Whether you are a religious person or not, or whether you believe in an afterlife or not, one thing is for sure, life is one big adventure or at least it should be! A little while ago I discovered through research that the average person lives to be around 80 years of age which means I have approximately 31 years left. This gave me quite an abrupt awakening with the realisation that the time I have, is less than I’ve actually lived, and half that time I don’t remember. Thinking about it in this way, must mean that I’ve wasted half this time doing things that don’t really matter, or are not so significant. This revelation stunned me to the core, and I decided to do something about it. This was the point where I gave up my job of 20 years and travelled to India with no plan of where my future would lead. I didn’t know whether if I would come back and I sold everything I owned. Work colleagues either thought I was having some kind of mid life crisis, gone completely mad or simply needed some time out to reassess my situation. In my heart however, I knew that the biggest reassessment had already happened and now it was time to start living my life which unfortunately didn’t involve sitting behind a computer for the next 20 years. Continue reading
There’s so much hype now in the media on Facebook and all over about meditation. We hear on a daily basis about people going off travelling to India, meditating coming home and preaching about having connected with the world as one, but what’s the real point of mediation? After all, we’ve existed in the world for centuries so why now? Why is everyone going on about mediation? And what is there to gain from it? In a laboratory tucked away off a noisy New York City street, a soft-spoken neuroscientist has been placing Tibetan Buddhist monks into a car-sized brain scanner to better understand the ancient practice of meditation. The scanner tracks blood flow within the monks’ heads as they meditate inside its clunky walls, which echoes a musical rhythm when the machine is operating. Dr Josipovic’s research is part of a larger effort better to understand what scientists have dubbed the default network in the brain. He says the brain appears to be organised into two networks: the extrinsic network and the intrinsic, or default, network. Dr Josipovic has scanned the brains of more than 20 experienced meditators during the study. The extrinsic portion of the brain becomes active when individuals are focused on external tasks, like playing sports or pouring a cup of coffee.effort better to understand what scientists have dubbed the default network in the brain. “What we’re trying to do is basically track the changes in the networks in the brain as the person shifts between these modes of attention,” Dr Josipovic says. Continue reading
Born in the late 60s, my childhood was one of what seems now like normality. A time when children played outside, getting dirty without being worried about scuffing their shoes or damaging their latest designer gear.
A time when everybody knew everybody, so there was no chance of getting away with the slightest misbehaviour. This was a time when children got grounded and stayed in their room because they were scared of the repercussions and when the local policeman on the beat would drag you home by your ear or your collar if you were found getting up to no good. When you got there looking shamed and dishevelled, your father would usually give you a crack round the ear for inconveniencing the policeman and for bringing disgrace to the door.
There were no computers in this perfect time, we had things called pens and paper and sometimes pencils and, if you wanted to work out a mathematic equation or something similar at school, we had this amazing device that worked like a calculator, but attached to the human body it was called a brain.
I remember my very first kiss, it was a red haired boy whom I thought was wonderful. Now when I think of that boy, I also remember the night-time lamp posts that would glisten on the streets through the mist, tall and overbearing like giant dinosaurs.
To me, these great structures symbolised romance, a place to meet just before my parents would call me in for supper & bed.
There are many views, perspectives and ideas about the origination of man. Some believe we are the product of God the Creator, whereas others believe in the big bang theory and so forth.
As Buddhists, we do not have a definite answer for where man actually originated, however we do believe in Karma and karmic lives.
Buddhist believe that we have been reborn through many many lives and will continue to do so. This in Buddhist thinking, brings us to the conclusion that our karmic lives do not necessarily mean we have always been born human. The karma that we gather in our lives, will determine which kind of body we will be born into in our next rebirth. Therefore Buddhists believe that we go back probably as far as dust particles and the particles within those particles etc. This may all sound quite absurd, but Buddhists believe that every single thing in life is interdependent upon something else to exist. We know this to be absolute fact when we look around and cannot find anything that does not depend on another source to exist.
For example, let’s take a basic wooden table, what we see is a top, four legs, and maybe some screws or something to hold it together, but which part is the table? If you were to put all those pieces separately which would describe the table? This is a clear evidenced example, that the basic table does not exist without other components. These components, also include
wood for the table which of course needs its source ‘a tree’ which needs a seed, nice rich soil, favourable weather, someone to plant it and of course that person needs parents and so forth.
