Moving Date – 25th February

Thank you so much for all the congratulations and messages of support for the new property in Wirksworth, Derbyshire. Thank you also for asking what items will be needed to furnish and equip it: I have put up a list in the Alms Bowl and have already been offered some of the things needed. I am really so grateful to everyone for helping to make this possible.

The moving date has been fixed for 25th of February. I am hiring a transit van, which Rev. Mugo has kindly offered to drive as she has plenty of experience of driving such vehicles. I will be very glad to have her along with me on the moving day.

I’ve done a little checking into public transport and was pleasantly surprised to find out that there is an hourly bus from the end of the road, going to Matlock and Derby, so it will be very possible for people to get here by train and bus, as well as by car.

And I will be giving this place a temple name. I have something in mind but can’t reveal it just yet!

A Property Found!

Great news – and the reason why this post is later than usual – Rev. Mugo and I went to view a property on Saturday and I have decided to rent it.

The property is on the edge of the town of Wirksworth in Derbyshire, just south of Matlock, with fields behind it and yes, the small lake is included. There is a large room, looking out on the lake, which is a lounge/diner/kitchen – pictures below (you can click to enlarge them).


There are two bedrooms, bathroom and a utility room, and space to park a retreat caravan. And there is a summerhouse which would make a very pleasant little shrine/meditation room:

We both had a very good feeling about the place – I think it will make a wonderful place of retreat. There are still a few formalities to complete, but if all goes well I am hoping to move in at the end of February. I still can’t quite believe that we have found such a delightful and suitable property so easily! I’ll publish more details in future posts.

Online Donations

Just thought I’d let you all know that I have added an online donation facility to the website. It is on the Appeal for Funds page and it looks like this (you can click on this one too):

I chose MyDonate because they don’t take any commission – most other online donation services do.

Improving the Website

This morning Rev. Mugo, Rev. Wilfrid and I had a meeting of the Field of Merit Trustees. One of the items on the agenda was to agree to register with the online donation service provided by MyDonate, which is operated by British Telecom. This will enable us to put a Donate Now button on the website. One of the reasons that we chose MyDonate was because they do not take any commission, unlike other services such as PayPal.

Rev. Mugo and I are also (slowly) making other improvements to the website. You have probably noticed that we have moved this blog from the front page and created a front page that hopefully sends the message that this site is more than the blog.

We added some text at the top of the Appeal for Funds page, which says “All donations are received as offerings to the Buddhadharma and are accepted with deepest gratitude.” At the heart of generosity is the unconditional nature of the gift. It is given because one wishes to bring benefit to all beings.

Work still to be done includes taking down the Transfer of Merit page – it seems to have run its course and to no longer be meeting a need. And I think we can put some more specific details on the About the Project page, and keep that more up-to-date as the project moves towards taking actual physical form in 2014.

So please do let us know if you have any thoughts about improving the website: Is there more information you’d like? Can you find what you are looking for? Anything about the look or feel of the site that doesn’t hit the spot for you? We always like to get feedback!

Building not Shed

Rev. Alicia and 'pod'.

Rev. Alicia and ‘pod’.

Rev. Alicia and I met in the Southern Lake District on Tuesday. We enjoyed lunch together – a treat of egg, beans, chips and then visited a two-man enterprise making camping pods. Their workshop was deep in the folds of the lowland Lakes – UK Hideaways Ltd. We were given a royal welcome and our every question answered in detail. The two men, obviously enjoying working together, seemed to have all the time in the world for us. We were impressed. Impressed by the attention to detail in the build, the thorough consideration of materials they were using. Most inspiring for me was their obvious committment to what they make not only while they are building but after they have left the workshop. Oh yes we visit our pods after they are on site to make sure everything is as it should be. Finding people who love what they do for a living is indeed inspiring.

If these pods were to be what Rev. Alicia chooses for the hermitages I think they will be great little, and not so little actually, spaces to sit within. Clearly they are not just ‘sheds’. They are buildings, secure, well-built, weather proof and long-lasting. They are guaranteed for 30 years of serviceable life.

