Holding it Lightly

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Glimpse by Dayamay

    As another New Year comes racing around, and the last one feels like one big blur, I notice that I’m very aware of how much older and fragile I am. Youthful resilience seems to be fading a bit, at least in the physical sense, and I’m much more sensitive to the world. Almost as if I’ve shed some skin, and the rawness and unpredictability of life feels a bit closer. My limitations are more apparent, the relevance of the incessant drive towards accomplishment and success, a bit more distant.

    This is not an uncommon occurence in the life of a religious practitioner. In fact, it can actually be taken as a positive sign of progress that some of the protective layers of our social conditioning have fallen away. The hard, uncompromising edges of who we thought we were, melted in the crucible of suffering, love, experience and practice.

    We are left with a central core of vulnerability, sensitivity and latent spiritual potential. Face to face with our authentic selves, naked in the presence of the light and grace that we call Amida.

    The benefit of being closer to the Buddha counterbalances the drawbacks of being more exposed and sensitive. And I find that the weight of inevitable suffering is easier to hold in the context of the unconditional Love that I feel from Sangha. I’m less reactive, more curious and generally more accepting of the way things are.

    One of the most important teachings that I received, in the earliest days of my journey, as I squared up with the prospect of life on its own terms – was to hold myself more lightly. This sounded a bit obscure at first, but once I got my head around it, it became clear that the general gist was to not take myself too seriously or my suffering too personally. There is a way of being with pain and difficulty that allows it to be what it is, and me to feel it and heal through it, whilst sparing the rest of the world from having to wallow in it as well – as if they haven’t got enough of their own.

    Holding it lightly may sound a bit too easy, like making light of an impossibly difficult task. It might seem like aiming at a small target on a distant horizon. Something to be aspired to in the future – for the new improved me, which, actually, might never come. But my experience has been that when I call on Amida and feel the inspiration that informs change, much of the heavy lifting is done for me, and the burden is lightened, making it possible to function on an even keel and freeing me up to continue the important work that comes with being truly present in an ever changing world.

    Namo Amida Bu.

    Less is More

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Alison

    Written on 8th Dec

    Today is the anniversary of Buddha Shakyamuni’s Enlightenment and I’m writing my First Dharma Glimpse.  During this morning’s Nembutsu, I began chanting then suddenly started to laugh.  I don’t really know why, or at least I didn’t.  I looked up at the Buddha and said a rather silly, “Sorry.”  The Buddha smiled back and reminded me that it’s fine to not always take the practice too seriously.  We can bring lightness and humour into what we do.  I said, “Thank you,” and started laughing again, as I realised that on the one hand this seemed really silly, but that this was an important insight and that, at the same time, my Glimpse had been seemingly gifted to me.  I was relieved to have had this inspiration and could use it as my Glimpse.  A little later, the thought that this wasn’t the kind of Glimpse that I’d wanted to write about entered my mind.  I had wanted to write a serious Glimpse, a clever Glimpse, incorporating a message from Manshi Kiyozawa’s book, which I am currently studying, ‘December Fan.’  This ‘gifted Glimpse or insight’ was too short and too simple, not to mention too silly.  It wasn’t enough to meet my high expectations of myself, satisfying my need for perfectionism, especially for my Very First Dharma Glimpse.  Yet the Buddha had taught me that it was enough.  I was reminded just recently, in the aftermath of an intensely stressful move from London to Malvern, that I’d made the decision to adopt a mantra, being ‘Less is Enough.’  I need to go more gently.  I had been partly successful:  my bread not rising for Bodhi Day was enough;  my not saying too much during the Listening Circle was enough;  my stopping after 30 minutes of cleaning the kitchen was enough and my not having been able to prepare responses on others’ book reflections last week was also enough.  So, maybe, writing a short and silly Glimpse, that nevertheless conveyed a good message, that had ‘dropped into my lap’ this morning, would also be enough.  I have typically spent my life with large agendas, requiring me to meet my high standards.  Perhaps my new life at the temple could be a gift of an opportunity to relax, let go, laugh, lighten the load and accept that Amida is smiling at me and has my back.  Amida doesn’t mind if I’m silly and if I do less.  Amida accepts me as I am.  I can simply trust in the process that all will be well, even with less.  Less is Enough.  

    I now remember Kiyozawa implying that responsibilities and commitments (meeting extrinsic demands within his Japanese culture) wasn’t as important as trusting in the ‘Power Beyond the self.’  So, perhaps in future, when I feel inclined to do more and more, I will sit with the Buddha and know that ‘I am enough,’ even when I start to laugh during Nembutsu.  When I can only do less, that the Buddha will still smile at me and I can relax, knowing that Less is Enough.

