Coming up in July

Hi there,

I hope all is well with you.

I think some of us are getting a bit fed up with the lockdown, but can’t really go back to normal just yet, so are in a bit of a limbo.

Why not come and join us in our zoom meetings on Monday evenings:

6/7 Keith
13/7 Amber
20/7 Paramajyoti
27/7 Padmajata
3/8 Danapriya (with the launch of his new book)

I am looking forward to seeing you at some of these.

The link is the same as always which is: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/u5Iuc–pqjIpPaCyNk0DFt7eq5fZh94cHA

Also if you can make it, the LBC are doing a lot of live classes. https://www.londonbuddhistcentreonline.com/ .

I have been doing the 8am morning meditations. It is a really lovely way to start the day.

All the very best

Keith

p.s. The photo is a blast from Nandavajra’s visit in 2016

p.p.s. Here is an excerpt from Vajragupta’s book “Buddhism: Tools for living your life”, which we recommend to people new to Buddhism (as well as more experienced people)


3 Loving-kindness:

learning to love

In the previous chapter we explored how the cultivation of mindfulness leads to greater self-awareness. In this chapter we will be looking at how to become more aware of others.

Although we may aspire to being more kind, or patient, or calm, the heart doesn’t always respond the way our head thinks it should. We need other ways of connecting to a heart that is more open and at ease, more able to love.

Loving-kindness can be defined as a warm, concerned, awareness of ourselves and other people. When we love, we want others to be happy and to have what they need to be truly happy. This sounds very nice in theory, but a difficulty arises when another person’s needs or wants do not coincide with our own. It is in these situations that our relationships with people are really tested. Loving does not entail ignoring our own needs, but neither does it mean always putting our needs above those of everyone else.

Sometimes you meet people who behave in one or other of these extreme ways. The martyr constantly sacrifices himself or herself, but deep down is full of resentment, while the immaturely selfish person goes about life completely oblivious of other people. The art of loving lies in nurturing awareness of both our own and others’ needs, negotiating between them appropriately and with kindness and generosity of spirit.

There is a meditation practice designed to help develop this loving heart, known traditionally as the metta bhavana. These are two Pali words, the first of which is usually translated ‘loving-kindness’, the second as ‘cultivation’ or ‘development’. So in this chapter we are going to be exploring the cultivation of loving-kindness. We will consider how we can develop love and positive emotion by looking at how this particular meditation practice works.

The meditation is performed in five stages. While sitting quietly, you cultivate this well-wishing attitude first towards yourself, then towards a good friend, then a ‘neutral’ person (someone you don’t know well, or don’t strongly like or dislike), then towards someone you find difficult, and then to as many living beings as possible – gradually expanding out and including more and more. So we can see that the loving-kindness meditation is structured in a way that reflects the need to be aware of self as well as of others.

When we first take up this practice, we might do it very simply. For example, as you choose a person to bring to mind in each of the five stages, you just quietly say certain words or phrases to yourself, such as ‘May I/they be well,’ ‘may I/they be happy,’ ‘may I/they be free from suffering,’ ‘may I/they fulfil my/their highest potential.’ Just dropping these phrases into your heart can be like dropping pebbles into a deep pool – a ripple expands outwards. It may be surprising that something so simple can work, but currents of more positive emotion can indeed be coaxed into being, or positive emotion that is already present cane given more momentum and strength.

However, as we saw in the previous chapter when we explored the mindfulness of breathing, meditation involves more than mechanically counting breaths or reciting phrases. As we gain experience in the practice, we learn to take a broader, more varied approach. It is good to experiment and use our imagination – any method that helps us be more emotionally aware and develop loving-kindness is valid. So we will now look at the meditation stage by stage and examine some possible techniques.
© Windhorse Publications

Coming up in June

Hi everyone,

Another month has come and gone. I hope you and your circle of friends and family have been keeping well. Many people are facing very difficult times at the moment.

I personally find that what helps me a lot is to stay connected with my spiritual friends and spiritual vision by attending as many sangha zoom groups as I can.

