Learning to suffer

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Dayamay

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 I wonder if our obsession with wealth and success has superseded and thereby made obsolete, essential elements of the natural process by which real wisdom is transmitted from generation to generation.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


    Rising Sun

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Beth H

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

    Early this morning I found I couldn’t sleep…

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

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

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

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

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

    AND it happens every single day!!!

    Namo Amida Bu

    No Comments

    Feeling flat, Buddhist practice, and houseplants.

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    Dharma Glimpse by Beth W

    a pitcher plant with lots of "pitchers" long green stems opening into a jug type opening at the top, with red veins around the top
    By NoahElhardt – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=809129

    I woke on Saturday morning feeling flat. This ‘flatness’ had been with me from the previous day, when I also noticed how busy and full my head seemed, and how tired I felt.

    For me, Saturdays now bring with them the offer of attending morning Buddhist practice at the temple. This Saturday, I was aware that part of me felt certain that I couldn’t attend Buddhist practice, “you’re too tired,” “you have lots to do,” “you need to tend to your houseplants.” This is a pattern I know well – when I’m caught up with a busy mind and feeling anxious or flat, I find myself moving towards less healthy habits of disconnection, not walking in nature, eating far too much chocolate, and scrolling through YouTube. I sometimes experience a kind of paralysis, where part of me feels so overwhelmed that not much gets done besides a LOT of thinking.

    This time, something was different. There was a part of me that didn’t agree with the ‘busy/doing’ part. Despite my internal conflict, Buddhist practice won through. I set up my tablet, relocated my Buddha statue and lit a candle. As I sat down on my red cushion, sipping herbal tea, I still wasn’t sure that I felt motivated ‘enough’ for practice, or even what I was doing there – but I was there. One of my cats joined me for a little while and I noticed a softening in my anxious system.

    As Sam shared his Dharma glimpse, he talked of how his eagerness to ‘have the task done’ can take away the pleasure or benefits involved in completing a task. This resonated with me as my thoughts wandered to my Saturday morning ritual of tending to my houseplants. This is something which needs to be done, but often brings me such joy and calm. Today, with my ‘flatness,’ I had seen it as another thing on the list of things that I ‘have to do,’ – that didn’t feel very joyous, and now I hadn’t got time to ‘get it done’ before practice. 

    My houseplants live on our south-facing bathroom windowsill. The sun often shines brightly as I follow the same ritual each week. First, giving a mug of water to the prayer plant, a dash of water for the baby lemon tree and the money tree, and sometimes gently and purposefully wiping the dusty leaves with a damp cloth. This Saturday, after practice, I top up the water for the Sarracenia to sit in. This Sarracenia is extra special as I found it at a marked down price in the garden centre looking unloved and a bit forgotten. As I tend to it, I’m aware of how big the pitchers have become, and I notice it has its first ever flower bud – I eagerly rush to show my Husband! I finish by giving the orchid its weekly 10-minute ‘bath’ – the last bloom has finished and I’m excitedly searching for signs of a new flower spike. I feel Buddha’s presence when I’m here, in this spot, with the sunlight on my face. It reminds me that Buddha’s light is always there, he is always close, even when my mind feels full of cloud and the Buddha can seem so far from reach.

    When talking about Buddhist practice, Satya reminds us that what we’re doing here is opening ourselves up to the experience of perfect love. It helps us know we’re moving in the right direction when we experience a little something, something that involves a ‘knowing’ or ‘joy.’ A simple task, such as tending to my houseplants has become a richer experience as my relationship with the Buddha evolves. My eyes fill with tears as I write, this is my ‘knowing’ and it brings me such joy.

    Satya also talked of leaning in, just trusting…

    …I just need to remember to call out, to lean in, to trust, and know that I can receive Buddha’s unwavering love, compassion, and acceptance of me and all my foolish ways. It’s right here, all around me.

    Namo Amida Bu.

    No Comments

    Pear Tree Dharma

    Categories: Uncategorised

    Dharma Glimpse by Kaspa

    English: Willow-leafed PearWillowleaf Pear or Weeping Pear (Pyrus salicifolia) in Kew Gardens, by Emőke Dénes

    I was sitting in the garden. Next to me was a half empty mug of strong coffee; a stainless steel cafetiere with the rest of the coffee in, ready for topping up the mug; a pair of secateurs; and a pair of garden shears. 

    I drained the last of the coffee from the mug, picked up the secateurs and started trimming the bottom edge of our silver weeping pear tree. It was probably the wrong time of year for pruning, but I had some time and a little bit of energy, and I was feeling sorry for the flower bed underneath the tree. The weeping branches made a thick curtain and completely shielded the bed from sight.