So from a Buddhist perspective, the table cannot exist in it’s independent form and it’s the same for humans.
Everything is interconnected and from a Buddhist point of view will bring us right back to the same source.
So here’s a little test……. Let’s apply the same theory to our bodies.
Do you agree that your body is a mishmash of different cells, organs, bones and other weird and wonderful stuff that when squashed together in something called skin, creates a vessel that you call ‘my body?’ If you agree, then you will also acknowledge that each cell, organ, bone, and so on is made up of it’s own components and those components are also made up of their own components etc. For this reason, it becomes virtually impossible to identify the independent source as being valid whatever that source, and if we tried to retrace its origin, it will always bring us back to particles and the microparticles that make them up.
Buddhism is quite an unusual way of life, we most certainly do not believe our way to be right and everyone else’s wrong. We only accept however what we see as evidence, so in many ways Buddhism is very scientific and renowned for its logic.
For example, if we were to accept the existence of God which of course many people do, then the curious enquiring Buddhist mind would have to do enquire about where God originated? Was he a human? Or simply an energy that drives people to go through their everyday life?
If God was human, then as all humans he would need a mother and a father which would rule out God as creator of the universe.
If however God is a powerful energy that drives people through their everyday lives, then where did that energy originate, where is the source that gave power to the energy of God?
These are some of the issues that the curious Buddhist mind ponders on a daily basis, I’m sure there is an answer somewhere but I haven’t found it yet!
I don’t know how you think I am, if you view me as an idealist or a realist, if you think I’m good or not or even worse than that, but the truth is that, for most of my life, I’ve been a pessimist. One of the worst kind, actually.
The ones who feel they never get what they want. The ones who see themselves and the world around them as broken beyond repair. There’s never enough light for the ones who are afraid of the dark.
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Recently a woman complained to me about ‘how terrible it is to see homeless War veterans here in the UK without any means of support, when people who are coming from other countries to seek asylum are being accommodated in luxury hotels.’
This comment really hits hard, How can someone make such a judgement? I thought to myself.
After giving it a lot of thought, I realised how easy it is to be misled especially amidst all the government propaganda and media hype and of course in light of all the things that have been happening in relation to Isis.
My response was one of directness yet with compassion, obviously this lady had never met an asylum seeker. “Please join me for a coffee “I said, I would really like to talk to you.”
At first the woman was obviously suspicious, here in the UK we are not known for our social hospitality but eventually she agreed and we sat drinking coffee and chatting.
It’s never right to make assumptions about people but just as I thought, this lady had never met anyone seeking asylum in the UK but she was sick and tired of hearing in the news about people being ‘put up’ in expensive hotels whilst our own British soldiers were being left homeless & destitute.
Not only was she angry about this, but also about the fact that asylum seekers were taking all our houses and our jobs, leaving British families penniless.
To be honest, I understood her fury especially when she told me how her own brother had died fighting for his country my heart went out to her. Anyway, we sat chatting for almost 2 hrs and drinking coffee and the more we chatted, I could not help but feel an overwhelming sense of sadness and compassion for this woman who obviously knew very little truth about what she was saying. For 2 hrs she continued her rant, intermittently throwing in the line “and you won’t change my mind either” and I sat patiently listening.
Once she had finished about the injustices of the world gave the following response…
“For the past 20 years I have worked as a social worker mainly with people who are suffering addictions. Maybe someone in you’re family has an addiction? I don’t know.
One day someone who was seeking asylum in the UK walked into my office Alongside having suffered the most unimaginable torture, he was now homeless and destitute in the UK, but what horrified me even more, was that unlike the majority of British homeless people, this man was not entitled to housing, not entitled to employment, not entitled to claim government benefits and only entitled to the most basic of healthcare.
Up until that particular day, I’d never met another human being who was entitled to absolutely nothing and it shocked me to my core.
I explained to that woman, how working with people seeking asylum had never been my chosen path in social work, in fact it was the farthest thing from my mind, but seeing this man in my office on that day changed the path of my life forever. I began to realise that there were human beings outside of my little bubble of security who actually were never seen as human beings. I was later horrified to find that these people are given the name ‘ living ghosts’ simply because they do not exist anywhere in any support service.
