Expectations

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    Dharma Glimpse by Maria Trotter

    My husband and I spent most of last week in London. It was a hectic combination of work and shows that we’d arranged to attend a while ago, and some that were just spontaneous. Obviously as the railway strikes were announced shortly before our visit, we had to adjust our travelling arrangements accordingly (which meant it cost us a lot more) and I didn’t end up meeting some of my colleagues I’d been meaning to as they could not get into the office.

    As I looked back on last week (which was a lot of fun in the end, even with disruptions), I realised that a couple of years ago similar circumstances would have brought me a great deal of stress. I probably would have spent a few days worrying about the trains running, would have struggled to combine work with that much extra activity and also be disappointed about not meeting the people I’d meant to meet. I would have stressed about the queues and get annoyed about the stuffy tube, cursing the big city life that I generally resent, not to mention how much it costs. This time I sometimes noticed my husband stressing about things not working out on various occasions, and I would generally just say “don’t worry, it’ll be what it’ll be”.

    I think deep down I anticipated London to be chaotic and unpredictable, I expected plans to be fluid and arrangements to change. This is the form of acceptance that I used to find really hard as I always tried to be organised and used to get annoyed at experiencing the opposite. However as I’ve been slowly moving on the Dharma path I’ve found that sometimes having clear expectations can cause a great deal of distress and disappointment. Even though having no expectations at all is a bit too much of a leap for me sometimes, I’m rather learning to “expect unexpected”, kind of like a form of the “suffering of change”. I find facing the modern chaotic life much less stressful if I just accept that things will change and plans will sometimes fail – and some good may even come out of it. I even find London more agreeable with this kind of a mindset. I’m just expecting it to be unpredictable!

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    Plagued by emails

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    Dharma Glimpse by Sonia

    At night, I’m plagued by emails. Ones I’ve received, ones I need to send, ones I need to reply too. The words fly around in a mounting frenzy and I just want to let go and go to sleep. I’m finding it increasingly hard to switch off these days and I’m especially annoyed because I regard this as one of the things I am ‘good’ at. So throw in some feelings of failure there too.

    Why do emails do this? I notice it happens when some part has been activated. It’s always the same thing – ‘not good enough’ feelings triggered by being condescended too. One email is really bothering me. Finding the right words to reply takes… more than anything… a pause. Their intentions, my intentions – a lot of this is flying under the surface, not visible to us. I notice in myself and in others a feeling of self-righteousness, the intention is to ‘correct’ the other person and woe if you get into that spiral. And woe if you are both insistent on having the last word. I’ve worked in lots of roles where diffusing conflict has been an important skill, where all parties leave feeling heard and perhaps with more understanding. I notice now that what made that easier was being in a position of recognised authority. It’s a bit different when you either don’t have power, or you’re taking power out of the equation entirely.

    It gets to the end of the day and the ‘pause’ hasn’t been long enough, I don’t reply to the email.

    At night the words keep coming back to me, little stings, I get angry, I remember to say the nembutsu and ask for clear-seeing. The words fly back, amplified, I get upset, I remember to say the nembutsu. The spiral again, I say the nembutsu.

    In the morning I’m grateful to wake with the knowledge I have managed to get some restful sleep.

    Later I log on, and the email doesn’t seem so bad now. I think about the person receiving my response, their complicated reactions, the daily irritations of life they are juggling, the space in which they are receiving my words. I try to understand the ripple effect, this is not just an email, but a person’s heart I am speaking to, however mundane the subject might be. I picture the Buddha’s smile, type words and hit send.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    Wellbeing Glimpse

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    Dharma Glimpse by Paul Riley

    Yesterday, I passed by a place I used to call home when the demon of addiction was living through me. A top-floor bohemian flat, shared with two people I met somewhere I can’t remember. I experienced an emotional reaction not dissimilar to that which arises when finding an old letter written by a long-lost friend. My mind re-traced my old steps; peering up at my old room, feelings bubbled up, like when the question ‘Will I ever see you again? is asked, and I walked by, strangely pining for the absent chaos I got used to. Then, I saw the hungry ghost of my old self trudging up the path, just having picked up a bottle to get it through the evening and realised how grateful I am that my life is not that way anymore.

    I was heading to a church further down the road to connect with like-minded souls who could identify with these same feelings. I am no longer possessed by that demon which formed a life by taking mine. Today, I am liberated by the power of Amida.

