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    Dharma Glimpse by Philip Wallbridge

    I’m not sure if the title of this dharma glimpse works.  Bear with me.  It is a play on the word ‘transdecendence’; a concept I have been mulling over this year.  Transdecendence is about going downwards into something, in comparison to transcendence which is about going upwards, above, over.  At least as I understand it.  Transcendence is also apparently a film with Johnny Depp.  It only has a 19% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  Maybe I’ll give that a miss…….   

    Anyway, here goes.  I went to the beach here in Morecambe late yesterday evening with my yoga mat.  It felt like the first fairly nice day in a while up here.  The sun was starting to go down, partially obscured by a blanket of clouds across the horizon giving it a more ethereal feel to me, the sea was about half the way out so the waves could still be heard lapping on the shore, and a near full silvery moon was gently glowing in the sky behind my left shoulder.  It felt good.  My brain and nervous system have been a bit frazzled recently you see.  Largely self-imposed stress and First World problems.  Feeling emotionally overwhelmed by interactions with family and friends recently, and decisions and changes looming ever closer.  But I’m learning not to amplify and extend the internal vortexes swirling inside by trying to just let it be.  Not judging and criticising myself.  Or encouraging the ever ready, willing and able shame and guilt to come to the party.  It will pass.  Impermanence.  Just as new difficulties, confusions and suffering will come in the future. 

    A side note here.  If I was hearing someone else share this, particularly a few years ago, my jealous, striving and cynical parts would probably be popping up.  Doing (predominately physical) yoga on the beach would sound respectively virtuous, impressive and a bit showy and pretentious to them.  Indeed, when I started trying to learn some yoga there was some of that involved.  And probably something like ‘spiritual bypassing’ too i.e. trying to do something seemingly spiritual to avoid really go into my own stuff and ‘bombu’ nature.  Nowadays, yoga has become more of a necessity than an idealism.  I’ve realised there is quite a lot of stagnant and easily retriggered trauma in my system (i.e. my body and mind).  I can feel anxious, trapped and frozen quite easily.  Yoga really helps to shake up the toxins and trauma, rebalance my energy, and get me more back in touch with body and the world.  That, in all honesty, is a blessing when I can get myself on to the mat.  I can’t always.   

    Back to the beach.  I could get myself on the mat.  I am doing some moving and stretching.  There are some children playing to my left.  Dog walkers pass by.  Some have a look.  Some make a comment.  I’ve got used to this.  It’s ok.  I probably would in their position.  Sometimes the dogs come up to me and have a sniff around.  One dog did a natural excavation, if you see what I mean, right next to me the other day.  I don’t know if it was some sort of silent protest.  His ‘owner’ (I don’t really like that term or notion of ownership) apologised.  I didn’t really mind.  I found it mildly amusing.  We had a nice chat.  I now go from a standing position to all fours, ‘threading the needle’ to put one arm under my torso and lowering my ear to the ground.  I notice my sense of the waves have changed.  Not just the sound, but the sense of them.  They suddenly feel more intimately connected to me, more a part of them.  Without having to brave their lower temperature by going in them.   

    I was suddenly, spontaneously reminded about transdecendence.  The idea of going downwards into the world – into all its pain, suffering and bombu nature, for spiritual growth and enlightenment.  Rather than trying to extricate oneself from, and transcend, the world around us.  I still don’t know which approach – transcendence or transdecendence – is right.  Maybe there is no ‘right’.  Maybe it is a false dichotomy or an oversimplified binary decision when the reality is something less clear and more fuzzy.  Such is life.  But, with my ear on my yoga mat and more connected to the beauty and calmness of the sea, it felt nice.  And maybe that in itself is all I need to know for now. 

    Namo Amida Bu  

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    I accept this Karma

    Categories: Uncategorised

    Dharma Glimpse by Paramita

    Denial can be a very powerful thing. At times my mind edits out important aspects of reality in order to protect me from painful truths, or to keep me engaged in behaviours that numb me out, so that I can survive the waves of tumult that flare up so frequently in the ocean of Samsaric existence.

    My sister is dying. I can feel the detachment and dissociation even as I write that – which is probably a positive sign – better than feeling nothing. Unfortunately, she isn’t as lucky as me, in that she doesn’t currently possess the lucidity with which to make such observations, or engage with such processes.

    I don’t know how long she’s got, but I’m pretty sure it’s not long.