After visiting the workshop one chap escorted us to a commercial campsite some distance away where around twelve pods were rowed up waiting for spring to come and to be filled up with jolly campers. It was clear on getting inside finished buildings that these would be ideal hermitages. And reflecting on why I thought this I came to see how the attitude of the men who put their hands to constructing them made a very positive contribution. A contribution which would have an impact on anybody sitting silently within them.

Caravans – and a Car

Gypsy Caravan CardThis card was given to me by someone who knows my interest in hermitages. It is not quite what I have in mind for the Field of Merit hermitages, but it is in the right spirit and I enjoy looking at it and am inspired by it.

Last week Rev. Wilfrid (a fellow trustee of this charity) and I visited United British Caravans, on Sandy Lane in Newcastle, to get an idea of what modern touring caravans look like and if they would be suitable as hermitages. I must admit that a caravan would not be my first choice as they are, understandably, not constructed with environmental considerations as a high priority, though they are better insulated nowadays and generally have double-glazing. On the plus side, a caravan contains all the facilities you need in a compact space, and it is movable.

This one that we looked at has a fixed bed at one end, which can be screened off, a toilet and a shower, cooker, fridge & sink, and a gas heater (click on a photo to enlarge it, or click here to go to the details on the UBC website). I would probably remove the fixed seating to make room for a table and chair and a meditation place. This caravan is a second-hand 4-berth Elddis Odyssey in very good condition for sale at £8,284. If you go for something a little older and more worn you can still get a good van for half that price or less. Given that there is very little money in the kitty, and we have to start somewhere, I think the first hermitage is likely to be a caravan, so If anyone out there has any advice about buying caravans please get in touch with me, I’d be very grateful.

I also want to say a big THANK YOU to the trustees of Reading Buddhist Priory, who have so kindly lent the Priory car, a 1999 Nissan Micra, to Field of Merit for so long as it is not needed at Reading, which will be at least a few months and possibly longer. This is such a helpful offering!

A Modification and a Next Step

News from Rev. Mugo
Rev. Alicia and I from the very start of the project 15 months ago intended to work side by side collaboratively and indeed that is what we have done up to now. As the project moved towards the next stage I gradually came to see that it would be good for me to step back and Rev. Alicia move into the lead role in taking the project forward and making it manifest. I had always imagined we would eventually be living at the temple and developing it together over the years into our dotage! This no long will happen, which brings a bit of sadness I must say. Life takes many twists and turns and I’d not anticipated a twist in the road of this import. It would be satisfying to be able to give well thought out reasons for coming to this however sometimes, it would seem, what comes up as good resists logical explanation! Even to oneself! At heart I feel this is a good move.

I will continue to support and help the project and I anticipate this being on the level of lifting and carrying rather than having a part in shaping future developments. Rev. Alicia and I continue to be good monastic friends and I bow to her patience and forbearance in the face of my change of mind.  I wish her well with taking the next step which is to rent property in the spring. In the future I’ll no doubt be signing up to spend some retreat time in a hut. Should there be a vacancy!  With bows, Mugo

News from Rev. Alicia: The Next Step – Renting a Property
For a while now I have been thinking that it would make a lot of sense to start this project at rented property. It might be a very long time until there is enough money to buy a place, and renting would enable the project to get started and offer the hermitage-style retreat facilities that are at the heart of this project. It would also provide experience that would be very helpful when choosing more permanent premises.

Over the last few weeks Rev. Mugo and I have consulted with many people, monks and lay supporters, as a result of which I have decided to look for a place to rent that I could move into in the spring, with the intention of being ready to open the doors to retreat guests by the summer.

The plan is to look for a bungalow or small house that stands on its own, not overlooked by neighbours, and with enough land to be able to site a couple of shepherd huts/trailers/yurts or other similar moveable structures to serve as the first guest hermitages. It would probably be somewhere in the Midlands. I don’t have anywhere in particular in mind, it just needs to be rural and reasonably accessible by road and public transport. If you live in the Midlands and would like to do some scouting around do let me know, I’d be very grateful for help in locating a suitable property.

