Categories: Uncategorised

    A Dharma Glimpse by Paramita

    This week I was given an opportunity to pause. My regular schedule gave way to a cascade of conditions which meant that I couldn’t fulfil some of my usual duties. And, the flow of my ongoing therapy sessions came to a grinding halt, as my Internal Famìly Parts decided that they needed to build up some more trust before they allowed any more unburdening healing to happen. Which I have learned to take as being an indispensable function of the overall process, but which still left me with a sense of dissatisfaction because I didn’t feel like I was striding forward in the way that I have come to associate with success. In other words – I had to stop! 

    This, along with some other unavoidable factors, meant that a space opened up for me, which I quickly proceeded to fill with worry and fear about what I should be doing, what others might think of my perceived failure and what I could do to compensate.

    At this point, I managed to catch myself in the process and remembered a promise that I had made to my tired parts in therapy, that I would take some more time out than usual and do something nice for myself. As it happened, a friend in the community was going for a long walk and so I joined them and spent some quality time in nature, absorbing the energy of the land and connecting with the nourishing sights and sounds of the Malvern Hills.

    I recognised this as progress of sorts. At one time I might not have felt the potential for healing and reflection in the situation. I may have just slogged onwards relentlessly and then paid a higher price somewhere down the line.

    Unboundaried and compulsive perseverance is written into our social contracts in small print. It serves the system of haves and have nots, and the agendas of the controlling elite. In some ways we are expected to keep going no matter what, to keep up with the pace of life, even if it’s obviously detrimental to our health and wellbeing and the best interests of others as well. I feel this as a sort of collective defense against our accumulated wounding; if we just don’t stop we won’t have to face the pain.

    But pain is not the only thing that arises in these fertile spaces. Just the act of relaxing the grip of our white knuckled fingers on the steering wheel can bring great relief, peace and spiritual perspective.

    My day off became 2 days off and I now feel refreshed and revitalised. Once again I have been shown that I do not always know what is best for me. That my human strategies have weak points and blind spots, and that there is another power operating in my life, that shows me a different way, if I can just keep the door open to it.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    Holly Leaves

    Categories: dharma glimpse earth

    Dharma Glimpse by Angie

    For the last two spring seasons I have watched with intrigue as new Holly leaves form on my walks around Malvern. They emerge small, waxy and surprisingly soft to the touch. Over the course of a few weeks they harden up,  gradually lose their softness and their edges turn from soft points to the prickly spikes iconic of the Holly plant. If I look down whilst stood by the Holly, I can often see a few fallen old holly leaves on the floor; their hard adult bodies now skeletal, withered, dried and crumbly. Their prickles that were once painful to stand on barefoot, now crumbling grains of leaf matter. The whole life cycle present in one moment, individual holly leaves and branches forming and dying whilst the plant as a whole persists.

    This reminds me how soft and vulnerable we are when we emerge from the womb and how, over time our many edges harden to form the necessary protections and defences against the world. Sometimes those barriers soften with age, sometimes they become more deeply entrenched as they continue to be needed and the value of getting close enough to others to be vulnerable and connected is weighed up against the cost of getting hurt. 

    I’ve found that, over time, spiritual and therapeutic practise has profoundly altered my prickles. Some edges and defences have melted or fallen away entirely, others have become like an adult cat’s claws; able to stay contracted or to extend dependant on the situation. My fluid sense of self persisting as the many strands that make it up rise and fall, solidify and wither. Each move towards openness allows me to feel more intimately in touch with love and presence, with interconnectedness and the Ultimate. As I experience this more frequently and come to trust their existence, in the times when my protections extend and I feel more distant from them, I can still know that they’re there. 