    And I’m not always numb. Sometimes when I look at her, the reality of our tragic history floods over me, leaving me, at times, ashamed, distraught and very angry. But who am I angry with? I know that myself is in there somewhere. Why couldn’t I have been a better brother? How much did my own chaotic behaviour feed into her sense of despair when we were young?

    And, as I consider this, my faith kicks in.

    Where does the blame lie? What I am looking at is the end result of an unimaginably long chain of abuse, neglect, ignorance and disease, handed down many generations with minimal resistance, culminating in acute illness and widespread heartbreak. Blame doesn’t really come into it, because in every direction I turn as I seek the truth, confusion and denial prevail over sanity and responsibility.

    So instead of anger and spite, my mind is turned more readily to understanding and compassion. “the consequences of karma are difficult to conceive” as the Buddha Shakyamuni tells Ananda in the Larger Pureland Sutra.

    So far, and unless a miracle happens in the very near future, which I never completely rule out, my sister’s karmic streams have not aligned her with recovery in this lifetime. I cannot possibly begin to understand the complexities of how they might somehow direct her towards a better life, more conducive conditions in future incarnations, but I do trust that this is slowly happening.

    One of the mantras that I have found very useful in the midst of times of extreme disarray such as this, is “I accept this karma”. I acknowledge that I don’t know. I look at my own journey and my mind boggles at how my life has turned around and presented me with a different path. Why me? Why now?

    I know that I can’t change the past and I have a minimal influence in the present. The power in my life comes exactly from accepting that I don’t know, I am not in charge. The law of cause and effect is greater and more mysterious than I will ever know. But I do feel the support that is promised from the “other side”. Amida and Quan Yin answering my call for their presence in impossibly trying times. Showing up to remind me that no matter how good or bad I think I am, I am not alone, and neither is my sister.

    In the end I have to detach with love. I’m not wise enough or clever enough to do battle with the forces that are locking her into her demise. And I know that I have a responsibility to not expose myself to too much of the poison that made me sick so many years ago. I don’t know how this all turns out, but I trust Amida and I accept this Karma!

    Namo Amida Bu!

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    No problems?

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    Dharma Glimpse by Paramita

    The first thirty seconds of Zazen meditation are where we get to sit WITH our problems. These are the words (paraphrased) of Shozan Jack Haubner, a reputable Buddhist teacher whose guidance I follow on various internet platforms. No judgement, no internal commentary, just being alongside whatever arises in a loving, compassionate space.

    As I sat in meditation this morning, right on cue, and in a fashion that I am very accustomed to, a torrent of worries and frustrations sprung up from the depths of my busy mind. Some of the usual trivialities that I would normally acknowledge mentally, and then let go, back into the river of idle thought, and some, more persistent and immanent naggings, demanding immediate resolution.

    Overwhelm began to appear and brought doubt along with it. Is it really worth me even attempting to sit for 15-20 minutes, as I normally might? Life and death family issues, deep relationship dilemmas, money, work, health…This is surely too much material – I can’t possibly call this a meditation, it’s more of a worry fest!

    And, as per the instructions that I have been on the receiving end of for 15 years now, I returned to my breath, as the central anchor, the intimate mediator. A Krishamurti quote popped up amid the receding noise; “there are no problems apart from the mind.” Yes! Simple words resonating profound truth and unlocking some philosophical faculty that embraces the turbulent contents of my fear.

    These things, that I choose to perceive and label as troubles, actually exist independently of my prejudices. And yes, they hold a particular weight that I experience as discomfort, but ultimately it is my perspective on them that gives them the power to disturb me. No problems except the mind. But the mind is a big one eh!! Or can be!?

    I managed to sit for about 15 minutes, veering in and out of the chaotic ramblings, and being held in the spacious energy that the breath seems to offer. A beautiful, gentle chant facilitates the transition from stillness and silence back into the realities of living life! They don’t have to be problems, right? We’ll see how it goes.

    Namo Amida Bu!

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    The one that got away & the art of non-attachment

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    Dharma Glimpse by Khemashalini

    I’ve written previously of the annual walking retreat or Yatra that I’ve not long returned from. A yatra means to walk or pilgrimage to a holy place/s. The walking is in silence and not usually a rush to get there so the journey is as important as the destination. I had lots of inspiration for Dharma Glimpses during this week and I’m kind of annoyed with myself as I didn’t write enough down and as the weeks pass the memories fade a little.

