The light…of ‘life and death’

Click this link for some beautiful rainbow pictures
published by National Geographic.

I just wrote what’s below in response to an email from a friend who is struggling with her breathing and a severe headache Having just come back from Vietnam she fears the coronavirus is the likely cause of symptoms

She has asthma and is over seventy… she has family with her…

Of course different words are fitting for different people… what I had written before she found helpful.

So I’m sharing this extract, conscious of the fact that people looking at this site have different depths of practice…

perhaps it will be helpful for someone…


‘Yes Sweetie, thats it…

Sweet breath in from the world…and out into the world…

Nice and easy does it…and i’m with you all the way…


This poem is one I wrote earlier about going…as and when we do….

in response to Dylan Thomas’s ‘raging at the dying of the light’ upon his father’s death


‘Oh Love… go gently into that good night

and give your peace to those whom death doth fright…

We would not rage at sunsets, rainbows ends…

The leaf that falls response to winter, so…

when death comes

be not uptight

there is no ending to the light….’


Wisdom is light,

Love… you are one of its many expressions

xx wendy

Knowing that whilst the breathing will, overtly, likely be laboured in the extreme, it’s possible to hold another view in mind…even one which keeps the suffering of others in mind, is actively dissolving the suffering of others into emptiness…or simply resting in awareness during the dissolution…

Would this be possible?… With an absence of fear, with profound practice we’ll get as close to this as maybe…let’s see.
Some of us will have more time than others to put the teachings into practice before it’s time to go…let’s not waste our precious opportunity.


Plus good coronavirus science also at National Geographic!


The Abc of coronavirus…actions bring consequences

 On the Simplybeing.co.uk web-site homepage  there is now a section ‘Protecting body voice and mind of all beings in a time of turbulence’ where ‘new material’ takes you to advice for now and texts for practitioners.
It led to this post which has a bit about practice at the bottom. It’s a long read…so head on down to the page if that’s what you’re looking for!

In 2017 I was just recovering from a virus when I posted on this website… I said that was glad that this had just been an ordinary virus rather one into which DNA had been injected…a new human capability which was troubling me at the time.

When we start to play about with the fundamental building blocks of life in the pursuit of life on our terms we are taking huge risks based on probabilities and assumptions. ‘Not always so’ is an empirical observation, expressing the actuality of how things manifest and interact…it will depend upon the circumstances!

I am not implying that this coronavirus virus is man-made…but as we fiddle about with genetics for our own purposes, and generally abuse the world, then some intended and, sooner or later, unintended consequences of these actions will naturally manifest.

Unregulated genetic experiments can now be carried out incredibly easily and the consequences will not, cannot, be contained or constrained effectively.
Many countries with the capacity…including the USA, Britain, China, and many others… have engaged in, or are engaged in, the creation of chemical and biological weapons capable of mass destruction. These products are stored ‘safely’…  until they are not…
because the truth is that every situation is Impermanent in it’s nature.

We are so clever but not so wise…

We split the atom …and now vast quantities of man-made fissile materials are at large in the world… the whereabouts of much is known but some unknown…large quantities have ‘vanished’ into the hands of those who would like the power to control.

We also split the world into good and bad, right and wrong, yours and mine, self and other.

Then, to maintain our segregated position and try to keep it safe, we act like the sorcerer’s apprentice… we’ll fix this problem by doing that. But doing that has had unintended consequences – so now because of that I also need to do this… and so the activity ramps up and ramifies.

If you have listened to James telling the truth, (audios and videos free on-line!) you will know that the way through is to see the non-duality of self and other and  the relationship between openness and manifestation.
So, not suggesting that no activity should take place but, for it to go well through time, it won’t be arising from a position of certainty and separation but of inclusion without reification.

Collaborating with whatever manifests from a sense of relaxed openness… is the best way of working with circumstances… tension will not lead to clarity of activity.

There are often undesirable by-products from our material  ‘creativity’ activity  so  what do we do with them?
Well, we stuff our ‘rubbish’ into cracks in the ground, dump it into the rivers and sea and export it to other, poorer countries, who can be paid to take it off our soil (but not without our own hands being soiled by the exploitation involved)… and more recently we’ve started to put our ‘junk’ up into space.

 Some would say it’s not junk…(certainly it’s new and expensive and resource hungry).. ‘it’s really important to get this extra view, this further information, this further ease of communication….’

Really?…Is it so wonderful to be able to see exactly what is happening on the road, or in the mine, so far far below the satellite?
Maybe not so exciting for the ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’ trying to live on what’s called ‘Universal’ credit – but I think we can be  mostly sure that if it weren’t of financial or political interest to somebody then it wouldn’t have happened.
‘Inside information’ whether financial or political is of value for some and can be  exploited for gain, this has always been so.

