Archives for category: Faith

The Buddhist principle of not killing any sentient being is all very well, but what do you do when you have a coordinated quadruple invasion of ants, termites, stink bugs and scorpions?


This retreat has been partly prompted by reading a couple of books about the Life of Tenzin Palmo, the Englishwoman who became a Buddhist nun and spent twelve years as a hermit in a Himalayan cave. Game-changing books that, among many other things, helped me understand that Buddhist meditation techniques do not presuppose any particular belief system.

Tenzin Palmo


I’m prompted to write this after the recent news from Glasgow and Gloucester Cathedrals:

Back in October, I led a linguistics workshop in Togo at which, as usual, there were Christian and Muslim participants. On such occasions the Christians generally take it in turns to lead morning devotions, and most Muslims usually choose to arrive twenty minutes later.

But when Andy’s turn came round, he had another idea. The day beforehand, he explained to the Muslims what he wanted to do, and they agreed to attend the following day. Andy printed out the parallel Bible and Quran passages about Abraham, the father of both religions, offering hospitality to the unknown guests. He led a simple meditation on the two passages, picking out the common themes of friendship, communion and hospitality.

To my knowledge, everyone in the room – African and expat – had a positive reaction to Andy’s initiative. It seemed perfectly natural, given that Togolese Christians and Muslims live peacefully side by side.

From closed systems of thought
And self-referential sub-cultures
Good Lord deliver us.

The oratory

Ascension Day

God has gone up with a merry noise and the Lord with the sound of the trumpet. The oratory was thatched, repaired and painted in time for compline on Ascension Day. I’ve missed it in my wanderings over the last three years. The most important room in the house.

I’m writing this while enjoying the hospitality of the Benedictine monks of Fleury Abbey in the Loire valley. This time I’m experimenting with a month long retreat, during which I continue my normal work whilst joining the community for their liturgy five times a day. This is a very different experience from the usual kind of retreat during which I shut down from work completely for three days. The idea is to learn more about integrating prayer and work, following the Benedictine motto ‘ora et labora’ (prayer and work). And since the countryside around here is flat in all directions as far as you can see, it’s ideal cycling country, so I’ve hired a bike.

Abbaye de Fleury sunset

Abbaye de Fleury sunset