Dreams & Symbols

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    Dharma Glimpse by Paramita

    It’s not often that I remember anything coherent from the chaotic imbroglio of weirdness and obscurity that spews out of my mind while I’m asleep. I can never usually interpret much that might prove useful to me, and often feel envious when I hear the richness and clarity of others’ dreams. I sometimes wonder whether my dreams come to me via some external source, like the universal muse or like some random etheric download from the cosmic mind.

    In a recent dream, I was enjoying a swim at the local pool, diving onto the bottom and swimming along under the surface, as I often do in my waking state. Suddenly I became aware that I was watching myself from an outside perspective, and as I dived in, the surface of the water froze over, seeming to trap me underneath. There was no panic and nothing like the dark feelings that I usually get when my dreams take a sinister turn. Just a slightly puzzled feeling and a sense of curiosity about the meaning when I woke up.

    As I thought about this it felt more and more important, so I turned to the internet for some input and found that, in dream code, diving into water often symbolises overwhelm, or is used to highlight the deliberate attempts that we make to understand our unconscious psychological material. This made perfect sense in light of the therapy session that I had had the previous day, when we were unburdening some of my exiled IFS(Internal Family Systems)parts and their feelings. The freezing may well have been a stuckness that I feel as I fail to make the kind of headway that I think I need to.
    Later on that week, a Templemate told me about her dream, which offered an even richer thread of imagery involving mental baggage and intergenerational processes. A handbag that didn’t feel right, holding unresolved feelings and a trauma pattern filtering down through a long family lineage.
    I couldn’t help but wonder in awe at how  amazing and fascinating it is that the mind has a pre-existing stock of symbols and imagery that it uses to communicate with us and to convey important information about psychological processes. It seems to have a natural tendency towards healing. Maybe healing some great wound that we collectively suffered over the millennia that we’ve been playing out our societal games…maybe even from before? Some primordial schism being reconciled in the midst of our preoccupied bumbling!

    One of the things that attracted me so strongly to Buddhism is its unapologetic  fascination with the Mind. After all, there can be no question that it is central to all and everything. When I think about dreams, the vast ocean of memories and feelings that exist outside of our thinking, waking minds, it seems more and more likely that our minds are constantly moving us toward some great resolution. Maybe dreams are one of the channels through which our samskaras(mental confections that lead to delusions about ourselves) are uprooted, worked out or slowly neutralized?

    It’s probably one of the things that we, or at least I, will never know. Maybe some of these things need to remain a mystery in order to retain their healing power and keep us thinking, guessing, wondering at the depth and richness of everything.

    Namo Amida Bu!

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    Dharma Glimpse by Chris Earle-Storey

    I visited my parents the other day. It’s not something I do as much as I should, but it was a lovely sunny day and I happened to be nearby, so I decided to drop in and say hello. 

    My parents’ resting place is a secluded corner behind the shelter of a tall hedge. I spend a while clearing the weeds and grass from around the headstone which marks the dates of their passing. It’s over 12 years since Dad passed away, and nearly 24 since Mum died. I still miss them very much and sit in fond remembrance, enjoying the warm sunshine and peaceful atmosphere.

    I decide to walk the long way through the cemetery, a route I had not walked for a while. This takes me through the old part of the site, where weeds thrive on ancient graves and crumbling stone monuments have been laid flat by the council to make sure they are not a hazard to passers-by. One of the few headstones still standing here catches my attention. It is a memorial to a young woman who died in 1923, aged only 22 years and named Mary. The inscription tells me she was the only child of John and Margaret.

    As I read the inscription, the words “beloved” and “always in our hearts” seem to leap out at me, and I feel a sudden rush of emotion. To my surprise and consternation, I find that there are tears in my eyes. What is it that has so affected me?

    It is 100 years since this young woman died. Her parents will have passed away a long time ago, and she had no siblings to provide offspring and remember her. It’s clear from the state of the plot – and, sadly, this one is no different from the ones surrounding it – that there is no-one left to care for her grave. No-one comes to lay flowers and shed tears. No-one remembers. No-one cares.