You might wonder I explained, how without an entitlement to employment, benefits or housing, any human would be expected to survive without committing crime. The reality is that most asylum seekers ‘with a few exceptions’ choose to work illegally as a crime rather than mug old ladies in the street etc. i’m not sure why this is, but maybe it’s because in many Middle Eastern countries they don’t have a benefits system and so if you do not work, you simply do not eat.
From that day, I began to develop expertise in this area and in 20+ Years, never once have I seen anyone being accommodated in a luxurious hotel, it simply wouldn’t happen.” Why? Because it would be an illegal act by the government.
My coffee partner listened intently but doubtfully as I carried on,
“But back to your original statement” I said.
Yes it’s horrendous that people who have fought in countries such as Iran, Iraq & Afghanistan are subjected to such horrible and degrading treatments when they return. In fact Article 3 of the human Rights act 1998 Prohibits this very treatment of any individual but let’s not forget, that whether someone is a British soldier returning from the Middle East or an asylum seeker fleeing his country in fear of his life, both are the products or the victims of war. Both have witnessed the kind of horrific scenes, or endured traumatising events that the average person could only ever imagine.
The effects are likely to remain with them for the rest of their lives whether or not they live their days out naturally or commit suicide as many war veterans have done and will continue to do.
Trauma I’ve found, does not differentiate between culture, colour, religion or social status. In reality, it doesn’t care whether you were born in England or on the moon, the effects are debilitating.
Yes it is despicable to see British soldiers left in this situation, but it’s not the fault of the person seeking asylum that the British government don’t put resources into supporting British soldiers.
“May I be vey honest with you?” I asked,
I don’t believe there are really any heroes in war, only traumatised people and the dead, and the logic of fighting for peace has always confused me”
We never did reach any agreement that day on anything and eventually we finished our coffee and parted ways. This had been a very interesting day and one which will stick with me for the rest of my life.
An artist’s place in society is ambiguous and one not often discussed. Artist’s often have difficulty claiming themselves as ‘artist’ for fear of criticism and rejection both inside and outside the art world and from within. Historically, artists have had their work labeled as narcissistic, sexist, racist, classist, elitist, indulgent, hermetic…and the list goes on.
I have been on the end of some harsh criticism. Comments made by the board of Queensland’s most prestigious art school have stayed with me for over 15 years. “Impressive folio” they said, however, using images of indigenous persons is ‘cultural appropriation’ and ‘unacceptable’. They were referring to a series of pieces I had been encouraged to create under the mentorship of a fine, accredited artist Wim De Vos.
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Since 2008 more than 133 Tibetans have set themselves on fire, a practice known as self immolation. Whilst many of these people are ordinary Tibetan members of the public most have been monks and nuns. Tibetan Buddhism states very clearly that the taking of any life is wrong, whether it’s human animal or any other lifeform, so why is this happening?
Since 1959 the Tibetans have been living under Communist rule following the Chinese invasion of their country. When this happened, the Tibetans were not educated people, their lives mostly consisted of prayers farming and family life. Knowing this, the Chinese president Mao Tse Dong convinced the Tibetan people that his government could improve their lives
by giving them better opportunities and a better economy.
When I was about eight years old, I dreamed one night that I stood inside the workings of an immense instrument, so big it filled the sky. It was crafted of wood and gold, and although there was no obvious source of light, it was brightly illuminated. I could have confused it for the inner workings of a clock except that I could hear the sweet music it produced resonating throughout its cavernous hollows. It was curious to me that there seemed to be no atmosphere there either to breathe or to carry sound. Within it, I did not perceive any movement. And, there was no actual melody that it produced, which could be sung or repeated. There was only an enveloping harmonic thrumming. The sound was multiplicative and voluminous although not piercing. I understood it in the dream to be cosmic, structural, primordial, and generative. When I awoke, I…
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Anger according to Buddhism, is the most destructive emotion around. We say it is the most destructive emotion, because it is the emotion that can cause one person to physically harm another and at worst, actually kill.
People get angry in all kinds of situations but this anger usually stems from what we call an attachment.
Attachment to relationships, attachment to belongings or material goods and attachments to ideas and beliefs.
In Buddhism we have what is known as the 4 noble truths which the Buddha taught and they are about the cessation of ‘suffering’ or Dukka. When we fall in love there is always an element of suffering because we attach ourself to the emotion of love. So the problem is not love itself, but our attachment to it and expectation of it ok that’s the first thing.