Fear and my Sofa

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    Dharma Glimpse by Kusuma

    Last summer we began the stressful project of extending our tiny two bedroom house to make it a family home. We put some of our belongings in to storage and I mentally prepared myself for 6 weeks of mess and stress, which dragged out for more than 12 weeks.

    As foundations were made, new walls built and existing walls were knocked down, our large three seater sofa sat in the centre of it all, covered in dust sheets.

    But as the plastering stage arrived the builders decided the sofa had to go, but go where exactly? There was no spare space in the house, and our storage unit was full. Our only alternative was the cabin in the garden.

    Two young builders half my age huffed and puffed and complained about how heavy the sofa was as they lifted it out of the house and in to our cabin. Their moaning rocketed my anxiety levels up from a 5 to a 10 in a matter of seconds. How heavy was this thing? If it is really that heavy, how would myself and my husband every lift it back in? “You will lift it back in to the house when the job is done” I asked. “Yes don’t worry about it” the one replied.

    But worry I did. I have always been a worrier and something relatively simple can rapidly snowball in to something that consumes my everyday thinking. Switching off our fears can be hard especially when those fears have manifested from another person’s actions or behaviour.

    I learnt very early on in my life that my parents were very good at projecting their own fears on to their only child. On school trips my mum would tell me to sit in the middle of the coach as it was the safest part. Can you imagine how much anxiety my neuro-divergent brain went through about a simple school trip. Friends would sit at the back of the coach and I would sit in the middle!

    Fear rapidly grows and with it so do the three poisons, greed, hate and delusion mixed with a dash of envy.

    The weeks rolled on and the end of our building work came about rather abruptly and the builders disappeared leaving the sofa in the cabin. I became angry and hateful, why would they leave someone of my age to lift the sofa back in to the house? I envied their youth and ability to seemingly lift things without a care.

    I stared out of my new kitchen window at the sofa gathering dust in our cabin and every day I felt sick at the idea of trying to lift it. The fear grew bigger and bigger as Christmas rapidly approached. That sofa was going to need to come back in the house or we would have nothing to sit on for the holiday season. My worry and delusion expanded with momentum. What if I can’t lift it back in? What if I lift the sofa and a disc in my back slips again. What if I fall?

    Sometimes in order to overcome your fears you have to take a step back, sit with the fear, breathe with awareness and just take a risk. My worst fears could manifest but they also might not. So the day before Christmas Eve we cleared a path from the cabin to the back door and lifted the large sofa with a couple of breaks to catch our breath. It turns out the sofa was heavy, but manageable and my fears had been blown out of proportion based on a judgment. I had assumed that if two young men thought that the sofa was heavy, then my 52 year old arthritic body was never going to manage it. I laughed at myself. If we had tried to even just lift the sofa to see how heavy it was after the builders had left, we would have known it wasn’t going to be a problem and I wouldn’t have worried so much for weeks on end.

    The moving of my sofa turned out to be a valuable lesson in overcoming my fears. The awareness and insight didn’t manifest on its own of course. In the weeks building up to the sofa lift I meditated to try and reduce my anxiety, and in turn it helped me to walk with my fear to get the job done.

    Sometimes we have to have a little bit more faith in our own judgement. It turns out that my over protective mother was right and a middle aisle seat is the safest seat on a coach but sometimes we choose a seat based the people we are with and the view from the window rather than allowing fear to stop us from enjoying the ride.

    Making our way back to this

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    Dharma Glimpse by Mat Osmond

    This is a glimpse that arrived in two halves.

    The first half came a few weeks ago as I was giving my daughter Zoe a driving lesson. We had the Sat Nav on, but for some reason we kept turning aside from the route it offered back to where we’d started out from. If you’ve used a Sat Nav you’ll know what happens next. The App just reorients, and begins directing you again from whatever way you’re now facing.

    Sometimes a moment lingers in the memory like an odd little question mark waiting to be understood. I think this is what a ‘dharma glimpse’ means to me, but maybe koan would be nearer the mark. The Sat Nav’s patient recalibration, over and over as we failed to follow its advice, felt like one of these moments. No opinion offered – and no reproach. And where we’re making our way back to, regardless of how often we turn aside from it, hasn’t moved or changed, has it? It just happens to be in this direction now, instead of that.

    The second half happened when I was praying silent nembutsu a week or so later.

    At some point I must have slipped without noticing it from saying Namo Amida bu to saying Maranatha, an Aramaic version of the Prayer of the Heart which I learned from the Benedictine teacher Fr John Main, and have come back to many times over the years. 

    It must have been a good ten minutes before I even realised what had happened , and when I did, it seemed oddly funny. As if for once I’d been accidentally honest with Amida, and with myself. As if, the most honest way I could say nembutsu was in fact to forget the correct words, to muddle them up and get them wrong.

