Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Update from Luckenwalde

Well, the weather has been pleasant enough. I have also continued to enjoy making headway with the Empathic Civilization - just over a hundred pages to go. In the last few days I've been joined by Karunabandhu, who is doing some repair work on one of the sheds in the garden, and I've enjoyed helping out where I can. I continue to run every other day, still just gentle outings through the woods, preparatory to the start of the training plan in a couple of weeks time.

Apparently the world cup has started again. It is a vaguely interesting phenomenon that it manages to attract such attention, and therefore money, from so many around the world, but otherwise I can't really get excited about it.

Below are some photos from the last couple of weeks in Luckenwalde.

The woods where I train

The Buddha hill in the garden
(It used to be a rubbish heap)

A Poppy in the sun

A poppy and a bee

Courgette seedlings

Ornamental grass

Garden shed roof repairs

A very tiny baby rat?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I'm back in Berlin for my weekly visit. My first week in Luckenwalde has been very enjoyable and relatively eventful. As well as spending a good deal of time pottering in the garden, cutting the grass, and coming to terms with the incredibly complicated watering system and trying to simplify it, I have been engrossed in a new book by Jeremy Rifkin called the Empathic Civilization. I still have around half of the 600 or so pages to go, but the effort seems well worth it, if only for the delightfully readable style with which the author draws on all aspects of the entire history of mankind in relating his thesis, that
"at the very core of the human story is the paradoxical relationship between empathy and entropy. He observes that at various times in history new energy regimes have converged with new communication revolutions, creating ever more complex societies. More technologically dadvanced cultures, in turn, have brought together more diverse people, heightened empathic sensitivity, and expanded human consciousness. But these increasingly complicated milieus require extensive energy use and speed us toward resource depletion.

The irony is that our growing empathic awareness has been made possible by an ever-greater consumption of the Earth's energy and other resources, resulting in a dramatic deterioration in the health of the planet"
At least according to the notes in the dust jacket. It is certainly a gripping read, for someone like me who has never really managed to grasp an overview of the history of mankind, whether in the sphere of politics, psychology, religion or any other.

At the weekend Luckenwalde hosted the 20th Turmfest (Tower festival?) , a weekend fair involving the transforming of the town centre into a venue for music and entertainment. There were three stages, providing for all tastes, from country and western to rap, as well as the usual fair ground rides and bars and fast food stands. I managed to persuade Claudia to join me on Friday evening to see Engerling, a blues-based band from the former DDR, who can evidently still create a good atmosphere, and I enjoyed hearing them. They did great cover versions of Dead Flowers and Riders on the Storm.

On Sunday Claudia and I had guests and took them to the miniscule town zoo, which comprises little more than a few deer, wild boar, miniature goats ponies, donkies, various birds and apair of brown bears. It was however a pleasant outing, and probably the quietest zoo I have ever been to.

Of course I have been continuing to run. Officially I am in a recovery period before embarking on my 12 week marathon training plan at the start of July. Therefore I resisted the temptation to join in the 10 km race on Saturday that is part of the annual fair, and have jogged my way through the woods near the cottage every couple of days. After all it was less than a week beforehand that I ran a half marathon. My next race is the 10 km Berlin City Night run on 31st July.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Photos from the International Retreat

Many thanks to Petra, who sent me the following photos from the recent International Retreat at Taraloka.

with my dad at Taraloka

serving dinner to the 430 retreatants

Thirteen Years Old

Yesterday I celebrated the thirteenth anniversary of my private ordination into the Western Buddhist Order, recently renamed the Triratna Buddhist Order. On 8th June 1997 I received my name as well as the mantra of my visualisation practice from Ashvajit, my private preceptor. I wrote a bit about receiving my name a few months ago, here. I have re-read my diary entry from that time, describing my happiness at receiving my name and participating in the ritual, which seemed to go by "in a flash", and took place in the context of a six hour long puja.

So after a pleasant three hour long walk with Claudia through the countryside surrounding the cottage, a five km gentle run through the woods and a little work in the garden Claudia and I celebrated my 'birthday' with a meal at our favourite Indian restaurant in Luckenwalde, Royal Mahal, which advertises itself as an Indian/Italian restaurant, but also serves specialities from other countries including Germany. The Indian food at any rate is superb.

Inside the Royal Mahal

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Potsdamer Schlössermarathon

It was a very early start this morning, in order to be in Potsdam in time to collect my start number on time, but everything went smoothly, even if the queue for the numbers appeared shockingly long at first sight. It was already very hot as the runners gathered in the stadium for the start at 9 o'clock, and it was probably clear to everyone that a gentler tempo would be appropriate under such conditions. Last year it apparently rained all day. Today the sun was relentless, which one shouldn't complain about, considering it has taken so long this year to make itself felt.

The course is really very attractive. One can get an impression from the photos here. Each time I visit Potsdam, which I have probably done about five times in the past ten years, I think to myself, that I would like to get to know the town a little more, but it is not so important that I have ever made the time to follow my thoughts through. The race began by taking us through the city centre, followed by several large parks, including Park Sanssouci and Park Babelsberg, with their famous palaces. We also crossed over the Glienicke Bridge, famous as the sight of exchanges of captured spies between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, for which the press coined the name, the 'Bridge of Spies'.

Given the conditions and the fact that due to my recent illness I had not trained much recently, I was satisfied with my result: I covered the course in a time of 1:55:53, finishing overall 802nd out of 2,706, and 70th in my age class.

Tomorrow after a meeting about the new Buddhist centre, I head off to Luckenwalde for a long-awaited break for five weeks, returning to Berlin once a week in order to teach English and thereby continuing to earn a little money, as well as keeping informed about progress with the new centre.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Back in Berlin

Yesterday evening I returned from a six day trip to Britain along with four others from Buddhistisches Tor. On Thursday we flew to Liverpool, took a train to Whitchurch in Shropshire from where we took a taxi to Taraloka on the England/Wales border. From Friday until Tuesday we enjoyed the company of 430 Buddhist practitioners from all over the world on the second Triratna International Retreat.

As well as meditation and puja we enjoyed talks, workshops and work periods together. It was a great weekend, and I really enjoyed meeting old and new friends, many of whom I have known for many years. The weather played its part in keeping the weekend's proceedings suitably varied and on the last evening we ritually marked the change of name of the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order to the Triratna Buddhist Community.

I also managed a trip out with my dad, who now concedes that I can run ten kilometers faster than him, and on the evening after the event finished my sister Jane came over with her husband H and daughter Katie, and we went out for a glass of orange juice and lemonade in nearby Ellesmere.

During the event I found time to run a gentle 13 kilometers through the varied and pleasingly flat surrounding countryside, incorporating a disused stretch of railway, a canal towpath and a peat bog. This afternoon I ran a pleasant 5 km along my usual canal route here in Berlin, and am now looking forward to running in the half marathon in Potsdam on Sunday .