Acceptance and grief

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    A Dharma Glimpse by Frankie

    Bamboo wind chime-
    she even forgets
    her own child’s death.

    Mitsu Suzuki – A White Tea Bowl

    Soon I’ll forget that my son is a murderer
    Soon I’ll forget that I have a son.

    Nigel Havers/Andrew Wilding in Midsomer Murders

    Last week my aunt was diagnosed as being in the early stages of Alzheimers. Despite all evidence to the contrary, my cousin and I still had difficulty believing this could happen to Pat. Full of youth and vigor, lively minded, active every single day, she has been the matriarch and life force of us all, reminding us always to take care of ourselves, eat good healthy food, stay fit. She has followed her own rules always, the rest of us not so much!

    I can’t get my head around any of this – in the last few days everything seems to have been about memory – Streisand and Redford in The Way We Were on TV; an episode of Midsomer Murders about Alzheimers and memory, even browsing one of my favourite Haiku collections, all of these fingers pointing to a large clouded ominous moon.

    Acceptance and grief seem to sit within me in equal measures. I allow grief to be, we aren’t strangers. Familiar narratives have emerged naturally and without being sought – nothing is permanent, change is inevitable, the brevity of our fleeting lives in this floating world, and I see in this moment how this journey, this Dharma, my teachers and companions are supporting me in the face of my knee-jerk anger, my me-centred weakness, my resistance.

    Something comes up again and again – I find consolation in the fact that my Aunt and Uncle are in their early 90’s and find myself hoping that they leave this world before their memories desert them completely. I hope that having been married for more than 70 years, they will never be strangers to one another. I feel guilty thinking about their deaths, but I weigh it up against compassion, against love. Not wishing it upon them, but wishing for kindness, calling upon Amitabha Buddha and Kannon for their compassion, to hear and guide not just me but all of us, my family and all families confronting similar journeys.

    Namo Quan Shi Yin Bosat

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    Self Care

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Khemashalini

    I’ve had yet another busy week mostly of my own making I might note and this Glimpse was triggered by my comments at practice on Saturday morning regarding brushing my hair. Why did I feel I needed to tell the world I’d done it?

    I’ve been trying to practice better self-care. As a nurse I really should know better but ive always found it easier to look after everyone else first before myself. Didn’t Buddha tell us that “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
    I’m still working long hours and working from home so it’s easy to fall out of bed and be in front of the laptop where I spend many hours every day. I no longer get dressed for the office and many days I’ve definitely not brushed my hair although I’ve always brushed my teeth. That’s a definite must do. I’m thankfully not working 7 days a week anymore, but the threat of a bad winter looms and I know I must have more resilience and create better patterns of behaviour if I’m going to get through this one. COVID pretty much broke me and I have felt like I was in a fog at times just going through the motions. It has taken some time to recover but I’m finally feeing like the old me although at times I’ve forgotten what the old me looked or felt like.

    Self-care isn’t a onetime thing though – It’s the constant repetition of many tiny habits, to regularly include in your life a little bit of love and attention for your own body, mind, and soul. which together soothe you and make sure you’re at your best — emotionally, physically, and mentally.

    I was thinking about what self care practices I’d like to do as we walked around the temple garden as part of morning practice. My wish list as such. The fact I’ve made it here is a good start. I’d definitely like to do more walking meditation as this is one of my favourite practices and always helps me feel better. Having a good walk every day feels important too- some of that walk being mindful although I do like to get up on the hills, to feel I’ve also had a work out- get out of puff by briskly walking up a hill or two. There is plenty of opportunity for this in Malvern. Prepare a healthy vegan meal- eat at a reasonable time – not 10 pm or even later, get to bed before 1 am, spend less hrs looking at a screen, read more, hang out with friends more, go to yoga, dance , sing, be still, BREATH….. I realise as I write this that im very good at writing lists but maybe not so good at putting them into action.

    I’m reminded of a quote by Brian Andreas
    “There are days I drop words of comfort on myself like falling leaves and remember that it is enough to be taken care of by myself.”

    So with a little bit of attention to my own self-care, the fog will lift. I know I will feel more connected to myself and the world around me and nothing will seem quite as hard as it did before.

