Wendy’s Writings

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


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 !!!

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.




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…





Dungeons and dragons 1

When I was first finding some freedom in living, I found myself on the seafront at Sidmouth and the jazz festival had just begun. It was early evening, the sun was setting over the sea, and a young guitarist was playing a song about the world being divided into prisoners and jailers. A woman next to me was enjoying the song just as much as I was and we exchanged a few words and smiles. I had a feeling that she also felt that he had missed out another vital group – the liberators.

I identified strongly with the prisoners without seeing that, relatively speaking, the jailers are equally imprisoned and, at that time, I had a sense that for the prisoners to escape, it just required the glorious liberators to arrive with the keys, unlock the doors to the cells, and then they would be able to walk out  into the sunshine… Forever free!

Somewhat wiser now I realise that whilst the ‘liberators’ with wisdom can do a great deal with compassion to help if the circumstances are right…
They can help the prisoner check out whether or not the walls are as strong as the prisoner feels they are, whether there is really a locked door to the cell; give the prisoner some sense of their own capacity and what they might enjoy were they able to move in an unconstricted fashion. They may also use their own life force, their time, their energy to encourage this move towards wisdom in any way they can… 

But the prisoner has to actively engage in this process, overcome the fear of the unknown – dragons, ghosts from the past, or whatever makes them shrink…stepping into the bright light…
But also, having walked through the open door, to grow… through the growing pains as the tightnesses work free… into a shape fitting to the spacious environment…and keep releasing…and releasing…no prisoner, no imprisonment. 

The key point is for the prisoner to discover how the prison was created and their part in that. That the walls are made of thoughts, held together by attachment, arising from the misidentification, the misunderstanding, as to the prisoners own nature…and, concomitantly, that of the jailer and all other phenomena used in the illusory creative construction. 

Without this wisdom it’s a case of ‘out of the frying-pan into the fire’ – never mind ‘pop-up’ shops…’pop-up’ prisons are two a penny!

So this wisdom is the true key, one which unlocks all doors; one you can always use as the ‘get out of jail card’ if you sense yourself imprisoned by falling into constrictions and fusions arising due to previous deluded activities. 

By ourselves or with some help, eventually we realise that these jails occur when we get small and tight…and hot and dense and dim! 

If we’ve not been using the key for a while, have gone to sleep, and woken up in the dark and forgotten where it is…don’t worry… just relax, this makes the practice of releasing from con-fusion with the mental construct  easier; if you’re not at home with that practice, then ask and pray and use whatever practice you are familiar with…the dharma always responds. The light will come on, brightly or as a little glimmer, and you’ll sense it’s at your fingertips (where it always was, both as the ground of your embodied existence and that of all arising phenomena).
You’re never truly trapped though, without space, it can surely feel like that.

Qs as clues, reminders, aides memoir:
Which is bigger: the mind or the jail?… and where exactly is the jail located?
Which is real and persists unchanged through time: the pattern or the ground – the ‘jail’ or the mind itself?
What is the relationship between the ‘liberator’ and the nature of the mind,
the relationship of the ‘prisoner’ to the ground,
the relationship between the ‘liberator’ and the ‘prisoner’? 

And if this realisation is merely intellectual how much will it help in the lived situation when old patterns are insisting?
How would that result compare with regular on-going practice to actualise the view and keep the lens clear?
Is it perhaps something to do with our own huffing and puffing on the lens that mists it up, our tensions that distort it ?
: )… knowing that answer from experience! and going Key-less is the way:

Like the Moon’s Reflection on the Water

The enlightened mind
Is without coming or departing.
It is neither outside nor within.
Transcending thought, it has no partiality.
It is ultimate reality, unlimited and unconfined,
Wherein there is no wide or narrow
And no high or low.
So set aside all anxious search for it.
Excerpted from:
Finding Rest in Illusion
The Trilogy of Rest, Volume 3
Page 35
Finding Rest in Illusion


Springing into life… at Emerson College and Oxford

I realise that it’s time to spring-clean and blow the dust off this website…various projects and a pilgrimage have intervened…and it’s so long since I wrote anything that it just taken me twenty minutes to find the password!

Someone sent me an email today asking when James was next teaching in England… so i can see that it’s good to have this up-to-date, supplementary to the Simplybeing.co.uk website.

Today it’s a pleasure to bring dharma spring, summer, autumn, and winter together in a  paragraph or two.

Spring – new leaves will be showing on the Emerson recording tree with the completion of editing and sound improving the recordings from last summer. Hopefully these will be ready for posting in  the audio section of the Simplybeing website ( you’ll find it under publications) in a week or two. It has taken a very long time to get this to spring back to life and you would be amazed at the amount of energy of various kinds… from buddhas and beings… have gone into this, from inception to delivery, all for our ease.

