Mindfulness drop-in at Oblong, Woodhouse Community Centre

As the nights turn darker earlier and the leaves turn brown and fall from the trees, perhaps it’s a nice time to get together with others to practise Mindfulness?  And to bring ourselves into the moment. Well the good news is that there is a new mindfulness group starting in Woodhouse!

Steve Hart is an experienced Mindfulness and Meditation practitioner and will be facilitating drop-in sessions along with other facilitators from Leeds Mindfulness at Oblong, Woodhouse Community Centre The sessions start on the 19th October – on Wednesdays from 7.15pm -8.45pm. 

Steve is a friendly fellow with a gentle approach and I am sure that it will be a lovely community down there. The sessions are intended for anyone who is interested and all are more than welcome.  Steve describes the sessions as ‘ Simple meditation exercises using awareness of breath and body and self nurturing and loving kindness meditation.’

Practising Mindfulness can bring many benefits for everyone, especially if you are feeling stressed or fatigued and it’s also good for pain management.  It can help us to achieve a state of calm and tranquillity, a positive mental state and to have a better connection with others.

Certainly it will be a nice community down there.. pop along..  I intend to!

meditating39

Steve can be contacted on 07999 218450 if you need any more information,

ENJOY

LWW

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Silence at Ampleforth Monastery – doing something out of the ordinary!

I recently did something quite out of the ordinary. I packed my bags and went off to stay in a Monastery to experience two days of silence!  It was a weekend of Mindful Meditation at Ampleforth Monastery in North Yorkshire.

‘Two days of silence, why would you want to do that..?’ some of my friends asked me, quite bemused at the idea.   ‘…because i can feel my head going on overdrive!’

A few year ago I took up Mindfulness Meditation in an attempt to be more present in my life, less anxious, to come out of auto-pilot and have more control over how I respond and react to things and basically to help manage my depression at the time.  It helped. However my practice had since lapsed, and like many of us who have learnt to spot the early warning signs of a dip, I knew it was time to do something about this.  The retreat came at a time when I needed it.   It provided a chance for a change of scenery, a break from my usual routine, an adventure and some meditation – hopefully these things would help give me the lift I was looking for.

When I arrived I was taken aback at the beauty of the Monastery and its surrounding grounds. The monastery filled me with awe as it has such presence. It grandly overlooks a  valley, which contains rugby grounds, trees, nice walks and green hills in the distance. Rumour has it that  ‘Hogwarts,’ the castle in Harry Potter was inspired by Ampleforth, which is also a public school as well as a monastery.  After having a quick look around  I felt absolutely giddy with excitement that this would be my home for the next few days.

Ampleforth

The retreat was both relaxing and challenging. My mind wandered to places I really didn’t want it to!  But hey, that’s what minds do – right?  Part of the practice involves noticing this and bringing the attention back to the focus of the meditation.   I tried to allow thoughts and feelings to come and go, observing them without getting too attached to them, like clouds passing through the sky.  The theory is that this then becomes easier in daily life, and it does help me.

I experienced some beautiful moments whilst at the retreat. In the evening I would look up at the sky and see so many stars twinkling back down at me.  I marvelled at the constellation of Orion, which I rarely see from my home in Leeds. The starry sky was so clear and bright and reminded me of stargazing in India which I had done many years previously when I felt much more carefree. It was a nice reminder.

The monks were very hospitable and welcomed us to drop into their worship, which is open to members of the public and I highly recommend!   Their singing is enchanting, mesmerizing and moving. It was like being on the front row of a free concert!

…and while I was there I felt time stand still just for a little while…a pause

Anyone can visit Ampleforth Monastery (As long as it’s not a special day.)  Members of the public can eat at the tearooms, stroll around the grounds, observe and take part in the worship (you don’t have to be religious – I’m not! ) and buy nice gifts at the shop  – it’s a beautiful place to go!

Resilience

Resilience is something of a constant on-off meditation. I’ve had to think about what resilience means? Being resilient makes me happy: I said recently to a friend:

“There is no such thing as adversity.”

Yes, I live from that more and more, a very resilient thought creating joy for me and others?

“There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way”

The Dalai Lama.

We have to be very mindful, because there is no belief system of absoluteness, in mindfulness, or Buddhism. If you have the neigbours from hell then move; conditions are important, but only as important as you make them.

I was a ‘depressive’/ ‘despairive’/despairer’, although I do not now have disabling or clinical depression, as I have basically recovered, my friends will be relieved to know. This recovery took me many years. In those years I despaired of ever healing and recovering. However apart from good friends, two things really helped me change my life, ‘gainst the ground-hog days we all suffer indeed:

Buddhist practices including meditation; there is contemplation to induce the practice of wisdom-compassion in your life, but at least 5 other practices. However.meditation alone will not change your life.

