Pear Tree Dharma

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    Dharma Glimpse by Kaspa

    English: Willow-leafed PearWillowleaf Pear or Weeping Pear (Pyrus salicifolia) in Kew Gardens, by Emőke Dénes

    I was sitting in the garden. Next to me was a half empty mug of strong coffee; a stainless steel cafetiere with the rest of the coffee in, ready for topping up the mug; a pair of secateurs; and a pair of garden shears. 

    I drained the last of the coffee from the mug, picked up the secateurs and started trimming the bottom edge of our silver weeping pear tree. It was probably the wrong time of year for pruning, but I had some time and a little bit of energy, and I was feeling sorry for the flower bed underneath the tree. The weeping branches made a thick curtain and completely shielded the bed from sight.

    It’s one of my favourite flower beds. In spring time there are hellebores and lungwort and later in the year the wild geranium flowers. They all do well enough in the half shade.

    I started to clip the branches, creating light for the plants underneath. The flower bed revealed itself to me. It was full of nettles, brambles and ground elder. 

    “Oh”, I thought, “perhaps I’d have been better leaving all of this covered up. Now I’ve created more work for myself.”

    Sometimes it’s like this with my Buddhist practice. There is a period of letting go of old habits, beliefs and unhelpful patterns and then a moment of relief, and then I look more closely and what was underneath all of that? More of the same. Here we go again.

    These days I trust that I’m not here to clear everything away. Sometimes pure space does appear and I can see all the way through my stuff to the emptiness on the other side. And then more stuff bubbles up to fill the space. So I tend to what comes up, trusting that it’s helpful to look after what’s in front of me. Trusting that that’s enough.

    Even if I don’t manage to weed the flower bed, the tree still looks better.

    Changing seasons

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    Dharma Glimpse by Sheila Maund

    I feel very aware of the seasons changing this week and the approach of September, which always heralds s time of new beginnings and bigger changes.

    I went to Colwall Orchard Group to pick my husband up from a community meeting and arrived a little early.

    Initially I sat on a large stone outside the shed and took out my phone- to check messages and generally scroll-a bad habit.

    I noticed a bat, flying past and put my phone away. I watched as 2 bats, I have no idea what kind, flew in clockwise circles, around where I was sitting and in wider circles taking in the edge of the allotments.

    I noticed how quiet it was, only a very distant sound of a car somewhere, and the quiet tick ticking of the bats. I felt completely at peace and fascinated by the bats living life on the wing, gaining their sustenance as part of a dance, living their lives in perfect balance. Simply part of the natural ecosystem . It reminded me of the teachings of simplicity, in awareness and naturally.

    I felt so lucky to have caught a glimpse of these beautiful creatures, just getting on with their lives and reflected on the need to put aside distractions and remember to focus on this moment.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    New house

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    Photo by Pop & Zebra on Unsplash

    Dharma Glimpse by Sam Johnson

    My sister has just bought a new house with her partner, and I am going to be moving in with them. They do not need to move out of their old place for another couple of weeks, but the house had been left in a poor state, and lots of cleaning and fixing needs to be done before the house is fit for moving into. This task has fallen primarily to me, since I do not work during the summer.

    It is my turn to write a dharma glimpse, but I think to myself, ‘I do not feel very dharma-y’. This job is frustrating. There is so much to do in so little time, and the heat wave makes it much less pleasant. I find myself eager to have the work be done, and taking no pleasure in completing tasks. And it is difficult at times to feel motivated. Is there a way to change this?

    I realise that part of what makes me feel this way is that I am thinking of the task as simply something that I ‘have to do’, and I do not have clearly in mind the benefits. The work may seem more meaningful if I can visualise living happily in the house afterwards. That’s a motivation to get me going. But that will still make me want to rush towards the end goal and take no pleasure in the work itself. To find more joy in the work itself, can I think of it as sacred activity, like cleaning the body of the Buddha? I can try.

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    Be Like Water

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    Dharma Glimpse by Frankie Carboni

    I’m fortunate to have a spare room which I use both as a sacred space for my Buddhist practice and as a sort of studio for my creative practice.

    Now, we live on the ground floor of a small apartment block and it so happens that this room is directly underneath our neighbours bathroom. After some time I became aware, and consequently irritated by the fact that during meditation I could hear my neighbours actually using the bathroom – and I mean I could hear everything! This started to feel a little unsacred to me, a little too much secularity entering into my oasis of calm abiding. I considered various options – earplugs, noise cancelling headphones. Moving wasn’t an option, but perhaps some ambient background noise might help?

    And then it occurred to me. Our narratives, the stories we believe of ourselves, and remembering one of my teachers talking about how those narratives don’t have to be our story. Our story can be that we sit in front of the Buddha, that we recite the Nembutsu, that we dedicate ourselves to sitting in formless meditation. Opening the mind in this way can be extended to all challenges that arise – so could I change the narrative about bathroom sounds, could this be a different story?

