Moving House

    Categories: Uncategorised

    Dharma Glimpse by Imogen Healy

    I have felt very unsettled and unstable this week.
    I am moving house soon which marks the start of a new chapter in my life in many ways. This left me with this ‘desperation’ to cling onto something that could feel stable, like “me” again.
    I kept trying to grasp for this sense of who I am in such changeable things.
    The way my hair looks, my work, what time I was getting out of bed, my feelings. All felt forceful, I was trying to make things other than they were.
    Upon accepting these things, and reflecting, I realised I am not that or that or that.
    Rather than ‘I am unsettled’, I started to say I ‘feel’ unsettled. I feel that but I am not that. This subtle change in perspective seemed to free up a lot of space for me. It meant that I could feel something but not be so caught up in making it personal. I became the one experiencing rather than being blown around in the wind with all of these changeable things.
    Just asking the question – if I am not these feelings, then who am I?
    It was here I found some sense of stability without trying. The door just opened.
    Namo Amida Bu

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    What Netflix Taught Me

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Frankie

    Who are our Dharma teachers? Where do Dharma Glimpses happen? In this series of glimpses that I’m writing, my teachers are Netflix, Amazon, Instagram, Facebook, online art courses and groups, my local supermarket, my husband, and more. None of these rich sources have anything to do with Buddhism per se, but they are the koans, the zazen, the Buddhas robes, and Indra’s net; the Dharma of Everyday.

    I was in a Netflix dilemma. Nothing on ‘my list’ was calling to me and I had spent most of the evening scrolling through, well everything. I was in the mood for something from the UK; but I had already seen most of what was available. One series on offer was called ‘Top Boy’ – as I read the synopsis and looked at the cast I dismissed it as not for me. Because it was for ….black people….

    As the thought arose, so did the heat suffusing my face and body.
    It happened that this was at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests and could it only have been that morning I had been reading an article in which it was stated that the most insidiously damaging perceptions were from liberal and left wing white people who considered themselves to not have a racist bone in their bodies? Oh hello Me.

    I was shocked. I allowed myself to think it and then say it. I’m racist and I was one hundred percent unaware of it. How many films and TV series had I rejected for the same reason? I could think of three without even thinking. How many books, fiction and or non fiction? It was extraordinarily horrible and made even more so by the fact that I am insatiably curious about the lives of others. I will set reading themes based on authors from countries I know nothing about. I’m fascinated by immersing myself in cultures, societies and histories not my own.
    And yet…..this country of colour was a place I had never been.
    Top Boy is a brilliant series and I’m eagerly awaiting the final season. I bow deeply to the series and to Netflix for nudging me into an awareness of my own ignorance, bias, privilege and unconscious sense of superiority. I’m not sure that as a white person born into a rich, colonial and racist country whose wealth was made largely through the oppression and exploitation of other nations, let alone its own poor, that I can ever be free of my own racism. And knowing that, I’m grateful, because it serves as a constant reminder that I can never sit back and assume that I understand the issues of others, and how I might, consciously or not, be contributing to them. I am reminded that I need to keep trying to re-educate myself. I need not to ignore issues as not relevant to me. That I’m not necessarily using compassionate action in the most helpful way. That I need to listen to other voices beyond the valley of echoes.

    Living a Small Life

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Alison

    Having a voice can seem like something very normal, but actually it isn’t for everyone.  On returning to England it struck me that we are expected to have a voice and to share ideas, opinions, thoughts and feelings.  In Asia this wasn’t particularly important, unless it was about an action plan, that would harmoniously operate together with a group of people.  Growing up in England I wasn’t allowed to have ideas or opinions – I had to remain silent and obedient.  In this one single respect, you could say, I’ve lived ‘a Small Life’.  Coming to the temple has provided space for thoughts and ideas, without judgement.  Not knowing what people think about your ideas or thoughts can be rather terrifying if you’re not used to it.  I realised just how much I’ve needed to continue my small life (in this way), or when boldly stepping out, how much I’ve needed approval, especially after so much disapproval.  Judgement isn’t the way here, it isn’t a Buddhist, or spiritual, practice.  It can be frightening to speak out without any reassurance or disapproval – did people approve or disapprove of what I said?  I’ve no idea, but I’m hoping that somehow my past conditioning will re-set at some point and it’ll no longer matter.  Do people approve?  Living with that unanswered question can be painful, but we are no longer children (and even children should be able to express themselves without approval!)  We shouldn’t need validation, yet many of us do.  I am not alone here in exclaiming how difficult it can be to not receive judgement, reassurance, disapproval or praise.  And yet – I really don’t want any of those things.  

