Friday, October 30, 2009

Jampa Ling

Front Door of the
Jampa Ling Buddhist Retreat Centre
Owendoon House, Bawnboy,
Co. Caven, Republic of Ireland

I love red doors - I have one on my home, as does St. Paul's, and so I had to take a picture of this one at the Tibetan Buddhist Centre which was established under the guidance and spiritual direction of Panchen Otrul Rinpoche in 1990.  We traveled across five Irish counties to visit Sally's most sacred space, and it was an experience filled with beauty and delight.

Jampa Ling is Tibetan for "place of infinite loving kindness".  We toured the centre and shared  lunch with the Rinpoche and the residents. (I also took pictures of the interior  but this one is my favorite.)  

"The Panchen Lama says there is a story spoken about during the lifetime of the Buddha. There was a very rich man in India, very wealthy, but he wasn't even able to give anybody any food. When people came to him and asked for a cup of water, he wouldn't even be able to give that away, and so he asked the Buddha, 'What can I do? This is very difficult for me. I just can't give anything to anybody.' The Buddha said 'It doesn't matter. What you do, you start off with your right hand, you take some water in your right hand and give it to your left hand."  quote from here

Thursday, October 29, 2009

ODDS and ends...

Here are a few pics of items that I found unique in Ireland....First up is cough medicine - whereas we in the states  have cough suppressants, decongestants and  oral expectorants,  in Northern Ireland in the German discount market of Lidl, here were the choices....they just seem so comforting, don't they?  So, do you have a chesty cough or a tickly cough?

And I thought these were candies at first glance -
good thing I read the label!

Another item of interest (at least for me) was this toilet
that came with a comfy back cushion...
I thought it was quite thoughtful of the small cafe owner
to provide such comfort for patrons.....:)

And let's here it for the best that American culture has brought to the rest of the world - The Simpsons -
I snapped this photo of an ice cream truck while we were waiting
for the light to change. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sally Taylor

Five years ago I attended my first SDI conference in Costa Mesa California. It was there that I met Sally Taylor. It was between sessions and I was wandering through the vendors’ tables when I stopped to look at beautiful handmade labyrinths made by Mongolian women.

There was also a brochure on the table, describing Sally’s hermitage in Saintfield, Northern Ireland. What? I was so surprised by this point of connection! Sally and I conversed for no more than 20 minutes about my having relatives in that same village and about my ambivalence towards the country in general due to my experiences there as a teen. It was a memorable conversation and I purchased one of the labyrinths which still sits on my entry table.

Flash forward to this year when the announcement came that the SDI conference was being held in Dublin, Ireland. I didn’t think too much about it at first but it just kept entering my mind. Could I go? Was it even feasible?

Well it turns out that it was! A Celtic Pilgrimage was advertised for after the conference but I knew I needed to make a different pilgrimage - one in which to find peace from previous visits to Ireland. I googled "Sally Taylor" and found her hermitage online - I emailed her and asked if she remembered me - she replied that she did remember our short conversation and that I was the woman who left a piece of her heart in Ireland oh so many years ago. She invited me to stay with her.

Well that did it! I can’t describe the joy of having Sally as my travel guide, spiritual director, and friend on this trip. So I will start with sharing Sally’s gardens. with 20 acres of land Sally has created some of the most beautiful gardens I've ever seen...enjoy!

"Beauty takes us beyond the visible to the height of consciousness, past the ordinary to the mystical, away from the expedient to the endlessly true." Joan Chittister, OSB
p.s. click on the pictures to see the full beauty of these gardens.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Saintfield Church of Ireland

"I awake this morning in the presence of the holy angels of God. May heaven open wide before me, above me, and
around me, that I may see the Christ of my love and his sunlit company in all the things of earth this day."

From Celtic Prayers of Iona
by J. Phillip Newell

This is probably one of the better photos I took (this is not an area I have any giftedness in)...This is The Church of Ireland in Saintfield, a village in the County of Down, near Belfast, where I stayed. The photo suits this prayer that is from a bookmark from the Spiritual Directors Conference I attended in Dublin.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

First Impressions

For years I have wondered about my parents' view of Ireland - it was the 1940's and early 50's Ireland - the "top of the mornin' to ya" Ireland. They encapsulated their homeland in the time frame that they wanted to remember it by. But do you know what I discovered? That I have been carrying around my own frozen-in-time 1970's view of Ireland since I was sent there in that particular decade - The place where the air was permeated with the smell of peat fires, and the taste of too sweet Coke and and the neverending military checkpoints. Boy, was I in for a few bubbles being burst on this trip!

