A-wake

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    Dharma Glimpse by Dayamay Dunsby

    Aine, the new Temple dog, joined us for walking meditation in the garden on Saturday. And as we were slowly shuffling round amongst the flowers and shrubs in the gentle rain, she found an old newspaper that she liked the look and smell of. It was already wet and as she tossed it and thrashed it around with her mouth, it disintegrated into hundreds of bits, which distributed themselves over a large section of my recently cut lawn.


    I was struck by an analogy that relates to the potential for our capacity to wreak havoc in our pursuit of happiness.
    Aine’s fun left an after effect that, from an outside perspective, looked pretty messy.


    This really resonated with my experience of how, just my everyday activities and interactions, have the power to leave quite a trace on the intricate web of my life.


    I can be quite innocently engaging in, what I feel to be, relatively innocuous pleasures or normal endeavors, whilst inadvertently and sometimes negatively impacting on the lives of others.


    Of course, this is largely unavoidable and mostly accidental, but is not without its consequences, which can bring a whole range of residual and quite subtle stirrings.

    It made me think of the etymology of the word Awake, which is somewhat deeper than our widely accepted version of basically just being conscious.


    The analogy of moving through water is sometimes used to describe the root meaning of the word. As we walk or swim we leave a visible track behind us, or, in our ‘wake’. This track represents the immediate impact of our movement through the world in its physical and metaphysical forms. The track fans out behind us and keeps spreading as we surge forward, generating more of the same.


    To be A-wake, is to be living consciously in amongst the ripples flowing out from our actions and behaviours. Taking responsibility for all of the joys and sufferings that our existence inevitably incurs.


    To me, this perfectly describes a large portion of what Shakyamuni taught in his time on our planet. That we must learn to understand the implications and far reaching effects that arise out of our existence. That it’s possible to leave a less harmful wake as we strive onwards towards truth, peace and harmony.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    A loving power

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    Dharma Glimpse by Paul Riley

    I get the bus to work each morning and pass through some of the most impoverished parts of Liverpool. The buildings are falling down. People look beat. Crime, addiction and deprivation are everywhere. The place I’m heading to – Liverpool prison – is a condensed microcosm of this pain and suffering, where up to 1400 men are incarcerated. Over the years, I’ve seen thousands of men pass through the jail… young and old, from near and far, drug dealers to doctors, from drop-outs to professors of neuroscience… all with their own version of anger and stories of personal injustice. Violence and abuse are rife in the prison, often fuelled by gang drug wars. Self harm is common and suicide becomes the only answer for some.

    I sit on the bus and contemplate all this. This is how it is. This is what life throws up. It’s not easy for anybody in these places but these places exist and people live and work in them. 

    I remember speaking to a prison officer who said he conducted a morning ritual of drawing a protective circle around himself before coming into the prison, shielding against the residual negative energy of the building. An understandable precaution for a person who can be plunged into the depths of extreme situations at the drop of a hat. It got me thinking about my own practice. Each morning I open myself up to life as it is. I invite a loving power to work through me, with faith that this power will soothe the manifestations of greed, anger and ignorance as they appear.  So, unlike the officer who dons more armour to protect himself, I sit and say Nembutsu, taking my armour off. I have faith in this practice, that I can live more freely in gratitude for what is, not habitually hiding from the gritty reality of life, not constricted by fear, held by the hand of the Buddha.

    Namo Amida Bu

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    Coincidence?

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    Dharma Glimpse by Kim Allard

    When I was young I asked my Dad if prayers work. He replied that they might but they weren’t like a gum ball machine where you put something in and get something out. Today I would reply “maybe.”

    As I turn to Amitabha in meditation, gratitude and times of difficulty I find renewed strength from unexpected sources. These small graces happen with a frequency causing me long ago to discarded them as coincidence.  I no longer make specific requests but simply ask for guidance, strength, patience or help for someone in need.  The creativity and wisdom of the reply never fails to astound me. Then I have to resist the temptation to tell everyone what happened. I have come to realize these replies are private and unique for each of us.  Amitabha’s response will resonate within the one who asks and when shared can be misunderstood.

    Dad today is the fourth anniversary since you passed.  My prayer for you is an acknowledgement that we didn’t do the Dad and daughter thing very well.  Our time together was complicated and difficult.  But I will always be grateful to you for leaving me with coping skills I value. Because I now know my prayers bare fruit I send you my love and gratitude for what you could give me – and I focus less on what you could not.  May you forever be in Love, light and peace. 

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    Rearranging Furniture

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    Dharma Glimpse by Satya Robyn 
     
    Yesterday Kaspa and I were tired after a long week, but I’d got it into my head that we could improve our bedroom, which I’ve always hated, by rearranging the furniture. It’s a small room and so the options were pretty limited, but after few hours of lugging furniture around, a lot of cleaning, a trip to the tip and a new duvet cover (modelled above by Roshi) and an elegant flowery print from a charity shop, we had a whole new bedroom! We were delighted.
     
    We often find that furniture rearranging is a result of some internal rearranging of our furniture. After a previous mental shift we redesigned our living room, and a year later it still makes me happy to sit in it. This current shift is partly a result of a new plan in the temple to run book study groups (styled on Bright Dawn) and offer students a chance to immerse themselves more thoroughly in the Dharma. As we settle down for the beginning of a new chapter in this building, we naturally want to make our home more beautiful and functional, and this unfolded naturally without any new furniture or huge expense.
     
    It is said that around any Buddha, a Pure Land naturally springs up. An enlightened being will want to take care of whatever is around them – planting flowers, keeping things clean, respecting their surroundings. An enlightened being also sees the beauty in what is already there. Finally, an enlightened exudes wisdom and compassion, and so people around them will also move a little closer to enlightenment and will also want to take care of their environment with tenderness.
     
