Sunday, September 18, 2011

Milton Keynes Meditation Association Gets New Website

After some months of development the Milton Keynes Meditation Association (affiliated to the Cambridge Buddhist Centre) has launched it's new Website.

The development work was done by Dharmachari Jnanasalin, an Order Member based in Cambridge.

All the Cambridge outreach groups now share one address:

The Milton Keynes Group can now be found at:


The new website is very pretty and includes a blog page allowing us to keep people up to date with what's happening at our classes and the wider Triratna Buddhist world. We even have a Milton Keynes Meditation Facebook page.

The MK Group goes from strength to strength. We now have weekly meetings and the numbers of attendees are going up. The group has 15 years of practise history behind it and there is a strong feeling of community and appreciation for Buddha Dharma in the group.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Buddhist Letting Agency - New View Residential in Cambridge

Hi All,

Well, I have finally gone and done it. Those of you who know me well will probably recall me going on about starting a Buddhist ethical letting agency in my home town of Cambridge. It is talk no longer.

The agency is called New View Residential and is owned by the Windhorse Trust, the charity that owns windhorse:evolution. We started in October last year with encouragement and support from friends such as Vidyavajra (in the photo with the board he designed), Janansalin and Keturja to name just a few.

It completes a full circle for me as letting property in Cambridge is how I first became involved in Buddhism. I was working for an agency in Cambridge and had let a property to Windhorse for use as a community. I was fascinated by the sight of their shrine room and started going along to the Cambridge Buddhist Centre a few months later.

New View Residential is a Cambridge based residential letting agency and acts on behalf of local landlords who wish to rent out their property. We advertise their property to help them find tenants, we take references and collect the rent, deposits and so on. We can also direct them to Letsure, our insurance partner who can provide property insurance to both landlords and tenants.

The new Right Livelihood business is a not-for-profit social enterprise meaning that it distributes it’s profits to charity. Half of the profits will go to Triratna Buddhist projects and the other half to charities nominated by our Cambridge landlords. We ask our landlords to nominate one of 6 charities. Five of the charities are operating in the Cambridge area:

The other charity is the Karuna Trust, which we have included as an option for Buddhist landlords.

Our name “New View” has 3 meanings:

  • The Buddha’s Middle Way is a “New View”
  • A letting agent dedicated to raising money for charity rather than profit is a “New View”
  • When you move home you get a “New View”

I really hope this takes off and is successful in raising money for Triratna Buddhist projects and local charities. I also hope that New View Residential can help to raise the profile of Buddhism in the local community. You can never tell how people get involved with Buddhism - look what happened to me.

We have just launched our Cambridge Lettings website and are now looking for landlords and tenants. The site was developed by an ethical company Virya Technologies, operated by Triratna Buddhist Mitra Ruth Cheesely who goes to the Ipswich Buddhist Centre. Please have a look at our website and let me know what you think.

With Love,


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Milton Keynes Intro to Meditation Day

I'll be leading an Introduction to Meditation Day in Milton Keynes on Saturday 12th June 2010.

The day will be open to all those interested in learning meditation regardless of age, backround or religious belief. We will be exploring the nature of meditation and teaching two Buddhist Meditation practices: the Mindfulness of Breathing and the Cultivation of Loving Kindness.

The Day is being hosted by the Milton Keynes Meditation Association at the Friends Meeting House in Downhead Park (map). The day starts at 9.30am and finished at 4.30pm. The cost is £35 (or £25 concessionary rate). Please bring a vegetarian lunch to share.

If you'd like further details please contact me at:

On-line bookings can be made at:

Introduction to Meditation in Milton Keynes - Bookings

I'm looking forward to it, it should be a fun day.

Buddhist Meditation Milton Keynes

Hello My Friends,

Sorry there have been no updates for a while. I have been a little occupied, what with one thing and another!

I have found a new project in the Milton Keynes Meditation Association, a Triratna Buddhist Community (ex FWBO) meditation group attached to the Cambridge Buddhist Centre. I go along there two Thursday nights per month to lead meditation and Buddhist discussion. It's an intimate and friendly group and I am really enjoying getting to know them.

My good friend Jnanasalin has helped me develop a website for the group:

Milton Keynes Meditation Association

Milton Keynes is quite famous for it's concrete cows (above), made by Canadian artist/sculptress Liz Leyh.

