Look to the horizon

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    A Dharma Glimpse poem by Dave Smith

    Look to the horizon

    See the beauty in its outline

    Sharp black silhouettes of ancient ash and oak

    above soft rounded hills

    Look to the ground beneath you

    See the beauty in its complexity

    Each blade of grass and wild flower petal

    repeating patterns of nature’s symmetry

    A myriad colours contrasting and blending in equal measure

    Look to the still pool

    See the beauty in its perfection

    Subtle ripples skipping across its surface, fleeing gentle breezes

    Silent creatures gliding beneath in quiet shadows

    Listen to the wind

    Hear it approaching through the trees

    Listen to the birds

    Hear their song with delight and love in your heart

    Listen to your heart

    And know that you are alive

    Listen to your heart

    And know that you are blessed

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    Claw Marks & Letting Go

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    A Dharma Glimpse by Philip

    I have been listening to a track by Jon Hopkins, an English musician and producer of electronic and piano driven music, called ‘Sit around the Fire’ recently.  I love it the track has human connectivity; it was recommended by one templemate to another, who then played it to me in his car on a trip over to the Sugar Loaf café in West Malvern.  One of my favourite places in Malvern which now has a multitude of memories connected to it.  This was one such memory.   

    The track is based around a talk, or talks, by Ram Dass, an American spiritual leader according to Wikipedia.  He has a calming, memorising voice to me.  One part which struck me, and I’ve been reflecting on, is his suggestion to quiet your mind and open your heart.  How do you quiet the mind?  He suggests you meditate. How do you open your heart?  He suggests you love that which you can love, such as a tree, a person or an animal, and keep expanding it until you reach the source behind all of it.  I start to be able to quieten my mind.  Not always, but sometimes.  Really opening my heart is trickier, but I’m working on it.  I wonder if there’s also a need to let go……..   

    I’ll tell you a short story.  I was out walking on the beautifully named, and pretty visually pleasing, Half Moon Bay in Heysham up here in the north-west recently.  There’s a strangely beautiful contrast for me between the brutalist human architecture of Heysham nuclear power station at the end of the bay (from the direction I come from anyway) and the natural architecture of the bay; it’s lush greenery, sinuous coastline, multitude of different shaped, sized and shaded pebbles on the beach, and the flat, serene (at least on this day!), slightly murky, but nevertheless mesmerising, water.  It hit me; I am causing myself unnecessary suffering by clinging on to things.  I have been thinking of something specific recently in terms of clinging, but this truth hit me like a bolt from the blue so that, for a brief moment, I could see and feel it with total clarity.   It felt like a real dharma glimpse of which I don’t have many, if any!  There is already much pain there in this case, and I could see how I’m clinging on to something that has gone, or perhaps was never really there, is adding more pain.  Attachment and impermanence suddenly came alive rather than merely words and concepts my ears hear, my brain processes, but which haven’t really gone down into the murky depths of my being.   

    Later on that day I was reminded of a saying Dayamay passed on to me a year or two back; “I never let go of anything that hasn’t got my claw marks all over it” (apparently attributed to David Foster Wallace, an American author, according to the internet – almost unintended alliteration there!).  Maybe it’s the human condition to cling on.  Cling on for dear life at different times and for different parts of us maybe all the time.  Maybe it’s our survival instinct as much as our ego, greed and stupidity.  Maybe they’ll all inter-related.  Maybe, for many of us, we’re simply petrified to sit with our minds, open our hearts, and let go knowing impermanence and suffering are inevitable.  Doing those things, I think, requires immense courage, effort and, ultimately, compassion.  And wisdom to know we’ll never do them perfectly, slipping back into old ways and habits time and time again.  Thank goodness Amitabha Buddha accepts me just as I am and that I can take refuge at any time to help me quieten my mind, open my heart and let go.  At least bit by painstaking, but beautiful, bit. 

    Namo Amida Bu. 

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    A series of haiku inspired by River of Fire, River of Water

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    Dharma Glimpses by Sonia

    Hyacinth bulbs break
    Free in darkness, seek out light —
    Dizzying blue heights.

    Dandelion clocks puff
    Pretty drift; weeds gently checked
    Make way for clover.

    Yarn pulled loose unravels
    My winter shawl: shape new skeins.
    Namo Amida Bu.

    Through flame, valley, wave,
    Cave, mount, maze, weaves golden thread —
    Namo Amida Bu.


    Namo Amida Bu —
    Touched by light, awaken now —
    Namo Amida Bu.


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    The warmth of the cup

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    Dharma Glimpse by Frankie Carboni

    Very early morning, before the sun rises, and before anything or anybody is awake, has always felt special to me. It has an intimacy, a quietness, a kind of privacy. I feel completely immersed in the solitude that I love.

    This particular morning, it must have been around 5.00am, I got quietly out of bed, went to the kitchen and made myself a cup of tea in my oversize teacup, more of a bowl with a handle really. A teabag squeezed, no milk, sugar or lemon, then back to bed. I didn’t want to wake anyone so I switched on the torch on my phone and turned it face down on my small turquoise diary – that way the light diffuses softly just enough for me to see by.

