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image credit: http://uk.businessinsider.com/afp-australian-heads-to-greece-to-help-crying-pensioner-in-photo-2015-7?r=US

I see a vast canyon

in the mere metres between

that queue and you

their eyes reveal hearts

teetering on the edge

of engagement

but fear burns all bridges

and they dare not fall


Who gave permission

to greed and scorn

to rob our elders of dignity

and our youth of purpose?

We drown our minds in numbers

until our hearts forget

people are downing too


I sit before a silent screen

aching to hug you through the pixels

to hold you, EveryGrandpa,

in my shamed arms and say

‘Please stand, I’ll hold you.

This stops with me’

You may know of, or find, your own way to stand by the people of Greece at this difficult time, either as a whole or more personally through individuals/families you know who are directly affected, but there are some links below to a few current stories and campaigns if you’d like some ideas. I’ve also included a link to the story of a man who is helping to rescue the migrants at risk of drowning in the mediterranean.  Let this stop with us. May we find a new way to take care of our whole human family with compassion, dignity and joy.







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your smile lands on my face
like a butterfly I’d go breathless for
drawn by the joy
I hatch here
in this shelter built of books

we find comfort
your smile and I
in our shared, quiet passion
and I know you’d understand
these random volumes are my friends

but did you also share my fear
of dying wasted and unused?

your smile leaves me then
and I wonder where it goes
my face feels cold
a lonely shiver
I wrap myself in unread pages

For fun, and…


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There’s only an ‘e’
between feast and fast
so perhaps
with a little empathy
we could all eat
never doubting there’s enough
eradicating world hunger forever
but even I know
it won’t be as easy as that

famine’s just two letters away from family
so perhaps it’s not what we do
but how
growing food sustainably
to share our harvest generously
we’d nourish the world abundantly
dream I a little wistfully
we’re not there yet regretfully

if you swap earth’s ‘h’
from the end to the start
you get heart
for happiness leads to
harmony leads to
healing leads to
humanity re-seeing
that our mother earth’s well-being
is a must for our joy too
simple, yes, but true



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I took my unquiet mind
for a walk in morning’s first breaths
as the sun stretched sleepy rays
through the trees
to ignite the humble dew
suspended from a leaf
in the hedge
now clear and bright as crystal

I gasped
as uninvoked reverence
ran wild through my being
and I rode it fast and free
deep into the lands beyond perception
in search of the source
of this unchecked love

on finding none
I returned to witness
my hand
independently and unbidden
reach out to touch
that leaf in the hedge
in affirmation of the richness
of its indefinable worth

and so disturbed the dew
staining my fingertip
with light



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I heard

the earth’s song

to the blossom –

“Come fall

let me hold you

go dance with the wind

I will wait

fear not the landing

for I will catch you

on the tender tips

of spring green grass

to let you rest

a breath

between branch and beneath”


rain falls

my footsteps too

as blossom sinks

into the earth

that sung her down

and I watch the bumps

of promise she vacated

swaying my being

to a conjured breeze

in a petal snow

of letting go

laying a carpet

where the new dares

step its first



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Is every way a circle?

Does every leaver know

obligatory as in breath

they’re all returners too?


Too close to see the whole

of my journey back to you

grow wider as I waited

loading freedom’s backpack with my pain


some days I catch a scent of you

a salty promise from the shore

where beginning and end blend

to argue softly over footprints


for we’re just so much

land and sea, I need

to dance and play in sight

of your rock steady stillness


tossing mending gifts

at the seams of your safety

blurring your edges with

each landing, rush and run




This was the second poem I caught today, for I gave the first to the following competition…which is still receiving entries until midnight tonight if you’re interested!



The gift of contributing…


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I’ve now been here in Devon for just over two months and, though I am still learning about why I’ve made this choice to offer a year of service (possibly two years) as a full time cook in a Buddhist retreat centre, it’s now become clear to me what at least one of those reasons is.

Today was a day off for me and, as is often my custom, I spent several hours of it at the local library, where I watched a couple of TED talks and continued reading a book I took out recently, both of which inspired this post, and my new insight.

