When you realize how perfect everything is you will
tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.


I loved coming across this quote attributed to the Buddha on Twitter today. I always smile when I see images of a laughing Buddha, rotund tum and joy-filled face. And from time to time a lovely line drawing of a laughing Jesus holding a child aloft does the rounds. I think too of the smilingly peace-filled face of the Benedictine David Steindl-Rast, and the joy that emanates from Thich Nhat Hanh. And images of my grandchildren laughing joyfully on a garden swing … and Syrian grandchildren smiling and laughing in the very heart of shattered cities.

They know something about hope that runs so deep it can and does change worlds – until more and more and more people realize …


Children smiling, some of them cheerfully playing in the sunshine, and a young female soldier laughing with a friend, these are BBC images of second-day truce in Syria that brought to mind – one daydreamer to another – the great Hindu poet and seer Rabindranath Tagore. No matter that he was writing and speaking in another context and in another age: like Alpha and Omega, prophetic vision speaks and inspires in innumerable beginnings and endings – which we understand now are continuing expansions. Both endings and beginnings are new creations – like children playing and a young soldier’s laughter …

I suddenly felt as if some ancient mist had
in a moment lifted from my sight and the
ultimate significance of all things was laid
bare … Immediately I found the world bathed
in a wonderful radiance with waves of beauty
and joy swelling on every side, and no person
or thing in the world seemed to me trivial or

Rabindranath Tagore
Quoted by Benjamin Walker
The Hindu World, volume 2, page 475

Untouchable serenity

So many things which once had distressed
or revolted him — the speeches and
pronouncements of the learned, their
assertions and their prohibitions, their
refusal to allow the universe to move —
all seemed to him now merely ridiculous,
non-existent, compared with the majestic
reality, the flood of energy, which now
revealed itself to him: omnipresent,
unalterable in its truth, relentless in
its development, untouchable in its
serenity, maternal and unfailing in its

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Hymn of the Universe

There’ll be a hard frost again tonight. The air is sharp, the mind possessed of clarity and recall unusual for this time of day: depths above, around, beneath and within. Silence. Serenity. Resting place. Soul space.

Filled with a space

And you
are finally calm.
Filled with a space so wide and dark
that the silence in you becomes something soft.

Anis Mojgani
from Pancakes in Songs From Under The River

To my great delight I met a poet (see TEDx) quite new to me this morning …

Anis Mojgani’s “Pancakes” has an extraordinary dreamlike quality about it that entirely and perfectly belongs in a collection entitled Songs From Under The River – the what’s-going-on-beneath-the-surface-ness of life. Shall we call it contemplation, or meditation, or prayer, or reflection? Doesn’t matter really. All of these amount to the same thing – love and poetry: songs from under the river, cantus firmus, enduring melody, the call and the in-the-every-moment journeying to that inner resting place where one is “finally calm. / Filled with a space so wide and dark / that the silence in you becomes something soft”.

And these few lines, from a much larger poem, are still entrancing me this evening. Happy encounter!

Fence post, hedge and tree

How had time leapt forward? –  I fleetingly wondered today, thinking I was looking upon a vista of May blossom. As I drove further into the scene, bright white wintry sunlight was penetrating a localised patch of icy fog, perhaps a mile or more wide. All that lay beneath it had been touched by hoar frost, and every fence post, hedge and tree, breathtakingly beautiful, looked like something in a film set for The Snow Queen. Nature’s glorious art never fails to astound.

To paint the ineffable

How are we to converse with one another when what our hearts and minds are in awe of (and in awe of often, and lifelong) is also ineffable – impossible, or at least well-nigh impossible, to describe in words?

I am wondering, and shivering – just now returned to our fireside from another cold-night contemplative standing beneath clear, domed and twinkling night sky. Warming, I lift the loved book from the fireside shelf again, turning quickly to Vincent Van Gogh’s great The Starry Night (1889) – and though familiar with it, Marilyn Chandler McEntyre’s poetic empathy speaks to me as though in a first encounter. Painters and poets and great, great prophets and parables: reaching, stretching, yearning – and sometimes, when least expected or looked for – suddenly communicating, dying, healing, rising, touching. Like prayer.

What laughter booms across the night sky
from the bellies of heavenly beings? Few hear it,
but sometimes the breath of heaven curls like a bard’s beard
and what has only twinkled begins to beat and throb.

Behind it all a drumbeat calls over the mountains.
The villagers think it’s thunder, those who are not asleep.
Only a few remain awake to see the starry, starry night
and witness what they can barely imagine how to tell.

Some nights the roar breaks the silence. One was there
when it happened, and saw, and tried to tell the secret,
and died young. How much of life he gave for this
we cannot know. We only know that something precious
as nard was poured out at the foot of these hills,
the blue, the yellow bought with solitary tears.

