Monday, October 05, 2009

Other-Centred Therapy Published

Other-Centred Therapy came out this week. Producing three books in one year becomes quite an adventure. The writing is only half the story, and probably the easier half. The real challenge is keeping on top of all the various production and marketing deadlines. Now when I feel myself to be reaching the end, I once again have the task of contacting people about this latest book, trying to get reviews into journals and generally trying to get the word out. If you can help it would be much appreciated!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bean Balls and Cones

Bean Balls and Cones this link takes you to my friend Cathy's site. We saw these decorations when we visited her in the summer, as well as her art work. (look at earlier entries in this blog)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Book Review Therapy Today

Immersive story of childhood guilt (review from Therap y Today, May 2009)
Guilt: an exploration
Caroline Brazier
O Books 2009,
£11.99ISBN 978-1846941603

Reviewed by Sue Rowe
This book feels like a guilty pleasure in its own right! I forgot I was reviewing a professional book and became completely immersed in the characters and story. Reading it was like curling up on the sofa with a good novel.Caroline Brazier explores the huge subject of guilt by telling the story of a group of children growing up inthe 60s, in a London I recognise well from personal experience. Her descriptions of the daily lives, experiences and emotions of the main characters are so vivid I could almost smell and taste the school playground again as I read, and relived, the childhood terror of getting into trouble with teachersand parents.

Mostly, the children’s guilt does not occur as a result of heinous acts. The story is more about the kind of guilt, shame and fearful feelings that arise following relatively minor misdemeanoursthat become blown out of proportion by young minds which can only understand part of a whole picture.Although entitled Guilt: An Exploration, it goes further than that. It looks at all the other emotions that accompany guilt: shame, secrecy, regret, envy, and the painful journey from childhood through adolescence, where sexuality rears its ugly head (and it is ugly to these children when they first discover what adults actually do).

The first two thirds or so of the book are set in the 60s and the last part jumps forward to when the maincharacter is almost 30 years old and returns to her old haunts to look back. In so doing, almost by chance, she discovers the momentous outcome of a decision she made back then. Every so often the narrative is paused for commentary on what is happening in the story and to explore the wider issues. Itkeeps you guessing right until the end.Free from theoretical jargon and academic language, this book is a delight to read, very thought provoking and hard to put down. Ordinary lives, written about in ordinary language, make for an extraordinary book which offers its reader professional or lay, a valuable insight into human nature.

Sue Rowe is a trainer,supervisor and BACP accredited counsellor
review published in Therapy Today: May 2009

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Book Review in Therapy Today

today I received a review in the May edition of Therapy Today, the journal of BACP. The journal is currently off line, but I'll put a link just in case! Pity, as it was a very nice review...

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Book Review WildMind

The following review was published on Wildmind
“Guilt: An Exploration” by Caroline Brazier
review by Vajradevi (April 30, 2009)

A leading Buddhist teacher writes about the knotty problem of guilt, but chooses to do so through a blend of fictional narrative, autobiography, and commentary. Vajradevi reveals all.

Caroline Brazier is a Buddhist practitioner and a psychotherapist of many years standing. She is a course leader of the Amida Psychotherapy training program and lives in a Buddhist community in England. She brings these two aspects of training and experience to bear in her book, Guilt: An Exploration. The Buddhist aspect is implicit in the kindness and perceptiveness Caroline Brazier brings to her subject. You will find this book in the “Psychology” section of your bookstore and it is this perspective that frames the story she tells.

Title: Guilt: An Exploration
Author: Caroline Brazier
Publisher: O-Books
ISBN: 978-1-84694-160-3
Available from:
Unusually, Brazier has decided to approach this nebulous and pervasive topic through a blend of fiction, autobiography, and commentary. She deliberately relegates theoretical ideas to the far margins of her book. There is not a study or survey result to be seen. We don’t get to hear anything of how guilt generally affects human beings or who is most susceptible to its influence. Instead she focuses down on a group of young children and, to a lesser extent, their parents and tells their fictional story letting us witness the complex emotions that form part of growing into adolescence and adulthood.

She places her characters in south London of the 1960’s. Not the England of the Beatles and mini-skirts and beehives but “a time of transition where traditions were still respected and radical new ways of thinking had yet to reach the majority of the general population.” A world characterized by freedom for children to roam away from familiar adults and create a realm of their own.

