I've studied the meaning of the Heart Sutra in the context of learning the Japanese text so that I'm able to chant it from memory.
This venerable text is said to contain the kernel of Zen teaching. The closer I've looked at this paradoxical sutra, ... Read more
I've been a bit obsessed lately with homes built from shipping containers - another glance towards minimalism. For five childhood years I shared a 22ft x 7.5ft residential caravan with three other family members. In the 1970s, after 18 months in a London bedsit, my wife ... Read more
Trekking through a crisp, white landscape (even if the edges are brown through lack of snow) is an exhilarating experience. Our longest trip - a 15 kilometre mix of snow-shoeing and hiking - was exhausting in a good way. The village shuttle bus took us up to ... Read more
Hard to grasp two contradictory dimensions of Time: the relative and the absolute.
On the one hand, time seems to be a finite flow from past to present into the future... filled with memories, fears, hopes, plans. The continuous 'if only' of the regretful backward glance; ... Read more
I've struggled to understand the motivation of Leave voters in the 2016 Brexit referendum. Researchers subsequently suggested:
The fallacy that we need to give the City of London a free pass so Britain can prosper as a nation has made us all poorer.  A recent Guardian report on Unilever's decision not to relocate to the Netherlands under shareholder pressure surprised me. The listed ... Read more
We've long wanted to visit this part of Canada - partly for its autumn grandeur; partly to hear its own special version of French. A few trip highlights:
My daughter's an experienced river and lake swimmer, so I was proud to be guided this hot month on a three-hour, 5km swim in the River Orb from Ceps to Roquebrun - including some exciting feet-first trips into the rapids. Thanks to her, I picked ... Read more
I've observed before that a deep understanding of the nature of time is pivotal to our comprehension of life. When I re-read Dogen's Genjokoan and Uji I'm regularly struck by how modern his view of time is. His discussion of the movement of a boat relative ... Read more
Heaven and Earth give themselves. Air, water, plants, animals, and humans give themselves to each other. It is in this giving-themselves-to-each-other that we actually live. Whether you appreciate it or not, it is true.
99.99 per cent of our necessities come as a ... Read more
In My Stroke of Insight, Jill Bolte Taylor records her experience of total right-brain dominance when she suffered a massive stroke in 1996. It sounds so like descriptions of the kensho experience that it gives me pause for thought. Do I care that there might be ... Read more
I've wrestled with the word void in the Hannya Haramita Shingyo, the 'Heart Sutra'. Void (Sanskrit: Sunyata; Japanese: Ku) describes the inherent 'emptiness' of things: form, sensation, thought, activity & consciousness. In her translation, Roshi Jiyu-Kennett added 'unstained and pure' to balance the negativity of 'void', ... Read more
Snowy days bring out people's smiles. No-one passed me as I tramped into town without giving me a sheepish grin; as though to say, 'Neither of us should really be out in this weather at our age - but isn't it a laugh?' But that's not the ... Read more
I've confessed before to being something of a minimalist, so it's probably not a surprise to discover that I have an almost pathological hatred of PowerPoint. It's software guaranteed to produce files five times as large as your email provider will let you send. 22 megabytes? ... Read more
Our house has an awkward shape that doesn't suit an escape ladder, but as it's three-storeys high I don't much fancy dropping to the ground in the event of fire. Something tells me the human body wasn't built to endure such treatment. What to do? After Grenfell ... Read more
The word had somewhat negative connotations in the 1950s. Prefabricated buildings were a pragmatic, if cramped and ugly, response to the need for rapid rebuilding following the war.
Now, factory-built housing is back on the agenda again as it certainly should be. How is ... Read more
In principle, I've always championed the use of 'open' standards in developing web applications. In practical developments, though, I've sometimes strayed from that 'noble' path. I certainly did initially with this website when I created a custom PHP script to strip special character-pairs coded into plain text ... Read more
We need to find more ways to collect taxes so we can fund essential public services. Traditional taxation of earnings and profits captures only part of our 'real' economy. Companies easily circumvented such taxes by claiming employees are 'self-employed', paying bonuses in share options or moving ... Read more
Most surprising about Lewisham's seven-house Segal Close development is the spirit of community that survives 40 years after these homes were built. Walter Segal's self-build system calls for a sizeable crew to erect the post-and-beam wooden framing - something only achieved by collective action. Today, only one ... Read more
Some buildings - like this one I saw lately in Plochingen, Bavaria - are so unusual that they invite us to reflect again on what we mean when we say 'home'. Hundertwasser (1928-2000) produced a collection of such designs across Europe. Philosophically, they seem to me ... Read more
There may be a thousand books on Zen Buddhism, but they all boil down to these two words. Of course there's more to it, but essentially if you don't meditate regularly you don't call yourself a Zen practitioner. The core of the practice is stepping back ... Read more
It's been a joy to cycle the 6km to our nearest big supermarket along an old railway track and be serenaded, en route, by an assortment of birds - among them nightingales, goldfinches and coal tits. Until one landed directly above me and sang while ... Read more
We marked the day my father would have been a hundred by climbing Mont Caroux where we'd scattered the last of his ashes a few years previously. It's sobering to realise how little chance we have of reaching a century. There's a famous Zen story about a ... Read more
Thinking about what's fair - in light of a friend's suggestion for wealth redistribution - I've studied the world economy to find out what an 'equal share' would be. Apparently, $16,000 p.a. per capita. Enough, on the face of it, to sustain a reasonable standard ... Read more
Once a student asked Suzuki Roshi, "Why do you have forty-minute zazen periods, when most Zen teachers in America have only thirty? My legs really hurt when I sit for forty minutes. Won't you consider having thirty-minute periods, at least in sesshin?" Suzuki replied, "That's very interesting. ... Read more
It's tempting to rail against the actions of the ironically-named 'Leader of the Free World'; suffice it to say I signed the petition to rescind his state visit invitation. We have to hope that safeguards within the US legislature will put a brake on the headlong ... Read more
Dogen Zenji's Uji - translated by my teacher as 'Existence, Time, Flow' - has intrigued me for a long time; along with the related section of Genjo Koan dealing with firewood which (irreversibly) becomes ash... an analysis that addresses (obliquely) our entire ... Read more
Guy Martin - riding across a Chinese desert in 'Our Guy in China ' - reawakened my desire for a fixed wheel bike. It's been interesting to watch the way my mind has worked with this - turning it over to view it from every angle ... Read more
Highlight of the trip was the Monastery of San Miniato del Monte  in Florence.
After the raucous self-aggrandisement of the Duomo and Medici Chapel, where well-heeled tyrants tried to barter their way into Heaven, San Miniato was a plain power-house of contemplative prayer. ... Read more
A recent radio broadcast  discussing immortality led me to conclude I'm an 'Epicurean'. Epicurus (pictured) believed this life is all we have & that death is a return to the 'nothing' that exists before birth. I'd previously associated Epicurus with a life devoted to having ... Read more
So, what's left on my 'bucket list'? I enjoy travel and there's always plenty of world left to see, but right now I don't especially feel the need. Equally, there aren't many possessions I hanker after. When I think about it deeply, my remaining wishes seem ... Read more
I've long known of the Japanese focus on Hara without understanding it well. I originally thought it mainly concerned developing an impregnable energy centre in the martial arts. Not so... I've noticed lately when I get sucked into something and give it too much attention (or worry), ... Read more