The TED talk was presented by Dan Ariely, and is on the topic of inequality. Some of the figures quoted made my jaw fall wide open and stay open for longer than is normally socially acceptable (so I did close it, though I’d have liked to have left it open a little longer to truly to give expression to what I was feeling). In America, the bottom 20% have 0.1% of the total wealth (no, I have not mistakenly put a decimal point in, that’s the true figure) and the top 20% have 84% of the wealth. That basically means, of every million dollars, $1000 goes to the bottom 20% and $840,000 goes to the top 20%. Watch if you dare – and any photos of your jaws dropping wide open will be received with delight at harulaladd(at)yahoo(dot)com

This book is one I’ve read before, and one I’m getting even more from on a second reading. It’s an exploration of the nature of exchange, and a comparison between the exchange of gifts and commercial exchange, particularly in relation to the arts and creativity. One bold early statement is ‘…a work of art can survive without the market, but where there is no gift, there is no art.’


So, one of the reasons I’m here is to reconnect with, and immerse myself in, the economy of generosity and gift exchange. For a variety of reasons I found myself outwardly immersed primarily in commercial exchange over the last couple of years, and this had begun to have a poisonous effect on my inner life. Those things I hold dear, that nourish me, and that I choose to give value and priority too (simplicity, caring, time alone free from schedules, quality time with loved ones, unconditional creativity, generosity of spirit as well as material giving, etc etc…) had no discernible value in the commercial market paradigm, and as a result my opinion of my own value was plummeting.

Being here, those very qualities I cherish are the ones I am not only given permission to prioritize, but I am actively encouraged and supported in cultivating them as fully and wholeheartedly as I can. I can excel again, because what I have to contribute is exactly what is being asked for. I can be nourished, and grow again, because what I need is exactly what I am receiving.

So what do I have to contribute? My full and dedicated service to all who live, and come on retreat here, whether that be cooking a meal that meets all the various needs of those following different diets, or helping someone who’s just that moment accidentally broken a flower vase, and is shaken and unable to clean it up herself. I give her a hug and take my time, though I’m already late for my shift in the kitchen. My feedback and insights in group discussions where, all opinions are given equal weight. My willingness to learn, and my sincere desire to grow and expand my ability to communicate with compassion and clarity.

There is no monetary value you can put on most of this, and there is nothing you could pay me, or indeed anyone, that would force me to do such things, because they require a certain quality of heart that can not be bought. Why? Because such actions are a choice, motivated by something much more profound that pounds and dollars. And so I collect the thank you notes, and I receive the smiles and the hugs. Gratitude is a natural and equal partner in this exchange.

And what do I receive? An opportunity to cultivate an outlook and way of being that will bring more genuine happiness into my life. An opportunity to step out of ‘the market’ and to see myself, others, the planet and all of nature from the perspective of complete interconnectedness and mutual interdependence. An opportunity to recalibrate my value system, and experience how much a simple act of kindness can mean to me; a smile, an offer to wash my dishes, a hug when I need one, a clear and caring reality check when I’ve gone into story and drama that is creating unnecessary fear and sadness.

And in the background of all of this is…time. Life is slower here in many ways. I’m part of a team, I don’t have to interact regularly with the fast paced-supermarket- multiple choice-full calendar life that most people are immersed in. I’m very aware of appearing over sentimental here, or of over simplifying things, but yesterday I took a long walk through fields of ewes with their lambs, and trees full of singing birds, and the simple joy of the birdsong and tender beauty of young lambs skipping filled me fit to bursting…and I get that feeling regularly, every day. How many people go days, weeks, months, dare I say years, without consciously enjoying the simple gifts all around them?

Some may see my life choice as one of sacrifice, but anything I have let go of has done nothing but make space for something of much greater value. I have experienced moments of a very pure and grounded happiness that feels rooted in something far more sustainable and real that anything money can buy. And, as with my recent post about the use of cars, this isn’t about ‘money is bad’ , money is still a part of my life, but this is about becoming rich in spirit, in joy, in the celebration of life as a gift.

I had begun to see life as something to survive, to get through. I didn’t see how I could be a success when judged on the values of the world of commercial exchange, or how I would find happiness there, but I could function in that world. Maybe that was the point. Maybe that was enough. But, if I was honest, I knew, for me anyway, it wasn’t enough.

I have found a way to contribute again, where the gifts I bring are received with such grace that the desire to give flows freely. I am receiving gifts which I value so highly, I could never repay them with a direct and comparable gift…so I pass the feeling of the gift on, in my own way, and so I become part of an exchange that is limitless, because it feeds itself, and becomes exponentially greater the more it is given away…

That’s why I’m here 

A Few New Haiku…from the beach!


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ness beach one

Cold rush – you got me!

Bare toes kissed by cheeky wave

They jump back laughing


Sun scatters diamonds

Paves a road of light – will you

dare walk on water?


