One Spring Morning

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    A Dharma Glimpse by Izzy Ellis

    I woke up one spring morning and as I left the temple to get to an early shift, I found my car window had been smashed in the night. The stone that was usually used to weigh down the lid of the bin, to stop the lid blowing open in the wind, lay on the floor next to my car. I remember wanting to believe that a strong gust of wind had blown the stone off the bin into my car but given the distance between the car and the bin, unless there’d been a transient departure from the laws of physics at some point in the night, it was unlikely. More likely, someone had thrown the stone at the window. I was flooded with anger. A part of me was searching for someone to blame. I remember trying to blame the sangha member who’s idea it had been to weigh the lid down with a stone in the first place! “They were tempting fate! Of course people can’t be trusted to walk past a stone so close to a car window. The urge to throw the stone is just too strong!” This part was desperately clutching at straws.

    I remember picturing scenes in my mind. A group of young men walking back home from the pub, drunk and rowdy. Someone throwing the stone for a laugh or to assert themselves. In it’s attempt to find some explanation, my mind created elaborate tales.

    I remember thinking, “Who would do this?” and wondering whether it could have been someone I knew. I felt my faith, trust and love in people waver. Some of that was restored later that day when the daughter of the person I was caring for came back home with a package of pastries and insisted I take some. I don’t usually eat dairy but I was eager to accept this gift from a stranger, to lap up any love going, I gratefully accepted.

    Pieces of the puzzle came together later that day when a templemate told me in the kitchen that they’d heard commotion in the night. Someone screaming, the sound of smashing glass. They said it sounded as though the person was upset and in distress. There was glass on the ground opposite the temple too, so it looked as though the person had smashed other windows.

    On hearing this, I sensed a shift in my understanding.

    The selfish, vindictive, hateful person I’d fabricated in my mind suddenly evaporated. In it’s place, a person in pain, wounded, unable to contain their suffering. Someone overcome by this human impulse to destroy. Someone I could instantly empathise with. In that moment, my heart reached out to them and I wished them well.

    Every now and again, when I spot the dent in the side of the car or feel it’s rough surface, I think of them and I feel this warm glow of love in my belly. It extends out to them and all those who suffer in that moment.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    Snapping or Unwinding…

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    A Dharma Glimpse by Angie Pell-Walpole

    As I was preparing to leave for an appointment earlier today my scarf caught on a hook. As usual I was on the edge of running late and my initial reaction was to tug the scarf away, but the threads were strong and didn’t snap, they only pulled tighter around the hook. I realised this was going to need a little more attention so I paused, looked closely at the patturn of colourful threads winding their way around the hook and picked them out, one at a time, until the scarf was freed.

    This tiny incident seemed like a clear metaphor to me. The action of tugging and rushing only made the situation worse and fed a more constricted mental state, whereas slowing down and taking the care to unpick each thread both freed the scarf and me, creating a more attentive and care-ful state of mind. It also reminded me of how using force to try and break a habit or create change only causes the threads of causes, conditions, needs and desires to tighten their hold. Whereas moving gently, paying attention to each thread and noticing it’s relation to other threads, can facilitate an organic, unforced, change.

    Namo Amida Butsu x

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    Worm therapy

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    A Dharma Glimpse by Beth Hickey

    Worm therapy 

    Who made the worm? 

    Why make a worm?

    Gendering is not an issue.

    When I first decided to start a compost I knew nothing about worms.

    In fact for the first few months they stayed well clear of my bin. Do you know that in an acre of land there can be over a million earthworms… so where are they!

    I looked longingly over the fence at my neighbours sweet smelling compost, oozing with worms. I had a moment’s thought of rummaging with my trowel but that would be thievery and I’m not allowed to do that!

    Worms. How do you get them? Where do they come from? Do they start as foetuses?

    Long worms, earthworms, flatworms, ringworms, roundworms, tapeworms, computer worm….which one is best?

    I Google worms and learn that Worms gobble up our left overs and out it comes as compost. Wow That’s truly amazing!

    If there is “too much left overs” and they overheat they climb to the top to get some breath before diving back in again. Perhaps they should have snorkels. They work in a clockwise direction and can dig down up to 7 feet.

    If you don’t look after your worms they pack their segments and head to your neighbours home! Oh blimey…

    I’m hooked.

    I start to reorganise my diet in order to improve my scrapes bin. If worms don’t like onions, orange peel or banana peel, then neither do I! 

    They like to be kept warm and not too wet, they like to be churned so they don’t get too bored or overwhelmed. And if you play it right they have babies, lots and lots of them, until your bin is full to the brim.

    Worms have a brain and nervous system and feel pain, so we need to care, nurture and respect them. It claims they have free will.. I guess they can choose which bin to frequent. That’s why you have to spoil them, 5 star all inclusive for my invertebrates.

