Dreams & Symbols

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    Dharma Glimpse by Paramita

    It’s not often that I remember anything coherent from the chaotic imbroglio of weirdness and obscurity that spews out of my mind while I’m asleep. I can never usually interpret much that might prove useful to me, and often feel envious when I hear the richness and clarity of others’ dreams. I sometimes wonder whether my dreams come to me via some external source, like the universal muse or like some random etheric download from the cosmic mind.

    In a recent dream, I was enjoying a swim at the local pool, diving onto the bottom and swimming along under the surface, as I often do in my waking state. Suddenly I became aware that I was watching myself from an outside perspective, and as I dived in, the surface of the water froze over, seeming to trap me underneath. There was no panic and nothing like the dark feelings that I usually get when my dreams take a sinister turn. Just a slightly puzzled feeling and a sense of curiosity about the meaning when I woke up.

    As I thought about this it felt more and more important, so I turned to the internet for some input and found that, in dream code, diving into water often symbolises overwhelm, or is used to highlight the deliberate attempts that we make to understand our unconscious psychological material. This made perfect sense in light of the therapy session that I had had the previous day, when we were unburdening some of my exiled IFS(Internal Family Systems)parts and their feelings. The freezing may well have been a stuckness that I feel as I fail to make the kind of headway that I think I need to.
    Later on that week, a Templemate told me about her dream, which offered an even richer thread of imagery involving mental baggage and intergenerational processes. A handbag that didn’t feel right, holding unresolved feelings and a trauma pattern filtering down through a long family lineage.
    I couldn’t help but wonder in awe at how  amazing and fascinating it is that the mind has a pre-existing stock of symbols and imagery that it uses to communicate with us and to convey important information about psychological processes. It seems to have a natural tendency towards healing. Maybe healing some great wound that we collectively suffered over the millennia that we’ve been playing out our societal games…maybe even from before? Some primordial schism being reconciled in the midst of our preoccupied bumbling!

    One of the things that attracted me so strongly to Buddhism is its unapologetic  fascination with the Mind. After all, there can be no question that it is central to all and everything. When I think about dreams, the vast ocean of memories and feelings that exist outside of our thinking, waking minds, it seems more and more likely that our minds are constantly moving us toward some great resolution. Maybe dreams are one of the channels through which our samskaras(mental confections that lead to delusions about ourselves) are uprooted, worked out or slowly neutralized?

    It’s probably one of the things that we, or at least I, will never know. Maybe some of these things need to remain a mystery in order to retain their healing power and keep us thinking, guessing, wondering at the depth and richness of everything.

    Namo Amida Bu!

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    Dharma Glimpse by Chris Earle-Storey

    I visited my parents the other day. It’s not something I do as much as I should, but it was a lovely sunny day and I happened to be nearby, so I decided to drop in and say hello. 

    My parents’ resting place is a secluded corner behind the shelter of a tall hedge. I spend a while clearing the weeds and grass from around the headstone which marks the dates of their passing. It’s over 12 years since Dad passed away, and nearly 24 since Mum died. I still miss them very much and sit in fond remembrance, enjoying the warm sunshine and peaceful atmosphere.

    I decide to walk the long way through the cemetery, a route I had not walked for a while. This takes me through the old part of the site, where weeds thrive on ancient graves and crumbling stone monuments have been laid flat by the council to make sure they are not a hazard to passers-by. One of the few headstones still standing here catches my attention. It is a memorial to a young woman who died in 1923, aged only 22 years and named Mary. The inscription tells me she was the only child of John and Margaret.

    As I read the inscription, the words “beloved” and “always in our hearts” seem to leap out at me, and I feel a sudden rush of emotion. To my surprise and consternation, I find that there are tears in my eyes. What is it that has so affected me?

    It is 100 years since this young woman died. Her parents will have passed away a long time ago, and she had no siblings to provide offspring and remember her. It’s clear from the state of the plot – and, sadly, this one is no different from the ones surrounding it – that there is no-one left to care for her grave. No-one comes to lay flowers and shed tears. No-one remembers. No-one cares.