Marilyn Chandler McEntyre
The Color of Light

Houghton Weavers

It’s my wife’s birthday: memorable for the clearest of blue skies and snow on the felltops, and for Lancashire folk group The Houghton Weavers (YouTube) having woven their rich spell upon a happy crowd at Theatre by the Lake tonight – where we chatted with a retired ship’s captain who should write a book, a couple from Lincolnshire, and a couple from Canada. That’s pulling power! Last week we were spellbound and starstruck by Elkie Brooks (71 on Thursday), and tonight completely drawn in by the Weavers with a great guest appearance by Jim Berry. There’s nothing quite like live performance and the warm feelgood factor of such a night. The BBC had reported earlier on the splendid founding of a special new “Tuneless” choir for people in Nottingham. “That’s been us for 41 years” said Tony, before he and the lads proved themselves anything but! Keep folk smiling is the Weavers’ motto. And they’re still joyfully succeeding.

Slight horizontal wrinkle (yawwwn)

The poet Ted Hughes grappled with the difficulties of trying to describe something or someone, in writing, in such a way as to bring that person or thing “into life”.

… you don’t make things any better when you try to fit
the picture grain by grain into the reader’s imagination,
as if you were trying to paint it there carefully, as in:

“His brow at the height of his eyebrows, was precisely
seven and a quarter inches across, and from the lowest
root of the hair at the mid-point of the hairline along
the upper brow, to the slight horizontal wrinkle in the
saddle of his nose, measured three inches exact. His
hair was the colour of a rough coconut, parted on the
left, closely cropped over the ears and up the back,
but perfectly straight, and with no single hair, on any
part of his head, more than two and two-thirds inches

Ted Hughes
Poetry in the Making, page 43

Alive description is not easily achieved, even for the great poets, whose valiant attempts to do so we appreciate so much. How much have we learned about the man with the seven and a quarter inch brow – if we stayed awake? How alive has he become for us? Not much.

Perhaps this teaches us something about human perception. Would my description of a mutual friend of ours – however lively, colourful or attractive, be an adequate portrait of the mutual friend that you see, know or knew? Probably we’d hold a few perceptions in common but – like it or not – each of us would have a different, altogether personal, view.

As each day dawns I spend more and more time contemplating the richness of our unity in diversity – things we share in common, alongside profound differences of perception. And the diversity is not something we need to go to war over: it’s co-creative, deliberate, evolving, intentional – something to leap up and down and celebrate. Unity and diversity are each elements that bring persons, or creatures, or things, or worlds, or the Universe “alive”.

Now or far?

How do we cut through the shoulds and oughts of our
educational and religious training that say that what we
long for is in some far off place and that we’ll only get
there if we do it right?

How do we discover the wisdom, support and Love that
are always with us and that are accessible in the living
moment? The key is to cultivate a curious mind and an
inclusive heart so that we can not only make contact with
Life—here and now—but also learn to see the stories
flowing through our heads all day long and how they keep
us cut off from Life.

Let us begin the journey of quieting our mind and opening
our hearts by intriguing ourselves with what we miss when
our attention is ensnared in a mind that believes it is
separate from Life.

Mary O’Malley, Diane Solomon, MarySue Brooks
Belonging to Life: The Journey of Awakening

Sabbath time this afternoon brought further development of May Sarton’s theme yesterday – living in “the changing light of a room”. In quiet cultivation of “a curious mind and an inclusive heart” we may experience deep peace, not afar off, but in the very midst of Life circumstance right here and right now. Any of us, anywhere, who have taken – or are taking, in this very moment – just a few seconds to hear the pulse of our own heartbeat can give account of our renewed intention to experience the joy of it again, and again, and again. Now, and now, and now …

Peace that passeth understanding is Now, not far.

Live in the changing light

I always forget how important the empty days are, how
important it may be sometimes not to expect to produce
anything, even a few lines in a journal. A day when one
has not pushed oneself to the limit seems a damaged
damaging day, a sinful day. Not so! The most valuable
thing one can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let
it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room.

May Sarton
Journal of a Solitude

I’ve lived quietly in the “changing light of a room” today and am deeply glad not to have been troubled by the suggestion that it was a “damaged damaging day, a sinful day”. Not for the first time, I’m grateful that May Sarton – one of my favourite contemplative poets – kept her journal for so many years. The lived experience and voiced learning of others is so often such a great help to what “one can do for the pysche”.

Turning point

May we be drawn forward by profound questions.
May each of us discover the turning point at which
the limitations of our previous history become the
liberation of our collective future.

Dawna Markova
I will not die an unlived life

Teaching people “the most important lesson anyone can ever learn – how to listen to one’s own heart and how to live with heart and mind wide open” has become Dawna Markova’s life work.

It’s a strange thing that many human beings are prepared to listen to almost anybody and anything except our own heart’s instincts. Turning points, whether we like them or not, along with the questions that life inevitably throws up for all of us, can prove to be the liberating cycling superhighway that we’ve all-unknowingly longed for.

Discoveries. Life cycles. The desert’s hidden wells – unexpected kindnesses.

Velcro or Teflon?

I’m a long-term devotee of Franciscan friar Richard Rohr’s many books and (enthusiastically recommended) daily meditations. He’s currently writing a series under the banner Alternative Orthodoxy and today’s piece hits a large nail squarely on the head. I hope that this “taster” will encourage readers (of all faith traditions or none) to follow the link to the full piece, and maybe go on to subscribe to the daily emailed Meditations.

