Natural Growth

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    A Dharma Glimpse by Dayamay Dunsby

    I had been feeling frustrated with myself recently after a perceived failure on my part to master certain behaviours that can be destructive.

    The tendency, for me, is to aim high and overwhelm myself with great expectations about becoming pure and perfect. Even though I know in my bones that it’s not possible.

    I am perpetually fallible.

    As I was inwardly beating myself I happened upon a teaching about “natural growth”.

    Trees were used as an analogy for the process by which nature forms organic matter by providing the conditions that allow growth to happen. The tree has soil, water, sunlight and most importantly, time.

    The tree doesn’t have to do anything. It is forged and shaped over decades of exposure to the elements, the harsh and bitter rain and wind and the warmth and nourishment of the sun. The result is a simple, natural radiance that stands tall as a testament to the life force from which we all originate.

    This comforted me greatly. I knew that my need to feel in control of my own growth and healing was, to some extent impeding a deeper, perhaps more important thread of an overall process. Maybe there is a value in just being where I am with it all. Allowing myself to fail, while continuing to engage with the practice that feeds my roots and waters my leaves.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    I did not speak out

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Karmadeva

    Often we take things for granted. We continue with our own lives as though everything is fine, even when everything is falling apart for others. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be happy with our lives if things are comfortable and we are happy. I remember a retreat I completed in the March that lockdown started. My sudden realisation that if humans were no longer here it wouldn’t have that much impact on the earth. And none in the universe frightened me, felt uncomfortable.  

    Last night I attended an arts exhibition at the Midland Arts Centre in Birmingham. A zen Buddhist that I know asked me along. The event was primarily to remember the attack by police on the commuters at a train station on 31 August 2019. This was part of a clamp down on the demonstrations in Hong Kong at that time. There were also images from artists from China, Thailand and Myanmar. 

    The young person that acted as interpreter to the four westerners attending wept as he translated speeches for us. Many people present had been directly involved in protests in Hong Kong and they all sat on the floor while the various protest songs were performed. Looking around the room as flowers were given to us to place on a shrine at the front of the room, I realised that this was real.  I mean, I’ve watched the same people on the news. Sometimes with the police beating them, water cannons being used on them and not seeing the pain they feel. At that moment last night, I again realised that sometimes we don’t think, or maybe don’t feel strong enough about issues that we really should be taking note of. The Ukrainian crisis, oppression around the world and the destruction of this planet. All just ignored. Yet when we’re told to stay at home for two years as we may catch a virus we comply without question. I’m not going to suggest why or say I’m any different because I’m probably as bad as anyone else if not worse. What I would say is maybe we should look at the words of Martin Niemöller. 

    First they came for the Communists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Communist

    Then they came for the Socialists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Socialist

    Then they came for the trade unionists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a trade unionist

    Then they came for the Jews
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Jew

    Then they came for me
    And there was no one left
    To speak out for me

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    An invitation from the Eternal

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    Dharma glimpse by Helen Dakers

    Over the last two years my family life has evolved and I have reached the stage where I am now the mother to a teenager and the daughter of an elderly parent. A member of the Sandwich Generation as I have discovered this is called.

    These roles have posed an interesting headspace for me. They bring a sense of richness, an opportunity to learn and gain wisdom and resilience.

    My teen in particular has gone through a lot in their young life and walking with them through it all has caused me to grapple with my own past and the hopes and fears I have for both of our futures.

    As a chronic overthinker I find myself regularly churning over choices made, paths followed and rejected and asking the eternal mother for answers; a chance to peer into the future and at once bring comfort and a guarantee that all of our most optimistic dreams have come to fruition without having had to endure too much suffering along the way. I know that The Eternal is not some celestial Genie, but carn’t She make an exception? Just this once?

    And then I come to a place of silence and meditation. There the mind is quieted and is if by the thinnest whisper of silken thread I am connected to a soft, creamy knowing smile.