Brazier brings to rich and colorful life many of the ordinary events that provoke guilty feelings.
Through these characters and particularly “Joanne,” a spirited 10 year old tomboy when we first meet her, Brazier shows the nuances and subtleties of the feeling of guilt. When feelings, thoughts and actions conflict how does a child make sense of them? What affects the decisions we make to act? How do we feel when we want to act in a way we think is wrong and will be disapproved of by those we love or are scared of? How do we grow and explore our world when it means pushing against the boundaries of those who love us, or keeping secrets from them? Brazier explores Joanne and her friends’ responses of guilt in relation to ethics. How does a child work out what is the “right” or “wrong” thing to do? What of the “moral uncertainty” of different value systems a child is exposed to? Or, she asks, does the child have a deeply felt sense of what is the correct way to be?

Some of these questions Brazier leaves open while she answers others by painting a picture of great delicacy. What I appreciated most about her book is that guilt is not made into a heavy, static entity but something that arises in the intersections of emotions and impulses to act, and that guilt can be seen as almost a natural part of maturing.

The book captures the fear, doubt, anger and sheer uncomfortableness of many moments of a child’s everyday life. It is in these moments that guilt seems to lurk as well as in times that thrill and fascinate with new experiences. Through the story Caroline Brazier brings to rich and colorful life many of the ordinary events that provoke such feelings. A boy who loses an expensive new coat is thrown into agonies of confusion and guilt by the unexpected forgiveness from his strict mother. A girl unable to understand her new desire for intimacy is unkind to a school friend. Another child feels “different” and ashamed because of family secrets about her mother’s affair and her own racial background. Parents’ religious values conflict with each other and their child is caught in the middle, guilty at his ability to play one parent against the other. Sexual exploration is one of the main themes in the book evoking a whole cocktail of strong emotions — especially guilt — for the pre-adolescent Joanne to get to grips with.

The book captures the fear, doubt, anger and sheer uncomfortableness of many moments of a child’s everyday life
Often these occasions are a doorway to a new freedom, a new step in understanding and maturity that enrich a child’s life. Caroline Brazier’s story paints a powerful picture of the complexities of growing up. I am of a similar age to the author and brought up in the UK so there were many parallels to our experience as children. She evokes the world of a child in this period very well. I found many of my own memories and feelings re-surfacing, of times spent with my brothers and sisters building dens in the local woods and playing vivid adventure fantasy games alongside a meandering stream, coming home wet, muddy and happy.

The life of a child and teenager in 2009 is radically different to that of a child growing up in the 60’s and 70’s. Multiculturalism has given rise to many different ways of child-rearing within one society. Society itself is a more complex organism and children are at the same time more protected by parents but more exposed to danger especially from other young people. I have a question in my mind as to how well this book would translate to a reader from a different generation or culture. I suspect something would be lost but perhaps the central exploration would remain clear.

At times I would have appreciated a little more theory which would have helped to give the book more of a framework. As it stands, without many “hooks” from which a structure could hang, a cursory reading might lead to underestimating the value of “Joanne’s” story. This would be a shame as many areas such as independence, projections, conscience, choosing and testing loyalties are woven in to the book in a natural and informative way.


Vajradevi has been a member of the Western Buddhist Order since 1995, and meditating since 1985. Recently she spent three months in 2007 in Burma practicing under Sayadaw U Tejaniya whose emphasis is on observing the mind and its objects directly while maintaining a continuity of awareness in daily life. During the last three years she has co-led an annual intensive meditation retreat at Taraloka retreat centre introducing the main areas of the Satipatthana Sutta. She teaches at Dharmapala

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Two interviews are now up on Conscious TV:

Caroline Brazier on GUILT:

David & Caroline on Pureland Buddhism

Monday, March 16, 2009

On-Line Discussion

Just set up an on-line discussion as the first of a series working through issues in the book. This first discussion looks at the sense of conscience and right and wrong as it develops in childhood through illustrations taken from chapter one.

You will need to have a facebook account to participate.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Forthcoming Travels

In the next month or so I'll be travelling quite a bit and giving talks and workshops related to my new book, Guilt. This is the current schedule - I'm always open to extra offers!

Caroline Brazier
Guilt: an exploration
Public Talk
Northampton University
12th March 7.30pm
more details please contact

A Day Retreat
with Caroline Brazier
14 MARCH 2009
10am - 4pm
Venue: Walton on the Naze, Essex, CO14 8PW

Spaces limited so please contact to book.

Do you frequently feel guilty? Do you feel anxious and uncomfortable about things which you have done? Do you feel a gnawing sense of shame without really knowing why? Many of us suffer from feelings of guilt and shame which sap our confidence and reduce our capacity to live happily. In extreme cases, feelings of guilt can hamper a person's life, leaving them restricted and defensive. Other people may be reassuring, encouraging us to discount such feelings and build our self-esteem, but such measures can be counter-productive as they may simply drive the feelings of guilt underground. We start to feel guilty about our guilt, adding new layers of shame as we cannot change the fact that we know we have not always acted for the best reasons.