Nowadays there is great interest in getting financial information a fraction of a split-second before anyone else… this desire has consumed a vast amount of time and energy and is continuing to do so…

This is all in the interest of making more money out of nothing… to fritter, for power, for pride…?

Greed, desire, hunger of this kind is never satisfied.

There is always fear of loss or being outmanoeuvred so there is  ongoing need to control and manipulate the circumstances which are always changing…it’s a monkey trap for those who grasp…with no rest.

Back to the ‘rubbish’…
We’ll deal with it! Containers filled with spent nuclear waste can be stacked to make walls…that’s quite a creative way of disposing of rubbish isn’t it?
If the seals have a twenty year guarantee or so… provided someone is happy to dismantle the wall and check the seals and replace them, as needs be, every twenty years we are ‘good to go’ aren’t we? Well yes…though I suppose some seals will fail, as gadgets are wont to do, within the guarantee period… but who’s to know?
If you’re a large country then the problem is less troubling… you can just dig a big hole and put it in that with zero impact… but maybe not…

because of impermanence again… things move and shift and degenerate…

Water supplies needed by atomic reactors for cooling purposes may be limited by climate or by politics… and the very ground on which they are built also moves and shifts.

There is no stability anywhere to be found in that which moves… seems obvious doesn’t it? When you look that’s what you see.

Specific genetic modification of crops…well that’s an improvement surely? ‘It’s marvellous, increases the yield’…
through time will that be the only result?
Other varieties become less popular, then less available. There’s no thought to will happen to linked factors in origination dependant upon these changes.
Mono-cultures decrease the diversity of plant, insect and bird life, and resistance to disease…

… also modified material may then only be purchased at a premium price from a specific supplier.

Happily some bright sparks save seeds from the original varieties but use of them is limited…

Banana production, where so many trees derived from the  Cavendish line are again massively under threat from disease and shows again how necessary is variety and natural diversity rather than cloning and ‘perfecting’ that which is perfect in its own way.

Man-made climate change has so may negative impacts…including rapidly diminishing plant and animal species, fires, floods, and the devouring of the crops in vast areas of Africa and the Middle East by plagues of locusts.

Then there’s greed, not need, for avocados… So water is diverted from villages in areas where it is scarce into the growing of trees which consume a vast amount and are not native to the environment… again adversely affecting  the native insect  population. Land which was wild is cleared and cultivated for this.

Turning what was an extremely fertile and richly productive area of California into a giant almond forest devoid of the normal undergrowth of varied plant species…plants which would interfere with the ease of harvesting… has had a hugely negative impact on the native insect life.
Since when did we have such an enormous need for almonds?
Anything to do with marketing …and perhaps the results of homogenisation of milk, thereby changing its natural state?
So bees are shipped in truck loads, as slaves, across the country to do the work of pollination. Working on monocultures in rotation depending on the flowering season of the species to be fertilised. Fed on antibiotics to reduce the risk of illness in such big numbers travelling together…

That’s no way for a bee to live… and so they die.

We are happy to farm and consume ducks that never see the water… cows that never see the sunshine…chicken likewise and fed with antibiotics…

Valuable farmed fish are often crowded together and kept healthy with…  doses of antibiotics. A good helping of  chemicals including metallic (and sometimes radioactive) pollutants are thrown in for free, into the sea, by the humans who eventually eat them! Wild fish of course come without the anti-biotics…

The cutting down and burning of the forests proceeds apace. Trying to protect the native hardwood trees from illegal logging becomes an incredibly dangerous thing to do as so much money is involved that these people are often shot and killed by those carrying out the activity.  The protectors of the land and trees that those wonderful monarch butterflies fly to… over thousands of  miles in their migration… end up dead at the bottom of wells with bullets in them for obstructing ‘progress’.

As do people who try to protect the land when it is wanted by others for mining or building or other ways of exploiting…

and people who try to protect native wildlife from poachers who want the animals dead for trophies or for spurious medicine for which some will pay an enormous sum.

The oil we stuck up from the ground is seen as something so valuable to possess that multitudes of humans fight and die over

… and  when we have got it we use it in ways which ultimately pollute the atmosphere and poison the seas…fabulous!

So we have been willing to tamper with the genetic fundamentals of plants and animals and even being willing to alter our own genetic structure for the apparent benefit of  some without the capacity to look ahead and see how the consequences might play out, without  understanding the interlinked nature of all phenomena which manifest.

