Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    Dharma glimpse by Dave Smith

    As part of the book study group, I have been reading ‘The Shamanic Bones of Zen’ by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel. There is a section in this book where she talks about communal chanting and the connections we make with other people who have repeated the same chants over the years. Not only people in the same temple or from your particular Sangha but other people carrying out the same practice across the world. This got me to thinking about the moon, and how, if you are missing someone you love who is temporarily parted from you, if you both look out of your windows at the same time, you can each see the same moon shining down on you from above, and feel connected again. I think I got this idea from a romantic film or book but I can’t remember exactly where.
    As I was writing about this, that’s when my Dharma glimpse hit me! This is the exact same moon that Shinran and Shakyamuni would have seen when they looked up at the night sky, and the same moon that Rumi and so many other poets and musicians have written about, and so many artists have painted. We all share the same moon, the same sun, the stars and this planet that we all live on. The reality that just a couple of thousand years ago Shakyamuni Buddha would have been looking up at the same moon that I can see now as I am typing this, is immensely comforting. It’s obvious really, it’s just something that hadn’t occurred to me before, I suppose that’s what a Dharma glimpse is, when something that’s always been there, suddenly becomes apparent. Whenever I see the moon now, I think of the Buddha, not just the concept but the person who became enlightened, Shakyamuni Buddha, and I feel connected
    Namo Amida Bu

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    The Dharma of Traffic Lights

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Khema

    I have noticed a number of road works recently popping up on the road between my house and town and with them temporary traffic lights. I usually come across these when I’m running late and invariably the lights are always on red. I work predominantly from home these days which I enjoy so I don’t travel this route as frequently -so I’d usually know in advance of roadworks . Previously Id find myself working out an elaborate way of avoiding them where possible. Thoughts go through my head about jumping the red light when it takes too long to change and there’s no other traffic coming from the opposite direction. Are they broken? I’m often irritated by these temporary lights and the road works and a number of questions repeat inside my head. I Wonder why there is never any one working whenever I pass? Why is this stretch of road being dug up yet again. Don’t they know how inconvenient this is? Could they not coordinate their jobs – 3 sets of different road works and lights in the same week on the same stretch of road. REALLY!!!!Doesn’t seem like good planning to me?

    I’m not sure why they invoke such negative feelings so I’ve tried to explore why. Why do they upset and irritate me so much. Why does this bring me suffering. When I’m home and sat with a cuppa or a cat on my lap, these thoughts seem so irrational. Any yet they pop up almost every time.

    As routine traffic lights don’t have the same impact. I believe that ultimately, it’s usually because I have given myself the exact amount of time to get where I’m going and not left a buffer. I remember Kaspa referring to this term several years ago and ive held on to this term ever since. A buffer allows for any mishaps or unplanned events on the way such as tractors or sheep which is fairly frequent where I live or simply just busy traffic- or of course temporary traffic light that you don’t anticipate. So instead I get annoyed with the lights and not myself. Is it easier to be angry at an inanimate object. This is silly for many reasons. A red light is not a thinking, sentient being as we are. They are pieces of automated equipment which preform specific tasks in a technical and objective way. So by definition, they can not be out to get you or ruin your day, even though it may feel like that at times . Some individuals even go as far as yelling at these objects as if they can hear us and reflect on their wrongdoing. Resistentialism is a jocular theory to describe “seemingly spiteful behaviour manifested by inanimate objects”,where objects that cause problems are said to exhibit a high degree of malice toward humans.

    I can understand being upset with actual living , thinking beings , capable of making moral decisions but being angry at objects such as a traffic light is not logical behaviour and once you accept that it is not logical to be angry at inanimate objects or equipment , there will be a feeling of relief and understanding that comes over you. Any most definitely always give yourself a buffer.

    A Journey into The Hills

    A Dharma Glimpse by Philip

    I recently returned to live in Malvern. I’m temporarily staying at the temple, where I lived for a year not so long ago, while I find myself somewhere more permanent nearby.

