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SatyaWelcome. I’m Satya Robyn and I write books & make paintings. I also run a Pureland Buddhist temple in Malvern with my husband.

My novels are about secrets & the truth. They are about flawed human beings (just like you & me) journeying through difficult & joyful times. They point towards hope, and faith. I write other sorts of books too like Just As You Are: Buddhism for Foolish Beings.

My paintings are about enjoying colour. I enjoy painting faces, bodies, Buddhas and cats.

Thank you for being here. I hope you find something that will nourish you. Deep bow.

Everything is changing for us (& how it could change for you too)

Bredon HouseSoon, Kaspa & I are going to move into this beautiful place in the heart of Malvern.

We are going to run it as a Pureland Buddhist temple. There will be a shrine room & four residents & two more floors cut into the hills & a view over the Severn valley that knock your SOCKS off.

In April this year, I had a tentative conversation with Kaspa about not just getting a permanent building for our Buddhist sangha in Malvern to use, but living in this building ourselves. Making it our home – creating a sacred space and welcoming people in.

At the same time the Trustees of our little Buddhist organisation had already started discussing selling the temple we’ve had in London for many years.

We put in a proposal. It was agreed that some money would be made available to us, maybe in a year or two.

A few weeks later, this June, one of our sangha asked us if we were ‘looking at houses yet’ and we said no, it was way too early – she said that was a shame as their friends were selling their 10 bedroom B&B. We looked at the picture and imagined living there and laughed at our audacity. It looked magnificent. We guessed it would be way out of our budget, and anyway it was far too soon to sell in London.

Two weeks later the Trustees walked into the property and fell in love with the view, the elegant staircases, the tiered garden. They decided to buy it.

So what advice do I have for making your own dreams come true?

We’ve had a huge amount of luck. We’ve got plenty spare – contained in this email if you need it.

All the clichés do help. We’ve put in a lot of hard work, building up our sangha in Malvern for three years on a voluntary basis. We listened to our hearts and took what they were saying seriously. We took small actions consistently. I confess to not being very patient, but it does help if you are. We’ve weathered some difficult bits already (there will be more to come!) without giving up.

But here’s what felt most powerful, and surprised me. My dream came true faster when I got out of the way. When I stopped trying to decide exactly what form this project should take, and allowed the Universe to show me the way instead. When I stopped trying to micromanage everything and instead trusted more.

If it was down to me, we’d be in a much smaller centre out in the countryside. We definitely wouldn’t have any residents. The Universe (Buddha, God) often has much bigger plans for us than we have for ourselves. Plans we’re not entirely sure we agree with at first, until we grudgingly admit how much better things are this way.

What would happen to your dreams if you held them more lightly, and let the Universe help you?

We’re not out of the woods yet – everything can and often does go wrong with house purchases. But whether it’ll be this building or another one, the temple already exists. It will be called Amida Mandala – named by our Buddhist teacher Dharmavidya David Brazier, and without whom none of this would be happening. If you would like to be a Friend of Amida Mandala, just email satya@satyarobyn.com with ‘friend’ as the title and I’ll add you to our monthly newsletter so you can keep up with our news. Maybe one day you’ll come and see us there.

We’d love to be in by the beginning of December, for our annual Bodhi retreat… which is cutting it VERY fine. Maybe you could send us some of your luck!

Go gently. _/\_

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If you’re reading to take some action on your dreams, try Kaspa’s self-study e-course, 31 Days of Positive Action. With the 31 daily emails and accompanying material it gently holds you by the hand and helps you move forwards – one step, then another…

You do not have to be good

Angel by Ron MueckAll week my husband has been on Buddhist business in India.

I had planned a solitary retreat day on Monday. I had it all worked out – virtuous food, no television, reading holy books, gazing wistfully into the distance as I contemplated the great mysteries of life… you know the sort of thing.

Here’s how my retreat day actually looked. Glued to email and Facebook. Far too many muffins. Trashy television (I’m ashamed to tell you what I watched). Agitated. In denial. To bed too late, fizzing with caffeine from all the chocolate I’d guzzled. 

