And this is why….

And this is why I practice.

I believe, and follow, this quote with my whole heart.

“Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.” ~ Buddha

 

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Don’t miss this wonderful blog post, which is a complimentary piece to my post “How to create a peaceful life”.

Zen Being

“I Stop For Suffering” recently shared a marvelous post, which offered a few simple steps on how to create a peaceful life.  Having read her post, I was inspired this morning to write a complementary piece which offers a few simple steps to creating a peaceful living space.  A peaceful environment can really help to reduce stress and make your home a sanctuary of rejuvenation. Let’s start by focusing on just one room in your house–a room that you would like to transform into a haven into which you can retreat for a few minutes of quietude, journal-writing, meditation, yoga, or some other means of self-centering.

1. Designate this room as sacred space.  Decide that from this moment forth, it will be treated by you and everyone who enters it with respect, mindfulness, and care. (Note: the comment of vpitts231 below has a really great point: perhaps it…

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Handbook of life

I was given this list some years ago, and it is something that I have tried to follow ever since.  I love the points on this list – each one is so profound and meaningful.

THE HANDBOOK OF LIFE

  1. Make sure that you drink a sufficient amount of water each day.
  2. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a beggar.
  3. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured.
  4. Live with the 3 E’s – Energy, Enthusiasm, and Empathy.
  5. Make time for your daily cultivation
  6. Read more useful books than you did in the previous year.
  7. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day.
  8. Sleep for 7 hours.
  9. Take a 10 – 30 minute walk each day, and while you walk, smile.
  10. Don’t compare your life to others’.  You have no idea what their journey is all about.
  11. Don’t have negative thoughts on things you cannot control.  Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.
  12. Don’t over-do.  Keep your limits.
  13. Don’t take yourself so seriously, no one else does.
  14. Don’t waste your precious energy on gossip.
  15. Envy is a waste of time and energy.  You already have all that you need.
  16. Forget issues of the past.  Don’t remind your partner with his/her mistakes of the past.  That will ruin your present happiness.
  17. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.  Don’t hate others.
  18. Make peace with your past so it won’t spoil the present.
  19. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
  20. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn.  Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.
  21. Smile and laugh more.
  22. You don’t have to win every argument.  Agree to disagree.
  23. Call your family often.
  24. Each day do something good to others.
  25. Forgive everyone for everything.
  26. Spent time with people over the age of 70 and under the age of 6.
  27. Try to make at least three people smile each day.
  28. What other people think of you is none of your business.
  29. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick.  Your family and friends will.  Stay in touch.
  30. Do the thing that you ought to do, and not the thing that you want to do.
  31. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.
  32. Pure and peaceful mind heal everything.
  33. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
  34. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
  35. The best is yet to come.
  36. When you awake alive in the morning, be thankful that you have another day to enrich yourself.
  37. Your inner true nature is originally happy and at peace.  So be happy and let go of all your unnecessary attachments.
Do you have any to add?  I would love to hear from you 🙂

Courtesy of Chung Tian Temple

A peaceful life

One of the things I feel truly blessed to have is a calm and peaceful life for my son and I.

I have strived to create a very relaxed and nurturing home environment for us, and I thought I would share some of my techniques for cultivating calm.

  • Avoid watching, or listening to, the news as much as possible.  See my earlier blog post here for more.
  • Listen to classical music.  Especially the “lighter” pieces.  This is my favourite radio station.
  • Lavender oil.  Not only is this fantastic essential oil relaxing, it also helps dispel negative energy.  Use it in an oil burner.  Sprinkle it on your pillow before bedtime.  Or wear it instead of perfume (to stay calm during the day).
  • Practice deep breathing.
  • Smile – even if you don’t initially feel like it.
  • Go for a walk everyday.  As you walk, use the opportunity to really notice your environment.  What can you see?  Hear?  Smell?
  • Practice meditation
  • Write out your intentions each morning.  Including the intention to be calm.
  • Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day.
  • Drink tea, mindfully.

and my favourite, and I most highly recommend:

  • Avoid harshness.
    Harsh speech.  Harsh thoughts.  Harsh influences.
    Be mindful of what you exposure yourself to.  For example – music, books, movies…
    Are they adding to your feeling of calm and peace?

I must admit that I used to read a lot of horror and crime novels.