    This isn’t about advocating a mix-and-match approach to prayer though. Trying to find the right blend sounds quite … tiring. It smells of calculating mind to me – which is to say, mixing and matching different approaches until I finally hit on the right formula basically leaves this whole finding the way home business up to me. Like I said, tiring. 

    But whatever it means to open the defended heart to measureless, un-measuring Life, I suppose coming to Amida ‘just as I am’ has to include, then, this curious inability to settle on a given name.

    If I were to call myself a Pureland Buddhist it would be in exactly this sense, I think. After decades of putting on one form of prayer after another like so many borrowed shirts, it seems I’ve failed at even this simplest of bombu practices: calling the name.  And it’s right here in this obscure inability to settle that Amida finds me as I am, irrespective of how often I veer off one way or another. 

    I’ve no idea what comes next, to be honest – but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Maybe that’s the point.

    To be continued. Namo Amida bu.

    To be continued

    Categories: Uncategorised

    A Dharma Glimpse by Mat Osmond

    This is a glimpse that arrived in two halves.

    The first half came a few weeks ago as I was giving my daughter Zoe a driving lesson. We had the Sat Nav on, but for some reason we kept turning aside from the route it offered back to where we’d started out from. If you’ve used a Sat Nav you’ll know what happens next. The App just reorients, and begins directing you again from whatever way you’re now facing.

    Sometimes a moment lingers in the memory like an odd little question mark waiting to be understood. I think this is what a ‘dharma glimpse’ means to me, but maybe koan would be nearer the mark. The Sat Nav’s patient recalibration, over and over as we failed to follow its advice, felt like one of these moments. No opinion offered – and no reproach. And where we’re making our way back to, regardless of how often we turn aside from it, hasn’t moved or changed, has it? It just happens to be in this direction now, instead of that.

    The second half happened when I was praying silent nembutsu a week or so later.

    At some point I must have slipped without noticing it from saying Namo Amida bu to saying Maranatha, an Aramaic version of the Prayer of the Heart which I learned from the Benedictine teacher Fr John Main, and have come back to many times over the years. 

    It must have been a good ten minutes before I even realised what had happened , and when I did, it seemed oddly funny. As if for once I’d been accidentally honest with Amida, and with myself. As if, the most honest way I could say nembutsu was in fact to forget the correct words, to muddle them up and get them wrong.

    This isn’t about advocating a mix-and-match approach to prayer though. Trying to find the right blend sounds quite … tiring. It smells of calculating mind to me – which is to say, mixing and matching different approaches until I finally hit on the right formula basically leaves this whole finding the way home business up to me. Like I said, tiring. 

    But whatever it means to open the defended heart to measureless, un-measuring Life, I suppose coming to Amida ‘just as I am’ has to include, then, this curious inability to settle on a given name.

    If I were to call myself a Pureland Buddhist it would be in exactly this sense, I think. After decades of putting on one form of prayer after another like so many borrowed shirts, it seems I’ve failed at even this simplest of bombu practices: calling the name.  And it’s right here in this obscure inability to settle that Amida finds me as I am, irrespective of how often I veer off one way or another. 

    I’ve no idea what comes next, to be honest – but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Maybe that’s the point.

    To be continued. Namo Amida bu.

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    Interconnectedness

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    Dharma glimpse by Dave Smith

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

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    When Metta Comes Calling

    Categories: Uncategorised

    Dharma Glimpse by Kusuma

    As part of a multi-faith open day I recently visited a children’s hospice for the first time in a number of years.

    There is a heavy price to pay for working in a palliative care environment with Compassion Fatigue a major contributing factor in staff being off sick or leaving the profession. After listening to the staff I came away with a little fire burning inside me! There must be a way to remain a compassionate carer and not burnout? Metta I thought might just be the answer.

    Metta comes from the word ‘Mitta’ meaning friend and is used to describe a practice in meditation known as ‘loving kindness’ or ‘loving friendliness’. With Metta practice we send loving energy inwards to ourselves, and with time and practice, we can then radiate this love out to others.

    Since my visit to the hospice, Metta has become an all consuming passion; researching, writing, and talking about Metta. As a neurodivergent person, it’s not hard to find focus for the things that put a fire in my belly. But writing about Metta is not the same as really living with Metta and it takes courage to step in to a Metta practice and give yourself permission to trust the process.

    But how does sending love inward to ourselves help us to become compassionate carers you might ask? People often choose caring professions out of a desire to make a difference in society. The process of caring for another human being can help us to feel better about ourselves, but this kind of care and compassion is exhausting. Too much of yourself is invested in this type of compassion and you are left constantly feeling like you should do more.

