14 August 2023

In praise of fast cars

What can we learn from a very fast old car?

Plenty really. I drive a Subaru WRX. Fabulous car. I was fortunate and happened to buy the 1998 model, the best looking WRX of all time. Sleek, elegant, relatively cheap, and bloody fast!

My car has just celebrated its 25th birthday, having completed over 330,00Kms. Yes 330,000Kms! And it still goes very fast!

And yes, I know that these days it is about as politically correct to admit to loving driving fast as it is to being a smoker, but it is a fact. I love speed. Always have. Never smoked :)

So this week, let’s go “Out on a Limb” once again and discover what we can learn from a very fast old car. But first, I love being still as well, so

      Thought for the day

      Profound and tranquil, free from complexity

      Uncompounded luminous clarity

      Beyond the mind of conceptual ideas

      This is the depth of the mind of the victorious ones.

      In this there is not a thing to be removed

      Nor anything that needs to be added.

      It is merely the immaculate

      Looking naturally at itself

                      Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche 

The metaphor is simple but very strong. As a fast car, to get to be 25 years old and to continue to look as good as you did in the early days, to continue to go as fast as you did in the early days; it all takes some work. Good care, regular servicing, a few running repairs, and maybe a facelift!

My WRX came with all the raw ingredients. The car looks terrific to my eye; it has beautiful lines, is compact and elegant. In many ways it looks like a modest hatchback.

But then there is this incredible turbo-charged Boxer motor that is hooked up to everything that matches. The outcome? A racing billycart. Sure the ride is a little rough, but it moves fast, handles extraordinarily well and has been incredibly reliable. I love driving this car.

But then, the truth is the car is serviced regularly by the best Subaru people I could find using only genuine parts. It has never had an accident, despite being driven very hard in its early days; more sedately of late. 

It did blow up a transmission at 30K, but Subaru recognised an in-built fault and replaced it free of charge. Being automatic, the transmission did need replacing again recently.

The only other difficulty was when the failure of a minor part led to a major engine problem at around 200K and the bottom half of the engine needed replacing. And I did have it resprayed a year or so ago.

So the simple metaphor. Compare the car to the body. My body is 73 years old. Still goes quite well despite being short of one leg, one lung and most likely one kidney. But this body of mine, like the WRX, gets very well looked after. 


I am quite particular about what goes into it this body of mine. 

The WRX would probably run on basic unleaded; splutter along at least; but it goes best on Premium and that is also better for its engine. 

My body, like the WRX, is a combustion engine. 

You put things into it, it burns them up and it goes. 

The WRX has a relatively simple combustion engine and I am very particular about what I put in its petrol tank. 

My body has an exquisitely complex combustion engine. 

It makes logical sense to be even more attentive to what goes into my own tank.

Why not use the best? Why not eat the best?

Regular servicing

For me, regular meditation is like servicing. Worth doing daily. Going on retreat is a more deliberate form of servicing, as is having a regular massage, taking time out in the garden or going for a walk. Regeneration time. When I need to, which is often, I want to know that everything has been done, everything is ready, so that I can be at my best. 

Why not be at your best?


This seems to be unknown or overlooked by many, but in my view, good food, really good food, is way more effective then a facelift. Eat consistently well and skin tone is good, wrinkles smooth out and an inner glow emerges. 

Why not look at your best?

Actually, I treat my body better than the WRX. 

I like to think I treat it like a Formula One racing car, where everything is taken seriously, but there is a lot of fun involved. 

That attitude certainly helped me to recover from a very difficult cancer. 

And these days, while I am not fixated, I am fairly diligent, and this attitude helps me to make the most of the bits that I do have, to live and enjoy life to the full, and to make the most of what it is that I have to offer to others.

And finally, along with the WRX’s milestone 25th birthday next month, I have no demerit driving points against my name. Not sure as the years advance if I am becoming more politically correct or just more careful?

Love that car!


What food goes into your tank?

Bottom line comfort

I am often asked where to obtain a good meditation cushion.

Here is a link to where you can order great Zafus (buckwheat filled, round cushions) and other meditation gear...

They also have buckwheat refills for well used, flattened Zafus that need replenishing. 




07 August 2023

Relationship – a crucial point in learning and deepening your meditation

In the Western world, relationships with teachers can be really mixed up. Because of the power differential between students and teachers, because of the dependency, the desperation that sometimes can be involved, students worry about giving their power away, of being taken advantage of or being abused.

However, the relationship we have with our meditation teacher can be crucial; it can add great depth and ease to learning and progressing along the path.

So this week, we look at something that may well be provocative, and that is not so often spoken about: the meditation teacher/student relationship, and we will look at it from both sides; but first

     Thought for the day

          The absolute truth cannot be realized 

          Within the domain of the ordinary mind. 