    For a moment I am filled with sorrow, not just for the unknown Mary but for myself and my parents. I know that when my brother and I are gone, there will be no-one to visit Mum and Dad and tend their resting place. In time, this too will be my fate: there will be no-one left who remembers me. I turn away from Mary’s grave, feeling as if there is a black cloud hanging over me. Why did I have to come this way and be faced with the bleak inevitability of death and the cruelty of time’s passing?

    As I rejoin the path, a blackbird in the tree above me suddenly bursts into song. It’s almost as if it sees how sad I am and wants to lift my spirits. I stand and watch it for a moment, and I imagine that this bird contains the spirit of the young dead girl. In that moment, I am struck by the thought that nothing really dies. We are all made of stardust, and we continue to live on in other ways even when our human bodies die and decay. Yes, impermanence is everywhere and in everything, but so is continuance. We go back to the earth, and the earth accepts us and regenerates.

    I leave the cemetery with a lightness of step. The next time I visit, as well as putting flowers on my parents’ grave, I am going to leave a token at Mary’s. I will honour her memory, just as the earth does.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    Transcending the Inevitable.

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    If you don’t stand for something – you’ll fall for anything.

    This popular culture maxim never seemed more appropriate than it does in these increasingly turbulent and devisive times. It may sound a bit old and overused but, in light of the current state of things, it actually bears quite a fresh significance.

    I spent several days in Glasgow this week, showing my support for Extinction Rebellion in their efforts to maintain scrutiny and political pressure on our world leaders, who seem to require the proverbial rocket up their backsides in order to even seem like they’re doing anything of any consequence towards the existential threat that we’re facing.

    The mood in the city felt quite surreal at times. Maybe the effects of a transition for many, from a low level of awareness of all things Climate Change, to an increased presence of the matter in the press, making it all the more difficult to turn away from and maybe enhancing the sense of confusion and frustration that still surrounds the Covid fiasco. The people were mostly very sweet and helpful, and maybe a bit bewildered and overwhelmed by the sudden increase in the intensity of the shift that we’re seeing. I have certainly felt, at times, a decline in my own sense of general wellbeing as a result of being confronted with the prospect of such an uncertain future.

    However, it is interesting that when we take some kind of action to address a problem that concerns us, our perspective on it can change and it can somehow, all of a sudden, seem much less daunting. I’m thinking of the Climate Emergency as a primary example here, but have experienced this effect on many occasions in the past. The impact of horror and misery diminished in the face of the kind of courage and humility that transcends our selfish interests and somehow penetrates to the heart of the problem.

    In this context(activism), it felt like being removed from the sense of impending catastrophe and somehow placed above it, so as to be able to perceive it from a relative vantage point, thereby reducing its impact without negating the seriousness of it. This effect may be as simply explained as the idea that ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. 100,000 people united in the spirit of a single cause is a much less daunting prospect than trying to tackle it alone or in small numbers. But that alone doesn’t really seem to speak to the feeling that I had as I marched through the rain soaked streets with my colleagues and friends along with thousands of complete strangers.

    In reality, I never felt closer to the weight of the problem. In fact, in a certain sense, it felt amplified by being in the city, so near the beating heart of commerce, bombarded by the super-cynicism of the heavy hitting profiteers, all falling over themselves to hijack the Climate Change bandwagon and convince us all that their product will be the one that makes a difference, that plucks us from the jaws of certain death as we blindly and apathetically consume our way towards disaster!

    Without the unifying effect of the XR brand of activism, I might actually have been overwhelmed by these more spiritually corrosive forces and resigned to playing the victim instead of actually standing up and claiming my rightful place amongst those who commit to challenging the status quo and staying on the right side of history.

    Although this level of deceit is disturbing and, in some ways inspiring for me, it probably has a more trivialising effect for a large chunk of the population, who still have little or no sense of the devastation that awaits if systemic change is not immediately implemented. They are as likely to swallow the commercial greenwashing as they are the wanton fallacies that are being spouted by our crooked leaders, who seem to be just trying to bide their time until the story dies down, so they can get back to promoting business as usual.