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    Not a Dharma Glimpse

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    by Jenn

    I have been sitting here typing for ages. And I’ve deleted a lot of things. I guess I am feeling a bit self critical tonight, and also sad and angry. I’ve been feeling worried that will be obvious in my writing so I keep deleting it as a way of staying private. Or writing something that’s mainly made up as a way of providing what I have been asked for and also staying private.

    I haven’t had any experiences over the past few days where I feel like I have understood or seen some greater wisdom.

    So my glimpse today is about not getting a glimpse. I think tomorrow or some time soon I will be able to meet all this wildness I am experiencing in myself – a lot of anger and frustration and contempt (and underneath those, sadness and grief and fear and powerlessness) – with some compassion. I am ‘coping’ today, which means telling all my angry and sad parts they are being ridiculous, and hiding them underneath some other parts that are really good at being addicted to work. Coping is okay, and maybe tomorrow I will stop coping.

    I just had a picture in my mind of a house being battered by very strong winds. (As I write, I am in bed in the top floor of my tall house and it is windy – I can hear it shaking the trees outside and the sea will be wild out there in the dark). I have shut all the doors and windows and battened down the hatches and that makes the house this strong solid thing that shakes and creaks. Eventually perhaps it will fall down. That’s coping. And there’s another image coming to me – of opening all the doors and windows wide and letting the bad weather blow right through. That doesn’t feel possible today but today on my day of not getting a glimpse, I will just bear in mind that it might be possible some other time.

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    Snail Nature

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    Dharma Glimpse by Mat Osmond

    I’ve left it late to write this week’s dharma glimpse partly because I’m still wondering what to say about it. I’ve been wondering all week what to say about it in fact. Years ago now I watched a snail, and realised something as I watched them that’s never really gone away. I don’t recall much about the actual snail – what I remember is how it felt to watch them. I think I may have lifted my finger close to their face, because I remember how the snail recoiled, pulling in both horns. A full-body wince, as they contracted away from the unknown threat. I remember recognising that: my whole body recognising the snail’s wince, not as similar to my own, but as the same. And ten years or so later, here I am still working out why meeting this snail feels as good a place as any to name what awakening means to me. The question of ‘whether a snail has buddha nature’ is of no interest to me at all. It’s always felt like an empty abstraction. Likewise, the idea that this beingness the snail and I share in is something from which either of us need to wake. Being awake *to* the snail feels like a better place to start. This week, as I wondered about bringing the snail here so you could meet them, I read the essay ‘What is Amida? by Nobuo Haneda . I loved many things in this piece, but especially that what calls to us here in our snail bodymind translates into English as Bowing Amida Buddha. That what Amida Buddha means, is bowing. That what Amida Buddha does is bow, recognising all things as likewise Buddha. Just saying this makes me want to laugh. It feels grounded and real, not just an airy mental abstraction. I don’t want to dress this up as a more than it is – less a glimpse than a hunch. But connecting the snail with Bowing Amida Buddha has left me wondering about bowing, too. What is bowing, anyway? We make a bending-over gesture with our bodies to help ourselves remember, but that’s not really what bowing means, is it? Maybe bowing to a snail might mean sitting and watching them for a while. Or remembering them, ten years later, and feeling grateful to have met them. But lest this all get too clever, here’s a dumb promise for the coming week: to find a snail and spend some time with them. To watch how they move – now reaching out with their soft horns, now pulling them back in – and then offer them a deep and literal bow.

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    Keeping It Simple

    Categories: Uncategorised

    Dharma Glimpse by Dayamay Dunsby

    As I sat in the garden at work this morning, getting some November sunshine and some fresh air, a redbreasted robin fluttered down into the bush in front of me. It could obviously see me and chirped boldly in my direction, as if asking me a question. Head tilted slightly to one side, tail bobbing up and down. It then made a tentative leap from its branch down to me, as I crouched down in order to see it better and maybe get a photo. It ventured close enough for me to have touched it, skipping a few careful steps, and then darted off into the far side of the garden.

    This felt significant, partly because it left me with a warm feeling and a sense of awe at the diversity and complexity of life. I knew that the robin had felt my presence and recognised it as important in some way – just as I had its.

    Before the Robin appeared I had been gazing in wonder at the near-naked branches of the winter trees, contemplating the meaning of their cyclical stripping down and regenerating.

