Why hasn’t the bird stepped out of her cage and flown to freedom (Part 3)

Convention  Realisation!

All of the reasons for living the life that I was living are all tied up together like a bag of tangled wool.  I did what I thought I should do because of fear, because of fear of going against convention which all led to a distinct lack of imagination.  Now I am not berating myself for that any more.  I chose what I chose and I have had  / am having such a good life overall.   My intention here is not to look back and feel regret but to learn from what it all.  I want to live a life in which I am true to what I want and which is helpful to others.  I am trying to live less selfishly and more open to the needs of other people. I need to feel a certain amount of freedom to be able to do this.

What I do not want to do is to continue around the same wheel.  I need to get off the wheel and start the spiral; in fact I have, I think, stepped a little off the wheel.  I just have to live mindfully and make decisions carefully;  I cannot afford to slip backwards!

I know that I have lived a lot of my life according to how I think I should live.  Convention; what is right.  I was brought up to think that the aim of life is to get a reasonable job, get married, have children and go on holiday once a year.  That’s what my parents wanted for me.  Now – they wanted that for me because that is the right way to live but also because they were so happy living that way.   My Mum and Dad lived for each other and for their family and friends.  Because that was the way in which they wanted to live, their life left them free to help others.  They were always doing things for others.  My Mum still does whatever she can although her ability to do this is restricted now.  There must be a lot of elderly people in Hereford who are missing the hot meals and cakes which Mum used to make for them.

This post started off looking at convention and my need to conform.  But, just now I have changed the title to “Realisation”.  As I was writing about my Mum and Dad, I saw that they chose the life they led in many ways – it was the life they wanted!  Ok, they were, as we all are, constrained by circumstances such as lack of money, illness …  but they did live authentically.  They were true to themselves.   And part of that life was looking after family and friends.

I  keep talking in the past tense.  Over the last couple of years, life changed so much for them and now Mum is on her own.  The life that she was living with Dad has gone.  But my Mum still carries on living life as fully as she can.  Her friendships continue; her faith continues; her determination not to wallow in sadness and grief continues.  My Mum still cares for the people around her and does what she can to make their day better whether they are the Home Staff, fellow residents, family or friends.  There are such a lot of lessons to be learnt from my Mum.


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”.

Garden Part Three — OOPS I mean Garden Part Four


I am going to talk about my actual garden – well the plot on which my caravan stands.  In thinking through plans for this garden, I can see how all of the decisions, planning and action can be applied to my life.

I had a plan for my garden.  I wanted a large decking area which could be accessed directly from the caravan door.  I wanted a fence around it with a gate so that my little Pretzel dog could not escape every time I attempted to exit the caravan.  I wanted comfortable garden furniture, some plants and lots of twinkling fairy lights.  I wanted the trees and shrubs around the plot to stay with minimal pruning.  I know that they shade the garden quite heavily but I love the colour, the rich greenery, the birds and the squirrels.  I wanted one side to stay as the parking area and for the rest to be gradually filled with plants, bird tables and a bird bath.  That was the plan.  It was a solid plan.  It took into account the Park rules, the conditions of the plot, the needs of my escapee dog and my likes / dislikes.

So I started with the most expensive, biggest part of the plan – the decking.  And that is there.  The decking has furniture, lights, a lovely calm Buddha and flowers.  It is there.  I am so pleased with it.  I am quite surprised as to how dirty it gets – but it is cream after all.  I can live with that.  The day has to be very hot for me to be able to sit outside because it is very shaded but – again – that is ok! After all I have jumpers and blankets.  I love my decking.  I love the twinkling lights and my calm Buddha statue.  All is good.

But … as so often in life – I think that I have to change my plan for the rest of the garden.  My circumstances have changed beyond my control and so I have to alter my plans to allow for them.  Basically the garden I wanted to create would mean some hard work.  Lots of digging and planting.  It would also require lots of maintenance.  And all of that is a problem for me now.  My joints and back are conspiring against me to the point where I can barely lift a kettle half full of water let alone dig a garden.  I do not yet have a diagnosis but I cannot believe that this will all suddenly go away!.  So I have to be accepting that I may not be able to have exactly the garden that I want.  I have to admit to being disappointed.  I must admit to having sulked quite a bit!  But I have to look at what is possible and work with that.  I can still have the trees, the birds and the squirrels but will have to come up with a less high maintenance plan for the garden itself.  And this is what happens in life isn’t it?  We have dreams, aspirations and plans but we do not know for sure that they will be possible. It is good to have a plan – but we cannot get too firmly attached to that plan.  We do not know what is going to happen.  We cannot take anything for granted.  So I need to stop and reconsider.  And it may be that my garden will end up even better than I originally wanted.


