On The Theme Of Waiting …

WaitingWaiting is a strange thing.

Waiting for the lights to go green can take ages when you are late for an appointment. Waiting for a sapling to mature takes years. Waiting for your girlfriend to finish in the bathroom can take forever (don’t tell her I said that).

But actually, waiting is often an act of faith, a belief in a desired outcome, and reaching that desired outcome, that’s when it can usually be said that ‘it was worth the wait’.

Others, as you might expect, have described the process far more eloquently than I ever could …

Tout vient à qui sait attendre

‘Ah, all things come to those who wait,’
(I say these words to make me glad),
But something answers soft and sad,
‘They come, but often come too late.’

~ Violet Fane (1843-1905)

The Waiting

Oh baby don’t it feel like heaven right now
Don’t it feel like something from a dream
Yeah I’ve never known nothing quite like this
Don’t it feel like tonight might never be again
We know better than to try and pretend
Baby no one could’a ever told me ’bout this
I said yeah yeah

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

Well yeah i might have chased a couple women around
All it ever got me was down
Then there were those that made me feel good
But never as good as I’m feeling right now
Baby you’re the only one that’s ever known how
To make me wanna live like I wanna live now
I said yeah yeah

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you get one more yard
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

Oh don’t let it kill you baby, don’t let it get to you
Don’t let it kill you baby, don’t let it get to you
I’ll be your bleedin’ heart, I’ll be your cryin’ fool
Don’t let this go too far
Don’t let it get to you

~ Tom Petty – 1981

Interestingly, Tom Petty had this to say about the song …

“That was a song that took a long time to write. Roger McGuinn swears he told me the line – about the waiting being the hardest part – but I think I got the idea from something Janis Joplin said on television. I had the chorus very quickly, but I had a very difficult time piecing together the rest of the song. It’s about waiting for your dreams and not knowing if they will come true. I’ve always felt it was an optimistic song.”

So what ever you are waiting for, make causes, remain determined, and you will reach your goal one day.

Worth The Wait

Life's Ups and DownsLife is a rollercoaster at the best of times, so the ups and downs shouldn’t be a surprise.

But just like a real rollercoaster, they can still make you scream at times.

When I am looking for answers, or need to know the path I need to take, I chant, as you might suspect.

Often the answers come quite quickly, but sometimes things are complicated, or when another person is involved, the answers sometimes take longer.

The important thing to remember, is that only you can provide the answers to your own questions, no one else can decide for you.

Only your heart holds the key to unlock the path you must take, only Nam Myoho Renge Kyo can turn that key and you can be sure it will be worth the wait.

There’s A Kind Of Hush …

There's A Kind Of HushAs you know, I’ve just had the perfect long weekend. Albeit that it’s a couple of days ago now, but the memories are still sinking in. In the past, I might be rueing having to come back to work, but the period I had without work has rather put a stop to that, and it’s also because I now have the ability to pour a mental calm over everything.

You know the calm I mean, at least I hope you do, when slowly everything starts to come together, to fit into place and there’s a soft and easy feel about things. At work, at home, in my practice, in fact in life, I have definitely turned some magical corner and tranquillity is the result.

Not that tranquillity itself is necessarily always a good thing. It can make us lazy, complacent, stop setting goals for ourselves or making the causes for the effects we want to see. But the tranquillity that accompanies the calmness of a balanced situation is very magical indeed.

Sometimes we have to go through a rough ride to reach the place we want to be. During the ride it’s tough, tranquillity is a million miles away and sometimes appears to be receding fast. But if you stick with it, learn from the pain and make the necessary causes, you will reap the benefits of the effects when they arrive.

So stick with it. If you have confidence in your goals, remain determined and resolute in your quest, and have the courage to withstand the pain, you too will see the benefits. It’s marvellous.

Tuneday

TranquillityOfficially, today was Tuesday, but in computer speak it was actually Monday++. With the extra day off, the weekend just meant that the pile of work waiting for me when I got into the office this morning was 50% bigger than a normal Monday, and you know how I feel about them. So it was all hands on deck and the day passed without a break, ironically at break-neck speed.