In Western culture Guilt has become a subject of shame and is seen as something to be got rid of or denied, but the Buddhist paradigm offers a different perspective. Pureland Buddhism has a particular view of the person which is radically acceptant of our ordinary nature. Within this paradigm, knowledge of our complexity and fallibility becomes a source of spiritual process. Recognition that we are acceptable just as we are is both challenging and deeply releasing

This day of practice and discussion will focus on exploration of the topic through personal sharing, meditative reflection and Buddhist practice. In it Caroline Brazier will share some of the ideas from her new book, Guilt. We will look at ways of moving beyond the taboos of guilt feelings into a more productive relationship with our past and present experience

A Day Workshop in London
with Caroline Brazier
Sunday 22nd March 10am – 4pm

What makes you feel guilty? Do you feel anxious and uncomfortable about things which you have done? Do you feel a gnawing sense of shame without really knowing why? Many of us suffer from feelings of guilt and shame. Feeling like this sap our confidence and reduce our capacity to live happily. In extreme cases, they can be a blight on a person's life. People may be reassuring, encouraging us to discount such feelings and build our self-esteem, but this doesn't really work. Often we just end up feeling guilty about our feelings of guilt. We add layers of shame to our guilty feeling because we know we have sometimes got thing wrong or not always acted for the best reasons. This day workshop will give you a chance to explore the topic of guilt. We will use discussion, personal sharing, and meditative exercises to look at different aspects of this complex and troubling topic. and look at ways of moving beyond the taboo of guilt into a more productive relationship with our past and present experience. A light vegetarian lunch will be provided.

Caroline Brazier is the author of Guilt: an exploration published by O-Books February 2009. Her other books are Buddhist Psychology and The Other Buddhism. Caroline is a full time member of the Amida Order and leader of its psychotherapy training programme

The workshop will be followed by a seminar (5 – 7pm) for counsellors and therapists who have attended the day workshop and wish to discuss the application of ideas in their work A light snack will be provided.

Public Talk Friday 20th March:
Caroline will be giving a public talk and book reading at Sukhavati at 7.30 (Suggested donation £5/£3)

Venue: Sukhavati, 21 Sussex Way, London N7 6RT
To book please telephone: 0207 2632183 or email:

Cost of Workshop £15 waged/£10 unwaged; Seminar £10.

Borders Fosse Park, Leicester
Book signing 5.00pm
and Reading 7.00pm followed by coffee with author
March 26th

Monday March 30th 2009
Informal buffet from 6pm
Talk and discussion 7pm
118, Broomspring Lane,
S10 2FD
0114 272 4290

You are warmly invited to
an informal evening with
Prasada Caroline Brazier
who will talk about and read from her new book
Guilt: an exploration

Caroline Brazier is a writer with a life-long interest in psychology, spirituality, creativity and ethics; threads which have woven together in many different ways through a richly varied career. She has spent many years working as a psychotherapist and in a variety of educational and community based work. She now spends her time organising and teaching on the Amida training programme for therapists, travelling, writing and supporting other aspects of the work of the Amida community. Caroline is a founder member of Amida Order and has lived for the past few years in its spiritual community in Leicester. She is married with three adult children. See
Amitayus Wellbeing
presents an
evening with author Caroline Brazier.

Caroline will be reading from her latest
book entitled ‘Guilt’.
Thursday 2nd April 2009
at Amitayus Wellbeing
189 Long Street Atherstone CV9 1AH
7pm -9pm.

Suggested donation of £5.00 towards the work of the Amida Trust.



Monday, March 02, 2009

London workshop

A Day Workshop with Caroline Brazier
Sunday 22nd March 10am – 4pm

What makes you feel guilty? Do you feel anxious and uncomfortable about things which you have done? Do you feel a gnawing sense of shame without really knowing why? Many of us suffer from feelings of guilt and shame. Feeling like this sap our confidence and reduce our capacity to live happily. In extreme cases, they can be a blight on a person's life. People may be reassuring, encouraging us to discount such feelings and build our self-esteem, but this doesn't really work. Often we just end up feeling guilty about our feelings of guilt. We add layers of shame to our guilty feeling because we know we have sometimes got thing wrong or not always acted for the best reasons. This day workshop will give you a chance to explore the topic of guilt. We will use discussion, personal sharing, and meditative exercises to look at different aspects of this complex and troubling topic. and look at ways of moving beyond the taboo of guilt into a more productive relationship with our past and present experience. A light vegetarian lunch will be provided.

