Monday 8 August 2016

Another nice mess you've gotten me into...

Time can pass really quickly, and now that I have finished my 3 week voluntary position at the Manjushri Buddhist Meditation Centre, I really have a sense of that.

Painted Buddhist figure
 It was all consuming. A new role, a new team, and a completely different way of working. Add to that a fabulous summer festival at the Centre, where 4000 people decend to take part in the teachings, and well...a tad overwhelmed at times would put my psych in a nutshell. Not surprising, but there were a few wobbly, "What have I done?" moments.

Art studio at Manjushri Meditation Centre, Ulverston

These 3 weeks would also see me staying in a one-man tent. A one man tent, as long as you were less than five and a half foot I might add! I thought at first how getting a one-man tent would be ideal because of the low weight...not wanting Maude to carry too much. However, I do get a sense that my judgement in such things is sometimes lacking, and having made a sure-fire decision, realise I might not have thought this all the way through.

Nervous first night in the wee tent!

Although I managed to sleep for 3 weeks in this coffin sized tent, I would not really recommend it. Especially when it rained all day and night!

I persevered however, and very proud that I did not slip secretly back to the motorhome when things got rough. Was extremely tempted though!

The centre is based just outside Ulverston, famous for being the birthplace of Stan Laurel, of Laurel and Hardy fame. I just had to spend a session sitting and sketching them both, from the statue near the museum in Stan's honour.

Laurel and Hardy, Ulverston

Keith during his day visit to Ulvertson!

The work at the centre meant I was collaborating to create Buddhist symbols, for the London-based centre, and I would slowly begin to undertand the process involved, as well as the symbolic meaning, and belief around these objects.Collaboration is also something that presents constant challenges for me. Team work takes patience, understanding, and time to develop.

Working on the Dharma Wheel

Made of Polyurathane  (PU), our main task was to sand them...and sand them...and sand them. The fill in any imperfections and air bubbles, and...sand them again. Sanding would be a theme for me throughout my stay. I now realise I can really sand! The filling was done with car body filler, and I could now also try my hand at car repairs if the need arose.

Once the sanding was done to our boss's satisfaction (studio manager Simone, and the art studio lead Rabchog) then it would be off for a yellow colour - primer, before gold paint was applied. Before we get to the gold though, yes you guessed it...more sanding and filling of any smaller imperfections revealed by the priming stage.

Female deer, manifestation of emptiness

During this whole process though I began to see the benefit of both the teachings of Buddhism, and the technique itself, both calming the mind, if agitated, as well as clearing any negative thoughts, by focusing soley on the work and the object.

Final coat of gold paint, and ready for the Temple in London

Buddhist belief tells us that the longer a piece lasts, the more people can see it and so receive blessings from the object, and the more merit the person who worked on the piece receives. So this gave me immediate motivation to do the best job I could.

After listening to my work colleague Paul explain this, it really helped me to slow down, gain patience and work more deliberately...overcoming my usual "hurry-up, we have a deadline" driver that wanted to get the job done and off as soon as possible (a quantity rather than quality angle).

I was also able to listen to my colleagues a great deal during the work, as well as reflect and contemplate difficulties I might have, and challenges I might meet, but also those faced by others, and the joyous and positive way they meet those challenges. It enabled me to stop reacting to things, and because my mind was focused and more calm, I was able to reflect and respond instead...or not respond at all, but to work out how I could resolve my approach the next time. I also definitely worked on being grateful for the things I have experienced, and how lucky I am.

Lots of laughter and discussion with my friend and colleague, Lisette.

The people at the centre and art studio have therefore given me the chance to grow, for which I will always be grateful. From Brazil, France, the Netherlands, Spain, England, Wales, Canada, Sri Lanka and Iceland, to name a few, and they presented many different cultures, ways, languages, language barriers and ideas, both complementary and challenging. My overwhelming impression has been one of a great many people, from all over the globe, and all working and existing in peace and harmony. They have huge amounts of kindness and care.

There is much to learn there...enough for several life times. Only 3 weeks, and this barely sands down the surface of my mind.

I ended the time by taking a trip over to Lancaster to reflect and digest, and also to paint some more, whilst being alone (oh and to make sure I didn't miss Star Trek Beyond!). I hope to be able to take the things I have learned and use them in the wider world and with myself. My views and perspectives have been challanged, and in some small way, I hope widened. We live in such a beautiful world, can we work together to enhance it?

Ashton Memorial, Lancaster, from Lancaster Priory and Castle


  1. Wonderful words David. I'm so glad you took that step towards slowing down and allowing yourself to take time and reflect more. Can't wait to read you again! Anitaxx

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  3. Thank you Anita! Will look forward to catching up when I pop back up to Edinburgh later in August! Hope all is well xx