Before I went to bed I emailed Kaspa a long confession, detailing the extent of my failure. When I woke in the morning he’d sent me a single line. 

“You don’t have to be good.”

We think we do. We think that in order to be acceptable, we need to try harder. Do more spiritual practice. Be nicer. Build up multiple passive income streams. Post more beautiful photos of our beautiful lives on Facebook. Get rid of all those snitty and mean-spirited thoughts. Work out every last psychological tangle. Improve improve improve!

We don’t have to try and be good. We just need to notice what is there, offer it up, and turn towards the light. 

We can be curious too – that helps. Oh, I’m eating another muffin. Oh, I seem unable to stop myself from checking my email. What is that about? Does this relate to the dream I had last night where there was garbage covered over with plastic? 

What process am I currently engaged in? Where is my soul heading? How can I be kind to it as it transforms? How can I be more patient, more understanding?

Oh, I’m checking email again. There’s a feeling in my stomach too. Is it loneliness?

Let me remind you – real change is slow. Deep down transformation – not the change of affirmations and stuck-on smiles. For it to happen, we need to get out of the way. It’s counter-intuitive, I know. But it’s a great relief. We can hand it all over, and get on with the job in front of us. Do the washing up. Call a friend. Write in your journal. Weed the garden. Chop wood, carry water. 

In the meantime, you do not have to be good.

True grace comes when we let go of this endless self-building project and allow the love of the universe to enter us. It’s just there – take your eyes off yourself for a minute and you’ll start to feel it.

Namo Amida Bu _/\_

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Here is Mary Oliver reading the beautiful poem from which the title of this email is taken. Much gratitude to her, for her luminous and loving presence in the world. The image is ‘Angel’ by the amazing Ron Mueck (check his work out here). 

And here are the links if you’d like to study with us – despite adding a group back in we’re keeping the fee for essay, weekly exercises, daily emails & group membership at the self-study price of £25/$40 rather than the old price of £50/$80. Kaspa will be running Eastern Therapeutic Writing looking at getting things done & resolving difficult questions, and I’ll be exploring praise, clear-seeing, perseverance & faith with Writing & Spiritual Practice

Book sale

Small Kindnesses

BOOK SALE.

Treat yourself (or a friend) to a signed copy of your favourite novel of mine. Email me: satya@satyarobyn.com. First come first served!

All books £8 including postage, or two for £14 – to be paid by Paypal. The prices are for UK folks – if you’re in the US or elsewhere I can post for an extra £5.

2 x Small Kindnesses (about Leonard the reluctant detective)
6 x Afterwards (the new novel where April tries to run a marathon & find meaning along the way)
4 x The Letters (Violet who receives mysterious letters)
3 x Thaw (Ruth decides whether or not to carry on living)
2 x A Year of Questions: slow down & fall in love with life
2 x A Blackbird Sings (our exquisite 2nd small stones anthology)
1 each of ‘Fiona Robyn’ copies of The Most Beautiful Thing, Small Kindnesses & Thaw

You can read more about all these books by clicking above or look on Amazon for reviews. Thank you!

Cat poo & enlightenment

When slugs attackThis morning I led people in kinhin – walking meditation – v e r y slowly around our garden. 

We stepped through the dew-laden grass taking in the purple spikes of erysimum, the sugary scent of the sweet-peas and the giant red skirts of the poppies. 

If you haven’t had your breakfast yet, you might want to stop reading at this point.

Yesterday we discovered that our cats all had worms. They’ve taken their medicine now, but it had already upset their little tummies. We scooted around the garden last night, clearing up all the poorly-cat poo we could find. It was not pretty. I tried to bury it all under a bush, but it still stank.

This morning, as my unsuspecting Buddhist colleagues followed me in silence, I was on the look-out for any fresh poo. There were copious amounts. My first thought was, ‘it is my job to lead these people away from the poo’. 

And then I thought again. As a Buddhist priest, is that really my job? To pretend that our garden (and life) is all weed-free and fragrant? To protect people from the poo?