Caroline Brazier is the author of Guilt: an exploration published by O-Books February 2009. Her other books are Buddhist Psychology and The Other Buddhism. Caroline is a full time member of the Amida Order and leader of its psychotherapy training programme

The workshop will be followed by a seminar (5 – 7pm) for counsellors and therapists who have attended the day workshop and wish to discuss the application of ideas in their work A light snack will be provided.

Public Talk Friday 20th March:
Caroline will be giving a public talk and book reading at Sukhavati at 7.30 (Suggested donation £5/£3)

Venue: Sukhavati, 21 Sussex Way, London N7 6RT
To book please telephone: 0207 2632183 or email:

Cost of Workshop £15 waged/£10 unwaged; Seminar £10.


You can still view the broadcast of Friday's talk on U-Stream

Today David and I will be giving a book reading at DeMontfort University cultural exchanges.

Friday, February 27, 2009


Caroline is doing a book reading from her new book guilt tonight to be broadcast on at 7.00pm

Thursday, February 26, 2009

On Writing

Well, Guilt is finally to be launched this week end.

Writing a book is a long process, which does not stop when the manuscript is complete. I began to write Guilt in the summer of 2007 at our retreat centre in France.

Starting out on a book is always a little surreal. The first words on the first page seem so small, one hardly believes they will grow into a full book length piece, and yet experience breeds faith. With time and determination, the words grow and pages spread and sometime around 30,000 words one starts to believe this one is really going to happen this time.

The process is absorbing too. Once launched, the content starts to draw one in. In this case, as a storyline emerged within the wider context of the exploration, I began to live and breathe the characters.

The second half of the book was written on one intensive week this time last year. Staying alone in a small cottage in the Peak District, I wrote and wrote from the moment my eyes opened until they closed at night. Each afternoon I took a walk - an hour and ten minutes exactly - up the farm road, down through the woods, along the reservoir and back along the hillside. With me walked Joanne and Wendy and Simon. By the end I could hardly put the story down - at the end of chapter fifteen, late at night I was very tempted just to write on - wanting so much to know what would become of them all.

People ask if the book is a novel or theoretical. The truth is it is both and neither. It is what it says, an exploration. John, my publisher's, first comment was it's well written but it doesn't fit easily into a genre. Well' I don't neatly fit categories, so this is probably par for the course!
The book began with a question which I had been mulling for a while - that and a left over sense of interest in the subject from 'The Other Buddhism', which came out that same summer.
The question really arose out of my therapy work. For years I had been a little troubled by the popular responses to guilt, and particularly to childhood guilt, which I heard bandied around in the therapy profession. A child was not responsible, could not know... was a commonly offered response to childhood experiences. To me it felt simplistic and even partonising. It seemed to underestimate the quality of childhood thought. To diminish children to incapable followers of adult whims. At the same time, I also recognised how often children were at the mercy of forces which they did not understand, could not control, and had no choice in.

Recalling my own childhood, I saw a complex web of half knowing, a time of curiosity and conscience, experimentation and risk taking; of pushing boundaries and of living according to codes of honour and respect which did not necessarily coincide with adult expectations, but nevertheless had their own logic.

From such muddy waters feelings of guilt might rise or indeed be buried. I was fascinated by the things which I remembered friends and aquaintances saying and how these related to the memories which cients struggled over in my therapy room.

Against this background, then, I began to create an illustration. I invented a character - Joanne - and her gang of friends and set them back in my childhood time and place: ninteen sixties London. The people are fictitious, as is the location, but they might well have been the sort of kids I played with then. The story grew in the telling. Had I set out to write a novel, I might have written it differently, but, as it was, it unfolded, event on event until it naturally became to account which is published this week.

So it was that the illustration which I had begun with had taken life and was growing. Originally my plan was for a short example, but immediately I saw that to do justice to the exploration I could not skimp on the detail, sinceto do so simply raised stereotypes and brief scenarios which lacked the context to really illustrate anything. Instead, then, I found the text inter-weaving the fictional account with my reflections on the subject. I found the multi-layered storyline offered a far richer source than the bare statements which a theoretical book might offer.

The other source of the book was, as I suggested, a theme which stood out for me in writing The Other Buddhism. There I saw how Pureland offers a particular perspective on guilt, which is both deeply honest and freeing - a position of radical non-judgementalism and recognition of ordinariness.