    “The only thing there can be is gratitude to the Buddha for guiding us….  The Buddha has the sole initiative for whatever we do or do not do.” (Manshi Kiyozawa, December Fan, Chapter 4, page 32).

    “There is no failure for one who trusts in the wondrous working of the Infinite.” (M. Kiyozawa, December Fan, Chapter 5, page 38).

    How The Light Gets In

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Dayamay

    On a black background, a heap of different coloured glow sticks - activated and glowing: blue, orange, purple and green
    public domain image from Wiki commons

    A few years ago I attended a special Christmas Eve Mass for children with my niece and nephew. I wasn’t expecting much, as, in my arrogance, I had sort of written off contemporary Christian preachers and teachers, as part of my lifelong resentment with the church. They couldn’t possibly have anything useful or interesting to say. As if to prove me wrong, this bubbly yet humble priest held up a luminous green glow stick – she had provided the whole congregation with identical ones – and snapped it in half in order to activate the chemicals inside that make it light up. After instructing everyone else to do the same, she explained how this related to Jesus’s story. She offered the slightly oblique perspective that “it doesn’t work unless it’s broken”. I was immediately struck by the analogy and the paradox; I had never heard it spoken about in this way before.

    It was Jesus’s brokenness(torture, humiliation and crucifixion), death and subsequent resurrection that were instrumental in proving him to be a genuine prophet, and eventually clearing up much of the scepticism that had surrounded his ministry. His persecution, death, resurrection and the mystery that made it such a powerful story, were the very things that gave Christianity its special influence in the world.

    It’s a story that we hear again and again in ancient cultures, religious traditions and folktales from around the world.
    Deep human suffering and subsequent defeat – surrender to the unchangeable forces of life, heartbreaking loss, transformation and profound spiritual power.

    I immediately knew what she meant and identified strongly with the concept. I considered how my own brokenness formed part of the basis through which understanding of my journey and spiritual destiny became possible. And how, throughout history, the world has witnessed the breaking and making of people, countries, economies and so on.

    One of the things I love most about the story of Shakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment is that he had to be broken by his own Self Power efforts before he could fully understand the significance of his predicament as a human, the nature of awakening and his destined place in the spiritual scheme of things. When he hit that place of unquestionable self-defeat, somehow, he suddenly knew what it was that he had to do and set about realizing his immense potential. And then, the morning star shone…just for him.


    I’m certainly not going to compare myself with the likes of the Buddha – or Jesus, but I do know that a degree of brokenness is central and fundamental to my functioning as a spiritual practitioner and relatively useful member of society. And I don’t feel as if I can possibly write a piece like this without at least acknowledging Leonard Cohen’s genius assertion – again, born out of hardship and anguish – that “there’s a crack in everything, it’s how the light gets in”.

    Namo Amida Bu.X 

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    Self Care

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Khemashalini

    I’ve had yet another busy week mostly of my own making I might note and this Glimpse was triggered by my comments at practice on Saturday morning regarding brushing my hair. Why did I feel I needed to tell the world I’d done it?

    I’ve been trying to practice better self-care. As a nurse I really should know better but ive always found it easier to look after everyone else first before myself. Didn’t Buddha tell us that “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
    I’m still working long hours and working from home so it’s easy to fall out of bed and be in front of the laptop where I spend many hours every day. I no longer get dressed for the office and many days I’ve definitely not brushed my hair although I’ve always brushed my teeth. That’s a definite must do. I’m thankfully not working 7 days a week anymore, but the threat of a bad winter looms and I know I must have more resilience and create better patterns of behaviour if I’m going to get through this one. COVID pretty much broke me and I have felt like I was in a fog at times just going through the motions. It has taken some time to recover but I’m finally feeing like the old me although at times I’ve forgotten what the old me looked or felt like.

    Self-care isn’t a onetime thing though – It’s the constant repetition of many tiny habits, to regularly include in your life a little bit of love and attention for your own body, mind, and soul. which together soothe you and make sure you’re at your best — emotionally, physically, and mentally.

    I was thinking about what self care practices I’d like to do as we walked around the temple garden as part of morning practice. My wish list as such. The fact I’ve made it here is a good start. I’d definitely like to do more walking meditation as this is one of my favourite practices and always helps me feel better. Having a good walk every day feels important too- some of that walk being mindful although I do like to get up on the hills, to feel I’ve also had a work out- get out of puff by briskly walking up a hill or two. There is plenty of opportunity for this in Malvern. Prepare a healthy vegan meal- eat at a reasonable time – not 10 pm or even later, get to bed before 1 am, spend less hrs looking at a screen, read more, hang out with friends more, go to yoga, dance , sing, be still, BREATH….. I realise as I write this that im very good at writing lists but maybe not so good at putting them into action.