I am now back in Cambridge and living happily in my old community house. I am working full time at Windhorse Trading (our Right Livelihood Business) as the P.A to Keturaja (our shiny new Managing Director). It's lovely being back in Cambridge, especially as the spring makes it's presence felt after our worst winter for 30 years! I think we have had more snow than Gampo Abbey this year.

Thanks for all your emails.

With Metta,

Friday, December 11, 2009

Goodbye Canada - Hello Blighty

Hi Y'All,

My last post saw me about to go into retreat. I very much enjoyed my little 5 day solitary in the "Longevity Cabin". I managed to get in plenty of study and meditation and prepared my talks for the introductory weekend I was to be supporting later in Guelph. The weather was pretty chilly with a light dusting of snow. I really enjoyed the wood burning stove!

snow on the hilltops

Coming out of retreat I was given a surprise farewell rejoicing party - with lashings of ice-cream. What a great way to come out of retreat - I felt completely love bombed! I usually feel rather awkward at these sorts of things, but really enjoyed it all the same.

My last week at Gampo Abbey flew by in a whirl of activity. I had lots of loose ends to tie up and those around me were busy preparing and supporting Shambhala training levels, so it was all a bit of a blur. Being driven out of the Abbey to meet my shuttle bus felt slightly surreal and I felt a lot of sadness to be leaving my Abbey friends.

Twelve hours later I landed in St. John's - the capital city of Newfoundland. My hosts for my two week visit were Les & Lewis Cranford, two old friends from my 2007 visit to the Abbey.

Lewis & Les going walkabout

My first week was spent in solitary retreat at Les & Lewis' cabin in New Harbour. This is a secluded little spot close to the tourist destination of Dildo (no comment). My week was very quiet and I had the opportunity to enjoy meditation, recorded Dharma talks and some study of Madhyamaka, which tied my brain into knots and often left me with headaches. After this, I really enjoyed my pleasant strolls down to the harbour and to the local gas station for a coffee. Before I left the Abbey a nun had mentioned that she had heard stories of this cabin being haunted. I didn't have any experiences while there, but the thought that it might be certainly added an extra edge to my already over active imagination.

A little Home from Home

The Outhouse was ...........well ventilated

My second week in Newfoundland was spent mostly around St. John's. Les and Lewis introduced me to some hikes around the coast of the Avalon peninsular and to the delights of eating wild berries such as partridge berry - a new one for me - and spruce sap, which apparently can be used to make homemade chewing gum - very sticky and an acquired taste!

Looking out to the Atlantic across St. John's Harbour

I loved the Newfoundland culture. We took in a number of local bands, some traditional dancing and some traditional ballad singing. The mixture of Celtic roots and the development of a local folk tradition was fantastic. It would be a great place to visit during the annual music festival. The locals are friendly and very easy going and George Street is a wonderfully condensed party/club/bar district catering to all ages and tastes, it was great to watch little old fellas and teenage girls have a good night out on the same dance floor - I don't think this happens much in England. Nobody in NF seems to go out till 10pm and the place is really kicking at 2am!

The wild and beautiful Avalon Peninsular

I was invited to give a talk to the local Shambhala Buddhism group and decided to lead the evening on Spiritual Friendship. The evening seemed to go well and around 25 people came along. It was a lively and intelligent group with lots of practice experience, I really enjoyed the warmth of hospitality.

From St. John's I jumped on a 3 hour flight to Toronto. Harshaprabha and his mate Kam picked me up and drove me to the charming little city (about 128,000 people) of Guelph. Here another friend of Harshaprabha had loaned me his flat for the weekend and I enjoyed sharing the flat with his long haired and idiosyncratic cat called Mork.

The Guelph Church where Anagarika Dhammapala
gave his public lectures on his tour of Canada

I spent the weekend supporting 4 drop in classes intended for newcomers to Buddhism and Meditation. I think Harshaprabha was a little disappointed at the sizes of the classes, but everyone seemed to get something from it and it was a very friendly weekend. Sunday night we watched the Grays Cup at a friends house. This is the big Canadian football game of the year and I have to say that I really got into it. It helped having lots of people to explain the rules.

The CN Tower is quite big

The last leg of my journey was a Greyhound bus trip into Toronto for 4 days of site seeing. I took in the CN Tower (the worlds tallest building at 555 metres). It seems I am still scared of heights.

