Cohesive Thinking

Cohesive ThinkingIt’s amazing how we and the rest of the Universe are so closely connected. The shoots of progress are suddenly showing through a fog of uncertainty, and I find myself running dozens of ‘what if’ scenarios through my head.

And as if to focus my own thoughts on just what situations might be possible, I stumble across this Thought For Today from Sensei …

“When we plant the seeds of self-doubt, only noxious weeds sprout. When we limit ourselves with low expectations, the growth of the tree of happiness immediately ceases.

The power of growth, of improvement, the power to overcome all stagnation and break through every obstacle and transform a barren wasteland into a verdant field—that unstoppable power of hope resides right there in your own heart.

It will well up from the rich earth of your innermost being when you face the future without doubt or fear: “I can do more. I can grow. I can become a bigger and better human being”—life and faith are a never-ending struggle to grow.”

This is my last day before I set of with Jacqui for a week afloat. The posts may be delayed due to the lack of connectivity, but rest assured, they will be worth the wait once they arrive.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

Who Knows What The Future Holds?

Smart TechnologyWith technology becoming smarter, at an ever increasing rate, it is difficult to see where it will take us in the coming decade or two. Who would have imagined, even thirty years ago, that we could all carry a smartphone, a device that can connect us with almost every other person in almost any other place, anywhere on the planet?

In Buddhist terms, the causes we make today, will shape our future life and lives, as Sensei points out:

What will the future be like? No one knows the answer to that question. All we know is that the effects that will appear in the future are all contained in the causes that are made in the present.

The important thing, therefore, is that we stand up and take action to achieve great objectives without allowing ourselves to be distracted or discouraged by immediate difficulties.

Be aware of your own responsibilities. You create all the causes for the effects you see in your own life. Make strides to ensure that those causes will produce the effects you desire.

A Magical Saturday

At Grooves on the GreenFollowing a magical sun filled Saturday which encompassed so many things, including a visit to  the Grooves on the Green music festival in Ashley Cross, I could not have expressed this observation any better …

Partners in a relationship have different roles.

There are times when the burning intensity and power of the sun are called for, and times when the soothing luminescence and serene wisdom of the moon is what’s needed.

A complementary relationship in which the partners cooperate and work together is a beautiful thing.

~ Daisaku Ikeda

The Joy Of Creating A Life

The Colour Of JoyNo need to panic folks, there is no impending patter of tiny feet or anything like that. But it’s been an interesting year for me so far.

Having put in the effort to get my CELTA, I’m now teaching again. Having taken strides to become more involved in the vegan community, in and around Bournemouth, I have forged new relationships.

Sensei has some very wise words to elaborate the reasons why such events have brought joy into my life …

There is no one lonelier or more unhappy than a person who does not know the pure joy of creating a life for himself or herself. To be human is not merely to stand erect and manifest intelligence or knowledge. To be human in the full sense of the word is to lead a creative life.

The struggle to create new life from within is a truly wonderful thing. There is found the brilliant wisdom that guides and directs the workings of reason; the light of insight that penetrates the farthest reaches of the universe; the undaunted will to see justice done that meets and challenges all the assaults of evil; the spirit of unbounded care that embraces all who suffer.

When these are fused with that energy of compassion that pours forth from the deepest sources of cosmic life, an ecstatic rhythm arises to colour the lives of all people.

~ Daisaku Ikeda

A Sudden Realisation

A Sudden ThoughtOccasionally I really surprise myself, or rather something that in all truth should be blindingly obvious, suddenly permeates my grey matter and comes as a bit of a shock.

I’ve been writing my blog for nearly four years now, and over eighty thousand people have visited it in that time, but it struck me today that the whole purpose behind it and my practice, is to help myself and others, to reach a state of enlightenment.

Sensei says this of enlightenment, or the state of Buddhahood:

If we attain the state of Buddhahood in this lifetime, that state will forever pervade our lives. Throughout the cycle of birth and death, in each new lifetime, we are endowed with good health, wealth and intelligence, along with a supportive, comfortable environment, and lead lives that overflow with good fortune. Each of us will also possess a unique mission and be born in an appropriate form to fulfil it.

Quite a powerful statement, but really, just how amazing will that be? And there was the shock, that my practice and my musings about it each day are actually helping me, and hopefully you, along the long and winding path to a most amazing goal.

Maybe I am a bit dim, ok there’s no maybe about it, and perhaps I should have realised it sooner, but I hope that my posts help others, even if it is only a simple thought that strikes a chord.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

Let’s Start A War On War

Dove Of PeaceWith all the coverage about ISIS and the continuing fighting in Syria and Iraq, we need to find some way to embrace and broadcast these positive words of peace from Daisaku Ikeda …

Each of us, no matter how weak or ineffectual we may feel ourselves to be, must build deep within our hearts a stronghold for peace, one that will be capable of withstanding and in the end silencing the incessant calls to war.

This is the only way humanity’s tragic predilection for violence can be reformed and its energies channelled in new directions.

Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off …

Clipless PedalsAs one who is yet to completely master the pitfalls of clip-less pedals, this wisdom from Sensei struck a resonant chord …

Anyone who has ever made a resolution discovers that the strength of that determination fades in time.

The moment you feel that is when you should make a fresh determination. Tell yourself, “OK! I will start again from now!”

If you fall down seven times, get up an eighth.

Don’t give up when you feel discouraged—just pick yourself up and renew your determination each time.

Staying Young

Keep Calm And Stay YoungI’m no spring chicken, though I have to say, that I am fitter and healthier now than I have ever been.