So by the time five o’clock arrived I was in need of some peace and quiet. Fortunately, the stream behind the office is exactly the right place to find such an environment, so before diving into the car and setting off for MQ, I took several long minutes to just stand and chant in the evening sunshine, watch the quiet waters flow past, and let my mind find its equilibrium as the trials and tribulations of the day drifted away with the shining lazy current.

If we are to deal with the challenges of everyday life, it is important to take a deep breath, inhale the quieter side of life, and release the stress that builds up inside. Next time you find yourself feeling agitated, stressed out, or getting submerged beneath the everyday strains that life puts upon us, find a quiet spot, take time to stand still, breathe and just let the stress drift away.

Far from being a waste of time, they may be the most important minutes of your day.

On Responsibility …

Ripples In A PondThere are now over five hundred people following my blog, so I need to think even more carefully about the things I post.

Each topic will be, however small, a source for potential change in those who read it.

One of the principles of Nichiren Buddhism is that of the Oneness of Self and the Environment.

If you drop a pebble, no matter how small, into a pond, the ripples spread out in all directions and interact with everything in their path.

This principle states that there is a connection between the person and others around him or her. It is therefore clear that changes in our life-state, the way we relate or react to others and changes due to our Practice will affect those whose lives we interact with.

Some of these affects are very obvious. If we walk around with a happy demeanour, we find that people are more likely to be pleasant towards us. If, on the other hand, we walk around in a bad mood, with a scowl on our face, we find that people are less friendly and may try to avoid us completely.

Ok, so no rocket science there then, but there are more subtle ways in which changes can be felt. In my own case, my Practice has allowed me to stabilise my life-state, generally I am now more often in the higher Worlds than lower ones. The result of that is that I am better placed to create value, for myself and those around me.

My Practice has changed me and those changes are affecting others. That’s why it is so important for me to ensure that as these changes take place, my Wisdom, Courage and Compassion increases too, so I can make sure the changes are all good ones.

Tolpuddle, A Name From History

Tolpuddle MarchToday has been a joyous celebration of a hugely important part of British, and arguably World history. In a rather unplanned manner, three of us set off to the historic Dorset village of Tolpuddle.

Now many of you may never have heard of Tolpuddle, but if you have ever been a member of a workers union, been on strike to register your opposition to a change in working conditions or in a demand for a rise in pay, Tolpuddle is inextricably linked to those actions. A group of six men from the village made history, and paid temporarily with their freedom, when they formed the first workers union. Wikipedia says this of them …

The Tolpuddle Martyrs were a group of 19th century Dorset agricultural labourers who were arrested for and convicted of swearing a secret oath as members of the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers. The rules of the society show it was clearly structured as a friendly society and operated as a trade-specific benefit society. But at the time, friendly societies had strong elements of what are now considered to be the predominant role of trade unions. The Tolpuddle Martyrs were subsequently sentenced to transportation to Australia.

Before 1824/25 the Combination Acts had outlawed “combining” or organising to gain better working conditions. In 1824/25 these Acts were repealed, so trade unions were no longer illegal. In 1832, the year of a Reform Act which extended the vote in England but did not grant universal suffrage, six men from Tolpuddle in Dorset founded the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers to protest against the gradual lowering of agricultural wages in the 1830s caused by the surplus supply of labour in an era when mechanisation was beginning to have an impact on agricultural working practices for the first time. This was a particular problem in remote parts of southern England, such as Dorset, where farmers did not have to compete with the higher wages paid to workers in London and in the northern towns experiencing the Industrial Revolution. They refused to work for less than 10 shillings a week, although by this time wages had been reduced to seven shillings a week and were due to be further reduced to six shillings. The society, led by George Loveless, a Methodist local preacher, met in the house of Thomas Standfield.

