Silhouette Solitude

Bournemouth Pier SunriseMaking good use of the fair weather today, I decided to ride the seaside route to work. Once I was onto the promenade at Sandbanks, heading east towards Christchurch, there was almost total silence, save for the rumble of my tyres on the tarmac and the waves lapping gently on the almost deserted beach.

The cold air did a great job of purging any last traces of sleep from my person and in fact, compared to the last few weeks, it was decidedly chilly. Coupled with the effect of morning mist, my arms started to get really cold and wet, and I was beginning to wish I had put a long-sleeved top on.

I knew that a little more effort would speed me towards my destination as well as generating the heat required to thaw my frozen limbs, and so it proved. After just a few minutes hard pedalling I was feeling pretty toasty and was whizzing down the promenade at a healthy 30kph.

Now I know that some people seem to think that I am a bit crazy, cycling over 30km to get to work, but it really does have benefits. At current petrol prices, it saves me about £8 a day in fuel, it helps keep me physically fit, it makes me wide awake and alert, ready for work, and I get to see some amazing sights that others often miss. I also get time to think, in perfect solitude. There are very few others mad enough to be up at this time of day.

This morning, my timing was such, that as the first rays of the rising sun popped over the horizon, they fell directly behind the skeletal structure of Bournemouth Pier. Now the pier itself is no Victorian masterpiece, and the funfair that perches precariously at the far end is no oil painting, but in silhouette against the rising sun it made for an amazing sight.

With the return journey promising to offer similar views of the sunset, and with the weekend just around the corner, I’m looking forward to my ride back to Poole. The weathermen have promised that we will have a little more of this amazing summer during the next few days. I hope you can make the most of our good fortune, I know what I’ll be up to.

Simply Caring

Caring HandsIn this world of ours, where it sometimes seems like looking out for anyone but ourselves is frowned upon, here is a lesson from Daisaku Ikeda as to the reasons why we should care …

The misfortune of others is our misfortune. Our happiness is the happiness of others. To see ourselves in others, and feel an inner oneness and sense of unity with them, represents a fundamental revolution in the way we view and live our lives.

Therefore, discriminating against another person is the same as discriminating against oneself. When we hurt another, we are hurting ourselves. And when we respect others, we respect and elevate our own lives as well.

~ Daisaku Ikeda

Ideals and Images

I’ve been out cycling, surrounded by beautiful nature all day, just wonderful, so here is a snippet of wisdom from Nichiren Daishonin, about letting go of worldly desires, and a couple of images from the ride …

New Forest Heathland Panorama

Now, if you wish to attain Buddhahood, you have only to lower the banner of your arrogance, cast aside the staff of your anger, and devote yourself exclusively to the one vehicle of the Lotus Sutra. Worldly fame and profit are mere baubles of your present existence, and arrogance and prejudice are ties that will fetter you in a next one.

~ Nichiren Daishonin

Beach Huts at Hengistbury Head

Little Wobbles

Water Through Your HandsDetermination is funny stuff. You can’t buy it, you can’t bottle it, in fact, if you don’t have any, the only way to obtain some is to create it for yourself. A little like water in your hands, it can trickle through your fingers and be gone, if you are not keeping an eye on it. Along with perseverance, it is the driving force behind each and every one of us achieving our goals in life.

Determination and perseverance are slightly different things. Chambers online dictionary defines Determination as “firmness or strength of will, purpose or character” whereas Perseverance is defined as “continued effort to achieve something one has begun, despite setbacks”.

So it might be said that perseverance stems from determination, they might even be inextricably linked. However, I have to report, to myself as much as to you, that I have had a couple of wobbles on the determination and perseverance fronts these last few days.

This goal of mine, to reach a target weight of 75kg, has been going so well. The weight loss has been steady, not dramatic, controlled and relatively continuous, until now. I’ve been burning far more calories each day than I have been consuming, and my level of personal fitness has improved noticeably, but I’ve become complacent.