    Blowin’ in the Wind

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    Dharma Glimpse by Philip

    I was driving down to the temple recently in my slightly battered, but beloved, Twingo. It has a temperamental and capricious CD player (yes, it is pretty old!). I kinda love that about it. Choice isn’t always a good thing in my opinion and when a CD finally works it feels more joyous than being able to play whatever I want all the time. I’m not particularly in to Bob Dylan, but I stumbled across an old ‘Best of’ CD which I threw into it which miraculously worked. It played ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ before unceremoniously, and loudly, spitting it out! Bless it!
    A couple of days later I was walking in the Malvern Hills. It was a beautiful, warm and sunny afternoon. It felt good to be alive. I was blessed to have spent some time with much valued templemates, and temple dogs, in the hills over the previous couple of days. I was now blessed to be spending some time with myself. Coming down the path towards St Anne’s Well I was taken by the trees swaying gracefully in the light breeze. Their luscious, beautiful green leaves being thrust towards the sky from their trunk and branches to bask in the sun’s rays whilst their deep, sinuous roots would have quietly and imperceptibly grown over many years to give them the necessary stability and provision of other life-sustaining nutrients. I remembered the Bob Dylan lyric “The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind. The answer is blowin’ in the wind”.
    If not THE answer, maybe trees can tell me quite a bit about the dharma I thought. I remember a friend told me “trees are our munda”, meaning trees are our temples. I wondered if we need to quietly, humbly cultivate our spiritual roots in order to catch the light of Amida. Or perhaps the light of Amida helps us cultivate our spiritual roots of being connected to something deeper and life sustaining. Maybe it is a symbiotic relationship (always wanted to use that term as it sounded clever when I heard people using it!). Maybe Western spirituality and the self-help culture frequently promotes the equivalent of the leaves basking in the sun, rather than the less glamorous work of immersing oneself, and growing, in the soil and earth.
    I feel lucky to have come across Pureland Buddhism. I confess when I first entered the temple I did not understand how it differed from other branches (pun intended) of Buddhism. I’m slowly learning it seems to emphasise the importance of immersing, or ‘transdescending’, oneself in the soil of life rather than trying to transcend it. That the soil, sometimes seen as just ‘dirt’, gives the same life-sustaining nutrients as the sun. Whatever you take ‘life’ to be. And the soil is also fed by the sun. It is all interconnected.
    Namo Amida Bu

    Morning meditation

    Categories: Uncategorised

    Dharma Glimpse by Dave Smith

    I don’t really have a regular routine for my meditation, but when I have the time in the mornings I go down into the garden and sit in the early morning sun. I take my phone with me and set it to “Do not disturb” and then set a timer for twenty minutes. I have a nice gentle ringtone to end my meditation rather than an intrusive beeping sound.  This is something I have been doing for several years now. The other morning I arrived at my usual spot and then realised that I had forgotten my phone. Rather than go all the way back up the steps to get it, I thought I would just sit and meditate without a timer and just see how it went.

    The difference was quite noticeable. One of the many unwanted thoughts that usually pop into my head when meditating is ”I wonder how long I’ve got left?”, or sometimes if I feel like I’ve been sitting there a while “ did I remember to set the timer?”

    This time something felt distinctly different. I hadn’t previously realised it, but having a time limit set for my meditation somehow made it into a task that I had to complete, it had taken away the enjoyment and freedom to a certain extent. This time the anticipation of my alarm going off was not there and I found it easier to relax, there was no pressure to become calm and still within a twenty minute time frame. It was up to me when to stop, not some arbitrary time limit that I had decided to set myself.

    As I began to emerge from my deep stillness, I decided that I wasn’t ready yet and went back to meditating, this happened a number of times until I felt that I had sat long enough. When I finally opened my eyes, I felt so much more refreshed, it was like the difference between waking up in the morning to an alarm clock or waking up gently in your own time.

    This is now the new norm for me and I enjoy and appreciate my morning meditation so much more. I don’t know if I’m sitting for longer or not and it doesn’t really matter. I am sitting for as long as I need to. I have also noticed that since not timing my meditations I seem to be forgetting my phone a lot more during the day which is definitely a good thing

    Namo Amida Bu

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