An oasis of calm in all the madness.

Saturday 1449 – 20th October 2012.

Last week I wrote about the 11th anniversary of the beginning of the futile war in Afghanistan and the Naming of the Dead demonstration I attended in London. I was very surprised to find that there were so few comments on the post even though I know from my stats that plenty of people visited it.

I am still wondering why that was.. maybe someone will tell me ??

Anyway back to this Saturday and what a blissful Saturday it has been. As some of you may know ( I’m sure I mentioned it sometime) I have started to meditate, well that’s not strictly true as  I have read much about meditation and Eastern philosophies over the years and have started to meditate several times in my lifetime but not with a great deal of success . I never attended classes though and I think that’s why I didn’t succeed.

Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.

This opening to the life
we have refused
again and again
until now.

Until now

David Whyte

I met an extraordinary man this summer and it was his example that put me back on the road. Why? Well because his life has been pretty chaotic this summer and he had plenty of cause to be utterly miserable but he has not been and professes to be happy.

I believe him as I have witnessed his calmness, sense of fun and acceptance of his situation; not in a passive defeatist way but in a positive, move forward sort of way.  He seems to live much more in the now.

 Most days this man meditates twice a day on peace and love and it shows.. I thought “I want need some of that” so I signed up for an Introduction to Meditation course at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre; 6 Monday evenings and a Saturday 10-4 practice day which was today.  It was brilliant. 

The centre itself is very inviting as you can see by the photos above and if you’d like to you can find out more by clicking on the name.  There is an air of peace and friendliness when you enter..

Our teacher on the course is a Buddhist called Ruchiraketu or Ruchi ( for those of us who can’t get our tongues round the full name and have poor memories ! )

He is an excellent teacher as well as a wise and gentle man with a mischievous sense of humour..  so a photo of him smiling is appropriate because he does that a lot.

I am not becoming a Buddhist but I am becoming calmer, gentler and more forgiving of myself and others.

Over the weeks we have been learning Mindfulness of Breathing and Loving Kindness meditations; 2 basic meditation techniques.

By focusing on my natural breath as an object of concentration in the Mindfulness of Breathing meditation, I have become aware of my mind’s tendency to flit from one thing to another; planning, questioning, wandering, projecting etc.. The gentle discipline of being mindful of my breath helps me relax, be more in the moment and less restless. I think this mindfulness has made me more alert to everything around me.

I won’t go into more detail here because if you want to find out more you can google the terms.

It’s a bit like learning any new skill by repetition for example like learning a new language.. the more you practice the more natural it becomes to speak in that language. 

Think of it like this – if you practice dislike and hatred, these will sadly become natural to you.  If you practice loving kindness, this will happily become natural to you and this is my intention – to practice loving kindness as part of my everyday life.  Isn’t that better than disliking and hating ?

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the
moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind
isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.

Wu Men (Hui-k’ai) (1183 – 1260)

(English version by Stephen Mitchell )

 The poems I have included here, along with others, were read by Ruchiraketu during the day; a day when I shared a veggie lunch with lovely people, had brilliant, insightful conversation as well as silence and peacefulness. I so enjoyed the communal feeling of practicing the different meditations with others which included lying down  to meditate ( didn’t work for me as I got too comfortable and had to concentrate on keeping awake! ) and the walking meditation which I enjoyed very much.

If you have ever wondered whether meditation might work for you give it a try. It has certainly helped to transform my life in a very positive way and it is my intention to make space in my life to meditate most days but more than that – to carry the effects of the practice with me in my daily life.

As ever I’d love to hear your thoughts so feel free to comment below.

That’s all until next Saturday. Have a kind and loving week 🙂


You can find my photography blog Photomania here I hope you’ll pop over and take a look if you haven’t already.


23 comments on “An oasis of calm in all the madness.

  1. […] post was called “An Oasis of Calm in all the Madness” and you might like to read it here. […]

  2. […] I have openly shared that I haven’t always got things right in the past,  when I have been ill, first with work-related stress and depression, then my Type 2 diabetes diagnosis ( which unbeknownst to me at the time contributed in a big way to my earlier stress) and my recovery aided by my new-found love of meditation. […]

  3. Francesca says:

    Hello Helen, I’m a member of the Cambridge Buddhist Centre community (just a ‘friend’ – not an ‘order member’ with a funny name like Ruchi’s) and just wanted to say thanks for your post. I’m so glad you thought the centre was welcoming and found what you needed there. Like you, I was interested in Eastern philosophy and meditation for a long time before realising that it could be an incredibly practical, helpful area for exploration, which I could share with other people. And you absolutely don’t have to be a Buddhist to meditate! I wish more people knew about the Centre and felt able to try our classes or drop-ins (personally, I love those as they’re different every time – like meditating!). So thanks for helping spread the word.