    One very memorable day was the one when we walked up Cader Idris- all 893 metres. We had been warned that a storm may hit at midday so we left early in an attempt to at least be at the summit before it arrived. I think we were probably 50 metres from the summit when the mist dropped and the wind and rain started. Thankfully no snow as forecast. I look back at a photo I took at this point and Caroline is standing there, her poncho blowing around her with no beautiful view, just looking out into the mysterious mist. This was like an earlier jaunt up Helvelyn in the Lake district when I too was deprived of the supposedly stunning view due to cloud. I suppose I’ll have to climb again if I am to see the view. Several days later I was on a website where people post about their mountain climbing activities, top tips, photos etc. and I was gutted to see that literally 2 days later those that climbed the mountain were gifted that stunning view as a reward. Timing is everything!!

    Having made it to the summit w ate our lunch all crowded together in the little stone hut. Not the nicest of shelters but we were all very grateful on this occasion. A small group poked their head in half way through lunch to be greeted by 30+ hungry and rather damp Buddhists all crammed in- standing room only.
    On our decent the wind was over 60 MPH (I was told at a later time), it was still raining, so I was wearing my trustee poncho to try and save my coat a little. At one point the wind got underneath this and took me off my feet. I was holding on to everything tightly whilst trying to navigate the steep rocky and slippy pathway. Caroline lost her hat, I watched it fly off into the mist, then a back pack cover. I was glad I’d tied mine on tightly. I removed my poncho to try and gain some balance and stop the wind from buffering me from side to side, I’d have to get wet. Not 2 minutes later, on a rather exposed outcrop of rocks, I felt the wind pick me up again and then a flash of luminous yellow shot past as my new backpack cover disappeared over the edge into the mist. Oh no☹ I was so annoyed with myself, had I not tied in on properly. Now everything inside my rucksack was going to get wet. I started to worry about what I’d got in my bag and what might get damaged. I thought of nothing else for about 30 minutes as we descended. I really do hate losing things – even in extreme weather conditions. How much was it going to cost to replace? I wondered where all the items that had blown off today, and other days would be blown too. Where would their final resting place be? I’d be very happy if I found an osprey back pack cover and Caroline’s lovely hat. Had someone set up an ebay account selling all the lost items claimed by the mountain? We had a little laugh about it later on once we broke our silence. I realised that I had to let go of my attachment to this belonging, it was preventing me from being in the present. I’d been preoccupied in these thoughts rather than being fully immersed in this unique experience. I needed to let go of my annoyance of the wind. After all it was my fault it blew off, I can’t have tied it on tightly enough and wind is wind. The fundamental buddhist teaching of impermanence relays that we will not find sustained happiness through clinging – only suffering. Namo Amida Bu.

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    Inviting Spaciousness

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    Dharma Glimpse by Khemashalini 

    I’ve recently returned from a short break away for my birthday where I visited family in Gozo which is a small island next to Malta. My dad lived there for many years until his death nearly 8 years ago so it’s like a second home and I soon settle into life once I land. I haven’t visited since 2019 although have always said I couldn’t live there permanently. The island is very small and I’d probably spend all my time feeding and rescuing their many stray cats. I;m not sure as a Buddhist if there is even a Buddhist community of the island. The main religion is Roman Catholicism with every small village having their own church, 359 churches in total – (313 in Malta and 46 in Gozo) so nearly one for each day of the week.

    I spent 4 nights here this time, and my holiday was sadly soon over. Id managed to catch a cold virus on the flight over so on the day we were travelling home, I didn’t feel that well. We had non priority seats and only travelled with a rucksack which I’d carefully measured and packed to make sure it fitted the airlines measurements. Let’s not rush I said. It doesn’t matter if we are last on the plane as we don’t have any luggage to go in the overhead compartments. I just need to take it slow. Normally there is a pressure to get on the plane and find space in the overhead lockers for luggage.

    So my friend Jo and I sat quietly and watched everyone else queuing, got up when called – there was a relaxed spaciousness that I’d not experienced before. Spaciousness feels like having more space in your mind. The experience of gaining spaciousness is the experience of increasingly feeling that you can choose how to interpret events and choose how to respond to emotional energy, rather than being a slave to habitual patterns.

