Friday, November 27, 2015

Loving the fat Buddha

Clay statue of fat happy jolly relaxed buddha

“Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another - physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion. In equating physical beauty with virtue she stripped her mind, bound it and collected self-contempt by the heap.” 

Once upon a time there was a girl who was gifted two Buddhas. One came all the way from Laos, was cast in metal and was a slim, elegant, beautiful figure in a perfect lotus position with the serene smiling/not smiling expression and seemed a very authentic depiction of Zen calm. The other came all the way from a gift shop in Bristol, was cast in clay and was a sprawling, fat bellied, beaming guy who looked like he was too busy having a good time to worry too much about achieving enlightenment. The girl moved house many times in the years that followed and the authentic Buddha came with her wherever she went. He was always there as an aspirational reminder of the serenity she loved and sadly, over time, the serenity that seemed always out of reach. Mr Happy go Lucky got tucked away in a box at her parents' house until such time as the girl settled in to her own home.

After nearly a decade of house ownership the girl's (apparently not quite infinitely) patient Mama suggested that perhaps the boxes of belongings tucked in their house might be missing their owner. Oohing and aahing over forgotten delights the girl found the Buddha and put him to one side to give away, as really, was that fat bellied, lazy looking fellow the kind of icon she wanted to have around? And then the penny dropped. She was lot closer in looks and behaviour to the chubby Buddha and yet when she looked at him she didn't feel an affinity for him or a pleasure in the attainability of his happiness. She honestly felt he wasn't quite doing it right; just like her. She felt that she needed to always strive towards the slim, upright Buddha in order to live well, in order to be beautiful, to do her best. Once it was out in her consciousness she set out to overturn that notion, to learn new ways, to integrate this in her growing focus on feelings and not on appearances. And reader - well you know the happily right now of this story.

That was about a year ago. These days the fat Buddha has a prime position in my bedroom. Central to my morning ablutions. He is a reminder to me that the appearance of something can be misleading. I see such a different picture these days, a happy serenity in his relaxed way, pure joy in his smile. I celebrate his big round belly just as I celebrate mine and I feel approx 746 billion percent calmer, more centred and Zen than I ever did when I only had one Buddha modelling the way and I was fixating on finding the right way to do things. Today I feel his beauty and I feel mine.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Climbing a mountain

The path up Glastonbury Tor November 15th 2015

Looking North through St Michaels Tower on top of Glastonbury Tor

Reflecting on the joy of climbing Glastonbury Tor
Last Sunday I walked up Glastonbury Tor. My third visit in three years and the first time I've had the energy and the physical capability to do so. Standing in the fierce wind, pulling in great lungfuls of fresh, cool air, blood pumping I felt so blessed. Alive, vital and part of the landscape this beautiful hill held me above and connected me to. Third time lucky and also a way marker of the progress of my growing health, a reward for all the physical and soul work I have done.

There was a wonderful moment on the final stretch towards the tower when I thought I might have to stop for another wee breather.  Instead of stopping I invited myself to carry on for the extra sense of triumph of stopping when I reached the tower, knowing that it was just one more step, and one more step, and one more step. Knowing that I would allow myself to stop at any time freed me to carry on right to the top in one final, glorious (sweaty, huffy puffy) move. It might sound insignificant but it so characterises a different relationship that I am tending with myself. One that is built on trust between my conscious mind and my body. My mind can occasionally be persuaded to take a back seat and just monitor what is going on, my body doesn't panic, it does what it knows how to do and keeps things steady. I am enjoying this so very much.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Out of the frying pan and in to the fire

Art journal piece with autumn leaves - Celtic Phoenix
I was having a chat with my very wise and lovely friend Kelly the other day and we touched on the proverb "out of the frying pan and in to the fire". We both concluded that given the choice, sometimes, the decisiveness of the fire has to be preferable to the frying pan but getting in that fire takes a lot of courage.

When I jumped from my publishing job I thought I was stepping out of the frying pan and going to sit happily at the kitchen table. I wrapped up my departure in stories of creative businesses I was going to start, arty jobs that would satisfy me and convey me gracefully from my ever decreasing life to one of joy and fulfilment. I see now these were comforting fairy tales I had to tell my mind. Distractions to let me jump in to the fire. I mean, the fire is so dangerous that our mind just wants us to keep as far from it as possible. Even if we are sizzling up like sausages in the pan, so uncomfortable in our own skins that we might burst, the one thing our mind keeps telling us is that we are surviving and we don't know that we can say the same if we leap in to the fire.

Turns out the fire was what was needed. Some innate knowing created the sweet stories I needed to rip up the life I'd created. I'd spent so long in the frying pan the option of a safe hop wasn't possible. I needed to get in the fire and burn up some of the rules and beliefs that had landed me in that frying pan in the first place. Destroy with conviction some of what had once served me and was now holding me in the pan of discomfort and making me smaller by the day as it eroded my vitality.

Today I'm feeling quite hearth side. Sitting warming my toes, gazing at the flames, thankful for the excruciating painful times in the last couple of years. Times that I wondered if I would actually survive and keep going through. I feel brave sat here basking in the glow. I know I'll need to get back in that fire sometimes. I believe I'll have the courage to do that rather than end up in the no mans land of the frying pan. I am learning to be bolder, all in. I have enchanting stories of grand adventures to tell myself now.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Today while the veil is thin..

..seems a good day to remind myself of the vows I took while on retreat.
Photo of Sarah on the beach by Shan Leigh

Photo of Sarah knitting by Shan Leigh

Photo of Sarah on the cliff by Shan Leigh

Photo of Sarah making by Shan Leigh

I am glow
I will be kind
I promise to honour my need for water
I intend to feel holy
I am claiming my connection to the Ancient Graces

Photo of Sarah before the fire ceremony by Shan Leigh
Thank you Project Slumber and thank you Shan Leigh for your beautiful photographs.
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