Tuesday, 12 June 2018

On retreat

Shrine with Buddha, flowers and candles
Adhisthana, June 2018
I had to spend more than a week without WiFi in the end. It's back now, but I have yet to knuckle down and replace the washing machine, which is officially dead.

During this period offline I finally reached a point where I had to take notice of what the bathroom scales were telling me. It's been quite easy to see the numbers creeping upward and do nothing about it, although it's been seven years since my main weight loss event took place so less than a kilogram gained each year isn't too bad. But on Tuesday I couldn't ignore it any longer, and I have embarked on a serious weight loss plan. I have written it all down, and unlike all my recent half-hearted attempts I'm telling everyone. My Tuesday BMI was 25.6 kg/m², and I'm aiming for a BMI of 23.5 kg/m² which requires 5 kg reduction. After one week I had reached 24.9 kg/m² which is excellent, but I don't imagine every week will produce this sort of improvement.

There's been quite a lot of Buddhism recently, which has also helped my resolution in the dietary department with its vegan approach and emphasis on managing the mind. Because it's all about the mind. After just a week on the new diet regime I had stopped craving something sweet after supper, and if the craving is gone it's much easier to stick to the plan.

I went to the Birmingham Buddhist Centre for Buddha day and did some meditating and chatting with interesting people, including a few who I'm starting to get to know. I avoided the formal ceremonial stuff which I don't enjoy but happens at the end so it's easy to leave early. Then the following weekend I went on my first weekend residential Buddhist retreat, at a centre in the Herefordshire countryside. It's where the founder of the particular Buddhist movement that I've become involved with still lives at the age of over ninety, but also contains a number of residential houses for longer stays as well as the rooms let out for weekends. It's a beautiful setting, which is handy because I'd just run out of pictures for this blog.

Meals were vegan, the timetable included meditation, discussion and free time, some of it in silence which suits me very well. People on my more commercial holidays accuse me of being 'anti-social' if I don't want to join in their alcohol-fuelled evening activities, but here you are expected to spend time with your own thoughts. Many of us went for a lovely walk in the glorious weather on Saturday afternoon and I got the chance to chat to the leader of our Tuesday group. There isn't much time for chat on a Tuesday.

Morning meditation was a revelation - 50 minutes starting at 7 a.m., followed by a 10 minute break and then another 30 minutes. I thought I'd have a go at the long one, thinking I could always duck out and skip the following session. Being away from everything with no pressure and nothing to do made it so much easier than trying to silence all the chatter in my mind at home. I sat for the whole 90 minutes both mornings without difficulty.

The theme for study was a tale about a rich man and his wayward son, who represented 'the enlightened mind' and our ordinary minds. We didn't spend overmuch time in study, but I couldn't avoid the formal ceremonial stuff this time. Sitting through it again hasn't changed my mind about it. Altogether the retreat wasn't the transformational experience that others have reported, but I'm planning to do it again. At some point I'll have a go at a week rather than a weekend.

Back home, there's bad news about neighbourly relations with the Pub Next Door. For the first time in the 16 years I have lived here I've had to consult the terms of the pub license. The only thing I've objected to in all that time has been music in the beer garden, and up until Friday there has never been a problem. But they put on a live band, and although the music was good and it only lasted two hours there wasn't a room in my house where it couldn't be heard very clearly. I spoke to the landlord who told me that he was planning to do this every Friday night through the summer. So I have asked our local councillor to clarify some of the terms of the licence, spoken to a couple of the other neighbours, and will decide what to do when the position is clearer.

Some good news though - the new lawnmower blade arrived, I fitted it without a problem and it works a whole lot better than the previous blunt stick of metal.

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