Take Heart

Crisis, What Crisis?With the huge cuts in public spending, there are thousands of jobs in jeopardy. I know of several people who are busy looking for new work after losing their jobs and it is easy to feel that a personal crisis might be looming.

But there is hope in such situations. The Chinese spell the word crisis with two characters. The first means danger. The second, opportunity. So we can all look upon a crisis in two ways.

Obviously, any crisis can be a source of danger. The very word conjures up a sense of foreboding, a situation that is out of control. But with that danger comes the opportunity to make something better with the energy that comes to us all when put in a dangerous position.

The natural rise in adrenalin when we face danger, the classic fight or flight reaction, gives us superhuman levels of energy. We have all heard of stories of incidents where someone has lifted a car off a trapped friend or family member or run incredibly fast to rescue a child from danger. It’s a natural reaction, it’s nothing superhuman at all.

When we couple this energy with the Buddhist principle of turning Poison into Medicine, there can be a very real opportunity to use the situation to our own advantage. How often have you heard about people who turn an impossible situation into a an amazing success story. J.K. Rowling reportedly wrote the first Harry Potter book whilst in sheltered accommodation. Duncan Bannatyne built his business empire from scratch after coming from a less than privileged background.

Many of us need a short sharp shock to bring us out of a state of lethargy, something that sparks us into life and gives us the impetus to make huge positive changes to our lives. My own interest in Nichiren Buddhism was sparked by a sudden change in family situation, so I know that good things can come from a painful event.

If you find you are facing a crisis, take heart, remember that opportunity comes along as well as the danger, good fortune comes to those who seek it.

Walking In A Woollard Wonderland

William and JasonMy trips to Newbury are getting so frequent lately, that the car seems to know its way there instinctively by now. Although the journey is very simple, A31, M27, M3, A38, it is quite a long way and can take a long time when the traffic gets busy. So it presents the perfect opportunity to chant or to listen and learn from some of the great Buddhist authors, like William Woollard.

Today I have been listening to chapters 14 and 15 of his amazing book, Buddhism and the Science of Happiness, as recorded and published, in podcast format, by another pair of amazing Nichiren Buddhists, Jason and Karen Jarrett of abuddhistpodcast.com fame.

Chapter 14, entitled A Kind of Revolution, covers the way that Buddhism, in all its forms, is spreading westward, not though evangelists or teachers, but almost exclusively by word of mouth. Something that few, if any, other religions have done for thousands of years. It explains that as western society gets more and more bogged down in capitalism and the ills that the pursuit of money, wealth and property bring, people are searching, ever more widely, for a way to come to terms with their lives and a way to increase their happiness.

Chapter 15, entitled The Wealth Delusion, explains that although incomes and personal wealth have increased significantly in the past fifty to sixty years, people have not become proportionally happier as a result. On the contrary, with the tendency for people to measure their own self worth, as well as that of others, by what they earn or the things they possess, there has been a gradual trend to become less and less satisfied with our lot.

William’s soothing voice, and the wise and educational words flowed over me as I made my way to and from a rather high pressure work situation. Their relevance to that situation might be questioned, but their effect upon me can not be underestimated.

William has been a part of my life since his days on television, as a presenter of fantastic programs like Tomorrows World and Top Gear. Back them he wasn’t a Buddhist, but it is clear from his message, that Buddhism has had a profound and lasting effect upon him and the people around him.

If you get the chance, take a tour of Jason and Karen’s website, and download some or all of William’s readings. They are freely available and well worth listening to. In fact listening to the podcasts was really the reason I became a Nichiren Buddhist myself, so a heartfelt thank you to The Jarretts for all the hard work they put into the site, and a massive thank you to William for taking the time to write, and then record his wisdom, so that the rest of us may learn from the lessons he has learned over the years.