    Sometimes we can’t access any Buddha-energy, and we have to ‘fake it to make it’ – doing the washing up or painting a room because we know we’ll feel better when we’ve finished. Sometimes we are lucky enough to be a channel for the Buddha’s grace. When we are, little Pure Lands will spring up around us, and hanging out in them will make us as happy as I am in our new bedroom.

    Namo Amitabha.

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    For our water-dwelling friends

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    Dharma Glimpse by Maria Chumak

    As an opening I’m going to confess of being pescatarian – so I have relinquished eating any meat but I do eat fish. We all have something to work on!

    On our recent holiday Steve and I went to a seaside town Barmouth in Wales. There’s apparently quite a few seafood restaurants there, so we went to one on our last evening in town. Steve had trout and I had crab, and having eaten our meals (which were lovely by the way), we found ourselves staring at the remains of what we have eaten, feeling quite guilty. It was quite a revelation for me as I thought I’d come to terms with my diet a long while ago. Perhaps the psychology of seeing a full fish or crab cooked like that made our empathy stronger. I even progressed to reading a bit about crabs, their ways of socialising and complex communication methods.

    Even though I haven’t yet committed in my mind to going fully vegetarian/ vegan after this experience – it can be quite challenging given how much I eat “on the go” – I have certainly given a lot of thought to the preciousness of all life. I have considered trying to find alternative protein sources in my diet as much as possible and also paying attention to whether or not these foods are responsibly sourced. So much is said about the harm of animal farms and animal hunting, but here’s my little word to the preciousness of our water-dwelling friends!

    Namo Amida Bu 🙏

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    Dharma Gardening: Life and Death in Suburbia

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    by Chris Earle-Storey

    I’m busy digging over a corner section of my garden. I haven’t quite decided what to do with it; I have a vague idea of a small pond, or perhaps some more plants to attract the bees and butterflies. The ground is heavy with clay and so digging is hard work. I also have to keep stopping to move the numerous earthworms and other small beasts that appear as I dig. 

    The late afternoon sun is warm on my back and I take regular pauses to rest and watch our new neighbours, a family of blue tits who’ve set up home in one of the bird boxes on the side of our house. The parent birds flit backwards and forwards, tending to their new brood; I can hear frantic cheeps coming from the box every time one of the adult birds arrives with more food. It’s good to have a family back in the bird box after a couple of quiet years.

    I return to my digging. I thrust the fork into the ground, turn the soil… and notice I have cut an earthworm in half with the fork. The two halves wriggle and I vaguely recollect reading that worms can survive being severed, but maybe that’s an old wives’ tale as this one does not fare well. As I stand and watch helplessly as the unfortunate worm dies, two thoughts come to mind. The first is that it is so very hard to keep the Precedents, in this particular case the wish not to take life – for I have indeed taken this little life, albeit unintentionally. The second thought is of the Buddha and his childhood experience of watching small creatures unearthed by the plough and being eaten, and how deeply affected he was by witnessing life’s suffering.

    I go back to my digging but it is as if the sun has gone behind a cloud. How could the death of one small creature affect me so much?

    Later, as the light of the day is fading and the poor worm has passed from my thoughts, I go out to fill the hedgehog feeding bowls and top up the bird feeders. As I do so, I notice there are two blackbirds on the freshly dug patch of ground, pecking amongst the soil for juicy bugs and other morsels disturbed by my digging. As the Buddha recognised, life and death are inextricably bound together. Some creatures die so that others can live. This is the joy and sadness of our samsara experience. In my garden, as everywhere, the circle of birth, life and death continues.

    As I head back indoors I pause to look at the changing colours of the sunset. It seems particularly beautiful tonight. I am swept by a sudden acknowledgement of the richness of our Mother Earth in all its beauty and suffering.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    Hopes and fears

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    Dharma Glimpse by Dayamay Dunsby

    I am beginning to explore the possibility of dating again, after a long period of celibacy and recovery from compulsive patterns, some of which are related to relationships both platonic and romantic.

    This effort to consciously engage with prospective partners has opened up a whole new dimension in my encounters with women.


    A once dormant part of me has apparently re-awoken. It is partly exciting and fun, yet also overwhelming and confusing. It has brought me face to face with some of my conditioned behaviours that have developed, from a very early age, and helped me to see how they have contributed to chaotic and painful outcomes in my attempts to have healthy and fulfilling relationships.

    The matter of relationships has always been loaded for me. My internal complexities have often dominated and overpowered my good intentions in one way or another, creating a kind of feedback effect that can be excruciating if you don’t know what’s happening. There can be confusion on both sides of the relationship, as unseen and unconscious impulses dictate the direction and tone of the union, leaving you both bitter and confused when it goes wrong for no apparent reason.

    Buddhism has helped me to see and understand that I have an innate tendency to either grasp at things because I like them or push them away because they pose some kind of threat. Relationships with other humans have the potential to activate both of these behaviours in me. I crave the attention and stimulation of being around nice people, yet my psychological wounding can prevent me from letting them get too close, which can cause all sorts of confusion and misunderstanding.

    As a devotional practitioner and recovering compulsive, my primary relationship has to be with Amida. Everything else has to grow out of it or in conjunction with it.

    I am, after all, a foolish being of wayward passions. I think I know what I want but when I get it it can feel like too much and trigger me into destructive ways. And, my foolishness is in some ways integral to my faith, in that it is the basis for my seeking a power greater than myself; the catalyst which transforms my karmic mess into dharmic grace. Of course, it’s never quite as neat as that and often includes deep suffering, but the lesson is in proceeding in a conscious way, whilst paying attention to the currents of synchronicity that weave themselves around our hope’s, fears and desires.

    Namo Amida Bu

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