27 November 2023

To have and to hold; or maybe not???

See it, want it. How often do you have the experience of seeing something and feeling you just have to have it? That feeling is what we call desire, and Ruth and I are having a big encounter with its consequences right now as we sell our farm and downsize considerably. 

So this week we delve into desire; its nature, its consequences and what to do when it needs an antidote, but first

   Thought for the day

If you ask me what sort of self-control you need 

To do the work of contemplation, 

My answer is, ‘None at all!’ 

In everything else you do, you should practise moderation. 

Avoid extremes when eating, drinking or sleeping. 

Also, protect your body from severe cold or heat, 

Do not pray or read too long 

And do not spend too much time conversing with your friends. 

In all of these things, it is important 

That you do neither too much nor too little. 

But in contemplation, you may throw caution to the wind. 


I hope you will never stop doing this loving work as long as you live.

              The Cloud of Unknowing

We humans are primarily motivated by desire. We want things. We wish for things. So much of our energy and thinking is dedicated to how we can acquire stuff, and then both hold onto it and protect it. Ask the Buddhists, and they characterise human life as being in the “desire realm”.

So just because we like something does that mean we have to have it? 

To obtain it? 

To work for it? 

To purchase it? 

To steal it or gain it by deception?

Ruth and I are in the final stages of selling our delightful farm where we have lived these past 23 years. We are downsizing dramatically; moving into our small flat in the city where we will enjoy a simpler life for a while and await what beckons us into the future. We are bound to move again soon…

So in this process of transition, lots of “stuff” to deal with. The fascinating process of going through all our possessions, every one of them, evaluating them on need and desire, and deciding what to keep, what to give away, what to put in the bin, and what to attempt to sell.

As an aside, have learnt something interesting: 

When you go to sell something, it is always worth less than you thought. 

When you go to buy something, it is always worth more than you thought.

Funny that…

Anyway, back to the “stuff”, and desire. That urge to own things – and experiences – is such a strong one, and it comes with so many challenging attachments. You could say “attachment” is the issue. 

I notice it most strongly having lived on a farm for a good part of my life. 

People say “we own this piece of land”. 

We “own”? 

What does that mean? 

At the least we are short term guests, maybe at best we are caring custodians. 

The land was here long before we arrived; it will be here long after we leave. 


So maybe with land we can get this principle of non-ownership more easily if we live in a peaceful part of the world. Where buying and selling is a civilised process. But it is easy to notice how complicated the notion of ownership becomes in contested areas. “This land is mine. It was my parents, my ancestors, my nation’s land”. When two or more families, tribes, nations hold a similar view, then it is easy to understand how conflict ensues.

And we do not need to reflect for more than a moment or two to appreciate how complex and challenging it can be to resolve such issues. 

Most of us will have been deeply affected by recent conflicts – most notably in the Ukraine and Gaza. 

Many may identify with one side or the other, and feel strong emotions.

So this is the point. 

Here we are not going into any sense of who is right and who is wrong, or indeed if anyone is right or wrong; what we are reflecting on here is the root issue – desire and the feeling of ownership – my land, my car, my job, my wife, my computer that I read this on. 

How do we balance the recognition that we do need to “own” things, to have the right to maintain our ownership, to not be robbed or tricked out of them, but at the same time avoid becoming overly greedy, or overly possessive, right up to the point of going to war over ownership?

I am just going to leave this one here for now… with an invitation to reflect on these deeply personal matters… 

How we manage our desires, and the consequences of those desires, defines how we are as human beings. 

How do we manage acquiring enough stuff to meet our needs and to keep ourselves comfortable in an equitable and fair way? 

How do we balance our desires with the desires of others? 

Maybe even more, how do we become less driven by desire itself???

And remember, the quieter you become, the more you can hear…

11 November 2023

Meditation Special – Finding Peace in Troubling Times

So what is it that is troubling you? 

The war in Ukraine? In Gaza? 

Environmental Armageddon? 

Cost of living pressures? Financial uncertainty? 