          And the path beyond the ordinary mind, 

          All the great wisdom traditions have told us, 

          Is through the heart. 

          This path of the heart is devotion.

                             Sogyal Rinpoche

Meditation and the student/teacher relationship

Evidence would say there can be risks involved, but in holding back, in taking a defensive stance, students may well miss out on fully developing one of the biggest supports for meditation. And in this day of heightened sensitivities, teachers may well hold back, they may well limit themselves in what they offer.

If you had gone to Dr Ainslie Meares to learn to meditate, it may not have been what you expected. He would request you read his meditation books before attending. Then at the first and subsequent meetings, he spoke little and deflected questions. It was all about how he could share his experience with you. 

Being an accomplished meditator himself, Dr Meares' understanding of the teacher’s role was to impart his experience in the most direct and effective way he could. 

As he was interested in the essence of meditation, the stillness, in his view, talking about meditation only stirred up the thinking mind and created a barrier to going beyond that and into the stillness.

So his approach involved using words to lead into meditation that were abstract, that did not invite rational analysis, that were softly and slowly spoken with plenty of gaps to allow for the silences and stillness to become more apparent.

He used his presence to convey his experience.

This was back in the 1960s to 1980s. 

In those days he also used physical touch; lightly touching his students in a way that these days where the risk of being misunderstood is high is just too risky for practitioners to do. 

Having learnt from and been mentored by Dr Meares, you may well notice a similar use of words and voice when I or people I have trained introduce meditation. In the early days of this work, we used physical touch as well; always having a male and female teacher in the room and touching people lightly on the head and shoulders. 

Sadly – as in my opinion it lessened the experience for our students – as time moved on, this part of the work just seemed too easy to be misconstrued and we stopped doing it around 2015.

Dr Meares was a deeply spiritual man, but not aligned to any specific spiritual tradition. His approach was secular. On the other hand, my even more significant teacher, Sogyal Rinpoche, grew up in and was highly trained in Tibetan Buddhism. His quote above reflects his deep connection with, his reliance upon, and his devotion to his own teachers and their unbroken lineage right back to the Buddha himself.

But maybe it is the word “devotion” that encompasses the key issue for Westerners. 

We have been so inculcated in the notion of being independent, or finding “ourselves”, of standing on our own two feet, and so on. 

And there are quite a few stories where devoted people have been taken advantage of, and have suffered as a consequence.

There is not much in this world that does not carry some risk…

But read Rinpoche’s quote again. It does have compelling logic. How do we get past this thinking mind with all its attendant emotions, and connect more directly to our still, inner essence? The path of the heart is regarded as actually being the easiest and most reliable path, and the path of the heart is devotion.

So again, that word that seems to strike fear in some – devotion.

Speaking personally, when I first became interested in Tibetan Buddhism, I really struggled with devotion. What did it mean? What would I need to give up? What would I need to commit to? Would becoming devoted to a teacher diminish me or put me at risk? Why was I holding back? What to do???
Happily, I was able to discuss this with Sogyal Rinpoche and he taught on it extensively during retreats. My own conclusion is each one of us who considers making a conscious commitment to devotion needs to listen, read, discuss and especially contemplate this deeply. It nay takes years to reach clarity.

For myself, I was really helped by coming to understand devotion is a logical conclusion. It is actually a profound commitment to the teachings, based upon an understanding of how powerfully they work, and a gratitude for being able to listen to them, to learn and to practice them. 

A good teacher embodies what they are teaching. If they do this authentically, then devotion to them is devotion to the teachings. 

The more fully we can see the teacher as a pure vessel for authentic teaching, the more fully they will fulfill their role for us.

From the teacher’s perspective, the more they can put their own ego aside (at the very least while teaching), the more effective they will be in sharing their teachings in an authentic and effective manner. 

That is why good teachers start each session with a commitment along these lines. This may well go unspoken, but it does reflect this deep inner wish to present the teachings free of impediments.

Now just to be clear, it is true one can gain a lot from a good meditation teacher while keeping a distance. But there is a greater depth on offer when one makes more of a commitment and engages more fully.

A comparison may be to experience the use of a meditation app where the connection with the person leading the practice is quite superficial. The app and the practices may well be helpful, but it is no surprise within a month of downloading a basic meditation app, only 5% of people are still using it.

This is why with Allevi8 we offer direct online contact with our trained teachers; and the difference in connection and regularity of practice is hugely different.

And it is why wherever possible, the ideal is to go to meditation teachers in person…

So maybe reflect some more on the nature of your own connection to the teacher(s) you have…

Happy meditating 