We continue to meet every Monday night from 7.30pm to 9.30pm. Get there a bit early if you can. The link is the same as always which is: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/u5Iuc–pqjIpPaCyNk0DFt7eq5fZh94cHA

Coming up we have:

8/6 – Padmajata
15/6 – Paramajyoti
22/6 – Mangala

then we will continue to meet every single Monday at the same time until further notice.

I look forward to seeing you at some (or all) of these.

I can also recommend https://www.londonbuddhistcentreonline.com/ which has a very full programme of morning, lunchtime and evening classes. I personally have been joining in the 8am meditation for regulars, as I find it very connecting to meditate with 150+ other people.

All the very best

Keith


p.s. Here is an excerpt from Vajragupta’s book “Buddhism: Tools for living your life”, which we recommend to people new to Buddhism (as well as more experienced people)


Bare awareness and continuity of purpose (contiuned)

Here is an example of this continuity of purpose in action. Let’s say that at your workplace you are responsible for the maintenance of the buildings. You’ve recently noticed in your meditation a growing anxiety centred on your job. Your purpose is to become less anxious, so you remember this in your meditation over the next few days. You keep coming back to that anxiety and, using the breath, try to work with it appropriately. Not only that, you retain this sense of purpose at work. You start examining when and why you get anxious. Perhaps you notice that the anxiety arises when you leave things to the last moment, so you try to become more organized. And then you extend your continuity of purpose even further. Over the next few weeks you reflect more deeply on the anxious patterns, and perhaps discover an underlying view that is unhelpful and contributing to the anxiety.

This semi-conscious belief is that you should be able to get things done and finished. You realize you are always racing to bring things to a complete and perfect state by the end of the week, but you now see that, in reality, there is no such thing as finished. With the maintenance of a large old building there will always be another job to do. So you take this little insight back into your meditation and try to loosen up, and relax unhelpful attitudes and expectations. Then you try to apply this quality of looseness back at work, and see if there are further changes to be made to the way you function. In this way, you are all the time retaining your sense of purpose, exploring your life more and more deeply, bringing it back to meditation and bringing meditation into your life.

This quality of mindfulness isn’t about being delicate. Builders can be just as mindful as ballet dancers. In fact, mindfulness makes us more robust and steady. In the traditional stories about the Buddha, he is often described as being like an elephant. At that time, elephants would have been associated with royalty, but we can see that comparing the Buddha to an elephant might also have been a way of describing his mindfulness. Elephants are big, but they are not clumsy. In fact, they move in a very solid, definite, and also graceful kind of way. Apparently, elephants also look at things with a very steady gaze, and when they turn to look, they turn their whole bodies. I imagine that if an elephant was looking at us, we would feel we were receiving very full attention.

Mindfulness does also have a simple beauty to it. When I was a teenager, my family went on holiday to Guernsey, where we stayed with an old friend of my mother. Boop, as she was known, was not a Buddhist, but she had practised meditation and yoga for many years. I can remember thinking there was something different about her, but I didn’t know what it was. I would now say that she had a depth of mindfulness such as I’d not encountered before: her brown eyes were clear and sparkling, her face was open and expressive, and she moved with elegance and poise. Above all, she seemed self-aware and understanding of others. This impressed me deeply and, probably without her ever knowing it, she was a significant influence on my life.

Coming up in May

Hi there,

The people that I know all have their own unique experience in this time.

Some of my friends are quite enjoying a stepping back from the business of their previous lives, while others are suffering in many different ways that include grief over the loss of a loved one, illness, loneliness, boredom, worrying about money etc.

Whatever your experience and situation I believe it is important to stay connected with our friends. One way of doing this is to join us on our weekly zoom calls on Monday night at 7.30pm to 9.30pm.

If you have not registered for it then just go to https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/u5Iuc–pqjIpPaCyNk0DFt7eq5fZh94cHA . The system will then email you a link for the actual zoom meeting. You just need to click the words “Click here to join” in that email before 7.30 tonight. If you have registered for the last one, that will count for all future sessions (well at least for the next few months), and you do not need to register again. You just click the same “Click here to join” link. But if you have lost that email, just register again at the link above.

Mangala is leading the class on 4th May, and Danapriya is leading it on 11th May.

There are a lot of other Triratna zoom classes also available. Just check https://www.cambridgebuddhistcentre.com/ and https://londonbuddhistcentreonline.com/ for example.