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    Becoming Whole

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    Dharma Glimpse by Philip Wallbridge

    The genesis of this dharma glimpse, or what I’m going to call a dharma pondering, came, as increasingly seems to be the case, at a Bright Earth practice.  I had been listening to Beth’s heart-warming and inspiring dharma glimpse about saving a cockroach.  And then Satya’s invitation to ‘take refuge’ in the following period of meditation.  It became a period more of contemplation for me.  I find practice is both calming and inspiring for me, which is perhaps why I get more glimpses, or ponderings, at them at the moment.  I’m not always so calm when I’m on my own or interacting with others in or outside work.  ‘Taking refuge’ is one of the invitations and ideas which first struck me when I started exploring and practicing.  Taking refuge.  It has a nice, if not slightly strange, feel to it for me.  Images of rain beating hard against the roof of a temple, arriving as a weary, bruised and exhausted traveller.  Maybe that’s more taking shelter than refuge.  I don’t know.  Maybe they are kinda the same thing.   

    Hearing Satya’s invitation today it gave me a sense of calm and warmth.  Taking refuge.  I could do with some, if not a lot, of it.  It made me wonder about the relationship between the spiritual path and taking refuge at the start of the meditation period of practice.  I expect taking refuge and progress on a spiritual path are a bit of a false dichotomy in my mind.  But, if you’ll indulge me, here are my ponderings!  I wonder if it is about becoming whole.  Or becoming with the whole.  The whole of nature, the universe, the Buddha, dharma and sangha.  Where the ‘I’ and the ‘ego’ disappear.  We cannot do this on our own perhaps.  We need to keep trying, with our delusions and harmful actions, to follow a spiritual path towards love, wisdom and enlightenment.  Maybe, for me, to be brave to keep moving forwards.  Understanding and accepting the truth of attachment and impermanence.  But also that we can rest, take refuge, be accepted and loved ‘just as we are’.  Without having to be kinder, wiser, or more loving.  ‘Just as we are’.  Surrendering and seeking.  Being and doing.  Arriving and travelling.  For some of us, we might need much more of the refuge.  To stop, feel safe and be sheltered.  Maybe because we have been in an endless cycle of harming others, ourselves and being harmed.  The world can be hard.  We can become hardened.  For others of us, we might feel safe and loved in the human world. Have the opportunities to experience happiness in the things we do and the people we are with.  But we are still unfulfilled and hungry in a spiritual sense.  And know, deep down, these human and material things won’t last forever.  We might need to seek more and discover more of the truth.  We might need to provide the refuge and kindness more for others.  For most of us, I suspect we need both in different amounts at different times.  Maybe different times is on a day to day basis.  And maybe we need both our heads and our hearts to know which we need.   

    I’m trying to think of a clever or profound way now to end these ponderings.  But I can’t.  Perhaps that, in itself, is a helpful thing.  Glimpses, ponderings, hearts, heads, refuge, seeking.  They aren’t necessarily nice and neat things.  They are maybe all part of the whole, where the more you become part of it and go towards it, the more the distinctions melt away. 

    Wishing you love and happiness. 

    Namo Amida Bu 

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    Break, repair…repeat!!

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Dayamay

    pins, safety pins and a thimble laid out on a swathe of pink cotton fabric
    Image from Pexels

    When I was walking on the hill the other day I got bitten by a dog. I was wearing my favourite shorts and, thankfully, they bore most of the brunt. But I was left with a gaping, mouth shaped hole in the fabric, which at first looked unrepairable. The owner looked terrified as he apologized profusely and I felt like I wanted to make it easier on him, so didn’t make a fuss and carried on my way. I was gutted inside, as I knew that they don’t make the same style of shorts anymore; definitely not in pink!

    The next day I decided to try and fix the shorts, despite the fact that I pretty much can’t sew to save my life. The hole now looks like a cornish pastie and stands out like a sore thumb.
    Immediately after, I decided to wash my car, which was covered in dust from the recent dry spell. As I opened the passenger door the handle came off and fell in about 3 pieces on the car park tarmac. I felt frustrated and helpless and made my way down to Wilkos to get some glue. The handle went back on fairly successfully and I had a certain sense of accomplishment, thankful that I wouldn’t have to pay a lot of money for somebody else to fix it at a garage somewhere.