    Is it indicative or symbolic in some way? Maybe Gaia showing us that we can’t hold on any more than we can prevent the new from interpenetrating the old? Or just transformation, expressed for the sake of beauty and resonance?

    I might usually conclude these musings with a summary of my own particular interpretation; but somehow, it feels important this time to just let a bird be a bird and a tree be a tree.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    A Half-Glimpse

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    Dharma Glimpse by Jenn Ashworth

    I am only really just getting to grips with what a glimpse is. A question surfaces for me, which is ‘so what?’

    If I glimpse some greater truth or wisdom or I learn something, does it matter if I am not altered by it in some way?

    What hides underneath this question is an experience I had last night. I had a stomach upset on Monday and Tuesday and had to take a little bit of time off work. I struggle with this and I have a lot of very self-critical and harsh thoughts about myself when I’m sick. To avoid feeling self-criticised, when I am unwell I very often say to myself, ‘right, mind over matter, you’re not being sick any more so get up and get going!’

    I have had glimpses about this before – about how this way I am so unkind to myself is a way to protect myself – I have parts that are scared that if I am not working really hard people will say I am useless, worthless, rubbish. I also know that I have never, not once, been able to force myself to get better from willpower. And I have never, not once, stopped trying to manage it. And failing to be able to make myself better by the sheer power of my own desire is a sure route to feeling even more rubbish.

    Anyway, I am over the stomach upset but I went back to work and did too much too early. And last night I was feeling totally worn out and unwell. And my inner critics were saying ‘you are so lazy, I bet you were just pretending to be ill anyway’ and another part of me said ‘no, I really was ill, but I worked really hard, here’s a big list of all the things I did’ and another part said, ‘mmm. Maybe it is true that I wasn’t really sick at all. Maybe I was pretending. That would be a terrible thing to do! perhaps I’m a terrible person!’ and another part of me said, ‘here we go again. You always do this when you’re ill. And you’re doing it again!’ and in the midst of all this noise and chatter I started wondering about glimpsing.

    I think I’d hoped the last time I’d had this glimpse of wisdom about myself, about what I did when I was sick and why I did it, then I’d stop doing it. And last night I learned that despite the glimpsing, it hadn’t really changed.

    I guess what did change was the tone of voice. When I said to myself ‘here we go again, here’s this thing you do when you’re ill’ the voice sounded a bit kinder, and bit more amused than it usually does. And I gave myself five minutes to do my usual crazy thing, knowing there were some good reasons for me doing it, then I went to sleep. So perhaps I can put this down as a half-glimpse?

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    The Wood and The Trees

    Categories: Uncategorised

    Dharma Glimpse by Dayamay Dunsby

    This time of year can really be a bit of a struggle for me. My psychological baggage relating to childhood and early manhood, wounded and exiled parts exerting their influence and dominating my thinking, and the impact of the dreary weather and shorter days with less sunlight.

    It is a time when I can lose sight of the blessings in my life and dwell too heavily on the negative aspects of the world. The cost-of-living crisis – not enough money (although I’ve got everything I need and more), bleak prospects for the future of our planet and personal health issues, all contribute to a sense of lack in me that feels ingrained and pervasive.

    My training and my societal conditioning point me towards a stoic perseverance narrative, which often feels a bit more like avoidance than real, genuine strength or resilience. But it does tend to keep me moving, for better or worse.

    And I set off for an overly busy day on Sunday. Starting with a visit to a very old friend, who, for one reason and another, I haven’t managed to connect with in person for nearly ten years.
    As she opened the door, I noticed how much she had aged since I last saw her and that she was clearly struggling with serious physical issues, even more debilitating than the ones that I was experiencing at the time.

    When her face lit up as she saw me, I realised how deeply I had missed her and how much our friendship meant to her. She had been one of the critical influences and lifelines in my struggle towards a normal life, whilst in the thick of all the pre-recovery and early recovery chaos that I went through on my journey. She was always there and an incredible source of support and inspiration for me. She told me how proud she was of me and that she had such faith in me after watching me come to life and begin to heal and grow. It felt like staring into a portal of truth that helped me to glimpse a different angle on the facts of my life, rather than just the ones that I had selected to wallow in.

