for us all but we had such great support from the Order Members and the rest of the Sangha.

It was a truly inspirational and beautiful evening which demonstrated perfectly the benefits of practising together.  I left the evening feeling much more relaxed and less stressed about the decisions I have made and those which I will have to make.  I left feeling supported and held.  I feel so grateful that I was introduced to Buddhism and the Dharma (just over a year ago).

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.


Ah the joy of being with the lovely women at my Dharma training course this evening. The care with which they treated me. The hugs they freely gave. Their listening ears.

Chanting the refuges and precepts, listening to the lovely poems, one especially chosen for me, the short but powerful meditation .., these all acted like a lovely cool balm.

And talking about spiritual friendships and the importance of the Sangha. Discussing, reflecting… sharing thoughts and experiences.

A lovely calm beautiful evening in the midst of the stress and sadness of this time.

My first retreat


I came back from my first retreat earlier today, a few hours ago.  The world outside of the retreat centre seems loud and busy;  I feel a little disoriented.  It was a life changing weekend in which I fully realised my path.

This morning – just after I got out of bed – I wrote a diary entry.  Here it is:

I am writing this through the period of silence which started last night after the beautiful Puja and is carrying on through this morning’s meditation until breakfast.  My back hurts, my hand can hardly hold the pen but I am deeply content and happy.  Not happy in the euphoric, roller coaster, worldly sense, but in the way of being at peace.

There are so many things I can write about this weekend – the people, the shrine room (which still makes me gasp even though I have spent quite some time in it now), the beauty of Rivendell itself… My deepening sense of belonging in this Buddhist world.  I could talk about how blessed I feel to have been introduced to this community and how joyous it has made me to feel useful to others.  This is an introductory retreat so people are new to Buddhism.  A few people have come up to me, given me a hug and told them how I have helped them over the weekend.  

Three main thoughts:

  1. I have felt a dissonance / disconnection between my need to stay calm and walk / sail my course through the onslaught of the worldly winds which batter and torment me and the need to feel love / compassion – metta.  This weekend I feel the love.  I feel compassion.  I thought that I would spend some time reading but have not opened a book.  I have recommended books to others but have put to one side the strongly intellectual part of me which always seems to take over.  Not deliberately.  It just happened that way.  So instead I have been immersing myself in friendship, meditation, love, discussion,  I can feel my love returning,  It hadn’t gone away it had just got trapped as someone suggested to me.  Saturday morning during a meditation I could feel tears running down my face.  That was the breakthrough.  I have felt a deepening love and friendship with those I already knew and have a connection with.  I have made new friends and feel love for everyone here.  My heart is connecting with the world again.  The importance of Sangha.
  2. I wanted to go on a couple of solitary retreats this year.  May still do so.  But I think that these group retreats will be much more beneficial to me for a while.  I need to develop my connections and love for the Sangha.  I grow through love, friendship and discussion.  Solitary retreats hold a danger for me – that I will just revert solely to my intellectual self.  My intellectual self is  an important part of me but I need to work in my Sangha.
  3. One day I will be ordained.  I have an important role model in a very dear friend who gave a talk last night.  I want to help others through this journey, along this path.  I feel that this is what I am meant to do.  Not yet.  When the conditions are right.

I will need to reflect on this retreat over the coming days and weeks.  I have already booked my next one.

Alternative Boxing Day

This evening I went to a Buddhist meeting. This meeting happens every Wednesday and is usually quite well attended. I would say about 20 / 25 people. It wasn’t going to happen today as it is Boxing Day and people tend to be busy. But it did go ahead. 7 of us turned up. After the Metta Bhavana meditation we had tea then sat in a circle and just talked! Talked about change and what that meant as Buddhists. We talked about very personal things. We understood each other. We empathised. We laughed. It was an evening that I will always remember.

Avoiding the roller coaster… thoughts on an early morning walk with Pretzel

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.



Today has been a different sort of day.  It has been an extremely wet and miserable day – one of those designed to put anyone in a bad mood.  A day which makes sensible people retreat indoors with a hot drink and a box set.  Me being me – I have been out on a couple of walks and have got soaked each time.  The first time I took a very grumpy Pretzel and the second time I took pity on her and went on my own.  I think that she may have forgiven me by now.

Today has been a thinking, reflecting, growing sort of day.    I have been listening to and learning from some very spiritually aware people.

I started the day with a Metta Meditation led by Tara Brach.  This was a lovely meditation led by a very softly spoken woman.  Follow this link to learn more about her –

 I then listened to Russell Brand’s podcast with Tony Robbins on my first walk this morning – a very different experience.  The energy coming off these two inspiring men was insane!  This is well worth a listen!

Later,  I went onto Discovery 5 and watched a couple of episodes of Ben Fogle’s “New Lives in the Wild”.  Randi, the first Norwegian woman to climb Everest was delightful!  So charismatic and happy; such a courageous and spirited woman.

It is now early evening and I am looking forward to watching “Strictly Come Dancing” with my girls.  It is musical night so should be amazing to watch.  I admire those celebrities so much – how do they learn to dance like that?

Today has been a day which has made me even more determined to keep to my path.  To learn from and follow the Dharma and to learn to be happy  myself and to help others be happy too.    Tara Brach, Russell Brand, Tony Robbins, Ben Fogle, Randi – thank you for your inspiration.