In 1834 James Frampton, a local landowner, wrote to the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, to complain about the union, invoking an obscure law from 1797 prohibiting people from swearing oaths to each other, which the members of the Friendly Society had done. James Brine, James Hammett, George Loveless, George’s brother James Loveless, George’s brother in-law Thomas Standfield, and Thomas’s son John Standfield were arrested, tried before Judge Baron John Williams in R v Lovelass and Others. They were found guilty, and transported to Australia.

When sentenced to seven years’ transportation, George Loveless wrote on a scrap of paper the following lines:

God is our guide! from field, from wave,
From plough, from anvil, and from loom;
We come, our country’s rights to save,
And speak a tyrant faction’s doom:
We raise the watch-word liberty;
We will, we will, we will be free!

They became popular heroes and 800,000 signatures were collected for their release. Their supporters organised a political march, one of the first successful marches in the UK, and all, except James Hammett (who had a previous criminal record for theft) were released in 1836, with the support of Lord John Russell, who had recently become Home Secretary. Four of the six returned to England, disembarking at Plymouth, a popular stopping point for transportation ships.

WP_20140720_16_51_39_ProMembers of unions from all over the country, as well as a large number of non-members, converge on the village each year, to commemorate the anniversary of the historic events, listen to speeches, enjoy music, and generally have fun. The impromptu manner of the day only further added to the enjoyment of the day. The commemorative march was remarkable, walking in the footsteps of some very famous people. The highlight, for me however, was a performance by Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, previously of the band Beautiful South with the band playing some of the classics, a great day out had by all.

Crash, Bang, Wallop …

Thunder and LightningThe thunder, lightening and rain was biblical on Friday morning, not the kind that wakes the odd person, the kind that wakes everyone, amazing. So having been roused from our slumbers, we stood at the window watching natures incredible light show and marvelling at the rain falling vertically in huge droplets.

If we are unprepared for it, the weather can cause us all manner of problems, as witnessed by the floods in and around Somerset earlier in the year. But problems, or challenges as we prefer to refer to them, can be seen in many ways …

There was once an old lady who cried all the time. Her elder daughter was married to an umbrella merchant while the younger daughter was the wife of a noodle vendor. On sunny days, she worried, “Oh no! The weather is so nice and sunny. No one is going to buy any umbrellas. What will happen if the shop has to be closed?” These worries made her sad. She just could not help but cry.

When it rained, she would cry for the younger daughter. She thought, “Oh no! My younger daughter is married to a noodle vendor. You cannot dry noodles without the sun. Now there will be no noodles to sell. What should we do?” As a result, the old lady lived in sorrow everyday. Whether sunny or rainy, she grieved for one of her daughters. Her neighbours could not console her and jokingly called her “the crying lady.”

One day, she met a monk. He was very curious as to why she was always crying. She explained the problem to him. The monk smiled kindly and said, “Madam! You need not worry. I will show you a way to happiness, and you will need to grieve no more.”

The crying lady was very excited. She immediately asked the monk to show her what to do. The master replied, “It is very simple. You just need to change your perspective. On sunny days, do not think of your elder daughter not being able to sell umbrellas but the younger daughter being able to dry her noodles. With such good strong sunlight, she must be able to make plenty of noodles and her business must be very good. When it rains, think about the umbrella store of the elder daughter. With the rain, everyone must be buying umbrellas. She will sell a lot of umbrellas and her store will prosper.”

The old lady saw the light. She followed the monk’s instruction. After a while, she did not cry anymore; instead, she was smiling everyday. From that day on she was known as “the smiling lady.”

Funky Friday

Zoukinis InteriorIsn’t it the best feeling, when you wake up on a Friday morning and realise that it’s the first day of your long weekend.

To say we have a lazy start to the day would be vastly understating things, but by mid-afternoon we were parked up and on our way through the Westbourne arcade to the very lovely  Zoukini’s restaurant.

