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

    No Comments

    Dreams & Symbols

    Categories: Uncategorised

    Dharma Glimpse by Paramita

    It’s not often that I remember anything coherent from the chaotic imbroglio of weirdness and obscurity that spews out of my mind while I’m asleep. I can never usually interpret much that might prove useful to me, and often feel envious when I hear the richness and clarity of others’ dreams. I sometimes wonder whether my dreams come to me via some external source, like the universal muse or like some random etheric download from the cosmic mind.

    In a recent dream, I was enjoying a swim at the local pool, diving onto the bottom and swimming along under the surface, as I often do in my waking state. Suddenly I became aware that I was watching myself from an outside perspective, and as I dived in, the surface of the water froze over, seeming to trap me underneath. There was no panic and nothing like the dark feelings that I usually get when my dreams take a sinister turn. Just a slightly puzzled feeling and a sense of curiosity about the meaning when I woke up.

    As I thought about this it felt more and more important, so I turned to the internet for some input and found that, in dream code, diving into water often symbolises overwhelm, or is used to highlight the deliberate attempts that we make to understand our unconscious psychological material. This made perfect sense in light of the therapy session that I had had the previous day, when we were unburdening some of my exiled IFS(Internal Family Systems)parts and their feelings. The freezing may well have been a stuckness that I feel as I fail to make the kind of headway that I think I need to.
    Later on that week, a Templemate told me about her dream, which offered an even richer thread of imagery involving mental baggage and intergenerational processes. A handbag that didn’t feel right, holding unresolved feelings and a trauma pattern filtering down through a long family lineage.
    I couldn’t help but wonder in awe at how  amazing and fascinating it is that the mind has a pre-existing stock of symbols and imagery that it uses to communicate with us and to convey important information about psychological processes. It seems to have a natural tendency towards healing. Maybe healing some great wound that we collectively suffered over the millennia that we’ve been playing out our societal games…maybe even from before? Some primordial schism being reconciled in the midst of our preoccupied bumbling!

    One of the things that attracted me so strongly to Buddhism is its unapologetic  fascination with the Mind. After all, there can be no question that it is central to all and everything. When I think about dreams, the vast ocean of memories and feelings that exist outside of our thinking, waking minds, it seems more and more likely that our minds are constantly moving us toward some great resolution. Maybe dreams are one of the channels through which our samskaras(mental confections that lead to delusions about ourselves) are uprooted, worked out or slowly neutralized?

    It’s probably one of the things that we, or at least I, will never know. Maybe some of these things need to remain a mystery in order to retain their healing power and keep us thinking, guessing, wondering at the depth and richness of everything.

    Namo Amida Bu!

    No Comments


    Categories: Uncategorised

    Dharma Glimpse by Chris Earle-Storey

    I visited my parents the other day. It’s not something I do as much as I should, but it was a lovely sunny day and I happened to be nearby, so I decided to drop in and say hello. 

    My parents’ resting place is a secluded corner behind the shelter of a tall hedge. I spend a while clearing the weeds and grass from around the headstone which marks the dates of their passing. It’s over 12 years since Dad passed away, and nearly 24 since Mum died. I still miss them very much and sit in fond remembrance, enjoying the warm sunshine and peaceful atmosphere.

    I decide to walk the long way through the cemetery, a route I had not walked for a while. This takes me through the old part of the site, where weeds thrive on ancient graves and crumbling stone monuments have been laid flat by the council to make sure they are not a hazard to passers-by. One of the few headstones still standing here catches my attention. It is a memorial to a young woman who died in 1923, aged only 22 years and named Mary. The inscription tells me she was the only child of John and Margaret.

    As I read the inscription, the words “beloved” and “always in our hearts” seem to leap out at me, and I feel a sudden rush of emotion. To my surprise and consternation, I find that there are tears in my eyes. What is it that has so affected me?

    It is 100 years since this young woman died. Her parents will have passed away a long time ago, and she had no siblings to provide offspring and remember her. It’s clear from the state of the plot – and, sadly, this one is no different from the ones surrounding it – that there is no-one left to care for her grave. No-one comes to lay flowers and shed tears. No-one remembers. No-one cares.

    For a moment I am filled with sorrow, not just for the unknown Mary but for myself and my parents. I know that when my brother and I are gone, there will be no-one to visit Mum and Dad and tend their resting place. In time, this too will be my fate: there will be no-one left who remembers me. I turn away from Mary’s grave, feeling as if there is a black cloud hanging over me. Why did I have to come this way and be faced with the bleak inevitability of death and the cruelty of time’s passing?

    As I rejoin the path, a blackbird in the tree above me suddenly bursts into song. It’s almost as if it sees how sad I am and wants to lift my spirits. I stand and watch it for a moment, and I imagine that this bird contains the spirit of the young dead girl. In that moment, I am struck by the thought that nothing really dies. We are all made of stardust, and we continue to live on in other ways even when our human bodies die and decay. Yes, impermanence is everywhere and in everything, but so is continuance. We go back to the earth, and the earth accepts us and regenerates.

    I leave the cemetery with a lightness of step. The next time I visit, as well as putting flowers on my parents’ grave, I am going to leave a token at Mary’s. I will honour her memory, just as the earth does.

    Namo Amida Bu.

    No Comments

    Transcending the Inevitable.

    Categories: Uncategorised

    If you don’t stand for something – you’ll fall for anything.

    This popular culture maxim never seemed more appropriate than it does in these increasingly turbulent and devisive times. It may sound a bit old and overused but, in light of the current state of things, it actually bears quite a fresh significance.