    I thought about my beloved possessions and how, in some ways they reflect myself, my character, my life and my way of being in the world. It seemed like an act of self compassion to spend some time on and put some love into repairing my broken stuff, instead of discarding the shorts or palming the car off onto some grease monkey, who might have no sense of what it means to me.

    I thought about how my external reparations might be considered a metaphor for the internal work that I’m engaged in at the moment. Taking care of all my wounded parts and helping to heal the internal system that constitutes my psychological landscape.

    For me, these occurrences are never arbitrary, always loaded with meaning and quite intentionally sent to show us a deeper perspective on the bricks and mortar world that we live in! The recurring breaking and fixing might reflect the fragility and resilience of the human condition and how our efforts to fix ourselves are part of a greater work that includes both matters of the heart and the seemingly inanimate things that support us on our journeys.

    Quan Yin Dharma Glimpse

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Angela

    A wooden statue, of Quan Yin, a female Buddhist Saint, wearing flowing robes and holding an upturned vase on a small alter. The statue is about one and a half feet tall. There is a small red vase on the right, full of wildflowers, a candle stick with a lit cnadle on the left and two small offering bowls filled with water in front.
    The ancestor shrine, with Quan Yin, at Bright Earth

    I was dusting the Rupas in the shrine room this morning as part of my cleaning duties, cleaning the shrine room always feels like an honour and it is easier for me to do it mindfully and regard it as part of my practise than cleaning other things, although of course any cleaning or indeed any action, can be done this way.

    I came to Quan Yin, gently wiping her hands and face, and I put one hand on her shoulder to make sure I didn’t move her or knock her off-balance. As I did so, I felt that the experience was completely reciprocal; that she had a hand on my shoulder and was steadying me as the practise of cleaning her cleansed me and ‘blew a little of the dust from the mirror of my heart’ as they say in Bhakti Yoga.

    Namo Amida Butsu

    Flailing cockroach

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    Dharma Glimpse by Beth Hickey

    On my way to the swimming pool while on holiday, I came across a spectacular beastie. It was enormous, with massive muscular legs, spindly antenna and keen beady eyes. So thank goodness for me that it was on its back, too humongous to flip itself back upright.

    I noticed several people ahead of me had stopped and gawped, laughed and turned away in disgust… “it’s a nasty cockroach” they said.

    As I bent down to take a better look,
    I heard it ask me to; “stop staring and help please”. So I did!
    It took three attempts using a small stick to flip it back on its “right way up”.

    I had visions of it flying into my face in defiance, pinching me with its pincers or at least take a nibble out of my toe.

    But it didn’t, it shook itself off, dusted itself down, looked up at me and winked. And I’m not kidding!
    It made my day and I guess I made his too.

    How wonderfully compassionate human beings are capable of being.

    Namo Amida Bu

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    Daisies & buttercups

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    Dharma glimpse by Alex Merry

    I’ve recently been having some medical tests, which have revealed that I may have a (hopefully treatable) cancer. I’m still awaiting some more tests, a biopsy, to tell me the truth about where I am.

    I’ve been trying to keep calm and positive and I think I’ve been doing a pretty good job of that, on the whole. I’m a worrier by nature and an emotional person, so I’ve been surprised by how well I’m getting through the days. Fear of fear, seems more damaging than any medical condition, in terms of my mental health.

    I returned to work last week after a while away from work. I’ve been smiling and chatting and generally been hiding the way I’ve felt inside, with all the uncertainty and worry washing around, as it naturally will do.

    I work for the National Trust at a castle. Some visitors came, 2 parents and a little girl. I chatted a little with the little girl and teased her gently and then we moved on and I was chatting with the parents. After a while, we parted and they wandered off into the gardens.

    About 20 mins later, the family were walking back from the gardens, when the little girl broke away from her Mum and Dad ran towards me. She handed me a little bunch of daisies and buttercups she had found in the gardens growing wild, saying ‘these are for you’ and gave me a huge hug (from such a small person !).

    I struggled to hold back the tears.

    I don’t know what the learning is, but I know in that moment, this little girl must have sensed I was troubled and sought to help and show love, even though she didn’t know what was really happening and there was nothing for her to gain.

    There’s something in all that about just doing something lovely for someone else and helping to brighten someone’s day, even when you don’t know or understand.

    Maybe sometimes, that’s just all that matters.