From looking at rental property on the Rightmove website, £650 a month looks like it would get a reasonable property. Add to that Council Tax, gas and electricity, insurance, food, phone, car etc. and I think we are looking at a minimum monthly running cost of around £1,200 i.e. £14,400 a year.

There is currently around £6,000 in the bank, and £80 a month coming in via standing order donations so raising some more money to help get the project up and running would definitely be a good move – if you would like to help please visit the Appeal for Funds page of the website.

In the long term, I expect that donations from retreat guests will provide the major source of income though realistically it may be a year or two before that goal is realised, so I would like to reassure you that the means is in place to cover any deficit during that initial period (though it would be great if it wasn’t needed!)

So, that’s the outline plan, and there will be plenty more details to come as we start putting it into action. Rev. Mugo and I will keep you posted via this newsletter and the blog posts on the website. We’ll also be updating some of the pages on the website to reflect these new steps.

If you have any thoughts, comments, ideas or questions do please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you!


Charity Registration Achieved

Thought I would just let you all know that I received an email from the Charity Commission this morning to say that Field of Merit has achieved charitable status and has been entered onto the Register of Charities – that’s a significant milestone! I’ll write more about it in the next Newsletter.

Breath-by-breath and step-by-step

Just imagine. Just imagine climbing up the outside of London’s 1,016 foot Shard? Sixteen grueling hours in extreme conditions. That was yesterday and one to remember for sure. Today is another day for all of us and that’s including the six women who got arrested once they had achieved their goal. Now they have the rest of their lives to live. There is a double side to achieving goals which should not, of course, stop one from setting targets and going for them. Perhaps they did what many would aspire to do. To stand up (climb up!) for what we believe to be true and important.

I bumped into this event about an hour before the lead climber unfurled a  flag announcing arrival, and their reason for the climb. Clearly they were technically skilled, had realistically assessed the challenge and the risks, trained mentally and physically for the job and decided it was worth a go. What made the climb practically possible are the edges of the Shard which have a ladder like structure running up the corners of the predominately glass clad building. Their convictions outweighing almost certain prosecution and of course potentially death. They knew what they were doing.

Goal setting is doubled edged. On the one hand we would be lost without something up ahead to aim for. Be that ever so small, such as sweeping the back yard TODAY. Or deciding (excuse the plug!) to join in for a specific number of meditation periods on the next Field of Merit At Home meditation day – 20th July. And on the other hand, having achieved a goal, one is left looking for another one, and another one….ad infinitum. Is that any way to live actually? Always having ones eyes fixed to a point in the distance and in so doing maybe miss the ground, or the rung, under ones feet. I bet those women were very much absorbed in their next steps. The reasons for taking them at that point in their lives paling into insignificance before the imperative to survive. As somebody said recently, Each step IS the goal.

What if, having set a goal something changes and a new or different direction is needed? The women on the Shard were originally going to install a piece of art work but decided they didn’t have enough time to do that before dark. So they let go of a major part of their expedition. I will remember that when I’m tempted to push on when turning around, or sitting down, is a wiser plan. It’s too easy to see failure in such circumstances when redirection can be an expression of valor, if you think about it from a certain viewpoint.

What is it that has us engage in the seeming antithesis of what the six did yesterday? That’s breath-by-breath formal sitting and step-by-step daily life sitting? After all in the life of Buddhist practice there are no fixed goals to aim for. Yes, we do set temporary goals such as meditating for specific periods of time each day. However what is significant is the relationship we each have to those goals. Can we let go or redirect as needed? What is it then that has us returning to our ‘sitting place’ over and over and over again? Within our teaching we speak about all sharing a deep knowledge (strong inner conviction) of what is true and important. We regard this as being the case irrespective of faith tradition, or absence of one. How this truth is given expression through action is our unique gift. Hopefully the basic motivation is altruistic.

After sitting we get up and live our life,
best we can.
After the climb there is the rest of their lives,
all merit as they go on.

Another Meditation Day, Saturday 20th July

Following the success of the meditation day held on the 22nd June we have decided to hold another one on the 20th July. The format will be the same with an 8.00 am start, 20 min. sittings on the hour and half hour with an ‘on-line’ tea at 4.00 pm to end the day.