    I’m reminded of a quote by Brian Andreas
    “There are days I drop words of comfort on myself like falling leaves and remember that it is enough to be taken care of by myself.”

    So with a little bit of attention to my own self-care, the fog will lift. I know I will feel more connected to myself and the world around me and nothing will seem quite as hard as it did before.

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    Not a Dharma Glimpse

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    by Jenn

    I have been sitting here typing for ages. And I’ve deleted a lot of things. I guess I am feeling a bit self critical tonight, and also sad and angry. I’ve been feeling worried that will be obvious in my writing so I keep deleting it as a way of staying private. Or writing something that’s mainly made up as a way of providing what I have been asked for and also staying private.

    I haven’t had any experiences over the past few days where I feel like I have understood or seen some greater wisdom.

    So my glimpse today is about not getting a glimpse. I think tomorrow or some time soon I will be able to meet all this wildness I am experiencing in myself – a lot of anger and frustration and contempt (and underneath those, sadness and grief and fear and powerlessness) – with some compassion. I am ‘coping’ today, which means telling all my angry and sad parts they are being ridiculous, and hiding them underneath some other parts that are really good at being addicted to work. Coping is okay, and maybe tomorrow I will stop coping.

    I just had a picture in my mind of a house being battered by very strong winds. (As I write, I am in bed in the top floor of my tall house and it is windy – I can hear it shaking the trees outside and the sea will be wild out there in the dark). I have shut all the doors and windows and battened down the hatches and that makes the house this strong solid thing that shakes and creaks. Eventually perhaps it will fall down. That’s coping. And there’s another image coming to me – of opening all the doors and windows wide and letting the bad weather blow right through. That doesn’t feel possible today but today on my day of not getting a glimpse, I will just bear in mind that it might be possible some other time.

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    Spider Dharma Glimpse

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    By Izzy

    a long legged brown and black sider in a big web. Behind the web is a chainlink fence, and behind that green foliage.
    Image by Pixabay

    I’m back from a weekend away staying with my brother in Bristol. It was non-stop from the moment I walked through the door, briefly meeting housemates and then straight out, setting off on a walking tour of the city. I was led along pavements, through residential streets, along bustling high streets and around the harbour side.
    It was Saturday night and the city had a buzzing, frantic energy to it. At 7pm, people stood in a drunken haze, looking vacant next to pools of sick. We saw a couple of people crouching behind a warehouse container by the side of the road. They were shooting up. Their slight, skeletal frames were silhouetted in the fading light.
    I was struck by how creative and destructive energy seemed to coexist in the city. I thought about how these energies, the impulse to create and to destroy, both exist within me.
    A moment of stillness came the following day when we walked past a student house and I spotted a spider making a web between a bin and a stone wall. The spider had the foundations secured and was now meticulously working its way around in circles, spiralling into the centre.
    The spider was speckled brown with a big round body. It moved with speed and accuracy, dancing with silk, absorbed in its task completely. A pang of sadness struck me as I thought about the bin being moved and the web being destroyed. The fine silk strands breaking.
    I admired the spider. It made me think about an idea that’s come up in The Center Within, a book I’ve been reading in one of the book study groups at the temple. The idea that you should act because your life force commands it.
    The bin might move, a gust of wind might break the web and yet the spider continues spinning its web because it’s life force commands it. Something in the deep focus, single-pointed attention and devotion of the spider in amongst the noise and chaos of the city struck me as Buddhist.
    The spider was just being a spider, doing its spider thing, but in that moment, to me, the spider was a perfect Buddha.
    After staring in awe at the spider for some time, I glanced up and spotted someone at the window looking out at me and my brother. They were laughing, probably wondering what it was in the space between the bin and the stone wall that had us both transfixed. I laughed too and gave a little wave before carrying on walking.

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    Seasons

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Sam Johnson

    Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

    I have been enjoying a period in which I have felt very energetic and done lots of things that I have found valuable. It has been wonderful. But as always happens sooner or later, I am now in the crash. One or two nights of poor sleep, some low-level illness, I lose momentum, and the streak is over. I am like a cartoon character running off a cliff, remaining suspended a few moments against gravity, before realising the situation and then falling into the chasm below.

    In time, I will get going again. I know this from experience. Life comes in such cycles. Maybe it doesn’t have to be exactly like it is now, but it will always come in cycles. I look out of my window to see the patches of yellow and orange beginning to appear on the trees, and it is a reminder that these cycles are natural and unavoidable. There are aspects of where I am now that are not pleasant. But the scenery reminds me that there is beauty to be found in all seasons.