Until I read this enlightening blog post:

I won’t Kill Bill

“On a personal level, I question how I can claim to dedicate myself to a life of peace and nonviolence when I’m watching movies like Predator and Goodfellas on the weekends.”

The points in the blog post can also be extended beyond movies, to what other influences you expose yourself to.

Reading this blog post really opened my eyes.  And made me aware of how I felt after reading those types of books – depressed, anxious and jumpy.

Now I tend to stick to non-fiction books.  I usually spend my time reading to learn something, or improve myself.

Remember that peace generates peace.  By cultivating calm and peace within ourselves, we influence those around us , thereby making them feel more calm as well.

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Nurture your happiness

Some of my favourite tips for nurturing happiness, joy, delight and wonder ♥

 

Fake it till you make it – decide to be happy.  Smile, laugh often and have fun.  Sometimes actions come before feelings (instead of the other way around).  So in other words: act happy, and you will feel happy.

Smile – as Thich Nhat Hanh advises … wear a half smile always.Smile while listening to music, smile during your free moments, smile even when you are irritated.

Listen to upbeat music – my personal favourites:  walking on sunshine, somewhere over the rainbow, don’t worry be happy.  And my favourite place to listen to them – in the shower!  Nothing starts your day off on a positive note like listening to these songs while you have your morning shower.  

Laugh – because generally life itself is too absurd not to.  Even if you can’t about something now, chances are you will be able to at some point.  Really – sometimes all you can do is laugh.

and lastly…

Be grateful

Surround yourself with people who make you smile

Dream big, sing loudly, and dance like no-one is watching

 

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A proud parenting moment – the classroom work brought home by my 6yo.  Never fails to make me grin 🙂

Why did you say that??

I am a HUGE fan of Gil Fronsdal and his dharma talks.

It’s actually on my ‘bucket list’ to travel to Redwood City to listen to him talk in person at the Insight Meditation Centre (just putting it out there universe! 🙂 )

One dharma talk of his that especially stayed with me was “Mindfulness of Speaking”.

I am planning on doing a whole post dedicated to mindfulness of speech (because it’s such a wonderful subject to explore), but there was one thing he said that really resonated with me, and changed the way that I think.

And it was:

“If you want to jump-start your mindfulness practice, to go deep in Buddhist Practice, then here is the direct path…

Be aware of why you are saying what you are about to say

 

So when you speak – what is the motivation behind what you are saying.  And what exactly are you sharing?

Are you sharing delight?

Are you sharing information?

Or are you really trying to say something about yourself?  

How many times, when you speak, does what you say contain useful information that needs to be passed on?

How much is opinion?  And gossip?  And trying to accomplish something subtly?

 

There can be multiple agendas and purposes behind what we are saying.

It’s a wonderful and enlightening exercise to think about what you are going to say before you say it.

To take note of your intention before you speak, and your state of mind.  

Is it calm?  Relaxed?  Friendly?

Your speech will likely follow your state of mind.

For me, listening to this talk – and following Gil’s advice – created a paradigm shift.

It changed my way of thinking forever.

 

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“Smile, breathe and go slowly.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

Not for me thanks, I’m a Buddhist

For me, avoiding alcohol was not a conscious decision that I made one day.

It was born of many factors.  But principally, I just never enjoyed it, not the taste, and definitely not the effects.

I like the feeling of being calm and clear-headed.  And clarity and alcohol do not generally go together.

I also don’t like the feeling of losing touch with myself, and my sense of ethics.

It’s challenging though, in this society, to abstain from drinking.  Especially as a 30 something female.  Although I think the pressure to drink is not limited to age or to gender.

At times in the past I have given in to that pressure.

However these days I am comfortable to calmly and firmly state my decision when it comes to drinking.

I should add that I do not take a moral – or buddhist – standpoint on others drinking.  But for me it just doesn’t work.

I am passionate about developing my practice, and insight and mindfulness, and alcohol does not assist me in that desire.

I am proud to follow the 5 precepts, out of compassion and care for myself and the world around me ♥

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By refraining from taking intoxicants, we can more easily cultivate awareness, attention and clarity of mind

Everyday I’m sufferin’

In recent times I have tried to change my attitude towards events in my life that would have previously made me very stressed and tense.

It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve finally come to accept that things that happen are neither good or bad, they just “are”.  

By attaching a “this is a catastrophe” label, I am only increasing the stress and suffering for myself.

