Sometimes I come across a quote, a few words in a book or online, that are just what I need to hear in that moment. I came across these words today,

    When we make it safe to fail,
    We make it safe to succeed.

    ~ Kobi Yamada

    They struck me, struck a cord, and a single read through is not enough. I am sitting with them and letting the implications of the words seep through me.

    Very early hours at the airport. My Uber ride drops me off and I walk into a checkin hall unusually quiet. People sleep across chairs. People sit quietly. Lights are dimmed.

    Officials arrive at the checkin desk, passengers jump up and hover, waiting for desk to open.

    I am quickly checked in and it appears first through security. I know sit at my gate. On the tarmac, aircraft sleep. There is still two hours to go before the first flight of the day leaves. It is still dark outside.

    The Sahara’s presence was still felt here in Porto today at the Cemitério do Prado do Repouo.

    Cemitério do Prado do Repouo

    The Carmelite Church in Vitória, Porto.

    Carmelite Church in Vitória, Porto

    And a side wall of that same church.

    Carmelite Church Porto.

    This evening a fierce red sunset over the Atlantic ocean courtesy of a dance between the sun, Sahara and the atmosphere!

    Porto sunset

    The still orange sky. The bell towers are from the Igreja Matriz de Massarelos. Construction on this church began in 1776.

    Orange sky Porto

    And finally, night by the Douro River on a walk to dinner.

    Douro River at night

    Honey on a Razor's Edge

    Mindfulness is available to us at all times.

    I say that to myself - and then I forget. The opportunity is there, and then it is gone. Too late. Feels like too much effort. Or something puts in an appearance that has more icing on the top, or at least appears to and feels easier to consume - but ultimately leaves me with a sense of no satisfaction. The ship has sailed. The mindfulness moment has been missed.

    Look out for those times when the mind is floundering. When you are not focusing. Maybe you are reaching for your phone, or engaging in aimless browsing, or looking to do something out of character (like clean the bedroom?!). What are you avoiding?

    Just catching yourself in that moment as you waver off course, that is mindfulness. You’ve caught yourself getting lost, loosing your focus. You’ve caught yourself loosing your awareness of what you are doing.

    The more formal practice of sitting in meditation helps us to develop the muscle, the awareness that allows us to be more aware of those moments when we loose ourselves, and just as important gives us the strength to pull ourselves back on course. For those who have tried to right their ship of focusing on an activity when distractions call, you will know how difficult it is to pull yourself away from those easier, “more exciting” activities.

    The Tibetans have a saying for this, as you reach for that which is more enticing and boredom removing,

    …like licking honey from a razor’s edge.

    I think that it is a wonderful image and it hurts my tongue to think of it! We are drawn to the excitement, the distractions, and in doing so hurt ourselves from loosing our balance and sense of being grounded.

    So our formal practice, and our daily awareness live in a dance, one reinforcing and strengthening the other.

    Another migraine. I have been suffering with them for over forty years, though their frequency and severity have varied greatly in that time. I have never found out what has caused them or a cure to rid myself of them. I can sometimes lessen the pain by drinking copious amounts of black coffee as the initial eye aura starts. However the efficacy of that remedy has not been reliable for me, and it is not a method that I want to rely on anyway.

    No, when they arrive unexpectedly (as they always are), I just have to ride with whatever that particular migraine presents to me. Some are a mild thump in the background of my head allowing me a degree of functionality. Others floor me for three days, and I just have to wave a white flag, giving in to the severity of the pain and nausea, lying in a quiet and darkened room allowing the migraine to do its thing.

    For migraines from my experience are not just headaches, but a physiological experience played out upon my body. Most prominently they are characterized by a severe, traumatic pounding in my head (unlike more regular headaches), but that is accompanied by nausea, disorientation and sense that my insides are going through the wringer in some way.

    I’ll see tomorrow, after some sleep, what this one has in store for me.


    Minimal spoilers here. Less than you would get in a theatrical preview.

    We watched the movie Belfast a few weeks or so ago. My appreciation of the movie has increased since then. I thought that it was beautifully filmed in black and white with a wonderful performance from all the cast. A special shout out though goes to the young Jude Hill who carried most of the film on his young shoulders.