It seems bigger close up....

looking down through the glass floor at 450 metres confirms's big

Great views though

I went to a number of museums and art galleries, partly accompanied by Sylvie, the twin sister of my Gampo Abbey friend Tsultrim. The highlights would be the collection of Buddhist Art at the Royal Ontario museum and a small museum of Inuit Arts. I was really impressed by the intimate connection the Inuits have with the natural world, a sort of sacred outlook, and the parallels with Buddhist cultures, particularly the Tibetans. I'd love to learn more about this way of seeing the world, which seems rooted in a deep respect.

A small selection of the treasures at the ROM

Today, I am sitting in my good friend John's comfortable house in Thundridge (near Hertford, UK). I have been getting re-acquainted with English culture over the last week - particularly enjoying the English phenomena of the Indian Restaurant! There are some great little walks around here, one going through the neighbouring village of Cold Christmas. In two days I return to my community in Cambridge.


Monday, November 2, 2009

September and October at Gampo Abbey

Hi you All,

As summer becomes a fast fading memory, things have taken on a quieter aspect at the Abbey. Our program has settled back into it's usual gentle routine with less of the activities seen over the summertime.

The trees and bushes have their Autumnal colours and we saw our first light snow fall on the 15th October – it didn't settle at the Abbey, but the trees on the hills behind us looked like a Christmas postcard. The little mountain road between us and our main shopping town of Cheticamp had 10cm of snow.

The View from my desk of Gampo Lhatse (the hill of the Abbey Protector Deity) & Ani Palmo's Cottage

In September we had our annual visit from Shibata Sensei. The Sensei is a Kyudo (Japanese archery) master in the Zenko lineage and a 20th generation master bowmaker. He is also a third generation “Bowmaker to the Emperor of Japan” (although now retired).

Shibata Sensei was a close personal friend of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and maintains close links with the Shambhala community and retreat centres where Kyudo is taught and practised.

On this visit we were treated to a demonstration of Kyudo by two of Sensei's students and several days of instruction were also given to a class of Abbey participants. The numbers for the class were limited and I did not put myself forward for the program as it seemed only fair to give Shambhala practitioners the opportunity train.

Shibata Sensei is regarded in Japan as a “Living Treasure”. Nice for a country to count individuals along side buildings and works of art. This was the second opportunity I have had to see Shibata Sensei as I had previously been his Abbey attendant in 2007. He certainly demonstrates a strong presence and personal dignity.

More recently we enjoyed an Open Day. This was an opportunity for anyone who is interested in the Abbey to pop in and have look around. We laid on tea and cake and there were a couple of talks. The day was a great success and we had about 135 people drop in to say hello. I might a nice lady and her family from Guelph and it looks like she might come to the retreat that Harshaprabha and I are doing there in November.

Last week we had some tragic news of a young Toronto woman killed on the local Skyline Trail by Coyote. The 19 year old was hiking alone when attacked by two coyote. Some hikers came upon the attack and called the emergency services. One of the coyote was shot at the scene but seems to have wandered off wounded. The young woman died later in hospital.

This has been a real shock to the Abbey and to the local community. It is very rare for coyote to attack humans and this trail is well known to all of us an outstanding place of natural beauty. We are bringing the young woman and her family into our practice and will do a Sukhavati ceremony for her later in the month.

This week we had an ordination of the latest batch of temporary monastics. Ani Migme did the honours with her usual panache, welcoming (from the left) Ananda, Ziji and Chongchup. We celbrate in the traditional manner - chocolate cake!

My time at Gampo Abbey is now coming to a close. I have decided to leave earlier than initially planned. My reason for coming to the Abbey was to experiment with a monastic lifestyle for a second time and I feel I have accomplished what I set out to do. Practicing in a Shambhala environment has been a interesting and broadening experience, but I now feel the need to be back with my own practice community, the FWBO.

I have a 5 day solitary starting today and then one week back in the Abbey community. After that I fly to Newfoundland to meet up with Les and Lewis Cranford (old Abbey pals), to do some sight seeing and a short solitary retreat. From Newfoundland I fly to Toronto to put on a weekend retreat for beginners in Guelph with my pal Harshaprabha. After a couple of days of sight seeing in Toronto I will fly back to the UK at the beginning of December.

Above a rare photograph of Monk Wrestling. Although technically prohibited by the Vinaya (monastic code) it does provide a good form of indoor exercise in the chilly Nova Scotian winter. Monks have to keep fit somehow - meditation just doesn't burn the calories. The Texan Mawler, aka Karma Chogyal (in red and yellow) is a compact but powerful opponent and difficult to lift above knee height - thus making deck slams somewhat difficult.