    For a moment I am filled with sorrow, not just for the unknown Mary but for myself and my parents. I know that when my brother and I are gone, there will be no-one to visit Mum and Dad and tend their resting place. In time, this too will be my fate: there will be no-one left who remembers me. I turn away from Mary’s grave, feeling as if there is a black cloud hanging over me. Why did I have to come this way and be faced with the bleak inevitability of death and the cruelty of time’s passing?

    As I rejoin the path, a blackbird in the tree above me suddenly bursts into song. It’s almost as if it sees how sad I am and wants to lift my spirits. I stand and watch it for a moment, and I imagine that this bird contains the spirit of the young dead girl. In that moment, I am struck by the thought that nothing really dies. We are all made of stardust, and we continue to live on in other ways even when our human bodies die and decay. Yes, impermanence is everywhere and in everything, but so is continuance. We go back to the earth, and the earth accepts us and regenerates.

    I leave the cemetery with a lightness of step. The next time I visit, as well as putting flowers on my parents’ grave, I am going to leave a token at Mary’s. I will honour her memory, just as the earth does.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    Transcending the Inevitable.

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    If you don’t stand for something – you’ll fall for anything.

    This popular culture maxim never seemed more appropriate than it does in these increasingly turbulent and devisive times. It may sound a bit old and overused but, in light of the current state of things, it actually bears quite a fresh significance.

    I spent several days in Glasgow this week, showing my support for Extinction Rebellion in their efforts to maintain scrutiny and political pressure on our world leaders, who seem to require the proverbial rocket up their backsides in order to even seem like they’re doing anything of any consequence towards the existential threat that we’re facing.

    The mood in the city felt quite surreal at times. Maybe the effects of a transition for many, from a low level of awareness of all things Climate Change, to an increased presence of the matter in the press, making it all the more difficult to turn away from and maybe enhancing the sense of confusion and frustration that still surrounds the Covid fiasco. The people were mostly very sweet and helpful, and maybe a bit bewildered and overwhelmed by the sudden increase in the intensity of the shift that we’re seeing. I have certainly felt, at times, a decline in my own sense of general wellbeing as a result of being confronted with the prospect of such an uncertain future.

    However, it is interesting that when we take some kind of action to address a problem that concerns us, our perspective on it can change and it can somehow, all of a sudden, seem much less daunting. I’m thinking of the Climate Emergency as a primary example here, but have experienced this effect on many occasions in the past. The impact of horror and misery diminished in the face of the kind of courage and humility that transcends our selfish interests and somehow penetrates to the heart of the problem.

    In this context(activism), it felt like being removed from the sense of impending catastrophe and somehow placed above it, so as to be able to perceive it from a relative vantage point, thereby reducing its impact without negating the seriousness of it. This effect may be as simply explained as the idea that ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. 100,000 people united in the spirit of a single cause is a much less daunting prospect than trying to tackle it alone or in small numbers. But that alone doesn’t really seem to speak to the feeling that I had as I marched through the rain soaked streets with my colleagues and friends along with thousands of complete strangers.

    In reality, I never felt closer to the weight of the problem. In fact, in a certain sense, it felt amplified by being in the city, so near the beating heart of commerce, bombarded by the super-cynicism of the heavy hitting profiteers, all falling over themselves to hijack the Climate Change bandwagon and convince us all that their product will be the one that makes a difference, that plucks us from the jaws of certain death as we blindly and apathetically consume our way towards disaster!

    Without the unifying effect of the XR brand of activism, I might actually have been overwhelmed by these more spiritually corrosive forces and resigned to playing the victim instead of actually standing up and claiming my rightful place amongst those who commit to challenging the status quo and staying on the right side of history.

    Although this level of deceit is disturbing and, in some ways inspiring for me, it probably has a more trivialising effect for a large chunk of the population, who still have little or no sense of the devastation that awaits if systemic change is not immediately implemented. They are as likely to swallow the commercial greenwashing as they are the wanton fallacies that are being spouted by our crooked leaders, who seem to be just trying to bide their time until the story dies down, so they can get back to promoting business as usual.

    We heard of a certain high profile, international business that was advising its clients that 2-3 degrees of global warming would be good for their profits, and the sooner we get there the greater the gains. This mentality highlights the naivety, cynicism and misunderstanding at the heart of the problem that we face; Which is only worsened by politicians such as Boris Johnson, who is world renowned for his lack of integrity, claiming Climate Leadership and thereby undermining the authenticity of the whole business!