It was while I was studying A-level physics back in the ’70s that I remember reading about the negative consequences of interfering with the wasp population by unnatural (i.e. human motivated) selection…it was in referred to in a Nuffield science course module.
Now i read in  Transgenic wasps could bring down their own kind  an article by  Eloise Gibson
“Everyone hates wasps. It may mean people are willing to accept the risk of genetic modification to eradicate wasps.”
Mmmm… maybe not everyone! I once wrote a post ‘wasps you belong‘… but it seems the New Zealand wasps are extra troublesome to the bees – and especially to humans who poison or otherwise destroy them.
‘If I said to you ‘I’m going to release 20,000 GM wasps and it’s going to halve the wasp population in New Zealand you might not be enthusiastic, but if I said I am going to release three wasps and there will be no wasps left at the end of 20 years, you might view it better,”
he says. (well I, for one, would not)
Researchers are about to complete the sequencing of the common wasp genome (aren’t we smart), the first step towards being able to try switching off genes they think are linked to wasp behaviour, says Dearden. But there are risks – for example the researchers must ensure the wasps can’t pass any damaging effects to bees or other species.’ 

Yes there are risks…but, as we have seen, sadly many will be happy to trade a future risk for ‘jam today’!

Certainly over here, with the decline in the bee population, wasps are even more important in the fertilisation of flowers. They also have their own impact on aphids and other insect life, clearing up debris. Last summer there were so many wasps around that there were notices advertising wasp extermination stuck on local lampposts. I had a nest in the roof above my kitchen and sometimes there were maybe twenty  wasps flying around in the kitchen… quite a humming noise… but they did not sting me and – eventually! – left of their own accord.

So as humans we have been increasingly and aggressively interfering with the balance of nature right across the world…

We have been happy to disturb the habitats of all the other creatures with whom we share this world…

… and, happily disturbing others, we have concreted over both our hearts and environment.

With this self-centred attitude assuming, and fighting for, power and control over our shared resources…it is entirely unsurprising that consequent arisings are not harmonious.

If in our brief lives we could soften, and kindly share in the world with its inhabitants.

Not taking more than we need … not putting our energy into doing things ‘just because we can’… but turning our orientation towards understanding how can we best be with ourselves and each other in this vanishing flash of life…

We could avail ourselves of this lifetime’s opportunity, take the time to investigate, and to explore what’s truly worthwhile–

to realise the truth of our non-essential existence and discover that our true freedom does not lie in the ownership, control, or modification of anything…

Rather that these particular notions form the insubstantial bars of our mental imprisonment

and thus freedom is in the palm of our hand… in seeing the palm of our hand… by releasing the fist.

At any point we have the potential to move in different ways whatever the circumstances:
We can close down and cut off in fear,
or relax and allow the ease which comes with hands-free non-appropriative contact with this astonishing world.

‘May you and all beings be well, happy, and free from suffering,

abiding in the equanimity of the realisation your true nature’

…the infinite wish of the open heart

From the Simplybeing.co.uk website Homepage

Coronavirus protection – James Low

From the Dharma point of view this virus can be seen as an invasive attacking manifestation of the bad karma of period.
‘Bad karma’ means contempt for living beings and for the environment, manifesting as destructive activity in all the continents for many many years. The virus is another form of the disturbance that we see manifesting in intense weather events.
Due to the five poisons ( dullness, appropriation, aversion, jealousy and pride) the five elements (earth, water, fire, wind and space) are  disturbed leading to unpredictable events which interrupt the complacent assumptions of humans and the habitual patterns of animals. 
For those wishing to practice….
… if you visit the new materials section of the home page…there is a Guru-Yoga which James wrote – the heart of the practice. The breath of the practice is there also…and much else to help.
There is a physical expression of tong-len to be found in part 14 (and instructions at the end of part 13) of Macclesfield talk 14. Integrating openness and presence
Particularly when troubled, and finding it difficult to balance,  I have found the activity of this method vey helpful… the egoic sense of overwhelm and impotence relaxes with the rhythm of an activity for the benefit of all.
The following intentional tong-len can be done wherever, invisibly:
Breathing in the suffering on the in-breath into the openness, and  then, with the out-breath, the natural response to suffering flows out… from that to all beings  for as long as there are ‘beings’…
Breathing with those on ventilators, with those feeling crushed with fear and anxiety, those who are exhausted…
no one is alone…whatever the situation.
Keeping the connection, the heart-mind’s effulgence or radiance is softening and tender, encouarging, bringing, being what’s needed.
Healing ‘non-activity’ ….

Anxiety and doubt are not essential…

Some primroses for you… like the ones in the Devon banks around where I live, such a delightful sight!

I am very happy for those of you camels who got to listen to James at the oasis this weekend in London. Refreshment on many levels… hearing the depth of the dharma expressed so clearly.

I’ve been on a kind of retreat for a while so my posting on this website is a little random but I wanted to share, particularly for those who didn’t manage to get to this talk, a link to talk James gave a long time ago, 2003, in Macclesfield entitled Anxiety and doubt.