    The plants and trees just grow.  And we know the expression, that the grass grows by itself.  Ultimately, to be as a tree, to unfurl our leaves and to spread our branches, we can rise up.  The trees, unafraid, greet the sun, which I like to think of as being Amida,  – we can greet Amida’s embrace, just by being, by growing, by not holding back.  We can’t allow self doubts or insecurities stunt our growth anymore – the trees don’t.  The trees simply grow – they could be said to ‘live a Big Life’.  There is only one direction to grow tall, straight and upright – we can only surrender, let go of fears and trust this natural process, no matter how painful it can be.  Growth usually involves pain, but it just happens naturally, if we allow it to.  We need to accept that not everyone will like us, or celebrate us and just be at peace with it all.  The trees just grow tall and we can take inspiration from them, by allowing ourselves to ‘live a Big Life.’  The trees don’t force or push themselves to grow and the trees don’t hold back their growth – they just grow.  This is, in a way, a test of faith, a letting go, an unfolding, a growing in faith – being unafraid to grow, to be, to exist and to say, ‘I am here.’  This unfolding can be an extremely difficult process and speaking for myself, I am painfully aware how deep I am in the mud in my karmic nature – in ‘my Small Life.’  It can take a very long time to reach up tall… to expand.  Despite being in the mud, we might occasionally catch glimpses of the sun’s rays, when we can feel the warmth seeping through.  

    We can simply trust in the process of our own growth.

    Namu Amida Butsu

    Sweeping and Breaking

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Angie

    I was walking past the alcoves in the garden where the Buddha & Tara rupas are and I suddenly had the desire to sweep them. I enjoyed the action of sweeping and the way the dry leaves moved from place to place, sometimes agreeing to follow the broom and sometimes leaping away and landing in my recently swept bit. I liked the softness of the dust as it gathered and reminded me of sweeping rooms and shrines in hotter, drier countries than the UK.

    Then I caught the thin wire of the fairy lights with the broom and it broke and split. I felt stupid, careless and clumsy and quickly started thinking that it could be relatively simple to repair, if I could just work out which wires connected to which!

    Another part of me smiled warmly at the situation. At how I couldn’t even perform the simple devotional act of sweeping without messing it up… how endearing, how bombu! It also seemed to reflect the interplay of self-power and other-power. I hadn’t generated the urge to sweep the alcoves, that was other-powered, from the Divine. And in my limited self-powered acting on that idea, I was able to partially sweep the area as I’d been drawn to, and I also destroyed the fairy lights in the process. Another perfect moment of the dharma expressing itself!

    Namo Amida Butsu

    Pink petals

    Categories: Uncategorised

    Dharma Glimpse by Luna Rose

    Walking home from swimming, amidst the busy work traffic underneath a cloud of rain & Birmingham smog, I stopped to admire a beautiful rose bush, blooming proudly on an otherwise grey main road. Layers of petals gathered on the front wall, speckled with raindrops and looking rather divine.

    Later on, after meditating in my sunny room, I noticed the orchid in my bathroom that has been alive for a good two months since I purchased her ‘reduced for quick sale’ – realising that every day I see her I have been expecting her to have withered and died. She was reduced, and orchids are hard to care for for amateur plant parents, aren’t they?

    Though perhaps partly helpful to remember impermanence, on a deeper level this was an opportunity for me to look at what I’m choosing to believe…

    I sensed this for other areas of my life, namely the fear & desire to hide that I experience each time I put out an offering that means being seen, or seizing a new challenge in my work.

    With the intention to share what’s alive for me from my heart & do meaningful, aligned work, I meet this part of me gently each time, validate her fear, reassure her, & do the thing anyway – making sure to allow myself to receive feedback after giving; to cultivate trust for myself & my life. I realise that to live a life that feels true for ME, I had to stop looking at the situation in front of me & believing I was going to wither, or I wouldn’t be where I am.

    I choose to believe it will go well – that I wouldn’t be experiencing something if I wasn’t ready. And throughout this process, I’m learning my capacity, my rhythm; learning to communicate my needs & make changes when needed in my schedule, to preserve my peace. Waves & ripples of joy & excitement come as thank-yous from my body as I honour her & rest – as more bits of me that are programmed to race ahead, are liberated through presence & feeling. I remember to be gentle & graceful as I bumble into new, more helpful ways of being, like a toddler learning to walk, & now enjoy freely flowing in my busyness at a faster pace when I’ve recharged & am moving from a sustainable place, & not from my adrenals! My path becomes clearer & more steadying as the distance I scurry away from it each time gets shorter & shorter.

