Sunday, 17 January 2016

Generosity – clean or sticky/

I do not have time to follow many blogs these days, but John Stepper’s continues to give cause for thought. A recent post was on the subject of generosity. To view the full post go here. It starts with this little cartoon and three questions about how you feel when you do something like open the door for someone: I agree with him that the little test below is quite an eye opener. It requires you to be brutally honest with yourself.

After you!

“After you!”

When I do this exercise, here’s what happens.
  1. I get a good feeling when I decide to open the door. I’m about to do something nice.
  2. I make eye contact with the other person or say something to make sure they see me opening the door for them. After you!
  3. When they thank me, I get another surge of good feeling. If they don’t, however, I get irritated, even angry. How rude!
How did you do? 

I think I have times when all three scenarios apply, but I recognise that I do like applause. ‘Don't expect applause’ is the last of the 59 aphorisms of mind training  lo jong (blo-sbyong), by Chekawa Yeshé Dorje (1102-1176). I am writing a book on this teaching at the moment, and am finding this an inspiring journey  though sometimes a little uncomfortable when I recognise the patterns of self-centredness that are still strong.

Generosity is pure and simple: you give. You give your time, your energy, your help, something someone needs – it is an open-hearted act. If, however, there is a sticky residue of ‘and what about me?’, it is not true generosity. To give, even with the stickiness, however, is a stage on the journey, and it's important not to be too hard on the poor ego which still thinks it exists and needs to be seen and applauded. We have to keep on aiming to be generous, and be amused when the need for the recognition of our generosity, or the ‘what about my thank you?’ pops up at the end. 

As a Buddhist practitioner, it is essential to have a sense of humour.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Happy New Year - and yet more rain

Happy New Year

I hope 2016 will be happy, healthy and prosperous year for you.

It’s raining again . .  it feels like it has been raining for months. The Taff seems to be coping quite well and is still well within its banks in our area. Our roof, unfortunately, is not coping so well. Several damp patches have appeared in three rooms, and one day it was dripping onto my bed. I scrabbled around in the eves and managed to alleviate the immediate problem, but it looks like we need a new roof. I am trying not to think about how much that will cost.

I have made a little rainy gif. I hope you like it.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Old dogs, new tricks – fun in a kayak

Gosh is it really six weeks since I last blogged?! Time whizzes past so quickly. It is all good and interesting, but there is so little extra time to get to fun things – like blogging.

Our September holiday feels like an age ago now, but I must show you this photograph of us kayaking. Working on the principle of ‘never too old’ we borrowed a friend’s kayak this year and gave it ago. The sea was rather choppy so we didn’t actually go anywhere – just back and forth across Saundersfoot bay trying to avoid capsizing. At times we had to just point the front into the waves and ride them. I think it was probably quite amusing for anyone watching us, but we had a lot of fun.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Outings from Saundersfoot

The path by Colby Woodland Gardens.
No stay in Saundersfoot would be complete without a visit to the delightful, tiny village of Amroth, a little way along the coast. Usually we like to walk there along the beach, but never seemed to time it right for the tides this time. So we drove to Colby Woodland Gardens and walked down from there. 


Evening light at Amroth beach.
In the opposite direction to Amroth is a coastal feature called Monkton Point – just a rocky outcrop jutting into the sea. It is visible from Saundersfoot and from Tenby. One evening we set out along the coastal path with the intention of arriving at Monkton Point as the tide was at its lowest and enjoying a dusk walk back along the beach. Things did not go quite as planned. One stretch of the coastal path took us through a field with bullocks. After reaching Monkton Point we realised that we could not get down to the beach there and had to retrace our steps a little way. When we arrived at the field with the bullocks they became rather intimidating and would not let us pass. We tried to walk the stretch on the other side of the fence through the brambles, but it was impassable. It was starting to get quite gloomy and we were concerned at being caught in a tricky situation in the dark. So we cut across another field in the direction of lights and found ourselves in Swallowtree Caravan Park where we eventually accessed the road to walk back to Saundersfoot. It was not quite the leisurely beach stroll we had intended, but it was certainly an adventure.

