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.



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”.


I must admit that it is tempting just to keep counting down the few weeks until I leave work. But I am trying not to. I am striving to live in the present moment, see the beauty in my life, count my blessings and to stay calm when my natural inclination is to be irritated or annoyed.

Apart from the aches and pain (which I think about, speak about and worry about far too often) my life is so good at the moment. I spend a lot of time with my daughter, with friends, with my dog and cats… This evening was lovely – I spent it with a lovely woman who is so kind, relaxed and inspirational. Tomorrow I will be at Brighton Buddhist Centre celebrating Wesak with some very good friends. And today I reconnected with someone so precious who I thought was lost. Friendship is so very important to me.

So I will ignore the aches and pains. I will ignore the fact that my outdoor lights don’t seem to be working (sob) and I will even stay calm as my two fat ginger cats meow and pester me for food.

I love my caravan. I love my daughters, my friends, my pets. In six weeks my life will be different; I am so looking forward to the challenge of new routines, home schooling and getting some part time work. I look forward to the freedom, the opportunities to travel, the time to read, the time to “just be”.

All is good. I need to stay calm and present. I need to rejoice in my life. I need to continue on my Buddhist path; continue to become “more Tee”.

At last a little normality and space

I saw a woodpecker today – feeding on the suet balls that someone had hung on a tree outside my caravan. I didn’t believe it at first but he kept coming back. It’s hard to explain or even know why this made me so happy and excited. The last time I saw one was years ago when I lived in the country – four woodpeckers – mum, dad and two babies – pecking at the grass. And then there was a squirrel 🐿 hanging upside down trying to get at the feeders. Of course, I have seen plenty of these in the last few years at the park. Was still exciting to see it from my settee though!  I wouldn’t even have noticed these things a few days ago!

Concentrating on my work properly today – catching up on emails and ticking a couple of things off my to do list.  Arranging long over due meetings.  And a trip around the supermarket with my daughter – doing a proper shop;  a planned shop.  Not just a supermarket dash type affair for a few random things.  A leisurely shower.  Managing to read a chapter of a book without falling asleep.

I feel as if I am slowly escaping the stress of the past few weeks.  I am still tired.  I still ache.  The bruise on my ribs from where I fell off off the chair I was standing on is still in evidence – and hurts.  But I have experienced some normal.

And I love this life.  The caravan needs some tweaks (decking outside to prevent a very naughty, speedy little Pretzel from escaping, a bigger fridge freezer, better beds for my girls…) but it is home.  My daughters still need chance to get used to it – the smallness of the bedrooms and the eccentricities of the shower.

So I can see a few more days adjusting, trying to catch up on sleep and then I can continue my journey properly.  Of course, this has all been part of my journey but now I can be more intentional again.

The joys of normality and space.

Another busy day


Another day of unpacking and trying to find a home for far to much stuff!  I still cannot work out how to use the oven so no pizza for me this evening!  Pretzel has escaped three times because she just dashes out the door at top speed whenever it is opened…  Need to get the fenced decking sorted so that she is better contained.  And I have looked at the launderette – so complicated!  What is this card I have to use?  Arghhh.

Despite the tedious unpacking and the odd problems, I have had a good day.  I have no deadline – for the first time in weeks.  I can get things done at my own pace.  I enjoyed my short trip into Hastings.  I enjoyed waking around the site with Pretzel trying to get my bearings.  I now have caravan envy – some of the vans are so wonderful.  I have found some ideas for decking though.  Lots of people were siting outside today in the sunshine.  Some were sitting at the Club House – I haven’t ventured there yet.  Would be a lot nicer with someone to go with.  I am currently Billy No Mates lol.

I am falling in love with this place.  My van is in a really good spot…  Not too noisy.  I like the compactness of it.  I stayed with a friend who lives in a 4 berth touring van a couple of times last year – I loved the simplicity of it.   I remember it as a very peaceful home.  My van is a lot bigger and I have so much more stuff!  And I will have two teenagers living here too.  But I still love it.  The site is strangely quiet considering its size and the number of families who live here.  and all of the vans and plots are different.  I loved the little bit of Hastings I experienced too.  I am excited to see more.

As I was unpacking, I started realising that there is a lot of things that I haven’t had a chance to do recently – reading, crochet, walking.  I want to do more art – maybe mandalas.  I have not had the chance to meet up with friends.  I haven’t meditated enough.  I haven’t been to the park or the beach.  I have missed so many Sangha nights because I was in Hereford.    I haven’t even cooked myself proper meals.   My life has consisted of driving, packing, grieving and organising…   And today I realised that I had got into the habit of collapsing on the settee at the end of the day with Netflix / Amazon Prime and a drink.  Not skillful at all.  I have also realised that it is going to be very difficult to get back into good habits / skillful living again.





Every item is useful and brings me joy.

I have been watching “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things” on Netflix.  A very timely viewing experience!

I have been decluttering.  Getting rid of things so that I can move from a three bedroomed house into a caravan with ease and tranquility.  It will be quite a large caravan admittedly.  But it will contain all that I own.  And there will be three of us living there plus a dog, two cats and a hamster.  I found the first trawl through the house relatively easy.  It is a joy to rid myself of things that have not seen the light of day for years or have just been sitting on a shelf unloved and unappreciated.  I enjoy giving items to friends or donating them to charity shops because they will be used.  I am looking forward to having a space which is clutter free and attractive to the eye.  A calm space.  A space which houses beautiful, joyful and useful things.