My eating habits, so carefully controlled over the last three months, have become sloppy. I have allowed myself ‘treats’ on the basis that I will ‘burn them off’ later in the day, or week. But the scales do not lie, and having ‘treated’ myself a little too often, and having been unable or unwilling to cycle yesterday because of the bad weather, my weight has started to creep back up again …

The Odd Wobble

Ok, so it’s not the end of the world, but it is a wake-up call for me. I have to refocus, concentrate on my goal and strengthen my determination to persevere with my quest. Maybe, as with my Buddhist practice, the occasional set-back is almost a good thing. Without challenges, how can we grow stronger? Without resistance, how can we measure our own strength?

So, having admitted to my failings in a very public way, I can now regroup and gird my loins for a serious amount of cycling tomorrow. I’ve taken a day off work, partly to take advantage of the improved weather we have been promised, but mainly to cover a lot of scenic miles through the beautiful New Forest.

I’m even going to cycle there and back, adding a further 40 miles to the days exertions, so that should put it on a par with my trip up to Bristol a few weeks back. I’m really looking forward to getting started, and also to getting well and truly back on track.

Emerging Beauty

Emerging BeautySelf awareness, the realisation of who, or what you really are, comes to some people with age, but for me, it came at a point in life where I was at my all time low. Seeing my true reflection in the mirror was a long and painful process, there’s no joy in realising that you are someone you don’t really like, but it lead me to the turning point that has allowed me to change for the better.

It is said ‘that we hate in others, what we refuse to see in ourselves’ and I suddenly understood what that meant. Things that annoy us about other people, are sometimes the very things in us that annoy others. Being honest enough with ourselves, to admit our failings or less attractive traits, can be the start of a process of self improvement.

In Nichiren Buddhism we refer to that process as Human Revolution, the nurturing and growth of self improvement through the acquisition of wisdom, courage and compassion. It is achieved, over time, through a determined adherence to our practice and continued learning.

So next time, before you go criticising others, take a long, hard and honest look in that mirror, and have the courage to see the faults you are so desperate to hide from yourself. It will be a painful process, but you will emerge on the other side, like a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, a better and more beautiful being for doing it.

Infinite Connectivity

Infinite ConnectivityIn the true reality of life as viewed from the enlightened state of a Buddha, one who has broken free of all delusion, all things are equal, transcending distinctions and differences between subject and object, self and others, mind and body, the spiritual and the material.

In its true aspect, life is infinitely expansive and eternal, without beginning or end. Life is dynamic; it is wisdom and compassion; it embodies the principle of the indivisibility of life and death; it is a universal law.

The cosmos is not so big that life cannot embrace it, nor the smallest particle of matter so small that life cannot be contained within it.

Nice Contrasts

Reading - A Nice ContrastI’ve been out cycling this morning, and having enjoyed the cooler conditions that Autumn is starting to bring, I spent the afternoon with my nose in a book. It’s a contrast I enjoy, swapping muscle for mind.

Daisaku Ikeda, in his Buddhism Day By Day, says this about the act of reading:

‘Reading is dialogue with oneself; it is self-reflection, which cultivates profound humanity. Reading is therefore essential to our development.

It expands and enriches the personality like a seed that germinates after a long time and sends forth many blossom-laden branches.

People who can say of a book ‘this changed my life’ truly understand the meaning of happiness. Reading that sparks inner revolution is desperately needed to escape drowning in the rapidly advancing information society.

Reading is more than intellectual ornamentation; it is a battle for the establishment of the self, a ceaseless challenge that keeps us young and vigorous.’

We all know which book ‘changed my life’, and I can confirm that I understand the meaning of the happiness that this encompasses. Books transformed civilisation in the broadest sense when they became widely available via the printing presses of William Caxton and all those who have followed.