The first time I really noticed the shift in my attitude was about 12 months ago.

Every 12 months I have to go into the hospital to have test and biopsies done.  

This used to cause me enormous stress.  I would become increasingly anxious for days leading up to it.  I would stop eating, and sleeping.  I would cry throughout the entire procedure.  It left me feeling exhausted, physically and emotionally, for days afterwards.

Last year the hospital visit occurred 3 months after my marriage fell apart.

This time I was so focused on other things, and had so much on my mind, that the hospital visit barely even registered.

And I realised afterwards – the event itself was exactly the same.  Day in hospital, biopsies, results, then home.  However my attitude towards it was MUCH different.  

I just did it.

And the stress to myself that time was non-existent.

The events in our lives are going to happen whether we attach extra suffering and layers to them, or simply approach them calmly.  However the difference between these two options – to ourselves and our wellbeing – is huge.

Now I try not to attach labels, or levels, of “good”, “bad”, or “neutral” to life’s events.

I have a choice.

And I choice to be peaceful and happy.

And I am not going to allow events in my life – or rather my reaction to them – to take away from that happiness ♥

 

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“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” ~ Haruki Murakami

More wisdom from Thich Nhat Hahn.

Mindfulbalance

In order to have peace and joy, you must succeed in having peace within each of your steps.  Your steps are the most important thing.  They decide everything. But often in our daily life, our steps are burdened with anxieties and fears.  Life itself seems to be a continuous chain of insecure feelings, and so our steps lose their natural easiness.  Our earth is truly beautiful.  There is so much graceful, natural scenery along paths and roads around the earth!   They are all available to us, yet we cannot enjoy them because our hearts are not trouble-free, and our steps are not at ease.

Thich Nhat Hahn

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The importance of being earnest

I was lucky to have opportunity to “clear the air” with a friend of mine this morning.  

And it really made me realise how important open and honest communication is.  Not only in friendships, but in all our relationships.

Misunderstandings and miscommunications are common.  And in the grand scheme of things, they need not become significant.  However they can without open dialogue, and mindfulness and consideration.

In each new relationship we bring traces of our previous relationships.  Our experiences and our hurts.  Our “history”.

And these often cloud over our vision.

We can read quite simple situations with a veil of false understanding and expectation.

None of us are mind readers.  (Well some of us may be, but that’s a whole other blog post 😉 )

Communication can only help in strengthening our relationships.

After all, if a friendship is worth forming, then it must be worth maintaining and caring for.

Address differences as they arise.  And if an issue does arise, then approach it with calmness and a genuine resolve and desire to work through things.  To listen to the other person’s story without making judgements or trying to defend yourself.  Be open and willing to communicate.

Chances are they may be hurting as much as you are.  Even when that hurt is displayed as anger.  After all, anger is an emotion used when we feeling vulnerable and are trying to protect ourselves from hurt.

Friendships are a separate entity that require as much love and care as we do.  

Sometimes you may find the other person is not willing to meet your open-heartedness.  At the very least though, your openness and attempt to resolve the issue with communication has softened the situation.  And you don’t know what that might lead to in the future.

It leaves the door open…

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Be yourself

I am so profoundly moved by this poem that I read for the first time today…..

 

Desiderata

by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

 

Image*  Special thanks to Hope for sharing this wonderful poem on her blog today * 

A simple life

For a while now I have been interested in the idea of renunciation, and exploring it further.

This great post especially has brought it to the forefront of my mind.

Renunciation can be understood as a letting go of what we cling to. The Buddha taught that genuine renunciation requires thoroughly investigating and understanding how we make ourselves unhappy by grasping and greediness. When we do, renunciation naturally follows, and it is a positive and liberating act, not a punishment.

I’m very interested to explore renunciation in all areas of my life, however the one that I have had most practice with lately is in regards to my possessions.

My attitude towards my possessions really changed during the difficult period after my husband left.

At a time when I was literally surviving each day one minute at a time, my possessions really became meaningless to me.

What became important was my friends, the people around me, and my faith.  These were the things that were going to get me through that time.

Not my TV.  Nor my CD collection.

What also changed my perception was having to sell my house and move.  I went from a 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom house, to a 2 (and a bit) bedroom tiny cottage.

There was obviously going to be a lot that was going to have to be ‘shed’.

So I spent a great deal of time deciding what I truly needed.  What brought me happiness.  And the rest I gave away.