‘Everything changes and gain and loss fluctuate without ceasing…therefore seeking happiness in outer objects or in mental objects is not wise.’ said the Buddha (Dhp, Finding Freedom)  and this talk seems, among many other teachings!, perfect for these strange times… bringing calmness and clarity when applied.


Here also are a few practical notes:

As with the rest of us…that I will die is certain, when or how is uncertain, but for me it is not so likely to be from starvation.
I spend a little time with people who are overtly homeless or vulnerably housed…and am conscious of the varied feelings they evoke in others. Being ignored as ‘of no value’ is commonplace… as is receiving projections of others’ hatred and disgust.
I see that many food banks are struggling for supplies now as people, in their anxiety, are completely forgetting those who have nothing or not enough to live on…the numbers of whom is steadily rising and likely to increase rapidly. Some of these are people for whom the notion of self-isolation is completely meaningless – would that mean separate doorways?!

So with 24,000 currently, as a ‘tip of the ice-berg’ number for rough sleepers, and with 3,500,000 in fuel poverty in this country… if you have money to spare for a can of meat, tuna, fruit, vegetables, rice pudding, pasta or toilet rolls, coffee, tea, to put in the local food bank collection perhaps at the supermarket then someone in need will be on the receiving end…’Generosity will overcome meanness’ Dhp.
[The suggested items are generally welcomed but if you check on-line you’ll see what’s wanted and needed locally…stocks vary, as does what appeals in different areas.]

As it says in the Dhammapda  ‘We are all guests in this world many people do not know this.
This world is not our true home and we only borrow what we temporarily have – so what is there to fight over?’

Well, clearly the Buddha didn’t know about Toilet rolls!!!

I was recently asked by someone currently travelling in Vietnam how to manage without toilet paper.

This is normal practice for many people in the world, often made hazardous by limited access to soap and handwashing facilities.

The bucket of water, jug, and left-hand swishing method used in many countries may take some getting your head around but trust me, it is entirely doable… thanks to Christine Lyschik who helped me with this knowledge in India many years ago.

‘Nice and easy does it every time’…these word of wisdom (JL) could be the sense that brings you round to James’ much more recent talk on equanimity  Finding balance in turbulent times… and more refreshment from the dharma for enjoying this particular spring-time of your life!


Dhp – Dhammapada the first section of Finding Freedom.

Photo – Wikipedia

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
Attribution: Trish Steel


No room for hatred….


Some years ago i wrote this post…

world holocaust day

and on that day this year i watched this moving little half hour video…(it’s not about William and Kate lighting candles!) so hang on in there, if you will, to the end…it’s very beautiful, i think.



‘I have no room for hatred in my heart’ …no matter what has happened to me and those close to me…

…brings tears to the eyes just writing the words.


A few days after the memorial day   but memorable every day…

as it says in the Dhammapada:

‘In this world hatred is never pacified by hatred. It is by the absence of hatred that hatred is pacified.’

The words that follow are “This is the ancient truth”.

A truth which was ancient even at the time these words of the historical buddha were spoken…how deep is that?

…and how blind the multifarious, shifting sands of justifications for hatred arising from fundamental ignorance and leading to ignorance of that truth’s validity. Deludedly projecting… and so dividing, partitioning… protecting, and rejecting to the point of annihilation, aspects of the heart-mind, of the undivided whole.


Did the angels stop singing after Christmas?


‘Peace on earth…and goodwill to all men’… so went the angels message…
…and with that comes a question: can there be peace on earth without goodwill from man to man?
 Man answered ‘Well, maybe God can have goodwill for all men… but us humans? Come on!  Look at them… what are they like!!!
I’m not heartless really you know, I do have a lot of goodwill for my friends…and for people like me… people who like me…some for people who I understand…maybe people who think like me… dress like me… speak like me…  people who behave well according to my interpretation… people related to me… people of my tribe… people of my religion…my country… people with my values…’
Ahh… so you have goodwill for them… [thinks: good there’s hope, potential… this can be a large group we could grow… but it’s a somewhat ‘self-confirming’ ‘self-referential  group ; ) ]
‘Well good grief! No! Not all of them and not all the time… it comes and goes you know…
Why is that?
Well because they do this and that!!! Sometimes they are like this, and i like this, and then sometimes they are like that, and I don’t like that … They  keep changing….’
So they are not stable…
o.k., but ….are you stable?
‘Of course I’m stable, only mad people are unstable. You should stick to talking about the stars over Bethlehem and the child in the manger… that’s the kind of stable you know about!
That ‘only mad people are unstable’ is a belief, and not a helpful one. It may link with why you are unwilling to really examine and meditate to discover your true status… 
Finding out things about yourself that you do not wish to know can be scary, particularly if you feel they will define you in a bad way…
But you cannot truly be defined…maybe not knowing this is another reason for not wanting to look at the behaviours which you do… and for the ‘you’ that does them.. 
Can you acknowledge the ‘skeletons’ in your cupboard for what they are, the echoes of a mistake…? Until then they seemingly hover like dark shadows with no substance but bring you into fear and crimp your ability to move and breathe easily…
In fact no seeming ‘individual’ is stable… because they are not individual… they are in communion with the world and each other and have the same ‘Father and Mother.’