Bikes, Bikes and More Bikes

Bikes, Bikes and more BikesThe first day back in the office for five days brought with it the expected quantity of emails and urgent tasks. Having put my back to the wheel, with no lunch, for the whole day, by 5:00pm I was ready to get out into what was left of the sunshine and take in some fresh air.

Whilst busy negotiating the never-ending road works at Canford Bottom, I was conscious of the stream of motorbikes heading towards Poole. Then the penny dropped, it was Tuesday, not Monday and they were all heading to the weekly bike rally on Poole Quay.

So how to combine sunshine, fresh air and motorbikes? Easy, get on my bicycle and ride down to the Quay. And so it was that I had a nice relaxing pootle over the Twin Sails Bridge and into Poole Old Town, where literally hundreds and hundreds of beautiful motorbikes were lining the road along the quay.

Having taken a leisurely ride along the length of the impromptu exhibition, and back, I chatted to a few of the bikers, took a few photos and drooled over a number of very pretty bits of machinery. Going home via the beach at Hamworthy park, the stress of the day floated gently away on the ebb tide. What a nice way to relax at the end of a hard day.

Full Of Beans

Runner BeansWith Bumble back in the cottage, it became very clear that she was in no fit state to do things for herself. Not that you could ever tell her that, she is a persistent little B, and stubbornly insisted that she do this, carry that, the list went on and on. But actually, if her ankle is to get better sooner rather than later, she has to rest it and try not to put weight on it.

So it was, that after a lazy, restful start to the day, we headed off to the supermarket to stock up the fridge and cupboards. It is strange to see the reactions of other people to someone being helped around the shop, whilst tapping away with a walking stick. I guess people with disabilities or debilitating illnesses get this all the time, but it’s not something I would ever like to have to get used to.

Having bought ice cream, we had to make a bit of a dash to see B’s parents, but fortunately they survived the journey and were enjoyed by all. Then we were treated to a slide show of Bumble’s photos from the Isles of Scilly. Some beautiful views, amazing flora and sights of the seashore and boats. Even a photo of the hole that delivered the sprained ankle, now that shows composure under pressure.

The day was ended with the ceremonial planting of the runner beans around the carefully erected bamboo cane tepee. Hopefully the sandy soil will be improved by an inaugural layer of home made compost that had been carefully ‘mined’ from the base of the composter. When you know what goes into the top, it’s a small miracle that what comes out of the bottom is such good fertilizer. A real life example of turning poison into medicine.

Destination Cornwall

Sunday SolitudeEarly Sunday morning, bright sunshine and train ticket in hand, I set off for Bristol Parkway station to catch the train down to Cornwall to retrieve Bumble. The walk to the station was nice. The early morning air had a nice cool stillness to it, and I covered the two and a half miles in good time.

The station was very quiet, hardly another passenger in sight as I sat waiting for the 10:32 train to Penzance. Having booked the ticket online, I was allocated a seat, 50A in coach D, and on alighting, I found that the carriage was almost empty too. Strangely, my seat was next to a lady going to Newton Abbot, but after a short discussion, it was agreed that, given the free space, I would not be hung, drawn or quartered if I moved to another seat.

The plan, fundamentally flawed as it turned out, was to use the Wi-Fi application on my mobile to connect my iPad to the internet, so I could write my submission to Homophilosophicus for June. As it turned out, the data connectivity on the Three network is more than a bit flaky between Bristol and Penzance, so that idea was quickly abandoned.

I did manage to pen a short submission for the blog, though that had to reside in my iPad until I got back to ‘civilisation’. But I resigned myself to passing the time by reading The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. Rather aptly, it relates the story of the end of an affair between two people, set against the backdrop of World War II. Not exactly the funniest book I’ve ever read, but it did give me a few things to think about.

Actually, by the time we reached Plymouth, I had read enough for one sitting, but as we left the station, passing close by the Naval dockyard, full of destroyers and other military craft, the scenery suddenly took on a most picturesque character. We crossed Brunel’s Tamar bridge, a most impressive construction, even by modern day standards and then began to weave our way along the shoreline, a mere stone throw from the sea.