It’s amazing how much ‘stuff’ I really did not need.

Although this is not to say that I do not have possessions that I love.  But they can be narrowed down to literally:  my camera, my laptop, my iPod, and my Kindle.

Even now, 6 months after I sold my house, I am still giving away my possessions.  I would really like to get back to just very basics.

This change has also extended to our TV habits.  Although we still have a TV, we very rarely watch it.  The other day I turned it on (after not watching it for 3 weeks) to find it wasn’t even working.

The time that we used to spend watching TV, we now spend outside.

We ride our scooters.  We walk.  We play with friends.  We take photos.

Another area of my life where I have been exploring this further is in respect to my car.

2 months ago I had a serious car accident (car versus tree, tree won).  My car was a complete write-off.

At first it was difficult to get used to the concept of not having a car.  I had been so reliant on it.

So, because we didn’t have a car, my son and I started walking.

We walked to school, to the park, to the shops.

And it was honestly the best thing that has ever happened to us.  We use that time now to enjoy nature, and take photos, and get fresh air and exercise.

It wasn’t intentional, but I also felt proud that I was not contributing to the pollution in our environment.  And it felt very natural and ‘right’ to walk, instead of using a car.

It’s simpler, and less complicated.

Now we are at a point where I have to decide if I am going to get another car, and I am struggling with the decision.

I would love to hear your thoughts on it…

And of course renunciation is about much more than our physical possessions.  It also extends to other things that we ‘cling to’.  Our thoughts.  Our food and eating patterns.  Our concept of pleasure, and entertainment.

 

Practice exercise:

Think of all your possessions….

Which ones are most important to you?

Which ones bring you happiness?

Which ones could you live without?

 

Our possessions really are never ‘ours’.  They are simply on loan.
 They can be taken from us in an instant – through accident, fire, theft etc.
And we can’t take them with us when we die.

A fascinating doco

Incredibly profound, and so true.

People that inspire me ~ Andy Smallman

The people I find inspiring are those who embody the traits that I value – kindness, generosity, compassion and positivity.  And I feel incredibly grateful to have very inspirational people around me – both in real life, and on the world wide web.

I recently had the idea to do a weekly blog post to recognise these wonderful people.  

And to say thank you for inspiring me and countless others, and making the world a much better place.

The first person I wanted to feature was the person who has made the biggest impact on my life thus far – Andy Smallman.

It was this (relatively) simple video that inspired a chain reaction of events in my life.

I have long tried to be a good person, and to make a difference in other people’s lives.  However it was watching this video that inspired me so much, and moved me to action.

I was blown away – a school dedicated to teaching kindness.

Thanks to Andy I was inspired to start my own random acts of kindness, and also this blog.

Andy was kind enough to let me interview him for the piece.  The questions, and his answers are below.

 

About Andy:

Andy Smallman is an education innovator and director of the Puget Sound Community School. His unique approach to learning has kindness as it’s foundation and is inspiring students and their communities alike.

In one sentence, describe yourself…

ImageI try not to take myself too seriously, hence this description. 😉

What is your life motto?

Be true to yourself.

 Happiness is….

… being warm, both on the inside, with myself, and on the outside, with everyone and everything else.

 What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about those moments when a person taps another person on the shoulder, metaphorically or actually, and the second person turns to see the sunrise, metaphorically or actually.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Just today I went for a run and saw an early spring flower blooming. I thought, “Who put that there? What a kind thing to have done for me.”

Who inspires you?

Children. Nature. Honesty. Oh, the question said who, not what. Sorry.

What are your goals?

To grow in wisdom and to learn to love better. That’s it. Everything else flows from those two things.

What’s the best decision you’ve ever made?

Well there’s always a “right” answer to this question, like the decision to marry Melinda, my wife, right? And that really was a good decision, a great one, in fact. But I never would have even had the opportunity to make that decision if I hadn’t made countless decisions that led to it. So the best decisions I ever make are the good ones I make in the present, right now, to be positive, the decision to be present. These “now” decisions are what lead to great opportunities in the future.

What are you most grateful for?

How wonderful is it that right now I can feel the sun on my skin?!

What was the most defining moment in your life?