At first I wondered if I ought to be leading people towards the poo instead. But, in my experience, there is enough poo in life without having to point it out. They’ll stumble across it themselves sooner or later.

And so, what is my job?

To step gently through the garden. To notice the iridescent water-drops on the white papery sun roses, and to watch the slugs as they drag their slime train behind them. To be present. To connect with the world. To love everything.  

Sometimes we have a mini-enlightenment experience when we truly encounter the twirling birdsong sprinkled through the morning air. Sometimes enlightenment is when we step in a big steaming pile of shit.

Deep bow _/\_ 

(If life has been handing you more poo than usual, you might want to try our Writing Our Way Home self-study e-course Writing Towards Healing. Or, to point you towards enlightenment, 31 Days of Waking Up.)

What I did before breakfast

Poppy in the RainBefore breakfast, I clipped dead poppy heads.

We have a whole choir of luminous orange poppies out the front of our house. When we first moved in I found them over-bright, brash, but I’ve come to my senses now. They wave their glorious flags for a day or two before the petal tatters float to the ground, leaving stems tipped with a black cross.

New buds are emerging all the time – a hundred of them – and I like to clip the spent stems to make way for them.

Last year I attacked the stems with my secateurs, overwhelmed by the task ahead of me, holding bunches of three or four at a time and clipping off more than a few buds by mistake. As I worked I felt pressed for time and slightly grumpy.

Today, I took my time. I snipped each sturdy stem individually. I noticed that the old stems were a different colour – everso-slightly more yellow than grey-green. I was accompanied by humming bees who breakfasted on the blooms that were out. I chanted quietly as I worked, straightening up to say hello to the dog-walkers, to nod at the teenagers on their way to school.

During breakfast, I had a tinge of familiar guilt-and-panic. I’d been lazing around all morning – I should hurry up and get to work!

And then I remembered that I’d actually spent three quarters of an hour working already, doing a job that was on my list of things to do. By five past nine, I’m already most of the way through this blog post.

When we change, the part of us that behaves in the old way can kick up a lot of fuss. It wants us to stay the same. It thinks it’s helping – we probably learnt our old behaviour in order to keep ourselves safe, or alive. Entering into new territory always makes us feel vulnerable – we really don’t know if we will be okay. Imagine belonging to a tribe who’ve done a ritual every morning, going back generations, to make the sun comes up. Easier to do the ritual than risk it, isn’t it?

Is it?

The twinge this morning was from the part of me that feels like I must work hard and feel stressed in order to earn enough money and look after myself and be safe. This must-work-hard part is feeling pretty threatened by this new state of being – this relaxed and trusting way of being in the world.

I am trying to be kind to it – reassuring it, asking it to trust me, to just wait and see. It’ll continue to have panics, and sometimes it will push me back into my old behaviours. That’s okay – change takes time. And if I can get out of the way, change is marvellously inexorable.

What parts of you are ready to change? How can you stand aside and let yourself be transformed?

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Poppy in the Rain by John ‘K’ with gratitude

Am I going to disappear? Mushy insides & new beginnings.

beautiful morningThis year, my insides started turning to mush and rearranging themselves.

I feel less driven by money and more pulled by curiosity. Less driven by busy-work and more pulled by heart-work. Less driven by fear and more pulled by love.

Things are changing as a consequence, Kaspa & I are offering more local classes and services to our Buddhist group and to others. We’ve stopped running online courses. There is a potentially huge local project hovering on the horizon.

I find myself feeling less and less sure about what I want to say on Facebook or Twitter, and why. I never know quite who I’m talking to. I am still terribly prone to getting caught in the sticky web of faux-connection and faux-validation. I question the value of online interactions, which are so often squeezed in between a flutter of clicking and scrolling.

And so. I am going to see what it feels like to live without social media. Until September, and then we’ll see.

Of course, I’d like to have my cake and eat it. I don’t want to lose the connection I have with all the good people I’ve met online, or the old friends who occasionally post a photo of their children or their holidays, or ask me how I am.