Friday, February 20, 2009


AUTHOR OF GUILT: an exploration
This informal evening will include a talk and book reading on the topic of Guilt to coincide with the publication this weekend of the book of the same title. There will be opportunities for questions and discussion of this lively topic.
FRIDAY 27th February 2009 Starting at 7.00pm
12 Coventry RoadNarborough LE19 2GR
Contact Susthama

(this will be broadcast on

Guilt: An exploration

This book is a journey; an exploration into those areas of life which both fascinate and repel us. Through the weaving together of an account of a group of young people, fine grained analysis of the emotional and ethical basis of guilt, and illustration draw from a variety of life circumstances, the reader is drawn into the complexity of a subject which troubles many people in the modern world. At times both humorous and emotive, Guilt reveals the beauty of the everyday and the pathos of the ordinary. A book that crosses boundaries, this is one of the few books on the topic which will have you reading into the small hours of the morning, eager to discover the secret worlds of the characters whose lives illustrate its themes.

This gentle, sensitive and yet ruthlessly honest book combines the gifts of the talented story-teller, the insightful therapist and the wise spiritual traveller. It will make you laugh and weep. Brian Thorne, Emeritus Professor of Counselling, University of East Anglia; Lay Canon, Norwich Cathedral

An amazing dissection and re-weaving of guilt and all its pained relatives. Dr Gay Barfield, educator, author & family psychotherapist, Center For Studies of the Person and Carl Rogers Institute for Peace.

Caroline Brazier has been a psychotherapist for twenty years, and is course leader of the Amida Psychotherapy Training Programme. A resident member of a Buddhist community, she divides her time between travelling, writing and teaching.


This week, my new book, Guilt will be launched at last. It is a long process from the first works hitting the computer screen to the boxes of books arriving on the door step, but the books are finally here!

To follow discussion on the themes in the book, you can join the group on facebook or order your copy from amazon

Saturday, January 31, 2009


Finally got first copies of Guilt yesterday. It looks good. Its a strange process seeing one's book in print - kind of detached yet also so intimate. In all the prcess of writing one comes to love the characters and know them with an intensity like that with which we know our closest friends. Letting them go at the last page, not knowing what will become of them is like a kind of bereavement, yet one without a corpse. Now, here they are again in the strange garb of a bound volume, the firm print of a paperback. Phrases over which I aginised are not set in stone - or at least in paper, unchangeable and defined. The only way forwrd is on to the next. No looking back, this book is launched for better or worse.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Exploring your Eating - a new on-line course

We are launching a month long course looking at attitudes to food, eating and body image. The programme includes exploratory exercises, guided meditations, and theoretical material based in the insights derived from Buddhist psychology. Participants join a supported peer group. Enrolment will be ongoing, with the first participants starting after Christmas.

This month long programme helps you to look at your eating behaviour and your relationship with your body in new ways. Through daily activities and reflections it helps you to understand some of the factors behind compulsive or restricted patterns of eating and to develop strategies to change your behaviour around food. The multi-media course uses meditations, work charts, guided fantasy exercises and practical experiments. It also contains theoretical and inspirational material related to the subject. Participants join an on-line support group and are given access to many resources. They remain registered after completion of the programme thus having access to an ongoing community of peers.

Check out details and register through the web page on:

Monday, November 10, 2008

Guilt: an exploration

My next book, out in February. This cover was not in fact used because the photo was not up to scratch
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Misty morning with dewy grass, November can be delightful
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Autumn in France

Evening light on the oaks in Champ du Ville au Roi shows off their colours
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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

European Buddhist Union Meeting

Attended EBU meeting last week - delightful setting in a Tibetan centre, Kushi Ling, at North end of Lake Garda
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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Return to England

Sailing into the sunset, the late night ferry from Dunkirk brought us home.

Arrived in Narborough around 1.30am
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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Summer Project

Work on the ecurie is pretty much finished. A new window with glass, white wall, and Kaspa's drago to finish things off!
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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Ainay le Vieil

a fairy tale castle with wonderful Russian dance groups
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llama walking in local paper

enlarge the sideways picture to read all about our friend Robert and the llamas in our local paper. Picture shows us en famille, walking the llamas in their field.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Face Painting

Besides making the circular hangings (in background of picture) Kaspa was a dab hand with face paints
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Afternoon at Pirot Lake