    It reminded me that I’m not really just here for myself, nor, as a spiritual practitioner, could I really justify neglecting the reality of the effect that my existence has on the world around me. Whether I like it or not, my life is profoundly embedded in the intricate matrix of people, things, feelings and experience which constitutes the ongoing saga of this incredible universe.

    We talked about the past and some of the terrible things that we had both experienced, heart-breaking, life-changing catastrophe; and yet here we both were, still striving to make some good happen around us and help to reduce some of the darkness. This, in itself, is a miracle.

    So despite my internal nagging, I left there in a completely different frame of mind, nourished by our connection and encouraged by the fact that there is something else going on in the grand scheme of things. Something that operates beyond my self-judgement and negativity; something that can hold both my darkness and my inherent usefulness, while I grapple with the realities of just being human!

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    Spider Dharma Glimpse

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    By Izzy

    a long legged brown and black sider in a big web. Behind the web is a chainlink fence, and behind that green foliage.
    Image by Pixabay

    I’m back from a weekend away staying with my brother in Bristol. It was non-stop from the moment I walked through the door, briefly meeting housemates and then straight out, setting off on a walking tour of the city. I was led along pavements, through residential streets, along bustling high streets and around the harbour side.
    It was Saturday night and the city had a buzzing, frantic energy to it. At 7pm, people stood in a drunken haze, looking vacant next to pools of sick. We saw a couple of people crouching behind a warehouse container by the side of the road. They were shooting up. Their slight, skeletal frames were silhouetted in the fading light.
    I was struck by how creative and destructive energy seemed to coexist in the city. I thought about how these energies, the impulse to create and to destroy, both exist within me.
    A moment of stillness came the following day when we walked past a student house and I spotted a spider making a web between a bin and a stone wall. The spider had the foundations secured and was now meticulously working its way around in circles, spiralling into the centre.
    The spider was speckled brown with a big round body. It moved with speed and accuracy, dancing with silk, absorbed in its task completely. A pang of sadness struck me as I thought about the bin being moved and the web being destroyed. The fine silk strands breaking.
    I admired the spider. It made me think about an idea that’s come up in The Center Within, a book I’ve been reading in one of the book study groups at the temple. The idea that you should act because your life force commands it.
    The bin might move, a gust of wind might break the web and yet the spider continues spinning its web because it’s life force commands it. Something in the deep focus, single-pointed attention and devotion of the spider in amongst the noise and chaos of the city struck me as Buddhist.
    The spider was just being a spider, doing its spider thing, but in that moment, to me, the spider was a perfect Buddha.
    After staring in awe at the spider for some time, I glanced up and spotted someone at the window looking out at me and my brother. They were laughing, probably wondering what it was in the space between the bin and the stone wall that had us both transfixed. I laughed too and gave a little wave before carrying on walking.

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    Murphy’s Law

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    Dharma Glimpse by Dayamay Dunsby

    As I set out for a walk in the rain during a period of covid convalescence the other day, I realised that I was too cold without my hat. I had already walked about 100 yards but turned back and trapsed upstairs to find a suitable covering to protect my balding head from the elements.

    When I set off again, I realised, in my weakened state that my legs were too cold and I could already feel dampness in my jeans as the wind drove sheets of rain sideways into me. So I made my way back to the house to get another layer.

    After a third trip back to get a brolley,  I was finally set to enjoy some quality time in  nature, despite the continuous nagging of my worry, reminding me how fragile I was.

    When I emerged out of the front door it had stopped raining altogether and the wind had dropped significantly. I suddenly felt overdressed, too hot and bored of the idea of having a walk.

    However, I was somewhat amused by what felt like a universal conspiracy to teach me a lesson about my human nature. I realised that this is a pattern that repeats itself over and again in my life. I try to insulate myself against suffering, building defences in every direction, only to find that the worst of my troubles has tunneled underneath, undermining the very ground that I stand on!!

    But what is the lesson here? Because I don’t believe that it can be to reach an attitude of indifference towards the trials and tribulations of being human. Or to be more efficient in the defences that we create, ensuring that we’re ready, come what may.

    I think it is more just a gentle nod, a friendly pointer, towards the fact that we are not, and never can be, fully in control of our circumstances. It is uncertainty itself that prepares us for adversity. And adversity that informs the way we proceed in troubled times!!

    Namo Amida Bu!

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