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.

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).

Tonight I saw more of the beauty of the Sangha


I have been thinking about this evening’s Sangha meeting all of the way home and then when I took Pretzel out for her evening walk.  Trying to process it all – trying to push through the confusion, sense of shock and deep sadness that I felt, feel.  I have no real understanding of how many of the people at the Sangha night were and are feeling.  The shock, confusion and sorrow were plain to see on their faces and in their words but I cannot comprehend the depth.

An Order Member had taken her own life at the weekend.  I had met her only briefly, once and not really to say more than “Hello”.  For some of the people there tonight, she was a beloved friend of many years.  They had been together in study groups,  Going for Refuge groups and in Kula groups.  They had shared so much.

The evening was devoted to her.  A recent picture of her with her beloved dog was placed on the shrine.  Many spoke of their memories of her. She seems to have been a remarkable woman – energetic, determined, so committed to the Dharma.  She appears to have been very creative, imaginative.  A woman with ideas flowing from her, a woman who saw things differently from others.  Apparently she could be outspoken and forthright.  One Order Member described how everyone always knew when she was in the room.  I wish that I had known her – she seems to have been such an inspirational woman.

Those who knew her well looked after each other this evening, as they will continue to do for as long as is needed.  They mostly sat together, sometimes touching each other, holding hands, sharing their memories of her.  As one spoke, others nodded in agreement and, often, they smiled.  One memory would lead to another.

Throughout the evening there was a distinct air of sadness, shock and confusion, as I have already said.  Tears ran down the faces of many. This lovely woman had seemed to be excited about new projects; she had given no indication that this would happen.  If anyone had noticed anything, she would have had their love and support to help her and cherish her.  I know the process of becoming an Order Member is long and intensive.  The would-be Order Member has to look deeply within her or himself; undergo counselling if needed.  I am just at the start of this journey and know that I will have to go through a lot of soul-searching, delve deeply into my own story and resolve issues that I may have once preferred to keep buried.  And those in the Sangha are so caring and supportive of each other.  There are always opportunities to “check in” and say how things are feeling today, at this moment.  It is so rare for an Order Member to take her / his own life – so rare.  Which makes this so much more tragic, so much more confusing and so very sad.

The Sangha evening was filled with Metta.  I could tell that even those people who had never met her were so touched by the memories of her.  The love that  these women and men have for each other shone through this evening.

As I sat this evening, joining in with the meditation, the chanting of the refuges and precepts, the threefold puja, the mantra, I realised a new love for this Sangha, for those people who are in the Sangha with me.  I am in the Sangha.  I feel its warmth and affection.  The Sangha is one of the Three Jewels – one of the three refuges – one of the three “things” that I can trust to be there for me along with the Buddha and the Dharma.  I feel so honoured, so fortunate to be part of this group of men and women.

A very sad yet beautiful evening.  One that has touched me so deeply.  I know that I will remember those couple of hours for a very long time, probably forever.  I hope that, in time, this remarkable woman’s friends and family come to terms with what has happened to her and manage to achieve some peace.

To Karunabala – with metta

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.

Doing my best


These two weeks are tough. Trying to come to terms with my Dad’s death, arranging his funeral with my brother, trying to support my mum. A few 200 mile trips to Hereford. And moving house at the same time. I must admit to being beyond tired.  In among all of that have been the days I have actually got to work – look at data, answer emails and go to meetings.   Sleep isn’t really happening – well not enough of it anyway. I just want some “normal”.

I am constantly reminding myself that my house sale is a good thing!  It may be stressful at the moment but it is the doorway to a different way of living.  So I must remember that this is a new positive beginning.

In many ways I am handling it all “ok” – much better than I would have done before I found Buddhism – the three jewels have helped me tremendously.  I have been able to feel the emotion of it all more than I would have done in the past whilst still handling it. I have been a better support to Mum I think.  And to my girls who loved their Grandad.

My friends – both Buddhist and otherwise have been amazingly supportive.  One looking after Pretzel even though she can be a bit of a pain (cute but still a pain!).  Another helping me with loads of tip runs.  This practical support has made it all possible.  Hugs / emails / texts / sympathy cards all help me to feel loved and cared about.  One lovely lovely friend cooked me dinner and we just talked.  Many friends have offered practical help which may well be taken up!

So yes I am handling it.  It shows me that I have moved at least a little way in my quest to become more Tee.   I know that I could help myself more – be more skillful in my actions.  More meditation would be better than the few glasses of wine to which I have succumbed.  I could be eating more healthily.   But I have to accept that I am not perfect – far from it!

These two weeks will pass.  They are just a moment in time.  I just have to take each moment as it comes and try to act as skillfully as possible.


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.

