My Forest Monastery experience.

I am without a laptop presently. However, I decided my old IPhone 6 was done and signed up for a iPhone X. So my blogging will be typed on my phone until I get a new PC in a few weeks.

I stayed with 8 nuns and one monk. I made friends with a layperson who is similar age. He is a fascinating guy. He has been living in Monasteries for 18 years and I have never met a person with such a deep spirituality. The male quarters are separated and talking to nuns on their own is forbidden. The nuns are lovely and the monk is friendly and all of the community friendly and hospitable. We all eat cook and clean together in community areas of the monastery.

There is a lot of formality and rules that took me a while to adjust too. I was to loud and clumsy at times. Silence and mindfulness are a way of life for monastics. They offer lots of grace and encouragement, also gently reminders of the rules and etiquette.

I adjusted reasonably well after first week and was made to feel part of the community. I had no phone, laptop or any type of entertainment. I spent time reading and meditating in my single room. Basically, after lunch till 6pm is free time.

14 days of this was a fascinating experience and I discovered a lot about my self. 150 acres of land and lots of bush was beautiful and awesome to walk around. Plenty of Roos and native wild life. Fabulous location and the property that is going through a million dollar transformation over the next few years. It will be transformed in truly beautiful place.

This monastery is founded on the Theravada tradition and their denouncing of everything is something you need to experience to understand there level of dedication to Dharma (the teaching of the Historical Buddha)

Being born and bread in Australia it was a fantastic learning curve for me in the furtherance of my cultural intelligence tool box. I will continue to visit and stay at times. I have decided to offer my skills when needed in the new construction. The whole experience was life giving and extremely educational in terms of seeing Buddhism in practice not just philosophical sense.

Recovery and rebuilding.

My hospital stay was very close to my coming home from my fourteen day stay in a Buddhist forest monastery. I had a great experience their and it was life giving on many levels.

My crisis was from a family member who deeply hurt me and caused my PTSD to present and become unmanageable. I did the right thing and spent a week in hospital getting proper sleep and eating again. It was a terrible time and very emotionally painful.

I have been coming to terms with my fragility in crisis and now have better coping strategies thankfully. I will write more about my monastery time once I get more focused.

My first hospitalisation.

I am having my first stay in a mental health  facility. I have experienced a crisis and could not manage my Bipolar 1 and levels of anxieties etc alone. Thankfully I am in a private hospital and feel safe a cared for.

It’s has been a terrible time leading up to my hospitalisation in terms of confusion and distress. I  have amazing medical professionals and have settled more. I will blog my whole experience as I feel more capable.

Thank you to all my followers for you support and appreciate your blogs too. Scott …

Buddhist monastery and time to reflect.

Most of you know that I have been an avid student of Buddhist teaching lately. I have been reading from all different traditions.

Theravāda ( linked to the“Hīnayāna”/ “Southern” school)

 Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia

Texts in Pal

East Asian tradition (Mahāyāna) (“Eastern”)

China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam

 Texts in Chines

Tibetan tradition (Vajrayāna) (“Northern”)

Tibet, Mongolia, Nepal

Texts in Tibetan (and Mongolian)

  • 1 The term “Buddhism” refers to a vast and complex religious and philosophical tradition with a history that stretches over some 2,500 years. Geographically it takes in the greater part of Asia.
  • Living Buddhism divides into three broad traditions. All three traditions look back to ancient Buddhism in the land of India. India was the homeland of Buddhism but it died out there over 500 years ago. (DEFINE C.E. and BCE).

 

It is one thing to study traditions academically but totally different to experience them. I have been looking around for some time now. My search has been for a Buddhist community I could meet and get involved in. I have looked at the meditation centres, even interstate ones. I have visited a couple temples here in Victoria and truthfully, nothing has really resonated with me in terms of wanting to participate or get to know them more.

Recently I found a Buddhist forest monastery here in Victoria. Its only one and a half hours from my place. I contacted them and it has the minimum of two-week visits and mostly for monastics i.e monks and nuns. They do allow some lay people like myself and I am fortunate enough to be able to stay for two weeks in August. I am excited about my submersion into there Monastics lives. It was fascinating how I found this place and even more interesting how I got permission and acceptance to stay there.

