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Sep 12, 2013

On publishing a novel – what does it have to do with Buddhism?

When my first novel was published in June this year I was very excited. But my joy was tinged with fear: that my novel was somehow non-Buddhist. Perhaps my friends at Leeds Buddhist Centre would read it, shake their heads sadly and then tell me to take up my meditation mat and leave, never to darken the sangha’s doors again.

I couldn’t say why I felt like this. There’s nothing in my novel – a comedy about a plump young woman who has allowed herself to become trapped by her mother and her own habit of telling white lies – that’s offensive to Buddhist ethics. It’s about someone, kind-hearted but cowardly, finding the courage to be more honest. You could almost …

Aug 01, 2013

Can Byron Katie help our Buddhist practice?

Byron KatieI came across the work of American self help guru Byron Katie ten years ago. She has published a variety of books which offer a series of simple questions designed to challenge and overturn your perception of any situation you’re struggling with. The questions work by flooding your mind with the ‘fresh air’ of a new (often reversed) perspective.

It’s an appealing technique when you’re in pain. But her techniques always struck me as being like Paracetamol – a short term solution. My old views always came back, dragging their long tail of complicated emotional responses. What’s more, the persistence and tenacity of my habitual thought patterns endowed them, …

Feb 04, 2013

The benefit of meditating regularly

100 day mediation challenge 035As a long-time meditator who has never established a daily habit, I’ve been questioning the value of the 100 day challenge and asking: does it matter if I miss a day?

In the great scheme of things, it probably doesn’t. But although the ‘great scheme of things’ is a handy minimiser at times, its distant perspective doesn’t help much with detail.

The truth is that if missing one day turns into missing another and then another, I find it strangely difficult to get back to meditating. It’s as if an invisible membrane forms after the first lapse, which grows thicker and thicker as the days pass until it has separated …

Jan 06, 2013

“Zombies on Kilimanjaro,” by Tim Ward

Available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.
Available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

‘”Your guide will probably tell you,” Ezekiel said, “that the name Kilimanjaro comes from kilima, the Swahili word for ‘mountain’ and jaro, the Maasai word for ‘snow-capped.’ But that’s just for the tourists. We Chagga people who have always lived here, we believe the name comes from our own language: kilema-kyaro, which means ‘Impossible to Climb.’”’

So begins Buddhist writer Tim Ward’s latest book, ‘Zombies on Kilimanjaro,’ an intriguingly and perhaps misleadingly titled memoir about climbing the highest freestanding mountain in the world with his 20-year-old son, Josh.

It’s a good beginning, plunging the reader straight into the ‘plot’ of …

Dec 30, 2011

Your True Home: The Everyday Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh

Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh is a prolific writer, with over seventy books to his name. ‘Your True Home’ is his latest: a compilation of 365 short teachings, one on each page.

The format means we can take the book’s subtitle ‘everyday wisdom’ literally, and visit the book daily for a nugget of this much-loved Buddhist teacher’s lore.

And nuggets they are, never taking up more than half a page in a book which has a short, chubby format to begin with (though too heavy to be pocket size – unless you have very big pockets).

Title: Your True Home: The Everyday Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh
Author: Melvin McLeod (editor)
Publisher:

Oct 07, 2011

Meditating with tinnitus

If you suffer from tinnitus – persistent ringing in the ears – you may wonder whether meditation is a good idea. And yet it can be a powerful tool in helping you come to terms with the white noise inside your head. Meditator and long-time tinnitus sufferer Mandy Sutter airs some of the issues.

Tinnitus can make meditation very difficult. And because meditation is mostly silent, it may seem that meditation can make tinnitus very difficult, too.

It’s certainly true that as soon as you sit down on the cushion and close your eyes, the tinnitus seems to get louder. It isn’t really getting louder: it only seems that way …

Sep 25, 2011

The Closing Circle

Writer and meditator Mandy Sutter views the reporting-in process at the end of silent retreats with a mixture of dread and excitement.

Many Buddhist retreat centres embrace the custom of the ‘Closing Circle’.

This doesn’t mean sitting in the middle of a razor toothed torture ring that gradually closes in and squeezes the life out of you, like something out of a James Bond movie.

No. It’s worse than that.

It means that after spending, say, a fortnight in silence with thirty strangers, the group sits in a large circle on the last evening to share their experience.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not against hearing how everyone else got on. …

May 27, 2011

Why I call myself a Buddhist

When I became a Mitra (friend) of the Triratna Buddhist Community earlier this year, I was surprised by the surprise of my non-Buddhist friends. They seemed aggrieved.

This was the general message:

‘We know you’ve benefited from meditation, and going on silent retreats. Although that’s not our idea of a holiday, we’re pleased for you. But why spoil everything by espousing a weird Eastern religion? Can’t you keep it secular? And if you have to be religious (though God knows why) can’t you stick to your own? OK, maybe not the Church. But what’s wrong with the Quakers? They sit in silence and meditate, don’t they?’

Fair …

Feb 26, 2011

Meditation For the Love of It, by Sally Kempton

‘Inner spaciousness is always there, with its clarity, its love, and its innate goodness,’ says Sally Kempton in her new book. Our task is learn how to connect with it, and in Meditation for the Love of It, which has garnered rave reviews from such spiritual luminaries as Lama Surya Das, Kempton sets out to show us how love and enjoyment should be at the heart of our experience.

A shame then that although the book contains much of value, it’s hard to love it, and at times, hard even to enjoy it.

Parts are written with sensitivity, imagination and a sense of who the reader might be. Kempton offers an excellent …

Feb 26, 2011

Meditation for the Love of It, by Sally Kempton

‘Inner spaciousness is always there, with its clarity, its love, and its innate goodness,’ says Sally Kempton in her new book. Our task is learn how to connect with it, and in Meditation for the Love of It, which has garnered rave reviews from such spiritual luminaries as Lama Surya Das, Kempton sets out to show us how love and enjoyment should be at the heart of our experience.

A shame then, that although the book contains much of value, it’s hard to love it and at times, hard even to enjoy it.

Parts are written with sensitivity, imagination and a sense of who the reader might be. Kempton offers an excellent explanation of how to work with a mantra. She …