    We boarded the last bus to the plane and got off when it stopped and walked over to the plane. I must have been a bit distracted with my streaming nose and pounding headache but to my absolute surprise I was the first person to board a very empty plane. So how did that happen? I’d let go of the habitual pattern, the urgency to board which I usually have and just relaxed into the process. No forcing things, no rush, no stress so perhaps I should try this relaxed approach more often. I was definitely being cared for that day. I sat back in my seat and had a very uneventful flight home.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    The Importance of Boundaries

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Alison

    I’ve been contemplating the importance of boundaries since moving into the temple. The subject has come up a number of times and different people have referred to their need of them. It seems that boundaries are an important topic and that most of us find putting in boundaries, when relating to others, extremely difficult. I am no exception.
    What is a boundary? It’s a protective zone, or space, we can imagine having around ourselves to keep us safe and stop us from becoming hurt, or hurting others. It might take the form of limits we need to put in place that show other people how far they can go in their interactions with us -what’s appropriate and what isn’t.
    Our parts (parts of ourselves, especially the vulnerable ones) need boundaries to feel safe – we need to make them, but – we also need them made by others. We need to feel walls on all four sides of us to feel safe. If we don’t set boundaries, others will step into our space, especially those parts of others that are either vulnerable; needy; seeking love, or to be liked; needing attention; wanting to feel special and also those parts wanting to feel superior, prove a point, or to rescue another and to be useful. Sometimes we need to reign parts in that seek to burrow holes as deep as they can without obstruction. Healthy boundaries provide safe space for all to manoeuvre – space to grow. I’m imagining how it is for the plants. They need space to grow, unfurl leaves, space to stretch their roots in the soil, to drink the rain and to reach up to the sunlight.
    When we give enough space we allow growth. Having space allows us to grow into our selves, just like the plants in the flowerbed. The sun’s rays can reach out to all the plants, shining down on every part of them, no matter how perfect or imperfect they are.
    In order to be able to give ourselves, and others, this space, we can do as the plants, bringing all of the parts of us, including those vulnerable parts, to the Buddha or to Self (as it’s called in Parts Work or Internal Family Systems). These parts can be met by self compassion, or the warm compassion of Amida, in the same way the plants are greeted by the sun. There’s enough room for every part and all parts are received, just as they are. Perhaps, if we can learn to love and value all of the vulnerable, flawed parts of ourselves, we can show others how to do the same.

    Impermanence, grief and healing

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    Dharma Glimpse by Ali

    In October last year one of my best friends sadly took her own life. I was devastated and heartbroken and was weighed down with grief.

    Another close friend sent me these words which I will share with you now.

    “ When it comes to grief, remember this –

    You have not broken a bone, there is no default treatment, no cure, no timeline for your healing.
    You cannot strap your heart to the heart next to it and hope it mends itself.
    You cannot rest it for weeks or months.
    You cannot rely on your other heart like you might a leg or an arm.
    You have not broken a bone.
    And yet, like a broken bone, your heart will always now have a vulnerable spot, a bruise, a burn, a scar.
    And just as your arm can still ache after breaking when it has been holding too much for too long, so your heart will ache.
    When it has been holding too much for too long.
    But just as your once broken arm can still hold things and your broken leg can still dance, so your heart will learn to carry you forward,
    Even when it aches.”

    These words brought me great comfort but I was still burdened with grief.
    And then I walked into the temple here in Malvern and my healing really started.

    I was struck by the ways Buddhism provided insight in my grief that was completely different than anything else.
    In Buddhism , impermanence is an inescapable truth of existence. In a world and culture where we strive for permanence (lasting or remaining unchanged).
    Buddhism teaches us that impermanence (lasting or temporarily) is fundamental to everything. From life to health to joy and sorrow to material objects to our very identity, nothing is permanent no matter how much we want it to be. Everything is constantly changing, existence is always in flux.
    Buddhism explains that our attachment to things and failure to accept impermanence is at the root of all suffering.

    As someone who had gone through a significant loss, this idea of impermanence resonated with me immediately. As I read more and thought more, I decided I had two choices. I could try to restore the old life and self that I believed was the real ‘me’ and how things should be. Or I could accept that my loss fundamentally changed me, and we will forever be changing.

    I could pretend I was the same person now but I knew I was not. I had changed and would continue to change. So forcing myself to believe the things that I believed before was not the answer. Instead I needed to focus on the present. One day at a time, one moment at a time. Building awareness of my life – the good, the bad and the ugly, all in flux and ever changing.
    Buddha would remind us that we should not become attached to our path, it will always look different for all of us.