    In the late 1960s what was sometimes referred to as The Troubles started in Northern Ireland. News coverage tended to focus on the violence of that time, as was illustrated by television and radio broadcasts running in the background throughout the film. Belfast, however, chooses to focus on the humanity that existed despite The Troubles, based around the memories of the film’s director, Kenneth Branagh, who grew up in the city at that time.

    What surprised me was the memories that the movie brought up for me of growing up in England at that time. I make no claim to have been as close to The Troubles as the characters in Belfast are, but I was reminded of the omnipresence of the Northern Ireland conflict in the daily news broadcasts, and episodes from the conflict that occurred on mainland England.

    I was growing up and did not understand the origin of what was happening in Northern Ireland. I didn’t understand the cause of what I was seeing in the ongoing news reports. While its roots were in the politics of the status of Northern Ireland, to the degree that I paid any attention to the history of the conflict (none), I saw a religious fight and in many ways it tainted my view of religion. As a child my interest was in science, and the idea of a God as he (as that is how God was presented to me) did not make sense to me. I always say that I am a better Christian now through my Buddhist faith. While I was fine with people following a religion, I could not understand religion if it was creating the upset and hatred that The Troubles were.

    There were many terrible events that happened through that time, most of which I will never know about. I am reminded of two high profile murders, a bomb outside Harrods in London, an attempt to assassinate the British Prime minister and her cabinet, and the killing of soldiers and their horses in Hyde Park. Looking back now, I am amazed that this was just a part of the news cycle…or as my memory presents itself to me.

    Then in 1998 the Good Friday Agreement was signed bringing self-government to Northern Ireland based on “power-sharing.” Over the next nine years the political process went through continual tensions and development. Through this sectarian animosity remained.

    In the year 2000 I was blessed to attend an interfaith event at the House of Lords in London. One of the presentations that day chose to look the hatred full in the face and offered another way, a better way, a more compassionate way, a way that looked for understanding and reconciliation.

    Here are my memories of experiences of that time, the bad and the good.

    The Bad

    The IRA used to carry out bombing campaigns on the English mainland. A lot, though not all of these campaigns were accompanied by warnings. Sometimes the warnings allowed enough time to clear the area, sometimes not. The emphasis appeared to me to be on disruption and confusion, though death and carnage was definitely the intentions at times. When I worked in London in the late 1980’s it was not unusual to have to take a different route home from work because there was a bomb scare. This was especially true around Christmas.

    One Christmas my Grandmother gave me a calculator. It was the early days of calculators, and they were the size of bricks. The day after she bought the calculator from a store in the city of Bristol, the shop was blown up.

    An old friend of mine used to be in the British army and he had been stationed in Northern Ireland. While there, a nail bomb detonated in a rubbish bin, making him partially deaf in one ear. When it came time to renew his time in the army he was told that he could only have a desk job. He chose to leave. From my memory, colleagues of his in the forces had also succumbed to the violence in one way or another. One evening I met him in a pub in London after work. The landlord of the pub was Irish. The evening started off well but as the night drew on, with a few drinks in my friend, things became a little more unpleasant towards those running the pub. I apologized to the landlord and led my friend out of the pub. It was sad to see what conflict can do to human relationships.

    The Good

    Just into the year 2000, my Buddhist teacher was invited to take part in a multi-faith event at the House of Lords in London. Along with another friend, I was asked to accompany him. This was only a couple of years after the Good Friday Agreement had been signed. Animosity still remained in Northern Ireland and although the Troubles were essentially political, because of history the disturbances saw lines being drawn between the Protestants and the Catholics.

    The event at the House of Lords was being filmed for television and those in attendance were told not to clap at the end of each faith tradition’s presentation as the function had a strict time schedule to fit into and there was no time for interruptions such as clapping! So dutifully, as each faith completed a reading or such like from their tradition, the audience sat quietly and waited until the next faith stepped up.