And so what I’d like to ask is that, if you would like to stay in touch with me, let’s connect in some other way. If you have something to say or ask or share with me, drop me an email at satya@satyarobyn.com. Text me on 07900 605055. Sign up to this newsletter to hear about my books and my life, and this newsletter if you’d like to come along to something we offer locally. Visit Malvern and let’s have a cup of tea.

Will I disappear? Will you disappear from me? Maybe. Let’s see. It’s going to be an interesting experiment.

Now, I’m going to go outside. I hear there’s a whole world out there.

PS. I haven’t had much to do with my insides rearranging themselves. Something else is in charge. God, Amida Buddha, the unfolding of the Universe… whatever it is, it seems that I can trust it. My plan is to keep on stepping aside and letting it show me the way.

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‘beautiful morning’ by Hammington Photography with thanks

“I’m trying to decide whether or not I want to carry on living…”

ThawMy most powerful novel, Thaw – available now with 75% off on kindle on Amazon UK & US.

These hands are ninety-three years old. They belong to Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. She was so frail that her grand-daughter had to carry her onto the set to take this photo. It’s a close-up. Her emaciated arms emerge from the top corners of the photo and the background is black, maybe velvet, as if we’re being protected from seeing the strings. One wrist rests on the other, and her fingers hang loose, close together, a pair of folded wings. And you can see her insides. The bones of her knuckles bulge out of the skin, which sags like plastic that has melted in the sun and is dripping off her, wrinkling and folding. Her veins look as though they’re stuck to the outside of her hands. They’re a colour that’s difficult to describe: blue, but also silver, green; her blood runs through them, close to the surface. The book says she died shortly after they took this picture. Did she even get to see it? Maybe it was the last beautiful thing she left in the world.

I’m trying to decide whether or not I want to carry on living. I’m giving myself three months of this journal to decide. You might think that sounds melodramatic, but I don’t think I’m alone in wondering whether it’s all worth it. I’ve seen the look in people’s eyes. Stiff suits travelling to work, morning after morning, on the cramped and humid tube. Tarted-up girls and gangs of boys reeking of aftershave, reeling on the pavements on a Friday night, trying to mop up the dreariness of their week with one desperate, fake-happy night. I’ve heard the weary grief in my dad’s voice.

So where do I start with all this? What do you want to know about me? I’m Ruth White, thirty-two years old, going on a hundred. I live alone with no boyfriend and no cat in a tiny flat in central London. In fact, I had a non-relationship with a man at work, Dan, for seven years. I’m sitting in my bedroom-cum-living room right now, looking up every so often at the thin rain slanting across a flat grey sky. I work in a city hospital lab as a microbiologist. My dad is an accountant and lives with his sensible second wife Julie, in a sensible second home. Mother finished dying when I was fourteen, three years after her first diagnosis. What else? What else is there?

Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. I looked at her hands for twelve minutes. It was odd describing what I was seeing in words. Usually the picture just sits inside my head and I swish it around like tasting wine. I have huge books all over my flat — books you have to take in both hands to lift. I’ve had the photo habit for years. Mother bought me my first book, black and white landscapes by Ansel Adams. When she got really ill, I used to take it to bed with me and look at it for hours, concentrating on the huge trees, the still water, the never-ending skies. I suppose it helped me think about something other than what was happening. I learned to focus on one photo at a time rather than flicking from scene to scene in search of something to hold me. If I concentrate, then everything stands still. Although I use them to escape the world, I also think they bring me closer to it. I’ve still got that book. When I take it out, I handle the pages as though they might flake into dust.

Mother used to write a journal. When I was small, I sat by her bed in the early mornings on a hard chair and looked at her face as her pen spat out sentences in short bursts. I imagined what she might have been writing about — princesses dressed in star-patterned silk, talking horses, adventures with pirates. More likely she was writing about what she was going to cook for dinner and how irritating Dad’s snoring was.