After a morning making circular wall hangings with Kaspa we all went to Pirot lake for a picnic. The lake was idyllic, quiet and peaceful. It is deeply burried in Troncais forest, a wonderful space for relaxing and picnicing. Second picture - homeward preparations at the end of a full day.
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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Souvigny Medieval Festival

visited the annual medieval festival at Souvigny. Highlight was an amazing performance by Luc Arbogast do click here to watch a performance of his trecorded last year and posted on u-tube. This one shows how he changes pitch mid-song. It was quite the most powerful music I've heard in a long time

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Listening to the Other

Just when I thought I'd got the Guilt book off my hands, an email arrives third morning with the latest version of Listening to the Other from the copy editor. A joy to edit after the last experence as this time the changes are clearly visible thanks to word's tracking facility being turned on. Fantastic! A deadline of the end of the month should be possible, but Other Centred Therapy hits the back burner again. So much for writing three books in a year!

Friday, August 01, 2008

A little visitor

Alena went to wash her brushes in the sink and found a little visitor. This baby dormouse couldn't believe his luck when we rescued him in an old bran flakes box (which still had a few flakes in it). Afterwards he became my friend for life, finding a way in through the drain hole to visit me in the kitchen! So adorable - I felt very mean shooing him out again. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Continued work

Since our visit to Ygrand last week here we learned about traditional ways of restoring walls of these old buildings using limewash. We have now done about a third of the room in two days. Its hard work and we've been experimenting with different consistencies of lime mix. Sometime thin seems to work best other times its more like painting with plaster. Mostly its a bit like painting clay slip onto pottery. Its grey when painted on, but white once dry - hence mottled effect on walls at present. Meanwhile, David is getting on with the window frame. Quite a challenge as the hole is not square!


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Tile mosaic

My tile mosaic is progressing in shower
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New Window

After dinner we decided the ecurie could do with a bit more light! Having cleared it in order to put limewash on the walls we decided one good mess deserved another! An old brick arch which was once been a doorway has always cried out to be opened up as a window so despite some tepidation David took a chisel and hammer to it.
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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Visit to Ygrande

Visited friends of Lama Wangmo and Cedric at Ygrand. Here are Marie-Nicle and Wangmo with Amelie (Wangmo's daughter) in Marie-Nicole's studio where they were running an art workshop.
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Tour de France

Spent this morning watching Tour de France at Ainay le Chateau. Without knowing who anyone was, the morning was sufficient to get a flavour and enjoy the spectacle of the crowd.
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Monday, July 21, 2008

Ping Pong with Derek

A ping pong party with Derek in the middle of Troncais. We spent a good afternoon visitng our friend Derek Goldby and playing pingpong in his garden. Derek goes back to England this week, so it was nice o see hm. Also discussed ideas for a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in the grounds of a Chateau near Cerilly next summer. David and I to play Oberon and Tatania... it would be wonderful if it comes off!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

llama walking

Walking llamas with Robert yesterday. The white llama with a brown bottom being walked by Robert (in blue shirt) was my charge, Bowie. He didn't like flies and became very frisky every time we went into a lane with trees where flies tend to hide in the shade, dancing round me in circles. Hence Robert kept having to take over. A circling llama is a big animal! They're strong too - as we found out when they stopped in the middle of the main road in Bessais and refused to budge, stopping the traffic.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Trip to Auverne

Had a lovely trip down to Auverne where we had lunch with Cathy Savels and her partner Joe. They have a lovely place with a view of the volcans at the end of a long lane in tranquil country. After lunch we went to look at Cathy's exhibition in Giat. She does very interesting artwork based on natural forms - flowers, fruit, vegetable, wood, using different media. We originally met Cathy through a ning network so it was good to meet in person.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Personal retreats web page

After a bit of a glitch going to collect Madrakara from the station three days early (Bombu nature!) I've been working on web pages and have found a good way to create pictiorial pages faster by making one j-peg on Corel Draw first. In particular I've done one on personal retreats and one on Amida staff and another on the learning community. On which subject, do check out our France site too. --- Colder today, but we are promised better weather tomorrow for Bastille Day. Two visitors did arrive today, one from Israel and one from New Zealand, and our friend Robert came for brunch with Dudley the large dog. He is going to be helping out with celebrations at Etang de Goule tomorrow so we'll be calling down there.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Summer Days

The summer programme carries on. Today we are working on site. After the seminar, David and Anne spend much of the day cutting the path across the champ d'avoine, cutting back bramble and thorn among the young trees. Kaspa and Alena have gone to visit Robert, our neighbour to help with the lamas. I am working through my manuscript for the book on Guilt, a slow job as this is the last chance to find mistakes before publication. Nice to get out and walk across the fields to take "the workers" a drink.

