A noodle story

I was watching a movie about noodles yesterday (seen it countless times, and it still always makes me hungry) and had a craving for some but didn’t have any. At lunch today, I fancied some noodles again but the nearest noodle bar was just that bit too far away. Third time lucky (in a manner of speaking), I went to my meditation group tonight, and they were unusually talkative — someone mentioned noodles.

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Astrology podcasts

The internet has really done a lot for astrology in the past decade. Apart from amazing blogs (some listed on the sidebar), there are also some really good podcasts I thought I’d draw your attention to. I find it useful to be able to listen to them while cleaning windows, or ironing, or doing some other mundane chore. Some offer short snippets of info into current transits, while others do a full length radio programme, complete with guest interviews and live callers. I enjoy some of the live readings as they really bring astrology to life as a tool for everyday living.

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Pluto direct: Blog stats spike!

blog stats 0909

Hey, I was totally surprised to find out that the number of hits to my blog has spiked exponentially in the past 24 hours! Mainly because some very popular and respected astrologers have recommended my blog — I’m awed and humbled. Is this an effect of Pluto direct in my 1st house?!

Thank you to all the astro-blogging -twitter friends I’ve made these past weeks, who have linked to my blog, left comments, re-tweeted my posts and so on. You’re all so amazing, I’m privileged to be counted among you. Here are some of you:

If I’ve missed out anyone, I’m sorry!! Just know that every comment is appreciated.

I hope Pluto direct is ushering good things for you.

Buddha-field

Vimalakirti I thought I’ll take a break from my Hades Moon for a bit.

My Buddhist group is currently studying The Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti: A Mahayana Scripture (alternatively known as the
Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra). We covered Chapter One* last week called ‘The Purification of the Buddha-field’, which led to a discussion of what that ‘buddha-field’ might be.

Originally, I thought it might be something akin to an aura, but looking at the formal definitions, which describe it as a ‘field of influence’ (of a buddha or bodhisattva) that transcends time and space, I realised it is something far more abstract. Robert Thurman describes it as being akin to a ‘buddha-verse’, as in ‘uni-verse’, which makes the concept a bit easier to grasp.

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Treeleaf and time

Fall leaves A member of my local sangha recently drew my attention to an online Zendo (I hesitate to use the word ‘virtual’, because it is very real) called ‘Treeleaf‘. It is led by Jundo Cohen, a Zen teacher in the Soto lineage of Masters Eihei Dogen and Gudo Wafu Nishijima.

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Letting life happen

I was listening to a talk by Paul Haller recently, called ‘Just Sitting Being Alive’, which he delivered in Belfast sometime last year (it can be found on the Black Mountain website).

One thing he said about Zen practice that struck me; that stillness is ‘when we can just let life happen around us’ (or something to that effect). (It is interesting that the same point – being in the moment – can be made over and over, and yet have something new to learn from each time).

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Taking the bait

‘Can we resist taking the bait?’ was a question posed in a discussion group on Zen practice that I participate in. How many times do we take the bait when we can see not just the worm but the hook, line and angler? In my case, sometimes my mind gets in the way, and it starts thinking, ‘Maybe the worm isn’t a worm and it isn’t attached to a hook. I’m just imagining things.’ That’s when the trouble starts.

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Post retreat pond

I got back from a weekend retreat in a lovely part of the country this afternoon. The meditation was at times wonderful, at times painful, at times plain tedious, but no doubt always useful. It even brought some clarity to some questions I’ve been working on in the thesis.

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Knowing when to give up, Part III

Parts I and II.

Serendipity is wonderful thing. Our Zen group had a visit from a teacher today and somehow the things he started talking about made me think about what I was going to post here though I never quite got to raise it in the discussion.

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Bowing to my anger

At our sitting the other night, one of the group brought a talk on a CD by Jack Kornfield. I forget the name of the CD now, but I think it’s A Beginner’s Guide to Buddhism or something similar. Anyway, something Kornfield said struck me. He said something about bowing to the feelings that arise within us during meditation. I can’t quote it verbatim, but the image is apt and powerful.

We don’t meditate to suppress or repress unpleasant thoughts and feelings (people still ask how one can ‘think of nothing’); we do it to acknowledge and not judge. The way I picture bowing to my anger — anger is my bugbear, but you can bow to grief, restlessness, anxiety, take your pick from the whole gamut of human neuroses — is I’m silently saying ‘Hello, nice to meet you. How are you today?’ In objectifying my anger, I don’t have to identify with it, and it with me.

Anger is a funny emotion. At the time it manifests, it feels like the only thing in existence. Most people will tell you to let it out, that it is healthy to vent. But anger, like the fire often used to describe it, grows when it is fed — by fear, by frustration, by self-righteousness, by long-held memories. Without nourishment, it fades and loses relevance. I can feel my anger but I don’t need to feed it.

My first blog was an angry blog. In a perverse reversal of Douglas Adams’ attempt at humour as a coping mechanism for the absurdity of life, it was called ‘Life, the Universe and Everything Imbecilic’. Lots of things made me mad — my inconsiderate roommate, unfeeling institutional bureaucracy, the state of the environment, neo-conservative right-wing politics, Microsoft… Name it and chances are I was angry at it. But the more I meditated, the harder it became to sustain an angry blog. It served no purpose beyond the initial point of anger and re-reading it when the the moment had passed made me wonder what I was really angry about. In other words, I lost the will to feed it. Besides, a document of rage and impotence (for that was what it was) is no legacy to leave the world I am (still) hopeful for.

This is not to say I don’t get angry or frustrated or fearful any more. I still do, but for sanity to prevail, I have to look past my anger to something more constructive and concrete; to build on from the embers something that could be positively sustaining, and not self-consuming. Hence, the start of my new blog chronicling what I hope will be a path of growth.

‘A Question of Mindfulness’ is a bow to my anger: ‘Hello, how are you today?’

Ourselves and each other

I came to meditation some years ago during a bad patch (do we ever seek help when things are good?). I started out with a CD, then found a group, and realised that like most activities it was much easier to keep up with a group than when you’re on your own.

The group is important for me in many ways. For one thing, it keeps me anchored to a weekly routine, and motivates me to maintain my daily practice (more or less!). But it also liberates me from my social identity. We meet to sit first, and to socialise second, so there is no pressure to ask or answer (and resist!) questions of who you are, where you come from, what work you do, and what car you drive.

I started this post thinking I was going to explain why it was I meditated, but I think the more important question is why I meditate with others. This is what I wrote in a blurb about my local mindfulness group:

‘We sit to learn how to be more in ourselves and with each other’.

Sure you can meditate alone, but meditating in a group allows you to step out of yourself and be with others; not talking at them, or judging them, or annoying them, or trying to get them to like you. Just being with other people in silence makes me better at being myself.

It probably isn’t an accident that the Three Jewels in Buddhism refer to the Buddha, the Dharma (teachings) and the Sangha (spiritual community), rather than the unholy trinity of ‘Me, me and myself’.

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