I contacted them and they have a strict screening process. I sent off all my profession files and i.d, as usual, using a link to my files on Google Drive. They accepted me and I was thrilled until I disclosed I was Vegan and they told me they do not do dietary requirements because they live on donations from the community. It said, “vegetarian” on their website and I thought Vegan would not be much more of a hassle. However, vegan is no animal products at all of course. So, I emailed the accommodation officer and said, “I will have to cancel because I have been vegan for many years now and am not willing to compromise. ”

To my surprise about a week late they got back to me and said, “can I bring my own food that does not need cooking.” I said, “I can have a prepared meal in the disposable 300mil container to reheat. ( This suited them.) I have done this many times when I go away to stay and work. I just cook simple bean, lentils and curry dishes and freeze them. I will use their rice and other Vegan option of course. They only eat breakfast and lunch anyway, Breakfast is oats cereal and toast fruit etc. I was surprised and excited about the compromise. They also supply soy milk. This is my day when I am staying at the monastery below.

04:30am

Wake and rise unless ill. One can always get up earlier.

05.00am

Chanting followed by Group Meditation.

06:30am

Personal time (unless on breakfast preparation).

06.45am

Breakfast and Clean–up.

07.30am

Work meeting and work.

10:15am

Stop work & clean–up.

10.45am

Main meal & clean–up. One monastic will remain to speak to laity after dana unless gender requirements for chaperone are not met (ie. One monk with one laywoman or one nun with one layman).

12:15pm or 12:30pm

Dhamma talk or Q&A with a monastic (monk or nun).

01.00pm

Personal time.

06.00pm

Evening drinks & allowable

07.00pm

Group meditation.

Wednesdays: recorded talk

Saturdays: Sutta discussion

08:30pm

Personal time.

There is no charge to stay and no suggested donation. They rely on donations to keep the doors open and I will work out a figure when I come home. I will have my own room with a bathroom to my surprise. I will blog my whole experience when returned. I will have no technology when I am there, I am leaving it all home. They have strict rules anyway about this and I decided to just go without it. They lead a disciplined life and the rules are specific. I will not get into all this now. However, I will fill you in on the details without disclosing the location or monastery publically.

Mental illness and military life.

Continuing on from Blog 1  Blog 2   Blog 3

My life in The Australian Navy as a submariner ended quickly. I served a little over a year and my boozing and erratic behaviour cause me no end of trouble and  I left confused and lost. I was extremely fit and managed all the courses well, however, my undiagnosed mood disorder ( Bipolar 1 – http://www.bipolaraustralia.org.au/  ) generate insomnia, anxiety, agitation and confusion. I was 20 years old and completely lost in terms of who I was and what I should do with my life. MInd you many people my age now ( 50 years old ) still are the same.

I left the Navy and returned to Melbourne Australia. I knew a girl before enlisted. I decided to catch up with her. I found a job painting and decorating within a week of landing in Melbourne. I decided to move in with the girl and later we had two children. I am not going to elaborate on the failed 20-year marriage. I will say this, “I was not a fantastic husband or father because I was very moody and often agitated.” Anyway, back to the spiritual story, we got involved in Pentecostalism in our late twenties. We had two small children and had lots of fun in these faith communities. However, there came a time when I was feeling it was just not for me and it was lacking depth or something.

I started to work with the poor within para Christian organisations. i.e food banks etc. I enjoyed this volunteering. I had had a couple failed painting business by now and spent and wasted thousands of dollars. I will not discuss the real estate opportunities or investment failing either.  I had several people working for me at the times and I am an excellent tradesperson, however, I was a terrible money manager at the time. I did try to get away from the painting and spent a couple years doing other things but I always returned to painting.

I hit forty and my back had been giving me grief for years; it finally got so bad I could not work on the tools. I was not working for the first time in my life and had time to look at myself. I realised something was wrong with me and I decided to get some professional help. This was a major shock to be told I had Bipolar and for many years even though I was on Lithium ( Common drug to treat mood disorders ) I was not convinced that it was a true diagnosis.

