Archive | Jan, 2017

Trees in winter photographs

lone tree

A lone tree opposite Ilkley Moor.

I like the way the stone wall blends into the surroundings of the environment. At a glance, the tree could almost be growing out of the stone wall. In the sun, they reflect a similar hue.

tree-shadow-green-bw

The previous day was cloudy. These photos are almost black & white. Continue Reading →

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Views from a cold January afternoon

I often cycle in the afternoon from 1pm to 4.30pm. It means around this time of the year I’m cycling back into Oxford around sunset. Sunset can be a magical time; it also is a time for birds to congregate and look for the best roosting spots for the night.

The photos above were taken on a flat road from Eynsham to Oxford. I have been on it many times, but today took a little detour up a dead end farm track and looked back across the flat plains. I was attracted by the quantity of birds flying around – sitting on electricity pylons and the trees.

There is something about trees in winter which I find more fascinating than in summer. Continue Reading →

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Birds of Prey in the Chilterns

When cycling in the Chilterns I am often accompanied by Birds of Prey soaring majestically overhead. It is fascinating to see them effortlessly gliding in circles, eyes glued to the ground below for prey. Sometimes they fly quite low, just above head height. Very occasionally you hear of Birds of Prey attacking cyclists, but only when a helmet is mistook for a predator.

The numbers of Red Kite have increased quite significantly since they were reintroduced back into the Chilterns, in the 1990s. Sometimes you are making great effort on the bike, and the Red Kite’s above is gliding twice as fast with seemingly no effort.

Continue Reading →

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A visit to the Palace of Westminster

parliament-across-thames

Every once a year or so I take a train trip to London. I’m not a great tourist, but I like visiting London – even if only to make me glad I don’t actually live there. Sometimes I end up walking aimlessly around, so this year I targeted a few things to do.

First up was Watkins – an esoteric bookshop on Cecil Road. But, after making the trip, I didn’t feel like spending much time there. I was mostly glad to see some new titles by Sri Chinmoy in the downstairs section, and that was about it. Then I went to the London Eye to get a nice view of London in the sun, but, unfortunately, it was closed for maintenance. The walk by the Thames did compensate quite a bit though.

After ticking off my list of two items to do (one partial success, one failure) I wondered into Parliament Square. I once went to the House of Lords for a function relating to the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run. But, I’ve never been in the House of Commons so thought it would be good to go in. Since I’ve given up politics for my New Years Resolution, I thought I could make an exception to see politicians in the flesh. But, the gallery was full, and I didn’t feel like waiting.

I never really knew, but Westminster Abbey is just across the road. Rich in English and World History, I thought I ought to go at least once in this lifetime, and so I overcame my Yorkshire heritage, and spent £20 to enter. Continue Reading →

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New Year Meditation

The perfect meditation is perhaps in the silent, snow-capped Himalayan peaks.

sun-sky-860-tormalet
But, over Christmas, we were in a popular holiday resort, Greece. For New Year’s Eve, we lost our peaceful function hall to a New Year’s party. Our meditation group squeezed into an upper story room with the party down below.

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Throughout the New Year evening we had meditations and plays – a mixture of the humorous and soulful – hopeful of a bright future after the tumultuous year of 2016. The final meditation was 11.30pm to midnight. Almost on cue, the party below got into full swing, with the volume raised to full celebration mood. Rather than the ethereal silence of the midnight calm, stale cigarette smoke seeped into the room.

With a 20 minute break before the final meditation, I calculate a better meditation may be had in my isolated hotel room – away from the party noise and smoke. I weigh up the dilemma with some friends, but they don’t share my careful calculations, seemingly enjoying the challenge. Continue Reading →

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Rainbows at Christmas and New Year

rainbow

I took this photo on Christmas Day. I was out on my bike, but suffering from a little bit of stomach upset. As a consequence I was cycling slowly and not enjoying the ride, but because of the stomach ache I stopped to have a look behind.

