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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    Moving House

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    Dharma Glimpse by Imogen Healy

    I have felt very unsettled and unstable this week.
    I am moving house soon which marks the start of a new chapter in my life in many ways. This left me with this ‘desperation’ to cling onto something that could feel stable, like “me” again.
    I kept trying to grasp for this sense of who I am in such changeable things.
    The way my hair looks, my work, what time I was getting out of bed, my feelings. All felt forceful, I was trying to make things other than they were.
    Upon accepting these things, and reflecting, I realised I am not that or that or that.
    Rather than ‘I am unsettled’, I started to say I ‘feel’ unsettled. I feel that but I am not that. This subtle change in perspective seemed to free up a lot of space for me. It meant that I could feel something but not be so caught up in making it personal. I became the one experiencing rather than being blown around in the wind with all of these changeable things.
    Just asking the question – if I am not these feelings, then who am I?
    It was here I found some sense of stability without trying. The door just opened.
    Namo Amida Bu

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    Pink petals

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    Dharma Glimpse by Luna Rose

    Walking home from swimming, amidst the busy work traffic underneath a cloud of rain & Birmingham smog, I stopped to admire a beautiful rose bush, blooming proudly on an otherwise grey main road. Layers of petals gathered on the front wall, speckled with raindrops and looking rather divine.

    Later on, after meditating in my sunny room, I noticed the orchid in my bathroom that has been alive for a good two months since I purchased her ‘reduced for quick sale’ – realising that every day I see her I have been expecting her to have withered and died. She was reduced, and orchids are hard to care for for amateur plant parents, aren’t they?

    Though perhaps partly helpful to remember impermanence, on a deeper level this was an opportunity for me to look at what I’m choosing to believe…

    I sensed this for other areas of my life, namely the fear & desire to hide that I experience each time I put out an offering that means being seen, or seizing a new challenge in my work.

    With the intention to share what’s alive for me from my heart & do meaningful, aligned work, I meet this part of me gently each time, validate her fear, reassure her, & do the thing anyway – making sure to allow myself to receive feedback after giving; to cultivate trust for myself & my life. I realise that to live a life that feels true for ME, I had to stop looking at the situation in front of me & believing I was going to wither, or I wouldn’t be where I am.

    I choose to believe it will go well – that I wouldn’t be experiencing something if I wasn’t ready. And throughout this process, I’m learning my capacity, my rhythm; learning to communicate my needs & make changes when needed in my schedule, to preserve my peace. Waves & ripples of joy & excitement come as thank-yous from my body as I honour her & rest – as more bits of me that are programmed to race ahead, are liberated through presence & feeling. I remember to be gentle & graceful as I bumble into new, more helpful ways of being, like a toddler learning to walk, & now enjoy freely flowing in my busyness at a faster pace when I’ve recharged & am moving from a sustainable place, & not from my adrenals! My path becomes clearer & more steadying as the distance I scurry away from it each time gets shorter & shorter.

    It’s a beautiful dance & I’m grateful for the beautiful flowers today, for reminding me that I always have a choice; that I can always come to awareness; that sometimes things aren’t as fleeting as we may think & we can allow ourselves to enjoy the beautiful moment we find ourselves in, acknowledging but not consumed by fear. & that sometimes even after things pass, they can still be there, in a different form, forming the new ground beneath us, in this kaleidoscope of life – always changing, always beautiful

    NAB x

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    Look to the horizon

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    A Dharma Glimpse poem by Dave Smith

    Look to the horizon

    See the beauty in its outline

    Sharp black silhouettes of ancient ash and oak

    above soft rounded hills

    Look to the ground beneath you

    See the beauty in its complexity

    Each blade of grass and wild flower petal

    repeating patterns of nature’s symmetry

    A myriad colours contrasting and blending in equal measure

    Look to the still pool

    See the beauty in its perfection

    Subtle ripples skipping across its surface, fleeing gentle breezes

    Silent creatures gliding beneath in quiet shadows

    Listen to the wind

    Hear it approaching through the trees

    Listen to the birds

    Hear their song with delight and love in your heart

    Listen to your heart

    And know that you are alive

    Listen to your heart

    And know that you are blessed

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    Claw Marks & Letting Go

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    A Dharma Glimpse by Philip

    I have been listening to a track by Jon Hopkins, an English musician and producer of electronic and piano driven music, called ‘Sit around the Fire’ recently.  I love it the track has human connectivity; it was recommended by one templemate to another, who then played it to me in his car on a trip over to the Sugar Loaf café in West Malvern.  One of my favourite places in Malvern which now has a multitude of memories connected to it.  This was one such memory.   