Therapy and counselling. I count them as the same difference as unlike certain therapist and counsellors, they argue over very little and the prime focus should be the clients needs to heal, not professional intellectual differences!

And my acquaintances too:  I mustn’t forget the latter for a very simple reason: every source of support is necessary to overcome the low self esteem behind mania and depression, or any other form of self-defined distress. Both are Jungian overcompensations for something denied and that something is low self esteem or more graphically self hatred.

I will say again one needs a massive support system to overcome even mild depression, moderate despair or the worst manic and suicidal despair depression.

We need to be extremely mindful, aware and kind to ourselves, and others in order to overcome the worst in ourselves and make the best of the rest of our lives. The only point about being mindfullly-aware is to develop the insights for you to be compassionate yourselves, and to others.

Despair depression and other mental ‘illnesses’ are deeply ground into being-karma, so the medicine must be strong, varied and penetrate to our unconscious depths. This allows integration of horrible and repressed demons, our worst fears and doubts and to overcome the fear of freedom from neurosis. But as I once discovered if we don’t watch it it can kill us. Neurosis and psychosis killed my dad and brother many years ago, and deep mental pain, anguish can make life not worth living. If we fully recognise these realities and talk to our friends, nurture friends who earn trust, then slowly we can recover with consistent practice of recovery techniques, invented or not, over time.

Mindfulness (being in the mo-ment, enjoying life, being efficient, being joyful, but not driven, etc.) also makes one very aware in ones home garden, bus or wherever of one body in a relaxed yoga like fashion. In fact just taking 5 percent reduction of my high speed mania, helped, or adding 5 per cent to lift myself from despair pits worked. Tis the middle way, not foolish ground-hog day overcompensation.

I cannot value therapy/counselling, Buddhist practices, or friends over and above one another. In a sense the telling thing is they are all friends, OK a professional listener was paid by me as an exception, but if you feel it is merely about the money, then be firm with your counsellor or therapist (search this website for more on talking listening treatments counselling and psychotherapy).

The Buddha said ”Do the wholesome. Do the wholesome always.”

Conclusions:  For people with disabling despair, depression anxiety-neurosis, psychosis, or people with distress,  it is important to look after yourself by asking for help (there’s a future blog of this title coming soon), by nurturing self insight/ self help, asking friends and therapists for help, but don’t be exploited by any unethical ‘friends’ or therapists .

Stick with the bad-weather friends, and genuine people – those who will stick by you in thick and thin. And who love you even for your faults, which they see as amusing and delightful and charming. Those who nurture you and love you.

You can recover. Indeed. It is totally true – even the worst cases can transform their lives to contentment happiness and a greater kindness.
You can change.
But you need self insight and to ask for help so sharing, and halving your problems.
You need to stop the Ground-hog Days of unconscious addictive karmas, and if you fall back into despair anxiety and mistakes; that’s OK there’s no such thing as failure only feedback.
Create a massive support network
Be happy,  that’s the only point of living after all, without harming others through anger, drugs, battles, resentments, verbal darts – in fact cultivate the opposite of these weeds of the mind. Please cultivate the lotuses and sunflowers of our lives. For the rest of our lives.

If you want to learn mindfulness for resilience, more humour and more joy and wisdom in your life, please leave a message on this post, or e-mail us at Leeds Wellbeing Web.

or google leeds buddhist centre or mindfulness or buddhist centres leeds u.k.

Enjoy your life, I lick the lid of life.

Milan Buddha Ghosh

Please Don’t Take Things To Heart

Image for Milan's post Nov 2014

We ‘depressives’ are prone to taking what others say too seriously. And if taking what they say too seriously flips us into depression, then it’s just not worth it.

Those who are prone to despair, for whatever reason, I give the short label ‘depressives’; I am not an advocate of psychiatry. It is just a convenient label.

I could call us ‘despairives’ but it doesn’t feel right, so I am stuck with the term depressive. By this term I mean all those who may be doctor-labelled depressives: acute, chronic, bipolar, those ”with some mood disorder”, as I have been labelled.

But back to the main point: it is simply not worth it to take what people say too seriously, whatever it is, if it triggers a period of gloom.

Why do I say this?

Well because most people who say whatever we don’t like, or can’t cope with or who say something hurtful actually mean the opposite. They want to help. The few that don’t should be ignored, because if we take on board their unhelpful, even cruel intentions, then we are fools who suffer periods of doom and gloom. And how many times have we had those dark periods triggered? Is it really worth it. No!

Having said all that, I do know it is not easy to not take offence sometimes. I also know these things people say that trigger our periods of despair can be skilfully ignored more often in future. They can, in fact be totally ignored at some point, when we have enough of the right insights, for our own character. In other words we do not have to suffer so much, and we can never again, be driven by what others say. Our happiness cannot in the end depend on others.

