Category Archives: Meditation

Life in a Thorn Bush


Do you find life exhausting?

Constantly chasing opportunities for a little bit of enjoyment, trying to find the right formula for a happy life only to find frustration around every corner. Just when you thought you had found the perfect plan to create the life you wanted,  something else seems to interfere or go wrong.
Our days are filled with frustrating situations. Our plans for adjustments to bring us our long awaited idyllic life don’t quite work out the way we anticipate. Things we think will do the trick often don’t, or if they do initially seem to do the job, the effect just doesn’t last.
We convince ourselves that all we need to do is change our home, partner, job, have a holiday, change our image and so forth yet often those anticipated experiences don’t turn out to be a bed of roses after all;
We go on holiday (great!) but begin to yearn for our own bed and bathroom, arriving home to wish we were back on holiday free from the daily drudge of work and bills.
We meet our ideal partner, every minute apart is excruciating ( for a while), then much as we may still love them, we just want some space.
Our much loved and missed extended family finally come to stay, but how long before we begin to wish their time to leave had arrived.
That dream job wasn’t quite as we expected (if only one irritating colleague would leave, yes! now they’ve gone, but how much extra work do we have now? How boring can one job get?)
Everywhere we look, every plan we make, never quite gives us the lasting happiness we strive for. Something always seems a bit adrift, or the shine begins to wear off , either its not quite as good as anticipated or we get bored and feel we need something else. Maybe that plan wasn’t quite what we needed? Lets try plan B (or C, or D ….)
Everybody else seems to have their life sussed we think, but actually we are all in the same boat. Nobody is ever completely happy, permanently and completely happy.

As Geshe Kelsang Gyatso says in “Transform Your Life

“It is as if we are living in a thorn bush – whenever we move it is as if we are wounded by circumstances. People and things are like thorns piercing our flesh, and no situation feels entirely comfortable The more desires and plans we have the more frustrations we experience .The more we want certain situations, the more we find ourselves stuck in situations we do not want.”


Is your life like this?

Examine your own situation, your own daily experience.

From dawn to dusk we are beset with irritation and frustration, on varying scales from minor to major. It is currently our human experience. Just as we shift a little to find a comfortable spot, we are prickled by another thorn and need to shift again to try and find comfort, happiness, or solve that little niggling problem.

Actually our biggest problem lies with the fact that we are ” out there” focused on the external situation, no matter how much we shift there is always another thorn waiting, we fidget about trying to find the right spot but there is no ” right spot”.

This is the nature of the human condition we are currently experiencing. Hence the only way to address our life in the thorn bush and find a comfortable position free from prickles is to look within. Find a way to the inner stillness and happiness within our own mind that will give us protection from the thorn bush and enable us to discover our own wealth of happiness.

Ultimately we can find our way out of the thorn bush. But our first steps are finding the tranquillity within that removes the constant urge to fidget and look for “something else” to give us some pleasure, hence becoming prone again to the prickles of the thorn bush while grasping for the roses.

We are constantly reaching for the illusory beauty of the roses, enduring and suffering the pain of the thorns then realizing the beauty of the roses is only temporary, they fade rapidly and then crumble to dust.
This doesn’t mean we have to abandon our regular lives and activities, but we now have a more objective, realistic view of what these activities actually provide: temporary enjoyments at best, disappointment and heartache at worst.
We observe the activities of our life from a realistic viewpoint that understands all things are temporary passing events, without becoming ensnared and entangled by the belief that this is the next thing we need to “make our lives just right” .
We discover that real happiness can be created and developed within our own mind and it will therefore be free from external interference.

So where do we begin?

First we need to understand that no matter how much energy we put into changing the external furniture in our life this will not provide permanent happiness 24/7.
Why? Because happiness is a state of mind, and cannot be found outside the mind. Not in flash cars, shiny red shoes, new smartphones or exciting holidays. They may be fun for a while but 24/7? We all know the temporary happiness these things provide is not going to last, we also know that we can have fantastic material conditions and yet be depressed or anxious.
Expecting things outside our mind to provide lasting happiness is pointless, everything is temporary or impermanent, including ourselves, everything is in a constant state of flux.
Don’t take my word for it, judge by your own experiences. When were you happy every minute of a whole day, for a whole week, month, year? Never disappointed, never irritable or angry?
The state of our mind is the key to true happiness. Happiness which doesn’t depend on external circumstances. Happiness which is not shattered by problems, difficulties or the way people behave towards us.
Therefore we need to gradually train our mind until happiness becomes our normal experience and we can enjoy whatever circumstances arise in our life without grasping onto them with the expectations we currently hold.

A good way to begin this process is to try a simple breathing meditation. No special clothes, cushions, incense sticks or singing bowls needed! (Of course feel free to use them if desired)
Just 10 minutes in a comfortable seat in a relatively quiet space.