    My story could be that I sit with the beautiful sound of running water – after all that’s just what I was hearing!

    And so it became. And when next door’s teenagers arrived for the summer, that loud drum and bass they love became the rhythm of my chanting; the espresso machine and chat from the bar nearby became a reminder of my connection with others.

    I realised that I didn’t need space and silence from the outside world to practice, because with acceptance of what is, I discovered that space and silence come from within and are always present, I only need to be like water and go with the flow.

    Namo Amida Bu

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    Runner’s high

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    Photo by sporlab on Unsplash

    Dharma Glimpse by Chris Conway

    I had a bit of Dharma Glimpse on a recent run. I’m very lucky to live by the sea and there’s nothing I love more than going for a run down the seafront to unwind, after a long day.

    Unfortunately, a mile into the run, my Bluetooth headphones gave me the dreaded beep of ‘’low battery” and then subsequently died just as I was about to hear my mile pace. Worse still, I was half way through one of my favourite songs!

    With no music, no pace information, just the sound of my feet slapping the pavement and the sound of me huffing and puffing, I thought to myself “This is going to be rubbish run!”

    As you might guess. I never, ever, run without headphones. I sometimes see people run past me with no headphones on and think “God, how do they do it!?” Just running to the sound of…well… themselves? Who would want that? Not me. But unfortunately that was the reality for the remainder of this run.

    However, three miles of silence in, something started to happen towards the end of my run. I started to experience a bit of an unexpected ‘runners high’.

    I started to notice my feet but instead of the slapping of the pavement I started to hear a rhythm that danced along to the pounding beat of my heart.

    Next I noticed my breath as it moved in and out much like the waves were doing on the beach below me. I also noticed the way the sea glistened like a blanket of beautiful jewels.

    Next, I notice two people sat on the sea wall hugging. Their silhouettes around them merging into one.

    And then finally the ‘piece de resistance’, on my final stretch I was graced with a beautiful sunset, setting the sky on fire with beautiful shades of red and orange. I felt the warm rays of the sun on my face and was instantly reminded of Amida’s rays of light.

    For those last few meters I was completely present with a funny feeling of connection to everything in and around me.

    As I finished that run I found myself saying out loud “Namo Amida Bu!” and with a huge smile on my face I thought to myself, maybe I’ll leave the headphones at home next time…

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    Marine Life

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    Dharma Glimpse by Olly Henwood

    I was recently on Lundy Island which provided a peaceful environment for reflection and embracing the Dharma. We spent some of the time diving, looking for and finding marine life. I found it interesting that when observing the sea from land it appeared vast, empty and barren. It wasn’t until I immersed myself into the sea that I could fully notice and appreciate it’s true self and beauty.

    I thought this was relevant as this is also often the case with the Dharma (I also like a good analogy). The Dharma is always present (like the sea) but it takes self power, peace and curiosity to stop and fully appreciate it within our lives. Much like the true nature of the ocean, I often find the true nature of the Dharma evades my mind and daily living, and it takes patience to accept it into all aspects of life. I have found that the study group has been a great way to recalibrate and keep the Dharma fresh and integrated daily.

    Namo Amida Bu

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    Handing it over

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    Dharma Glimpse by Satya Robyn

    This morning I went down into the temple garden to do my usual twenty minutes of nembutsu in front of the garden Buddha. As I sat, my brain lurched from one project to another. I have a lot on my plate at the moment – my dad is in hospital, the utility bills at the temple have risen dramatically creating a financial shortfall, and our charity is in a difficult negotiation with another Buddhist group. As my brain found more and more that needed to be done, my lengthening ‘to-do’ list pushed me towards overwhelm.

    I took a breath and looked at the Buddha right in front of me. When I start spiralling like this, what helps me is to remember the Buddha’s support. I can hand everything on my list over to the Buddha for safe-keeping, and the Buddha will hand me one thing at a time to do. What’s next? Hanging out the washing. What’s next? Making a list of tasks relating to the financial shortfall, and booking time into my diary to talk about this with Kaspa. What’s next? Writing a Dharma Glimpse for my homework!

    When I can take refuge in this way, I remember that I can only do one thing at a time and so there’s no need to panic. If things don’t get done, then they don’t get done. Rushing things doesn’t benefit me or the tasks that need doing. When I do one thing after another in a relaxed way, with a short and complete break between them, then I begin to feel human again. The items start getting ticked off the list, but not in a way that leaves me feeling exhausted.

    By the end of my meditation I felt like I could face the day – one thing at a time – and that’s what I’ve been doing this morning. And now my Dharma Glimpse is written too!

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    Clean Bin, Clean Mind

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    A Dharma Glimpse by Chris Earle-Storey

    I’ve had a difficult couple of weeks and have been finding it hard to concentrate on things. The current hot weather does not help; normally I would refresh myself by spending time working in the garden, but the fierce heat of the sun makes it too uncomfortable.

