Broadband is on

So I can show you some photos:

Barbara, Marie, Doug, Rev. Alicia & Kevin

Barbara, Marie, Doug, Rev. Alicia and Kevin on arrival day

The next day Rev. Mugo and I performed a blessing ceremony for the Hermitage

The following day Rev. Mugo and I performed a blessing ceremony for the Hermitage

The Buddha given by theThrossel community...

The Buddha given by the Throssel community…


...sits by the lake

…sits by the lake


Altar and meditation space

Altar and meditation space

Lounge area

Lounge area

A misty morning

A misty morning

The Year Ahead

Walking into the year ahead - leaving 2013 behind.

Walking into the year ahead – leaving 2013 behind.

It has taken me some time to adjust to the changing of the year. On one level moving from December 31st, 2013 to January 1st, 2014 is just the difference of one day. What’s to adjust to! However the turning of the year invariably brings up memories and events and feelings, and all the rest, from the previous year. Before you know it one’s whole life comes up for review. That’s how it has been for me these past few days. All in all not a bad thing.

I was talking to a woman yesterday on the ‘phone who is finding life difficult in the extreme. There is loneliness and loss of life’s purpose to mention just a couple of issues that are weighing her down. For anybody walking into a new year there can be a crushing sense of emptiness, a negative emptiness. When physically alone this feeling can be almost unbearable. Yet walk on we must whatever the level of emotional, and in my friend’s case, physical pain. We walk on, side by side, together and that’s a blessing.

I love this photograph of the monk bending into the snow. It was sent to me ten years ago just as I was about to fly to Edmonton Canada where I ended up living nine months later. Lots of walking into the gusting snow that winter and so much more besides. The image still speaks volumes and especially at this time of year. As you can see in the image I’ve posted, Rev. Alicia’s name is on my computer screen. We have just been typing back and forth in ‘real time’ as it is put. Using an online chat facility is brilliant on so many levels. It’s friendly, informal and in terms of dealing with business matters and checking one’s ideas back and forth one can move things along apace. And for me, living on my own as I do at the moment, having a brief interchange with Rev. Alicia is a boost on a cold dark evening. We continue to work together with me in a supporting kind of role. Very soon there will be news of a next step for the project.

*The Buddha Lacks For Nothing –

There is a line in the commentary to the Kyojukaimon (The Giving and Receiving of the Precepts) that goes, *The Buddha lacks for nothing, yet needs something. The Buddha that is the Field of Merit lacks for nothing and all of us who are engaged with this initiative lack for nothing. All that is needed is present right now. Nonetheless here we are poised and ready to step forward having been awarded charitable status. In our hands is a piece of paper with our charity number on it and between now and the opening of a hermitage door for our first guest is uncharted territory or empty space. It would seem obvious that we now leap forward and ‘fund-raise’ in order to fill that space with the necessary funds. And in a very real and practical sense that is indeed the effort that is called for. The something the Buddha needs. However the way that is approached and implemented is crucial to the spiritual integrity of the project. Now, later and much later.

If you cast your eye up to the banner at the top of this page you will see the main title and under that is written, Unfolding the Buddha’s Teaching. That line, as many of you will already know, comes from the kesa verse recited each morning as a reaffirmation of one’s intention to hold true to the Precepts and unfold the Teaching – for this day. It is a statement of intention and a directing of the toes into our day. Yes one’s day has content and a direction and both are subject to change. In the kesa verse spiritual intention (the word in the verse is wish) meets unfolding. That’s the moment to moment, day to day, month to month and year in year out discovering of the content of the unfolding, as one walks. No wonder it is recited every day!

Opening the door of a hermitage to the first guest will be preceded by this daily affirming of the clear intention, over and over and over again, to put the Buddha’s teaching into action. And specifically to put a hand to making manifest the intended retreat. And so it will be that each person who comes will daily affirm that same intention – to make manifest the Buddha’s teaching in living. Nothing ho hum about it! Why not start now!

I have basic faith that content, fund raising, need not to be hunted for, cooked up or otherwise manufactured. The key is to LISTEN, not just when speaking the verse either. Really listening while speaking the verse and really meaning the words is obviously essential in order to honour practice, however there has to be the basic faith/trust that listening will open up a direction. In our case the faith that the specifics of how to go about raising funds for establishing Field of Merit will come. Call that the Buddha’s influence, call it what you like.

To this end Rev. Alicia and I will be spending time together in a couple of weeks with the purpose of opening ourselves in faith to next steps. When simply encountering empty space (listening and all you hear is silence!) the mind tends to get busy manufacturing ideas. The letting go and returning to listening is the advice I would give at the start of our first retreatant’s stay. Why not start letting go and listening now? Faith is required.