Make a decision to temporarily leave aside all worries and plans and allow your mind to rest and quieten. Begin to notice the sensation at the tip of your nose as you breathe in and out. Focus only on this sensation when distractions occur, gently let go of those thoughts and allow them to dissolve back into your mind, while returning your attention to the sensation of your breath. Do not make judgement about how well its going, or otherwise. Just making gentle effort is already creating the causes for you to experience inner peace in the future.
This will, with a little practice, give you some experience of how happiness can arise from within our own mind.

“When the turbulence of distracting thoughts subsides and our mind becomes still, a deep happiness and contentment naturally arise from within”
“By training in meditation , we create an inner space and clarity that enable us to control our mind regardless of the external situation”

(Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Transform your Life)

With meditation we learn how to maintain a happy positive mind, and learn how to avoid distressing painful states of mind .Following the above, simple instructions, is a starting point, your meditation practice can develop with you, and become a framework for building a happier life. More instructions can be found in this free ebook, the book quoted above, or in these articles :

Help, What more can I do?

What, me?

You have nothing to lose but plenty to gain. Learn to live your life, enjoying every minute that arises and freeing yourself from the pain and exhaustion that comes with chasing the roses.


Our Gilded cage

“I’m free, I’m free,

 And freedom tastes of reality” (The Who)

A friend recently lost a furry little pet.

This pet was much loved, cosseted and was given the very best of everything.

Therefore she was initially slightly offended when somebody commented “at least it will never have to live in a cage again”.

This little animal had everything she could offer; fluffy warm bedding, quality hay and fresh vegetables twice a day, healthy pet food, an amazing cage and plenty of grooming and cuddles.

She soon realized, that although this little pet lived in relative luxury, nevertheless it was in fact living in a cage, without freedom, without choice. Continue reading

One second in time.

One second

Are we in the throws of trying to keep our ‘New Years Resolution’ once more? Or are we a bit late deciding on whether to actually bother or not?

Sometimes our resolutions are quite meaningful e.g. we need a new job to provide for our family, or we need to take medical advice on-board, but often they are masquerading under a false identity.

If we looked at a list of all the things we have ever made resolutions about we would see that the underlying assumption we have made is that this course of action would make us happy…this will be the ‘New Me’ we often decide, a new, better, happier me than we were the year(s) before.

Hence we spend our lives with the same or different resolutions year after year and come December 31st we think (once again) ‘Next year will be better’. But will it?

We all like to think we are in control of our lives but it takes only one second in time for our lives to be turned upside down and torn painfully apart. Continue reading

I just need one more thing……

Are you a collector of ‘things’ ?

We generally imagine collectors to be people who collect stamps, postcards, china mugs and so forth, and maybe don’t consider ourselves to be  a collector, but look a little closer………..

Do you have a collection of shoes, ties, handbags, gadgets? More than you actually need, with some gathering dust or maybe relegated to the attic?

Messy room

Maybe an ever-growing collection of CD’s, DVD’s, Video games? Or even an ‘achieved list’ of countries visited, mountains climbed or exams passed?

You may even recognize this scenario: its been a long day at work, you have to do the supermarket shop on the way home, the trolley is full, the list complete, but you have a feeling that you need just one more thing, one more extra little treat to take home, whatever is already in the trolley just isn’t quite enough, so you set off for a wander for ‘just one more thing’.

Have you ever wondered why we have the compulsion to gather so many ‘things’? We can go through various levels of reasoning such as ‘I like listening to music’ , ‘I enjoy a DVD at the weekend to relax’ ‘Climbing keeps me fit’ etc, and there is nothing wrong with any of the activities or reasons, but have you ever looked at what is the baseline below all these reasons? Continue reading

Help! What more can i do?

“I’ve done everything possible”

“I’ve done my best”

“It’s still happening”

“I can’t bear anymore”

Do these thoughts sound familiar?

Are you in a situation where you feel paralysed with frustration, a turbulent situation with your troubled teenager (T.T) which seems to be beyond your control? (This can apply equally to any other 24/7 close relationship e.g. partner or dependent relative)

Here’s my advice: go and sit down!

Elf sitting crop

“WHAT?” I hear you say “How will that help?” Continue reading

What ? Me?

Yes You!

Are you sure?

Let’s check if this is for you…………

Are you interested in being:


b)Less anxious or stressed?

c)More relaxed?

d) Healthier?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the above questions then this article is definitely what you need. Continue reading

This toolkit doesn’t work properly!

What is a toolkit?