    We heard of a certain high profile, international business that was advising its clients that 2-3 degrees of global warming would be good for their profits, and the sooner we get there the greater the gains. This mentality highlights the naivety, cynicism and misunderstanding at the heart of the problem that we face; Which is only worsened by politicians such as Boris Johnson, who is world renowned for his lack of integrity, claiming Climate Leadership and thereby undermining the authenticity of the whole business!

    You might be detecting a hint of anger and skepticism in the tone that I am writing with, but I also, believe it or not, hold out a certain amount of hope for a different future. It may be radically different from the greener and brighter future that we are being promised by the powers that be, but I still firmly believe in the resilience and beauty of the human spirit. And that, there will always be a strong current of love and hope at work in whatever survives and emerges for the prospects of posterity.

    As a Buddhist I feel very lucky that I get to depend more on the qualities of my faith, that are not conditional upon societal prosperity, than to have to place all of my hopes and dreams on a system that was always doomed to failure.

    Namo Amida Bu.


    Joy in change

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    Dharma Glimpse by Maria

    This week I’ve started my new job. My head has been bursting with all the information on the company and my project, in that respect I’ve been pretty much dropped in the deep from the get go! But even more importantly, I’m now working with the same people I used to work with about two years ago, so there’s been a lot of catching up and emotional trips down the memory lane.

    Today was my first day at the client site, which is located in Coventry. I haven’t really been around Coventry much since my MBA graduation 6 years ago and I pretty much expected to see the same tired grey city centre. What a surprise when I stepped off the train to see a brand new train station building, new shops, refurbished square and a few new office buildings nearby! I realised that I expected Coventry to not have changed at all in 6 years – maybe Coventry also had not expected me to change? Isn’t it strange how we tend to analyse and acknowledge all our progress and achievements, but then we pretty much expect the rest of the world and people to just stay as they are, as we remember them.

    How many times have I formed a negative opinion of someone and not given them a chance again later? Do I always assume it’s just me who’s evolving and everyone else is stagnating? How prejudiced if so. Indeed so much has changed in my life in 6 years. My colleagues probably made the same mistake about me and my life and were surprised to see how much my priorities have changed. I need to give them the courtesy and assume nothing!

    I’ve never been one for nostalgia and looking back. When I was younger, I just thought it was black and white – if you miss someone, go ahead and give them a call! Now I know it’s not as plain as that, yet still I’m weary of looking back. Maybe deep down I know the world is impermanent and there’s a part of me that resists the reaffirmation of that knowledge. There is no going back into the same waters, and even the most solid rocks eventually crumble down into the sea. I think we should learn to find joy in the discovery of how much the familiar is changing every day!

    Permission Slip

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    Dharma Glimpse by Helen

    There’s been a few times in my life when I’ve heard the voice of God tell me something very
    strongly. It’s generally been when I’ve been doggedly pursuing a path that deep down I’ve
    knows wasn’t right for me but for one reason or another I’ve been ignoring all signs to the
    contrary and determinedly digging my heels in and carrying on blindly, certain that either
    there is no other choice or, in some cases, a breakthrough will come and the path I’m on will
    become the right path if only I work hard enough to make it so.

    Recently I’ve been experiencing some minor, but still upsetting health issues. I’ve various
    tools, in my tool box that I’ve built up over the years to cope when things get tough like this
    and one of them is physical exercise, a little run, a little weight training and then home to
    my biscuit & tea, bliss! The problem is that I’ve noted my lack of motivation to actually
    engage and go to the gym, even though I know I’ll feel better if I do; preferring instead to sit
    on the couch, sneak chocolate past my teen, watch the latest Netflix drop of “Selling
    Sunset” deep into the night and feel sorry for myself.

    Don’t get me wrong, I know this is not unusual. But deep down I’ve also known that this
    isn’t bog standard procrastination (although that is another hobby of mine). Something is
    getting in my way. Something that I’ve not wanted to admit to myself as I feel slightly
    embarrassed by it.

