A Real Pride

Godlingston CemeteryYou may remember my post about seeing cemeteries during the course of my cycling trips. Well it’s happened again.

Godlingston Cemetery in Washpond Lane near Swanage holds 15 Commonwealth war graves from World War II.

Maintained by the War Graves Commission, it is a credit to the town, to the Commission and more importantly, a credit to the brave servicemen who gave their lives in the service of their King.

This evening, whilst looking at the boats in the Quay, I heard a very familiar sound, that of four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines droning overhead. It was the Lancaster from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, having done a fly-by at the Bournemouth Air Show, but that sound and the memories it conjures, left a real sense of pride to be British.

When other countries are been blamed for injuring and killing their own people, it is a great thing that we still hold those men, and machines, who fought for our freedom between 1939 and 1945, so dear.

Coincidentally, one of the graves in Godlingston is that of Michael Giles Homer DFC, a Pilot Officer, who while flying with 44 Squadron was decorated for his actions during a bombing raid in 1940. The citation reads:

“In April, 1940, this officer was pilot of an aircraft carrying out a high-level bombing attack on two enemy cruisers anchored in Christiansand Bay. In the face of intense anti-aircraft fire and attacks by enemy fighters, he successfully pressed home his bombing attack and his air gunner shot down an enemy fighter which burst into flames and crashed into the sea. Although his aircraft had been damaged he skilfully piloted it back to his base, which necessitated a sea crossing of more than 400 miles.”

Although it is unlikely that Pilot Office Homer flew the Avro Lancaster, as 44 Squadron was only equipped with them in late 1940, after his demise, it is a fitting link and further goes to illustrate the ‘connectedness’ of all things.

Avro Lancaster
The Avro Lancaster

A Little Common Sense, At Last

Cameron DefeatedAfter the disgraceful tissue of lies that allowed Tony Blair’s Labour government to take us to war with Iraq back in 2003, it was heartening to see David Cameron get his comeuppance in the Syrian vote last night.

Whilst none of us want to hear about the atrocities going on in Syria, arming the rebels, or targeting the government forces will not solve the underlying problem.

Like taking a paracetamol for a toothache, addressing the symptoms will not solve anything in the long run, you must get to the root of the problem. Now it is clear that the ‘evidence’ of these incidents is anything but clear. Who did what to whom is open to conjecture.

So rushing in, John Wayne like, with all guns blazing is a recipe for making things a whole lot worse, not better. The tiny ray of light, which became visible last night, is that finally the government is listening to reason, and the people, and has been forced to resort to common sense and take stock.

Centred, Anchored, Simply Rock Solid

The GohonzonOver the life of this blog, you will have seen that my Buddhist Practice has become, more and more, the basis of my life.

Having my Practice as the centre, as my Honzon, as my anchor is a very liberating state of affairs. At the centre of that Practice is my recently enshrined Gohonzon making it the absolute centre and the pivot, around which, my whole life now revolves.

Of course, the centre of many people’s lives are their partners, their children, their families and that is perfectly acceptable, but does mean that their anchor is not fixed, it is ever changing. These changes can be a major source of unhappiness. How often have we seen the elderly couple, totally devoted to each other, that when one of them dies, the other goes soon after.

Having Buddhism and my Practice as my Honzon doesn’t mean that my family and friends mean any less to me, but it does mean that as situations change, as problems arise, my anchor remains firm and I can cope with those challenges all the better.

Maybe that’s not for everyone, it does take a conscious effort to make the change, but for me, the effort is repaid many, many times over by the feeling of constancy in my life.

Syria, The Next Iraq?

Freedom For SyriaWith Western leaders sabre rattling at the UN, will any meaningful action spiral into an all out attack on the Syrian government, given time?

Whilst nobody would condone the use of chemical weapons, by whoever deployed them, the use of force, to alter the balance of power, could so easily get out of hand.

The emotions and politics being shown by all sides, with China and Russia playing devil’s advocate against the holier-than-thou Western allies, could drag us into another Iraq, with or without a mandate from the United Nations.

Surely this is a time to resort to all out conversation, to bring all sides to the table and to act like civilised human beings, not charge in like Genghis Khan. I’m sure there are many arms dealers who are rubbing their hands at the prospect of another full scale conflict, but words are the only sensible way to forge any kind of lasting peace.

So let us pull our horns in, and as John Lennon said … ‘Give Peace a Chance’

I Love Monday !!!

There's a kind of hushHands up all those who never thought they’d see that title on my blog … but today has been pretty awesome so far. Ok, so it’s Tuesday, and I’ve just had the perfect long weekend, but in work terms this is a notional Monday after all. But it has been a really great day, even though things have been a little hectic in the office, and all because I now have the ability to pour a certain 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 seem to have turned some magical corner and tranquillity is the result.

Not that tranquillity itself is necessarily 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 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. Today has been one of those days for me.