A part of these two latter healthier responses, not reactions of despair, is to own our part in the matter. It takes two to tango, karmically, and we don’t have to take the bait by swallowing whole, or in part, what others say. If we can own how we take offence, whether it is meant or not, we can do the opposite. We can respond in a way that is healthy, whether people mean offence or not, and most don’t! For instance, doctors: GP or psychiatrists may not have the understandings or sayings that help me, but I take their good intentions, and skilfully sidestep the un-useful content.

I have sidestepped the boulder of such triggers more and more over the years, because otherwise I realise I would have wasted more time in despair-land.

In tandem with this I have focussed more on the friends who can and do help me more, and persisted more in communicating with them, however difficult that enterprise of deep communication may be. I hope you will do this and thus be kinder to yourselves, and have more well-being in your life.

(See also “For Better Mental Health, Cultivate Friendship” on this blog)

Milan Buddha Ghosh

Leeds Mind Peer Support Conference 6th June #peer14

The fantastic Peer Support team at Leeds Mind are presenting a free Peer Support Conference on Friday 6th June. Could your organisation benefit from using Peer Support ? Do you want to network with other organisations involved in Peer Support?

– tickets are free but need to be booked here via Eventbrite.  There are limited spaces so do book quickly!

The twitter hashtag for the event is #peer14

 

peer support flyer web

A Deeper Beauty: Buddhist reflections on everyday life – a book review

What keeps me well is well, reading, although at age 49, I go for the easy reading styles of various writers. In my late teens and 20s I could read any time of day rapidly, but now certainly not at night.

There is much in this book to inspire many of us in what can be the drearier, tiresome, boring, darker sides of our lives.

Buddhism is about hard work, to change ourselves, because only we want to, it is not really romantic meditation making us up-float of somewhere to escape.
I find only non-Buddhists tend to romanticise Buddhism in this way, for Buddhists we are Mandelic: having long ago realised that grinding the stubborn boulders and barriers in our minds of fear, hate, passions and ignorance, into a softer path of forward travel – and with a lightening load – is the coalface, the real thing. There is much joy and sunshine, and calm plateaus if we do the work of meditation. The path to end mental suffering is neither grim or cynical or romantic, it is in between: real compassion with joy.
The best Buddhists in my view are totally real about their downfalls, groundhog days, about the grim suffering of their lives, yet also manifest a clear joy, a vision of liberation walked step by step; who also share their joys, often non verbally. They are real and appeal to the heart, often with humour, vitality, wit, joy and a solid kind of realness. This too, is Paramananda’s style.

So I’m going to take extracts and let you get a flavour of his practice of compassion, his practice of loving kindness, with all the trails and trials, ‘boring’ bits and joys:

I found Paramananda’s A Deeper Beauty: Buddhist reflections on everyday life, clear, human and inspiring.

He has written a popular guide to meditation Change your Mind. Paramanada was born John Wilson in North London in 1955. From an early age he was curious about Eastern ideas, but it was not until the age of 23, after the death of his father, that his interest in Buddhism was aroused. At the same time, the focus of his life shifted from the world of politics, in which he had been active, to more spiritual concerns.

During his twenties Paramananda worked as a Psychiatric Social Worker.
He has also been involved in various types of voluntary work, including the Samaritans, drug detox, and more recently in a hospice.

In 1983 he came into contact with the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order and 2 years later was ordained into the Order itself. Since then he has been teaching meditation and Buddhism full-time. He sees as powerful tools for both individual and social change, and believes that service to the community is a vital aspect of practice. From 1993 to 2001 he lived in California where he was chairman of the San Francisco Buddhist Centre. He now lives in North London where he continues with his teaching and writing.

Introduction

I have been walking a while
on the frozen Swedish fields
and I have seen no one.

In other parts of the world
people are born, live and die.
In a constant human crush.

To be visible all the time – to live
in a swarm of eyes –
surely that leaves its mark on the face.
Futures overladen with clay.

The low voices rise and fall
as they divide up
heaven, shadows, grains of sand.

I have to be myself
ten minutes every morning,
ten minutes every night,
and nothing to be done

we all line up to ask each other for help.

Millions.

One.

‘Solitude 2’, Tomas Transtromer (translator: Robert Bly).

Sitting in my London flat on rainy summers day, trying to figure out what to say in this introduction, I pull from my shelf one of my favourite anthologies of poetry. I open the book at random and find the above verses, which I cannot remember reading before. It seems as good a place as any to begin. I am particularly struck by the image of a man walking alone across frozen fields – and the 10 minutes the poet takes every morning and evening to be by himself. It reminds me of meditation, time taken to be more fully with oneself.