Finally, after the marriage failed and I was living on my own I decided to revisit Bipolar diagnosis after a push from my Doctor who told me I was manic. I had been off medication for at least 6 months and was struggling to say the least. Consequently, I found a private psychiatrist with the help of my local GP ( God bless her and her persistence with me)

This was life-changing in terms of right treatment and medication. I improved out of sight within a year. From forty years old I studied and complete Bachelors in theology plus other tertiary qualification, with Bipolar – go figure.

Finally, I live a healthy life and I have left a trail of carnage behind me at 50.

These days I do not attend or claim to be Christian or belong to any religion. However, I get great pleasure in meditation and doing my Masters in Applies Buddism. This is a succinct and brief glimpse into my life and my spiritual road. I am more than happy to have the private conversation in detail about things and stages. however, because of the people involved alive and dead, I cannot publically say too much.  This is me graduating and my proud mother. ( Poor Mum, I was a had full as a child due to my illness)

Mum

This me today –

What happens after traumatic childhood experiences?

Continuing in from Blog 1    Blog 2

What happens after all my trauma? My father had died in a fatal trench cave-in at work. His mum died mowing the laws. Massive heart attack. I was very close to her and stayed with all the time on weekends after my father’s death. My mother was an emotional wreck and had no idea how to deal with me and had a number of less than ideal boyfriends. She finally settled with an alcoholic who became my stepfather and offered her twenty years of misery and tears.

Well, my first decision was to leave school at fifteen and go to work. My first job was with my uncle stacking pailings all day in a sawmill. I slept on his couch and he was a kind heart fellow but he and his wife lead a crazy party lifestyle. It includes domestic violence and they had five dependant child too. This was a short-lived experience because I said to myself, ” there must be a better way to make money”?

I heard there were a painting and decorating apprenticeship going on the little country town I lived in. So I went to the local pub and asked the potential employer for the job. I was successful and started my new job as a house painter. I thought this job was a walk in the park in comparison to the sawmill experience! Scanned Image 102760008Anyway, I lasted about two years and my life was just a mess still in terms of alcohol abuse overnight stays in jail for drinking underage and confusion about my moods and sometimes hallucinations. I was a very confused and lost young adolescent. The place I lived was beautiful in terms of country life and money was not an issue. Country life in Tasmania is lovely, however, my internal world was a mess and my understanding of life was death and misery.

I was suffering from extreme loss and grief and experienced abuse on so many levels as a young teenager. I will not get into the abuse detail, however verbal and physical was the commonly used and it has left a devastating neurological and physiological puzzle for me at times to piece together. This puzzle about who I thought I was and what I thought life was about lead to some decisions that would stay with me for many years to come.

I left my apprenticeship after two years. I had to get out of Tasmania in my opinion, hypothesising, these people and this place is adding to my confusion and emotional pain.  I phoned my unite in Melbourne, my father sister, she did not hesitate in letting me move into her place with her family. I stayed on a top bunk for fifty dollars a week and found a job painting almost immediately with a cousin who lived in Melbourne for two hundred and fifty dollars a week, I was set. I  rode my uncles push bike to the cousin’s house about twenty minutes away then get on the back of his motorbike to travel to work. This was not an issue because I saw life as a big adventure and this was just fun and an exciting new life and experience.

I was about eighteen at this stage and I was still wondering what hell I should do. This house was full of alcohol abuse and violence too. My grandfather had a room there. This was my fathers-dad who I was glad to see and very fond of. Three children, four counting me and three adults in a four-bedroom home was fun on so many levels most of the time and the same old story in terms of poor adult behaviour. I was started to think I need to get the fuck away from all these crazy relatives, family friends and anyone I know.

So, the Royal Australian Navy is my next chapter.

You will see how this crazy confused kid navigates through life with mental illness.

 

How my spiritual journey started with my father fatal work accident.