The trick, in my opinion, is to eat the right food, get plenty of exercise, enough sleep and maybe above all, view everything life throws at you with a calm and mindful attitude.

Easier said than done? Maybe.

Daisaku Ikeda has a few years start on me, but he has a few thoughts for all of us on the subject of staying young …

When I was younger, I thought I had nothing to do with those who were elderly. I think most young people find it hard to believe that they themselves will grow old. The reality is, however, that now I am among the “elderly,” and I can’t move with the speed and ease that I once did.

My teacher used to say that the last years of our life are the most important. If those last few years are happy ones, we have had a happy life.

Old age is a time of spiritual fruition and completion. When people are no longer pursuing position or status, money or material possessions, they can look closely at themselves and at the reality of life and death without the distractions of superficial concerns.

When you reach old age, you know in your heart if you have lived a satisfying life or not. No one else can know this or decide it for you. The single greatest challenge we each will face is whether we can honestly say at the end of our days on this Earth that our life has been well spent.

I believe that whether we can live a truly satisfying life to the end depends to a considerable extent on how we view death. Sadly, many older people are anxious and fearful about death. But, as a Buddhist, I find it helpful to compare the cycles of life and death to the daily rhythms of waking and sleeping. Just as we look forward to the rest sleep brings after the efforts and exertions of the day, death can be seen as a welcome period of rest and re-energizing in preparation for a new round of active life. And just as we enjoy the best sleep after a day in which we have done our very best, a calm and easy death can only follow a life lived to the fullest without any regrets.

It is natural for trees to bear fruit in the harvest season, and in the same way, “old age” is a period of ripening. It can be the most valuable time in human life, when we have rich experience, deeply polished character, and a pure and gentle heart. The loss of certain capacities with age is nothing to be ashamed of. Rather, I feel the various infirmities of age should even be seen as badges of honour and worn with pride.

There is a saying that goes: “To a fool, old age is a bitter winter; to a wise man it is a golden time.” Everything depends on your own attitude, how you approach life. Do you view old age as a period of decline ending in death, or as a time in which one has the opportunity to attain one’s goals and bring one’s life to a rewarding and satisfying completion? The same period of old age will be dramatically different depending upon your own outlook.

I received a letter a few years ago from a woman in Kyoto who was then 67 years old. Her advice was as follows: “We need to banish any expression of defeat from our minds—statements or thoughts such as ‘I can’t do it,’ ‘I’m too old,’ ‘There’s no point in my trying,’ ‘I’m past it,’ or ‘It’s too hard.’ Instead we should be telling ourselves: ‘I won’t give up yet,’ ‘I’m still young,’ ‘I can still do it,’ ‘I’ve still got plenty of energy.’ Just by changing the way we speak to ourselves and others we can change our pattern of behaviour in a positive direction.”

Research shows that when people make continuous use of their powers of memory and concentration, these abilities need not fade. An active interest in others, finding new pastimes and making new friends—such positive attitudes have been shown to slow physical and mental decline.

Even though our bodies may age, if we maintain an active, positive attitude, our hearts and minds will remain “youthful” as long as we live.

To quote the poet Samuel Ullman, “Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of imagination, a vigour of emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.”

It is vital to always look to the future, to have plans and aspirations—such an outlook is crucial to making the last years of one’s life rewarding and fulfilling.

One woman whose youthful attitude greatly impressed me was the American painter known as “Grandma Moses.” She had produced around 1,500 paintings by her death at the age of 101. Yet she didn’t even start painting until she was 75. She had never studied painting and was an ordinary farmer’s wife until then.

She had faced many difficulties in her life. Five of her ten children died young, and she lost her husband when she was 66. She said that though she had experienced real pain and hardship, she refused to be dragged down by suffering and always looked ahead.

Whatever she encountered, Grandma Moses strove to make each day and each moment shine with her smile. After her surviving children left home and her husband died, she refused to give in to loneliness or step back from life. She took up the challenge of painting, and her last years glowed like a beautiful sunset. She wrote, “I look back on my life like a good day’s work. It was done and I feel satisfied with it. I was happy and contented. I knew nothing better and made the best out of what life offered. And life is what we make it; always has been, always will be.”

There is a great difference between simply living a long life and living a full and rewarding life. What’s really important is how much rich texture and colour we can add to our lives during our stay here on Earth—however long that stay may be. Quality is the true value, not quantity.

Educate The Educators

Educate The EducatorsIn light of all this political palaver over the schools in Birmingham, it seems that there is a dire need for some education on both sides.

Sensei had this to say on the matter of education in general …

Education should not be based on or limited by a nationalist agenda.

Education must cultivate the wisdom to reject and resist violence in all its forms.

It must foster people who intuitively understand and know—in their mind, in their heart, with their entire being—the irreplaceable value of human beings and the natural world.

I believe such education embodies the timeless struggle of human civilization to create an unerring path to peace.

What Does Your Future Hold?

Smart Phones Getting SmarterWith technology becoming smarter, at an ever increasing rate, it is difficult to see where it will take us in the coming decade or two. Who would have imagined, even forty years ago, that we could all carry a smart device that can connect us with other people and places, anywhere on the planet?

In Buddhist terms, the causes we make today, will shape our future life and lives, as Sensei points out:

What will the future be like? No one knows the answer to that question. All we know is that the effects that will appear in the future are all contained in the causes that are made in the present.

The important thing, therefore, is that we stand up and take action to achieve great objectives without allowing ourselves to be distracted or discouraged by immediate difficulties.

Be aware of your own responsibilities. You create the causes for the effects you see in your own life. Make strides to ensure that these causes will produce the effects you desire.

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