Friday, 15 June 2018

Daily Mindfulness Exercise


This year we have had the phenomenal impact of "Blue Planet II" and its clarion wake-up call on the death and destruction our plastic waste is reaping on life in the planet's oceans. Yes, we need big solutions to this huge problem but we can all do our bit and, hopefully, give a good example to others.

Since 2016 I've re-posted this item each year as an annual reminder to "keep the ball rolling".

For some time now I have been emailing out regular weekly mindfulness/meditation exercises to the members of the West Wight Sangha and to other friends and associates. In 2016, I introduced an additional Daily Mindfulness Exercise and post a reminder of this with each week's email.

Quite simply, the exercise is to pick up and dispose of one piece of litter every day.


Obviously, this is an environmentally useful activity in its own right and has a number of merits, but how can it be considered a mindfulness exercise?

It is so easy to rush through life without stopping to notice much.

Paying more attention to the present moment – to our own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around us – can improve our mental wellbeing.

This awareness is what we call "mindfulness". Mindfulness can help us enjoy life more and understand ourselves better. We can take steps to develop it in our own lives but there is one vital element that underpins this kind of mental activity and that is the need to REMEMBER to be mindful.

This is where the use of regular exercises comes in, essentially we commit to carrying out a task, we have a job to do. For the purpose of developing our ability to be mindful these tasks should not be overly complicated and there should be a clear trigger, a predefined set of circumstances, to initiate our focused awareness of the task.

One of our weekly exercises, and one of my favourites, is to notice the colour blue. Sounds simple but you quickly become aware of how rare, especially in the countryside, this colour is. There are two elements here, you can be mindfully looking for the colour blue or your mindfulness is triggered by seeing the colour blue. Just swap litter for blue objects and you can see the benefit of the litter pick exercise.

It’s also a good idea to tell other people what you are doing, people do look and wonder..... so tell them. Here on the Isle of Wight we have a population of 139,000. Even halving this to allow for the too youngs, too olds, too infirmeds and, sadly, the don’t cares still leaves the potential for the best part of 70,000 pieces of litter to be removed from our beautiful island EVERY DAY and every day works out to a staggering TWO AND A HALF MILLION PIECES OF LITTER REMOVED EVERY YEAR. So the more people you can get interested the better.

You can also beef up the remembering element of the exercise by keeping a tally of days missed, it will happen, and making a personal promise to pick up the missed number of pieces of litter the next opportunity you have.

The environmental point of this task is to get us working at creating a cosy home for all of us in this world. After all, the world is our home. Trying to define home as only the space we live in every night only serves to segregate and not unite us. Recognise that our home extends beyond just those physical walls and every ground we walk on, every neighbourhood we walk in, every district we step into, etc. should be considered our home, too.

The problem with litter is that the more there is, the more it generates. If people see litter all over the place, they see no reason why they shouldn't add to it. Why should they bother to look for a bin when nobody else does? What difference to the general scene would one more sandwich wrapper make?

But think what difference one less wrapper makes and then another one less and another and another........................

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

NEW MOON - Wisely Reflecting

Those who while still young 
neither choose a life of renunciation, 
nor earn a good living, 
end up like dejected old herons 
beside a pond without fish. 

Dhammapada v. 155

In English we have the proverb, ‘Make hay while the sun shines’. The meaning of this saying is simple: it is wise to act while conditions are favourable. The illustration that Dhammapada verse 155 gives us goes further telling us what happens when we don’t act wisely. So long as our efforts to plan for the future are associated with whole body-mind, judgement-free awareness, we need not be concerned about losing our grounding in the reality of this present moment. We only risk becoming lost when we haven’t adequately prepared ourselves with the ability to reflect wisely.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

FULL MOON - Truly Worthy

Those who know the uncreated, 
who are free and stilled, 
who have discarded all craving, 
are the most worthy beings. 