This is going to be an ongoing conversation, the first part was here My first Blog on my father’s death

A couple of significant things happen after my father died. Things I would call supernatural. Medical mental health professionals would argue its just normal grief phenomena. Key point my dad’s mother whom I loved dearly died shortly after her son mowing the lawns.

  1. Seen an “Orb”  from what my research seems to call them it was clear sphere shaped on my bedroom door.
  2. Horrible nightmares and feeling of the room expanding or thickening as best explained.
  3. My father and grandmother spoke to me very clearly in a dream. My Grandmother, dads mum is profound in terms of philosophical content.
  4. Experienced what would be called a haunted house experience by some.
  5. Insomnia and fear of the dark became life controlling due to supernatural activity, which as an adult under the care of a psychiatrist; who would categorise it a hallucination.  ” Spiritual hallucination” is the term widely used in her discipline of work and study.

The orb was the most terrifying thing I experienced. I have no idea why it scared me it just moved down my door and did not harm me. I guess the unknown to a 12-13 year boy was terrifying.

What happened? well, I woke up in the middle of the night because I was having trouble sleeping. I was not scared or alarmed at this point just awake. We lived in a little three bedroom house adjacent to the block my father was killed onScreen Shot 2018-06-06 at 1.07.27 pm. We had sold the land to a couple of guys who in hindsight were gay. Being gay in Tasmania in the 70s was illegal and people treated such persons badly generally speaking. These guys were the nicest fellows I new and treated me well and often help calm me down when I was inconsolable and naughty as a child. My mother would just fall into a emotional heap trying to deal with me. Consequently, these guys helped her out regularly and made me feel better too.

The “orb” Believe in them or not? I think it was,  appeared on my bedroom door. It was about the head size and at first glance, I thought it was the moon reflecting through my window. I soon released this was impossible and it was moving down the door towards the floor. My window was a little opening out a type with the old handle that locked into a pin. I use to leave it open for our cat to come in and out. However, this night it was closed and the see-through white blind was pulled down.  My bedroom and the once spare block is on the left in the picture. This house has not changed much since I was 8 years old. I am 50 now and remember the experience like yesterday.

What happen? I screamed and ran at it..Go figure :)). I woke the whole house up as was shaken and in disbelief what I have experienced. My mother said, ” you must have been asleep and had a dream.” I explained I was wide awake and no it was real! Poor mum had enough going on without me seeing a ghost or something in my room. She was only 18 when she had me and my father died when she was 26. The whole experience was very traumatic for her and I was an impossible child at times.

I went on a mission to find out what I saw and what I can do to prevent seeing it again. Asked all my teachers and friend and their parents. Nobody offered any solutions and I felt lost and confused and terrified of the dark. I had to sleep with a lamp and radio on. This all happen on the couch in our lounge room and I refused to sleep in my bedroom. In hindsight, it could have easily happened again in the lounge :))…  I just hated that room and refused to sleep there.

I was not bought up religious and never went to church. I have over the years been involved with churches and had some fun. These days I do not belong to any Christian faith communities. However, a friends mum gave me across, it had magnified glass in the centre where if you held it the light you could read the lords prayer.  For the non-religious here it is Lord’s prayer I could never remember the prayer so I just made it up to sound similar. I would hold this cross in my hand and say ” Please lord help me sleep and forgive me for my sins.”  Beleive it or not at some point I slept better and lost the cross in the river swimming as a teenager. I have never really felt comfortable at night and often certain houses I have slept in give me unusual feeling or a better way to say it I do not like the energy I sense there.

I will continue to tell my story because you will see how it has shaped my spirituality and why I am not a religious person, here is a picture of me in high school as a young kid at about the age of all my insomnia. I just noticed then the cross in this picture is still around my kneck…wow never noticed that before 🙂Scanned Image 102760014

My fathers fatal work accident. ( Graphic picture warning)

