With love on Valentine’s Day


Maybe you got a Valentine’s card on Feb 14th, maybe you didn’t, but either way you could see this as a flower from the oasis of your own heart – inviting you to consider the meaning of love.

Romantic love is one kind of love, one which can often be blind and is inevitably partial, but there  are different kinds of love.  The love evoked by the  the wish for all beings to know happiness and to be free from suffering is infinite and profound…and you might find yourself to be an aspect of this bigger kind of love.

This happiness this kind of love is different from that which arises from the transient pleasures of money, status, power, feelings of worth and so on, but is instead a feeling of being at home and at ease that keeps time with every heartbeat of life…and this wish is made immeasurable by wishing complete happiness and freedom from suffering for all beings – for all time!

It follows that the true causes of happiness need to be examined and understood  – how does happiness come about? and what are the causes of suffering? and how can we be free of them? These are things the Buddha examined nearly six hundred years before the birth of Christ and the teachings arising from his conclusions developed in methods and practice through time.

He taught that all actions have consequences, both for ourselves and others.  Although these consequences are experienced in the moment  of the action  their repercussions continue into the future as patterns of behaviour are established.

We can see this occurring on a global scale as well as the individual.  In Four Thought, The Shadow of the Cold war,  Professor Sachs, a renowned economist, explains how the USA was happy to assist Poland in their financial crisis however when Russia under Gorbachev requested  assistance under similar conditions, help was refused. His suggestions… that this decision was instrumental in creating the kind of ‘Russia’ that we see today, and that victors rarely learn the lessons of history… did not meet with much applause in the New York bookstore where he was speaking yet had a ring of truth about them.

In the same way,  how much tolerance of Western-style democracy is likely from the Hong Kong government official who, when he was a young man, experienced brutal repression of political dissent and the imprisonment of his sister  under the ruling  colonial British government.  At this timeHong Kong was acting as a sweatshop for our country and dissent and disruption was crushed partly because of politics and partly for financial reasons.  This particular official, who had been intending to join the colonial government, left the country to study finance and politics in Beijing and has now returned to take up a leading role in the current Hong Kong government. (i’ll add the radio 4 link for this program if i find it)

Just as you cannot extinguish an electrical fire with water so the right methods are needed to put out the fires which rage in our own and others’ hearts. The Buddha taught that to live in love amongst those who hate is the way; that hatred never conquered hatred. True love simply cannot flow from actions inspired by our assumptions, our hatred, or our greed.

In our ignorance we tend to project our hatred onto other people and act as though the environment is there for our consumption; alternatively we may repress these tendencies. Either way we suffer from a dis-ease where the lack of integration between ourselves and the environment has a detrimental effect on our physical or mental health.

The buddha taught that our  tendencies to jealousy, pride, greed or desire, hatred or aversion, envy and wrong views… of ourselves and others and situations (our assumptions)… can be examined, seen in their true nature for what they are, and let go.

We are not powerless, we can do much that is good and kind and tender both for ourselves and others. We can take steps to grow in wisdom and compassion and, as we change ourselves and our views, we see the world differently… and love is there…no matter what.

If  you are met with love today you can imagine sharing that with everyone who is in need of it.  Even a drop of water is more than some people will receive today so if you hold those who are thirsty in mind then, as you drink, people who seem other, yet are part of our world, are held in your mind with love…. and your heart is growing in size to accommodate more and more. That’s one method, there are many others which bring about a greater sense of connection.

The bodhisattvas vow connects us with all beings with compassion… and the practice and accomplishment of the perfection of wisdom/dzogchen leads to a compassion grounded in truth.

If this way of looking at things appeals to you do have a look at the website and get in touch, or check the wealth of information on simplybeing.co.uk

And here is a valentine’s present for you…  it’s Yasmina Khadra, an Algerian writer now living in France reflecting on personal identity in the light of the challenges currently facing Europe.  For me it was  poignant and beautifully expressed. The programme on radio four on Wednesday morning lasts for just fifteen minutes  yet expresses so much truth…with love, Wendy

Hang up your crook!

Happy thoughts and sad ones

Anxious ones and scary ones

Scamper around like new-born lambs

Let them go where they please…

You are no thought shepherd!images



Enjoy your retirement….


to John and all …

We have John Chettoe  and his son to thank for these recordings … and Peter Farrie who published them and also designed this web-site.

There are a wide variety of interesting audios on the main Simplybeing web-site. These are there thanks to the kindness of many others, those who make and edit the recordings, to Christian, in Germany, who publishes them and to Barbara who keeps both connections and the main web-site going in London…also to those who sponsor the main web-site.  I play my part with some editing and offering this site.  (This is just to give you an idea of some of the effort  that goes on behind the scenes when you click a link to listen!).