Upon arrival in London I breezed through their immigration checkpoint - after all I am a British citizen and they asked no questions. I assumed the Irish checkpoint would be just as casual. Wrong! I may have been expecting an extra warm welcome to the land of leprechauns but instead I was interrogated about exactly how long I would be staying and exactly what I was planning to do while there. When asked if I had traveled to Ireland before I mentioned that I was born in Belfast. The officer looked me in the eye and stated, "Well ma'am....this is NOT Great Britain." Alrighty then....that was burst bubble #1.

I hailed a cab and sat in rush hour traffic for an hour, all the while watching the euro meter buzzing right along. When I walked through the door of my room, I threw open the curtains for an eyeful of Ireland but what did I see? Cows grazing on a hillside? No, I saw a TJ Maxx, a McDonald's, a Starbuck's and a Penneys....what? That turned out to be burst bubble #2...

Where had I landed? Not in my 1970's Ireland! Over 15 years ago, globalization had found its way into this once agricultural country which brought rampant growth and wealth to a place that had been best friends with poverty for centuries. The sight of those Western corporations caused a deepening crack in my emerald colored glasses!

Later, when I entered the restaurant I discovered that all the servers were Bulgarian Romanian, and Polish, as were all the hotel staff. I had trouble understanding them as their English was not the greatest (of course I don't speak a word of their language so who am I to talk?) Where were all the Mollys and Patricks and Liams? This was the final burst to my 1970's Irish bubble .

The new face of Ireland is one of immigration that arrived as the Celtic Tiger grew. But with worldwide recession and job losses this immigration is now being curtailed - hence the intense questioning received from the Irish Customs agent.

I now had a choice to make - I could cling to my old concept of Ireland, and spend the rest of my time whining about what was no longer reality (i.e. an Ireland of only Irish people) or I could accept the changes and move forward, with the realization that it was never "my" Ireland to begin with!

I chose the latter. We are all connected, are we not? and everyday our world becomes a bit smaller. People move around this globe...a lot! Borders are becoming blurred as they should be. In these difficult times of political and economic uncertainty, it is wise to remember that my story is not the only one or the most important one or the chosen one. I'm called to practice acceptance and compassion of all who carry their own stories. It is in hearing those stories that community is formed. May I remember this point.

There is an old Irish proverb that says "It is in the shelter of the other that the people live." I learned the importance of this all encompassing shelter of the "other" on this first leg of my trip.

photo is on how to register a birth in ireland.

Jet lag Jig

Pardon my silence but I've been doing the Jet Lag Jig...I am home, safe and sound, delighted to feel the comfort of my own bed and internally sorting through my trip experiences.

In the meantime here is a quote told by Megan McKenna from the the conference that I attended in Dublin that has stuck with me since I heard it:

"What we do not transform, we transmit"

Chew on that one for awhile!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Last Night in Ireland

The wee wise men are knackered.  Way too much activity for them so they are down for the night - our plane leaves for San Francisco in the morning.  After a 3 hour layover we fly back to Seattle.  Another 3 hour drive and we'll be HOME..... 

It's been a packed 10 days -  i'll be telling you all about it but I need to get my rest for tomorrow's airport experience.  Let's hope it's better than the one we had coming over :)  

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Good Directions

Greetings from Saintfield, Northern Ireland! I'm here with Sally and Terry. Which brings to mind the beginning of that worn out  joke - "So a Buddhist, a Catholic Priest, and an Episcopalian walk into a bar". ( I know that was lame but I just had to say it!)
Yesterday was the end of the Spiritual Direction conference in Dublin. I'll talk about that when I return home but for now I want to tell stories.  Something I learned at the conference was this line:  "all stories are true and some of them have actually happened." 