    It’s a beautiful dance & I’m grateful for the beautiful flowers today, for reminding me that I always have a choice; that I can always come to awareness; that sometimes things aren’t as fleeting as we may think & we can allow ourselves to enjoy the beautiful moment we find ourselves in, acknowledging but not consumed by fear. & that sometimes even after things pass, they can still be there, in a different form, forming the new ground beneath us, in this kaleidoscope of life – always changing, always beautiful

    NAB x

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    More About Impermanence.

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Dayamay

    My car broke down yesterday while I was taking my elderly client shopping. Boot full of bags, middle of a busy street…you know, that sort of thing! I never get used to that feeling of helplessness, when the reality of my dependence on material things, and also, how fragile they are, really hits home.

    I remember the last time it happened was in the centre of Bristol, and as the car came to a grinding halt, in an equally inappropriate place, I became aware of some graffiti, scrawled on the wall, somewhat carelessly, but visible and coherent enough to stop me in my self-obsessed state of panic and capture my attention long enough to completely change my attitude towards the situation.

    The graffiti read:

    “Nothing lasts for ever and all things decay.”

    The irony, coincidence and synchronicity of me breaking down at exactly the spot where somebody had felt inspired to discourse the general public on impermanence, did not escape my attention.

    I hear the word impermanence spoken and the concept invoked quite a lot in my day to day Buddhist centred business. Almost to the extent where it can sort of lose some of its meaning and power. But in this instance, the impact was live, raw and in my face! Like the Universe had identified a lack of comprehension or a detachment on my part from the depth of the principle, and decided to thrust it onto me – in no uncertain terms.
    When physical fact and conceptual understanding coincide, a deeper experience with reality can prevail.

    In Pureland Buddhist terms, I would count this as an ‘Other Power’ intervention. Because, not only did it jolt me out of my self-pity, it helped to align me with a core spiritual teaching that points toward something greater than the relatively trivial everday dramas that I find myself caught up in. It showed me the meaning that is intrinsic to the experience.

    Fortunately, this time I was a bit closer to home and managed to get my client back mercifully quickly. With the help of some kind people (more other power), who went out of their way for us, and in doing so, also showed me how uncomfortable I still am at receiving; I do still like to indulge in the illusion of self-sufficiency, despite many years of training and general life experience, which testify to the contrary.

    So it is in this spirit that I am choosing to approach these latest challenges. It is the action of ‘The Other’ on my life, in my mind and my heart, that brings me the ongoing insight and inspiration, which keeps my faith fresh and my willingness alive.

    Namo Amida Bu.

    All the things I get to do

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    Dharma Glimpse by Dave Smith

    I’ve recently been in contact with an old school friend who I’ve not seen for about 35 years. She was telling me about how she had to go to the dentist. Her words were “I get to go to the dentist today”, she then went on to explain how she was adjusting her language to include the words “I get to” rather than “I have to”. We joked about it at first but I have since tried to adopt this into my own vocabulary.
    Changing your words can go hand in hand with changing your attitude and the way you think about things. Going to the dentist can seem like a tiresome thing that we “HAVE” to do, its uncomfortable and can be scary and it takes us away from the other things we could be doing instead. The reality is, we don’t have to go to the dentist, we can choose not to, it’s actually a privilege to be able to go to a dentist or a doctor or even to go to the shops.
    Living here in Malvern I get the opportunity to do all these things that many other people don’t get to do and yet sometimes they seem like chores and inconveniences’ and I can become resentful when I should be feeling grateful.
    “I’ve got to go to the dentist next week, I’ve got to go shopping tonight because I’ve got to cook for everyone on Friday and I’ve got to write a Dharma glimpse before tomorrow”
    If I just stop and think and check myself, this becomes…
    “I get to go to the dentist next week to have my teeth checked out by a professional and its on the NHS so it’s not going to cost very much. Then I get to go to a shop of my choice to buy the ingredients for the meal I’m going to cook for all my friends at the temple on Friday, the money will be reimbursed and I have a huge kitchen with an oven and all the cooking utensils I could dream of, then an amazingly spacious dining room in which to dish up with an outstanding view and good company. Finally I have been given the opportunity to write this Dharma glimpse. A chance for me to share my thoughts with like minded people who are willing to listen.”
    None of this is really new to me but sometimes it’s good to be reminded of things that I have forgotten and to be grateful, so thank you to my old school friend for this little glimpse and a reminder to be mindful and thankful for all the things I get to do
    Namo Amida Bu