    It’s one of my favourite flower beds. In spring time there are hellebores and lungwort and later in the year the wild geranium flowers. They all do well enough in the half shade.

    I started to clip the branches, creating light for the plants underneath. The flower bed revealed itself to me. It was full of nettles, brambles and ground elder. 

    “Oh”, I thought, “perhaps I’d have been better leaving all of this covered up. Now I’ve created more work for myself.”

    Sometimes it’s like this with my Buddhist practice. There is a period of letting go of old habits, beliefs and unhelpful patterns and then a moment of relief, and then I look more closely and what was underneath all of that? More of the same. Here we go again.

    These days I trust that I’m not here to clear everything away. Sometimes pure space does appear and I can see all the way through my stuff to the emptiness on the other side. And then more stuff bubbles up to fill the space. So I tend to what comes up, trusting that it’s helpful to look after what’s in front of me. Trusting that that’s enough.

    Even if I don’t manage to weed the flower bed, the tree still looks better.

    Changing seasons

    Categories: Uncategorised

    Dharma Glimpse by Sheila Maund

    I feel very aware of the seasons changing this week and the approach of September, which always heralds s time of new beginnings and bigger changes.

    I went to Colwall Orchard Group to pick my husband up from a community meeting and arrived a little early.

    Initially I sat on a large stone outside the shed and took out my phone- to check messages and generally scroll-a bad habit.

    I noticed a bat, flying past and put my phone away. I watched as 2 bats, I have no idea what kind, flew in clockwise circles, around where I was sitting and in wider circles taking in the edge of the allotments.

    I noticed how quiet it was, only a very distant sound of a car somewhere, and the quiet tick ticking of the bats. I felt completely at peace and fascinated by the bats living life on the wing, gaining their sustenance as part of a dance, living their lives in perfect balance. Simply part of the natural ecosystem . It reminded me of the teachings of simplicity, in awareness and naturally.

    I felt so lucky to have caught a glimpse of these beautiful creatures, just getting on with their lives and reflected on the need to put aside distractions and remember to focus on this moment.

    Namo Amida Bu.

    No Comments

    New house

    Categories: Uncategorised
    Photo by Pop & Zebra on Unsplash

    Dharma Glimpse by Sam Johnson

    My sister has just bought a new house with her partner, and I am going to be moving in with them. They do not need to move out of their old place for another couple of weeks, but the house had been left in a poor state, and lots of cleaning and fixing needs to be done before the house is fit for moving into. This task has fallen primarily to me, since I do not work during the summer.

    It is my turn to write a dharma glimpse, but I think to myself, ‘I do not feel very dharma-y’. This job is frustrating. There is so much to do in so little time, and the heat wave makes it much less pleasant. I find myself eager to have the work be done, and taking no pleasure in completing tasks. And it is difficult at times to feel motivated. Is there a way to change this?

    I realise that part of what makes me feel this way is that I am thinking of the task as simply something that I ‘have to do’, and I do not have clearly in mind the benefits. The work may seem more meaningful if I can visualise living happily in the house afterwards. That’s a motivation to get me going. But that will still make me want to rush towards the end goal and take no pleasure in the work itself. To find more joy in the work itself, can I think of it as sacred activity, like cleaning the body of the Buddha? I can try.

    No Comments

    Be Like Water

    Categories: Uncategorised

    Dharma Glimpse by Frankie Carboni

    I’m fortunate to have a spare room which I use both as a sacred space for my Buddhist practice and as a sort of studio for my creative practice.

    Now, we live on the ground floor of a small apartment block and it so happens that this room is directly underneath our neighbours bathroom. After some time I became aware, and consequently irritated by the fact that during meditation I could hear my neighbours actually using the bathroom – and I mean I could hear everything! This started to feel a little unsacred to me, a little too much secularity entering into my oasis of calm abiding. I considered various options – earplugs, noise cancelling headphones. Moving wasn’t an option, but perhaps some ambient background noise might help?

    And then it occurred to me. Our narratives, the stories we believe of ourselves, and remembering one of my teachers talking about how those narratives don’t have to be our story. Our story can be that we sit in front of the Buddha, that we recite the Nembutsu, that we dedicate ourselves to sitting in formless meditation. Opening the mind in this way can be extended to all challenges that arise – so could I change the narrative about bathroom sounds, could this be a different story?

    My story could be that I sit with the beautiful sound of running water – after all that’s just what I was hearing!