    You might be detecting a hint of anger and skepticism in the tone that I am writing with, but I also, believe it or not, hold out a certain amount of hope for a different future. It may be radically different from the greener and brighter future that we are being promised by the powers that be, but I still firmly believe in the resilience and beauty of the human spirit. And that, there will always be a strong current of love and hope at work in whatever survives and emerges for the prospects of posterity.

    As a Buddhist I feel very lucky that I get to depend more on the qualities of my faith, that are not conditional upon societal prosperity, than to have to place all of my hopes and dreams on a system that was always doomed to failure.

    Namo Amida Bu.


    The Warm Voice

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    Dharma Talk by Kim Allard

    What attracted me to Pureland Buddhism was being able to relate to the practice and teachings and not feeling shame or failure if my practice wasn’t done rigorously and in a disciplined way.

    Not leaving well enough alone I bought some books and ended up in tears when the author dove into the experience of Amida with such an intellectual lens I found myself lost in a forest of concepts that were beyond my grasp.  The presentation left me feeling a failure because I could not hold two contradictory concepts of reality within my mind as an “ah ha” moment. 

    I kept reading that real knowledge of Amida is that his power, compassion and loving acceptance is real but if you observe it you’ve missed the whole point. It’s when you let go of observing that true enlightenment is achieved. This left me feeling like I was standing in a featureless room understanding nothing after all.

    What happened to the warm voice within me that hears my joy, my sadness and interacts with me?  Where is the power that guides me and teaches me and assures me that Amida will always be with me? 

    As I drink my coffee this morning I am going to find my way back to that place. The new book will go on the shelf as a message for another. I am open to new ideas and concepts but I have always relied on my instincts for finding the right fit. Whether I am simply not ready for another view of Amida or I need the more personal approach or I lack the intellect to grasp this authors view of being – but not if I observe it – leaves me bereft.

    I will now pick up Satya’s book and find my way back to a place I know and trust and sit a while. I’m pretty sure Amida will meet me there as well.  

    Love and light 🙏

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    Warning – War and Peace ahoy!

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    Dharma Glimpse by Frankie

    yoghurt and honey
    a spoonful of memories
    crete 1983

    ‘attachment is the source of all suffering’
    internet meme attributed usually to the Buddha.

    Non-attachment, nekkhama, not clinging, not grasping etc is a fundamental of Buddhist teaching and philosophy. It is at the core of the four noble truths, often the first lesson that students of Buddhism are exposed to. It’s often taught quite simply at first, involving attachment to physical objects, and then moves to a deeper level – attachment to our likes and dislikes, conditioned thinking, thoughts themselves. In my case above, memory.
    As an excuse to keep my elderly mind active I often do online jigsaws. One evening recently I came across a jigsaw featuring Agios Nikolaos in Crete, somewhere I had spent a two week holiday back in 1983 with my late, ex-husband. We were lucky; I did a very late booking, and when we arrived we had been given a lovely 2-bed, rustic style apartment on the outskirts of town- it was a great holiday.
    While I completed the jigsaw, I couldn’t shake myself free of memories,mixed as they were, the beauty of the town and surroundings, lovely food and weather, feelings of general love and happiness combined with terrible sadness at how our marriage eventually failed. Wondering what that apartment looked like today I started what turned out to be an agonising and obsessive search on the internet and Google Earth. I could find no trace of it, nothing that resembled it, almost nothing apart from the port that I recognised.
    Somehow I just couldn’t get it into my head that over 40 years places change, despite my knowing full well from experience that they can change drastically in half that time. I had such a clear picture in my mind of the apartment, the road it was on, the two walks we used into town, one down a winding lane full of olive groves; I clung so steadfastly to those memories that I spent days in a futile search online for anything that proved the permanence of them. Then I was sure that I must still have some actual photos from that time; I had brought some from the UK when we moved – and that became another obsessive search, which did indeed end in more suffering – a few photos of us in Crete which only made me sadder for my ex husband’s suffering and all that we had lost.