Oh, and if you come up with inspiration that will aid the unfolding in a practical way, get in touch. Please.

*Whoops! I remembered the line from the Kyojukaimon incorrectly. In truth it is: The Wheel of the Dharma rolls constantly and lacks for nothing yet needs something. The basic point is the same though.

**The Kyojukaimon and the Kesa Verse can be found on the Shasta Abbey website. Scroll down the list to find what you are looking for.

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.

Not Second Hand Living

I’m deriving vicarious pleasure from Adrienne’s walk. I’ve walked alongside her these past months as she prepared herself. I’ve done a couple of training walks to show solidarity and in a few days time I’ll be actually walking on the coastal path for one day with her. And Rev. Alicia will walk too. Oddly though, now she is well under way the second hand pleasure, and excitement, has diminished. It is almost as if she has gone away. Disappeared from my mental view! How could this be? One might expect to be more engaged, at every level, during the actual event.

Now thinking about my own travels and the lengthy and often complex preparations I need to make. During that time there is a lot going on. Not only the administration tasks which are relatively straightforward, there are also the anxieties about the journey itself (flights, trains etc.) and that’s not the end of it. The last thing Adrienne was planning was where she could buy lunch, a cafe or pub, on the path and which days she needed to buy and carry food for lunch. Oh and which days she needed to carry both lunch and supper food. Imagine! Imagine that level of detail so essential to get right when carrying your home on your back and moving in relatively remote countryside?

My own experience is once packed and on the road, passport and ticket info. in hand, a whole weight is lifted. I’m no longer preparing, I’m living daily life on the road. It’s a constant state of not having arrived at a destination. The feeling is one of freedom on every level. Wonderful! Perhaps that’s why leaving the comfort of home to travel is so attractive. But only known once having left! Are there not parallels with our practice and especially when pointing towards, for example, going on retreat?

The first ceremony of Jukai, when people commit to being a Buddhist, is said to be the journey to the monastery/priory/temple. One could imagine the journey to one of the Field of Merit hermitages for a solitary retreat might be testing. We will take account of that and support you even before you arrive. I can also imagine the sense of freedom, not to mention relief, that might come upon one having reached the door of a hermitage. Then entering knowing there is no destination, just arriving. There to simply live, simply.

Adrienne is now living daily life on the road/path. She offers merit generally and to specific people and situations. Circulation of merit works because we are not fundamentally separate. Adrienne has disappeared from my view because we are not separate. We are getting on with life – together. As is the case universally.

Sailing Forwards

The week after next Rev. Alicia and me are going to stay in North Yorkshire and get a feel for whether or not this area would be suitable to locate Field of Merit. We were granted funds by the Inlight Trust to be used for research expenses. So accommodation and travel costs are already covered for this trip. And since this is a self-catering cottage we will bring our own food and eat simply yet well. Thankfully we enjoy the same foods. It will be good to spend this time in the same place. Ideas, thoughts and inspirations tend to bounce back and forth more freely in company.

During the week we will look at some properties, walk on the moors and in the lanes and probably visit some estate agents. This all might seem premature given we need to raise funds first. However this is a chicken and egg situation. To apply for grants we need to have somewhere in mind to apply funds to, and to be taken seriously by vendors we need to have funds! We decided to just go ahead and take a look anyway. North Yorkshire is one of three areas we have come up with initially. The other two being the Eden Valley, Cumbria and the Peak District which is largely in Derbyshire.

Somebody has very kindly been doing some online research into suitable properties for us to consider and potentially go and view. I inwardly gulp at the size and price of what has been turned up so far. (No reflection on you J, you have done a great job so far.) We are looking for land enough to site cabins, preferably wooded, with a modest house. However land generally comes with a huge mansion far beyond our probable ability to heat or maintain. We need space outdoors and not that much indoors! We could live with something with just two, or possibly three, bedrooms but they are generally in a town or village with a pocket handkerchief lawn front and back! Clearly we are looking for, what the estate agents call, an opportunity to purchase this unique property at an affordable price….. Such opportunities exist. Surely.

My feeling is that funds and property will come together in a timely way. We all just need to keep the project sailing forwards in a lively fashion. I use the sailing metaphor because I anticipate the project listing to one side then another, sometimes bobbing up and down becalmed and sometimes sailing forward at an alarming rate! I feel we are sailing forward at an alarming rate NOW!

The project could use as many eyes and brains searching the Internet for that unique opportunity. Wherever you are in the world the searchable Internet is there too. Let us know if you can be on the alert and online. We have written some guidance notes to help you to help sail Field of Merit into a suitable….field! Send a note via the contact form and one of us will be in touch.

Field of Merit is Born

Field of Merit Birth Certificate!