‘Oh for God’s sake! You are really off your trolley, what a load of cobblers…Uggh!… and you tell me I have weird beliefs!!!

This is not a belief, and this is for your sake, not God’s. God is ok but confusion in the human realm is on-going and getting deeper. Look, I can see the words need a bit of unpacking and I could explain it more if you are interested… but actually it’s what you’ll find if you look – without knowing the answer in advance…
And  how do you feel about the about ‘the rest’, all the other beings who also believe they are ‘things which can be defined and known as something as such’ who are in your outgroup…those other than the ones you mentioned that you can readily identify with?
‘Well God help them… they really are nothing to do with me!’
 But my dear they are!… they are part of your world… part of your experience… they have an impact and are here just as you are…
So I’m wondering… maybe you think goodwill is something coming from a very small purse, that it needs to be rationed or it will run out?
If so, I can tell you… actually it’s not like that… But this leads me to question how much goodwill do you have towards yourself? How much tenderness, kindness, softness, spaciousness is there?
‘Bah! Humbug! Ghastly cissy stuff! I can’t take much more of this… I  need to get on. There is much to be done… its Christmas you know… there’s lots to do to get everything ready in time…..someone’s got to earn the money for it! I’ll be paying for this well into the New Year.’
 Just a minute before you rush off… If you do not know this goodwill for yourself so you are always swimming in this warm sea… how can you genuinely have it for others, ongoing, without falsity?
 I’m suggesting that the experience of this goodwill is worth more than anything money can buy or any ‘thing’ you do… maybe your busyness gets in the way?
 I’m going to tell you something which may not make much sense on first hearing but if you engage with it, gradually it may shine far brighter than the brightest star…a truth which illuminates the world…it is the truth of you…
Goodwill will arise in a genuine way through understanding the operation of the conditioning which arises from a misapprehension by ‘all men’ of their true nature.   The egoic grip – thought to thought, like velcro – on certainties which are not reliable truths but which obscure the invitation to be curious about the nature of existence can be released. And, with that releasing, the legacy of tension and emotional turbulence…. arising from confusing in mistaking the ego which is limited partial and defensive – in part because because it is not a fixed thing but a construct of thoughts, of beliefs – for the true self … also goes free
Then relaxing into the openness, the spaciousness of their true nature allows a resolution of all the tensions… which are not innate…there is no real separation or alienation dividing God and man, or you from me…or them from us
so the whole world sings back the song ….Good will to all men!
This is the invitation…… 
and by the way, before I go…I have a small request. I know it’s the age of concrete not of gold (and that was itself a metaphor!)… but could you  please stop digging sand out the Mekong river….it is affecting vast numbers of beings… 
If you have to keep making your seemingly solid sandcastles which will crumble unpleasantly in the future… could you please use the sand from the desert? I know it’s not what you’re used to but the technology is now available to do this.
There are many other wishes to do with leaving in the ground what belongs in the ground… leaving alone what should be left alone… seeing the bigger picture of actions and consequences in relative reality…but that’s enough for now
Then, as with all phenomena, the angel vanishes…
and the man sits down and contemplates and meditates… and healing begins…
Well…it is a good news story!
May the New Year bring true peace to all and all projections cease !!!

Update…for smart-phones

Some of the people I speak with had not yet discovered the treasure trove of audios and videos on the simplybeing.co.uk website which are accessible under the heading ‘Publications Audio and Video’ from the homepage as displayed on a computer or laptop.

Many people are accessing the site now through their phones so just to let you know that a lot of work has gone on behind the scenes to update the website for the phone and consequently there are differences to the layout.

As you may have gathered from some of my mutterings I don’t have a smart phone… but thanks to Chris in Germany  you’ll find the treasure easily… !!!!

Remember… Remember…the 8th of November

Remember remember the 5 November!

Remembering the lengths people will go to to destroy what they see as bad and the endless consequences of polarisation.

Remember on the 11th November the seen and unseen consequences of war and fighting…

Remembering the value of collaboration, working together in a respectful and harmonious way to achieve a result which is for the common good.