I’ve always wanted to write my own journal, and this is my chance. Maybe my last chance. The idea is that every night for three months, I’ll take one of these heavy sheets of pure white paper, rough under my fingertips, and fill it up on both sides. If my suicide note is nearly a hundred pages long, then no-one can accuse me of not thinking it through. No-one can say, ‘It makes no sense; she was a polite, cheerful girl, had everything to live for,’ before adding that I did keep myself to myself. It’ll all be here. I’m using a silver fountain pen with purple ink. A bit flamboyant for me, I know. I need these idiosyncratic rituals; they hold things in place. Like the way I make tea, squeezing the tea-bag three times, the exact amount of milk, seven stirs. My writing is small and neat; I’m striping the paper. I’m near the bottom of the page now. Only ninety-one more days to go before I’m allowed to make my decision. That’s it for today. It’s begun.

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Thaw

Available now (with 75% off today & tomorrow) on kindle on Amazon UK & Amazon US or in paperback on Amazon UK & Amazon US.

Thirty two-year-old scientist Ruth White is looking for a reason to carry on living.

Lonely and stricken by grief, she gives herself three months to decide whether to go on beyond her thirty-third birthday and begins to record her thoughts in her daily diary.

When Ruth meets the eccentric Red, an artist who Ruth commissions to paint her portrait, she feels the faint stirrings of something that has been missing from her life for so long: love.

But can Red thaw Ruth’s frozen heart – and does he want to? While Ruth tries to rebuild relationships with friends and family, the clock is ticking. Can Red save Ruth from herself and make her believe life is worth living – before it’s too late…

Thaw is an intense and thought-provoking read that will appeal to anyone who has ever been touched by the healing power of love. Once again, the bestselling author of The Most Beautiful Thing applies her insight and shows us how, even when there appears to be none, there is always hope.

Here’s the Facebook page for Thaw.

The exquisite pleasures of surrender

Divided from herself by drpIf you think about the things we like doing, sex, drugs, art, religion; they’re all forms of surrender. ~ Brian Eno

I feel as if I’m just emerging from some kind of bizarre tunnel.

Since Christmas I haven’t felt like writing blogs at all. I’ve also been afflicted with a most curious disease – I haven’t felt the compulsion to work-too-hard. My workaholism has been taken away from me…

I’ve been seeing my psychotherapy clients and getting on with writing my new novel, but I haven’t been getting sucked into the computer for ten hour days, or losing myself in social media and pretending that it’s ‘work’. I haven’t been desperately seeking more money (we always need just a bit more) to keep us afloat.

This has been most odd. The days are suddenly full of spaces. I’ve been doing more journalling and reading novels and contemplating. On Tuesday we took a whole day off, and yesterday morning we went on a walk on the Malvern hills. In the middle of a work-day! Outrageous!

I’ve been accompanied throughout this time by a background sense of guilt, and occasional financial worry-pangs. Surely we’re going to go bankrupt any moment? Earning a living is meant to be strenuous and all-consuming, isn’t it? It feels like I’ve been in freefall. Arrghh!

As time has gone on, I’ve been trying to practise surrendering. Beginning to shed some outdated beliefs about an intrinsic lack of worth, which means that I have to work extra-hard than others just to keep up/earn enough. Noticing the feelings of guilt or panic, and allowing them to be there. Acknowledging to myself that I am doing enough. I can trust the universe to hold me.

These deep changes in ourselves are usually disconcerting and painful and they take place in their own sweet time. They won’t be hurried. We’re often not sure if we’re going forwards or backwards, or if we’ll ever move from our current stuckness at all. We can feel lost and alone. We usually react during these times by holding on tighter, by trying even harder to control things, and of course this makes it hurt even more.

Surrender. It’s like lying on my back in water. Floating, not freefall. I pass through pain, yes – dukkha is unavoidable – and out into the light. And again. And again. The sun dappling me through trees. Birdsong. Held safe.

It is an exquisite pleasure.

If you’d like a safe place to do your own explorations, join Kaspa or me during March for Eastern Therapeutic Writing or Writing Ourselves Alive. Or start right away with 31 Days.

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Divided by herself by drp with thanks

From pain and anguish to somewhere different…

cracked sky by Dyrk WystThis weekend was not an easy weekend.