Creativity, Death, Love & Truth

this essay is a response to Dharmavidya (part of the summer teachings at Amida France)
Looking in the mirror of art, we see reflected the world; a world. Do we see the world that is, the world the artist saw, or yet, perhaps, the world which lies beyond the mirage of the seen, a transcendent reality distilled in the created image. Does art bring depth of insight, or decorate the surface of appearance?
Art at its best is multi-layered. The general is manifested in the particular, the global in the detail, the abstract in the concrete. Lightly held, its metaphors are uninterpreted, drawing our mental process into relationship with the universal questions for which there are no answers and not even language. The simple object becomes the container for the divine, the sound of a frame of words encompasses the dance of time.
Both of the artist, and yet unowned, the hand of creativity is guided by unseen forces which we attempt to name at our peril. Personal yet universal, the artefact speaks with as many facets as a diamond, catching light reflected from a myriad directions. Its voice is heard according to our need as much as through the will of the creator. Unpredictable, its power must rest in the perceiver to be appreciated and much as in its author.
An act of faith, the interaction between artist and audience is mediated by grace. In the creation of art there is always an element of the uncontrollable, the other. We invite the muse but cannot force her to appear. Untamed, the flames of creativity are not our own. Mysterious as a misted peak, they hide within the clouds of the invisible, a presence which we may come to trust but not to possess.
Like the prophet and the oracle, the power of creativity is not in the artist’s sway, but from afar. Clinging too tightly to the script, the process dies. The artefact becomes a fossil, cast in stone. The measureless becomes a shrunken shell. Only by opening to the other does the artefact find birth.
In another sense, all that we see and hear and speak and create is in the circle – nothing new. The artist, gathering the colours of life’s fabric, simply redistributes threads already spun. Shapes and hues jostle and re-convene across the canvas. Phrases regroup, metamorphosing into new tunes, which yet are drawn from earlier notes. As the great web of life recycles cell on cell, molecule on wheeling molecule, star dust becomes creatures, plants become soil; the bug becomes the butterfly, the child becomes the crone. In such primeval turmoil is the artefact born, a new assemblage of the old, a juxtaposing of the familiar with a fresh interpretation.
Old elements in a stark configuration, stripped down by honesty and providence to the bones of experience. Nothing new, the image in the camera reflects the scene in raw precision. Nothing new, the novel parades its characters in gritty scenes of love and conflict, grief and confusion which we recognise immediately and personally for their human familiarity. Nothing new, our ears perceive the gentle fragility of a melody that follows the common scale, recoiling with its discords and enjoying its harmony.
So does the artist convey to us the world, sharpened, heightened, accented or perhaps simply conveyed in its unadulterated truth. Presented in shades which are borrowed from the common stock, the revelation is powerful for lacking our contaminating interpretation. Prised from our habitual stance, we are offered loan of the artist’s different view. We are shown a new vision, which, being new, has the capacity to break through our preconceptions.
For mostly we languish in the bubble of our thoughts, our view conditioned by the furrow long since made. We circle samsara, seeking confirmation in our identity and world view. We cling desperately to our constructed reality, though it is but projected perceptions. We hide from discomforting truths in our familiar dream. Only occasionally a point breaks through. Only rarely is our air-tight membrane pierced. Then usually it is the knowledge of impermanence which breaks the seal of our delusion, that cracks open our false assumption of continuation. Death is of this kind.
That which we fend off offers the greatest hope: dukkha, affliction, in its many forms. Death and its many imitations force our hand, shaking our grandiose defences, and showing us that we are not self-sufficient. Each rend an opening, these moments proffer opportunity. Engage or retreat, we may choose to grasp life or deny it, to live or kill, to love or to reject. Only such unadulterated otherness, beyond our capacity to manipulate or control, reveals the truth.
But only when the seal is broken can we love. Only the force of otherness, whether the inevitability of death or the stirring magnificence of a symphony, the poignancy of a personal story or the stark representation of a squalid truth, can wake us from our self-obsessive loop. In this the role of death or art or love becomes the same, the power of intervention which is strong enough to bring awakening. We see, we meet, we are changed.
And in the art transaction, artist, world and audience crystallise positions around the artefact. Each is a stranger to the other, engaging in silent dialogue. Each plays its part in an ever changing drama of perception. This drama is on the one hand conditioned by all three elements, and on the other unbounded, arbitrary and expansive, a dance in which participants draw closer, finding new interpretations of one another. Participating, do we learn to love?How much derives from straight reflection, channelled directly? What is expression of the artist’s soul, the deeper, darker reaches of human mind? How much interpretation? All play their part, and all are present in varying degrees. Sometime the channel, other times the origin, the artist is gatekeeper to experience.
And so, the artist offers succour to our curiosity. Sometimes baring his own process to the world, other times a neutral commentator, orchestrating communication between ourselves and the world. Importantly, art is communication, a dialogue in which we are invited to participate with the artist in a shared regard.
Our place already marked by open space, a platform created for the viewer of the image, hearer of the words, prescribed in its direction of view if not its interpretation. The artist may be communicant, but more often the interpreter, the medium, the embroiderer or the lens. Thus we have choice and yet do not have choice, are free and yet directed.
In entering the dance perhaps we learn to love the artist and to love his objects of love, to appreciate the beauty in the ugly and the fascination in the plain. Certainly we learn to engage, to meet the others in the dance, to know the artist and to know his world. Can one have such engagement without love?Art, that is art, lives in its technicolour capacity to break us out of our complacency. It shouts to us across the divide of our pre-conceptions and tears down the barriers of our mental filters. It transcends our habitual interpretations.Good art, like death, shocks us. It breaks us out of dormancy by its uncompromising otherness.
Poor art mimics our nature, creating bland wallpaper for our lives; the pastel image that matches the colour co-ordinated room, the muzac which lulls us into extravagant indulgence in the supermarket: these are designed to soothe the cravings of self and support our slumbering nature. They throw a blanket across our mental activity, and cocoon us in familiarity. They do not disrupt.
The artist, trickster, calls to question our life scripts and our expectations; blasts through the niceties of social convention with a fresh wind of perception. The alchemist of the modern age, the soothsayer, the seer, bringing to us the messages of the gods, the artist straddles worlds and offers through the gift of second sight, perspectives beyond convention. He cracks the social mirror.Good art, like death, intrudes. It upsets our illusions of permanence and predictability. It shows us we are not in charge and that experience is not amenable to our dictation. Whether through beauty or through horrific imagery, its raw reality throws out a lifeline across the straights of Mara. It melts our defensive assumptions with emotion and invites us to relate. Is this love?
Art draws us into encounter. Such meeting is crucible of spiritual discovery. Only in truly meeting can we discover love. In truly meeting can we avoid its pull? To know another is to deeply understand; to understand without the hesitancy of self-interest is to embrace. From such encounter wisdom and compassion rise, shaping the flow of response but not confining it and by this means the meeting may be consummated.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Sunshine and Showers