In particular London Buddhist Centre is very active and they are doing an online course from 4th May to 10th May https://londonbuddhistcentreonline.com/7-steps-to-enlightenment/

Also Buddha Day is the biggest festival day in the Buddhist world, and there is a worldwide Buddha Day zoom celebration on Saturday 9th May and Sunday 10th May https://thebuddhistcentre.com/stories/toolkit/buddha-day/ . This is a joint celebration with hosted by people from New Zealand, Australia, India, UK, Mainland Europe, Mexico and USA . It should be a fantastic day, and hopefully see you at some of these sessions.

Keep safe, well and happy.

Keith

Coming up – Amber and Vajragupta

Our Zoom class has moved to Tuesday nights – 7.30pm

Amber is leading it 31st March

and Vajragupta has very kindly agreed to lead our zoom class on 7th April.

Everyone welcome including beginners. You do not have to “be a Buddhist” or to know anything about meditation.

An evening of meditation, talk and discussion.

He has written many books, and his visited our Hertford group twice (in real life!)

We actually studied his book “Buddhism: Tools for Living your Life” together for about a year. Like all his books it has a lot of depth and is very easy to read for a beginner. It is highly recommended if you would like to find out more about Buddhism.

His warmth and open heartedness shine through his words. It feels like reading a letter from a close friend.

He has recently become the chair of Croydon Buddhist Centre and you can see some of his recent Facebook lives at https://www.facebook.com/Croydon-Buddhist-Centre-144567908902949/ .

Register for this meeting by clicking:
https://zoom.us/meeting/register/u5Iuc–pqjIpPaCyNk0DFt7eq5fZh94cHA

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. It has a link in it near the bottom saying “Click here to join”. You need to click that link at the start time.

I think if you already registered in previous weeks you will not need to do so again as you will already be registered and you can use the same link. But if you have lost your link or email, just register again (as many times as you like!) with the same email address and you will go to a page with the join link.

It is actually a lot simpler that it sounds!

See you on zoom!

Keith

See you tonight! and more info about our online meetings.

Hi everyone,

Just a reminder that we are having an online meeting tonight at 7.30pm for about a couple of hours. Already 77 people have registered for this.

I am very happy that my good friend Danapriya has kindly agreed to lead it.

He set up the East Kent Buddhist Group in Deal around the same time as Rob and Helen set up the Hertford Buddhist Group (about 11 years ago). Right from the start the Deal group was a massive success and has lots of homegrown order members etc.

I first met him about 10 years at Padmaloka and I realised he could help us, so I put him in touch with Rob and he emailed a lot of great ideas to us. Later on at retreats at Adhisthana he gave a talk on how to make your Buddhist group thrive, and I got a lot more good ideas from him which have helped us make the Hertford group what it is today.

Also he is a close friend of Khemananda’s who many of you know well, and it was actually Khemananda who told Danapriya what we were doing with our zoom meetings.

I have been inviting Danapriya for years to come to Hertford, but the drive from Deal was a bit too far. Fortunately zoom makes it very easy.

He has also written a book which will be published in the summer: “It’s Not Out There: How to see differently and live an extraordinary, ordinary life “. More info is on his website http://www.danapriya.org/ .

The evening will be useful for him too, as he wants to get more confidence using zoom to conduct meetings, so I said he could use us as guinea pigs!

It will be a great evening. Not to be missed!

If you have not registered for it then just go to https://zoom.us/meeting/register/u5Iuc–pqjIpPaCyNk0DFt7eq5fZh94cHA . You just need to click the words “Click here to join” in the page that follows before 7.30 tonight.

If you have registered for the last one, that will count for all future sessions (well at least for the next few months), and you do not need to register again. You just click the same “Click here to join” link. But if you have lost that email, just register again at the link above using the same email address.

It works on smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop (if it has microphone and webcam). But it is much better if you use a laptop or desktop as you can do text chat more easily etc.

This week the meeting is on Monday. From next week onwards we are moving to Tuesdays.

I am really looking forward to having you join this online community. Although many of us are based in Hertford at the moment, I want to reach out and include anyone in the world who would like to be part of this. Also, you do not have to “be a Buddhist”. Newcomers are always welcome.