The weather was closing in, and as we approached Redruth, where I was to meet Bumble, it was clear that the temperature had dropped significantly. Not that, in the event, it mattered one jot, because although I had no jacket, or even a sweater with me, my mobile rang and it was B, telling me that she was already at the station.

It was lovely to see her after all being apart for nearly a whole week, but upon inspection of her ankle, it was clear that it was still very bruised and swollen. I assumed my role as chauffeur and we headed off towards Bodmin and on to Bristol. The journey was rather uneventful, but it gave us lots of time to catch up on the week’s events and she had lots of stories about the islands and the people she had met on her travels.

By the time we got to the cottage, we were both pretty pooped. I don’t think Bumble had slept too well with the pain from her ankle, and Cornwall and back in a day is a pretty tiring round trip. So after a quick meal and a shower it was time for bed. It was nice to finally be able to do my rescue bit, and B was grateful for being spared the drive home.

So what did I learn from the episode? Well patience, something I clearly lack at times, is indeed a virtue, and that worrying about imagined issues is not only a huge waste of time and energy, but can be very counterproductive too, so don’t do it. I’ll try very hard not to in future.

Super Soccer Saturday

Cadbury Heath U7sHow glorious is this weather? Beautiful blue skies and mid 20s temperatures, just perfect for watching Jake’s football tournament, though a little warm to be playing I think. A short trip to the Walkers field in Emerson’s Green and I was quickly united with Rob, Jake and Zach.

Jake’s team, Cadbury Heath were a little out of their league and were soundly spanked, 7-0, 5-0 and 4-0, but, as the coach said, it’s the taking part, not the wining that matters. To be honest, I don’t hold with all this ‘everyone’s a winner’ business. How does that possibly prepare children for modern life?

By early afternoon the matches and presentations were done and dusted and I was back at the cottage. The runner beans have been growing like crazy in the greenhouse, and urgently need planting out, so I spent the afternoon and most of the evening getting down and dirty in the veggie patch. I think I must have overdone it, or I’m in worse condition than I’d like to think, because I ended up with a cracking headache and a dodgy tummy, maybe a touch of heat stroke?

After drinking copious amounts of water everything calmed down and, unusually for me, I found myself watching the Eurovision Song Contest. It didn’t take long to remember why I don’t usually watch it. It seems to me, to be a huge waste of time and money, though I did feel a bit sorry for The Hump, albeit that the song was rubbish.

By the end of the program, I was ready for bed. Too much sun and a deal of exercise had taken their toll and combined with the prospect of having to get up ‘early’ tomorrow, for the trip down to Cornwall, to rescue the injured Bumble, I’m going to sleep like a log.

That Friday Feeling

Hello Darkness My Old FriendWell here we are again folks, another week older and deeper in debt, or so a poor paraphrase of the song would go. Another day spent in Newbury has taken us a lot closer to completing the repair of Fraser’s and me a day nearer to getting my Bumble back.

I’m still struggling with the feelings of inadequacy in terms of looking after B, and we actually had a few sharp words with each other when I tried to explain how I felt. It seemed that there was a conflict, with me wanting to help and wanting her to allow me to do so, and she not wanting to put me to any inconvenience. Of course I should have recognised the mutterings of The Dark Passenger, but sadly I didn’t until it was almost too late.

We came to a sensible compromise, and when we spoke on Skype tonight, it seems that peace has broken out once more. I would like to think that listening to chapter 7, my favourite chapter of The Buddha, Geoff and Me got me thinking straight again. That and another serious chanting session on the way from Newbury to Bristol.

The day ended very pleasantly with a family meal round at Charlotte’s. Earlier in the day I just wasn’t feeling like talking to anyone, being in a low life-state and lacking life-energy. The chanting seems to work every time for me. I guess I should be getting used to that by now, but it still makes me smile when it does.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo


Sprained AnkleGood news from the Scilly Isles this morning. Bumble’s sprained ankle is on the mend and the promised crutches have been delivered. She has been able to get around a little better and put weight on her injured leg, so good news indeed. Whilst it’s not the end of the story, it is going the right way, and we’re all the better for hearing that.