    In the middle of the event a group of teenagers from Northern Ireland representing both sides of the divide took to the stage. I cannot remember clearly what they offered now, but from my memory it was of a nature of a call and response, with one ’side’ responding in a compassionate and restorative way to what the other ’side’ had just said.

    When they had finished there was no option - the audience applauded. This was a vision of how things could be, spoken by the future of Northern Ireland, the young. To hear them speak was inspiring and uplifting. I always remember it.


    I have found it interesting to sit and write about my memories around this time growing up. As I said above, I did not follow the details very closely - initially being too young and then just not having sufficient interest in politics. But as the memories here have shown, and the reading that I have done following watching Belfast and while writing this piece, the presence of the Troubles in my life, even if it was in the background, has stayed with me. I can only imagine what it was like for those more directly caught up in the conflict and those who lost loved ones and friends.

    The Kindness of Strangers

    Sitting on the beach this afternoon an incident popped into my mind from over three decades ago. Why I thought of this I don’t know, but here is what happened.

    I was in Australia. I spent a year traveling around the country, mainly hitchhiking. I was somewhere south of Sidney, heading south. It was a baking hot day and I had just had my hair cut. Why is that relevant you might ask? Well, my hair had been long and covering my neck. Now there was no cover over my neck and I was not clever enough to realize that standing in the sun for hours, it took a long time to get a ride from wherever I was (the middle of nowhere it appeared), with skin exposed to the sun that had been protected for months was asking for trouble. Sure enough a few days later a scab formed over the back of my neck and I feel that I can be thankful that nothing else has developed from that over exposure.

    Anyway, so I was standing by the road somewhere south of Sidney. There was just the main road, a turn off (down which my last ride had turned), and a lot of Australian bush. It was hot and no one was stopping to pick me up. After a very long wait a car pulled over and I thought that I had my ride. A man gets out, walks round to the back of his car, opens up the rear hatch, fumbles around and pulls something out. He walks over to me with a cold can of something. I can’t remember what it was, apart from it being very welcome!

    He told me to put a hat on and watch the sun and then went on his way.

    I have no idea who he was or where he was going, but I appreciated his kindness in just being willing to stop to give me a drink…and a bit of common sense!

    A Sunday adventure to the South East side of Maui

    The south east side of Maui is a place of the elements. Wind, sun and ocean meet in strong presence at that place where the vast flanks of Haleakala descend from its 10,000 feet summit to meet the Pacific Ocean at the ʻAlenuihāhā Channel, meaning aptly “great billows smashing.” A 30 mile channel of ocean lying between the Islands of Hawai’i and Maui, wind and water are funneled between the two land masses. Back in the day fire could have been added to the elements at play as the volcanoes erupted. With their huge dormant presence, Mauna Kea on Hawai’i can be seen on a clear day from Maui, fire is never far away.

    Yesterday we took a little adventure and drove out there. There was no particular destination in mind, though it ended up being a favorite place of ours - Huialoha Church in Kaupo, a simple church in design that sits on a promontory where the elements feel at their strongest. Haleakala looks down from the Kaupo Gap, a gash in the side of the mountain’s crater. It’s a place where I feel as though the physical and other worldly origins of this world can be felt. Here I feel humbled in the presence of nature.

    Below are some photographs from the drive out there.

    While there is no ‘starting point’ for the road out to the south east side, I always bookmark this view as where the terrain changes.

    The wind at this spot was as strong as I had felt it for a long while, almost blowing my phone (camera) out of my hand and allowing me to lean into it.

    Looking up towards the Kaupo Gap, a ‘gash’ in the side of Haleakala’s crater. It’s possible to hike up there and then through the crater, staying over night in a cabin within the crater. That adventure is on the aspiration list for 2022.

    St. Joseph Church, built in 1862 in the Kaupo region.

    The rocky shoreline just below Huialoha Church.

    The roof top of Huialoha Church with the Kaupo gap in the background. There was an event going on outside the church, and so I did not want to take a picture around the building. Instead we sat and watched while a couple of spear fisherman jumped into the rough ocean to see if they could catch anything around the rocks, and a young boy, obviously quite at home in those waters, went boogie boarding.