Becoming a Mitra


I am writing this just as I am getting ready to go to my Mitra Ceremony. I am looking forward to making the public declaration that I am a Buddhist. That I am practising the Dharma. That I want to be a Buddhist within the Triratna community. I look forward to declaring this within the Eastbourne Sangha.

There is one person who I wish could be with me this evening to witness this. The man who introduced me to all of this in the first place. He changed my life. He showed me the path which I now walk. So I would have liked him with me this evening. But he has wished me well and will be thinking of me.

After the ceremony

What an amazing, inspirational, beautiful, magical evening. I felt surrounded by love and support. A lovely friend who has been with me throughout my Buddhist journey surprised me by coming along. People stood up and said such lovely things about me – about my conviction, my energy. They called me a warrior and one praised me for my courage. We did a three stage Metta Bhavana meditation- and the second stage was centred on me. The tears threatened to flow.

I was right to be nervous about the candles ! I ended up putting all of the candles out trying to light mine! Then someone went in search of the lighter .. which somehow didn’t work! Fortunately someone had come armed with a lighter … It was fine – everyone was laughing and it didn’t take away from the occasion. It certainly made for an unique mitra ceremony!  It could only happen to me.

I have so many cards and presents – the cards have such touching thoughtful messages.  I also have the flowers from the shrine.

So I am now a Mitra. It feels such an important step. I feel energised. I have the tools to keep going forward in my life. I have a lovely set of friends who are always there for me and me for them. I am part of a beautiful community.  I still have everything going on in my life.  I have many challenges to face and life is not always satisfactory – there is much suffering.  People who I love dearly are suffering.  The situation I am in hasn’t got any better!  In fact, it has got significantly worse over the last couple of weeks.  But the way that I deal with it and the way in which I approach it has changed.

I asked for a poem to be read at my ceremony which sums it all up wonderfully.  Someone commented that this poem was perfect for me.  That I walked into the Sangha with a mission, a purpose.


One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.

I have a date for my Mitra Ceremony!

  • I feel that I am a Buddhist
  • I am trying to practise the five precepts
  • I feel that the Triratna Buddhist Community is the main context in which I want to deepen my practice

Mitra is a Sanskrit word meaning friend.  Mitras are people who have made what is called a “provisional” commitment to practising the Dharma within the Triratna Buddhist Order.  There is a special ceremony which takes place where the would-be mitra is making the three declarations listed above.  The ceremony itself is a simple yet beautiful one.  Unfortunately for someone as clumsy as me, it does have plenty of opportunities to drop things or set the place on fire.  Please don’t let me set the shrine on fire! I will keep you posted on that one.

This will definitely be a landmark in my journey. It’s represents a commitment to my path


A pit stop…


Time to pause – to take a break; have a coffee and a slice of (vegan) cake.  Time to reflect.  Where am I on my path?  Am I negotiating the hills and rocky places?  Am I managing to push my way through the bushes and forests?  Have I actually managed to climb my way out of the dark, deep chasm in which I found myself?  Am I enjoying those (brief) times when my path is easy and is edged with flowers and trees and the sun is shining?  Is my destination any clearer?  Am I walking in the same shoes – do I need to change my clothes? Find a travelling companion?  Use another mode of transport?  Big challenging questions which I will reflect on as I walk.

At one time I had a travelling companion.  This amazing man set me off on my journey and stayed with me for a while. He always described our journey as being on a train going towards a destination taking breaks at various stations on the way.  Looking back, it was a train so I had no control of the journey – I boarded the train and had to stay on it or choose to leave at the next station.  I boarded that train happily and was content with the journey but we would get to a station and the destination would change.  And in the end it was not me that crashed that train – I was pulling on the emergency chord to no avail.  After that we walked together for a while on the same path.  I saw our path stretching far into the future.  But, one night, under the cover of darkness, he slipped off our path and went  down another…. He decided that ours was not his path. I have no idea where that goes but I hope it is his path and that he finds happiness on it.  Maybe, one day, our paths will come together once more.

So I am left walking that path – a Buddhist path – going for refuge in the Three Jewels.  It is the path, the way that I have chosen.  Walking, crawling, running…  I am in control of where I walk, how I react to the environment and the route I choose to take.  This path has its twists and turns.  Everyday life throws in obstacles which I try very hard to negotiate skillfully – sometimes I succeed; often I stumble.   There are often interesting side paths and lanes which entice me to explore but they are a distraction.  Sometimes I go off my path and find myself in a very wet, soggy, muddy ditch.  BUT – and this is a bit BUT – I climb back out onto my path and keep going.  I continue on my path trying hard to keep to the 5 precepts and seek guidance and support from my friends, from the Sangha.

So I am treading the Buddhist path – practising the Dharma as best as I can.  I have a final destination I guess, but that is too far ahead, too much in the distance, I am not sure of the exact route.  So I have to look at my map and find landmarks along the way – look for a route which will lead – eventually – to my final destination.