    And after everything I’ve learned as a student of Buddhism!
    More than 11 years of being immersed in the Four Noble Truths!

    And still here I was, clinging to things that were impermanent – not just physical spaces, but memories and narratives distorted by time. It was more than three weeks before the pain started to recede – yes I clung to that for a little while too.
    The past can be like a hungry ghost, bloated on useless memories, feeding on the present, stealing it away. I’m happy to still be able to remember, but I need to remind myself to remember with love and acceptance and awareness that it’s in this precious, fleeting present that I now reside.

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    Moving House

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    Dharma Glimpse by Imogen Healy

    I have felt very unsettled and unstable this week.
    I am moving house soon which marks the start of a new chapter in my life in many ways. This left me with this ‘desperation’ to cling onto something that could feel stable, like “me” again.
    I kept trying to grasp for this sense of who I am in such changeable things.
    The way my hair looks, my work, what time I was getting out of bed, my feelings. All felt forceful, I was trying to make things other than they were.
    Upon accepting these things, and reflecting, I realised I am not that or that or that.
    Rather than ‘I am unsettled’, I started to say I ‘feel’ unsettled. I feel that but I am not that. This subtle change in perspective seemed to free up a lot of space for me. It meant that I could feel something but not be so caught up in making it personal. I became the one experiencing rather than being blown around in the wind with all of these changeable things.
    Just asking the question – if I am not these feelings, then who am I?
    It was here I found some sense of stability without trying. The door just opened.
    Namo Amida Bu

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    Pink petals

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    Dharma Glimpse by Luna Rose

    Walking home from swimming, amidst the busy work traffic underneath a cloud of rain & Birmingham smog, I stopped to admire a beautiful rose bush, blooming proudly on an otherwise grey main road. Layers of petals gathered on the front wall, speckled with raindrops and looking rather divine.

    Later on, after meditating in my sunny room, I noticed the orchid in my bathroom that has been alive for a good two months since I purchased her ‘reduced for quick sale’ – realising that every day I see her I have been expecting her to have withered and died. She was reduced, and orchids are hard to care for for amateur plant parents, aren’t they?

    Though perhaps partly helpful to remember impermanence, on a deeper level this was an opportunity for me to look at what I’m choosing to believe…

    I sensed this for other areas of my life, namely the fear & desire to hide that I experience each time I put out an offering that means being seen, or seizing a new challenge in my work.

    With the intention to share what’s alive for me from my heart & do meaningful, aligned work, I meet this part of me gently each time, validate her fear, reassure her, & do the thing anyway – making sure to allow myself to receive feedback after giving; to cultivate trust for myself & my life. I realise that to live a life that feels true for ME, I had to stop looking at the situation in front of me & believing I was going to wither, or I wouldn’t be where I am.

    I choose to believe it will go well – that I wouldn’t be experiencing something if I wasn’t ready. And throughout this process, I’m learning my capacity, my rhythm; learning to communicate my needs & make changes when needed in my schedule, to preserve my peace. Waves & ripples of joy & excitement come as thank-yous from my body as I honour her & rest – as more bits of me that are programmed to race ahead, are liberated through presence & feeling. I remember to be gentle & graceful as I bumble into new, more helpful ways of being, like a toddler learning to walk, & now enjoy freely flowing in my busyness at a faster pace when I’ve recharged & am moving from a sustainable place, & not from my adrenals! My path becomes clearer & more steadying as the distance I scurry away from it each time gets shorter & shorter.

    It’s a beautiful dance & I’m grateful for the beautiful flowers today, for reminding me that I always have a choice; that I can always come to awareness; that sometimes things aren’t as fleeting as we may think & we can allow ourselves to enjoy the beautiful moment we find ourselves in, acknowledging but not consumed by fear. & that sometimes even after things pass, they can still be there, in a different form, forming the new ground beneath us, in this kaleidoscope of life – always changing, always beautiful

    NAB x

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    Look to the horizon

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    A Dharma Glimpse poem by Dave Smith

