Monday, 26 September 2016

Peace, Light and Tea

On the last Sunday of every September an auspicious event is held: 
the annual festival of peace and light at the Nan Hua Buddhist Temple in Bronkhorstspruit.
After missing the 2015 ceremony because of overseas travel, 
we left early to travel the 100+ kilometers to the imposing temple in  Bronkhorstspruit

We lit candles for peace and light while chanting Om Mani Padme Hum

We were served tea by graceful tea practitioners, who ceremonially brewed and served each table 3 cups of tea as we listened to recorded music by YoYo Ma, Nigel Kennedy and Stepan Grytsay, as well as live chanting by the Venerable Yung Shun, with her beautiful voice.

The tea tables were decorated with beautiful table clothes ...

... as well as exquisite ikebana flower arrangements ...

... which we admired as the Abbot Master Hsing Yun, with the aid of the friendly and helpful Master of Ceremonies/Translator,  explained the concept behind the tea meditation. 
"One bud, two leaves" - the sweetest youngest tea leaves harvested for tea, but the tea also contains older leaves. Like life, the Chinese tea can taste bitter at times, but then the sweeteness comes through. 

 We made new friends - here we are with Phil from Pretoria, 
in his traditional dress honouring the source of light and life, the Mother Sun ... 

... and here are Preloshnie, Shereena and Nabawiya from Sasolburg.

Afterwards, we headed home to Johannesburg with our tummies filled with tea 
and our hearts filled with peace and light. 

We're already looking forward to next year's ceremony, but I'll leave you with the Merit Sharing prayer which concluded the 2016 Nan Hua Temple's Festival of Light and Peace ...

May palms in every world be joined in kindness, compassion,  joy and generosity
May all beings find security in friendship, peace and loving care
May calm and mindful practice give rise to deep patience and equanimity
May we each give rise to spacious hearts and humble thoughts of gratitude.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Enter Goodreads Giveaway for a chance to win a copy "Beauty & Truth"

Celebrate the 2016 McGregor Poetry Festival (26-28 August 2016) 
by entering this giveaway of the 2015 McGregor Anthology "Beauty and Truth," 
containing an inspiring range of South African voices, emotions and reflections  

GIVEAWAY ENDS ON Sept 04, 2016
Two copies available to win

Sunday, 31 July 2016

For the Love of Poetry

South African poet Judy Croome was judge of the 2016 Writers 2000 Poetry Competition. 

Read the "BEDFORDVIEW & EDENVALE NEWS" article here.

Listen to Judy Croome present feedback to competitors and announces the winner: 

All the photos of the festive function at Inyoni Creek Club House 
Here are a few photo highlights:
Andrea Girling wins a volume of my poetry "a Lamp at Midday"
Giving the poetry entrants feedback and announcing the winners
Chairperson Nicki Bosman, Vice Chair Mike Corders and
Burgie Ireland of Writers2000
The Carnival themed Awards lunch had some imaginative and fun masks!
(I'm not wearing a mask!)
David and Gail Robbins from Porcupine Press.
David judged the non-fiction category.
Anthony Ehlers judged the fiction category
Poetry prizewinners from Left to Right: Jill Jacques (2nd placed poem "Sheddings"), myself,
Meggan Preuss (1st placed poem "You and I" and Duncan Steptoe (3rd placed poem "Emergence")
Being a judge has its rewards - not only reading great poetry ,
but also walking off with some lovely gifts!

Thank you to Writers 2000 for a fun filled afternoon!  

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The Land of Normality

After the choppy seas of the past seven months, we’re finally returning to normal.  However, after the challenging times behind us, what is normality?

The waters are calm and peaceful again: my husband is back at work; I’ve submitted a new short story to a US publisher, another is about to go off to a South African publisher; and we’ve returned from a short, soul-restoring holiday to Kaapschehoop.

What a relief to realise that after traumatic events – be it the loss of a loved one or a life threatening illness — life goes on and normality eventually returns.

Or does it?

While on the surface life seems to return to the same rhythms as before the crisis,  there are small beacons flashing reminders that irrevocable changes have occurred: the frozen Facebook profile of a deceased friend; the multitude of scars criss-crossing my husband’s body; and the red-ringed date on my calendar marking the first of his many future check-ups.
Can life ever return to normal after rough seas have battered our shores?

Image purchased from 

©"Waves" by airn
It’s less than a year since our lives changed. We’re still picking through the flotsam, discarding psychological and physical debris, re-designing our world, for life can’t ever return to what it was.

Post-trauma, when the rough seas abate and we dock on rocky shores, we look around and discover a new world. Small yellow dandelions creep through the cracks in the rock; the sun is partially obscured by clouds ... but dandelions aren’t always weeds and clouds also bring purifying rain.

Filled with gratitude, we anchor ourselves and accept that life, no matter how changed, can still thrive and grow in this land of our new normality.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

The Art of the Here and Now

I used to be a planner.

My days and months were planned years ahead. I had lists of the lists of the things I needed to do.

Yet, with my attention focused on making all those lists and plans, I didn’t realise that life itself was passing me by. Insidiously, plans and lists dominated my life.  So stealthily I didn't notice it happening, my days lost their balance in the clamouring demands of everything that needed to get done. 