In the ‘old days’ a toolkit was considered to be :

” A set of tools to be used for a particular purpose”, or

“A personal set of resources, abilities or skills”

In our modern world we now have the addition of:

“Software designed to perform a specific function, especially to solve a problem”

With either definition I think we can agree that a toolkit is to help us perform a task or solve a problem. The skills we have been learning throughout our life to help us survive our modern world could be considered to be a ‘toolkit’, a set of mental strategies for making our way through life dealing with any hardships or problems that may occur and hopefully having a happy time on the journey.

So just for a bit of fun, here is a teeny questionnaire:

( you wont need a pen and paper!)

1. Your partner/relative/ friend is bad-tempered Angry man

and giving you a hard time, do you:

a) get angry and shout louder than them.

b) phone a friend and complain angrily about the situation

c) slam out of the door and stomp up the stairs.

d) decide they are having a bad day and be calm and patient with them.

2. You have had a piggy day / week and decide you need a coffee and cake treat. The cake, though it looks nice is dry, tasteless and unenjoyable. Do you:

Cakea) buy another, then feel sick after overeating.

b) dwell on your misfortune and feel even more fed up

c) complain loudly to the waitress in no uncertain terms

d) decide you are experiencing some unfortunate Karma and accept patiently.

3. You don’t get the job position you were hoping for. Do you:Hungover

a) feel gutted, miserable, get depressed, have a few too many drinks

b) think of all the reasons why the other person shouldn’t have what you deserved

c) feel very jealous and vow to avoid the other person forever

d) try to develop some good feeling for their good fortune.

Now here’s the scoring:

Answers a) b) c)………………………. Score 0

Answer d)……………………….Score 10 points


If you scored 0:  you are using the wrong toolkit to enable you to live a happy life.

If you scored 10 or above: you have started to collect the necessary mental tools in your toolkit which will lead you to a happy life.


During our brief lives we become familiar with certain mental traits or behaviours which we think will enable us to succeed in our society and establish the  life we wish to experience, we could call this our ‘mental toolkit’. Continue reading

Happiness and the Little Rag Doll.

Once upon a time there was a little rag doll sitting on a market stall in Ormskirk.

Unknown to the little rag doll there was a family on the train from Liverpool for a day trip to Ormskirk, a mother,father,baby boy and a 6-year-old girl. On these day trips the children were usually allowed to pick a present to take home, so long as it wasn’t too costly.

The little girl fell in love with the rag doll, it had a smiley face and long shiny black plaits, the best plaits the girl had ever seen.

All day the parents asked her to pick another present as the doll was a little more than they wanted to pay, yet the girl could not imagine life without the rag doll. How could she ever be happy without the rag doll? How could she leave it there and go home alone? She felt pain at the very thought of it. She loved this doll, it was all she ever wanted or needed to be happy, forever. Nothing else could ever measure up to this doll, no other present in the whole world would be the same, make her feel so full of love and happiness. She would cuddle it, love it, and her whole life would be filled with joy.

Rag doll

Her parents relented, she took the doll home on the train, amazed at its beauty, its beautiful face and shining black plaits. She didn’t let it out of her sight for some time. Continue reading

Any way the wind blows……Part 2

In Part 1  we looked at our own possible reactions to having an unpredictable teen in our family, and ways in which we could deal with any difficult states of mind, or delusions  we may be experiencing, thereby improving our ability to support our teenager while retaining some degree of sanity!

The Buddhist term ‘delusion’ refers to negative minds such as anger, greed, jealousy, impatience, selfishness and attachment, which destroy our peace and wellbeing. However, positive states of mind such as love, generosity, patience and cherishing others, result only in happiness, both for ourselves and others around us.

It is vital not to label ourself with these negative minds, i.e. we are not inherently an angry person,or an impatient person etc, these are uncontrolled states of mind which arise within us. We know from our own experience that none of these minds are permanent, we may be very angry for a period of time but eventually this subsides. Our mind is like a balloon on the wind which is carried backwards and forwards out of our control, dragging us with it wherever it goes. This is why we can feel happy one minute and then maybe sad or irritable the next.

Balloon in the sky with girl

If we choose to label ourself in any way, we are perceiving ourself as something, that in fact , does not exist. We are not fixed or unchangeable, either physically, mentally, or in any other way . Continue reading

Anyway the wind blows……..Part 1

Are you living with Jekyll and Hyde?

Jekyll and Hyde

If you are the parent of a teenager you would probably agree to this question. Even the gentlest journey through the teenage years can be an unpredictable ride, and for some its like living on “the Big Dipper” (or whatever the scariest rollercoasters are called these days).

A happy smiling teen one minute can turn into a roaring lion the next. Sometimes even the simplest question such as “Hi, how did your day go?”, produces a scowl that tells you “Just don’t go there”.

Communication lines can be intermittent or completely down when things get very icy. Either way your teenagers mood seems to change every time the wind blows. Unpredictable at best ,unmanageable at worst.

We may feel helpless,hurt,impatient or angry. Continue reading