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Beach meditationI forwent my normal Monday morning blogging ritual this week, instead making the decision to head to the beach for my morning meditation: coming back from a week’s holiday I felt the need to mark that transition, and having meditated outside every day whilst camping, the early morning sunshine encouraged me to continue to do so. There was also another reason - whilst I was away, the news broke that following the release of Project Sunshine (a report investigating the occurrence of sexual misconduct in the Shambhala Buddhist organisation), Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche - the leader of the Shambhala Buddhist lineage - has come forward to admit he has “struggled to find [his] way, and fumbled with unhealthy power dynamics and alcohol”. As a practitioner in the Shambhala community, I’ve been processing this news, trying to digest what it means, holding the victims in mind, and (trying to) stay open to the uncertainty that it throws up: I feel confused, I feel a little “homeless”. Where is my spiritual ground, where does my path lay?

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female shepherdI took two days out of my week last week to deepen my meditation practice and study of the dharma: a mini-retreat of sorts. I was joined by two dear friends from my Shambhala 'sangha' alongside whom I considered the question “what does it mean to be a bodhisattva?”. Literally translated, a compound of ’Bodhi’ meaning spiritual awakening, and ‘sattva’ meaning being. The Bodhisattva concept is central to Buddhism, especially for Mahayana and Vajrayana schools (which Shambhala Buddhism is), and a practitioner is encouraged to not only seek enlightenment for themselves but to help all beings achieve release from suffering and distress: in fact they delay their own liberation until ALL beings have been released**. As Pema Chodron, the much loved American Buddhist teacher, explained in the teachings we studied on our mini-retreat this can seem like “mission impossible”. But what does it actually mean to be a bodhisattva?

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i love my jobThe close of one academic year leads to thoughts of the summer ahead and the arrival of another academic year in the autumn: one cycle ends, another begins. And whilst there is always a need to start preparations for the new year before the summer ‘recess’, I am keeping in mind how easy it is to flow from one cycle to the next without proper time for withdrawal and renewal - making space for what Fritz Perls would call the ‘fertile void’. Maybe because I have just shepherded my first cohort through the two year MSc programme this particular year end has had me reflect on the nature of my work. I re-trained as a therapist, in part, to make my leave from academia; and yet I find myself ‘back in’. As much as I love the interaction with trainees and engaging in the scholarship and mastery of my new profession that University life offers, I still find myself recoiling somewhat from academic processes (and admin!).

I’m a realist though, and I appreciate that all work comes with the polarities of enjoyment and obligation. How we carry our work depends a lot on our attitude, how we view what we do and how it contributes to our life situation; how it helps us meet our passions, our purposes; and how it helps us grow as individuals, in relationship; and how it provides meaning - a reason to perhaps get up in the morning. How do you view your work? I thought I would share a few ideas I have in the post this week.

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