If we open our eyes, if we open our minds, if we open our hearts , we will find that this world is a magical place. It is not magical because it tricks us, or because it changes unexpectedly into something else, But it is magical because it can be so vividly, so brilliantly. However the discovery of that magic can only happen when we transcend our embarrassment about being alive, when we have the bravery to declare the goodness and dignity of human life, without either hesitation or arrogance.
Mindsprings is not a specifically Buddhist organisation but I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the paramount debt we have to the Buddhist tradition in our work. Mindfulness, in its modern manifestation, is a direct descendent of the practice carried out by the Buddha 2556 years ago.
Well, not quite 2556 years, since that was - according to Theravadan calendars - when he was born in Lumbini in Nepal.
We tend to practice meditation alone. It's a hangover partly from the monastic emphasis of going away from the world and sitting under a tree to clarify the mind. And there is, of course, huge benefit in that. The tugs and tumbles of the modern world make it very difficult to get any purchase on the slippery slopes of the busy mind unless we find somewhere relatively quiet to practice.
The Buddha met a woman whose life was made miserable by her compulsive miserliness.
He gave her a carrot and taught her to give it from her left hand to her right and back again.
In this way she became familiar with generosity.
A keen monks asks the master:
"How long will it take me to get enlightened?"
"Oh, ten years", says the Master.
"But what if I study twice as hard, meditate twice as long? How long then?"asks the student.
"Twenty years", answers the Master.
The Eight Week Course is coming.
I've been thinking more and more about how we teach and learn mindfulness and how there is so much misunderstanding about what 'meditation' is and is not.
This was a public lecture Alistair gave to the Norwich Interfaith at the Octogon Chapel, 21st November 2012 on the subject of sexuality and spirituality.
In the light of the on-going misunderstandings around the ordination of female bishops and church marriages of same-sex couples, it's an interesting talk.
In it Alistair gives an overview of :
In the current climate of wrong-headed intolerance and muddled debate over gay marriage, I'm really excited to be launching a course in 2013 aimed at LGBT men and women who might benefit from bringing a mindful perspective to the muddy waters of gay mental health.
i was sitting on the edge of the garden, watching the clouds darken then lighten then darken
and across the sky i saw words spelling out anxiety
the soil become foreign. distant below my feet
i drifted away from the smell of the approaching rain and rotting leaves
i became elsewhere.
in that solitary kingdom, things arrange
within the wise economy of fear, the world is stable and orderly.
the glass windows become opaque and misty,
cotton padding closes up the sounding doors
but in that swaddled simplicity
then there was a robin
red hearted and stubborn