Re-membering,  dissolving the sense of  alienation in discovering who we and others truly are…

the critical remembering…

and of which we will be beautifully reminded on November 8 to the 10th

Please let Gio know if you are coming…for details see below and Simplybeing.co.uk>Events

James Low: 
Evening Talk & Weekend Teaching in Oxford

“Easy Illumination”
  • November 8th – 10th 2019

“We inhabit a paradox as our true nature is hidden by our way of looking. Using the structure of a short Dzogchen text by the extraordinary Tibetan Yogini Ayu Khandro we will explore how not to get in the way of our mind’s intrinsic illumination. The focus will be on the clarity of the authentic view and the depth of meditation practice”.


James Low is a disciple and teacher in the Byangter and Khordong lineages of the late Chhimed Rigdzin Lama.

He began studying and practising Tibetan Buddhism in India in the 1960’s and received teachings from Kalu Rinpoche, Chatral Rinpoche, Kanjur Rinpoche and Dudjom Rinpoche. Having met his root teacher, Chhimed Rigdzin Lama (also known as C R Lama), he lived in his home in West Bengal, India for many years, serving him as required and being taught many aspects of the tradition. During this period in India James did several retreats and pilgrimages in the Himalayas. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, on his return to Europe, he also had teachings and guidance from Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche.

James translated many tantric texts and sadhanas with CR Lama who wanted texts from his lineages, Byangter and Khordong, to be available in English. CR Lama asked James to teach in 1976 and later gave him the transmissions necessary to do this, together with full lineage authority. In particular, James was encouraged to give the traditional instructions using methods that enable people in the west to get the point. 

James has been teaching in this way for over twenty years. James regularly teaches the principles of dzogchen in Europe and he publishes translations and commentaries from time to time.

James studied at Edinburgh and other universities and has retired from his work in London as a Consultant Psychotherapist in the National Health Service. He is slowly winding down his private psychotherapy practice. He has taught on many psychotherapy trainings in Britain.

Evening Talk:

Friday November 8th, 7pm- 9pm

Weekend Teaching:

Saturday November 9th, 9.30am – 1pm & 2.30pm – 6pm (with breaks)
Sunday November 10th, 9.30am – 1pm (with breaks)

  • James will alternate between oral teaching & meditation practice

Costs and Offerings for Teaching:

The prices below cover costs only: venue hire, James’ travel costs, etc.

Evening Talk Only: £10
Teaching Sessions (a.m. or p.m): £15 per session (am or pm)
Whole Event: £50
In the Buddhist tradition teaching on meditation is offered without charge so there is no fee for the teaching offered this weekend.  

If you wish to offer a donation (dana) to support the work of the teacher and those who help him, then please do so at any point during the event

Both payment for costs and dana are cash only please on the door!



Finding freedom in the finest compost….

I have been slowly reading, re-reading and inwardly digesting the contents of the book ‘Finding Freedom’ and was, today, inspired to write a review on Amazon.
In 2013 as Lara Bates I reviewed ‘Simply Being’ and, as wendy, ‘Sparks’ in 2018. It was easy to do, but times have changed… now I find that before posting a review I must first have spend forty pounds this year. I haven’t done this yet (though I have discovered that putting money onto an Amazon gift card bought in a supermarket is a way to purchase without parting with card details)….so in the meantime, below, is a preview of the review!

I seem to have been getting busier, and not having time to detour to the garden centre and also wanting to support the village shop, I bought  the three bags of cheap compost which they had on display. A neighbour, a keen gardener, saw them and recoiled, saying ‘What is that???!!!’ with a look of utter disgust. I felt that was quite a strong reaction but replied ‘compost’ and left it at that…

It turned out she has a point. I’ve been planting plants and seeds in compost for a long time and have never before had plants which did not grow. The culprit had to be the compost… I looked at its constituents.  The bag didn’t give much away apart from mentioning that a fair proportion of it is ‘recycled’ … one wonders… recycled what?… this does matter! (relatively speaking) and inspired the review.

Finding Freedom – A Most Enriching Compost!

The dharma is  good in the beginning, and in the middle, and in the end…just as it is with the three approaches to awakening elucidated in this book.

‘Finding Freedom’ contains recent revisions of texts from the Theravadan, Mahayana and Dzogchen traditions which James Low had translated earlier, under the guidance of C.R. Lama.

The orientation and explanations accompanying each translations are easy to follow and invaluable…comprehensive notes further clarify the meaning and intent.

Planted in the compost of samsara… growth is stunted, blossom’s absent and there is a failure to thrive.
Life’s full flowering and realisation of our infinite potential depends upon access to the nourishment of that which is true…offered in ways we can absorb.
The different  formulations offered here address our conditioning in different yet harmonising ways which seep through our ego-self, penetrating right down to the roots growing in samsara – and withering them…. facilitating freedom to rise like the sun. Then, facing towards that as the sunflowers do, the roots of practice find the openness… and the buddha smiles.

