Changes to the meditation hall are still ongoing. I thought I would post some images of the work that has been happening. Voiles have been hung to give the side shrines a bit of enclosure yet still show what is there. The heavenly canopy is nearly finished, what you see here is close to what it will look like. A small icon of Rev. Master Jiyu has replaced the original set of seven.
In this article I would like to contemplate silence and how it can be accessed and inhabited as a refuge. Finding this well of silence helps us not to get dragged around in the mind and gives the space that is needed to act from a position that is not fixed and divided.
External disturbance is tricky in that it can easily convince us that all our troubles are caused by outside forces. This can lead to a form of vicarious living where we move from our internal lives to living outside of ourselves and become involved in others business where we have no place. This can lead to assuming positions and strategies which focus on the external to the detriment of our internal processing. We can learn to ‘live in the world as if in the sky, as the lotus is not wetted by the water that surrounds it’. By identifying with worldy concerns and thereby constantly rebuilding a permament self which fails to recognise impermamance, we can fall into the constant cycle of suffering. To empathise with anothers or our own suffering is not the same as taking it on. It seems to me it is more compassionate and helpful to occupy another space. A silent space.
To be aware of the silent space is to see how we can let everything pass in and through. The empty form. Silence is indeed big enough to allow everything in, we just don’t need to repel anything, just don’t hold on. There seems to be a logic for example in dealing with distraction by building a wall and not letting it in. Mara’s arrows bounce off of the shield and don’t penetrate. This kind of logic unfortunately doesn’t go far enough and only achieves a short term gain. Sit within the distraction and watch it going through leads to a transformation which flowers into something much more wonderful.
Whether it is distraction, anger, frustration or one of the many tempters we can find, it can be hard to see beyond it. This can lead to us easily buying into what it has to sell. The mind is a very good salesman trained in all the tricks to convince us we need to act on such emotions. It becomes very noisy and insistent. It asks us to identify with anger for example, that we can’t live without it. At this point it important to remember and realise that there is nothing to hold onto. Here lies freedom from enslavement to the senses. My getting angry and opinionated about a particular situation doesn’t get anywhere near to resolving it at anything other than a surface level. Remembering that all is both beginningless and endless. We may appear to achieve a short term gain, a sense of relief for example, yet in our heart we know this has the wrong feeling, which leads to sense of being ill at ease. It doesn’t lead to the cessation of suffering.
What disturbs does come from within. We are only hurt because there is something still unresolved which can be hurt. By living within the silence we can see beyond the immediate sensory sensation. Silence is all encompassing and holds our delicate emotions in cupped hands. ‘As vast as space itself’ noise gets lost in the vastness of silence. Silence has no boundaries. no inside or out, no limit. To hear the silence we need to be still. There doesn’t have to be an absence of noise to know silence, it soaks it all up. So to know silence anywhere is vital. It can become our constant environment where seperation and division fall away. How do we find it? Let it go.
At the next steering group meeting on the 19th August I am going to bring up the notion of introducing afternoon group meetings. At first as an extra event, but then maybe to replace one of the evening sessions, most likely Friday. Due to a couple of changes in peoples lives it is likely that Friday evenings will be very low in attendance, maybe to point of zero. To enable more people to attend, afternoons may be a better option, with regard to travel and being more available to come. After all many of you are now retired and possibly the old way of doing things has in some ways run its course. If you have any feedback on this that I can feed into the meeting that would be most useful. Nothing will happen until I get back from Shasta in October.
An early reminder of the annual Alton Retreat this Autumn. It will be from the 27th to the 29th October. Details to follow.
Some of you will already know that Irene is leaving Britain to return to Germany for good. Since her fathers death her mother needs more care so Irene and her husband Hugh are moving to be close to her. She will be popping back over to Reading over the next few months to finalise the move but to all intents and purposes she is leaving on the 3rd August.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Irene for all the dedication and hard work she has put into the Priory over the last twenty years. I have only been here a short time but the effects of her application are obvious and manifold.
May we all send her on her way with all our best wishes and thanks. In the Autumn, probably October, I will be hosting a farewell gathering for Irene here at the Priory. I will post details in good time so that those of you who would wish to come can organise your diaries.
For the second part of September I will be away visiting Shasta Abbey for the Conclave. This is the five yearly meeting where OBC rules are ratified. I will be flying out on Monday 11th September and returning Monday 2nd October. This will be my first visit tio Shasta and appreciate the chance to do so.
During this time I am hoping that the normal group meetings can continue in my absence. We will be organising this at the next Steering group. If you are interested and able to help with this I sure it will be appreciated. Upon my return and dependent on jet lag it may take a few days before I am up and running and properly around.
We have managed to book a spring retreat at Brownshill monastery for 2018. This will be from Thursday 12th April to Sunday 15th. The 4 day format proved popular this year so we will keep to this until it seems good to change. Rev. Master Saido from Telford Priory has kindly agreed to take part once more.
Here is the schedule for this weekends 3 day day drop in retreat I will be holding from Friday 21st to Sunday lunchtime 23rd. Please remember that the Group evening and Grpoupo morning will run as usual. Please join me on retreat if you can for a period that suits you. If you can’t join me in person then maybe you would like to sit with me at home.
6.00 am Meditation
6.35 Walking meditation
7.20 Dawn Drum/ Short Morning Service ( Sunday during Group morning as usual)
8.30 Working meditation
10.35 Walking meditation
3.05 Walking meditation
4.00 Exercise / break
6.00 Evening meal
7.30 Meditation x 2 + Vespers (Friday Group evening usual schedule)
There may be changes to this dependent on numbers here. (i.e. dharma discussion etc.)
Ends after Sunday Group morning
Here are some pictures of the ongoing work redecorating the meditation hall. Volunteers from the sangha worked hard and we got the painting done in 4 days. We went from brilliant white to sable and pale sable which has given the room a bright, airy yet warm feel. We have decluttered as well, moving chairs out of the side shrines and generally lessening the amount of things in the hall. I am now working on the shrines which hopefully will be done soon. I also hope to be able to put in a new backing to the altar. The frieze above the altar has been stripped back and a cloud shape has been cut out to give the Buddha more breathing space. I am going to add some minimal design to it aswell. When the budget allows the carpet will be replaced, possibly this Autumn. Thank you to all who have helped with this project. I will keep you updated on future additions.
May I take this opportunity to remind everyone that we will be undertaking the first stage of the zendo re – decoration this July. It will take place between the 10th – 16th and will entail painting the walls, ceiling and woodwork. Anybody who is able and wishes to help with this is very welcome. Just drop me a line to say when and for how long you can help so that I can plan a little bit, i.e. numbers etc. The usual group meetings will take place with us using the downstairs back room as a temporary zendo. Future changes may include the carpet, side shrines, and Founders shrine.