However – I am getting to the tough part now.  The part where real decisions have to be made.  To the part where I have to be a little bit ruthless.  How many pairs of jeans do I NEED?  I am making the decision to have 10 books (I have a kindle) – 5 are chosen; how do I make a decision about the rest?  How many plates, glasses, saucepans?  What do I do with my pictures which are precious to me but difficult to hang in a caravan which has less wall space anyway?  What about that ornament that was a present from a friend?

Sometimes (but not very often and only for a few seconds), I wonder why I am doing it.  The caravan will be quite big.  The caravan will have storage space.  There can be a few things out on the sides.  However, I know that it is important to do this.  I do not need all of those things to feel happy.  A calm, tranquil place with space and clutter free will make me feel more at peace.  I do not want to continue to be attached to things. I feel that minimalism fits well with Buddhism. It’s about living mindfully. Not having and buying lots of things just for the sake of it,  just to feel (temporarily) happy. It’s about being free to live a more meaningful and ethical life.  It doesn’t mean that I cannot live comfortably.  It doesn’t mean that I cannot have lovely, beautiful things. I want my home to be comfortable to live in and to visit.  I want to make my home beautiful and pleasing to the eye.   It just means that I will try not to have more than I need to be and feel comfortable.

So I will continue making the difficult decisions knowing that, in the end, they will be relatively simple.


And it now feels real…


So I have done it – my house is on the market.  It is happening!  After a completely insane Christmas and New Year clearing and decorating, my house is finally on the market.  It did not seem very real until I came home at lunchtime and there was the For Sale sign in my garden.

It’s exciting.  I have taken the first step in moving towards a simpler life.   It is the first step in living a better life.   It is ever so slightly scary!  But it feels right.

So now starts the waiting game…


Looking forward to 2019

Goodbye 2018 / Welcome 2019

I tend to avoid New Year’s Eve parties.  I have never really enjoyed them.  But I see the point of them – saying goodbye to the year that is past and welcoming in the New Year.   Some people don’t like the divide between one year and the next; they see it as a false construct or as a sign that another year has gone and that they are nearer death.   Some see the making of New Year’s resolutions as pointless or as just being something else to worry about.

I have always looked back at the year that has passed and I do make resolutions for the year to come.  I think it is a useful construct especially this year.  It is the opportunity to look at where I am on my journey and consider what I can do better/ differently to travel in the right direction, enjoy the walk, take pleasure in the scenery.  At the same time I am looking at where I am now… there is a lot of happiness in my life and there is sadness.  I need to live in the present – to appreciate the now but in my “now” I can do things which will help my future and aid my happiness.

I have been listening to Tony Robbins podcast with Russell Brand this morning.  They were discussing “Recovery” which I have written about before.  It has been good to refresh my memory and increase my understanding of the Russell’s interpretation of the 12 steps.  One of the most useful ideas is the view that addictions can be anything – any behaviour that I really want to stop, that I feel uncomfortable about doing but somehow keep on with.  This is alcohol but is also attachment to social media, TV, a particular person.  Working through the 12 steps can help with these and any addictions.

Russell and Tony ascribe to the idea that we are entitled to be happy.  We have to look at what we believe happiness to be though. True happiness is not short term pleasure – that is fleeting; impermanent.  According to Tibetan Buddhism, the two main things we need to be happy are mindful awareness and loving compassion.  Compassion / loving kindness / metta for ourselves and for other beings.  These can be built by meditation through which we can overcome negative thoughts and habitual emotional responses – we can start to live from a calmer, more peaceful place.

So, in 2019, I will continue the journey which I started this year.  I believe that I can change myself, change my thinking and that I am responsible for my own happiness.  How I think and how I respond to my emotions will dictate my degree of happiness.  I am walking the Buddhist path as best that I can.  I have practical steps which I have started to take.  I will practise the 5 precepts (see below), meditate and use Russell’s interpretation of the 12 steps to help me rid myself of addictions / negative behaviour and to develop more skillful thinking and behaviours.   Buddhism, the 12 steps see the goal as living a life that is compassionate, serving others.  In the podcast this morning, Russell and Tony both described how helping others takes you outside of yourself and brings happiness.

I cannot expect the journey to be linear – there will be meandering, backward steps. But I shall remember what the words of a friend – “We practise the 5 precepts the best that we can; we are all practising.  None of us is perfect”.  What matters is that we try.

So 2018 has not been a great year in many ways.  BUT it is the year in which I changed my path – started this journey.  It is the year in which I got up off the floor and started moving.  It is the year in which the walls which I had built up came tumbling down.  It is the year in which I started to take control.

In 2019 I will continue my journey to become more Tee…

Happy New Year!

The Five Precepts 

  1. I undertake to abstain from taking life
  2. I undertake to abstain from taking the not-given
  3. I undertake to abstain from sexual misconduct
  4. I undertake to abstain from false speech
  5. I undertake to abstain from taking intoxicants/drink and drugs which cloud the mind
  1. With deeds of loving-kindness, I purify my body
  2. With open-handed generosity, I purify my body
  3. With stillness, simplicity and contentment, I purify my body
  4. With truthful communication, I purify my speech
  5. With mindfulness clear and radiant, I purify my mind

Bin bag city

Well I am fast getting rid of loads of “stuff”. It appears that my house is / was full of all sorts of things that were never used / never appreciated. I am on a mission to get rid of clutter – to simplify my life. The things that I will keep will be extremely useful or extremely beautiful – preferably both. I don’t need all of these things…