Since my husband’s diagnosis, treatment, surgery and now (thanks be to God) his slow recovery, I’ve learnt that one is most alive when plans must be changed in an instant and there’s no time to make lists. 

Life these past seven months has consisted of focusing only on this moment, this day. No time to worry about yesterday’s mistakes. No time to stress about planning for tomorrow’s tasks. No time to think, just to be in the moment and deal with whatever happens. 

Living in the present moment
allows us to be open to whatever experience comes our way

Image purchased from 
©"Life Crossword Puzzle" by kaan tanman
Life can’t be planned. Life can’t be controlled. Life can only be lived in the here-and-now. 

Sometimes it takes a terrifying crisis to make us understand on a deep spiritual level that this moment of existence is all we really have. In spontaneaously living through the crisis, we learn how to differentiate between what's essential to our happiness, and what is ultimately superfluous. 

And how enlightening that discovery has been.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The Art of Imperfection

When we reach a certain age – that awful age when we realise more time lies behind us than could ever lie before us – a change comes over us.

Somehow, our mortality and our regrets, the huge gap between what we had hoped and what is our reality, become more defined.

At that moment, in one final desperate leap to stave off our finite humanity, the temptation is to either compel ourselves to close this gap by any means possible or to let ourselves slide into a spiral of negativity, dwelling on our perceived failures and losses.

Is this the point in our lives when we should stop dreaming and simply accept that this is as good as it’s going to get?

Not quite.

Of course, there are certain realities in life that maturity forces us to accept – ill health, financial problems, responsibilities that youth neither knows nor cares about. These limits could cause resentment and anger to eat away at our peace of mind.

If we are to find happiness in our old age, if we are to avoid the curse of becoming grumpy old men and women, we need to face the shadows looming out of our fears. We need to embrace our limitations, as well as our secret, festering wounds and those irritating imperfections with the same fervour we embraced our wild and youthful dreams.

Once we accept that as much as our humanity includes the inevitability of lost dreams and lost loves, it also excludes the possibility of perfection,  we can open our hearts to a different dream: one that finds contentment in the mellow moods of middle-age. We can slow down and listen to the silence between each breath rather than run ever faster in a futile attempt to overcome the inevitable imperfections in our lives.

When we no longer deny our human-ness, when we accept that we were born imperfect beings in an imperfect world, it is then that we begin to evolve beyond the tyranny of perfection.

We can then treat ourselves, and others too, with a little more kindness, a little more tolerance. And then we can begin to aspire to new dreams anchored in the reality of our ordinary lives, but with the potential to carry us through to the end of this, our life’s journey.

The art of imperfection teaches us how to accept the gap
between what we want to be and what we are.

Image purchased from ©"Glass Trap" by bowie15

Monday, 21 March 2016

The Art of Stillness

Have you ever sat in a hospital ACU isolation unit, your loved one too sick, too restless, for you to read or work or do anything except hold his hand and pray?

In those anxious moments, the aggressive, active mind spreads turmoil and fear. The “what ifs?”, the guilt, the worry, all jostle and shove their way into your mind until you struggle to breathe under the weight of waiting for the first sign that your prayers have been answered and your loved one is safe.

At first, when I sat watching the restless sleep of my beloved husband, his face grey against the hospital linen, with its gay white swirls adorning the light blue pillow cases, this inaction, this helpless inability to do anything other than wait, was purgatory.

Later, this testing time became a great teacher, for I am learning the art of being still.

There's the physical skill of sitting still; of learning to control my natural inclination towards  movement and busyness. Wriggling in the chair, scratching itches and rustling through my bag - all futile efforts to pass the time, so that the clock conveniently placed on the ACU ward wall would magically speed up from ten o’clock to five past ten to twenty past ten ...

Some people may see the art of being still as being passive, but stillness is an active art, a conscious act of choice with a definite goal: mastering the body to keep one’s natural movements to a minimum, allowing my beloved to sleep and heal in a peaceful, calm atmosphere.

Once that essential skill is learned another, more difficult, skill is required to master the art of stillness ... Keeping the mind still, a seemingly impossible task with nothing to do all day except think and think.

But, slowly, as the minutes blur into hours, and the hours into days, I'm learning that there are as many rewards in stillness as there are in furious goal orientated activity.

For there, in the muted lights of that lonely isolation ward, I hear a voice speaking in that stillness. Whatever name you give it - call it the voice of God, the spirits of angels and ancestors, or simple craziness - it carries with it the message of hope that all will be well; an acceptance that whatever happens is part of that mysterious path chosen by my Divine Soul before I was even born; that what is, is what is meant to be and I will cope with whatever the day brings.

When those voices whisper their mysteries to me, I suddenly find the art of stillness has become an open doorway to a world where miracles and healing replace worry and fear ... and I can move again, rising from my chair as my beloved's voice calls to me, wanting to know that I am near and telling me that he is, at last, awake.
The art of being still becomes a doorway to another world.

Image purchased from ©"step into the great beyond" by Yuri_Arcurs