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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    Impermanence

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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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    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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    Changing seasons

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    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 in with their lives and reflected on the need to put aside distractions and remember to focus on this moment.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    New house

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    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.

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    Be Like Water

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    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

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    Runner’s high

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    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…

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    Marine Life

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    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

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    Handing it over

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    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!

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