    It doesn’t bring answers or certainty. No cleverly worded life hack or pithy advice carefully constructed into 140 characters.

    It simply is as it has always been. A knowing. A Timelessness.

    Everything is as it is supposed to be, right here in the silence, inviting me to sit, for a while.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    Dharma Glimpse by Maria Trotter

    Steve (my husband) and I went away to Snowdonia for a few days last week. The weather unexpectedly dried up and we braved to go hiking up Snowdon itself. After about halfway up Steve got worried about his poorly back and stayed behind, while I carried on a bit further on my own. Eventually I got to a ridge overlooking the inner lake and the main summit behind it – gorgeous view – and sat down to meditate.

    I was finding it hard to focus at first, everything seemed to distract me – the passing hikers, seagulls, even the changing brightness of the scenery depending on the thickness of the clouds. Eventually this gave me the idea for my meditation – impermanence. Yes, the very same I’ve been reading a lot about in the books recently. Impermanence comes in so many varieties – sudden changes to our jobs, health, relationships, death of loved ones, political turmoil – even as unexpected as the new Prime Minister and the new King within the space of a week. I’ve been musing on the “great resignation” of lockdown, when so many people suddenly realised they were not happy with the way their lives were and found the stimulus to change in these bizarre circumstances. Now the “great unretirement” – the circumstances change yet again as the cost of living bites. Perhaps this country hasn’t seen quite this level of impermanence in a long while!

    I was looking at the timeless Snowdon, quietly counting my breath and the beautiful garnet beads of my mala. Garnet is meant to represent fire and self-confidence and aid us in times of crisis, also connect us with spiritual awareness of rebirth. At that time I felt the need to focus on the Queen’s passing, and as I was I saw a glimpse of a baby girl being born in an Indian family. I then saw a young Indian woman wearing a sari, with a firm, brave look in her eyes, astute and sure of herself – maybe the next Indira Gandhi, Malala or Greta. Could this be a glimpse of the Queen’s next life? It would make some karmic sense for her to be reborn in India. Whether there is any truth in this or not, this image reminded me of the endless circle of life and death, that with each passing there are new, wonderful lives being brought into this world. It gave me a sense of great peace and contentment.

    After coming back I also made a little change to our house – I brought my harp down to the living room from the little study where it was hidden away from the two curious kittens of ours. The kittens – now cats – were then let into the study for the first time, so they rushed to the Buddhist shrine I made on the windowsill. As I was watching Cassie play with the dried autumn leaves on the shrine, I could think of no better way to illustrate that life always carries on and there is always joy to be found in this world.

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    HRH Queen Elizabeth II

    Categories: articles buddhism

    Kaspa writes: In my role as Chairperson of the Network of Buddhist Organisations I was prompted to write to His Royal Highness King Charles III, following the death of his mother HRH Queen Elizabeth II. Here is the letter I have posted today. An earlier version of this appeared on the NBO’s website and social media pages.

    As Chairperson of the Network of Buddhist Organisations I am writing to pass on condolences from our trustees and the members of our executive committee. We are keeping in mind members of the Royal Family, who have lost a loved one, and people of the United Kingdom and across the world who are grieving alongside them

    Queen Elizabeth II was such a steady presence throughout our lives, a person of consistency in a changing and often chaotic world. I am sure people across the world will experience a whole range of feelings and reactions in the wake of this loss, and pray and hope that we can be kind to each other in the days ahead as we each process this news in our own way.

    We also send you our best wishes for your new responsibilities, and pray that you might carry them out with the welfare of the world and all living things in mind.

    Your Sincerely,

    Kaspa Thompson
    On Behalf of the Trustees
    Network of Buddhist Organisations

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    Coming towards us

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    Dharma Glimpse by Katie Bow

    I was on the train back from work in London. It had been a long, hard day, well in fact a long hard few weeks. I was desperately trying to get something sorted to meet an urgent deadline by working with my laptop purchased on the pull-down table on the train, but patchy 4G meant that this was proving frustratingly impossible.