Traveling alone gives a person constant opportunties to take relational risks.   You have the choice to engage with other human beings or not. Sometimes i have to force myself to approach a stranger as it's easier to step into an unknown situation and stick my nose in a book (plus our technology gives us ample opportunites to keep arms distance apart from one another).

When I walked into the restaurant yesterday morning there was only one woman sitting there.   I walked over to her table and introduced myself. She invited me to share our meal together and that is how I met Sister Pat, an Anglican nun, who lives in Arizona. During the course of our conversation she invited me to grab a taxi with her to attend the 8:30 Eucharist at a nearby Church of Ireland. Great idea! So we called for a cab and as we slid into the back seat, Sister Patricia handed our young driver the directions the woman at the Reception desk had written out for her. He read it several times before asking if we had any other information. We did not.  He said he'd never heard of the church but off we went. 

Within 5 minutes we were in a neighborhood that our driver seemed to be familiar with.  Right before depositing us inside the church gate he grabbed a pen and wrote something on the top of the directions. Handing it back he said, " When the next driver comes to pick you up to take you back to the hotel,  tell him that this place is right across from Moria's pub. That should make it a lot easier to find!!!" :)

(the photo is of Sister Pat in front of St. Bridget's in Dublin.) 

Saturday, October 17, 2009


The Wise Men protecting the Holy Grail @ the Sanctuary Bar.

Settling In

I'm more settled in now - it took me 20 minutes to figure out that you have to use your key card to turn the electricity on in your room. Hairdryers are kept in the vanity/desk drawers and there are 2 flushers on the toilet!  My room has a flat panel TV and messages appear there instead of on your phone.  Very la-de-da!  
I've been to several sessions and met some fascinating people. As you can see,  the wise men were fascinated with their very own "wee pot of jam" at breakfast. I asked the woman with whom I was sharing a table if she found the wise men strange and she responded with "I dress up for Star Trek conventions so I find very little to be strange."  Enough said!

Thursday, October 15, 2009


As I was sitting in the SFO terminal waiting for the call to board I noticed some movement in my bag.  What could it be?  I opened the zipper and this is what i saw - The Wise Men - I was stunned.  As you may recall they have been residing in my guest bathroom on the window shelf.  
The following is our conversation:
Me:  How did you get here?  What are you doing?
Them:  Well, you see, we saw you packing and heard you say you were going to Ireland and we realized that this was our chance to see the land of our birth.
Me:  But you are from the Far East!
Them:  That's not what it says on our bottoms - it says "Made in Ireland"...
Me:  Good Grief.  Why didn't you make yourselves known yesterday?
Them:  You seemed rather upset with missing your flight to Dublin and we didn't want to incur your wrath.
Me:  Fair enough.  Well I'm kind of glad that you are here.  We'll talk on the plane.
Them:  Really?  Can we order a meal?
Me:  Don't push it!

Breakfast in Burlingame

I was thrilled to look out my motel window this morning to see a Walgren's!  Woo Hoo! Deodorant and a brush and wonderful new pair of socks!!!!  I then spotted a Cafe Roma where I sat outside, sipping my latte, eating my fruit and thinking about Hafiz.  What?
I was reading my Presence magazine and came across one of his poems.  I have slightly paraphrased the first 2 stanzas within the parentheses:

"Not many teachers in this world
Can give you as much enlightenment
In one year (day)
As sitting alone, for three (one) days,
In your closet (Travelodge)

I have so many good teachers in those who speak to me online. One told me to direct myself, another told me that my arrival in Ireland would  be "perfect timing" and another told me that my spiritual conference had already begun - in SF.....and so it has...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Day one blues

Warning:  this is a vent.  I'm supposed to be flying to Dublin at this very moment but instead i'm cooling my heals in San Francisco at a motel.  My flight from Seattle was delayed 3 hours, then we spent an hour and a half on the runway.  The flight attendants kept telling me "not to worry, as all the flights flying into the Bay Area will be delayed."  

By the time I arrived at the Aer Lingus counter they had closed up shop and headed home (literally).  There were 10 of us who missed the plane because of flight delays.  I called Orbitz (India) who informed me that the next flight would be Friday and that they would be charging me $100 for a flight change.  I hung up and headed back to United where after another 2 hours I was booked on a flight to London that leaves tomorrow night.  This means i will miss the first day of the conference - disappointing to say the least. 