You are also very welcome to join our thriving and friendly Facebook group if you like: https://www.facebook.com/groups/205398687230606/ . Please comment on there about your life, your situation, and also about these meetings.

Or if you don’t like Facebook, then you can look at our blog https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/blog/

I am also starting a youtube channel that will show previous talks. It already has Mangala’s on there. Please subscribe https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-ipkuj4lRtRHdT0CLbQ2Cg . Once we get to 100 subscribers I am able to change the name to something a bit more user friendly.

Some meetings will be more focussed on meditation, others on Buddhism. Some will have a lot of talking by the leader, whereas others will have more interaction and discussion.

I like to mix things up a bit to get a bit of variety.

One advantage of all this is that it makes it very easy for people to join us. I will try and find some more great leaders in the weeks to come.

Hopefully you and your loved ones are staying safe and well in this time.

See you online!

Keith

All classes cancelled with immediate effect due to the coronavirus. Join us online instead!

Hi everybody,

There is new official Government advice given today on the BBC news webpage: ‘Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said everyone in the UK should now avoid “non-essential” travel and contact with others and to fight coronavirus. He said people should work from home and avoid pubs, club, theatres where possible, as part of a range of stringent new measures.’

We will of course follow that advice and close down the Tuesday class at the Millbridge Rooms with immediate effect. No class tomorrow or in the foreseeable future.

Of course we are hoping to restart things back up again as soon as the situation improves.

In the mean time, please stay connected with the sangha online as much as you can.

Our new Facebook group already has 49 members: https://www.facebook.com/groups/205398687230606

And we have a zoom meeting tonight at 7.30pm and weekly thereafter. You have to register for it in advance at https://zoom.us/meeting/register/u5Iuc–pqjIpPaCyNk0DFt7eq5fZh94cHA . You can download the free software (which gives a better experience), or you can do it through a browser. But you will need a mic and camera. So either a desktop with these, or a laptop, tablet or phone.

Tonight Mangala will be talking about the coronavirus and Buddhist practice. And it will be followed by an optional group chat. You can log off when you like.

It will be tonight and next Monday (23rd), then it will move to Tuesday nights as from Tuesday the 31st March.

with much metta

Keith

(and on behalf of Leah, Rob, Helen, and all our spiritual friends and advisors)

p.s. Amber is also cancelling her yoga class with immediate effect. No class tomorrow.

Coming up in March, April and May

Hi everybody,

By the way the photo is from Jnanavaca’s recent visit.

1) Coming up at the Hertford Buddhist Group:

10/3 – Padmajata
17/3 – Mangala and Keith
24/3 – Amber
31/3 – not yet known
7/4 – Padmajata
and then on 12/5 – Maitreyabandhu (author of the meditation course we do sometimes and several books including “Life with Full Attention”)

2) There is a “What is a mitra” day at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre on Sunday the 19th April, so if you would like to know more about what this means, please book up details on their website – https://www.cambridgebuddhistcentre.com/event/5567/what-mitra . There is a link to events at the top of the page.

You can also download and read a pdf about being a mitra on the hertfordbuddhistgroup website downloads page. It is also available as a hard copy that we distribute sometimes on Tuesday evenings.

Becoming a mitra (it means “friend”) is the next logical step if you have been coming for 6 months or more and want to deepen your practice and/or connection with the sangha. I would highly recommend it.

3) Also you might be interested in a joint retreat of the Hertford and Letchworth sanghas. May 15th to May 17th in Newmarket led by Padmajata and Yashodaka. The Old Stable House Retreat Centre, Newmarket. Theme : Who is the Buddha? On the retreat we will be exploring various dimensions of the Buddha – historical, archetypal/mythic and mysterious, through meditation, ritual, discussion, and being a Sangha together.

To come on the retreat you should be familiar with both meditation practices (mindfulness of breathing and metta bhavana), and be open to participating in Buddhist ritual.