Tuesday, September 8, 2009

August at Gampo Abbey

Hello me Ducks,

I hope you are all well and happy.

At the beginning of this month we had the arrival of 12 ladies for the latest stage of the 3 year retreat program in the Sopa Choling Retreat Centre (adjacent to Gampo Abbey). One of these was my old mate Christine Behrens so it was lovely to have a chance to catch up with her.

This current session includes study and practice of the 6 Yogas of Naropa, one of which is Tsumo or production of inner heat. Should save a bit on the heating bills this winter.

We prepared the retreat centre for them prior to their arrival and said our goodbyes at the official Gate Closing ceremony.

This included circumambulating the retreat centre with flags and trumpet blowing,

a Lasang (fire puja/offering)

and the gate closing itself with offerings to the protector deities

concluding with posting pictures of the 4 Kings on the retreat centre gates.

The retreatants are now confined to the retreat centre and it's grounds for around 9 months.

Farm Visit

The Abbey has an ongoing relationship with a local man called Brook who runs a small sustainable organic farm. He visits us on occasion and has supplied some fresh vegetables and goat yoghurt to us in the past. The kitchen manager Trime Lhagtong is keen to extend our relationship and on this pretext a car load of us set off with our packed lunches and swimming costumes to pay a visit to Brook and his family.

It was lovely to meet his wife, children, dogs, goats, chickens, cows, pigs and ducks. Here is a man who really loves what he does and he is passionate about sustainability. He says on a good day he can see that he is not just growing vegetables but can see his whole family rising up through the soil. I for one believe him.

It was great to get a tour of the veggie patch, everything mixed in together to confuse the bugs and reduce the impact of disease and good to try the produce straight from the vine. The highlight for me was meeting Brook's rare Scottish breed Bull with his harem of cows.

Brook and his remarkably friendly Bull

I have never been this close to a Bull before and doubt that I ever will again. You could definitely see him sizing us up, but he remained calm and the presence of Brook helped to diffuse any perceived threat (from us!).

It was great to see a free range family of cows just wandering around and enjoying the the shady trees and mud. Very natural.

The day was particularly hot and after visiting the cows we got to play in our own watering hole in the local river. The river was very cooling and we swam by a small rapid which made a great hot tub, with salmon joining in the fun.

Birthday Gal

Ani Palmo celebrated her 76th Birthday this month. We had a wee party in her little cottage with some sweets and a truly excellent Boston Cream Pie (courtesy of Dechen). Ani Palmo treated us to a run through of her life story which is really quite fascinating. Originating in Poland, she was a student of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and one of the early founders of Gampo Abbey.

Ani Palmo and me have a Birthday hug

Brannon hides behind Ani Palmo's Orchid

We said goodbyes to Brannon who returned to the Nyingma Institute in California (hope it's going well!), to Ani Lodro who returned to her home Sangha in Montreal and to Choshin who's taking up a new post in Washington. I will miss you all.

Two Order Members at Gampo Abbey

Bodhidaka paid a flying visit at the end of the month, staying for just three nights. It was lovely to see another Order Member and to catch up a bit on mutual friends.

Bodhidaka was here in time for Ani Lodro and Choshin's leaving party, and along with FWBO mitra Saskia aka Zangmo (pictured above) we offered the chanting of the Dhammapam Gatha, a little gift from the FWBO mini Sangha.

Death of a Han

The Han is a very important part of Abbey Life. It comes from the Zen tradition and is used to signal the start of a monastery activity such as chanting, meditation (or lunch!). There are two distinctive ways to hit the Han, one for shrineroom activities and one for everything else.

Karma Chogyal warms up the shiny new hardwood Han

The practice with the Han is to drop what you are doing straight away, as soon as you hear the distinctive "clack, clack, clack" and move onto the next activity. This helps to overcome attachment to our own way of doing things and is a reminder of the choicelessness of the moment of death. Neither the Han nor the Grim Reaper are prepared to wait while you finish your coffee.

and here's one we prepared earlier

The story of the Han (and nobody knows where this originated - it's not a Zen thing) is that when the Han finally breaks the kindly folks of the Abbey get to enjoy an extra open day (i.e. a free day off). Some folks have been excited about this for a while (I remember people predicting it's imminent demise in 2007). The Han is estimated to be 10 years old. But it finally gave up the ghost this month. We didn't manage to knock a whole all the way through, as once the back cracked it sounded just awful and had to be replaced - but we got our day off anyway!

Love to All,