    Look to the horizon

    See the beauty in its outline

    Sharp black silhouettes of ancient ash and oak

    above soft rounded hills

    Look to the ground beneath you

    See the beauty in its complexity

    Each blade of grass and wild flower petal

    repeating patterns of nature’s symmetry

    A myriad colours contrasting and blending in equal measure

    Look to the still pool

    See the beauty in its perfection

    Subtle ripples skipping across its surface, fleeing gentle breezes

    Silent creatures gliding beneath in quiet shadows

    Listen to the wind

    Hear it approaching through the trees

    Listen to the birds

    Hear their song with delight and love in your heart

    Listen to your heart

    And know that you are alive

    Listen to your heart

    And know that you are blessed

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    Claw Marks & Letting Go

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    A Dharma Glimpse by Philip

    I have been listening to a track by Jon Hopkins, an English musician and producer of electronic and piano driven music, called ‘Sit around the Fire’ recently.  I love it the track has human connectivity; it was recommended by one templemate to another, who then played it to me in his car on a trip over to the Sugar Loaf café in West Malvern.  One of my favourite places in Malvern which now has a multitude of memories connected to it.  This was one such memory.   

    The track is based around a talk, or talks, by Ram Dass, an American spiritual leader according to Wikipedia.  He has a calming, memorising voice to me.  One part which struck me, and I’ve been reflecting on, is his suggestion to quiet your mind and open your heart.  How do you quiet the mind?  He suggests you meditate. How do you open your heart?  He suggests you love that which you can love, such as a tree, a person or an animal, and keep expanding it until you reach the source behind all of it.  I start to be able to quieten my mind.  Not always, but sometimes.  Really opening my heart is trickier, but I’m working on it.  I wonder if there’s also a need to let go……..   

    I’ll tell you a short story.  I was out walking on the beautifully named, and pretty visually pleasing, Half Moon Bay in Heysham up here in the north-west recently.  There’s a strangely beautiful contrast for me between the brutalist human architecture of Heysham nuclear power station at the end of the bay (from the direction I come from anyway) and the natural architecture of the bay; it’s lush greenery, sinuous coastline, multitude of different shaped, sized and shaded pebbles on the beach, and the flat, serene (at least on this day!), slightly murky, but nevertheless mesmerising, water.  It hit me; I am causing myself unnecessary suffering by clinging on to things.  I have been thinking of something specific recently in terms of clinging, but this truth hit me like a bolt from the blue so that, for a brief moment, I could see and feel it with total clarity.   It felt like a real dharma glimpse of which I don’t have many, if any!  There is already much pain there in this case, and I could see how I’m clinging on to something that has gone, or perhaps was never really there, is adding more pain.  Attachment and impermanence suddenly came alive rather than merely words and concepts my ears hear, my brain processes, but which haven’t really gone down into the murky depths of my being.   

    Later on that day I was reminded of a saying Dayamay passed on to me a year or two back; “I never let go of anything that hasn’t got my claw marks all over it” (apparently attributed to David Foster Wallace, an American author, according to the internet – almost unintended alliteration there!).  Maybe it’s the human condition to cling on.  Cling on for dear life at different times and for different parts of us maybe all the time.  Maybe it’s our survival instinct as much as our ego, greed and stupidity.  Maybe they’ll all inter-related.  Maybe, for many of us, we’re simply petrified to sit with our minds, open our hearts, and let go knowing impermanence and suffering are inevitable.  Doing those things, I think, requires immense courage, effort and, ultimately, compassion.  And wisdom to know we’ll never do them perfectly, slipping back into old ways and habits time and time again.  Thank goodness Amitabha Buddha accepts me just as I am and that I can take refuge at any time to help me quieten my mind, open my heart and let go.  At least bit by painstaking, but beautiful, bit. 

    Namo Amida Bu. 

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    A series of haiku inspired by River of Fire, River of Water

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    Dharma Glimpses by Sonia

    Hyacinth bulbs break
    Free in darkness, seek out light —
    Dizzying blue heights.

    Dandelion clocks puff
    Pretty drift; weeds gently checked
    Make way for clover.

    Yarn pulled loose unravels
    My winter shawl: shape new skeins.
    Namo Amida Bu.

    Through flame, valley, wave,
    Cave, mount, maze, weaves golden thread —
    Namo Amida Bu.


    Namo Amida Bu —
    Touched by light, awaken now —
    Namo Amida Bu.


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