    So, facing a mirror, scanning myself as I sometimes do with my reflection staring back a few
    days ago I asked, why, why are you avoiding the one thing you know makes such a
    difference to your mental health? The answer came loud and clear. BECAUSE YOU HATE
    RUNNING. The shock and relief I felt at saying it out loud was palpable.

    Now, I have said this out loud before, usually, as some kind of joke or quip with friends. But
    Ive never really admitted it to myself before. Typing this now it feels so stupid and minor,
    but its something I feel I SHOULD love, most of the people I know love it, swear by it and
    have assured me that once I get into my stride ill love it too. But after yeas of trying all I ever
    feel is dread at the thought of it and then afterwards serious muscle cramps, nausea and
    light headed. Admitting the truth felt like a weight off my shoulders

    So I’ve taken the opportunity to consider my whole routine and, more importantly, why I do
    it in the first place. The revolutionary conclusion? I QUIT! Instead, a small voice inside of me
    suggested going for a swim.

    So that’s what I did. 30 blissful mins later I was back up on ground level, in the glorious
    sunshine feeling a little achy but refreshed and grateful.

    I’m not even sure if this really counts as a dharma glimpse but taking the time to listen to
    what the divine is trying to tell me about myself has made a small but important change to
    my life this week.

    Namo Amida Bu


    Categories: dharma glimpse

    Dharma glimpse by Beth H

    Having faith is a tricky concept for me.
    It’s a bit like the clouds. It comes and goes.
    The sun is there shining and grinning its reassuring glow.
    And as suddenly, it’s gone and I’m thrust back into greyness and find I’m floundering.
    Sunshine provides the reassurance, the comfort and glow that nurtures me and I imagine that is what faith provides.
    I can’t hold on to it. The cloud comes and murks the clarity. No sinjin here!
    But, I realise that practice has its place and role to play, so I pick up my Buddhist books, I meditate, I sing the nembutsu and I learn to breathe and be still. Restoring my Buddha nature. And I feel marvellous.
    I’ve started on this journey, that’s enough in itself for me.

    Doggy Glimpse

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    by Sharon Taylor Dechen

    Today my dog Poppy and I did our usual walk and I was thinking what I could share of my recent experiences to put into this Dharma Glimpse. As I was pondering this a set of two legs and two wheels came running past us sniffing flowers
    It was an elderly Labrador’ who still had use of his front legs but not his back. His owners spoke to me and said they had got him “his wheels“ so he could still get out and about . I have heard people say that it’s not fair to keep a disabled dog and at this point it would be better to have it put it down to end its life.
    This made me think, ”Were the owners being selfish refusing to accept the impermanence of even those we love?”
    I thought around this but in the end I decided that I didn’t think so. I think they were recognising that even when suffering ill health and age their friend was still a sentient being as we know from Buddhism and that he could still have some quality of life if only using wheels.
    He didn’t seem to be in pain and was happily sniffing and trotting along if with the odd bash into a tree!
    Life is impermanent and involves suffering. We can however value the simple joys that we have and appreciate our life in this minute right now . It may be that at some point the choices will be harder but for now let’s smell the flowers, using legs or wheels if we need them. NAB

    New glasses

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    Dharma glimpse by Dave Smith

    My eyesight has been slowly deteriorating for a while now but I never seem to get round to going to an optician. Someone suggested that I should just buy a cheap pair of reading glasses. I bought a pair yesterday, when I got into bed last night I thought I would try them out. I picked up my copy of Nagapryia’s “The promise of a sacred world” and started reading. The words were so much bigger and clearer which is what you would expect, but also I was able to read much faster. I didn’t have to struggle or concentrate in quite the way I usually do, the unexpected consequence was that I was able to understand the text more easily. I didn’t have to read and re-read everything to get the meaning of what Nagapriya was saying. My eyes had literally been opened! It felt almost like a mini awakening!
    Not only could I see more easily, but I could understand the text more easily. It made me want to start meditating more again, and reminded me of the value of having a clear and uncluttered mind.
    Who would have thought that a pair of £1 glasses could improve my spiritual well being?!
    Namo Amida Bu

    The Warm Voice

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    Dharma Talk by Kim Allard

    What attracted me to Pureland Buddhism was being able to relate to the practice and teachings and not feeling shame or failure if my practice wasn’t done rigorously and in a disciplined way.