    Yesterday morning I went outside to put some rubbish in the black household waste bin. Our wheelie bins stand at the top of the driveway and are in the shade for much of the day, but even so I was struck by the distinctly unpleasant smell coming from the black bin. This is a good time to clean it out, I thought: it’s in the shade, and I don’t much feel like doing anything else, so I may as well do something practical and useful.

    I lay the bin on its side and climbed into it. I spent half an hour scrubbing and rinsing; I am sure any passing neighbours must have been amused by the sight of my rear end sticking out of the bin, but by the time I’d finished the once-minging wheelie bin was shining and considerably more sweet-smelling. Alas, the same could not be said for me and I had to put all my clothes in the wash and myself in the shower.

    As I washed the grime and odours from my aching body, I reflected on how simple it is to clean our physical selves but how much more difficult to wash clean our minds and spirits. The hard work had certainly distracted me from the current preoccupations of my mind but it was only temporary. In order to do a mental cleansing, something else was needed.
    I spent some time that evening doing the sort of things that I know from experience are good for my mind and spirit. I meditated. I chanted. I read a Dharma text. I put some of my thoughts down on paper. And finally, I saw a Dharma Glimpse in the day’s experience. 

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    Dharma Glimpse by Maria Trotter

    My husband and I spent most of last week in London. It was a hectic combination of work and shows that we’d arranged to attend a while ago, and some that were just spontaneous. Obviously as the railway strikes were announced shortly before our visit, we had to adjust our travelling arrangements accordingly (which meant it cost us a lot more) and I didn’t end up meeting some of my colleagues I’d been meaning to as they could not get into the office.

    As I looked back on last week (which was a lot of fun in the end, even with disruptions), I realised that a couple of years ago similar circumstances would have brought me a great deal of stress. I probably would have spent a few days worrying about the trains running, would have struggled to combine work with that much extra activity and also be disappointed about not meeting the people I’d meant to meet. I would have stressed about the queues and get annoyed about the stuffy tube, cursing the big city life that I generally resent, not to mention how much it costs. This time I sometimes noticed my husband stressing about things not working out on various occasions, and I would generally just say “don’t worry, it’ll be what it’ll be”.

    I think deep down I anticipated London to be chaotic and unpredictable, I expected plans to be fluid and arrangements to change. This is the form of acceptance that I used to find really hard as I always tried to be organised and used to get annoyed at experiencing the opposite. However as I’ve been slowly moving on the Dharma path I’ve found that sometimes having clear expectations can cause a great deal of distress and disappointment. Even though having no expectations at all is a bit too much of a leap for me sometimes, I’m rather learning to “expect unexpected”, kind of like a form of the “suffering of change”. I find facing the modern chaotic life much less stressful if I just accept that things will change and plans will sometimes fail – and some good may even come out of it. I even find London more agreeable with this kind of a mindset. I’m just expecting it to be unpredictable!

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    Plagued by emails

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    Dharma Glimpse by Sonia

    At night, I’m plagued by emails. Ones I’ve received, ones I need to send, ones I need to reply too. The words fly around in a mounting frenzy and I just want to let go and go to sleep. I’m finding it increasingly hard to switch off these days and I’m especially annoyed because I regard this as one of the things I am ‘good’ at. So throw in some feelings of failure there too.

    Why do emails do this? I notice it happens when some part has been activated. It’s always the same thing – ‘not good enough’ feelings triggered by being condescended too. One email is really bothering me. Finding the right words to reply takes… more than anything… a pause. Their intentions, my intentions – a lot of this is flying under the surface, not visible to us. I notice in myself and in others a feeling of self-righteousness, the intention is to ‘correct’ the other person and woe if you get into that spiral. And woe if you are both insistent on having the last word. I’ve worked in lots of roles where diffusing conflict has been an important skill, where all parties leave feeling heard and perhaps with more understanding. I notice now that what made that easier was being in a position of recognised authority. It’s a bit different when you either don’t have power, or you’re taking power out of the equation entirely.

    It gets to the end of the day and the ‘pause’ hasn’t been long enough, I don’t reply to the email.

    At night the words keep coming back to me, little stings, I get angry, I remember to say the nembutsu and ask for clear-seeing. The words fly back, amplified, I get upset, I remember to say the nembutsu. The spiral again, I say the nembutsu.

    In the morning I’m grateful to wake with the knowledge I have managed to get some restful sleep.

    Later I log on, and the email doesn’t seem so bad now. I think about the person receiving my response, their complicated reactions, the daily irritations of life they are juggling, the space in which they are receiving my words. I try to understand the ripple effect, this is not just an email, but a person’s heart I am speaking to, however mundane the subject might be. I picture the Buddha’s smile, type words and hit send.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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