Days continue to unfold under an ever changing sky. This morning bright, then as we eat breakfast out of doors, black clouds rolling in. Soon rain is falling, substantial drops, each wetting us as we stand, taking photos in front of the house. This is departure time. We have had two Dutch families visiting, Ardi who came last year and some friends of hers. They camped in our newly cut field. It was fun having four youngsters running about the place, playing ball or badminton.

Last night we sat around the camp fire in the woods - a new clearing David had made by felling a large erable (field maple) which was competing with a walnut. We toasted marshmallows and sang old songs to Kaspa's Ukelele. Walking back, a crescent moon ascending over the yard heralded a new cycle of teaching starting this week.

This morning the Dutch families depart and we will once more be a small community. The flow of people come and go, the energy changes like dappling shadows on the surface of water. The place, its continuing spiritual ground unchanging as the bed of a river across which the stream of life flows.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Arrived in France

Now back in Amida France. It never ceases to amaze me how this place affects me. The pace of life, the quality of impressions - the wonderful constant presence of the natural world draw me immediately into relationship with dimensions of life which are usually buried beneath the details of everyday tasks. Last night we sat in the woods around a small fire, clearing the remains of the thorn bushes and bramble which had been cleared from the paths across the champs d'avoine. Earlier we had swum in the lake under blue skies. This morning our meditation was accompanied by the soft patter of rain on the roof of our open meditation space as through the open doorway we glimpsed the green folliage of the garden and beyond soaking up the welcome water. Birds sang from the roof tiles, insistently caling to one another despite the damp. And on the pond outside the water lilly has put up more flowers than ever before.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


I've been working on our France Information site. Do check it out. Just sent this message out to various contacts

Amida France is now open for the summer. Susthama, Alena and Walter drove out to central France on Wednesday and found the house in good shape after the winter, the garden full of flowers, and weather clement. They are working on the gardens and getting things ship-shape for the summer.

Meanwhile I've been getting the France information on the web ship-shape too. You will find all the latest information about this year's teachings, and general booking and travel info, as well as lots of photos. You can see the fruits of my labours on Do check it out!

Do get in touch if you need more information on this or anything else