    Not leaving well enough alone I bought some books and ended up in tears when the author dove into the experience of Amida with such an intellectual lens I found myself lost in a forest of concepts that were beyond my grasp.  The presentation left me feeling a failure because I could not hold two contradictory concepts of reality within my mind as an “ah ha” moment. 

    I kept reading that real knowledge of Amida is that his power, compassion and loving acceptance is real but if you observe it you’ve missed the whole point. It’s when you let go of observing that true enlightenment is achieved. This left me feeling like I was standing in a featureless room understanding nothing after all.

    What happened to the warm voice within me that hears my joy, my sadness and interacts with me?  Where is the power that guides me and teaches me and assures me that Amida will always be with me? 

    As I drink my coffee this morning I am going to find my way back to that place. The new book will go on the shelf as a message for another. I am open to new ideas and concepts but I have always relied on my instincts for finding the right fit. Whether I am simply not ready for another view of Amida or I need the more personal approach or I lack the intellect to grasp this authors view of being – but not if I observe it – leaves me bereft.

    I will now pick up Satya’s book and find my way back to a place I know and trust and sit a while. I’m pretty sure Amida will meet me there as well.  

    Love and light 🙏

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    Warning – War and Peace ahoy!

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    Dharma Glimpse by Frankie

    yoghurt and honey
    a spoonful of memories
    crete 1983

    ‘attachment is the source of all suffering’
    internet meme attributed usually to the Buddha.

    Non-attachment, nekkhama, not clinging, not grasping etc is a fundamental of Buddhist teaching and philosophy. It is at the core of the four noble truths, often the first lesson that students of Buddhism are exposed to. It’s often taught quite simply at first, involving attachment to physical objects, and then moves to a deeper level – attachment to our likes and dislikes, conditioned thinking, thoughts themselves. In my case above, memory.
    As an excuse to keep my elderly mind active I often do online jigsaws. One evening recently I came across a jigsaw featuring Agios Nikolaos in Crete, somewhere I had spent a two week holiday back in 1983 with my late, ex-husband. We were lucky; I did a very late booking, and when we arrived we had been given a lovely 2-bed, rustic style apartment on the outskirts of town- it was a great holiday.
    While I completed the jigsaw, I couldn’t shake myself free of memories,mixed as they were, the beauty of the town and surroundings, lovely food and weather, feelings of general love and happiness combined with terrible sadness at how our marriage eventually failed. Wondering what that apartment looked like today I started what turned out to be an agonising and obsessive search on the internet and Google Earth. I could find no trace of it, nothing that resembled it, almost nothing apart from the port that I recognised.
    Somehow I just couldn’t get it into my head that over 40 years places change, despite my knowing full well from experience that they can change drastically in half that time. I had such a clear picture in my mind of the apartment, the road it was on, the two walks we used into town, one down a winding lane full of olive groves; I clung so steadfastly to those memories that I spent days in a futile search online for anything that proved the permanence of them. Then I was sure that I must still have some actual photos from that time; I had brought some from the UK when we moved – and that became another obsessive search, which did indeed end in more suffering – a few photos of us in Crete which only made me sadder for my ex husband’s suffering and all that we had lost.

    And after everything I’ve learned as a student of Buddhism!
    More than 11 years of being immersed in the Four Noble Truths!

    And still here I was, clinging to things that were impermanent – not just physical spaces, but memories and narratives distorted by time. It was more than three weeks before the pain started to recede – yes I clung to that for a little while too.
    The past can be like a hungry ghost, bloated on useless memories, feeding on the present, stealing it away. I’m happy to still be able to remember, but I need to remind myself to remember with love and acceptance and awareness that it’s in this precious, fleeting present that I now reside.

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