My father was killed in a fatal trench cave-in working as a trencher when I was eight. He was laying sewerage pipe in our small country town Evandale. Evandale is in Tasmania, geographically it’s in the north and central on the island. Consequently, it has plenty of frosts in winter and its build basically on the South Esk riverRiver which the longest river in Tasmania. I spent my childhood swimming, camping and kayaking on the Souther Esk. It is my fondest memory as a child and provided so many wonderful adventures. The picture you see below is recent. The local government in recent years decided to clear out all the willow tree. I am no sustainability scientist but apparently, it is more beneficial with fewer trees!? To this day I find peace and happiness near water. I have a deep spiritual connection with water. I was a fisherman back then too and caught many trout, eels and perch in this river. However, playing in the river was the norm and camping on the banks was my outlet away from troubled adults and confusing adolescence

 

 

As a fifty-year-old man, I know this was all impermanent and changed for good reason. For many years I wanted the old days back on the river and wanted to move back to the little town! Truthfully though, deep inside I knew it was not the external world that was going to make me feel better.

” Look into your mind. If you fervently believe that all your enjoyment comes from the material objects and dedicate your entire life to their pursuit, you’re under the control of a serious misconception. This attitude is not simply an intellectual thing. When you first hear this, you might think, “Oh, I don’t have that kind of mind; I don’t have complete faith that external objects will bring me happiness.” But check more deeply in the mirror of your mind. You will find that beyond the intellect, such an attitude is indeed there and that your everyday actions indicate that deep within, you really do believe this misconception. Take a moment now to check within yourself to see whether or not you really are under the influence of such an inferior mind. A mind that has such strong faith in the material world is narrow, limited; it has no space. Its nature is sick, unhealthy, or, in Buddhist terminology, dualistic. ” 

by Ven. Lama Thubten Yeshe

Edited by Nicholas Ribush

 

 

I show you my father in his deceased state in the trench for the benefit of highlighting the reality of workplace safety and understand the journey I have been on and the things I have processed internally over the years. Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 2.47.10 pm The white cloth is covering his head. You can see the depth he was working at and the absolute risk he embarked on getting in the trench. This happened on our own land. How? Well, he purchased a double block in Evandale. It had a weatherboard three bedroom house on it. The idea of owning a double block was to grow vegetables on one half. He had been trenching all over Evandale doing the new sewerage pipes and ironically it caved in on his own land. Go figure!. I am going to write a series of blogs to tell my whole story and add more photos to give clearer pictures of the era and the cultural settings. How did I get this picture? I requested the full coroner’s report a couple years ago and it was posted to me with no complaints at the cost of $20:00. When I first saw this picture I thought the white sheet he was under was a blemish in the old photo. After a couple of days, I decided to zoom in and realised it was my father up to his neck in the dirt.

I am going to elaborate on the impact of this tragedy and the effects on my life. I was born with a mental illness with no understanding of mental health challenges. I will explain how this presents and unfolds amongst tragedy and loss.  I was a very confused child and grew into a confused adult. Its a story worth sharing and I will endeavour to make the time to share my journey through tragedy and poor mental health.  Why? to help others find hope and come to the understanding that it’s not impossible to manage and have a relatively normal life up against unimaginable circumstances and complex medical conditions.

‘Some people might think,“My basic psychology is sound. I don’t have faith in materials; I’m a student of religion.” Simply having learned some religious philosophy or doctrine doesn’t make you a spiritual person. Many university professors can give clear intellectual explanations of Buddhism, Hinduism or Christianity, but that alone doesn’t make them spiritual people. They’re more like tourist guides for the spiritually curious. If you can’t put your words into an experience, your learning helps neither yourself nor others. There’s a big difference between being able to explain religion intellectually and transforming that knowledge into spiritual experience.’

by Ven. Lama Thubten Yeshe

Edited by Nicholas Ribush

Scanned Image 102760005

To be continued ……

 

How do we treat and think about our selves?

I have had extra time lately and have been reading more. I love reading and see it as a privilege to live in such a time with so much available. Some say we are bogged down in data and so many ebooks. However,  I think it’s fascinating that people still come up with new books and research.

I personally think it’s important to keep learning and always stay open to new ideas and listen to other views even if it’s ” Not you’re cup of tea ” really. I am not rationalising or subscribing to a craving for knowledge. I am articulating the importance of never thinking we have learned enough. I am turning 50 in a few days and I have spent my forties studying mostly. This has come at a financial cost and also has limited my earning capacity. Still, I am grateful and appreciative for all my opportunities to improve my education and thankful for the lessons its provided.