    The track is based around a talk, or talks, by Ram Dass, an American spiritual leader according to Wikipedia.  He has a calming, memorising voice to me.  One part which struck me, and I’ve been reflecting on, is his suggestion to quiet your mind and open your heart.  How do you quiet the mind?  He suggests you meditate. How do you open your heart?  He suggests you love that which you can love, such as a tree, a person or an animal, and keep expanding it until you reach the source behind all of it.  I start to be able to quieten my mind.  Not always, but sometimes.  Really opening my heart is trickier, but I’m working on it.  I wonder if there’s also a need to let go……..   

    I’ll tell you a short story.  I was out walking on the beautifully named, and pretty visually pleasing, Half Moon Bay in Heysham up here in the north-west recently.  There’s a strangely beautiful contrast for me between the brutalist human architecture of Heysham nuclear power station at the end of the bay (from the direction I come from anyway) and the natural architecture of the bay; it’s lush greenery, sinuous coastline, multitude of different shaped, sized and shaded pebbles on the beach, and the flat, serene (at least on this day!), slightly murky, but nevertheless mesmerising, water.  It hit me; I am causing myself unnecessary suffering by clinging on to things.  I have been thinking of something specific recently in terms of clinging, but this truth hit me like a bolt from the blue so that, for a brief moment, I could see and feel it with total clarity.   It felt like a real dharma glimpse of which I don’t have many, if any!  There is already much pain there in this case, and I could see how I’m clinging on to something that has gone, or perhaps was never really there, is adding more pain.  Attachment and impermanence suddenly came alive rather than merely words and concepts my ears hear, my brain processes, but which haven’t really gone down into the murky depths of my being.   

    Later on that day I was reminded of a saying Dayamay passed on to me a year or two back; “I never let go of anything that hasn’t got my claw marks all over it” (apparently attributed to David Foster Wallace, an American author, according to the internet – almost unintended alliteration there!).  Maybe it’s the human condition to cling on.  Cling on for dear life at different times and for different parts of us maybe all the time.  Maybe it’s our survival instinct as much as our ego, greed and stupidity.  Maybe they’ll all inter-related.  Maybe, for many of us, we’re simply petrified to sit with our minds, open our hearts, and let go knowing impermanence and suffering are inevitable.  Doing those things, I think, requires immense courage, effort and, ultimately, compassion.  And wisdom to know we’ll never do them perfectly, slipping back into old ways and habits time and time again.  Thank goodness Amitabha Buddha accepts me just as I am and that I can take refuge at any time to help me quieten my mind, open my heart and let go.  At least bit by painstaking, but beautiful, bit. 

    Namo Amida Bu. 

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    A series of haiku inspired by River of Fire, River of Water

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    Dharma Glimpses by Sonia

    Hyacinth bulbs break
    Free in darkness, seek out light —
    Dizzying blue heights.

    Dandelion clocks puff
    Pretty drift; weeds gently checked
    Make way for clover.

    Yarn pulled loose unravels
    My winter shawl: shape new skeins.
    Namo Amida Bu.

    Through flame, valley, wave,
    Cave, mount, maze, weaves golden thread —
    Namo Amida Bu.


    Namo Amida Bu —
    Touched by light, awaken now —
    Namo Amida Bu.


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    The warmth of the cup

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    Dharma Glimpse by Frankie Carboni

    Very early morning, before the sun rises, and before anything or anybody is awake, has always felt special to me. It has an intimacy, a quietness, a kind of privacy. I feel completely immersed in the solitude that I love.

    This particular morning, it must have been around 5.00am, I got quietly out of bed, went to the kitchen and made myself a cup of tea in my oversize teacup, more of a bowl with a handle really. A teabag squeezed, no milk, sugar or lemon, then back to bed. I didn’t want to wake anyone so I switched on the torch on my phone and turned it face down on my small turquoise diary – that way the light diffuses softly just enough for me to see by.

    I cupped the tea bowl in my hands, enjoying its warmth. I could hear my husband’s deep sleep breathing beside me and feel the warmth of our little dog curled against my thigh under the duvet. There were no other thoughts arising. I wasn’t thinking about the day ahead or the books I’m reading or this morning’s Wordle. I was simply appreciating the warmth of the cup, of the bed, the presence of my two companions. I wasn’t thinking gratitude in either words or images.

