Sunday, 28 November 2010

The Art of Navigation

“Happiness is a direction, not a place.” Sydney J. Harris

I remember a friend of mine telling me that many years ago when he served in the Special Forces they used a special navigation technique.

When they were traveling through unfamiliar terrain at night, it was impossible to always know their exact position. So instead of plotting an exact route before setting out, they would study the map and look for two landmarks which marked the direction they wanted to travel.

The landmarks could be a railway track on one side and a river on the other for example. Then all they had to do to get to their destination was keep moving forward and keep within the railway track and the river.

Along the way they were free to explore anything of importance, safe in the knowledge that they were still on course.  

Thursday, 25 November 2010

"Worst day of life but best orange I ever had"

I wanted to share with you this excellent clip from the surrealist film 'Zen Noir' on the nature of change, impermanence and the interconnectedness of life. You will never look at an orange in the same way again!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness

"If you continue this simple practice everyday, you will attain some wonderful power. Before you attain it, it is something wonderful but after you attain it, it is nothing special." Shunryu Suzuki 

When I think of mindfulness, or perhaps the lack of it, I think of an excitable young sheepdog let loose in a field of sheep.

Chasing in every direction and driving the sheep into frenzy, the young sheepdog frantically searches out sheep, rabbits, people, sticks, and runs after every scent it catches on the wind. It knows it should be doing something it’s just a little confused as to exactly what.

Then there is the older and wiser sheepdog. It will simply sit quietly sniffing the air, catching the scent of everything that’s going on. Head to one side, ears up, observing, listening. Then, at the right moment, with thrilling speed and accuracy it will circle the flock and take them to their destination. 

For me, that’s the difference between a lack of mindfulness and mindfulness.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

How to be Different – realise we are all the same

"So I never look at human beings as the President or King or Prime Minister or beggar... in my eyes all are the same." 
His Holiness the Dalai Lama – Interview with Barkha Dutt

Individualism – it’s quite an interesting concept isn’t it? 
How we long to be different, to stand out from the crowd, to defend our individuality!

It’s always quite ironic when someone famous stats a new trend. Remember the David Beckham Mohawk haircut? At the time it was completely unexpected for a ‘clean-cut’ footballer to have such a hair style, completely individual. 

How ironic that before long, in our rush to be different, we were queuing at the hair dressers in our throngs asking for a Beckham Mohawk. A haircut is generally something quite harmless but I think it’s an example of something more serious, a vein which runs deeply within many of our modern cultures.

Our desire to be different and protect our individualism can lead to so many problems. It can make us suspicious of others, unable to form close relationships, defensive, unkind, uncaring, aggressive, ultimately it can even lead to all out war. And all it takes to avoid all those negative consequences is a slight shift of thinking.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Zen in the Mountains

“The only Zen you find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there” Robert M. Pirsig

A woman is leaving the city to live in the mountains. Enough is enough. Too many queues, too much rushing, too many distractions. Too many emails, too much traffic, too much noise. Not a moment’s peace. How can anyone be happy living like that? She is going to the mountains to meditate, to live off the land, to live with nature. When she gets there, then she’ll be happy!

A woman is leaving the mountains to live in the city. Enough is enough. Too much fetching water and firewood, too much work to feed her family, too much worry about getting sick. Too much loneliness, too much isolation, too much quiet. Not a moment’s pleasure. How can anyone be happy living like that? She is going to the city to work in a suit, to get food off the shelf, to live in house. When she gets there, then she’ll be happy!

Image courtesy of: Eljoja

Monday, 8 November 2010

Luck is Like the Tour de France

“Luck is like the Tour de France. You wait, and it flashes by you. You have to catch it while you can.”

Monsieur Dufayel in Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain

The Tour de France is a grand spectacle – the famous annual cycling race held in France, covers thousands of kilometers and lasts several weeks.

As a spectator, you wait and wait with great expectation and suddenly the pack of riders steams past in blaze of colour, whirling pedals and perspiration. If you get distracted at the wrong moment you miss it. All that's left of your moment of excitement is a few stragglers at the back of the pack.

Luck is a lot like that. I can think of too many lucky breaks that appeared on the horizon and just a moment’s hesitation was enough to see them already speeding off into the distance. You have to catch it while you can!

It seems most of us get our measure of luck but we need to seize it when it appears. When we see that first glimpse of colour through the bend in the road, we need to take hold of it with both hands.

Monday, 1 November 2010

"Only when we are so old, we are aware of the beauty of life"

This post is a little bit different but I wanted to share with you a short clip about the life of an extraordinary woman called Alice. Alice is about to celebrate her 107th birthday and her attitude to life is inspirational. 

No one can say it better then lady herself so I will leave you to enjoy - Alice you are an inspiration to us all! 

Editors note: Sadly the original 12 minute video has been removed from YouTube and replaced with a much shorter one which doesn't really do the story justice. You can read more about Alice's story here.