The advent of the world wide web and the internet has simply taken that process to the Nth level. The dissemination of information, and the written word has never been so widespread. Although there are associated dangers and we must be circumspect about the source of the information we consume, there has never been an easier time to read.

Reaching The Realm Of Understanding

Ichinen Sanzen - Three Thousand RealmsLet’s talk about Ichinen Sanzen for a moment, about how each of the Ten Worlds contain all of the other Worlds, meaning we can move from one to another in an instant.

Ichinen Sanzen means Three Thousand Realms in One Instant. The maths is simple, Ten Worlds each containing all the others makes one hundred Worlds.

Multiply them by the Ten Factors gives us one thousand ‘states’ of existence, giving us three thousand when we take the Three Realms into account.

Here is a list of The Ten Worlds, The Ten Factors and the Three Realms.

The Ten Worlds  
Buddhahood Enlightenment
Bodhisattva Helping others
Realisation Absorption and understanding
Learning Self reflection and study
Heaven Rapture
Humanity Tranquillity
Anger Self righteousness
Animality Instinct
Hunger Insatiability
Hell Extreme suffering
The Ten Factors  
Appearance Physical aspect
Nature Mental aspect
Entity Substance, life itself
Power Inherent energy
Influence Influence or power
Inherent Cause Habit or karma
Relation External cause
Latent Effect Potential effect
Manifest Effect Visible outcome
Consistency Connected nature of all
The Three Realms  
The Self Form, perception and consciousness
Living Beings Society, community, people
The Land The natural environment

I hope this helps you understand the concept of Ichinen Sanzen and the true nature of Life at any given instant. It shows us why, in any particular situation, there are so many factors that will influence our actions, reactions and the eventual outcome.

Maybe we should now grasp the reason why being mindful of all things, and reacting to the situations of daily life, in a controlled manner, is such a challenge.

It’s All About Perception

It's All About PerceptionIt is a well known Buddhist saying, that our problems are not the real problem, it is the way we perceive them that is the problem.

Don’t have problems, have a series of challenges. Challenges are just problems that we are confident that we can overcome. Our problems come and go, nothing lasts forever, so view them with an open mind, look on them as challenges and remember, you are turning poison into medicine.

Even places that have been shrouded in darkness for billions of years can be illuminated by a simple lit candle. Even a flint from the bottom of the deepest river can be used to produce fire.

Our present sufferings, no matter how dark, have certainly not existed for billions of years, nor will they linger forever.

The sun will definitely rise, in fact its ascent has already begun. With determination, we can all overcome our problems, so look on them as challenges and enjoy the victory when it arrives.

Seeing The Positive Side

Seeing The Positive SideWe all get them, those times when life just seems to get on top of us, we feel like we are drowning or being crushed by the pressure, we scream inside, but we know nobody can hear.

For those times, here are a few observations that may help you see things from a different, and more positive, point of view …

New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings ~ Lao Tzu

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass … it’s about learning to dance in the rain ~ Anon

Good things come to those who wait … greater things come to those who will do absolutely everything to make it happen ~ Anon

Forget all the reasons why something won’t work and believe in the one reason that it will ~ Anon

Life is like photography … You need the negatives to develop ~ Anon

Don’t worry about failures … worry about the possibilities you miss when you don’t even give something a chance ~ Anon

We learn lessons from everyone who passes through our lives … some lessons are painful, some are painless … but, all are priceless ~ Anon

Nobody ever planned to be broke, fat, lazy, lonely, or stupid … those things are what happen when you don’t have a plan, make one now ~ Anon

Remember, there are millions of people out there who are more than happy with much less than you have ~ Anon

The biggest failure you can have in life is making the mistake of never trying at all ~ Anon

Life has two rules: #1 Never quit … #2 Always apply rule #1 ~ Anon

The mere act of writing this has reminded me of how positivity can come from negativity if we choose to let it happen. Take all your negative emotions, look at the situation from a different perspective and use all that energy to make a positive change.

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