Price £100 full rate (reduced rates are available)

To book or for more info email triratnaletchworth@yahoo.co.uk

4) Judging by the top stories on the BBC news website, I am sure many of us are concerned about the covid 19 coronavirus, so I wanted to say a few words about that. Also two of my friends have been told to work from home this week because of it, so things seem to be coming closer to home. Many of us alternate between denial, trying to shove it under the carpet, laugh it off and the opposite extreme of panic and paranoia.

The best strategy I believe is to keep a level head and take sensible precautions. Personally I am carrying on pretty much as usual, but trying to implement good hygiene habits now – things like washing my hands more, and keeping a bit more social distance (stopping handshakes, hugs, kissing etc). At some point the virus will come to Hertford, so it is prudent to have good habits already in place to reduce the chance of giving or receiving this thing.

From a Buddhist point of view, it is a reminder that if we are too attached to everything just being totally safe, secure and lasting for ever, then we are just going to cause ourselves more suffering. Existence is just not like that.

So it is better to take sensible precautions, carry on with our practices, live in the moment, let go, and accept and embrace things that we have no control over.

Hopefully our Hertford Buddhist Group will remain a sanctuary of sanity, community and joy.

As the Buddha said so beautifully in chapter 15 of the Dharmapada:

Happy indeed we live who are free from hatred among those who still hate. In the midst of hate-filled men, we live free from hatred.

Happy indeed we live who are free from disease among those still diseased. In the midst of diseased men, we live free from disease.

Happy indeed we live who are free from worry among those who are still worried. In the midst of worried men, we live free from worry.

Happy indeed we live who have nothing of our own. We shall feed on joy, just like the radiant devas (gods).

or in another translation:

Blessed indeed are we who live among those who hate, hating no one; amidst those who hate, let us dwell without hatred

Blessed indeed are we who live among those who are ailing, without ailments; amidst those who are so afflicted, let us live in good health.

Blessed indeed are we who live among those who are yearning for sense delights, without yearning for such things; amidst those who are yearning for sense delights, let us dwell without yearning.

Happy indeed are we who live without possessions. Let us feed on happiness, like the radiant gods (who feed on spiritual bliss).

See you soon hopefully

Keith

Happy New Year

Hi there,

Another decade has come and gone.

I hope that you had a nice relaxing time over Christmas, and are ready to embrace another year.

We all know that New Year resolutions tend to get forgotten about after a few days back in the “real world”. But even so, this time of year it is sometimes very useful to take a step back and think about what we are doing with our lives.

Are we doing things that we know will help make us better people, and this world a better place?
Do we want to have more meaning and freedom in our lives?
Do we have really good friends who support us, are a pleasure to be around, and who bring out the best in us?
Are we truly satisfied and joyful a lot of the time?
Or are we just biding our time on a lonely semi conscious hamster wheel of alternating stressful work and indulgence, just putting up with things till our next holiday?

However you answered those questions, maybe it is a good time to come along to Hertford Buddhist Group. We have some really good things coming up. Newcomers, beginners, meditators, Buddhists and non-Buddhists are all welcome.

7th Jan: Jnanavaca is visiting us for the first time to lead the class. He was chair of the London Buddhist Centre for about ten years, and is now the president of Cambridge Buddhist Centre.

14th Jan: We start a Mindfulness and Meditation course over 8 Tuesday evenings. You will need to buy the book “Life with Full Attention” by Maitreyabandhu, which is available at Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Life-Full-Attention-Practical-Mindfulness/dp/1899579982 and other book shops. More info at https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/mindfulness-and-meditation-8-week-course-beginners-welcome/ . Week 1 will be led by Leah and Keith
21st Jan: Week 2 led by Keith and Leah
28th Jan: Week 3 led by Khemananda
Following weeks led by Padmajata, Mangala and Amber.

Hopefully you can make it to some or all of these 🙂

On another subject, I am very happy that my good friend Leah has been invited to go on a three month retreat in Spain starting in April. During this retreat she will be ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Order.

She will be our first “home grown” order member at Hertford, and it will have a very positive and deepening effect on our group.

She has created a page https://www.gofundme.com/f/ordination-at-akashavana with more information, and where people are able to give money to help fund her retreat if they wish to.

