Sunday, 11 September 2011

Our Reflection

Adapted from an image by Ruben Garcia Mohedano

Saturday, 10 September 2011

The Roller Coaster

"To see your drama clearly is to be liberated from it."Ken S. Keyes Jr.

A finger jabs at thin air, his voice hammers out its staccato rhythm and a torrent of self- justification rushes out. 

Adrenaline is pumping; he can hardly hear the woman in front of him as she screams her venomous reply and empties the glass of water in his face. A door slams and for a moment all is quiet as the man indulges his wounds in a toxic cocktail of anger and pain. 

Outside of this make-belief world, I look around the living room and notice that it has turned silent as every one of us is sucked into the drama unfolding before us on the flickering silver screen of the TV.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

A Small World?


Adapted from original imagy by kuyman

Saturday, 6 August 2011

A Few Words

Sometimes a few words can speak volumes. One of my favourite quotes attributed to the Buddha is simply:


Live purely, 

Be quiet, 

Do your work with mastery, 

Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds, 


Image by James Loesch

Sunday, 31 July 2011

No News is Good News

"99.99% of what happens is not in the news." - Unknown 

‘Kills dozens’, ‘hopeful’, ‘nine die’, ‘killings’, ‘pardoned’, ‘suicide attack’, ‘unrest’, ‘famine’, ‘plane crash’, honoured’, ‘killed’, ‘lottery win’, ‘killer’, ‘unrest’, ‘protest’...etc.

And so goes a brief and unscientific summary of the World news listed on the BBC website today, Sunday 31 July 2011. I think it’s pretty conclusive:

The news is bad, very bad with a tiny smattering of hope.

The news is hard to avoid, emblazoned on newspapers, repeated again and again on TV and radio and all over the internet. But what is the ‘news’? Of the just under 7 billion people living on the Earth, only a fraction would have been directly affected by any of the headlines above. That’s not to belittle the importance of any of those events, it’s just that:

Monday, 25 July 2011

How Big is the Sun?

"A penny will hide the biggest star in the Universe if you hold it close enough to your eye." - Samuel Grafton

When I was a child, I remember playing with the power of perspective. Of course, back then I didn’t even know what the word meant but like most children, it didn’t stop me being fascinated by some of its strange effects. 

I realised that if I held my thumb in just the right position, I could make a whole person invisible. The more I practiced, the more things I could make disappear behind that little thumb - trees, cars, buildings, if I got it just right I could even make the whole sun disappear. Amazing, my tiny child’s thumb could make the mighty sun disappear and cast a shadow over my entire world. 

Maybe in the end I got too good at it because as an adult I spent many years not being able to see past the end of my thumb. Then I remembered what I intuitively knew as a child:

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Happiness at the UN

Much happiness is overlooked because it doesn’t cost anything. - Unknown.

In a small fishing village, a local fisherman blearily opened his eyes as the first rays of the morning sun streamed into his simple family home. 

A short time later he was walking towards the beach enjoying the peace and solitude of the early morning and the fresh sea air that filled his nostrils. Pushing his wooden boat into the breaking waves, he set out on the ocean to make his catch.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Giving Thanks

"All that we think we own was given to us by someone, somewhere, sometime." - Unknown

There is an old story of a Zen Master in Japan who needed a larger building because his students had grown to such great numbers. A local merchant decided to donate a large sum of money toward the new school and one day he brought the money to the Master.

‘All right, I’ll take it,’ the Master said.

The Merchant felt a bit disgruntled at the Master’s cool response because it was a large amount of money, considerably more than a lifetime’s salary. The Merchant pressed the Master by repeating the exact amount of money he was donating.

‘Yes, you already told me,’ replied the Master.

The Merchant pressed further, ‘Well I may be wealthy but even to me it is a lot of money’.

‘Would you like me to thank you?’ the Master asked.

‘Yes you should,’ replied the Merchant.

‘Why is that?’ the Master asked. ‘It is the giver who should be thankful.’

Image courtesy of Mr Kris

Saturday, 25 June 2011


The motivation for this video came from seeing two contrasting news stories side by side on the same page. 

On one side was a picture of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese pro democracy leader who was recently released after 15 years of house arrest. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, she has fought tirelessly to attain 'democracy, human rights and ethnic conciliation by peaceful means'.

On the other side was a picture of a serial killer who had recently been convicted of yet another killing.

The contrast brought home to me the almost infinite capacity of human beings to be a source of suffering and misery or a source of compassion and happiness.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The Pleasure Bar

“Perhaps all pleasure is only relief.” - William S Burroughs 

Today I read* about a study where scientists implanted electrodes into the brains of rats. The electrodes were set up in such a way that the rats could experience pleasurable sensations by simply pressing a bar. 