Another day in Newbury, we also made progress towards recovering the Fraser’s website, so more good news there. The process is long and tortuous, and has highlighted just how exposed we actually were to data loss in the web environment, but at least we are now aware of that and can take steps to close that hole.

Personally, I received a bit of a slap in the face regarding my own remuneration, and I shall have to investigate the reasons for that at a later date. I appear to have been guilty of building my expectations too high, although, in my defence, I had been lead to believe that certain things had been decided.

So another day of mixed emotions. Great news about Bumble, good news about the website, and less than good news about my salary. But to my own credit, he says blowing his own trumpet, a robust session of chanting allowed me to remain professional and positive. Let’s see if I can keep it up.

Would you Adam & Eve It?

CrutchesThe traffic this morning was terrible, long queues for no apparent reason, right round the LV roundabout, and chanting wasn’t helping at all. Then we came across the cause, a lady had broken down on one of the few single carriageway sections. She was standing next to her stricken Focus, trying not to catch the eye of the furious motorists as they drove past. My heart went out to her. Being on her own, what was she supposed to do, and after all, nobody died or got eaten by bears. A little more compassion please folks.

With Bumble away, and the mobile signal being a bit flaky over there, we didn’t have our usual morning chat on the way to work. It’s a bit sad I know, but I do miss her when we don’t get to talk. So I was delighted when she called. She was walking down to the ferry and going off to Bryher for the day. Although they weren’t enjoying the glorious sunshine we had in Ringwood, it was warm and the air was soft. As we spoke, she kept stopping to take photos of wild flowers and views across the beach, and I was worried that she might pull off a repeat of the missed ferry on Monday.

Her call at lunchtime alleviated all those fears, she was on the island and enjoying the scenery in perfect isolation. Not another person in sight. So when we spoke just before 6:00 I was expecting more superlatives as she described the adventures of the day. Sadly that was not to be. Just after we spoke, she had put her foot into an unseen rabbit hole and has badly sprained her ankle.

Fortunately, the folks of the Scilly Isles have far more compassion than those in the traffic jam earlier today. It seems that she has been helped in every conceivable way, mainly by complete strangers, and is back with Josie and hobbling around with the aid or a pair of walking sticks. The crutches are coming over on the morning ferry, so that might give her a little more mobility.

Being a bloke, I instantly needed to fix things as soon as I heard about the accident. Of course that isn’t possible, or even needed, but it didn’t stop me feeling helpless. When we spoke on Skype tonight she sensed my mood. It’s no fun for me, being in such a position, but it won’t help Bumble, me being down, so I have chanted and got myself into a better place. The morning will bring a fresh medical report, I just hope that her injury doesn’t spoil her already curtailed holiday too much.

Mixed Emotions

Mixed EmotionsWhat a weird day, a proper rollercoaster of emotions. Being treated like an idiot is not the most fun, even though I may deserve it after the events of last week. Knowing that Bumble has safely arrived in the silly Scilly Isles made me feel better, having had a terrible night, waking up every half hour and wondering whether she was still safe, sleeping in the Yaris, in the middle of the ferry car park.

As we have discussed before, we can learn from the challenges of each and every day. The more taxing the day, the greater the opportunity we have to learn, but don’t expect it to be easy. Maintaining a pleasant demeanour whilst trying not to think evil thoughts was pretty tough, but I’m sure the protagonists have enhanced their karma, in one way or another.

Having had a good chant, a lovely video call to Bumble on Skype, and plenty of time to think about the day, I’m in a much better place now. Trying to reach enlightenment can be very challenging, though nobody ever said that perfection came easy. I’ve still got a long way to go, but days like today make the journey much more interesting.

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