a million, billion, trillion thank-you’s 

Undermining our desperate need to ‘fit-in’  At Saturday’s retreat, Uddoytani asked us to think of ways of introducing playfulness into our lives. We pinned suggestions on the walls for everyone to read and ultimately wrote them down on individual coloured paper ‘wheels of fortune’ that we’d made. One suggestion was ‘give exaggerated thanks’. Yesterday I enjoyed exaggeratedly thanking my partner Tim every time he made me a cup of tea. He laughed every time. This morning though, when I tried the same thing, he said rather curtly, ‘one thank you will do.’ It was time to try it in the wider world. The woman at the bank did a double take when I thanked her a million, billion, trillion times for giving me back my cheque book. I tried it again with cashier in the Co-op when she handed me my £1.58 change. She looked worried. Did she think I was mocking her? Or perhaps she thought she’d given me too much change! I’ll be persevering over the next few days, as I’m sure someone (especially someone uncompromised by the staff-customer relationship) will spontaneously join in the game (whatever it is).But even before they do, I’d like to celebrate the delicious amounts of inner laughter that this practice has given me. Doing something so nonsensical in public has for the time being totally undermined my desperate mission to fit in and be seen as a responsible member of society. Which is a profound and hilarious relief. So thank you to the person who wrote that suggestion. In fact thank you a million, billion, trillion times. Thank you for that Mandy… er, thank you,... Read more

Laugh Out Loud Wordplay

Mandy is gazing at Billboards Driving along in my van yesterday, I saw a poster advert that made me laugh out loud. It was Toyota’s ad for their new car, the Aygo. The ad has been around since last summer, but the message didn’t stand out to me until now, the week in which we’re trying to put fun on the agenda. I love wordplay generally but think this is particularly good. Some will disagree, but I find it clever to turn an offensive message into an uplifting one that retains the shock of the original. It reminds me of the work of Hakuin, the 17th century Zen Buddhist, who frequently used swearing and insults to jolt his students out of their torpor. For the purposes of our Urban Retreat, we needn’t pay any attention to Toyota or the Aygo. We should just go fun ourselves anyway. There will be more from Mandy tomorrow and every day this... Read more

Pure escapism or just pure joy? 

Mandy Sutter reflects on the X-Factor I am secretly addicted to The X Factor. I say secretly because my partner, Tim, can’t stand the programme so I tend to watch it when he’s out. Usually I tell him I’ve watched it but sometimes I don’t (a woman has got to have SOME secrets). I agree there are bad things about the programme (for one thing it vaunts the celebrity culture) but I love seeing young wannabees singing, and am continually amazed at their talent and ability to present a song on stage. In the current series, there is a Ghanaian reggae act called Reggie and Bollie. They aren’t brilliant singers but they always bounce onto the stage with an infectious sense of celebration and party, and usually get the audience on their feet dancing. One of the judges, Nick Grimshaw (a BBC Radio 1 DJ) said this week that while there was a lot to worry about in the world at the moment, Reggie and Bollie always made everyone forget about it for a few minutes.  He said their music was pure escapism. That was the phrase that made me sit up. It is really true that feeling joyous is an escape? What if joy were an equally valid (or even more valid) response to life than ‘seriousness’? And for those of us who are on the Urban Retreat, will we see this differently after a week of consciously enjoying more fun moments? There will be more from Mandy tomorrow and every day this... Read more

Playfulness in the Shrine Room

Mandy Sutter reflects on yesterday’s playful Day Retreat It was great to see everyone who made it along to the first event of our Urban Retreat yesterday. For those who didn’t make it, we all agreed we’d take a little time out this week to be more playful. We thought it was a good way of dodging the pressure from self and others to be ‘useful’ members of society. Samanartha read us some poems by the Zen poet Ryokan. In one, Ryokan mentions that he always keeps two or three balls up his sleeve, so that he is ready to play with any children he meets. As someone who frequently finds life difficult, I love this idea of being ready at all times to find joy and fun. Sometimes I simply don’t give myself permission to be light hearted. At the funeral of an old friend the year before last, my earnestness was challenged quite radically. My friend, Mike, had died leaving two young sons. They didn’t come to the funeral itself, but we saw them arrive and then be taken away by their aunt before the service began. When I asked Mike’s widow afterwards how the boys were doing, she told me they’d got a real thrill from riding in the big black limo. Mike, in the year that he was dying, had taught them to always find something to enjoy in every situation, no matter how difficult or sad. I thought that advice was wonderful. Today I think that if those boys could find some aspect of life to celebrate at that most difficult of times, I’m sure I can find... Read more