There have been several, each of which directly influenced EVERYTHING that followed. But I’m going to say that founding the Puget Sound Community School in 1994 is the most defining. To do so, Melinda and I quit our jobs with their known salaries to start a venture conventional wisdom said had no chance of working. That we did it soon after having our first child and soon after buying a house, as well as having no savings to speak of, adds to its “definition.”

What’s the number one thing you want to achieve in the next five years?

See my answer to the “goals” question above and let the “achievements” take care of themselves.

If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be?

Take care of yourself and by that I really mean it: TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. Your REAL self. Find something that you love doing and commit to doing it regularly. Oh, and while you’re at it, make it simple. Because it really is simple.

 

For more information on Andy:

Please visit:

Puget Sound Community School

Kind Living Blog

Chat with Andy

I stop for suffering

It may be the name of my blog, however I really do stop for suffering.

I really care about people, and am passionate about helping them, and easing their suffering.

So friends, grab a cup of tea (or coffee if you prefer), and tell me…

How are you?

What’s on your mind?

What are you grateful for today?

Or struggling with?

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Spread love everywhere you go:

First of all in your own house …
kindness in your face,
kindness in your eyes,
kindness in your smile,
kindness
~ Mother Teresa –

Girls just wanna have fun

…. or at least this girl does 😀

I love to laugh, and to make other people laugh.

And I can’t resist the chance for some light-hearted humour.

So this post is dedicated to silly things I have done recently for a laugh… and of course there is photographic evidence ….

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Have fun with your food

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Capture your pets doing funny things

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Eat way too many m&m’s

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Get dressed up

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Do something daring

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Watch TV, upside down, with a friend

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Play in the rain

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Hug a friend

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~ Life is too short to be serious ~

Yes, I’m positive

Surround yourself with people who reflect the person you want to be

I made the decision recently to try to surround myself with as many positive people as possible.

The company that you keep really does make a difference – to your mood and your outlook on life.

I am lucky to have some wonderful, positive and inspirational people around me.

In keeping with that theme, I have decided to start a weekly blog post featuring a person that inspires me.

So keep an eye out for the first post in the coming days 🙂

In the meantime, here is a quick reminder of the benefits of surrounding yourself with positive people:

  • They are fun (and who couldn’t do with more fun in their lives?!!)
  • They are energising
  • They smile a lot
  • They encourage you to be the best person you can be
  • They help you appreciate every moment, and notice the beauty around you
  • They think positively, and therefore act positively
  • They will lift you higher
…and together you will generate more positivity and kindness in the world ♥

Everybody deserves somebody who helps them look forward to tomorrow. If someone has the opposite effect on you, because they are consistently inconsistent and their actions don’t match up with their words, it’s time to let them go. It’s always better to be alone than to be in bad company.  ~

Marc and Angel Hack Life

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Micro meditations

In a perfect world we would all meditate twice a day for 30 minutes… at least.

But it’s not a perfect world.

It’s a busy, crazy, wonderful, sometimes stressful and chaotic world.

With demanding jobs, families to take care of, kids to raise, and countless other things vying for our attention.

When it comes to meditation, even a brief moment of mindfulness is beneficial.

One deep mindful breath can have benefits.

So here are a few ideas for when you have a chance to grab a moments break.

  • Close your eyes (if possible) and take a deep slow breath
  • Notice the sensation of the air entering your nostrils.  Is it cold or warm?
  • Concentrate on the sensation of your lungs expanding
  • Quickly scan over your body.  Are there any areas of tension?  Can you relax your stomach muscles?  Drop your shoulders?  Are you frowning?
  • Release the breath slowly through your mouth
  • Concentrate on the breath as it leaves your body.

Open your eyes, keep calm, and carry on 🙂

Wonderful Zen story ♥

zendictive

The Master was walking through the fields one day when a young man, a troubled look upon his face, approached him. “On such a beautiful day, it must be difficult to stay so serious,” the Master said.

“Is it? I hadn’t noticed,” the young man said, turning to look around and notice his surroundings. His eyes scanned the landscape, but nothing seemed to register; his mind elsewhere.

Watching intently, the Master continued to walk. “Join me if you like.” The Master walked to the edge of a still pond, framed by sycamore trees, their leaves golden orange and about to fall. “Please sit down,” the Master invited, patting the ground next to him.

Looking carefully before sitting, the young man brushed the ground to clear a space for himself. “Now, find a small stone, please,” the Master instructed.

“What?”

“A stone. Please find a small stone and throw it in…

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