    I cupped the tea bowl in my hands, enjoying its warmth. I could hear my husband’s deep sleep breathing beside me and feel the warmth of our little dog curled against my thigh under the duvet. There were no other thoughts arising. I wasn’t thinking about the day ahead or the books I’m reading or this morning’s Wordle. I was simply appreciating the warmth of the cup, of the bed, the presence of my two companions. I wasn’t thinking gratitude in either words or images.

    And quite suddenly, as I sipped my tea, I felt the Nembutsu; I heard, but not as a voice and not with my ears the words Namo Amida Bu. I hadn’t summoned them, they spontaneously arose from – where?

    Some time previously I had been reading about the Name that Calls. I had wondered what that even meant and how it could ever be experienced. I had tried, as I recited the Nembutsu, to imagine it calling back. I had faith that it was a possibility but felt equally that I may never experience it.

    And yet….there it was, clear as a bell, sweet and warm and strong.

    I know I should be careful not to cling to this experience or try to replicate it; it wouldn’t matter if it never happened again (although it has). Because that’s not the point. A glimpse of Other Power, of the Dharma gently manifesting, was enough to inspire a feeling of such rightness and oneness, of Faith.

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    A Dharma Glimpse by Maria Trotter

    Today has been a strange day indeed. It began with snow on the hills – in March – and a slightly annoying pulsing headache as I reluctantly got out of bed. “There has been so much going on recently!” – I thought as I went though the morning routine, my cats jumping under my feet, begging for food. They say you can’t fool the cats trying to conceal your emotions and if you’re nervous, they’ll know. 

    I have resigned from my job and accepted a new one to start in a couple of months. I’ve embarked on a new spiritual journey. I have got a new harp and this has opened a whole world of musical possibilities which I’ve started exploring straight away. I’ve been getting ready for a very busy holiday, arranging transport and accommodation, packing and booking events. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Of course it does – to me.

    I have been observing my cats run around the house and try to play with the new harp. Maybe they are a bit more jumpy than normal? Maybe they are hiding under the sofa too much when the doorbell rings? Suddenly Cassie is not as keen on her wet food and Starbuck jolts when I’m trying to pet him.

    Are my cats excited about all this change – harp covers and suitcases around the house? Of course not – they are petrified! They don’t understand what’s going on, all they can see is disruption to their daily routine. As they jump carelessly under my feet, they are trying desperately to get my attention away from all of my personal worries. I haven’t been checking in with them – or with my husband for that matter – as I have been jumping myself, from one appointment to the other, one problem to the other, my inner manager taking over more and more of my personal life.

    Sometimes our lives move at pace and being aware of impermanence, we accept that change is part of the game. But change shouldn’t make us ignorant and swipe away our capacity for empathy and care for those around us. Maybe the annoying headache has been here today to remind me that now is the time to slow down and check in with my family. Maybe they are struggling with something that I have just taken for granted. Maybe they feel like I’ve been slipping away from them. Maybe “getting over it” is not always a good option. Maybe we all need to step back a bit before we move forward. Maybe I have been so wrapped up in the pace of change that I’ve sacrificed the mindfulness of moving through this change in life.

    As I’m writing this, my headache is slowly dissipating. Maybe now I’m starting to move with the right pace!

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    Blue sky, turning grey

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    Dharma Glimpse by Sonia

    There’s a regular walk I take, I enjoy it, but sometimes it’s just a tick list job, a kind of mental and physical health chore. How did these things become chores? I’ve done the walk many times without having the faintest idea where I am or how I got there. Sometimes I use the walk as time for nembutsu. Often I put on headphones and listen to an audiobook to stop the spiral of thoughts. Lately I try to stop at least once, in the middle of the park and check – have I looked at the green? The sky? The hills? Is that enough? Would I like to look again? It’s a huge pull to be able to know if I need to spend longer, if I’m enjoying myself, to understand what I need more or less of. And I suppose if we don’t understand those things, if we are so disconnected, it makes sense that everything becomes a chore.

    One of the things I hope for from the Dharma is an increased sense of joy, meanwhile the job of some thinking parts is to diminish everything. I thus find myself in a mental battleground. It’s exhausting. At some point there will be some light, some opening, some sense of worth (Freudian slip, I had meant to write ‘warmth’)—but it’s not this current point. And I also know what expansion feels like, know that it is somewhere waiting to be found. And it’s better to be in this waiting place, to remember we are always ‘becoming’ as an answer to those parts that are telling me I am being ungracious, ungrateful for all that I do have.

    So, I’ll wait it out and keep moving through my tick list. Have I looked at the green? The sky? The hills? And maybe I’ll take the time to play with words, instead of them playing with me, and beat them at their own game…

    Blue sky, turning grey—
    Below, crisp fields are waiting,
    Hopeful for the storm.

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