    When we practice Metta and develop a healthy, loving, unconditional relationship with ourselves, we no longer feel the desire to do more, or be more for others. As love radiates from within, the compassionate care flows from our true nature and not from our ego self. Cultivating kindness creates the opportunity for the heart to be more open; this of course is not without its challenges in a world where people tend not to talk about feelings.

    I have been an unpaid Carer for 13 years and in that time I have had my fair share of compassion fatigue. Sometimes I long for a duvet day but for me everyday is a work day. The pressure of keeping another human being healthy and alive is immense and there are times when I have been hard on my self; for example if an infection seemingly appears out of no where or when the side effects of a medicine take their tole on an already fragile body. “I could have done more” becomes the running negative narrative at times like this. Metta does not come easy to me, if I soften my heart, can I really become a more compassion carer? Inviting Metta in might mean that I have to give myself a break! And as any carer will tell you, we rarely think of ourselves.

    This week I returned to Metta for the first time in a long time. I chose the safe space of our beloved shrine room at Bright Earth to share the experience of Metta Meditation. Myself and a Dharma friend sat together and worked on bringing Metta in to our own hearts. The words circled around us, be gentle, be peaceful, hold a tender heart. I felt my chest become warmer as I gave myself permission to be loved unconditionally. Metta meditation invites us to become free from anxiety, fear, worry and restlessness, these are all emotions that most Carers, paid or unpaid feel with great intensity on a daily basis.

    This first Metta experience in a while, left me with tears in my eyes, there was no hiding from the fact that I felt something shift inside me and I heard the words “Stop being so hard on yourself”.

    Metta feeds the heart and soul, it creeps inside and brings forth an awareness of the emotions you need to learn from or let go of. I have heard Metta described as “the nature of the universe and our true nature”. My Metta practice feels like a homecoming to a place I had thought impossible to reach yet it is right here, in my heart.

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    Proceed to Checkout? No, not yet!

    Categories: Uncategorised

    Dharma Glimpse by Frankie

    This isn’t a meditation on death and my preparedness or otherwise for it, but about the lessons I am taught as I go about my every day mundane life. Shopping!

    I do a lot of my shopping on Amazon. Yes I know for many people this is objectionable but perhaps those people live in priviliged areas, near big cities in privileged countries and have access to big one stop supermarkets, enormous discount white goods retailers, all manner and style of household accessory suppliers, furniture shops, internation food stores, art supply discount stores, chainstores for just about everything – not to mention the infrastructure of public and private transport to access them. Blessed are they.

    However not having much of any of the above by choosing to live on a small island in the middle of the Mediterranean with barely functioning public transport and no car, I thank every deity there is for Amazon.
    The one-click button is a wonderful thing – when I’ve finished a book on my Kindle at 2.00am, I can access the Kindle shop immediately and buy the follow up – but there’s also a great lesson to be learned from putting stuff in the trolley. And leaving it there.

    I have a rule. I leave it at least three days before I proceed to the checkout. And what happens? At my leisure I can look at the contents of the trolley again and what I find is that after that three days of a sort of sacred shopping pause, I am better able discern the difference between want and need. What is in that trolley thanks to dissatisfaction and grasping, monkey mind, someone else’s greener grass? What is there as a result of windowshopping, fleeting pleasure, fantasy? What do I really need? And what do I already have that I am not making use of?

    I’d say that at least 90% of what I might have accumulated goes back on the shelf. Some of it will go in the ‘save for later’ pile, which will also eventually get weeded through in the same way.
    I see this not so much as an exercise of willpower or a triumph over capriciousness, but dharma in action right there in the midst of life. It’s about response rather than reaction. It’s about that sacred pause; those three days are like the three sacred breaths we can take before speaking or acting carelessly or in anger. It’s about discernment and clarity. It’s about grasping and dukkha. It’s about learning to be content with what I have. It’s about everything!

    Today I have two items in my trolley – I’ve just removed one to the save for later list, and I’ve also removed two items from that list. The one remaining item is a book on Japanese Calligraphy, I’ll let it stay just a little while longer…

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    The Dharma of Traffic Lights

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Khema

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

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

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

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

    Dharma Glimpse

    Categories: Uncategorised

    By Elizabeth

    Some of you know that my daughter was found to have a shopping addiction this year, with its attendant lying, stealing and gaslighting.


    It was an effort to get over the shock and disbelief at first and then how to practice?


    It took time and hence my gratitude for the Dharma seal of impermanence, because it slowly did change.
    In those early days I threw that second arrow at myself many times, wanting my anger, mistrust and unforgivingness to be over already!