Dhammapada v.97

On this Full-moon day of May, as we mark Vesakha Puja, let us consider what the Buddha held up as being most worthy of attention. We are already well informed in regards to ‘the created’ world i.e. all the conditions which we see arising and ceasing. And we have heard many times how all that is born dies, all that arises ceases, all conditioned phenomena are in a state of perpetual change. The Buddha’s realization shows us that it is possible to awaken to what he called ‘the unconditioned’, ‘the uncreated’, ‘the unchanging reality’. Realization of this reality, he taught, is what is truly dependable and therefore truly worthy of attention. So how might we arrive at this realization? One approach could be simply to keep asking the right questions: What is the uncreated? What is the unconditioned? What is the undying? We then contemplate that any condition, any idea, any sensation that arises when we ask such questions, is not it – and we keep letting go.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Wesak in the West Wight

As you will know we have been holding a Wesak celebration here at the West Wight Sangha every May for the last few years.

Wesak is the Buddhist festival that commemorates the Buddha's birth, awakening and final passing and is celebrated by millions of Buddhists around the world on the day of the first full Moon of May.


In 1999, the UN recognized internationally Vesak Day to acknowledge the contribution that Buddhism, one of the oldest religions in the world, has made for over 2500 years. This day is commemorated annually at the UN Headquarters and other UN offices and missions.

This year we will celebrate Wesak here at the West Wight Sangha on the actual day of the full moon which is Tuesday the 29th of May. This coincides with our usual Tuesday evening meeting and as such we will be adding an extra half hour to our customary session taking it from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m. In addition to our normal meditation practice, we will be having other activities and festive nibbles!

Come and wish the Buddha a happy birthday, celebrate his awakening and death (Buddhists celebrate the death of the Buddha because we believe that having attained Enlightenment he achieved freedom from physical existence and its sufferings).

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

A Quote That I Like

“Everybody, everybody everywhere, has his own movie going, his own scenario, and everybody is acting his movie out like mad, only most people don’t know that is what they’re trapped by, their little script.”


 - Tom Wolfe, American journalist and author of "The Right Stuff and "The Bonfire of the Vanities".

He died this week aged 87.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

NEW MOON - Radiance

The sun shines by day, 
the moon shines by night. 
But both all day and all night 
the Buddha shines in glorious splendour. 

Dhammapada v. 387

There is no denying that when we look around us there is a lot of darkness. And we might well be thinking that some of ‘the Buddha’s radiance’ would be very helpful right now. But where do we imagine the Buddha’s radiance is to be found? Do our thoughts go back 2600 years to ancient India; or perhaps to the Awakened teachers dwelling in forests somewhere? The Buddha taught that this radiance which he realized already exists within the human heart when it is freed from an inflated sense of self-importance. An exaggerated sense of self-importance gives rise to greed, hatred and delusion which obstruct the natural light, clarity and kindness that is there as potential within us.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Mirror of Zen - A Day in the Moment of a Modern Zen Monk

I have just been sent this fascinating video by one of our Sangha members.

Zen's ancient teachings seem a mystery to many. But actually, Zen is very simple: Zen means attaining my true self -- "What am I?" In this revolutionary film by acclaimed filmmaker Christine Schmitthenner, we see a Western Zen monk in his daily activities in the world: chanting, meditating, preparing breakfast, riding public transport, meeting with friends, even shaving his head -- from moment to moment, not attached to conceptual thinking, everything is Zen, which just means everything is "moment." The subject of this unusual film, Hyon Gak Sunim, allowed filmmakers to follow his daily living and teaching activities for a week as he met with students and organized his daily activities.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

FULL MOON - Compassionate and Real

Disciples of the Buddha
are fully awake 
both day and night, 
taking delight in compassion. 

Dhammapada v.300

What it means to be compassionate is not always obvious. What we assume compassionate action should look like from the outside might not be the same as an expression of genuine compassion. For compassion to be real we need to know what motivates us and truly be in touch with our bodies. Real compassion requires that we let go of notions of how we might appear and trust in our well-considered, wholesome intentions.