    The hills have always had something special for me. I used to come here by bus and train when I lived in the Black Country of a weekend. It was always worth the effort. I frequently forget how great I thought it would be to live here in Malvern. And now I’ve done it. Twice. I’m not a huge walker, but get out for at least a short walk in the hills several times a week when I’ve lived here or come down to stay at the temple for a few days or more. I waited about a week this time before going in them. I think I wanted to ground myself at the temple. I’m learning to ground myself more when there has been, or will be, some sort of change that will rattle my younger parts.

    I went on a sunny day. It was beautiful. As soon as I got to a wooded path up into the hills, memories and feelings came back of a sangha member who is no longer physically with us, but lives on through a memorial apple tree in the garden. It brought up loss and sadness. I’d bumped into him several times around this area of the hills. And that triggered other, even deeper, losses experienced whilst living at the temple the last time.

    I carried on trudging along the paths. Through woods. Gently touching the leaves and occasionally a solid, wise and kind feeling tree trunk. They have a knowing for me. The sun had been obscured by these for much of the route, but I could still feel its warmth. Maybe like the warmth of Amida; we can’t necessarily see it, but we can feel it if we try. Which, for me, seems to have a lot to do with surrendering.

    I stopped when the sun was more directly overhead. Peering through the leaves and branches that were gently swaying in the gentle breeze. Shadows flickering and dancing all around me. I consciously tried to really notice the warmth of the sun and the beauty all around me. I thought of the cross training machines I’ve started using at the Malvern Splash gym. They now have a screen showing a journey through somewhere pleasant, usually the sort of nature I was experiencing. Parts of me may not be able to distinguish these recordings from actually being in nature; both have a soothing, calming effect. But parts of me do know, and feel, the difference. And, perhaps, parts of me know and feel the reality I perceive is only one reality. And maybe not the true nature of reality. If a TV screen can deceive me, I’m guessing plenty more can. I think I had an instinctive knowing up there that a deeper reality was behind what I was seeing and perceiving. I am becoming more accepting of that. It isn’t as scary as it used to be. Just like, relatedly, impermanence isn’t. Although parts of me are still very scared and confused. I’m acknowledging them as I write and trying to send them compassion and soothing, which they have so often gone without in my life.

    My journey in the hills continued down some winding, wooded paths. There was less inspiration and more (albeit limited) physical pain from the pressure on joints from descending and gravity. This journey ended back at the temple. But my journey through life goes on, for however long that will be. The walk in the hills felt like a microcosm of that wider journey; loss, sadness, inspiration, warmth, beauty, pain. The physical distance hadn’t been so far, but emotionally and spiritually had felt much longer. Like the theory of relativity perhaps; different worlds and realms coming together on the hills that are on different trajectories. I’m trying to stay more in the present, whilst opening up more to connecting with the past. Perhaps that might relate to ‘The Shamanic Bones of Zen’ I’m reading for the current temple book group. We’ll see. For now, I feel grateful for my journey in the hills.

    Namo Amida Bu

    Connection, the Power of Community and Interconnectedness

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    Dharma Glimpse by Alison

    During the Covid Era, I experienced real isolation, extreme isolation. Isolation so severe that I’ve been on a mission ever since to ensure no one has to go through what I did for two whole years.  This was a tall order.  I recognised that not everyone has met isolation and many love their own company and feel safe with that.  I used to love my own company, but since covid, I can no longer enjoy my own company, without the company of nature or of other people.  At no point in my life has community been more essential.  I understand, that as humans and mammals, we all need connection, we all need each other.  Zoom, Netflix, social media and even e-mail are not substitutes for Real Connection and face to face communication.  The disconnection is like a modern disease of the human race.   Having spent nearly a decade in Asia, I’ve been challenged in the UK by a very different social culture.  A culture of extreme independence and Having Enough;  a culture of caring for our own and of strong individualism.  In many Asian cultures, particularly in East Asia where I lived and worked, people identify first and foremost with the group, before the individual.  Before living in Asia, I lived many years in ‘socialist Berlin’, where coming together as a community was a normal daily experience.   There are obviously benefits on all sides, but we must ultimately find the balance that works best for us.   I wonder though, if my need for community and connection is just another addictive behaviour?  I wonder too, if I am not just pushing a value onto others?  Where is the line between a need and a service to others?  How can we know when we are working for the good of all and when we are self-serving?