    I did not speak out

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Karmadeva

    Often we take things for granted. We continue with our own lives as though everything is fine, even when everything is falling apart for others. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be happy with our lives if things are comfortable and we are happy. I remember a retreat I completed in the March that lockdown started. My sudden realisation that if humans were no longer here it wouldn’t have that much impact on the earth. And none in the universe frightened me, felt uncomfortable.  

    Last night I attended an arts exhibition at the Midland Arts Centre in Birmingham. A zen Buddhist that I know asked me along. The event was primarily to remember the attack by police on the commuters at a train station on 31 August 2019. This was part of a clamp down on the demonstrations in Hong Kong at that time. There were also images from artists from China, Thailand and Myanmar. 

    The young person that acted as interpreter to the four westerners attending wept as he translated speeches for us. Many people present had been directly involved in protests in Hong Kong and they all sat on the floor while the various protest songs were performed. Looking around the room as flowers were given to us to place on a shrine at the front of the room, I realised that this was real.  I mean, I’ve watched the same people on the news. Sometimes with the police beating them, water cannons being used on them and not seeing the pain they feel. At that moment last night, I again realised that sometimes we don’t think, or maybe don’t feel strong enough about issues that we really should be taking note of. The Ukrainian crisis, oppression around the world and the destruction of this planet. All just ignored. Yet when we’re told to stay at home for two years as we may catch a virus we comply without question. I’m not going to suggest why or say I’m any different because I’m probably as bad as anyone else if not worse. What I would say is maybe we should look at the words of Martin Niemöller. 

    First they came for the Communists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Communist

    Then they came for the Socialists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Socialist

    Then they came for the trade unionists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a trade unionist

    Then they came for the Jews
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Jew

    Then they came for me
    And there was no one left
    To speak out for me

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    Learning to suffer

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Dayamay

    I noticed recently that the majority of the elderly people that I work with seem to have a very gracious attitude towards their, often very challenging predicaments. Many of them have extremely debilitating health conditions and are dependent on people like myself for some of their most basic needs. Despite this fact and the fact that I obviously, in many ways, represent the absence of their independence and a potential threat to their dignity, most of them go out of their way to make my job as easy as possible and treat me with great love and respect. I would go as far as to say that some of them positively radiate grace.
    Given my Buddhist leanings, and the learning and training that I have so fortunately received over the years, I am inclined to wonder about the meaning of this phenomena.
    My musings often lead me to ideas about how we learn to deal with suffering – how it seems to soften some of us up and make us more receptive to spiritual wisdom. I know that the acceptance that I eventually found with regards the inevitability of my own suffering, seemed to nudge me from a state of constant agitation, into a much more tolerant and philosophical outlook. But this all took time.
    When I think about some of my elderly clients I can see that most of them have had more than twice as much time as me to master their afflictions and have maybe become more adept at holding them, or even subverting them.
    Maybe they have inadvertently resolved the dilemma inherent to the Buddha’s teachings on the Four Noble truths, which, to me, implies a kind of enlightenment.
    I often think about how, in our terminally busy culture, we are inclined to dismiss the elderly as if they have had their day and no longer have anything valuable to offer society. In reality they might be showing us and teaching us the most important lessons that we could ever learn.
    Western culture seems to lack the Elder function that is so central to the health and prosperity evident in some of the indigenous populations of the world. I wonder if our obsession with wealth and success has superseded and thereby made obsolete, essential elements of the natural process by which real wisdom is transmitted from generation to generation.
    If nothing else, my journey has taught me to pay attention to what the world is showing me and to try to think outside the box. The affliction of impermanence has a deeper meaning and, if we engage with it in a constructive way, can reveal great and powerful wisdom.

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    Rising Sun

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Beth H

    the sun is behind a few small clouds, the sky is yellow orange, and streaks of shadow cross the sky from the clouds. The clouds have golden edges
    Image by lmaresz from Pixabay

    Early this morning I found I couldn’t sleep…

    The room is dark, so moving to the balcony window, I pull open the curtains to reveal the most amazing red orange sun rising from the Mediterranean.

    Mesmerised I sit outside and watch as it slowly rises and all around the sky transforms into a raging orange fireball while the smouldering sea changes from a milky blue white sheen to a moody blue shimmer, to a deep turquoise.

    The mountains are silhouetted in the distance and the olive groves peek through the shimmering haze.

    The birds slowly awaken and begin their chatter. Transfixed, I am not sure where to concentrate my amazement. It is awe inspiring and my senses cannot truly comprehend its majesty.

    The moment passes as the sun has risen and the magic becomes “today”. People start appearing and traffic can be heard in the distance. The bubble has burst. I experienced and was part of something very special, magical even. A daily phenomenon… the Sun arriving to wake up the day.

    AND it happens every single day!!!

    Namo Amida Bu

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