    I sat there getting more and more frustrated and could feel my body starting to vibrate with stress and anxiety.

    In a split moment of resignation, I snapped the laptop shut with a heavy heart and knew I would have to finish the work once I got home.

    Aware of my tension, I put on some soothing “zen” music in my headphones to reset and looked up for the first time on the journey. Through the window, the rolling fields and trees of the Cotswolds were trundling past lit by the golden twilight, and in that second…I felt at peace. All that mattered was watching the clouds and the light and the trees, in the ever changing landscape.

    I felt a deep feeling of understanding for the first time of the light of Amitabha and the notion that the buddha is always moving towards me.

    Namo Amida Bu

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    Does my dog have Buddha Nature?

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    Dharma Glimpse by Frankie Carboni

    One of my perpetual struggles is with posture during sitting meditation. Zen has very precise and detailed instructions about sitting posture that come from the Japanese monastic tradition and while they aren’t meant to create an endurance test of sitting, that’s exactly how it can sometimes feel.

    I can still just about get down onto the floor to sit ( getting up again is another matter!) and luckily I don’t have problems with my knees or legs – my nemesis is my lower back which can be anything from uncomfortable to so painful I can’t think of anything else. This is entirely down to me and my lack of core strength but I’ve also realised that my trickster mind can play its part, both in good and bad ways.

    So I was pleased earlier this week that I was finding daily sitting comfortable enough to maintain posture and the correct position of my hands, left palm up on the right palm with thumbs touching.

    On Tuesday evening, our 11 month old pup decided he’d like to join me. At first he sat slightly behind me, but gradually he crept his away around me so that first he was sitting in front of my legs, then gradually laying his head across them. We sat like that very briefly, but inevitably he started to push at my hands with his head – he wanted attention, he wanted his ears fondled and his neck rubbed. Ringo knows that if he insists he usually gets his way, but what about my proper zen posture? Moving is not allowed unless your leg is about to drop off or some such medical emergency, and even then movement should be swift, subtle and silent.

    What to do? Wavering, I wondered – what would Buddha do? Right in front of me was my shrine, Buddha, Quan Yin looking down benevolently and between them small card with The Bright Earth liturgy’s closing verse written on it.

    Blessed by Amitabha’s light
    May we care for all living things
    And the holy earth.

    All living things…I spend the rest of my sitting time with my hands not in the perfect zen mudra, but stroking the silky chestnut ears of my little pup, both of us blessed by Amitabha’s light. Of course my dog has Buddha nature, how can he not have when he’s such a great Dharma teacher?

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    Trying to hard

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    A Dharma Glimpse by Imogen

    a notebook on a glass table with a pen resting on it

    I’ve been considering all day what I might write for my dharma glimpse and nothing quite felt right. I found myself reading through other glimpses and wondering what I am supposed to write.

    In my journal, these things come so easily to me, but there is something about writing the glimpse for other people to read that makes me freeze up a bit and try to bend and contort things to some idea of how it “should be”.

    So after much pondering, this process in itself became my glimpse.

    In trying so hard
    I was missing my heart.
    My mind tried to push
    And created the “shoulds”.
    The reality is, my truth as it is.
    No need to conform
    brings wisdom
    into form.

    So often, I want there to be a “right way”, some clear path to follow. Perhaps it is certainty I look for in a world, and a me, that is always changing. And yet this is where life itself sits. In a constant ebb and flow of change. I want a button to press to make it all more solid, more predictable in some way. I feel myself wanting something to hold on to and in some way this came through in my struggle to think about what I wanted to write for my glimpse today, because actually I found that when I sat down to write, the words came. All I needed to do was trust that they would come and that they would be exactly what was needed. The I that is my mind, didn’t have a plan, no. But the words came just the same.

    Namo Amida Bu

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    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

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