Garden of Evening Mists

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    Glimpse by Olly

    On the side of a hill there is a flag pole, the Buddhist flag waves from the top of the pole. The Buddhist flag is vertical stripes of orange, white, red yellow and blue..
    The Buddhist flag: Image by vined mind from Pixabay

    Monk: “Is is the wind that is in motion, or is it only the flag that is moving?”
    Response: “Both are moving, Holy one.”
    Monk: “One day you will realise that there is no wind, and the flag does not move. It is only the hearts of men that are restless.”

    I wanted to share this quote for my glimpse this week as it inspired a real sense of reality and relatability in me. A restless state often takes hold of us, without warning or reason, which I often find is the case in my job and home life. I’ll create lists, think of what needs to be done next and allow restlessness in without stepping back and taking a moment to breathe. I’m sure this quote could be picked apart and many meanings could be found, but I love the simplicity of the monks response, which encourages us to look at inward causation rather than external factors.

    This imagery of the flag moving in the wind has stayed with me throughout this week, and when days have been busy and restless it has been helpful to remind myself to bring to mind the monk’s wise words, and look inwardly for peace.

    Swimming into the Light

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    Dharma Glimpse by Chris Earle-Storey

    In an attempt to improve my fitness I joined the local leisure centre last December. As well as attending gym sessions, I’ve also started to swim again after a 30-year break from the pool. I’m not a strong swimmer and to be honest have found swimming quite hard work after such a long time, but I have been improving gradually with each visit and was starting to feel quite pleased with my progress. Until this morning, that is.

    The pool is divided into three sections for lane swimming depending on one’s ability: easy, medium and fast. As I am very definitely in the “easy” class, that’s where I am to be found. I have worked up to doing 24 lengths in half an hour and that is my aim this morning. As I set off on the first length I am feeling good, but within a couple of lengths I become aware of another swimmer coming up on my left and beginning to overtake me: a middle-aged woman with grey curly hair and a determined expression. I observe her swimming action which seems very similar to mine, so how come she is going so much faster? A few lengths later and the same thing happens, this time with an elderly chap sporting goggles and a shiny bald head. I start to feel slightly despondent as he pulls away from me.

    When I have finished my 24 lengths I pause for a rest before leaving the pool. My gaze is drawn up to the pool guard sitting atop his tower; my eyesight is not so good these days so I can’t see his face in detail, but I am sure he is observing me. “Look at that old woman – she’s really pathetic at swimming. I wonder why she bothers coming at all,” I imagine him thinking.

    As I climb the steps out the pool, my dodgy hip protests at being lifted out of the weightless comfort of the water and my whole body suddenly feels much heavier. I head towards the changing area and pass two young women on their way to the pool, all toned limbs and flat stomachs. They are deep in conversation and do not acknowledge me as I pass. I am painfully aware of my own ageing body as I limp into the shower cubicle.

    The warm water is soothing as I stand in the shower. As I soap myself with shower gel and shampoo, my mind takes me back to the pool – but instead of being watched over by a muscled pool guard I imagine Amida Buddha is sitting on the tower, looking down on me as I swim my lengths. Amitabha is not thinking “Look at that Chris with her flabby thighs and bingo wings. Everyone else is putting in some real effort but she’s really not trying at all. She is pathetic!” No: Amitabha is looking down on me with love and compassion, accepting me just as I am, with all my faults and failings, my tendency to self-criticise and to measure myself against others. Amitabha’s light falls on me just as it does on everyone else.

    As I sit by the exit to put on my shoes, an elderly man, one of the regulars I’ve got to know over the weeks, sits beside me on the bench. “You looked as if you were enjoying the swim today,” he says. I pause before answering. “Yes,” I say. “Yes, in a strange way I think I did enjoy it.”

    The sun is just rising as I leave the leisure centre. I walk out into the light with the light of Amida in my heart.

    Trust in the Tathagata

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    Dharma Glimpse by Barbara

    It was around 3 am and I was wide awake again, on full alert, for the 3rd night running One of my anxieties being that I was returning to a familiar pattern of insomnia that had plagued me in bouts since I was a teenager. I tried a new strategy; imagining that I was on a walk. But I was barely in the woods when up popped another worry and I was off chasing it and escalating anxieties. After a while I decided to get up and do something useful. The house was bitterly cold but I returned from downstairs with a hot drink, water bottle and December Fan, by Manshi Kiyozawa, the book we are studying in our book group.

    I groaned inwardly at the title of a new chapter. My Religious Conviction. I was sceptical and had adamantly denied having any religious conviction despite having assiduously meditated for over 15 years. I longingly cast eyes on my new novel, but began reading the chapter.

    Kiyozawa wrote ‘Religious conviction refers to the mind that trusts Tathagata.” In his mind they refer to one and the same reality, not two different things.
    Oh dear, is this like the Holy Trinity? I thought.
    He asks. ‘What is my religious conviction? It is to trust Tathagata.’
    And, ‘What is the Tathagata that I trust? It is the fundamental reality underlying my existence.’ What a lot to digest, I thought, especially at 3 o’clock in the morning.