Once the rats learned how it worked, they stopped all other activities in favour of obsessively pressing the bar until finally, they dropped dead of starvation and exhaustion. 

Maybe we can learn something from the rats. They lived a life of easy pleasures but it was also a life of obsession, of starvation and exhaustion. If I had to make a guess, I’d say it wasn’t a happy life. The rats say something very important, something that is so very easy to miss:

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Happiest Man in the World

An inspirational video from Matthieu Ricard. Matthieu trained in biochemistry before moving to the Himalayas to become a Buddhist monk. His description of happiness is delivered with such congruity, it's impossible not to be impressed!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

It's Not What We Know...

"To know and not to do is not to know" - Proverb.

I still remember learning to drive. In particular I remember that most tricky of manoeuvres, the hill-start. It was a warm summer's evening as I sat there in the driver’s seat, parked on a precipitous hill listening to my instructor patiently explaining the technique.

Handbrake on, engage first gear, easy on the accelerator and a little bit of clutch, watch the bonnet rise, off with the handbrake, a little more clutch, a little more accelerator and move smoothly off.

I repeated it back to him, all nine steps. I had it word for word, no problem. Then I started the engine and almost immediately, there was a problem!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011


“Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here” - Marianne Williamson.

The Moche people of Northern Peru were known both for their exquisite pottery and their elaborate ritual sacrifices of their most elite warriors. 

On the north coast of Peru, close to the city of Trujillo, are the spectacular remains of one of their sacred temples, Huaca de la Luna. The finely painted murals, which survive to this day, are a fascinating insight into the Moche’s beliefs and rituals.

The God of the Moche
The Moche’s sacred god was known as Ai-Apaec and devoted subjects would go to great lengths to please their deity. Extreme weather events, of which there were many due to powerful El Ninos, were thought to be due to the wrath of Ai-Apaec which had to be appeased through any means.

The most elite warriors would engage in a ritual combat before the losers were led back to the sacred temple where their blood was sacrificed as an offering to their god.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

The Big Ten: 10 - Never Give up

"Never Quit. Don't ever, ever quit. Recognize that stopping now, regrouping to try a new approach isn't quitting. If you quit you'll regret it forever." Rudy Ruettiger.

There is a story of a man named Aron Ralston, a mountain climber. Aron lived for the wilderness, to be out there in the wild, alone and climbing. The more remote the place the better, such was his desire for solitude that he often wouldnt even tell anyone where he was going. 

One day he was climbing in a remote part of the Utah desert, as he put his weight on a lose boulder it came crashing down into a crevice, crushing and trapping his right arm. Miles from civilsation and with only a backpack of equipment, Aron was trapped in that crevice for days.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

As Time Goes By

"How we spend our days is how we spend our lives." Annie Dillard. 

If you walk along a river bank on a summer’s evening you may be lucky enough to see clouds of Mayflies, sparkling gold in the evening sun. 

It’s an amazing spectacle, thousands of tiny creatures in constant motion, dancing almost rhythmically in a celebration of life.

Life is short for the Mayfly. After months or even years as larvae at the bottom of the river, the winged adult finally emerges from the water’s surface.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Courage and Vulnerability

“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability... To be alive is to be vulnerable.” Madeleine L'Engle.  

For some time there has been a question percolating away at the back of my mind. That question was about how to reconcile the contradiction of vulnerability. 

In the Western world we are taught that vulnerability is a weakness. Individuality and self-sufficiency is highly prized and aspired to. 

That belief is reflected in so many areas of life. More and more we live in cities of millions of people but locked away in self-contained apartments. 

We don’t speak to our neighbours. We put up fences and trees so we can have our privacy, we don't want to be seen. 

We need protection. We don’t let people know what they really mean to us in case they don’t reciprocate. Power is everything and to be vulnerable is to be powerless.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

The Porters of Tangier

"Though the barriers of life seem formidable, we find when we challenge them that they have no will."  Robert Brault.

A few days ago I returned from a small village in the mountains of Morocco. What I found there was an incredible amount of beauty – in nature, in the immaculately painted houses and most of all in the people. Their warmth, hard work and recognition of the oneness of all of us as human beings was amazing.

However, one of the things which had the biggest impact on me wasn’t found in the mountains but at the port while waiting for a ferry to cross back into Spain.

At the entrance to the port there is a very long drag of concrete steps which leads to an overpass. To board the ferry you must make the long steep trek with your luggage. In the centre of the steps there is a slope so you can push luggage carts up – if you’re Superman that is.

Here’s what amazed me. Waiting there at the port for every ferry was a small band of porters.