I then went in search of my luggage - no one knows where that ended up....just to give you a visual i'm sitting on my Travelodge bed in my undies as i just washed my shirt that i will be wearing again tomorrow :)  Too much info?  

I'll be heading back to baggage claim in the morning to see if they have located my luggage and then wait for my evening flight. I noticed the airport has a Reflection Room - i plan on hanging out there quite a bit tomorrow..... 


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

God's Wild Generosity

As I head out tomorrow for the Spiritual Directors International Conference in Dublin, Ireland, I thought it appropriate to leave you with a wonderful quote from Alan Jones on the art of Spiritual Direction...

God's Wild Generosity

"The ancient art of spiritual direction is a way of affirming the simple truth of God's wild generosity. The spiritual director or friend of the soul is someone who listens to us lovingly and accurately and, by the gift of caring attention, reveals to us God's open heart. As such, spiritual direction has political and social implications of tremendous importance because it is, of its very essence, an antidote to violence. It is a strategy of inner disarmament — the dismantling of the arsenal of destruction we amass inside ourselves."
Alan Jones— Exploring Spiritual Direction (photo by Brian Bragdon, who attended MHGS at the same time I did and who traveled to Ireland in 2003.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

"Rebirth" by Keri Wehlander

We are the locked door,
the stone not rolled away.
You invite us to cross through waters,
walk dry roads
look towards transformation
in every wilderness.

You believe we can.

We want other gods, other commodities--
depth without the daily searching.
You offer us a simple table
and the words, follow me.

You believe we will.

We choose a meager vision,
hold tight to the catch of our nets.
You tell a story that asks,
Which one was the neighbor?

You believe we understand.

We are perplexed
when you appear in our untended gardens.
You say, peace,
to all our uncertainty.
You show that new life
comes with time, with practice,
and the sowing, however small,
of stubborn hope.

You believe we will grow.

"Rebirth" by Keri K. Wehlander
from Weavings, Abide in Me, Vol. XXII,

Number 2, March/April 2007, p. 33

Sunday, October 11, 2009

the look of ?

This is the look
Lucy gives me
whenever I pull out
a suitcase.
What do you think
she is trying to say?

Friday, October 9, 2009

"God gives us everything we need
to be happy in the present moment,
no matter what the evidence
to the contrary may be."
Thomas Keating

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

deep down inside...

"There is a really deep well inside me.
And in it dwells God.
Sometimes I am there, too.
But often stones and grit block the well,
and God is buried beneath.
Then God must be dug out again."

– Etty Hillesum

photo from here

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

got pudding?

It was on this day in 1847 that Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre was published. It happens to be one of my all time favorite books. I wonder why :)

"Women are supposed to be very calm generally; but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex." -Jane, Chapter 12

Monday, October 5, 2009

what's in a wave?

"You don't really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around -and why his parents will always wave back."
~William D. Tammeus

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Feast of St. Francis of Assisi

This is the day that animals flock to churches with their humans, to receive their blessing in honor of their patron saint, Francis of Assisi, who loved animals & nature and considered everything to have been created for the glory of God. Here is the pet blessing that will be said at many churches today:

"Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless this pet. By the power of your love, enable it to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures! Amen."

The photo is from the animal blessing at St. John the Divine in New York. The article will explain the camel :)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

horizontal thinking

"We spend most of our time and energy in a kind of horizontal thinking.
We move along the surface of things...but there are times when we stop.
We sit still. We lose ourselves in a pile of leaves or its memory.
We listen and breezes from a whole other world begin to whisper."

- James Carroll

Thursday, October 1, 2009

whistle in the dark

“To whistle in the dark is more than just to try to convince yourself that dark is not all there is. It’s also to remind yourself that dark is not all there is, or the end of all there is, because even in the dark there is hope.

Even in the dark you have the power to whistle. And sometimes that seems more than just your own power because it’s powerful enough to hold the dark
back a little.

The tunes you whistle in the dark are the images you make of that hope, that power . . .” Frederick Buechner