Coastal path trees
A new visit for us in Pembrokeshire was Lawrenny Quay. Quayside Tearooms had been recommended to us and it was indeed wonderful. The fresh crab was delicious, and the ginger cake to follow scrumptious.
Lawrenny Quay panorama

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Summer holiday – week one in Saundersfoot

Saunderfoot gardens
We are great fans of camping, and had booked to camp for our two weeks holiday in Pembrokeshire in September. This summer has not been too good for weather however, with rainy days and cool evenings, and also my health has been rather up and down. As the date of our holiday approached I started to feel increasingly unready for two weeks camping.

Saundersfoot beach panorama
At the last minute we decided to book accommodation providing a greater degree of shelter from the elements. It was too late to find a place that was free for two weeks, so we ended up with a week in an apartment in Saundersfoot, and a week in a caravan in Tenby.

Harbour reflection at low tide
I have always been rather prejudiced against Saundersfoot. I think this dates back to our first ever visit. On this occasion we had travelled to Saundersfoot by bus from Tenby. The bus stop on arriving in Saundersfoot is right outside a building full of games machines – noisy and unpleasant, and exactly the opposite of what would attract us to a town.
Coppet Hall from where we found a delightful circular walk.
Rock formations on Saundersfoot beach.
Saundersfoot out of peak season turned out to be a most delightful place and I was happy to have my prejudice overturned. We found some lovely local beach and countryside walks. Our apartment overlooked the beach and we enjoyed being so intimately aware of the rhythms of the tides.

View from the apartment - sadly we did not have access to this garden.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Spoon theory – coping with disability

A friend who suffers from crippling arthritis directed me to an article about ‘spoon theory’. It is a moving article about coping with the limitations placed upon the author, Christine Miserandino, through lupus. I think it is a good thing for everyone to read.

I am not disabled, but I have always had physical limitations. I empathised with the article completely. I have been fortunate that my health has actually improved as I have got older. I no longer have days when climbing the stairs seems like an impossible task. Sometimes I look at small hills and remember how insurmountable they used to seem and feel amazed. It shows me how low my energy levels were for many years.
A gentle slope or a hill to climb?
It depends on your point of view.
Narbeth, Penbrokeshire, July 2014
I have always had to pace myself: if I do A, will there be sufficent energy left to do B? Fortunately there is enough energy these days to live my life as I wish to live it. I do not know what made the difference and gradually enabled my health to improve. My mother always told me that I was lazy, but I know that this is not true. Now that I have resources, I use them to the full – and enjoy expending the energy.

I have theories about what made a difference for me: daily meditation practice and generally becoming a happier person I would put at the top of the list. I gave up smoking in my 20s but I believe the effects can be long-lasting. Other factors would be: reducing the amount of amalgam in my mouth whenever a filling needed replacing; practising sKu-mNyé; losing weight is an obvious one, but I am still somewhat overweight; using homoeopathy and avoiding orthodox medicine; mostly cutting out dairy, eating an egg every day and reducing my intake of carbohydrates. There may well be other factors of which I am not aware. Whatever the reason, I am grateful that middle age for me is livelier and generally healthier than were my 20s to 40s.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Muslim Festival of Eid – and interfaith gathering in Cardiff

I attend quite a few events because of my involvement with the Buddhist Council of Wales. A recent event was an Eid Festival celebrating the end of Ramadan. It was an interfaith event, hosted by the Church of Latter-day Saints in Rhiwbina. As well as Christians and Muslims, there were representatives of Judaism, Baha'i, and myself and Ngakpa 'ö-Dzin representing Buddhists.

It was a joyful event and rather special – such warmth, friendship and good humour. It is good to share time and food with people following different religions.

We also enjoyed a brief appearance on ITV news:
"A new initiative in Cardiff has seen members of many different faith communities join together to celebrate the Muslim festival of Eid" -- Rob Osborne, ITV