Dan O’Grady, a psychologist and Living School student,
told me recently that our negative and critical thoughts
are like Velcro, they stick and hold; whereas our positive
and joyful thoughts are like Teflon, they slide away. We
have to deliberately choose to hold onto positive thoughts
before they “imprint” …

Neuroscience can now demonstrate the brain indeed
has a negative bias; the brain prefers to constellate
around fearful, negative, or problematic situations. In
fact, when a loving, positive, or unproblematic thing
comes your way, you have to savor it consciously for at
least fifteen seconds before it can harbor and store
itself in your “implicit memory”; otherwise it doesn’t
stick. We must indeed savor the good in order to
significantly change our regular attitudes and moods.
And we need to strictly monitor all the “Velcro”
negative thoughts.

Excerpt from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation
Alternative Orthodoxy: Week 2 – Turning toward the Good
Thursday, February 18, 2016

This is game-changing stuff, I think, if we reflect a bit on the fact that the world’s contemplative and / or praying traditions have long intuited instinctively what sticks – and what doesn’t, what makes human persons feel positive, happy and fully awake – and what doesn’t.

Whilst some undoubtedly continue to think of prayer as ceremonial, or as a shopping list, or “Life” insurance policy, many, many others around the world have recognised, and are recognising the literally immeasurable benefits of savouring something ‘consciously for at least fifteen seconds’ so that ‘it can harbor and store itself in your “implicit memory”; otherwise it doesn’t stick.’

What a difference 15 seconds, or 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes-worth of conscious savouring could make to everyone’s daily life. How did humankind manage to get something so fundamental to personal and corporate peace and concord holed up in exclusive religious institutions and complex commandments for so long? Consciousness-capability is an already-present charism or gift, in and for everyone. Let’s teach our children that, early.

It’s truly no wonder that the great teachers – the Prophets, the Buddha, the Eastern mystics and Jesus of Nazareth, together with the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis in our own time, and all the other great bodhisattvas, gurus, natives and sages through the ages – have been a bit suspicious of religiosity. Each, in their own way, has pointed humankind to the obvious fact of our evolving and growing.

Loving “success” in the growing process will involve appreciating (giving worth to or worshipping), considering, contemplating, feeling, hearing, knowing, meditating, praying, remembering, seeing, sensing, smelling, tasting, touching, uniting and velcro-ing-in goodness!

From above

I’ve just seen a fabulous time-lapse video, in The Telegraph, of night-illuminated UK from above, made by Major Tim Peake up there in the International Space Station. And Ian Sample of The Guardian writes today:

Traces of DNA found in remains of
Neanderthal woman show date of first
human-Neanderthal couplings is tens of
millennia earlier than previously thought

Further to yesterday’s post I muse that we’re capable of looking backwards (in this case tens of millennia after events took place) and forwards, sideways, up and down, from above and from below – consciousness capable of “infinite extension” on the road to integration. There is plenty of cause for hope – and daily evidence of growth.

Infinite extension

The human person is a centre of consciousness
which is capable of infinite extension and as it
grows it becomes more and more integrated with
the whole complex of persons who make up

Bede Griffiths
A New Vision of Reality

Is this what mellowing’s about? – quieting the ego, the Me, Me, Me-ness of existence here in this world. The late and great Fr Bede spent a lot of his time on earth contemplatively growing and becoming “more and more integrated”; there are one or two inspiring YouTube videos of interviews with him in old age that give hope on the days when human behaviour around the world looks bleak. I guess we don’t do anyone any favours by trying to rush things. Growing’s not like that at all. But after just a cursory glance at today’s world news coverage I find I’m yearning with every fibre of my being for the “infinite extension” of an integrated humanity.

Inner work


Would you like to save the world from the degradation
and destruction it seems destined for? Then step away
from shallow mass movements and quietly go to work on
your own self-awareness. If you want to awaken all of
humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to
eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate
all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the
greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-

Lao Tzu
Chinese philosopher, circa 6th century BC

As early as the 6th century BC philosophers and religionists were thinking and concerned about world “degradation and destruction” – and that thought alone invites me to a bit of silent reflection. It’s in the quieting of the mind, the “getting out of our heads”, the reaching deeper than our incessantly interrupting monkey thoughts, that we begin to have a sense of who we really are – awakening self-awareness, silently knowing our place within the great scheme of the Universe. Lao Tzu was keen that seekers after truth should “step away from shallow mass movements and quietly go to work …”

Day by day in the gym I’m intrigued by the sights and sounds of those hooked into the latest short-term health fads – readily identifiable because of the frowns on their faces, resentful grunting, and the hammer-driven eight minutes they “give up” for distracted “workouts”. And then there are the peaceful souls, there early each morning, who give no impression of being in a hurry. They’ll maybe spend an hour in their same familiar little routines of preference. Quiet smile, bright eyes and gentle pace suggest they’re not too pre-occupied with “degradation and destruction”, apparently seeing something of a higher order – outer AND inner workouts “saving” their work and their worlds.