All the best

Keith
http://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk

p.s. Here is an excerpt from Vajragupta’s book “Buddhism: Tools for living your life”, which we recommend to people new to Buddhism (as well as more experienced people)


Bare awareness and continuity of purpose

In order to explore further how we might develop mindfulness in daily life, we’re going to look in a little more detail at two dimensions of awareness drawn out in the texts from the early Buddhist tradition.9 First, sati, a Pali word which could be translated as ‘bare awareness’. Secondly, sampajanna, or ‘continuity of purpose’.

Bare awareness is that simple state of being collected, rather then semi-absent. You are more fully present in your experience. Your body, senses, heart, and mind are alive and receptive. You feel as though your feet are firmly on the ground – earthed and connected.

Some people can remember a moment in their childhood when they first became self-aware. I can remember one very ordinary day when I was about 4 or 5 years old. I was in the bathroom washing my hands and I can clearly recall the sandy orange of the walls, the white ceramic sink gleaming under the electric light, turning the soap in my hands, and holding my hands under the running water.

Suddenly, there was this strange sense of excitement and wonder that this was happening to me right now, right there. Perhaps bare awareness has something of the freshness and immediacy of that experience. We are aware, and aware of being aware. Perhaps you can recall other times or places in your life when your awareness has felt heightened in this way.

When we dwell in this kind of bare awareness, we become more attuned to things. Our awareness becomes more refined, subtle, and sensitive. We notice small changes and more detail. We look more, so we see more. Only those who know how to ‘stop and stare’ will notice the primroses nestling in the hedgerow, catch sight of a sparrowhawk as it hurtles through the trees, or enjoy the sodium orange of the streetlamp splashing and sparkling on wet tarmac on a winter’s night.

© Windhorse Publications

Mindfulness and Meditation 8 week course – beginners welcome

You are warmly invited to come to a eight week (ie 8 Tuesday evenings) course for anyone wanting to learn how to meditate and live their lives more mindfully.

All are welcome including total beginners, people who know nothing about meditation or mindfulness, as well as seasoned meditators.

The mindfulness section of the course is based on the excellent book “Life with Full Attention” by Maitreyabandhu, and you would need to buy that (eg https://www.amazon.co.uk/Life-Full-Attention-Practical-Mindfulness/dp/1899579982/ref=sr_1_1? ). The cost is £11.99.

There is no charge for the course itself. But we do invite people to make a donation towards our costs, so that we can carry on with what we do. Your donation could be any amount, but the suggested amount is £5 per evening.

Many people have found these courses extremely useful and have made massive shifts in their life from them (if they carry on practising and attending after the course).

People report these shifts especially in areas such as more happiness, less anxiety and less negative emotions. The general goal is to be more content, more mindful, have more loving kindness, joy, connection and ultimately more freedom from our reactive mind.

Repetition is important because there are different levels of depth, experience and understanding. If you have been before you will build on what you have learned and be able to go a bit deeper this time, so it is also suitable for experienced meditators.

If you want more information about the styles of meditation we teach you can go to http://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/meditation/ where there are also links to downloadable mp3s that can guide you while you meditate, as well as youtube videos etc.

It’s fine if you can’t manage to come to every week, each one can be enjoyed independently so just come along and drop into any that you can make. Although like anything, the more you put into it, and the more you attend, the more you will get out of it.

The classes will be very friendly, welcoming and a lot of fun. There will be a tea and biscuit break halfway through, so there will be a lot of opportunity to make new friends, and to catch up with old ones.

The course is held at our usual venue of the Millbridge Rooms (opposite Hertford Theatre). See the link below for a screenshot of our front door, and recommended car parks:

8 Tuesday evenings starting 14th January 2020 .

It is best to get there between 7.00 pm and 7.15pm, as we start shortly after that. Each class will finish at 9.45pm.

There is no need to bring anything apart from an open mind and willingness to explore your experience. We have lots of chairs and some cushions. However if you want to bring any cushions, mats, stools etc from home you are very welcome.

If you cannot come to this course, you can also come any Tuesday throughout the year as we always warmly welcome any newcomers and beginners, and give full instruction. Every Tuesday evening is run as a drop in class.

If you have any questions, please leave a message below, or alternatively direct message me on Facebook .

Hope to see you at the course 🙂

Keith