Nine thoughts to one word

Yesterday a man delivered a package to me. Without thinking much, on an impulse, I asked him, ‘How tall are you?’ He smiled and replied,’I am 6’6″.’  Later on, I thought what a silly question I asked.  He could have asked me, ‘How short are you?’  Does his height really matter?  He was polite and did his work (delivered the parcel)- that is all I need to know. I also thought about all the silly questions we can ask or say, ‘What a big baby!’ (would you say that to an adult?), ‘Have you been trying to lose weight?  You look good!’ (to which I got an apt rejoinder, ‘Why did you ask that? Are you saying I am anorexic?’).

In asking such questions or remarks, we may be thinking we are paying a compliment when we are only promoting stereotypes- that tall and thin adults are something to aspire to and big chubby babies are the norm (my older son wasn’t like that).  Really, a person’s appearance has nothing to do with me, or with anyone else either- it is their own business. If it is something they were born with or have acquired naturally (my delivery man is tall, I am short), even that is nothing to do with anyone except themselves.  Lesson learnt, think before you speak, I said to myself.

As Nichiren said in the 13th C, “Confucius thought nine times before saying one word. Tan, the Duke of Chou, would bind up his hair three times in the course of washing it and spit out his food three times in the course of a meal [in order not to keep callers waiting]. These were worthy men of ancient times, a model for the people of today.”


Slow art


This week we have the ‘Artists at home’ event where artists open up their homes to the public, show their works to the world and make sales and new friends.  I visited local artists, Kate and Jonathan, who make exquisitely detailed prints which are transferred on to paper, cloth, china ware and books.  They use box wood which can take fine work and use a very old and heavy press to imprint their designs on paper.  The work is slow, methodical and painstaking.  The materials are sourced locally or regionally.  This is a photograph of Jonathan showing his press.  Such slow art is therapeutic for both the artist and the buyer, not to mention the spectator.  As I stood in the studio, fast RAF jets flew overhead with a roar, celebrating the birthday of the Her Majesty the Queen- contrasting with the tranquility of the slow and quiet work of the artists below.  I bought one of their lovely china cups to remind myself of the value of slow art while drinking tea from it.

With my own creative work, I spend a long time contemplating what I am going to do- this I do while I am cooking or cleaning, a sort of meditation cum thought process.  The slowness of our minds helps to unblock the creativity of our hearts and what we tend to produce is much finer and introspective.  So how can we produce slow art?

1. Use your whole body– you may write with your fingers or paint with them, but to make true art, you must feel it with your whole body.  Any great work of art is that which produced with both body and soul.

2. Give it enough time– I used to only give just enough time, now I double and sometimes triple the time I need to spend on creative work.  If I ‘save’ time in doing so, then it is a lovely gift which I use for more creativity!

3. Do one thing at a timeMulti-tasking is a myth, not even women are good at it.  Mindfulness which is part of Buddhist ways of working is about paying attention to what one is doing.  So while I can just about clean and think at the same time because cleaning is not a ‘high’ skill work, I can’t listen to a fine piece of music while trying to open up my own creativity- both sets of activities compete.

So go on, try these things today if you haven’t before!  And on this note, as I have now written 50 of these blogs, I am going to go slow myself and put less pressure on myself to produce a blog each day.  So although I will not be publishing daily, I will continue on this creative journey by writing daily.  Please stay in touch!

Power of thoughts

The power of the mind has been in the news this week a lot- from Indian mystic who claims to have lived on ‘cosmic energy’ harnessed by the power of the mind for 70 years (yes, 70 years!) to the volunteers at the University of Minnesota who managed to fly model helicopters through hoops using the power of thoughts (you can see it on youtube if you like).

What many new age thinkers have been saying based on age old traditional wisdom, has now been proved scientifically. Buddhism talks about the one-ness of mind and body and for too long, mind and body have been treated separately by medical practitioners and science. So it is worth looking into what we have been thinking when we fall ill- did we have negative thoughts about ourselves or for others? Does a particular food or surrounding trigger off negative emotions or depression?  How does lack of exercise make you feel?

While it is not always practical to remove ourselves from negative environments or people, we can limit their presence and as soon our interaction with them is over, we can send out positive thoughts to them and ourselves. I did that recently with a woman I met on the street- although I initially felt angry at what she said to me, as I walked on, I continued to smile and send her smiles as well. I had the most amazing day!

As Daisaku Ikeda says- “One thing is certain: That is that the power of belief, the power of thought, will move reality in the direction of what we believe and conceive of it. If you really believe you can do something, you can. That is a fact.” I truly believe this now.  So do start using this from now on- it may be the best thing you have done for yourself and for others!

the 18/40/60 rule

I am of the sensitive kind and try to please others (as I am sure most of us do).  Most of my life I have followed other people’s hearts.  Now recently I have taken the step of following my own heart and starting writing this blog to give myself some courage and lift.

I read this somewhere- when one is 18, one worries constantly about what others think of them; when one turns 40 one does not care what others think of them and when one is 60, one realises that no one was thinking of them all along!  Well, wouldn’t we be all the more wiser and true to ourselves if we only followed the ’60 rule’.  I think some of us stay at age 40 or even 18 all our lives!  It is not easy but we can start today to be ’60’, no matter what our age.

‘Being 60’ a courageous step- I sometimes feel quite fearful about the steps I have taken recently in my professional and private life but most of the time I feel so happy doing what I have always wanted to do. I wish I had started earlier but at least I have started this journey before the age of 60 anyway, before it is too late.  But even if you are 60, don’t worry or have regrets, it is never too late- just start today!  As Daisaku Ikeda says,”It is not about how others are or how society is. The most important thing is to ask yourself, “What should I do?” and “What can I do?” One who stands up with moral courage and conviction can change society and create waves of transformation around the world.”