I often find things that I think are worth sharing and rarely do. However, this self-care wheel I stumbled on is a great way of keeping yourself in check.Selfcare wheel

I think its beautifully designed and the wheel reminds me of the concept the Buddhist use in terms of the Dharma wheel.

Dharma Wheel

It’s not linear, its a circle and you work on all these aspects at different times. The idea of linear learning when it comes to spirituality or emotional any many another aspect of life is unmanageable. I have often learnt things in my life that seem in reverse. However, when I sit with it and meditate and contemplate on, it was in perfect order. I think our minds like the idea of linear because sits with our logical mind better. Nevertheless, we all know life is not unfailingly logical.

All too often in life, logic fails to help and things happen outside our understanding and control. Grief and loss are a great example of this; it was thought for years that it operated in stages when in reality it oscillates. What I mean is you can feel horrible and happy all in the one day or even ten minutes when you are grieving and nobody knows when it will end. Consequently, this makes you feel on days you are back to where you started when the person or pet passed.

I think self-care is similar, we often feel we have great weeks then we feel like all our hard work has ended up back at the beginning. Especially in term of exercise, and spirituality. One day you think, “I have grown so much in my spiritual life” and the next minute you call inconsiderate drivers F@$#^&* idiots. Likewise, with exercise and diet, we train hard then one week of a cold and bad eating we think we are right back at the beginning.

Of course, it’s not true, you have bad weeks and learning things can be difficult if you start thinking in levels and stages all the time. The secret I have found is to be consistent in just keep the small steps, even when you feel like its all failed. Some tips I have found helpful; if you are trying losing weight have a cheat day once a week. That’s a day when you indulge in some foods you like that are not helpful in losing weight. Likewise in our spiritual practice, sometimes you need to lighten up and not take yourselves so seriously.

If all else fails, go for a walk, sit in the sun for a while. Do what you need to do to get your mind in a better space. Sometimes a cup of tea with a family member or friend helps. Whatever you do, do not give up on your self. Your wellbeing and mental health is your most important asset.

I have written blogs about my mental illness and for those unaware, I have Bipolar type 1. I manage this exceptionally well; due to great support, and excellent mental health professionals. I lead a normal life after years of struggling.Mental health This is due to great self-care and a commitment to small victories and persistence. I have had some dark times in my life, however, those have often lead to epiphanies and breakthroughs. Some learning takes years of setbacks and often it feels like we will never improve or even worse we are doomed to stay in the same confusion forever. We all suffer from poor mental health and some like me mental illness. This does not mean it not manageable and it does not mean we fail. It presents some challenges and often causes us to feel like quitting things. However, always remember you must never give up on yourself. You treat yourself like you treat your loved ones. You deserve your love and care and always give yourself grace. Also please remember to offer yourself understanding and space to grow and understand your self better. We are very complicated and paradoxically simplistic.

 

“Once you realize that the road is the goal and that you are always on the road, not to reach a goal, but to enjoy its beauty and its wisdom, life ceases to be a task and becomes natural and simple, in itself an ecstasy.”

~ Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj ~

 

Is end of life a Bioethical crisis or Spiritual Crisis?

Great article.

HOSPICE CHAPLAINCY

John Hardwig.

When I am dying, I am quite sure that the central issues for me will not be whether I am put on a ventilator, whether CPR is attempted when my heart stops, or whether I receive artificial feeding. Although each of these could be important, each will almost certainly be quite peripheral. Rather, my central concerns will be how to face my death, how to bring my life to a close, and how best to help my family go on without me. A ventilator will not help me do these things-not unless all I need is a little more time to get the job done.

Unfortunately, however, bioethics has succumbed to the agendas of physicians. Physicians face ethical concerns about treatment decisions-when to offer, withhold, and withdraw various treatments-and treatment decisions have been the focus of bioethics as well. But the issues that most trouble patients and their…

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