This book has developed put of nearly 20 years of attempting to convey the meaning I sometimes in Buddhist practice, in particular in meditation. I say ‘sometimes’ because the truth is I often lose the thread of that practice. ‘Being’ a Buddhist meditation teacher has not insulated me from the confusion and periodic despair of life. Despite what follows, I do not always manage to be mindful or even simply kind. I am in some sense a constant failure. Nevertheless, I do feel that over the years I have made some kind of small progress and I have become at least a little clearer about what is important to me.

If this book has a central theme it is the need to be ourselves, the relationship between this need and living in the world with others, and how to become more fully into the experience of being ourselves in such a way that this strengthened sense of ourselves finds positive relationship with others and with the world at large. This in lives that are increasingly full of activity that it often feels as though we are being pulled away from ourselves, pulled further and further away from ourselves, pulled further and further away, from a sense of who we are. Finding ourselves adrift in our lives with no sense of purpose beyond getting through each day with as much pleasure and as little pain as possible.

Perhaps I should say from the outset that I simply do not supply any definitive answers to the ills of modern life. I hope that on the whole I avoid telling you what you should or should not do. I hope that I raise points and issues that are worth taking a little time to reflect upon. Most importantly I hope that you, the reader, will be in some small way encouraged in your life. Despite the awful mess that we so often seem to make, on a personal and global level, there is something extraordinary about being here at all, and I hope that, like me, you will feel you would like to make the most of the magic of your life.

I have occasionally used terms not often found in most books written from a Buddhist perspective; for example, I refer to the ‘soul’ in several places. If you know even a little about Buddhism you will know that it strongly rejects the eternalism implied by such a term. However I employ it because for me it has a richness of texture that no other English terms seem to convey; it implies something that cannot be fully expressed in the language of science and logic. I use it, then, poetically in order to convey that we as human beings are more than the sum total of our biological and environmental conditioning. I use poetry for the same reason.

So while, with the help of my editor, I have attempted to be as clear as possible, the book is suggestive rather than prescriptive, in that I have attempted to capture the ‘atmosphere’ of what Buddhist practice means to me. In the appendix I have outlined the meditation practices I refer in the text, in case you are not familiar with them, although there is no substitute for learning from a teacher, and with others.

Within the Buddhist tradition there has always been a strong emphasis on individual experience, and it is in this spirit that the book should be read, by which I mean don’t take my word but judge what I have to say ion the light of your own exp; some it might ring true while some of it might not. Either way, I hope it encourages you to look afresh at your own practice- whatever that might be. In his poem ‘St Francis and the Sow’, Gathay Kinnell writes

the bud
stands for all things
even for those things that don’t flower,
everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;

meditation is a form of self-blessing that leads us deeper into our own heart, and in so doing reveals a door of beauty in the world around us.

From a CD cover case, from Johnny Solstice

It seems to me relevant:

”Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves ”who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of the universe. Playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel small around you. We are meant to shine as children do. We were born to manifest the glory of the universe within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously allows others to. As we are liberated from our own fear, we liberate others.”

Nelson Mandela

You can order
A Deeper Beauty: Buddhist reflections on everyday life and
& Change your Mind
through Tri Ratna Buddhist Order, Telephone 0113 244 5256
Leeds Buddhist Centre,
4th Floor, Bridge House email: enquiries@leedsbuddhistcentre.org
Hunslet Road web: http://www.leedsbuddhistcentre.org
Leeds LS10 1JN.

Near the Adelphi Pub; Tetley Art Gallery & Cafe

There are 2 beginners 10-week courses for medititors:
Mondays, 5.15 – 6.15pm
Wednesdays 12.45 – 1.30pm

or through http://www.amazon.com/seconds

 

The Novice – a book review

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A review of The Novice, by Thich Nath Hanh by Milan Buddha ‘Mad ‘ Ghosh.

“To continue the path to Enlightenment Kinh must suffer false accusations, physical hardship and public demolition without complaint, with absolute grace, astounding compassion and unwavering resolve. The Novice perseveres in the face of every challenge, ultimately Kinh Tam’s moving fate will transform lives and offer hope to us all.”

so says the review on the back cover. I found it to be one of those books that I couldn’t put down.. it was in plain English, and spoke to the heart, yet used the understanding of intellect too.

Kinh is a woman who dearly desires enlightenment, but in her part of Asia it is indeed a man’s world, and even the Buddhist establishment in monasteries is sexist, despite Buddha Shakyamunni’s welcoming an order of nuns. So she decides to cross dress as a man, shaves her head, and to behave like one. How she manages the lack of privacy in such a male environment is astounding. She is brave indeed just to do this.

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