Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A New Personal Best!

On Sunday I took part in the 70th Plänterwald 10k and ran my fastest 10k so far. I was also very happy to have achieved third place in my age group (out of twelve).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Summer is nearly over

And autumn is coming. I have had a lot going on over the last few months, including a month of meetings and conventions in England. In the meantime, building work has begun on the new Buddhist centre at long last, which is very satisfying. I am slowly working my way through the Oxford History of Western Music by Richard Taruskin (in five volumes!), which I bought in June and is a fascinating journey.

The pope is visiting Berlin. Here is the view from my kitchen window:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Get Stoned in Luckenwalde and another Half Marathon in Potsdam

Last Thursday was Ascension Day, a public holiday in Germany. After leading an evening session of the Foundation course at Buddhistisches Tor on Thursday evening I took a train from Berlin Central Station and joined Claudia in the garden at Luckenwalde for the start of a couple of weeks holiday. Friday was the start of the Turmfest in Luckenwalde, a three-day festival during which the town centre is closed off to host a fun fair and numerous stands offering assorted refreshments, and three stages present live music until late into the night. On Friday Claudia and I paid our four euros each and enjoyed first of all the music of pop band Stella Nova, and then the country and western of Uncle Lu, which was fascinating more on account of the couple of dozen square dancers in front of the stage than the music. The highlight of the evening however was Get Stoned, a really competent Stones cover band from Berlin. 
On Sunday I ran the Potsdam Schlößer half marathon again. This year it was even hotter than last, maybe 28°c. I had expected to run a faster time than last year, but it didn’t happen. I finished in just under two hours. Three minutes before the start, the commentator encouraged all participants to remember a runner, who died during last year’s race with a minute’s silence. The silence lasted literally about five seconds before the commentator started talking again. I suspect that part of the intention of this remembrance was to make this year’s participants aware of the potential risks. With about three-quarters of the course behind me I witnessed a man being helped to the grass at the side of the road, clearly suffering under the conditions. I asked if he required help, to which he assented, so I ran a hundred meters back along the course to a water station and explained what had happened and the helper called someone on his mobile phone. Hopefully all went well. 

My time was 1:58:59, three minutes slower than last year. I finished 784th overall (compared to 795th last year), 71st in my age class (70th last year)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

More Music and preparations for Potsdam

Since I last wrote something I've continued training for this Sunday's half marathon in Potsdam. Last year it was hot and I was not really fit so it was a tough run. This year I feel reasonably fit but the temperature is expected to be around 28°, so it might again be pretty hard going. We'll see...

After the pleasing discovery of Takemitsu at the Berlin Philharmonic the other week I have found another classical composer from the East: Tan Dun, whose Ghost Opera is a fascinating piece. Performed by the Kronos Quartet, it can be seen on You Tube, where his Internet Symphony can also be found.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Wesak Celebrations and a Trip to the Berlin Philharmonic

On Saturday we celebrated the anniversary of the Buddha's enlightenment at Buddhistisches Tor Berlin, beginning with a morning of meditation and mantra chanting. After lunch Vajragupta, who was visiting from Worcester in England, gave an uplifting and very personal talk on generosity. This was followed by some readings from the Buddhist scriptures about the Buddha's path to enlightenment and we concluded the celebration with a puja. Some of us rounded off the day with a visit to the Berlin Philharmonic to see Yutaka Sado conduct From me flows what you call time for five percussionists and orchestra by Takemitsu and Shostakovich's 5th Symphony. Whatever one might think about the music, there is no doubting the Berlin Philharmonic as one of the best orchestras around. Not that I claim to be at all experienced in this field, but I reckon they're a pretty tight combo.

I really enjoyed both works which were very different from each other. Takemitsu's piece is a very contemplative and was performed with a pleasant bit of theatre, as the five percussionists made their way onto the stage shortly after the start of the piece from different directions, each playing finger cymbals and wearing different brightly coloured jackets - the  colours of the five Jinas in the five Buddha mandala. But I was most deeply moved by the Shostakovich piece, in which a clear tension in the music reflects the terrible tightrope which the composer walked throughout his working life, but especially under Stalin's reign of terror, between conforming to the demands of the Soviet regime while at the same time being true to his own creative convictions. And all that for 8 Euros - last minute tickets on the podium directly behind the orchestra. Great to be able to see the conductor's enthusiasm and gestures from the front.

Here is a video of parts of the rehearsal for the concert

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Olympic Stadium at last

Last Friday I returned from an eight day solitary retreat in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern on the edge of the Müritz National Park. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, meditating, studying, walking, running, reflecting and just doing nothing. It wasn't wholly comfortable the whole time being alone with nothing but my own mind, but always interesting. I spent a lot of time reading Wisdom Beyond Words by Sangharakshita, commentaries on some of the potentially bewildering Perfection of Wisdom Sutras, based on some seminars he led several years ago.

After a couple of weeks neglect on account of being very busy I also returned to training again while on retreat, but I guess I was still not as fit as I needed to be in order to run the Berlin BIG 25 on Sunday as well as I might otherwise have done. Having not participated in the event in the previous two years because of illness, it was a relief at least to be able to start this year. By the halfway point however, my lack of training became apparent and from then on it was a real effort to keep going, my pace dropped dramatically, and I became conscious of continuously being overtaken by other runners. Still, the effort proved well worth it with my arrival in the amazing Olympic stadium, where Jessie Owens won three gold medals in 1936. The recently refurbished stadium is a really impressive work of architecture, a temple to sport.

Here are my race statistics:
Duration: 2:13:04
Pace: 5:20 / kilometer
Field Placement: 1445 / 4048
Age Group Placement: 182 / 498
Gender Placement: 1290 / 3077

Monday, April 18, 2011

Relaxing in Luckenwalde

 After my illness last weekend it was a great feeling to get back to running yesterday during a restful weekend with Claudia in Luckenwalde. The sunshine and warm temperatures were an added bonus to the pleasure of getting out into the country for a short break, and doing a little physical work, enjoying the sights and sounds of the natural world, as well as reading and listening to music. After an early breakfast on Saturday we went for a stroll through the woods for an hour, and then I mowed the grass and turned the compost heap. Claudia and I set up the swinging garden seat after lunch and while reading my book on the life and works of Mozart we were joined by a beautifully marked green woodpecker who hopped back and forth a few feet in front of us for five minutes. As well as finding time to listen to some of Mozart's piano sonatas, I enjoyed an hour's snooze, before meditating outside in the still warm early evening. The garden is looking particularly spring-like with the opening of the daffodils I planted in the autumn.