    Practices like the one I copied to you helped in the dark days, giving my pain to the Buddha, ancestors and Mother Earth. As I got lighter, I was then able to do practices on self-compassion, self-forgiveness and then compassion and forgiveness for Lena.


    I do these practices regularly as I see how easily I can get caught up in doing and lose the tender open connection with myself. If I lose it towards myself, I lose it towards everyone and I so want to learn who this new daughter is now! I watch my expectations, Buddhism calling this my attachment to having it a certain way.

    Self-compassion, befriending myself when I make mistakes in communication, seeing my goodness and that of my daughter’s. These have been my keys.

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    What I Can do!

    Categories: Uncategorised

    Dharma Glimpse by Paramita

    Last weekend I missed out on the Bright Earth Pureland Buddhist Convention, which was held in my hometown and hosted by my home Temple.
    It was not my fault and neither can I blame anybody else for this unfortunate state of affairs.
    I suffer with Fibromyalgia, which is classed as a “chronic illness” and can prove to be extremely debilitating. Especially while trying to manage low energy levels and high vulnerability to illness in the cold and flu season. In the end I had to choose between spending my energy earning much needed money, or hanging out with my friends and colleagues and discussing important faith related topics.
    My condition also inhibits my capacity for being around large crowds of people, especially when they’re all highly competent and successful, which can trigger my sense of lack and intensify the psychosomatic symptoms that come along with lifelong trauma issues.
    I’m aware that this all sounds quite heavy and tragic, but I am these days quite well trained in spotting and nurturing the positive embers that glow warm and bright amid the darkness of misfortune and loss.
    I knew that my presence here in the Temple could potentially be more of a burden than it usually is, in the give and take sense, or, I could attempt to engage in the communal  activities as much as possible, whilst looking after myself compassionately and managing my depleted energy levels realistically.
    I was due to cook for the community and so put my heart and soul into the task of feeding my fellow Buddhists as well as I could manage. This was, as usual, partly enjoyable and partly stressful, as I wrestled with the usual obstacles of timing and quantity, which, in my experience, as well as being the most tricky parts, also present the key to a successful meal and happy, well fed people!
    I instantly felt better when the meal was received gracefully and gratefully by all, and my guilt and shame about not being able to attend the convention receded somewhat.
    The next day I was pretty poorly and barely managed to finish my shift at work before collapsing in a heap and spending the rest of the day horizontal – reading and watching depressing youtube content(I do not recommend the latter!).
    I managed to get out for a walk with a friend later that evening, which proved to be just what I had needed.
    In the morning I managed to muster up the energy to get to the special Sunday practice session, where I acted as Bellmaster and then took part in reciting a key Pureland text with the Sangha, which once again made me feel connected and, in some way, functional.
    The point is that there is always something that we can do to contribute towards the unfolding of the Dharma in and around the drama of our lives. Buddhism is a causative power! Our hearts and minds are intricately embedded in complex systems, which we will influence in one way or another, regardless of our perceived place within them. The attitude that we take towards our suffering can determine the experience that we have with it and also the effect that it has on others.
    In Pureland Buddhism we partake of a Great Love, that emanates from and through us, just as a result of being connected to Amitabha Buddha. This means that we all have a place in the great enlightenment experience that constitutes the Pure Land. Whether we’re expounding the wisdom of the Sutras and texts, or making the dinner for our hungry friends!
    Namo Amida Bu!

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    When Things Fall Apart

    Categories: Uncategorised

    Glimpse by Philip Wallbridge

    I’ve learnt sometimes things fall apart in life.  It happened to me recently.  Things built up I couldn’t let go of or process, so there was an inevitable falling apart. 

    A few days later, as I was piecing myself back together, I was walking towards the Malvern hills.  I was more present now.  Things felt fresher and more vibrant.  As I walked on to a wooded path, I noticed how many leaves were lying gently there in a beautiful mosaic.  I realised a tree is always shedding its leaves each year.  It does it quietly and gracefully.  It doesn’t seem to cling on to its leaves.  And those leaves are essential for the ecosystem.  The system needs things to fall apart and be let go of.  Just as, perhaps, we do.  Things are impermanent.  By letting go and opening up, new things can enter and grow.  The wound is where the light enters as Rumi said.  I used to think it sounded clever so I would say it.  The depth of its meaning is starting to dawn on me more and more. 

    I won’t be the same as I was a few weeks ago.  Maybe I’m never the same as I was a few weeks ago.  And things falling apart sometimes can, perhaps, be a positive thing.  It reminds us we aren’t infallible and inviolate.  We are vulnerable, constantly changing creatures with bombu (“ordinary person”) nature. Perhaps I’m learning to embrace that vulnerability and ordinary nature, rather than fight it.  It’s ok to fall apart sometimes.

    Namo Amida Bu   

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