    And so it became. And when next door’s teenagers arrived for the summer, that loud drum and bass they love became the rhythm of my chanting; the espresso machine and chat from the bar nearby became a reminder of my connection with others.

    I realised that I didn’t need space and silence from the outside world to practice, because with acceptance of what is, I discovered that space and silence come from within and are always present, I only need to be like water and go with the flow.

    Namo Amida Bu

    No Comments

    Runner’s high

    Categories: Uncategorised
    Photo by sporlab on Unsplash

    Dharma Glimpse by Chris Conway

    I had a bit of Dharma Glimpse on a recent run. I’m very lucky to live by the sea and there’s nothing I love more than going for a run down the seafront to unwind, after a long day.

    Unfortunately, a mile into the run, my Bluetooth headphones gave me the dreaded beep of ‘’low battery” and then subsequently died just as I was about to hear my mile pace. Worse still, I was half way through one of my favourite songs!

    With no music, no pace information, just the sound of my feet slapping the pavement and the sound of me huffing and puffing, I thought to myself “This is going to be rubbish run!”

    As you might guess. I never, ever, run without headphones. I sometimes see people run past me with no headphones on and think “God, how do they do it!?” Just running to the sound of…well… themselves? Who would want that? Not me. But unfortunately that was the reality for the remainder of this run.

    However, three miles of silence in, something started to happen towards the end of my run. I started to experience a bit of an unexpected ‘runners high’.

    I started to notice my feet but instead of the slapping of the pavement I started to hear a rhythm that danced along to the pounding beat of my heart.

    Next I noticed my breath as it moved in and out much like the waves were doing on the beach below me. I also noticed the way the sea glistened like a blanket of beautiful jewels.

    Next, I notice two people sat on the sea wall hugging. Their silhouettes around them merging into one.

    And then finally the ‘piece de resistance’, on my final stretch I was graced with a beautiful sunset, setting the sky on fire with beautiful shades of red and orange. I felt the warm rays of the sun on my face and was instantly reminded of Amida’s rays of light.

    For those last few meters I was completely present with a funny feeling of connection to everything in and around me.

    As I finished that run I found myself saying out loud “Namo Amida Bu!” and with a huge smile on my face I thought to myself, maybe I’ll leave the headphones at home next time…

    No Comments

    Marine Life

    Categories: Uncategorised

    Dharma Glimpse by Olly Henwood

    I was recently on Lundy Island which provided a peaceful environment for reflection and embracing the Dharma. We spent some of the time diving, looking for and finding marine life. I found it interesting that when observing the sea from land it appeared vast, empty and barren. It wasn’t until I immersed myself into the sea that I could fully notice and appreciate it’s true self and beauty.

    I thought this was relevant as this is also often the case with the Dharma (I also like a good analogy). The Dharma is always present (like the sea) but it takes self power, peace and curiosity to stop and fully appreciate it within our lives. Much like the true nature of the ocean, I often find the true nature of the Dharma evades my mind and daily living, and it takes patience to accept it into all aspects of life. I have found that the study group has been a great way to recalibrate and keep the Dharma fresh and integrated daily.

    Namo Amida Bu

    No Comments

    Handing it over

    Categories: Uncategorised

    Dharma Glimpse by Satya Robyn

    This morning I went down into the temple garden to do my usual twenty minutes of nembutsu in front of the garden Buddha. As I sat, my brain lurched from one project to another. I have a lot on my plate at the moment – my dad is in hospital, the utility bills at the temple have risen dramatically creating a financial shortfall, and our charity is in a difficult negotiation with another Buddhist group. As my brain found more and more that needed to be done, my lengthening ‘to-do’ list pushed me towards overwhelm.

    I took a breath and looked at the Buddha right in front of me. When I start spiralling like this, what helps me is to remember the Buddha’s support. I can hand everything on my list over to the Buddha for safe-keeping, and the Buddha will hand me one thing at a time to do. What’s next? Hanging out the washing. What’s next? Making a list of tasks relating to the financial shortfall, and booking time into my diary to talk about this with Kaspa. What’s next? Writing a Dharma Glimpse for my homework!

    When I can take refuge in this way, I remember that I can only do one thing at a time and so there’s no need to panic. If things don’t get done, then they don’t get done. Rushing things doesn’t benefit me or the tasks that need doing. When I do one thing after another in a relaxed way, with a short and complete break between them, then I begin to feel human again. The items start getting ticked off the list, but not in a way that leaves me feeling exhausted.

    By the end of my meditation I felt like I could face the day – one thing at a time – and that’s what I’ve been doing this morning. And now my Dharma Glimpse is written too!

    No Comments