    As I continued reading, I became increasingly immersed in his reasoning.
    Firstly, that if we trust in Tathagata we are relieved of distress and suffering. Therefore, there can be no room for my anxieties; my what if’s and should haves and if only I’d done this or that. These benefits only follow if there is trust.
    Secondly, after much searching within himself, Kiyozawa reaches the conclusion that our intellect is limited and that the meaning of life is inscrutable. He entrusts all matters to Tathagata being aware of his own total ignorance, the most essential point of his religious conviction.
    Thirdly, he emphasises that his religious conviction is the fundamental reality in which he cannot help but trust.
    Captivated by now in the whole chapter of Kiyozawa’s humane reasoning, he writes that Tathagata’s Infinite Compassion, Infinite Wisdom and Infinite Power is limitless.
    I thought deeply as I reread and mulled over sections. It made real sense and was so sensitively written, allowing us into his thoughts and struggles. But I was tired now and perhaps it was time to let go of my own worn-out defences over religious conviction and consciously trust in Tathagata.

    I turned off the lamp, snuggled under my duvet and ,with a feeling of diving into the unknown, felt great calm as I sank into a deep sleep.

    Half Glimpse

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    By Izzy

    It’s Friday morning and I’m accompanying visits on my first day of work today. I was slow to sleep at 11pm last night and woke up at 6am sharp, feeling alert, my mind racing, my stomach churning. I do what I do every morning. I lie there for a while before getting up and slowly making my way down to the shrine room to sit with the Buddha. Today is a bright day and beams of golden sun shine in streaks through the window, the Buddha shines back, looking beautiful. I sit. This is my daily practise at the moment. There is nothing to do. Just sit. As my mind wonders, I am taken back to yesterday and the struggle I had with writing my dharma glimpse. I sat down to write it a few times throughout the day, every time my attention getting pulled away. I allow myself to feel into the fear. Let it wash over me. Fear of not writing a worthy dharma glimpse. Fear of starting a new job today. Fear of being late. Fear of the unknown.

    Then, I am taken back to Monday and my class on the Introduction to Counselling course. The topic this week was empathy. It was something I thought I knew what it meant and now I’m not so sure. Something that came up was the idea that to be truly empathetic can be frightening. I thought about how, as I listened, I felt myself opening up to the speaker’s experience. There was a sense of letting go and for the first time I felt some fear. Where will they take me? Where will we go?

    Homecoming Dharma Glimpse

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    by Angela

    Today, my dog Aine and I went out for a soggy November walk. I was on the 1st day of my bleed and my body was in the mood for warmth and softness and nothing too physically demanding. I enjoyed hearing the sound of the rain and noticing some of the daily changes in the environment of my familiar walking route. But the wet leaves on the path were slippery underfoot, my wet hair kept blowing into my eyes and Aine kept sitting down to remind me that she doesn’t like getting cold and wet!

    As we turned to loop back homeward, there was a tangible shift in energy; Aine’s body language became playful and bright again, my hands suddenly warmed up and my body echoed Aine’s and felt lighter and looser.

    Something that struck me, was the shift in the felt sense when the walk became a homeward journey in mine and Aine’s minds, rather than a walk out into slightly uncomfortable conditions. It reminded me of the sense of ease and relief that can come when viewing spiritual practise as a ‘homecoming’ rather than ‘climbing the mountain’.

    That said, there have been times when my existential / spiritual longing has led me away from the comfort of where I was living and into the wilds… although interestingly there was still a sense of homecoming within those experiences too. And I have found that there are times for drawing on the tough, warrior part of myself and embracing discomfort… just not so much today

    Letting go

    Categories: Uncategorised

    A Dharma Glimpse by Frankie Carboni

    couple of weeks ago a small petrol station in the middle of town closed down. It was a family business and the owner has retired. It’s something of an icon, the only petrol station actually right in town, situated in an awkward triangle of roads right on the portside. It’s tiny, a couple of pumps, but what made it special was that the operators actually put the petrol in the car for you, no self service, just like the old days when you handed over a note and said ‘fill ‘er up!’. I don’t drive, but for older drivers like my husband it was such a boon not having to get out of the car, figure out the self service stuff etc. That petrol station has been there forever, and it seems unthinkable that it won’t continue to be part of our cityscape.

    I’ve always held a personal mantra that All Change is Good. I fully subscribe to the truth of impermanence, yes suffering is inevitable when change happens, but something Good will always be born out of it.

    But when I heard the news about the petrol station, I couldn’t summon up my mantra. This particular change wasn’t good for the people who relied on the ease of service, its familiarity, even its iconic status.

    It occurred to me that all change isn’t good after all. But neither is it all bad, or anything between. I suddenly realised that I could let go of always being obliged to cheerfully accept change, find the positive, deny the negative.

    And far from feeling as if I’d taken a step backward and forgotten all of those lessons about impermanence, I felt liberated by accepting that Change just IS. No more or less than that. It just is.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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