Green Man

Graham is a green man, he isn’t pink or blue.
He really loves the planet and we should do so too.
He recycles all his rubbish in different coloured bins
and sorts it into plastics, paper, bottles and tins.

His compost heap is carefully planned
to add health and vigour to his land
teabags, peelings and mowings of the lawn
bulked up with newspaper – damp and roughly torn.

His vegetables are a picture, laid out in row upon row.
This takes him many a happy hour and makes a lovely show!
His little house is warm and inviting
with solar panels giving warmth and saving money, that’s exciting.

Graham has it written down, a natural burial would be the ticket
in meadow, wood or leafy thicket,
so that when he shuffles off this mortal coil
his body will disintegrate and thus enrich the soil!

Teresa Maxwell, May 2012

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The Up-Culture

“Does the road wind uphill all the way?”
You’ll never reach the top,
The peaks are endless.
Going upstream, against the grain,
Uptight and restless, upstaging Sisyphus
(He’d be lost without rolling his boulder),
Keeping up with all the latest –
Upgrading, updating, up to the minute,
Uppity upstarts on the up-and-up
After one-upmanship.

Why all this upheaval, this uprooting?
Come down to the valley, where life is fertile;
Centre down; be still.
Be gentle and yielding!
Dare not to be ahead of others;
Be the valley of the universe!
The valley is whole and full.
The valley spirit never dies.

J.S., April 2012.
Lines in italics are from the Tao te Ching

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Memorial Meeting

A silence hangs.
Lull. Calm.

Wait the wind,
the moment of gathering.

Love, warm, gusting wind,
fill sails, full billow,
to loose the deep anchor
that, riding grief swells, holds a soul here.

The trusted force that comforts those behind
now sweep heart’s boat on
to cross the line
that binds and bounds this life.

Sail on to more pacific streams.

Ruth Shadwell

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Retreat

The campus becomes a monastery. We eat our austere vegan meal in silence, broken only by the reading of the five contemplations as each table fills.

Rising early we flock to the dharma hall, bowing greetings to one another. Thay leads the meditation with his presence. We are mindful of our breathing.

After breakfast the noble silence lifts and we greet each other with words as well as bows, gathering again in the dharma hall for today’s talk. Each will hear what they need to hear. On First Day, I bunk off and go to Meeting for Worship, we each hear what we need to hear. ‘The Kingdom of God is Here and Now.’ Thay mindfully wipes the white board, I see the lesson I need to see.

We sing practice songs as we gather for walking meditation. Hundreds of us walk together, mindful of each step, each breath. A child stops in front of me, entranced by the apple she holds, absolutely in the moment. I watch and learn.

In our dharma sharing group we listen attentively, sharing our responses and our questions. I listen and learn.

On our last afternoon, we prepare an entertainment to offer in the evening. Someone suggests a simple song and teaches us. We create a simple dance with it. It brings our group closer. We share a bar of (non vegan) chocolate.

I taste and learn!

On the last morning the five mindfulness trainings are transmitted to those who wish to receive them. We are in the dharma hall even earlier, each with just enough space to ‘touch the earth’. The ritual seems a strange place for a Quaker to be, but participation feels the right way forward. I prostrate and learn.

Everyone is sharing their dharma names. I seek out and thank Murray for his teaching and support, find a few minutes to talk with Marion, then we join her sangha’s walking meditation.

The campus has been our monastery for a few days, and has served us well, but ‘the practice begins when we leave the meditation hall’.

Stephanie Grant
Brightening Spiritual Light of the Heart
This account is based on a retreat led by Thich Nhat Hahn (Thay) at the University of Nottingham during August 2010.

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Quaker Graveyard, Lake District

The steps were greened with moss
curved by countless feet;
wind-fed trees quietly groaned
though no birds flew.
The door of close-grained oak
and dark uncertain years
seemed ready to repel
all those who came that way.

I turned the heavy key, and pushed.
Unwillingly, the door gave way
to let me through the high stone walls
built to guard the graves
against intruders such as me.

Simple headstones strewed the pathless grass
their very plainness a measure of their simple faith
which rejected all ministry between them and God,
the hard stone brooking no dispute.

These goodly men and women
came to God in those raucous days
when freedom from priestly rule began.
They owned their small farms, were called ‘statesmen’
in the time of great estates
giving them independence of thought
in life and now in this sanctuary
hidden in these torn hills.

Such a place as this
lets down a thread for me to grasp.

Geoffrey Bould

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