    It’s now a year since I started my compost and I think I recognise some of my worms. They can live up to four years. They let me now what mood they are in, or if they require more bedding, food or water. Or just a bit of loving x 

    I love my composting worms, we work as a team.

    This spring my flowers will look stunning and that’s  thanks to my little squidgy mates.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    Nothing to say, everything to see…

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    Dharma Glimpse by Philip Wallbridge

    I haven’t shared a Dharma Glimpse for a while.  It’s been on my mind for over a month now, along with a sense of guilt and uncomfortability. I have been busy with a university assignment which I handed in a couple of weeks ago so I have had a bit more internal space in my mind.  But nothing has come. No inspiration or wisdom. I think I have, at least for now, run out of deeper philosophical and spiritual topics to explore and share. These are more my comfort zone. And I don’t think if I share more everyday experiences and thoughts people will be interested, even though that’s something I’ve enjoyed hearing from others. From the beauty and calm of the Malvern Hills, compassion to cockroaches and moving house, I’ve loved hearing everything others have shared.   

    I went out for a walk along the beach here in Morecambe this afternoon. I decided it was ok to write something about having nothing to say. As soon as I had decided that, I passed a small old rowing boat at the top of a short flight of steps up from the promenade that has been made into a flower bed. There seemed to be some new flowers I didn’t recognise.  Red ones with a multitude of intricate, overlapping petals. Wow. For a brief moment they took my breath away.   

    By not seeking inspiration in my mind or in nature and, perhaps more importantly, by freeing myself from the self-imposed shackles of expectation and perfectionism something opened up. Like a portal into a kinder, more vivid and alive world.  If only briefly. Surrendering a tiny bit more of my ego. Surrendering to something wiser, more loving and accepting than I will ever be. That something which could be Amida Buddha.  Maybe I was seeing more with my heart than my mind or my eyes. Whatever it was, it was a beautiful moment I am grateful for. And I am grateful, however it is received, to be able to share it with you as the conduit through which a bit of beauty and dharma seemed to briefly flow. 

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    Autumn Cleansing

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    Dharma Glimpse by Beth Hickey

    Today I sneezed three times in a row and I knew it had began!

    I had not long returned from a walk in the woods with the dasies, kicking fallen leaves, examining strange and bizarre fungi and generally feeling the wildlife and landscape slowly closing down. More leaves below than up above, acorn shells free of their nuts, squirrelled away somewhere secret and the smell of decaying matter being laid down ready in preparation for next year’s beginnings.

    I sneezed three more times and my eyes smarted with the coming of the spore release. The twitching of the nose, the itching of the ears and feeling of tiny particles of damp migrating furry things on my body. Uck it all feels unpleasant.

    But, this is life at its most incredible and most bizarre! Some truly magnificent creatures and plants are playing out their wondrous acts. Ugly, bizarre, stinky and pretty incredulously complicated sights to behold. 

    Why is it that spring is seen as the bearing of beautiful things while autumn delivers hideous unforsaken sights?

    Autumn is amazing and so enriching and enticing, a perfect example of bewitching and beguiling. Tricking us, scarring us and propelling us into the path of death and decay. 

    Autumn is about preparing, looking ahead and closing down. For some dying.

    So, I am experiencing an Autumn cleanse and I should be used to it by now. I kind of embrace the thought of a general cleansing of the body, riding itself of all the pollen and summer clutter accumulated through the warmer seasons, but actually I could face this unpleasant reality far better, if I too could snuggle down into a fern lined hideyhole, with sphagnum moss pillows to rest my head upon, with hazelnuts and chestnuts to munch on until springs release arrives again.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    Natural Growth

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    A Dharma Glimpse by Dayamay Dunsby

    I had been feeling frustrated with myself recently after a perceived failure on my part to master certain behaviours that can be destructive.

    The tendency, for me, is to aim high and overwhelm myself with great expectations about becoming pure and perfect. Even though I know in my bones that it’s not possible.

    I am perpetually fallible.

    As I was inwardly beating myself I happened upon a teaching about “natural growth”.

    Trees were used as an analogy for the process by which nature forms organic matter by providing the conditions that allow growth to happen. The tree has soil, water, sunlight and most importantly, time.

    The tree doesn’t have to do anything. It is forged and shaped over decades of exposure to the elements, the harsh and bitter rain and wind and the warmth and nourishment of the sun. The result is a simple, natural radiance that stands tall as a testament to the life force from which we all originate.

    This comforted me greatly. I knew that my need to feel in control of my own growth and healing was, to some extent impeding a deeper, perhaps more important thread of an overall process. Maybe there is a value in just being where I am with it all. Allowing myself to fail, while continuing to engage with the practice that feeds my roots and waters my leaves.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    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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    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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