Sun tired eyes close

To view the landscape within

A soul full of sea



I took that photo with my phone yesterday – yes – this is a beach, in England, in April – AMAZING!!!

The butterfly’s cocoon


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This morning I shared with my colleagues that I was planning to visit the coast to see the sea. I have two days off, and haven’t been on a beach since leaving Scotland. I need a dose of salty air, crying gulls and the kind of expansive hugeness that only the ocean and the sky can do. I booked one of our shared cars for tomorrow morning, not wanting to keep it to myself all day in case someone else needed it, and I googled a map to plan my route. I wasn’t entirely clear or confident (navigation is not a strong point of mine) but I knew I’d get there, albeit with a few wrong turns along the way. I was happy, excited and looking forward to my coastal adventure.

Over lunch I ended up in a deep discussion around the challenge of climate change, and the negative impact humanity is having on the sustainability and wellbeing of the natural environment. One aspect of the discussion was to question the very point of such debates, when it seems self-evident that the vast majority of people on the planet are playing the business as usual card. We talk well about reducing our carbon footprint and treading lightly on mother earth, but what does all this talk actually change?

This question is one I’ve asked many times in a variety of situations, but here I found myself defending the position of debating and sharing. Sometimes, I said, I find my personal internal spark needs reigniting. I can so easily get lost in the dangerous dual trap of unquestioningly following familiar habits, and at the same time succumbing to the mindset that says I’m too small and too insignificant and this is too big and too scary – the End. Having a discussion with others who face similar challenges can feed me in a way that stokes that vital flame of hope and curiosity. I start to question again. I start to wake up. I start to feel engaged.

After this discussion I went to my room and found myself sitting quietly, with my eyes closed, to do a bit of digesting. I noticed that my plans for tomorrow and the conversation I’d just had were not in alignment. I’d been sharing how much I loved nature, especially the oceans, and yet in order to see the ocean and feed that ‘love’ I was going to drive, thereby contributing to the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in the air, which is being absorbed by the oceans causing them to acidify and threatening their delicate eco system. Before consciously making this connection it hadn’t even occurred to me to explore alternative ways of reaching the beach.

So I decided I would instead walk to the nearest town (something I do frequently) and take a train to the coast. And then something interesting happened. A whole host of other concerns I’d only half registered were resolved too! I had wanted to stay out for the whole day, but it didn’t feel right to keep the car all that time, so I’d limited my adventure to just a morning. I was now free to stay out for as long as I liked! I had been worrying about getting myself there without too many wrong turns. That was now the train driver’s concern, not mine! I had been wondering how much this was going to cost me in petrol and parking, as I’m not swimming in cash right now. The return train ticket is both cheaper, and a surety, so I could plan my budget! With that momentary shift in perspective, not taking the car had become very much the choice likely to bring me more pleasure and happiness, and not a sacrifice at all. It being my day off, one of the things I was rich with was time. The only real benefit using the car could have offered was the one thing I didn’t need on this occasion.

This isn’t about ‘cars are bad’. That’s a pretty boring and unproductive statement. This is about waking up and remembering to ask questions before making decisions based on personal or cultural habits that leave us making do with so much less joy and meaning from life than the full richness we could be experiencing.

Culturally, as a citizen of the developed west, I’ve been taught to believe, ‘the quicker and easier, the better’. Tell that to the butterfly helped from its cocoon by an impatient bystander who wants to watch its first flight, only now it can’t fly because it doesn’t have the strength. It dies, because it needed that challenge of working to get out of its own cocoon to build the necessary strength in its wings. Vital learning, strength and satisfaction are to be had from making a genuine effort for something you really want. Anticipation too is sweet.

It will take me about 1.5 hours to get to the beach tomorrow, instead of the 15 or 20 minutes it would have taken by car. All the better, for this will allow the inevitable joy of the arrival to slowly build and grow and feed my soul with wonder through the journey itself. The destination is just a single part of any journey, and often not even the most interesting or significant part. I want to give myself the time and space to understand that the whole of life is an ocean, and I can bow to the vastness in every moment. I want to see the ocean in the grass, green only because of the rain. I want to bless the ocean with tears equally salty as I give thanks for remembering.

Straining for heaven


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I miss
the wildlife of childhood
in this high-rise of grownupness

the sky used to be
all around me
now I strain my neck to see

the clouds that drink
at the cosmic well
framed by dancing branches

waving at the heavens
with their thousand-fingered hands
as I wield an axe

to cut open the sky
and realise how much easier
to simply climb a tree


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