Garden Part Three

So last year I took a long hard look at my garden / my life. People I love were suffering and I felt quite powerless to help in any real way. I was in a job that I used to love but now felt wrong. I had to carry on working to pay the mortgage on a house that had served its purpose. I fell in love only for that relationship to break down in a way that I still cannot comprehend. I took a long look at the good aspects of my life – my girls who were / are turning into beautiful young women both inside and out; some wonderful friends. Some parts of my garden were lovely. But I had no sense of direction. I had no real sense of what I wanted my garden to look like. I could just see the years stretching out – I couldn’t see a goal. I couldn’t see a path. I had no plan of any sort.

But then I was introduced to Buddhism, the three jewels. Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. And a purpose, a direction for my life became clearer. I knew that I wanted my garden to be a place where others could rest, could find comfort, could relax and rebuild their lives. I wanted to live a life in service to others – to my family, my friends, to all beings. In order to do this I had to make big changes. I had to find a way to rebuild my garden. To establish firm foundations.

So I have a general idea of how I want my garden to look. What I want to achieve with it. Some things can be started immediately ( have been started) whilst others will take some time. In his talk Subhadassi discussed the importance of not rushing things. He gave an example of wanting to lay a path. But if you just jumped in and laid it without looking at the conditions and observing the area in different seasons, an ill sited path may flood in heavy rain. The importance of observing, taking time. But there has to be a balance – taking time cannot mean procrastination. It is the delicate balance between kshanti and virya – patience and energy.

So yes the foundations of my garden are in progress. I have made use of the good things that were already in place – as I have said, some parts of my garden were pleasing to the eye. And some things in my garden cannot be eradicated – the two firmly established blossom trees that have taken time and effort but provide such pleasure. Smaller bushes. Some of my garden brought and still brings great pleasure.

Garden – Part Two


I guess that, in some ways, it doesn’t really matter if the garden is new to me or if I have always been in it.  The point is that there is a garden and I am in charge of it.  But I think that the garden is my life and how I choose to live my life is reflected in the garden in all of its aspects.  So this has always been my garden.  I like to think of this garden as a large, sprawling kind of garden with lots of different parts.   Full shade in some areas, sunny during a lot of the day in others.  Boggy, heavy, clay like soil leading to the overgrown pond but drier soil under the trees. A garden in which there is room to grow, to explore the potential.  A garden which could, if properly looked after, provide quiet spaces for contemplation and rest; spots for nature watching, vegetable plots etc etc.  A garden which shows previous attempts to tame it, to make it a beautiful place to be.  Maybe a beautiful tree that continues to flourish, or some flowers that bloom year after year.  Maybe I have put some effort (of the right kind) into some parts of  the garden ….  but not so much in others.  Overgrown flower beds, uneven and broken paths are in evidence.  Maybe an old potting shed or two.

So there came a point last year when I stopped and took a proper look at my garden.  How was it doing?  Was it full of beauty or at least functional?  And, as might be apparent, to anyone who has read at least some of this blog, I found that my garden /  my life was entirely unsatisfactory in most of its aspects.  Some parts of the garden were falling into neglect and disrepair.  Some of the garden looked quite pretty on the surface but these were small flowerbeds filled with temporary, garish annuals.  Other parts of the garden were functional – these parts “did the job” but were not pleasurable to be in or to look at.

It was time to take stock and decide what I wanted my garden to look like.  What I wanted my life to look like.

My mind map.. It started off so tidy and pretty! But I leave it on the table and add to it whenever I have another idea!

So – there we have it – part two of the garden metaphor.  I am sorry if I am boring you with it but I am quite enjoying writing it.   It is making me use my brain, to think more imaginatively – something that I have not done in a long time!



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”.

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.