On Saturday I’d planned a mini solitary ’retreat’ day of journalling, contemplation & doing some reflection on my strengths and weaknesses. I enjoyed my day – writing, reading a novel, eating chocolate brownies, listening to music and just allowing myself feel spacious.

In the evening Kaspa came home and I fell headlong into a deep dark painful emotional pit.

I was afraid. I lay down on my back in that hole, in pain and anguish. I felt worse than useless, ugly, awful. I couldn’t imagine finding a way out.

I didn’t even know how I’d fallen in until Sunday, when I’d had a chance to reflect on what had happened during the day and piece things together. Lots and lots of little things had come together and shown me something about myself that I really didn’t want to see. Now I’d seen it, I couldn’t un-see it.

I felt dreadful. I took myself off and sat next to the wood-burner, watching the flames. I allowed the sadness to flow through me. I waited. I felt terrible. I watched the flames. Very gradually, I started to see light, far up above me. After a few hours I’d recovered enough to go to sleep.

I’d forgotten that retreats are contained spaces where Things Come Up. Something came up! I’m still processing what happened, by writing in my journal, by reflecting, and by talking it over with my friends. I’m still feeling tender, but today I feel okay again.

No – better than okay. As I write, I’m feeling lighter than I felt before. We often don’t know we’re carrying something heavy until we put it down. I feel more spacious, less defended, less afraid. There is more space in me, and this space is filling up with joy.

In my experience, these purgings are sometimes necessary. These dark nights of the soul point out things-in-us that we can’t see any other way. They show us what needs attention. And, if we can hang tight and ride them out (however long it takes) they leave us different – softer, more loving, more sure-that-we-are-loved.

It’s only be seeing the depths of our own foolishness and pain that we can appreciate how difficult it is for other human beings. We find joy by walking through the gate of humility. Or sometimes it might feel as if we’re pushed!

If you’re in the darkness, I’m thinking of you. I don’t know exactly how it is for you, but I do know a little better after the weekend. Go gently.

If you’d like five minutes of respite from the darkness, try watching this. Tell me you’re not grinning by the end : ) And if you’d like to give yourself 31 Days of Joy, sign up here and get your first email tomorrow.

Keep going (times a million)

Singing bowl by Shezamm“For an interest to be rewarding, one must pay in discipline and dedication, especially through the difficult or boring stages which are inevitably encountered.” ~ Mira Komarovsky

Satya writes: This year I have committed to chant the nembutsu (a kind of Buddhist spiritual mantra) one million times. 

I’m not entirely sure how it happened. A fellow sangha member in Hawaii set the challenge, and I’d already decided I definitely wasn’t going to do it. At least 2800 recitations a day? I don’t have time for that!

On the third day of January I joined Kaspa when he did his chanting. The next day I did it again, and then I thought, well, I might as well do the year now…

Most of the things that are worth doing are difficult to do, at least some of the time. I’ve said before that the most important things in my life (writing books, being a psychotherapist) are also the most difficult things. It’s where the good stuff is.

I’ve already had a few mornings where I didn’t want to do my chanting at all. I got up too late and was in a rush to get to my desk, or I just felt outrageously bored in the middle.

What helps me to get through these times (and all the other difficult times) is perseverance. Not a forceful pushing-myself, but a gentle coming back to the thing-I’m-doing. Over and over and over again.

I think that our perseverance muscles get stronger if we exercise them. My spiritual practice this year will help me with this, as will the regular mindful writing I do – daily small stones, writing in my journal.

What helps you? Do let me know in the comments, and decide if you’d like to re-commit if you’ve fallen off the wagon.

With Writing Our Way Home, perseverance is also one of our themes on the e-course I’m running this month starting tomorrow - Writing & Spiritual Practice. If you’d like to explore your own relationship with perseverance (and clear-seeing, praise & faith) through mindful writing with daily emails, exercises and a private online group, sign up here. Kaspa is also running a lovely e-course to help you Find Your Way Home. We still have a bit of space on each course.

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Singing bowl by Shezamm