So…this is compost of impeccable provenance and peerless quality!

James Low’s translations arise from the dharma, in connection with us at this time, though a lifetime of study and deep practice.
He had the opportunity to clarify his interpretations and understanding with other great teachers for whom the dharma was their life-blood.
So, allied with his facility with the English language, one can have confidence that the translations, although being as he says provisional in nature,  reliably accord with and express the meaning intended to be conveyed.

This is not a ‘page-turner’ of a book but one to stop us in our tracks…leaving each page open…to savour

…leaving me with a sense of most profound gratitude for the dharma, the teachers through time, and the opportunity to practice.




Sunday sitting…?

A few people  have expressed  a wish to come to the group but are too far away for the travelling to and fro to make sense.Some might like a little longer to practice together.

So I’m suggesting that we might meet occasionally on Sunday with a little talk and sit maybe between 10 and 12 then share a bit of food afterwards.

The dates available currently are 11th Aug. 1st Sept and 15th Sept.


The people in your phone….

Many years ago I remember sitting in Macclesfield listening to James inviting us to look around the room at the objects we could see and then to see if there was any more to them than meets the eye, the back story.

I remember  feeling gormless as I looked at thankas, bowls, tables, brocade… and thought how could i see more than what I do – thankas, bowls, tables, brocade… what more could there be?

What more could they be than what they are?… I was very stuck in believing that what I called them, the  labels I put onto the objects, was what they were…I  mean what else could they be? What more could there be to them… how could you see them differently?

He then started to talk about the bowl in front of him… marked by the hammers of somebody probably going deaf in some little workshop in India or Nepal.  About how the figuring, the designs on it, would be ‘just patterns’ to some… but meaningful to those who had incorporated these symbols into their way of interpreting the world. That the symbol itself comes alive through the interpretive matrix of the onlooker and the strength of affect evoked, whether positive or negative or neutral. ( retrospective creative licence in these words which I hope you’ll allow!)

That was not a lightbulb moment for me except in realising that I was missing what someone else could see, that my view might be a tad limited!
As a child I had the luck to be able to look at paintings and I remember thinking that the shadows around the fruit in still-life paintings were put there because that’s what artists do when they paint…I didn’t notice them in real life.

Gradually over time, many years and explanations later… about vases that someone thought beautiful but would end up ignored on a charity shop shelf, and ‘roses’ that were not their name… it sank in. Light slowly dawned that the meaning and value of ‘objects’ does not depend on labels, is not intrinsic, obvious and ‘out there’, but in the observer who creates the meaning through the patterns of thought possibilities available to him/herself… and then projects that onto the object. That moment of meaning is transient… and the repetition of it as a ‘given’, something known and inevitably so, is dulling, obscuring the freshness of each presentation.

It is we who ‘make special’ or not by our selective attention. Someone who knows nothing about buddhism can see a statue and say ‘that’s a buddha’ just through the kind of pattern recognition that we did when we were finding pairs of apples or bananas or whatever in a child’s card game… ‘I know what that’s called!’… but meaning and value are not in the affixed word, nor what’s there, they’re given by us.

Can statues really be buddhas? … these lumps of metal or clay or wood?

Absolutely, if you take the word that matches and is ‘hung’ around the objects neck as definitional… But buddha has different meanings even within buddhism… let alone outside of it. If it’s one who is awake to the unchanging truth and the relationship between that and what we generally take to be true…then a statue does not pass the test…especially if there is also a defined requirement to teach!
Others would say that buddha doesn’t do anything and this is a reflection, or refraction, a gesture arising from that frameless view…not separate from buddha…

And, in observing any form, different aspects will be highlighted by some and diminished by others. If the ‘Buddha’ is dusty, that would be very troubling for some and they would get ‘a dusty Buddha’, whereas others would be more concerned about the lineaments of the face – did it look friendly or not ‘friendly Buddha’, where did it come from ‘well-travelled Buddha’, or are the jewels real ‘valuable Buddha’ or fake ‘tawdry Buddha’ and so on…

Then there are all the causal factors  connected with the arising of the form. This is what James was gesturing to when he spoke about the bowl…
The desire which leads to the mining, the miners, smelters and those involved with the equipment and activities around that… and the designer, the artist the shopkeeper… the notion that this would sell well for a profit… and on the purchaser’s side that this would be a lovely buddhisty thing to have. All the thoughts and connections that have led to further notions then into activities, spread out across the world.The aeroplanes that bring the tourists across to buy or ship the bowls out into the world, the fuel required and all associated with that… more connections with thoughts and life energy of so so many beings at each moment and going back through time.

As there are so many ways of interpreting the presenting form, it is clear that an object cannot be ‘just what I take to be’…it is not any ‘fix-ed thing’ but a site for a multiplicity of potential interpretations…and so the world is not ‘fixed solid’ as it was before but energetically vibrant and dynamic.

