Student Writings

Contribution by Richard


A native spider orchid (Caladenia phaeoclavia), found in the bushland around my house earlier this season.

Indigenous plants can sometimes flower in this space, but a spider orchid hasn’t been seen before (or at least, not in the last few years).

After hiding dormant through seasons of hot dry weather, from harsh and rocky ground this fragile plant emerged, flowering for two weeks before disappearing.

This is a small reminder of how nature is resilient and fragile at the same time. The careful balance is easy to damage or completely destroy. Yet from this, it somehow recovers and re-grows on its own, if we give it the right conditions and breathing space.
Restoring balance to ourselves, we can begin the work of restoring balance to the earth

There is no difference between concern for ourselves and our own well-being

There is no difference between healing the planet and healing ourselves

Thich Nhat Hanh

Contribution by Penny

I was lucky to spend some time over January with a sister in a part of Gippsland blessedly unaffected by the shocking fires. The wonderful coastline and a glorious sunset were soothing.

Apart from nature I have often found inspiration and healing in books and films. Recently I saw A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, the movie starring Tom Hanks based on the true life story of the American children’s television program presenter Fred Rogers. Some have criticized it for being platitudinous and sentimental, but I personally found its portrayal of the importance of compassion and being present to the people in our lives very enjoyable, and in tune with Buddhist teachings.

A book I have been enjoying (also referred to by Anja in her recent Sunday reflection) is Waking up to What You Do by Diane Eshin Rizzetto. I particularly like her chapter on The Dead Spot which comes at the end of the trapeze swing when ‘the performer hangs at point zero before grabbing the next bar’.

Life presents us with many dead spots such as when we lose a partner or a job, or await news of a possibly life threatening illness. Diane encourages us to take advantage of the power and creativity that can be available at these possibly terrifying moments, as we are tempted to grasp at the first thing that is available.

If we can ‘take pause in the dead spot, that moment of nonaction before we react’ we have a chance to meet ‘life just as it is’ and break away from our usual habitual thoughts and patterns of behaviour. It seems like a useful metaphor not only for our personal lives, but also for approaching the devastation of the bushfires.

People need to not react with blame and the usual assumptions, but be open to new ways of addressing climate change and healing the earth.
Contribution by Anja
Everywhere I looked, hope existed – but only as some kind of green shoot in the midst of struggle. (…) Hope, I began to realise, was not a state of life. It was at best a gift of life. Sr Joan Chittister
Hope as a quality is ephemeral, and at the same time it can profoundly impact how we experience our lives. To have lost all hope means to be in the pit of despair. On the other hand, what does it mean to have hope? We can have all the hope in the world that everything will turn out okay, yet we know this is not how life works. Things go wrong all the time, and none of us are immune from accidents, illness or other calamities. Zen teacher and writer Joan Halifax talks about ‘wise hope’, by which she means finding value in our efforts to make the world a better place.
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Contribution by Anja
When my grandmother died, she had a cellar full of old nails, pieces of string, tools she hadn’t used in years, old clothes, shoes, crockery and books. Having lived through two world wars and the depression, she did not like to throw anything away. Her flat upstairs was neat and tidy, but downstairs in the cellar was a different story. Hers was an era before ‘planned obsolescence’, where she used the same record player and radio she’d bought as a young mother after the war, right until her death. She valued her possessions and looked after them, treating everything with care and respect so it could last as long as possible. Yet she also had a cellar full of rusty nails she’d never use, old clothes which could have gone to someone else – all these possessions stored below, just in case.
Our mind is often the same.
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Not a silent spring
It’s a symphony of songs
Blest Sesshin and yet
Penny Wagstaff (Nov 2019)

In the Dojo
Feeling the vibrations
Of the Tibetan bowl ringing
All sitting still and quiet
A moment of silence
Then the magpies song.
Michelle Morris (Nov 2019)

Morning walks
Surrounded by soft mist.
Tiny water droplets glisten,
Spiders web is made visible.
We stand watching the two horses
So present in their horseness
They see us
The expression in the grey one’s eyes
Touches me deeply
Michelle Morris (Nov 2019)

Dharma talks
Geoff’s talks
Provoking, humorous, inspiring
Planting seeds in our minds and hearts
Michelle Morris (Nov 2019)

Trees, grass, dirt and earth: ancient wisdom and modern insights
Contribution by Penny
Just sitting is the essential Zen way to realising our connection with all things, but like many I find spending time in nature is also important to help me remain balanced when faced with personal challenges… I am grateful for the inspiration of ancient Indigenous wisdom.
Link to Penny’s contribution.

The Three A’s
Contribution by Tom

Zen groups often begin their sutra service with the Purification verse… As I say this short verse to myself while sitting on my cushion most mornings, I have begun to translate these ‘poisons’ into language I relate to more comfortably, using the mnemonic ‘The Three A’s’.
Click here to read the contribution from Tom

Extraordinary Mind
Contribution by Richard
Over the last month I’ve been experimenting with night photography and image processing, with a recent attempt in my backyard resulting in the photo below… This is a photo of the galactic core. It is the centre of our Milky Way galaxy in which we live.
Click here to read the contribution.

Alone on My Zafu
Contribution by Adrien
Adrien reflects on the experience of attending his first sesshin – including his own drawings! You can enjoy his contribution here

No Way
Contribution by Tom

Tom shares with us a reflection on No Way. You can read it here

Beginning Mind- Taking Refuge in The Buddha
Contribution by Tom

Tom shares with us a reflection on Beginning Mind – Taking Refuge in the Buddha. You can read it here