    For anyone who’s interested, the Cambridge Buddhist Centre is part of the worldwide Triratna (3 Jewels) Buddhist Community, aiming to develop ways of being a Buddhist in the 21st century. Not all Centres run exactly the same events but they have a lot in common. There are also retreat centres which run retreats for beginners. You can local opportunities here:

    I don’t think any school or system is inherently better than any other, it’s just a question of finding a place where you feel comfortable and supported!

    Good luck with your goals Helen, and perhaps see you around some time!

  4. Rachael says:

    I wonder if this might help me with the issue I discussed with you on FB? Interesting…

    • Helen Cherry says:

      I absolutely think it would Rachael.. and I would recommend a buddhist centre if you have one near you that gives meditation classes.. there is something so very peaceful about Buddhist centres.. anyway this has been my experience at the 2 I have spent time at

  5. scillagrace says:

    I am so glad you had a good experience with an “organized” Buddhist meditation course! I am still trying to find an inroad to something like that. I’ve been to 2 places as a “drop-in” guest, and didn’t really feel a connection. I have enjoyed reading on my own and quasi-dharma talks with Steve, but I would like to have a more disciplined and regular experience with meditation. The teacher’s smile is luminous! Very inviting…

  6. The classes seem like a great first step Helen – i hope you get into the habit, at the least it’s a wonderful way to balance a busy life at the best it can change your life 🙂

    Now, i wonder if people aren’t commenting on your Naming the Dead post because they don’t want to make their positions on this ‘war’ public. it seems somehow that clans have formed ever since 9/11 that have already changed our polities, and the way we’ll need to work in future to effect change.

    • Helen Cherry says:

      Thank you wanderlust and congrats on being Freshly Pressed 🙂 It undoubtedly has already changed my life for the better and I intend to continue with it. War never works.. only love and peace can in my humble opinion.. You may well be right about why peoiple are not commenting.. though they have on other “contentious issues” that I have written about..

      • It’s funny, isn’t it? I’ve been watching things change since 9/11 across the world and it seems there might be a lot of people who’ve joined the popular bandwagon but aren’t quite comfortable with their choice, a little ashamed, maybe don’t want to put their hands up, either way.\

        Glad to hear the meditation’s being such a strong tool for you. I think everyone needs to learn the skill, if nothing else – particularly women. The majority of us are going to need every tool in the book to help us with our ageing.

  7. Sitting quietly waiting for elves to materialise is my form of meditation. And yes, I can fall asleep doing it 😉

  8. I’ve had short periods in my life where I’ve tried to make meditation a habit. I reflect that those times saw me at my most calm and most productive, ironically. I always forgave my self the falling alseep bit when meditating lying down. It seemed to me that that made for perfect peace and was the whole idea. I must start again. Your experience sounds so uplifting.

  9. Pranav Lal says:

    Meditation usually puts me to sleep but then I have not given it enough time. Meditating with music sort of works for me since focusing on my breathing is something I find very difficult. Yes, I come from the land of yoga but there are things I still do not understand and there is so much to explore. <smile

    • Helen Cherry says:

      It isn’t easy Pranav I find it very difficult a fair bit of the time.. but I learn from that too. There is indeed much to explore

      • Francesca says:

        Falling asleep when you meditate can mean different things… including the fact that you may be really tired! Some people who meditate lying down because of back problems etc find that things like holding one hand in the air (resting the elbow on the ground) can help. There is so much to explore, but I guess you might want to wonder, why does it really matter if you fall asleep? Are you putting too much pressure on yourself?

  10. tunnelmental says:

    meditation makes you mindful. mindfulness makes you peaceful. peacefulness makes you creative. creativity makes you happy. happiness makes you productive. productivity makes you mindful……love and peace are my weapons. great article Helen, thank you.

  11. cewarnes says:

    It sounds wonderful Helen. I’d love to learn to meditate, I have a very over-active mind.

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