For various reasons I have listened to most of these recordings many times and, as usual, every time I listen different aspects sink in deeper.
A long time ago James alluded to a friend of his who just got a teaching from his teacher every six months…  the friend made good progress –   digesting, assimilating, and then attempting to apply what he had learnt before he met up again with his teacher for something more.
There is an enormous depth and richness to those few days of teaching and i would have liked you to have the full six months to enjoy this before we are meeting again… but it’s, as usual, a case of working with circumstances.

Summer – the time and date at Emerson College is now shown here, as well as on the Sb. website.

Autumn – well probably early winter really, but anyway… will see us meeting up back in Oxford on 8-10 Nov…details coming soon.

Winter – the Oxford recordings from last December are also now available. You can now listen to the public talk  as well as the weekend teachings.

– James has agreed to teach again in Oxford 8-10 Dec. at Gio’s invitation. Further details will soon be available.

I once heard someone sing a song about the yogin Milarepa and his disciples… ‘their meeting and their parting mark the change of time’ …..and so it does for us

Photo credit

Being your (appropriate) size…whatever that is!

Once upon a time long,long, ago… I was meditating, sitting on the grass in the Deerpark at Sarnath. It was early morning and relatively quiet, the light was soft and there was not yet much heat in the day. There were no deer, I had checked that out earlier… the animals had changed… there was  a crocodile instead!

So I was sitting at a place where I had sat in before and slipped into some meditative state. I always used to sit cross-legged with my small pack underneath my right knee and I would often slip the leash attached to this around my leg.

Packs can disappear in a flash, one moment they are beside you, the next moment whisked away.  I had found the advice I was given to put a leash on my big pack also useful in England before setting off – looping it through a chair or table leg to slow down anyone wanting to snatch it for long enough for me to get a drink. There would be some commotion in the pulling over of the chair or table which might help…and usually i had my weight on it too…so this leash gave me freedom from clutching my belongings with security.

So…there i am, meditating…and dropping into a state of being less conscious of what is going on around me… then suddenly feeling a tugging. Tugging where? Lots of different places!….
From whom… Lilliputian thieves!

Very strange  to have some of this gang of little beings trying to pull your pack away at the same time as others worked on removing your shoes, undoing your watch strap, removing your necklace….etc.

They were too small for me to whack at, and that thought did not cross my mind at the time – but anyway it was too muddly – using force i might injure one accidentally… If i had focussed on stopping one pair of hands in particular, another pair might have succeed…

So i just kind of exploded up and out… very, very, big… and they ran away..no harm done.

With the thoughts envisaged as little binding threads, as in the previous Gulliver post, practice of the hinayana in the bodhisattvayana and tantrayana methods can bring about a change in the kind of thoughts or apparent quality of the thread.
With each view, because of the varying way oneself and  ‘others’ are regarded, a ‘revising of sizing’ is required and facilitated.

In the practice of dzogchen, resting in the openness, the variations in focus from infinite to very small, openness to precision, is ongoing and become more attuned.
The use of the syllable ‘phat’  can break the ‘golden threads’ as well as the ‘mundane’; or one can simply relax out of any particular shape or size …….

….becoming more and more shapeless gives more potential for different shapes to show…


The little story above relates to the second time that slipping into an altered state had been an unhelpful disconnection from my lived situation. The first time was when my bag was stolen, in a library in England, as i stared transfixed at my first sight of the Simplybeing website… which had just come into being! It’s much safer to be awake, able to take different shapes, than in a fixed or altered state, when moving in the world.

P.S. The crocodile was in my mind…and so were the deer in their pen…leaves were being brought in from the countryside to feed them. The deer park was not as i had imagined!



On being… or caught by thoughts

What a distressing picture I beheld as a child…. opening the book ‘Gulliver’s travel’s and seeing the poor man stretched out on the ground and pinned there by hundreds of tiny ropes. There were so many that despite their insubstantial nature he was fixed so tightly to the ground that he could not move at all.

More than ten years ago I repeated James words that he ‘would never be caught by a thought’ to a student. She was so taken with those words that she relayed them to a lady on the checkout in the local Morrisons store. ‘ You must never be caught by a thought!’ she laughingly admonished….and the lady thought that was such wonderful advice.

I also told her that James had once instructed me to… ‘take the ring from out your nose’.  Clearly he was referring to my lack of   freedom in being led around like a cow… both by the nonsense of others (first step to be free of that) – then secondly, and with much more difficultly, to be free of the nonsense of myself!

Since then both she and I – and no doubt the lady in Morrisons – have been captivated by many a thought.
Knowing what’s  good for you when you hear it one thing… consistently applying the advice for long enough to bring about a change is very much another!

At first noticing the difference between moments of openness… and then the felt tightening in the body as an attention-invested identity-thought fuses  (or goes into a fugue) with another…or  noticing the rudderless, life-consuming drifting, and the ‘home-coming’ in meditation… over and over again. Being helped  to understand the nature of thoughts, the nature of the mind… the dharma has so much to offer us. Seeing what is going on and releasing from these old habits, allowing the thoughts to move freely without locking on…
It’s no quick fix…but it can be done…and it’s not a bodge job which just keeps your head above water!