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

Back To Basics

During morning Gongyo we say four Prayers, the first out loud, the last three silently to ourselves. During evening Gongyo, the first prayer is omitted.

The First Prayer – Appreciation for Life’s Protective Forces (spoken – morning Gongyo)

lotusI offer appreciation to the Shoten Zenjin, the functions in life and in the environment that serve to protect us, and prey that these protective powers may be further strengthened and enhanced through my practice of the Law.

The Second Prayer – Appreciation for the Gohonzon (silent)

lotusI offer my deepest praise and most sincere gratitude to the Dai-Gohonzon of the Three Great Secret Laws, which was bestowed upon the entire world.

I offer my deepest praise and most sincere gratitude to Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha  of the Latter Day of the Law.

I offer my deepest praise and most sincere gratitude to Nikko Shonin.

I offer sincere gratitude to Nichimoku Shonin.

The Third Prayer – For the attainment of kosen-rufu (silent)

lotusI pray that the great desire for kosen-rufu is fulfilled, and that the Soka Gakkai International develops eternally in this endeavour.

I offer my most sincere gratitude to the three founding presidents – Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Josei Toda and Daisaku Ikeda – for their eternal example of selfless dedication to the propagation of the Law.

The Fourth Prayer – Personal prayers and prayer for the deceased (silent)

lotusI pray to bring forth Buddhahood from within my life, change my karma and to fulfil my wishes in the present and the future.

(we may offer additional prayers here)

I pray for my deceased relatives and for all those who have passed away, particularly for these individuals:

(we name our relatives and friends here)

I pray for peace throughout the world and for the happiness of all humanity.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

So Many Contrasts

Upton Country ParkYesterday and today could not have been much more different if they had tried. Yesterday I spent most of the day encouraging, cajoling and a couple of times, pushing someone to conquer a task that in actual fact, was way outside their comfort zone, namely cycling the fifty odd kilometres from Poole to Weymouth. That involved a great deal of talking, as you might expect.

Today, I have spent the whole day alone, apart from one chance encounter this evening as I got back from a short training ride to Upton Country Park and back. So I haven’t spoken to anyone, I haven’t spent hours in the saddle and I haven’t had the opportunity to help anyone, in any way, achieve anything.

Yesterday, the cycling, although much longer than my ride tonight, was very gentle, even over a couple of quite challenging hills. Today, the course was short and pretty flat, but the effort put in was aggressive and the effect on my increasing fitness was considerable compared to yesterday. I didn’t see any of the scenery today, whereas yesterday, there was time to stop and admire.

Life is a series of contrasting situations. Being able to adapt to the changing circumstances is the trick to taking the most out of each and every day. Contrast is good, being able to focus on the benefits it brings is a skill worth acquiring.

Taking The Rough With The Smooth

Beautiful DorsetDorset is a beautiful county, and the ride from Poole to Weymouth by way of Wareham and East and West Lulworth allows you see the very best of it. Although there is no gain without a little pain, some of the hills on the route are not for the faint hearted particularly the 1 in 5 climb up Grange Hill.

Now if you ride a bike on the roads around Britain you’ll know how lovely it is to find yourself on a stretch of nice new smooth tarmac. The lumps and bumps of our older repaired roads really can rattle your bones, so the new surface is a real treat.

Life is very much like that too. It’s the lumps and bumps of everyday life that make you realise just how comfortable the smooth untroubled times are. But without the rough times, we would never recognise the comparison and enjoy the easier times when they appear.

We all know, that as we move through life, it is impossible to stay on the smooth untroubled path. The bumpy times are a simple fact, just as they are out on the road. So when they come along, just be determined, hold on tight, keep pedalling and look forward to the smoother times ahead.

A Stream Of Consciousness

The Hampshire AvonBehind our offices 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 long dry summer, that flow has slowed to little more than a trickle. So with a little time to spare first thing this morning, I stood on the bank watching the water moving 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.

Ifs, Buts and Maybes

Ifs, Buts and MaybesSometimes, we find ourselves in situations, or potential situations, were we are a little unsure of what the outcome may be.

Our minds race, we mull over the possibilities, the what ifs, the maybes, and it can be all too easy to form ideas in our minds as to how things will pan out.

That’s fine, and perfectly normal, as long as we don’t let these expectations run away with us. Having a a notional or preconceived idea is one thing, but pinning our hopes on that idea is a recipe for disaster. Things rarely, if ever, go exactly as we imagine.

So the trick is to keep a level head, let events unfold as they will, and be tolerant of the inevitable differences between what we expect, or would like, and what actually comes to pass.

But as someone once said ‘Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it’. Conversely it has also been said that ‘That thing you wished for, the thing you never got, might have been the most fortunate moment you could ever imagine’.

So muse away, daydream to your hearts content, but remember that at the end of the day, the truth of the situation will become clear soon enough.

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