    That day, it mattered to me and I will never forget.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    Losing My Voice

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    Dharma Glimpse by Sam Johnson

    Recently, my brother got married and I was his best man. It was a wonderful occasion. It also put a strain on my voice, and by the end it was gone almost entirely. It is still in recovery as I write.

    In the past few days I have been repeatedly frustrated at not being able to say the things I want to say. Not big things, just everyday comments and questions.

    ‘I lost my voice’. It occurs to me that this is literally true, but may be true in another sense too. I think back over recent times and past years to things that I could have said, but didn’t. Often, I didn’t speak because of fear. Fear that I would seem ridiculous or otherwise come across in a way I would not want to, and so be rejected. Or, fear that I would upset someone, and maybe cause an escalation. So I didn’t speak – I lost my voice.

    I suppose it may have started in my childhood, when I didn’t know how else to keep myself safe than to retreat into silence. The cost of that in the present is often feeling disconnected from those around me.

    Of course, it is still not always a good idea to blurt the first thing that comes to your head, and there are lots of times when it is appropriate to hold ones tongue, so a balance needs to be struck.

    Having lost my voice in the literal sense, I know that forcing myself to speak out loud could be harmful. But there are ways around this, such as making gestures or writing things down.

    So too in the other sense, it may be unwise to force myself to speak if there are parts of me that do not feel comfortable. But, if something feels important, I could also consider saying it in other ways.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    Aretha Franklin & Grace

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    Dharma Glimpse by Dylan Tweney

    This past Monday was Independence Day in America, or what one of my Buddhist friends likes to call Interdependence Day. In addition to the holiday, my company also gave us Tuesday and Wednesday off, so I had an extra long weekend to rest and reflect. In theory, anyway. I had grand plans to renew myself through swimming and writing, but between chores and family obligations I made it all the way to Wednesday without having dipped into the water once, and without having written a word other than a few short scribbles in my diary.

    So on Wednesday I took myself up to Aquatic Park in San Francisco and swam for half an hour in the Bay. The cold water was refreshing and renewing, as it always is. I found a friendly vegan restaurant on Union Street where I ate veggies and noodles for lunch, then I drove north to Stinson Beach to try some body surfing. The waves were low and easy, the people I was meeting with were friendly and helpful, and I was thrilled to be able to sort of half-catch a few waves. It was enough. It was more than enough! Staring into the bright silver light as the afternoon sun lit up the sea, looking for rideable waves, I felt right at home, blissed out in the embrace of the ocean. I may have even shouted “Ocean!” as I dove into a wave once. Turning around to face the beach, the dark, fog-wreathed hills above Stinson were an almost comically gorgeous, perfect contrast to the shimmering light of the sea behind me.

    In short, I sought refuge in the sea and found it that day. I relaxed and the discontented feeling that had been chasing me all week evaporated.

    On the drive home, I listened to some random recommendations queued up by my music app. What came up as I rolled down the broad strip of Van Ness Avenue (the wide road built along the 1906 firebreak that saved half the city) was Aretha Franklin’s 1972 performance of “Amazing Grace” at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, Los Angeles.

    Now, nearly every capitalized word in that last sentence except for Aretha’s own name and the word “Amazing” are practically a foreign language to me: Grace, Missionary, Baptist, Los Angeles — these are places I don’t normally go. But this uninhibited, 10-minute exuberant praise of grace hit me hard.
    I realized that my Buddhist practice doesn’t include a lot of vocabulary (or songs) for exultation and exuberance. And that is sometimes just the mood you need. When something larger than you, something as big as the universe, catches you up and lifts you into its arms and reminds you that you are part of it — well, sometimes the right response is silent awe, sometimes it’s tears of joy, and sometimes you just need to shout and sing.

    I know this. I’m humble enough to acknowledge that I can be small minded and respond out of conditioned annoyance instead of Big Mind. I’m grateful that Big Mind (bodhicitta, shinjin, grace — call it what you will) came to me on Wednesday, carried by some gentle waves off the Pacific and by Aretha’s voice.

    So now I’m wondering: There are songs shouting praise to Jesus — are there songs like this for Amida? Can we get a nice rocking rhythm section and a choir to back us up on our joyful Plum Village songs and transform them from happy camp tunes into soaring revival hymns? Are there any good Zen gospel songs? It might take another generation or two but I am sure they’re coming. I hope I get a chance to hear them.

    To quote another song from the same album: “I want to sing, I just want to shout this evening, my soul looks back in wonder how I got over.”

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