I was rewarded with this view of a rainbow arching over the tree. It was the highlight of the ride and an auspicious sign for Christmas Day. Sri Chinmoy has said rainbows are a sign of inner progress, so I always take it as a sign of encouragement.

rainbow-Kalamata

On the last day in Kalamata, Greece, there was this wonderful rainbow over the hotel. The light in Greece has a magic touch, especially around sunset. It certainly lifts the spirits after the relatively dark days of northern England. The rainbow colours were vivid and bright – more intense than the Yorkshire winter – though both rainbows had their own beauty. Continue Reading →

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The Joyless cafe

I spent Christmas partly thinking about the long journey from Oxford to a resort in Greece. Over 15 hours of traveling gives many possibilities of things to go wrong. But, by the time I reached the hotel late in the evening, I already felt the old thought-patterns of last year fading away. Perhaps this is why my spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy valued travel so much – the potential for newness and escaping the rut of the mind.

ruins

Ruins of Olympia

The next day, 95% of my friends went on a day trip to Sparta – a legendary historic site. I’m not a great tourist, easily becoming tired from looking at old rocks, so I stayed in the near empty hotel – with perhaps a nagging feeling it may have been more fun to go with the crowd.

On my own, I wandered into the nearby town. It was the off-season with a sense of the eerily quiet; shops and cafes in winter limbo, waiting for the sun-seeking tourists to return. Walking rather aimlessly up a long street, I was looking for a good cafe to imbibe the culture, atmosphere and coffee of the Mediterranean. When I saw a sign for ‘Joy Cafe’ I took this is an auspicious sign and went in without further evaluation.

The truth is that this ‘Joy Cafe’ was anything but. Dark, dingy, dodgy music and coffee that might have been served in Manchester circa 1953. Just when things couldn’t get any worse, the owner came and sat down next to me to smoke a cigarette, an unwelcome reminder of the days in England when smoking was permitted in public places.

Ironically, I had hoped a visit to a cafe might inspire a new writing inspiration. But, sometimes you have to quit whilst you’re behind, so I downed the weak coffee, closed the writing pad and trundled back to the hotel. But, even that was not straight forward – a pointless walk in the wrong direction, before a u-turn to see the ‘Joy Cafe’ for the third time of the day.

The reason I bother to write about such a negligible tale of woe is that it had every outer cause to make me a little frustrated and depressed, and in former years, that may have been exactly how I felt. But, I didn’t really mind; I just looked forward to the next meditation. Looking back it has a certain humour.

When I was young, I remember going to visit Paris. After months of excited expectation and planning, I became miserable when I finally arrived. It wasn’t the magic I hoped for. It was just a city of buildings like anywhere else.

Travel can be a catalyst for change, but it is only part of the story.

(*) Did you hear about the dog which took up meditation?

He was an aware-wolf.

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The lazy seeker with one good quality

During our Christmas vacation, Sri Chinmoy would encourage his students to perform plays. These plays would be based on Sri Chinmoy’s own stories – and would usually have some kind of uplifting message or spiritual lesson. These stories might be adapted in numerous ways – often with a humorous slant.

I think Sri Chinmoy encouraged us to write and perform plays for a variety of reasons. One of the many reasons was simply to do something different and put yourself in a situation outside your comfort zone. I don’t naturally veer towards the stage and am usually content to sit at the back and watch. But, whilst out cycling, I got an idea for a play. It was based on two things:

  1. A talk Sri Chinmoy gave just before the New Year (an old audio recording) about the importance of concentrating on the good qualities of other people.
  2. A play about Socrates visiting a palm reader. (see: Sincerity, simplicity and purity) Because we were in Greece, many groups had adapted this particular play about Socrates visiting a palm reader and how his followers become mad when the palmist saw undivine qualities in their teacher. The joke was that in this case, people were mad the palm readers couldn’t see the undivine qualities of their friend.

Bob, the lazy person, was played by Nirbhasa, who is one of the wonders of the modern age – tirelessly enthusiastic and busy. It was a minor joke to have him play the lazy one. He did a good transformation at the end. I played Tom.

greece-sea Continue Reading →

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Greece the home of football

Recently, I had the good fortune to visit Greece.

Greece is not just a beautiful country but also the cradle of – Western civilisation, the Olympics, democracy, and association football.

Football may come as a surprise to students of history, because many erroneously believe football to have been invented by the British around the start of the Nineteenth Century.

But, in fact, five centuries BC and Archimedes had already discovered the joyful abandon of kicking an old ball of leather around the Pantheon during a debating contest with Pythagorus (an early proponent of the 2-4-2 triangle formation)

Unfortunately, these early football games were strictly limited to the brightest minds of the age; only those with a firm grasp of Aristotelian ethics were allowed to enter the field of play. Continue Reading →

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