“Love me…Love me not”

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    Dharma Glimpse by Jules

    I was reading an article about how our brains process our thoughts, each thought interlinking, leading to another thought and then another, thus creating chains of thoughts or ‘thought worms’ (as named by Dr. Poppenk and Julie Tseng). It is estimated that we have approximately 6200 of these thought worms a day. But what is interesting is that 80% of them are negative! Even more astonishing is that 95% of our thoughts are repeating themselves day after day. This negative thinking is taking over our brains and we are doing it repeatedly, creating a continuous cycle of pessimism and self-destruction!

    So it got me thinking about my own latest string of negative thoughts. I have been thinking about whether I deserve to be loved. As I reflect upon my thoughts, it reminded me of my childhood, where we would all sit on the grass, picking petals off a daisy, alternating between positive and negative phrases…Love me…Love Me Not?…hoping that when we got to the last petal, the phrase we spoke was positive, as this last petal supposedly represents the truth between the subject of my affection loving me or not.

    The concept of deserving love is subjective and by definition and connotations of the word deserve “is to earn”, so this can become problematic in itself. For me, the question of being worthy or deserving of love, arises from my own self doubt, human expectations, and internalised self-perceptions often comparing myself to others. The constant criticism, rejection, or comparisons to societal standards has contributed to a diminished sense of self-worth. But I don’t feel I need to earn love, but do feel I am worthy of love and thus deserve to be loved.

    In Pure Land Buddhism, the compassionate nature of Amida Buddha accepts us just as we are, embracing our perceived unworthiness. Recognising our imperfections, we find solace in the boundless love of the Pure Land, transcending feelings of unworthiness to experience the unconditional acceptance that leads us towards enlightenment. So somehow I need to change my thought process so that I feel good enough “Just as I am”, the bad bits as well as the good bits.

    So the next time I sit in front of of my shrine and pray to Amida Buddha, I am going to play the more humorous twist on the game and chant; “He loves me, he loves me lots!”

    Namo Amida Bu

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    Dharma Glimpse by Frankie

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    I really like the wording of our precepts ‘may I be aware of WHEN,’ not IF, but WHEN, which acknowledges our vulnerability and our basic human being-ness. There are many times when we will fail spectacularly to fulfil our precepts, and actually that’s what they’re there for, to remind us, to bring us back, to support us.
    In some sanghas when students are studying to take the precepts formally, they are encouraged to write their own additional precepts.
    Last Wednesday as we said the liturgy it occurred to me that I could do with another precept – may I be aware of when I fall into anger, because just that morning, I had written up my diary entry for Tuesday which reads’Today I’ve been mostly Angry.’

    I’m not against Anger as such, I don’t think we should turn away from it – it’s Big Energy, which harnessed in the right way can be used really positively. Anger about injustice, inhumane treatmet of sentient beings, people and animals, the treatment of our environment . This anger can be transformed into the energy which motivates us into engaging and taking action.

    But my anger wasn’t like that. I wasn’t angry with anything or anyone in particular, but I know I was manifesting it. It didn’t have a particular focus, it didn’t have that useful kind of energy, it was more like a vacuum sucking energy into it.
    I have some short sayings that I use in my practice, one of them is ‘what is this?’ I looked closely at this anger, I asked it gently ‘what is this?’. And I realised that like most of our difficult emotions, it came from a place of fear.

    Im holding a lot of fear at the moment, fear about Stef’s state of health, the immediatate future, fearing that I won’t be able to cope, my language skills won’t be enough, I’ll somehow let him down. It’s an honour for me to be able to care for him, but it’s also a responsibility. BUT as soon as I acknowledged the fear, opened up to it, as soon as I said out loud ‘I’m frightened’, I felt a huge relief and could feel the hard edges of that fear softening.

    I can’t make fear go away, but I know it will change, it will come and go, and allowing that will help me when I no doubt meet that pointless black hole anger again.

    I also know I’m not alone – I’m supported.
    Taking refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha doesn’t mean turning away from difficult emotions or spiritually bypassing; it means having faith, trusting. I can call on Dharma teachings, I know I can reach out to Sangha, and I can call on Amida and know I will be answered – Amida will sit next to me, help me hold onto my courage, give me confidence.
    I know I’m not alone
    Namo Amida Bu.

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    Shrine Room Flowers

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    Dharma glimpse by Dave

    As well as being a tenant at the temple, I have various roles that I have taken on here.

    For a couple of years now I have volunteered to do the flowers in the shrine room, I tend to do these first thing on a Saturday morning before practice with the exception of a few months in mid-winter when I buy some dried flowers to see me through. I get up fairly early, collect the vases from the shrine room and take them into the kitchen, I then discard all the wilted and dead ones before heading into the garden with my scissors and flower basket to cut some replacements. After arranging these I place them carefully back on the alters and hoover up all the pollen and debris from the week with the mini hoover that lives in the kitchen.

    Another role is a weekly clean of various rooms in the temple. This is actually one of the conditions of living here, we all do it. There is a rota and we are assigned a different room each month where it is our responsibility to do any extra cleaning required for that particular room and keep it looking nice for the other residents and any visitors.

    Thirdly, I have recently taken on the role of occasional bell master during service. I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to do this and am thankful for the training I have been given. A big part of the role of bell master is carried out before service begins. All the alters are replenished with fresh candles and incense sticks and the water jugs are refilled, finally all the cushions and service sheets are straightened and arranged neatly before service begins.

    The first time I performed the role of bell master I was very nervous and wanted to get everything right. It was a Saturday morning and I had already done the flowers and given them a little bit more care and attention than I normally do. It just so happened that the shrine room was my room to clean on the cleaning rota that month as well. I had hoovered the carpet and arranged all the cushions and service sheets with the utmost precision, adjusted the cloth on the main shrine and spent a bit too much time making sure the flowers in their vases were perfectly symmetrical. I stood in the shrine room doorway admiring my handiwork and feeling very proud of myself when I noticed some smears on the big mirror hanging on the wall. I rushed to the kitchen, got some window cleaner and proceeded to start polishing. I started in the top and began working my way down, until I found myself staring at my own reflection. Seeing myself manically polishing away with very serious look on my face suddenly made me realise that I had got a bit carried away.

    I genuinely love doing the flowers in the shrine room, and it is my favourite room to clean on the monthly rota. The added responsibility of performing the task of bell master had tipped me over the edge. I had made the morning all about me and my ego. These three tasks should be an act of love and service. A gift from Amida. There was nothing wrong with what I was doing but there was definitely a problem with some of the reasons I was doing it.

    I am grateful that I was able to notice my lapse into pride and self-congratulation. This moment of clarity was a reminder that we are only able to perform tasks of service through Amida’s grace and that everything is a gift handed down to us and not really of our own making even though we might trick ourselves into thinking otherwise.

    Namo Amida Bu

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