Insecurity? Health matters? 

Family pressures? Relationship issues? 

Study demands? Work pressures? 

Multiple choice… 

Some of the above? 

All of the above? Got your own list? 

For me the latest challenge is moving house – from a farm into a small flat; downsizing and then working out were to from there. Most of us will have plenty going on…

Now, some say it is the good things that tend to distract us most easily from regular meditation practice. However, currently I am hearing from many who feel overwhelmed by all the difficult news, all the troubling people and events that disturb their equilibrium and make sitting to meditation quite difficult. It is as if their minds are so full of "noise", settling into meditation has become nigh on impossible.

Sad really, as either way - with positive distractions or amidst troubling times, meditation has the potential firstly to provide some time out, a moment’s peace, and then lead on to a new way of being that makes life easier all around. But if the “noise” is too strong and is making meditation impossible, what to do?

So this week, how to use meditation when the brain is in overdrive, worrying and anxious; how to find peace in troubling times, but first


         Thought for the day

     The body benefits from movement

       And the mind benefits from stillness

                    Sakyong Mipham

When the mind is racing and you are seeking peace, it is no time to be casual.

Sure, if you are well enough practiced and you can simply observe your mind, that is sufficient. If it is possible for you to be like an impartial observer, to sit back a little as it were, and to simply be aware of all those racing thoughts and their attendant emotions; to do all that and remain both undistracted and non-judgemental, well then yes, you are a solid practitioner and more power to you. No more needed…

But here we are talking of when the mind is overwhelming. When the thoughts race so hard, when the stress is so strong, when the anxiety is building and there is just no separating observer, awareness and all that activity of the mind. 

In this state, it is like the mind is so caught up in thinking and emotion, so engaged with it, something quite strong is needed to bring about a transformation.

This is where meditation technique is paramount. This is exactly the type of situation for which meditation techniques have been developed over the centuries.

And there is one, simply and reliable principle of meditation that works every time, in every troublesome situation.

When we are distracted and find our thoughts to be running riot, we need a single object upon which we can focus. By using the principle of concentration, we cut through all the “noise”. We focus. We concentrate. We narrow our thinking down onto one single thing so there is no room for the “noise”. 

Simple principle. 

Rather than have the mind ranging everywhere, give it just one thing to focus upon, and thereby bring it to a point of stillness. 

Like a sense can focus light down to a single point, so too can the mind focus our thoughts.

This is the key. 

When we concentrate on just one thing; when we focus and concentrate fully, there is no room for other thoughts or emotions. Our mind finds its own natural peace.

So how to do this? The principle is simple – concentration. What to concentrate upon is up to you. You could literally use anything as the focus of your concentration. However, here are a few techniques that have stood the test of time. With some you already may have a familiarity – and maybe the reminder is useful; maybe some new ideas with which to experiment.

1. The Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Over the decades, this is the technique we have found most reliable for inducing deep relaxation of body and mind in a wide range of adverse and troubling situations. 

Concentrate particularly on the feeling in the body as you contract and relax the muscle groups from the feet to the head. 

Check it out, listen to it again on the Allevi8 App under the heading of Deep Relaxation in the Managing Stress and the Being Well sections.

2. Guided Imagery

Again, a very reliable technique. This one is particularly good for beginners and children. 

This type of exercise gives the mind something to focus upon, and when the images suggested have deeper sub-conscious metaphorical meaning, the exercise can be both calming and transformative.

On the Allevi8 App, we use 2 well proven Guided Imagery techniques: the Healing Light exercise (sometimes know more simply as the white light exercise) that is found in the Healing Support section, and the Healing Journey in the Managing Stress section.

So the crucial thing is not to be put off by what may seem to be a simple solution to a complex problem. 

Trouble comes in many guises. 

They all affect our mind, and we can learn to take charge of our mind, use suitable techniques, concentrate, find a moment’s peace, practice regularly and work towards a more stable, long-lasting unshakeable peace.

May you find true and sustaining inner peace…