    And quite suddenly, as I sipped my tea, I felt the Nembutsu; I heard, but not as a voice and not with my ears the words Namo Amida Bu. I hadn’t summoned them, they spontaneously arose from – where?

    Some time previously I had been reading about the Name that Calls. I had wondered what that even meant and how it could ever be experienced. I had tried, as I recited the Nembutsu, to imagine it calling back. I had faith that it was a possibility but felt equally that I may never experience it.

    And yet….there it was, clear as a bell, sweet and warm and strong.

    I know I should be careful not to cling to this experience or try to replicate it; it wouldn’t matter if it never happened again (although it has). Because that’s not the point. A glimpse of Other Power, of the Dharma gently manifesting, was enough to inspire a feeling of such rightness and oneness, of Faith.

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    A Dharma Glimpse by Maria Trotter

    Today has been a strange day indeed. It began with snow on the hills – in March – and a slightly annoying pulsing headache as I reluctantly got out of bed. “There has been so much going on recently!” – I thought as I went though the morning routine, my cats jumping under my feet, begging for food. They say you can’t fool the cats trying to conceal your emotions and if you’re nervous, they’ll know. 

    I have resigned from my job and accepted a new one to start in a couple of months. I’ve embarked on a new spiritual journey. I have got a new harp and this has opened a whole world of musical possibilities which I’ve started exploring straight away. I’ve been getting ready for a very busy holiday, arranging transport and accommodation, packing and booking events. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Of course it does – to me.

    I have been observing my cats run around the house and try to play with the new harp. Maybe they are a bit more jumpy than normal? Maybe they are hiding under the sofa too much when the doorbell rings? Suddenly Cassie is not as keen on her wet food and Starbuck jolts when I’m trying to pet him.

    Are my cats excited about all this change – harp covers and suitcases around the house? Of course not – they are petrified! They don’t understand what’s going on, all they can see is disruption to their daily routine. As they jump carelessly under my feet, they are trying desperately to get my attention away from all of my personal worries. I haven’t been checking in with them – or with my husband for that matter – as I have been jumping myself, from one appointment to the other, one problem to the other, my inner manager taking over more and more of my personal life.

    Sometimes our lives move at pace and being aware of impermanence, we accept that change is part of the game. But change shouldn’t make us ignorant and swipe away our capacity for empathy and care for those around us. Maybe the annoying headache has been here today to remind me that now is the time to slow down and check in with my family. Maybe they are struggling with something that I have just taken for granted. Maybe they feel like I’ve been slipping away from them. Maybe “getting over it” is not always a good option. Maybe we all need to step back a bit before we move forward. Maybe I have been so wrapped up in the pace of change that I’ve sacrificed the mindfulness of moving through this change in life.

    As I’m writing this, my headache is slowly dissipating. Maybe now I’m starting to move with the right pace!

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    Blue sky, turning grey

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    Dharma Glimpse by Sonia

    There’s a regular walk I take, I enjoy it, but sometimes it’s just a tick list job, a kind of mental and physical health chore. How did these things become chores? I’ve done the walk many times without having the faintest idea where I am or how I got there. Sometimes I use the walk as time for nembutsu. Often I put on headphones and listen to an audiobook to stop the spiral of thoughts. Lately I try to stop at least once, in the middle of the park and check – have I looked at the green? The sky? The hills? Is that enough? Would I like to look again? It’s a huge pull to be able to know if I need to spend longer, if I’m enjoying myself, to understand what I need more or less of. And I suppose if we don’t understand those things, if we are so disconnected, it makes sense that everything becomes a chore.

    One of the things I hope for from the Dharma is an increased sense of joy, meanwhile the job of some thinking parts is to diminish everything. I thus find myself in a mental battleground. It’s exhausting. At some point there will be some light, some opening, some sense of worth (Freudian slip, I had meant to write ‘warmth’)—but it’s not this current point. And I also know what expansion feels like, know that it is somewhere waiting to be found. And it’s better to be in this waiting place, to remember we are always ‘becoming’ as an answer to those parts that are telling me I am being ungracious, ungrateful for all that I do have.

    So, I’ll wait it out and keep moving through my tick list. Have I looked at the green? The sky? The hills? And maybe I’ll take the time to play with words, instead of them playing with me, and beat them at their own game…

    Blue sky, turning grey—
    Below, crisp fields are waiting,
    Hopeful for the storm.

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