Keeping some form of meditation going through all the ups and downs – not resting the oars – is great if you can. Some just drift away after a while…but some, like this dharma student, find that after each period of disconnection with practice the healthiness of the return becomes more evident. She recently told me that she had realised that it was the only thing that was really going to help her.

As the buddha said in the Kalama sutra ‘When you know for yourself, Kalamas, these qualities are skilful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them’.

Gradually you reset your own compass away from the rocky shores into the open waters…the threads that seemed to hold you, fixed in place and time dissolve…and freedom from the mind-forged lilliputian manacles is yours!

Cartoon credit

Homme-âgé – reflections 3

Evening time

meditating in the graveyard

Birds, bats, thoughts flitting

Father-in-law dying



of the infinite


the shift to

con-fusion with false identities


It’s when,

it’s when,

and only when see…

and stop the conning and the fusion

and then, and then, and only then

we feel ourselves at-oned,

at home again.

Homme-âgé – reflections 2

Evening time –

meditating in the graveyard…

birds, bats, and thoughts




from old age…

this world, from lack of love

from  lack of wisdom


All this confusion

breeds,  hatred,  greed…

and our pollution

from tensions, torsions –


all distortions and contortions 



only when

we stop the conning and the fusion

and then… and then, and only then

in truth,


we can begin again.



Homme-âgé – reflections 1

Once of a time he made –
sandcastles by the sea
and kites that flew…life opening…
so much that he could be

He studied hard, his knowledge grew,
at university he made
‘things’ from new materials…

…he made his girlfriend blush
married, made babies,
made the children laugh,
(did he… or did I imagine that?)

made money – house and garden…
retired, grew flowers

grew old

and now he makes, increasingly,
a nuisance of himself

– so I am told

credit for picture





The perils of perching – advice for parrots!

Whatever the position taken up with assertion, the egoic or  separated sense-of-self will cling to that self-created perch for stability.
With fear of falling from that perch (or being pushed) the claws tighten and tension in the body increases.
There is a locking on and locking up which makes release and flying far less likely… and eventually inconceivable.
Welded to the perch, identified with the perch, by the ‘guano’ accumulated from relieving the bowels in the same place, or constipated by fear of letting go…  starvation and immobility lead to death.
Who died?
Was there ever a ‘parrot’ or a ‘perch’ in truth?

Woolly minded!

In mid July I was in a little tent with some friendly faces talking about the view of dzogchen under the title ‘Who dies, who dances?’

Over the years I have taken different props with me, from crystal droplets to bubble blowers. This time it was to be a little box of sheeps wool collected from Dartmoor.
In the event I left it behind… things have been pretty busy lately… but it didn’t much matter because it’s fairly easy to imagine. So I thought I’d see whether the metaphor means anything to you.

If you take a piece of sheep’s wool and try to look through it… that may not be possible.
If you squeeze it and squash it into a little box then, of course, seeing through it becomes impossible.
Cold water washing won’t help but will stick the threads closer and hot water washing will felt it so that it will be quite impossible to see through.

But if you gently tease it apart so the little strands of wool separate, you can see the space that was always there and you can see right through it.

The mind is a little bit like that… (and  quite a lot not like that)!

It’s a bit like the mind because… when we as ‘subject’ focus our attention onto the thoughts, feelings and sensations – the threads – which arise (the movements of the mind) as if they were objects, we become mesmerised and lose touch with the spaciousness from which, and back into which they go. With this comes more sense of solidity, density, weightiness, certainty…which increases the sense of being a separate subject and decreases the ability to see what’s really going on.

A deception is played out so often it seem true… inflation of the ‘I’-thought, believing in it (and with that the thought-threads wrapped round it) as a true identity.  Then relating to other arisings depending on the perception of their impact upon our created construct.

Seeing how any trick is performed requires very close attention. There is usually a moment of created diversion, a distraction, and during that moment of slippage the sleight of hand is performed…

When you know how it’s done you can still be taken in…it’s a big habit, easy to fall into…but instead of saying ‘you got me (or got to me!) again’…you know you confused yourself!

There’s a great poem by Portia Nelson about how you can reposition yourself relative to the hole in the pavement. Meditation which allows the mind to move but does not follow the movements – is a practice which goes with that. ‘Oh..i’m tightening up, narrowing my focus, condensing, putting weight into story-line, falling down the hole’….relax, release…begin again…

The more we fuse and entangle with the tanglings the tighter things get.
Relaxing more into the spaciousness, holding a very wide-angle view… this allows the con-fusion with the tanglings to release, we don’t have to tease them apart. ‘Tanglings’ then move as the transient energetic display aspects of the mind itself…movements which awareness, or the mind itself, doesn’t grasp.