Tarot and the Hero’s Journey: Intro

The Hero’s Journey is one of our oldest myths. It shows how we grow from ignorance to enlightenment through various stages of development, both individually and collectively. It was called a monomyth by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and is often used to structure stories in film and novels. I’ve already explored the Hero’s Journey through the films Thor and Jane Eyre, but here I want to dig a little deeper into the symbolism and how it shapes our consciousness.

Zen Ox Herding Pictures: Introduction

The ox herding pictures represent the process of awakening as described in Zen Buddhism. Each image is a metaphor that reveals the internal stages of meditation – how awakening looks from the inside. In this series we’ll look at each picture and explore what they mean, but first a bit of background.

The foundational teachings of Buddhism and the Eightfold Path

If you want to understand the ideas that underpin any belief system, it’s best to start at the beginning. With Buddhism, that means going back to the Four Noble Truths which was the Buddha’s very first teaching. The Four Noble Truths of the Middle Way include the teachings on the Eightfold Path, which is a way to free yourself from suffering so you can live a full and happy life.

The Sun of Wisdom: Teachings of the Noble Nagarjuna

The Sun of Wisdom is a commentary on one of the classics of Buddhist literature by one of the great Tibetan masters, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso. Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way was written by Nagarjuna in the 2nd century and is a commentary on the Buddha’s teachings on the nature of appearance and emptiness.

The Buddha prophesied that someone would come 400 years after his death to give a perfect explanation of his teachings, and Nagarjuna fulfilled the prophecy. Khenpo Rinpoche uses Nagarjuna’s text and modern master Ju Mipham’s commentary as a framework to explain and illustrate the most important verses. He deconstructs the ideas and shows how they apply to your everyday experience, and how you can put them into practise.

Monkey Magic! or How Buddhism came to China

To celebrate Chinese New Year and the Year of the Monkey, I thought it would be fun to explore the background to one of my favourite TV shows: Monkey. It’s a cult classic and was on TV during my formative years in the 70s. We would rush home from ballet class (don’t ask) because I couldn’t bear to miss it – this was before we got a video recorder and long before digital catch-up. I remember re-enacting scenes from the show in the playground at school, throwing myself off a bench and screaming, “Monkey!

I grew up wanting to be Monkey, but didn’t realise how much impact that crazy show would have on my life. The Buddhist teachings got under my skin while I was busy enjoying the fights, the bad make-up and wobbly sets. It was only later that I discovered the story was based on the real-life adventures of Xuanzang, the monk who brought Buddhism to China during the Tang dynasty.

The Only Girl: the search for female sound engineers

Trina Shoemaker at the mixing desk

I was always odd, the resident freak or weirdo in any situation. And then I became a sound engineer. As a woman, that makes me exceptional. There aren’t many of us, so when I heard about Laura Marling’s latest project, Reversal of the Muse, I gave a cheer. It’s about time there were more ladies rocking a mixing desk.

Reversal of the Muse came about when the award winning singer-songwriter realised that in 10 years of making records she had only come across two female engineers working in studios. So she decided to dig deeper and explore female creativity in the music industry. Why are there so few female sound engineers and would the presence of more women in the studio make a difference to the end product – especially for female performers?

Gobekli Tepe: the temple rewriting history

Aerial view of the Gobekli Tepe site

The stone age temples dug into a hill near Sanliurfa in Turkey are causing a storm. It’s not often we find something that overturns everything we know, but Gobekli Tepe is a genuine mystery. Archaeology and history are being rewritten.

Colouring Books: Art Therapy or Mindless Money-spinner?

There’s a new mindfulness craze sweeping the nation: colouring books for adults. It’s supposed to help you relax and be more mindful, but does it work?

Alan Moore on the magic of fiction and the imagination

I traffic in fiction. I do not traffic in lies.

Alan Moore reminds me of an Old English Sheepdog with a wry twinkle in his eye. You just know he’s got a juicy bone hidden somewhere. He’s best known for his comics, like Watchmen and V for Vendetta, and for the fact that he hates the movie versions with a passion. Hollywood, he says, “spoon-feeds us, which has the effect of watering down our collective cultural imagination.” Moore is an artist driven by the art rather than the market. A writer, storyteller, magician, rebel, iconoclast, and psychonaut, who like William Blake, believes the reality of imagination is paramount. Moore’s new novel, Jerusalem, is out later this year.