It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…
-- A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
Well, it was also a summer in England. What Dickens wrote over 150 years ago applies too aptly to our current time.
Judging from the headlines, the past month was certainly among "the worst of times" for England. Multiple terrorist attacks, horrific high-rise fire, ugly election… There were no shortage of "foolishness, incredulity, darkness and despair".
However, when we tune out of the internet and tune into the inner-net, there is a totally different story unfolding in ordinary living rooms and in many open hearts. I feel fortunate to join in half a dozen ServiceSpace circles around London, delving into themes like "songs, stories, and stillness", "self-trust in an uncertain world", "Compassion Quotient", "power of prayer", "systems transformation", and "reconnection".
Twelve days of cycling has also taken me to sacred places like Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, Glastonbury Tor, and Schumacher College -- "acupuncture points" on the collective body of human consciousness.
I departed the UK on Summer Solstice, heart filled with much "wisdom, belief, light, and hope". It was a "best of times", no doubt. Would like to share some impressions from one month in England.
All of these ten realms—a single thought--
Are not apart from your present thought.
If you can awaken to that thought,
You'll arrive immediately at the other shore.
-- Master Hua
This past month, the journey has taken me three quarters around the globe, from US to China to UK. But somehow, it feels like home everywhere. I have to look at each "stranger" doubly, because they seem so familiar. Perhaps, with open and reverent heart (I'm trying), one would belong anywhere in the Dharma realm, and encounter "familiar strangers" at every turn. Below are some stories along the way.
To arrive where we started
This Spring, I found myself back at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas for four weeks. Interestingly, I was here exactly a year ago for an overnight visit, at the very beginning of the bicycling pilgrimage around the world.
Back then, I was simply pulled by a strong intuition to make CTTB the first stop of the pilgrimage -- not really knowing why, nor having any clue that this place will be such an important part of my journey.
A pilgrimage around the globe by bicycle, in service of the ecological and spiritual awakening of our time.