Now being vegan, you might expect that finding yummy things to eat would prove to be a bit of a problem, but you would be completely wrong. With all the dietary scare stories we have heard recently, the horse meat scandal, growth hormone usage in cattle and poultry, not to mention all the inhumane conditions in which animals are habitually kept, it’s no wonder that people are turning to vegetarian or vegan options for their food.

As the vegan movement grows, the food companies, both established and emerging, are offering more and more suitable alternatives. They aren’t doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, or to openly promote the veggie/vegan way of life, but they know that there is good money to be made as numbers of customers increase.

Toff 'n Chips @ ZoukinisZoukini’s offers a wide range of vegetarian and vegan dishes, and one of our favourites is Toff ‘n Chips, a very clever and convincing fish and chips alternative. The menu describes it thus … ‘Battered fillet of organic tofu packed with a samphire & watercress pesto served with chips, homemade minted mushy peas & vegan tartare sauce’ … and I can highly recommend it.

With our attention being brought almost daily to the way we eat, healthy alternatives are appearing everywhere. So if you find yourself looking for a classy tasty and healthy meal in the Westbourne area, pop into Zoukinis and check out Toff ‘n Chips, you won’t be disappointed.

Through Different Eyes

Through Different EyesDo you remember the day you mastered the art of riding a bicycle? Of course you do. For me, it was the culmination of a rather lengthy, and very frustrating process, and but for the perseverance  of my father, I might never have learned at all.

I just couldn’t seem to get it. It looked so simple, but the harder I tried, the worse I got. Then suddenly it clicked, I had it nailed, and from that day on I have been able to ride a bike.

Ok, so it’s no huge revelation, but I think learning about Buddhism is a bit like learning to ride a bike.

As you learn, about The Oneness of Self and the Universe, about Karma, about Life-Energy or The Ten Worlds, you also learn to see yourself, life and the Universe in a different way. And just in the way that having learned to ride a bicycle, you never unlearn the skill, once you learn to see the world through different eyes, you never unlearn that either.

Deep in my heart, I know that I am different for having Buddhism at the centre of my life. Some people have noticed that change, others ask what has changed and how I know that it’s a real change, not just a fad, or ‘a phase I’m going through’.

Well as I say, once you see the world differently, you just can’t un-see it that way. It’s a wonderful change, and I’m very confident, not to say delighted, that it’s a permanent change.

Flowing Ever Onward

The River AvonBehind our office in Ringwood, runs the Bickley Mill stream, a small tributary of the river Avon.

In winter it can be quite a torrent, but since the recent dry spell, it has slowed to little more than a trickle, and for a couple of minutes today, I stood watching the water flowing slowly past.

I have always found water fascinating. The conjunction of reflected and refracted images mean that there is a merging of environments. It is not possible to see the bottom of the stream clearly and yet you are offered glimpses of clarity as the water ripples produce the perfect angle to see through the surface. An instant later that view is gone.

I can see a similarity between this phenomena and our lives. You may have experienced times when you have a sudden flash of clarity, regarding a problem or opportunity, then moments later it is gone, cloaked by the smokescreen of everyday life. I know that I have woken from a particularly vivid dream, where the memories are so clear that it has taken a second or two to realise that it was a dream. Almost as soon as that realisation kicks in, the memories start fading, so quickly that within minutes it would be quite difficult to relate the dream to someone else in all its detail.

Another thought popped into my head. The flow of the river, the flow of time and the passage of our lives are all one and the same. Specialist subject ‘stating the obvious’ you might be saying, but it was one of those clarity moments which almost takes ones breath away. I think we should all take a second to remember, that moment by moment, our lives are moving like the river, from future, to present, to past, in an unstoppable flow. Wishing for the weekend to be here, waiting for that special event, all miss the immediate imperative, that every second is precious and should be used to the full.

Nobody knows when their time will be up, when they have no more future, only past. That, in my opinion is a good thing, imagine the sense of panic that would be induced by seeing that ‘life clock’ ticking down to 00:00:00. What is important is to use your time wisely and never, ever, waste a single second.

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