Also to see here the working of dependent co-origination.. ‘on the basis of this, that arises.’ From a dharma perspective to see the  interconnectivity and interdependency of all that arises. You can expand this looking in many ways — through all the factors needed to come into play for you to find yourself reading this just now— to all those that brought James to teach on that weekend in Bristol…and so on…..


This film is showing on Sun 11th Jan at 11am at a special screening at the picture house in Exeter and on general release from 16th.

It’s an extraordinary film about a young man’s  drivenness to excell as a drummer in a jazz band.

From a dharma perspective there’s a lot to see.. impermanence–dependant co-origination–ego striving–taking for granted/assumptions–humility–life-purpose–pride–fixation–making ’special’/above/apart/separate–?the means justifies the end… and fantastic drumming!

Appointments and disappointments.

I have been thinking about appointments and disappointments, expectations and assumptions…. so whether you are new to the group or an ‘old hand’ I would ask you to read chapter 15 in the book Simply Being by James Low as I think it  is important to explore your own expectations about the Dharma and how it is taught.

Just as a student cannot be known and labelled judged and discussed as if they were  a thing, so neither can a teacher.

It’s wise to check a teachers credentials and important find out if there is a connection and whether you learn anything from them. Later, if issues arise which cannot be integrated then it is appropriate to raise this directly with the teacher. Friends will often confirm each others assumptions or opinions, and then what started out as  a thought can end up as a ‘solid definition’.

If the student is disappointed with the teacher, or the teacher disappointed with the student, this means that one party has made an appointment for another to behave in a particular way, and an expectation has formed which has not been met.

Expectations are usually based on assumptions formed from past experiences mixed with imaginary hopes or fears, yet these can be taken for granted as self-evident truths. ‘You should be this…  or you should not be….!’

Whether you are practising with a hinayana view,  a mahayana view,  or that of a non-dharma practitioner  then a teachers behaviour will  not always fit your frame of reference. This may trouble you but does not necessarily mean that an error has occurred. However if they should get  a bit lost, and teachers are finding their way too,  an apology should be forthcoming.

The dharma is very precise, as a medicine it has been used, tested and proven to be effective over thousands of years. However, as with contemporary medicine where only fifty percent of chronically ill patients take the prescribed medicine correctly, students can forget to take it, double the dose, mix it with other things or apply it incorrectly.  Whilst the dharma teachings are the antidote to the ills of samsara  the patient has to both trust the doctor and take the appropriate medicine regularly for it to work.

Others will have more facts at their finger tips and surely greater teaching skills but I have been given validation, within a lineage, to teach hinayana mahayana and vajrayana buddhism, including dzogchen, by someone who has full authority to do this. If you are unsure about this then you can check with me or with James Low. At the very least, this should mean that you have confidence that from the  dharma point of view there is sufficient realisation and understanding to teach, and that I can be trusted never to be malicious.

I have also completed the Bangor mindfulness teachers training course…this kind of mindfulness is derived from one of the eight stages of the Noble Path practised  in the Hinayana view.

At times i can be teachery and sometimes even preachery but i am also in the process of change!

When the recluse speaks much ’tis on and of “the Way” (zen saying) …

They criticise when he says too much

and when he says too little…

and when he does not speak   (the Dhammapada)

So…it’s genuinely hard to strike the right balance.

But whatever occurs, the Dharma speaks of the truth of impermanence and dependent co-origination (on the basis of this, that arises) so any opinion, view, situation or behaviour is transient and contingent. Learning how to teach is a process and hopefully my skills will increase with practise. James Low teaches in a very different manner now from that which he employed twenty years ago..

So for students all this invites examination of the assumptions they hold about the dharma and the teacher.

In your opinion should the good teacher leave you to travel at your own pace or encourage you?

Should they be always sympathetic and understanding  and never challenge your views?

Should they be kind and gentle or a bit rough and acerbic?

Do they have rules to follow?……

A good teacher will do  what’s appropriate – this will vary…their function is not to fall asleep with you but to help you wake up.

I wrote a verse which relates to this

What we can do with super glue!

Identity is a CV— a story used to limit me, which  stunts my creativity.

If you stick stories onto me you’ll make a shape which seems to be a person of ‘solidity’.

If I bind with your certainty I compromise our liberty and movements are no longer free.

The truth of our reality is openness and vitality displaying momentarily.

So, if ever you’re upset by me the Bristol talk – first MP3 is a perfect  apology.

(the talk is on this web-site under audios and videos)

Growth and change is not easy. If you’ve seen a chick picking its way out of  an egg, a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, or a snake sloughing off its skin you know that perseverance is vital…samsara with just a sprinkling of dharma doesn’t taste too good and is not sustaining.