    I spent several days in Glasgow this week, showing my support for Extinction Rebellion in their efforts to maintain scrutiny and political pressure on our world leaders, who seem to require the proverbial rocket up their backsides in order to even seem like they’re doing anything of any consequence towards the existential threat that we’re facing.

    The mood in the city felt quite surreal at times. Maybe the effects of a transition for many, from a low level of awareness of all things Climate Change, to an increased presence of the matter in the press, making it all the more difficult to turn away from and maybe enhancing the sense of confusion and frustration that still surrounds the Covid fiasco. The people were mostly very sweet and helpful, and maybe a bit bewildered and overwhelmed by the sudden increase in the intensity of the shift that we’re seeing. I have certainly felt, at times, a decline in my own sense of general wellbeing as a result of being confronted with the prospect of such an uncertain future.

    However, it is interesting that when we take some kind of action to address a problem that concerns us, our perspective on it can change and it can somehow, all of a sudden, seem much less daunting. I’m thinking of the Climate Emergency as a primary example here, but have experienced this effect on many occasions in the past. The impact of horror and misery diminished in the face of the kind of courage and humility that transcends our selfish interests and somehow penetrates to the heart of the problem.

    In this context(activism), it felt like being removed from the sense of impending catastrophe and somehow placed above it, so as to be able to perceive it from a relative vantage point, thereby reducing its impact without negating the seriousness of it. This effect may be as simply explained as the idea that ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. 100,000 people united in the spirit of a single cause is a much less daunting prospect than trying to tackle it alone or in small numbers. But that alone doesn’t really seem to speak to the feeling that I had as I marched through the rain soaked streets with my colleagues and friends along with thousands of complete strangers.

    In reality, I never felt closer to the weight of the problem. In fact, in a certain sense, it felt amplified by being in the city, so near the beating heart of commerce, bombarded by the super-cynicism of the heavy hitting profiteers, all falling over themselves to hijack the Climate Change bandwagon and convince us all that their product will be the one that makes a difference, that plucks us from the jaws of certain death as we blindly and apathetically consume our way towards disaster!

    Without the unifying effect of the XR brand of activism, I might actually have been overwhelmed by these more spiritually corrosive forces and resigned to playing the victim instead of actually standing up and claiming my rightful place amongst those who commit to challenging the status quo and staying on the right side of history.

    Although this level of deceit is disturbing and, in some ways inspiring for me, it probably has a more trivialising effect for a large chunk of the population, who still have little or no sense of the devastation that awaits if systemic change is not immediately implemented. They are as likely to swallow the commercial greenwashing as they are the wanton fallacies that are being spouted by our crooked leaders, who seem to be just trying to bide their time until the story dies down, so they can get back to promoting business as usual.

    We heard of a certain high profile, international business that was advising its clients that 2-3 degrees of global warming would be good for their profits, and the sooner we get there the greater the gains. This mentality highlights the naivety, cynicism and misunderstanding at the heart of the problem that we face; Which is only worsened by politicians such as Boris Johnson, who is world renowned for his lack of integrity, claiming Climate Leadership and thereby undermining the authenticity of the whole business!

    You might be detecting a hint of anger and skepticism in the tone that I am writing with, but I also, believe it or not, hold out a certain amount of hope for a different future. It may be radically different from the greener and brighter future that we are being promised by the powers that be, but I still firmly believe in the resilience and beauty of the human spirit. And that, there will always be a strong current of love and hope at work in whatever survives and emerges for the prospects of posterity.

    As a Buddhist I feel very lucky that I get to depend more on the qualities of my faith, that are not conditional upon societal prosperity, than to have to place all of my hopes and dreams on a system that was always doomed to failure.

    Namo Amida Bu.


    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


    Categories: dharma glimpse

    Dharma glimpse by Beth H

    Having faith is a tricky concept for me.
    It’s a bit like the clouds. It comes and goes.
    The sun is there shining and grinning its reassuring glow.
    And as suddenly, it’s gone and I’m thrust back into greyness and find I’m floundering.
    Sunshine provides the reassurance, the comfort and glow that nurtures me and I imagine that is what faith provides.
    I can’t hold on to it. The cloud comes and murks the clarity. No sinjin here!
    But, I realise that practice has its place and role to play, so I pick up my Buddhist books, I meditate, I sing the nembutsu and I learn to breathe and be still. Restoring my Buddha nature. And I feel marvellous.
    I’ve started on this journey, that’s enough in itself for me.

    Doggy Glimpse

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    by Sharon Taylor Dechen

    Today my dog Poppy and I did our usual walk and I was thinking what I could share of my recent experiences to put into this Dharma Glimpse. As I was pondering this a set of two legs and two wheels came running past us sniffing flowers
    It was an elderly Labrador’ who still had use of his front legs but not his back. His owners spoke to me and said they had got him “his wheels“ so he could still get out and about . I have heard people say that it’s not fair to keep a disabled dog and at this point it would be better to have it put it down to end its life.
    This made me think, ”Were the owners being selfish refusing to accept the impermanence of even those we love?”
    I thought around this but in the end I decided that I didn’t think so. I think they were recognising that even when suffering ill health and age their friend was still a sentient being as we know from Buddhism and that he could still have some quality of life if only using wheels.
    He didn’t seem to be in pain and was happily sniffing and trotting along if with the odd bash into a tree!
    Life is impermanent and involves suffering. We can however value the simple joys that we have and appreciate our life in this minute right now . It may be that at some point the choices will be harder but for now let’s smell the flowers, using legs or wheels if we need them. NAB