When I was small I was quite convinced there was a minute orchestra playing inside the radio. This was so obvious that it never occurred to me to check this certainty with anyone. Maybe there is much that we treat in the same way as adults, taking for granted and assuming rather than putting into question and really looking closely without knowing in advance of seeing.
In fact there was, in the radio, the orchestration of so much in the way of science and technology, composers, musical appreciation, teachers, parents, schools instrument makers, a live orchestra of musicians, and thousands of hours of practice, all coming together with my attention, as i sat on the yellow plastic top stool made by…

So are there people in the phone…?

It’s 200 years since Karl Max was born and this dramatisation of Das Kapital by Sarah Woods  addresses this question in a way which I found moving

… perhaps you will enjoy too if you have an hour to spare… its available for 20 days or so.

It is clear how much aggression occurs, and will it occur increasingly, in the pursuit of limited resources which are not essential to our life and well-being… and are in fact actively detrimental to that of others…

‘But it’s just a phone’… maybe not…





Finding freedom – Wandel Verlag

To find freedom we may not have to do so much, it is free and it’s always there, but if we don’t see this directly, then there is so much richness and diversity in the different aspects of the dharma with which we can engage, and which may release some of the rigidities and tensions…

…some of the teachings are spoken, some are written, and some are neither.

The books may bring great richness and depth to the dharma view to which they pertain and each book is the fruit of the labours of many different people, some of the the last being the publishers.

The latest work of James Low –  ‘Finding Freedom’  will shortly be published by Wandel Verlag  a small publishing house in Germany… and i’d like to appreciate and highlight how valuable is all the work that goes on behind the scenes there and elsewhere in the world, in the production of books which encapsulate the richness and diversity of the dharma in a way which maintains the integrity of the flow of the continuous stream of dharma teachings into and through the world.

The various books James has written all have quite different flavours… reading, thinking about, and absorbing them into practice/life brings about different possibilities of being and relating. This recent book will be readily accessible to practitioners of different strands of dharma…and illuminating of their interrelatendess.*

Some of the other books published are of practices which are very particular in their context, application, and effect – including the works of Martin Boord (Rig-‘dzin rdo-rje) . As with all teachings these are tools to be picked up and used in the correct way, a way which needs to be explained by someone who knows how, or they will be ineffective or have the potential to harm. Recently I met someone who had spent eight years doing a Tara practice from a translated text which he had found, and said it had made no difference… I’ve also met a Chod practitioner who said she had been practising for seven years… but was just miserable… neither were taught or supervised within the tradition from which the teachings come.

*Ordering ‘Finding Freedom’ from Wandel Verlag before August 3 bring benefits in terms of discount and timing!





Two updates… The book – ‘Finding Freedom’ also a change for Friday 8th November

Firstly just to draw your attention to the change of venue in Oxford on the evening of Friday eighth of November.

The public talk James is giving will now be held in Talbot Hall, Lady Margaret Hall – the same venue as for the Saturday and Sunday.


Secondly the book: Finding Freedom

…. you may have noticed some publicity…some of which is included below… around the latest book ‘Finding Freedom’ which will be published and widely available from 3rd August…however, pre-payment to the publisher has benefits! (see bottom of post.)

‘Finding Freedom’ includes texts from the Theravadin, Mahayana and Dzogchen Buddhist traditions, introduced and translated by James Low. The book consist of profound introductions and revised translations of classical and some more recent works, most of which had been first translated under the supervision of Chimed Rigdzin Rinpoche.

These texts, which were very important to him, are of immense value for our practice, e.g. to deal with everyday difficulties, to recognise and include the cause-and-effect principle in our path, to recognise emotions and their cause and to cut off the illusory ego, or, in the final section, to experience and realise emptiness in its diversity through the wide all-inclusive view of Dzogchen. All texts are a deep inspiration and this collection shows the great richness of Buddhist teaching’.


The Four Immeasurables

Here is the link to that prayer.

The words in the translation wish for all beings to have happiness and the cause of happiness…
To  be free of sorrow and the cause of sorrow.

Following James’ talk in Macclesfield  this year i have changed the words above that to those he used:  wishing ‘for all beings to know the root of happiness’ and  ‘for them to cut the root of suffering’.

Apologies… and also

Just to apologise to those who have already read Dungeons and dragons 1.

It was unfinished, incomplete, the ‘key note’ was a bit off…i’ve revised it so please would you have another look.

And just to draw your attention to the recent posting of the Emerson 2018 recordings shown below…i made two posts at the same time…and i’m not sure how the notifications work but you may just have noticed  ‘Dungeons’ which would be a shame as these invite a beautiful and much deeper look at ‘what is’.