A student may be keen for a while, even very appreciative of the teachings, however the winds of karma blow and off they go.The teacher cannot hold on to them, they themselves have to do the holding  on until the view becomes not ‘second nature’ but first nature. Progress is not necessarily onwards and upwards. There is hope that students will study, reflect and practice —  that they will respect the Dharma and the efforts of teachers  who for thousands of years have studied practised and made many sacrifices to maintain the continuity of the teachings  but they may not. So teaching also helps the teacher with the  development of equanimity. Thank you if you have contributed to that somewhat uncomfortable process!

We are lucky to have James’ advice and I had a chat with him about the way forward for the group this year. The thinking is to  give a short (15 mins) talk, meditation for half an hour and then study maybe fifteen lines of the Dhammapada. We’ll see how it goes.

As always, if there are issues which you would like to discuss outside of the class i am happy to talk on the phone or meet up with you and have a chat.

best wishes….


Muslim or Mancunian….what do we know?

How many different worlds could be conjured up in yours by the word Muslim… or Mancunian?    So very many.  But if we know what a muslim is…or we know Manchester why would we enquire further, why would we really look at the basis for our knowledge and question its validity ?

I used to live near Manchester and in other countries the  mention of  Manchester would often elicit a response along the lines of ‘Ah…I know Manchester! Manchester United — Ryan Giggs!!’. In this way a complex and dynamic city is equated with a footballers name.

Currently there is  an excellent series on the radio about Manchester by Jeanette Winterson and  called Manchester – alchemical city   ( you can listen to this on radio4 i-player). It speaks of Manchester’s multiple faces – social political economic geographic and demographic – which change through time, dependent upon many different causes and conditions.

Naturally this is Ms Winterson’s perspective, with its particular biases. As listeners, although our ears may hear everything she says, we find ourselves paying particular attention to aspects which interest us  and giving less attention to others (dependant upon our own particular biases). But whether expansive or limited our opinions about Manchester are unlikely to do harm.

However when we view people of other faiths, or groups, from a biased or ill-informed perspective  this does harm. To think ‘they are all the same’ and say ‘I know what they are’ is both a violence and untrue.

Unfortunately when people hear the same thing repeatedly, whether they are saying it to themselves or someone else is saying it, eventually it ‘rings true’ for them and they  believe it. ‘It must be true – I have heard it so many times!… everybody says, everybody knows that…surely you know that too…it says it in the paper! But what ‘it’ says in the paper is affected by many factors including the editor’s bias or prejudice.  Activities perpetrated against others on the basis of such beliefs are committed in ignorance…an ignoring of our shared and linked existence, our common ground, and an ignoring of the consequences and ramifications of such actions over time.

Early coverage on the radio referring to investigations into religious practice in Birmingham schools mentioned a poster of a ‘warlike god Ram’ on a wall in one of the classrooms. I wonder whether a poster of King Richard ‘the Lionheart’ or St George and the dragon would have caused similar qualms? The person being interviewed seemed unaware that Ram is actually a Hindu deity who is seen as embodying chivalry and virtue. It would be nice to think that he has read the Koran but perhaps this is unlikely.
The understanding of any religion is complex, the translations and interpretations of texts and the manner in which the beliefs are practised is variable — one size does not fit all.

Excerpts from a book by Moshin Hamid called Discontent and it civilisations    (also available on radio 4 i-Player) give a delightful glimpse  into the life of an acclaimed Pakistani author, his views and experiences of living in Pakistan the U.S. and the U.K., and also into the rise of Islamophobia.

The practice of the dharma can lead to an appreciation of the way in which we create a simulacrum of a world of absolutes and certainties out of that which is inherently labile and impermanent. Investigating the nature of the self, the mind, and thoughts is far from ‘navel-gazing’.  It is through this meditation that we can gently come to see what we are up to and find a different, more healthy, way of relating both to ourselves and to the rest of the world.

wendy                                                                                                                                                     10.12.2014

To study the self is to forget the self – to forget the self is to be enlightened by all things.




Dec. A few of us were sitting in the Bristol YHA at the weekend grappling with the notions of ‘good people’ and ‘bad people’. This video http://vimeo.com/22123553 which is  an open talk, explains a lot about this including the truth about ‘you and me’.



Meditation acknowledges basic bewilderment and the space in which basic bewilderment forgets to create its tantrum. Then there’s some gap, some room somewhere. However, it seems a long, long way from there to everyday simplicity. When we discover this space in meditation, it’s as though we have gone to the peak, to Mount Everest. Then what? It seems to be a long way down to the ground. There are actually many opportunities for relating with bewilderment. There’s the opportunity to finally stop everything. We decide not to rush, not to run anymore. We stop for a moment, just to be quietly with the meditation technique, whatever it may be. Then there are just teeny-weeny stars shining through the darkness—an occasional glimpse.