    My experience last April, of coming together at The Big One with XR Buddhists in London,  had made me feel alive again!  I had reconnected with that force that works through me each and every time I am part of something bigger than my individual worries and difficulties.  Like stepping out into Other Power (or the Infinite), into something much bigger, self power (or our limited egoic nature) just melts away and dissolves, like ice in water.  A becoming One Unified Living Breathing Body. On the other hand, I am reflecting that if people each live on their own island, they can only see the vast oceans of separation between them. Building fences around ourselves so high that we can only live with the stories of our own inventions and can’t see the reality beyond.  To me, from my experience, this separation can cause people to become so wrapped up in self power or their own small selves.  How do we break free from our small egoic worlds?  I love the phrase from Gandhi when he implied that, in changing ourselves, we could also change the world.  Yes, people can change on the inside, but starting with my small self, I together with others, can plant seeds, build bridges or grow ways of linking up, bringing people together, like trees reaching out their roots to connect and to communicate beneath the soil.  Gentle connection, respecting space whilst connecting with our roots.  It’s not a forcing or a pushing, but a Surrendering into a more Expansive Awareness of each other.  n Acknowledgment of each other.  A growing in Wholeness.  A finding Strength in Unity.  An Awareness that we are all Interconnected. We are all One. Perhaps I can step aside from the person I think I am and let the Self, or the Buddha, meet all of my difficult parts and offer their unconditional love and healing.  Perhaps, in non dualistic terms, where people aren’t experiencing themselves as individuals, where there is no ‘I’ or ‘we,’ people can rest in a shared space, a space not of Doing but of Being. Resting in Being in gently Expanding Awareness.  People’s roots, like the trees, reaching out into a vast web of interconnection.

    Impermanence, grief and healing

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    Dharma Glimpse by Ali

    In October last year one of my best friends sadly took her own life. I was devastated and heartbroken and was weighed down with grief.

    Another close friend sent me these words which I will share with you now.

    “ When it comes to grief, remember this –

    You have not broken a bone, there is no default treatment, no cure, no timeline for your healing.
    You cannot strap your heart to the heart next to it and hope it mends itself.
    You cannot rest it for weeks or months.
    You cannot rely on your other heart like you might a leg or an arm.
    You have not broken a bone.
    And yet, like a broken bone, your heart will always now have a vulnerable spot, a bruise, a burn, a scar.
    And just as your arm can still ache after breaking when it has been holding too much for too long, so your heart will ache.
    When it has been holding too much for too long.
    But just as your once broken arm can still hold things and your broken leg can still dance, so your heart will learn to carry you forward,
    Even when it aches.”

    These words brought me great comfort but I was still burdened with grief.
    And then I walked into the temple here in Malvern and my healing really started.

    I was struck by the ways Buddhism provided insight in my grief that was completely different than anything else.
    In Buddhism , impermanence is an inescapable truth of existence. In a world and culture where we strive for permanence (lasting or remaining unchanged).
    Buddhism teaches us that impermanence (lasting or temporarily) is fundamental to everything. From life to health to joy and sorrow to material objects to our very identity, nothing is permanent no matter how much we want it to be. Everything is constantly changing, existence is always in flux.
    Buddhism explains that our attachment to things and failure to accept impermanence is at the root of all suffering.

    As someone who had gone through a significant loss, this idea of impermanence resonated with me immediately. As I read more and thought more, I decided I had two choices. I could try to restore the old life and self that I believed was the real ‘me’ and how things should be. Or I could accept that my loss fundamentally changed me, and we will forever be changing.

    I could pretend I was the same person now but I knew I was not. I had changed and would continue to change. So forcing myself to believe the things that I believed before was not the answer. Instead I needed to focus on the present. One day at a time, one moment at a time. Building awareness of my life – the good, the bad and the ugly, all in flux and ever changing.
    Buddha would remind us that we should not become attached to our path, it will always look different for all of us.

    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

    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

    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