Field of Merit ‘Birth Certificate’!

We were so amazed how quickly Companies House responded to the paperwork we signed and posted last week. Here is our official certificate of Incorporation as a Private Limited Company. Tony our adviser, pictured in the previous post, said this certificate is, in effect, the project’s birth certificate. He likes to help us not feel intimidated around officialdom. We’re not, however it’s fun to think that an organization has a date of birth AND a certificate to prove it. This is another milestone for the project.

The certificate represents a considerable amount of time spent by a growing cast of people committed to Field of Merit and its growth and development. Already Rev. Alicia has filled out the paperwork to apply for the Co-op Bank Account which we will sign and post on Saturday. She is a wizard at that kind of thing. Just as soon as the account is set up we will be registering as a Charity and transferring funds we already have into this new account. Even now (deep breath) we are looking towards applying for funding from grant making trusts while at the same time looking for land/property suitable to found the temple. I can hardly believe I’ve just written that!

This must be what it’s like for new parents. That’s not quite believing the little one has, after all that waiting, actually arrived. Quickly followed by the dawning realization that one’s life work has just manifested! In the spirit of this article, Unfolding the Buddha’s Teaching where I speak of ownership of the project, this certificate represents the birth of THE project, not our project. Now is the time to draw in the growing cast and get specific about the work that can be done to help the business along. But I am getting ahead of myself. Rev. Alicia and I need to get our heads together first to make sure we are on the same page in terms of what’s needed right now.

FAQ: Where will it be?

The question that Rev. Mugo and I have been most frequently asked since we launched this project is ‘Where will it be?’ The short answer is we don’t know. Somewhere in the North of England probably, maybe a little further south.

What we are imagining will happen is that all of you out there will be keeping your antennae open, as will we, for some acres of land, with or without existing buildings but with the potential for getting planning permission to build what we need, quiet and secluded, preferably with some woodland on or near the property, and not too terribly awkward to get to.
Mugo: Is there anybody out there with experience/knowledge of planning permission for the kinds of structures we are thinking about? Please get in touch if you are that person, or you know somebody who is?

People can be a bit surprised that we don’t have more of a plan. I have come across this in the past at Throssel. People have asked ‘What are your plans for Throssel in five year’s time?’ and ‘What will you do if the community doubles in size?’. We answer that we have no five year plan, and if lots of people ask to become monks, well, we will work with that if and when it happens.
Mugo: I have noticed that five year plans and the like do tend to fall by the wayside in the face of changed circumstances or inaccurate predictions. Just a thought.

Obviously we plan when we need to. We need to plan the practicalities of living. But beyond that it is much more a case, as I mentioned in our last post, of pointing ourselves in a direction that seems good to go in and taking the next step. It is a way of moving forward along with the whole universe, without fixing a pre-conceived outcome and grasping for it. Yes, I do really look forward to living and working in the kind of place we have in mind and I feel strongly that it will be of benefit to beings. And at the same time I need to hold that lightly and know that I am willing for any outcome. And, to be very clear, I am not talking about letting oneself just be blown about by the prevailing wind, I have made a commitment to this project and I take that very seriously. I guess what I am exploring is the nature of commitment – the subject of a future post perhaps.
Mugo: I have to confess the sense of ‘reality’ comes and goes in terms of our proposed project. And perhaps that’s the way it is in life generally. After all the future is just in our imagination, although the future can be predicted to a certain extent. There is the expression ‘to build sandcastles in the air’. You could say we are ‘building a temple in the air’! When I envision the temple, when it comes to mind in its potential physical form, I know it for what it is. A vision. And I don’t feel that to be a problem, that’s to have visions like that. It’s not an ‘impossible dream’ because there is a REAL possibility that the funds will accumulate, suitable land will be found and people will want to come and stay. After all without vision how can some ‘thing’ be made manifest in the future. You’d not know what it would look like! The tension or challenge, and Rev. Alicia talks about holding the project ‘lightly’, is to hold the vision assuming as one proceeds that the project will manifest. While at the same time not slip into the mindset of ‘dreaming the impossible dream’ which for me is to slide off the side of commitment to what one is doing right now. So what’s the difference between a dream and envisioning? Hum. It looks like the Reverend Alicia and I are thinking along similar lines. More thoughts on the nature of commitment to follow I guess. We may not always do these dual posts however I have to say I’m enjoying the conversation.

On another note, I can see that there may be more FAQ’s in the pipeline, and we may compile them into a permanent page. So if you have a question you’d like to ask us please either leave it here as a comment or send it to us via the contact form. We’d love to hear from you.
Mugo: Yes, send us your questions. Some will fall into the usual FAQ’s slot and some might not. If you have a question please ask and one of us will do our best to respond.