From ‘Karma’ in Chogyam Trungpa’s book Work,Sex,Money

Dharma or samsara?

Homage to the Guru – our own true nature, and the embodiment of that….


Thoughts and feelings

sensations, sounds…

the natural radiance of the ground.


If I relax and let them be

I find the openness of ‘me’.


If I grab hold, I’ll make of me

what’s called by Scots

‘a wee stookie!’*


* Stookie …a rigid dressing, usually made of gauze and plaster of Paris, used to immobilize an injured body part, as in a fracture or dislocation – a plaster cast (urban dictionary )

You could see the plaster of paris as the energy of attention which, when applied to the gauze of the constructs/concepts, seems to create a fixed shape or pattern which restricts the degree of free movement or play in the world.

wendy Dec 2014



How should a teacher behave?…

Well…. perfectly! Surely that is obvious.

But what do you mean by ‘perfectly’?

Well… perfectly…  according to the  rulebook in my head.

But if the teacher  shares your  rulebook you might not learn very much from them. As my teacher’s teacher told him —  ‘the buddha is not a “nice man”.’

Awakening to the unborn natural state or ‘buddha nature’ results in a change of operating system…no longer standing apart and judging with a dualistic perspective but responding to dynamic situations with freshness and attunement.

A good teacher acts to wake us up to our attachment to the illusory nature of the fixed patterns we use to create  the duality of samsaric existence. Some will even be kind enough to continue to point out that our shoes are far too tight until we wake up and feel the pain of our blisters, callouses and corms. At the same time they remind us that our feet are naturally beautiful and, with the right kind of dharma massage, these corms and blisters will become wings. Then we will work at freeing ourselves from these shoes and discover the pleasure of walking barefoot and moving through space in different ways!

Depending on your condition these may be the kindest teachers of all, but sometimes they may seem unpleasant. We want them to appreciate our lovely shiny shoes and sympathise with our limp however whilst they see our view  they do not share it —  they see beyond our felt limitations.

On the other hand a teacher may  be just being rather unpleasant; karmic winds can shift a teachers behaviours, so this is something to look at —  can we learn something by engaging with this person as they are and as we feel uncomfortable?

The ego will not readily choose to engage in a struggle where it feels its existence to be threatened but in dharma practice we are engaged in a process of softening and becoming undefended, allowing the ego to be what it is, just an aspect of our awareness,  relaxing to the point  where this awareness is revealed to us.

There is  more on this theme, and  about the relationship between teachers and students  in chapter 15 – The Transmission of the Dharma —   in the book Simply Being by James Low. It is important to try to have a sense of this relationship so please let me know if you have any questions.

I’d also be delighted to hear from you when you have read the preceding chapter, on refuge and bodhicitta…we can formalise taking the taking of refuge and bodhicitta vows  if you would like…and discuss any questions which arise.



…be soft in your practice…

For those of you who come and go…

This comes from the introduction to a lovely book – Sayings and tales of Zen Buddhism —  Reflections for Every Day, by William Wray… and it has helped me to think of dharma practice in a softer way from the habitual striving —  yet keeping the connection throughout changing circumstances.

‘Be soft in your practice. Think of the method is a fine silvery stream not a raging waterfall. Follow the stream, have faith in its course. It will go its own way, meandering here trickling there.It will find the grooves, the cracks, the crevices. Just follow it. Never let it out of your sight. It will take you.’



I couldn’t resist these words by Chogyam Trungpa –sb10068893l-001.jpg Vegetable Brussel Sprout

“The key point of the mahayana approach is the commitment to dedicate yourself to helping other sentient beings. Building yourself up or perpetuating your own existence is regarded as neurosis. Instead of building yourself up, you should continue with your pursuit of helping others. Instead of being selfish, you should empty yourself. The basic definition of ego is holding on to one’s existence—and paramita practices are techniques that allow you not to grasp onto or propagate the notion of me-ness, or “I am.” Experiencing egolessness is a process of letting go. But you do not regard the ego as an enemy or obstacle, you regard it as a brussels sprout that you cook and eat.”

From The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma. Volume Two: The Bodhisattva Path of Wisdom and Compassion by Chögyam Trungpa, pages 196–197

If his suggestion sounds indigestible (or you can’t stand the taste of sprouts) then maybe the following recipe would suit you —

Sprout soup

It made me laugh to think about

my ego as a Brussels sprout, as

looking clearly i can find what’s going on within the mind—

and ego shows itself to be a locus of identity,

one aspect of the truth of me.

As wisdom puts this ‘self’ in doubt

the dharma gently cooks this sprout

to make an ego-slimming soup

– an infinite compassion loop.


wendy’s  ‘About the sprout’ soup.

(Surprisingly… sprout soup doesn’t taste of sprouts!)