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Meditation course continues in October

Hi everyone,

I hope that all is well with you!

Why not drop in to one of our Tuesday evening meditation evenings on zoom? For the next 4 Tuesdays we are doing a meditation course, and then after that (from November onwards) the evenings are first half mediation, and second half Buddhism.

Each evening is self contained, so it does not matter if you just drop in for one of them. Newcomers are always welcome. All classes are free of charge. Go to the home page for more info and the link.

Meditation is really a fantastic thing to add into our daily schedule. I know many of you use headspace and other apps, but I have found it is much more powerful when we get in the habit of meditating in silence on our own, without an app.

This makes it a lot easier to access these states at any point during the day, even for just a few seconds. And the more times we do this during the day it just shifts our awareness and positivity, and colours the rest of our experience (in a good way) during the other parts of our day.

I know this requires a bit of effort and discipline, and coming to a meditation class and meditating with others is a great way of supporting ourselves with this.

Another purpose of our evenings is just to build community, and connect with like minded people trying to grow spiritually. We usually have breakout groups so we can get to know each other a bit.

So this is what is coming up:

05/10 – meditation course by Keith
12/10 – meditation course by Padmajata
19/10 – meditation course by Paramajyoti
26/10 – meditation course by Keith
02/11 – meditation and Buddhism by Jnanadaya
09/11 – meditation and Buddhism by Mangala
etc

That’s all for now. Have a great October!

Keith

p.s. Excerpt from one of my favourite books: “Buddhism: Tools for Living Your Life” by Vajragupta © Windhorse Publications

avoiding intoxicants, acting with mindfulness

This final precept is about taking mindfulness into everyday life. It suggests we avoid anything that intoxicates, or detracts from, our mindfulness. We have to decide for ourselves what these things are, and where we want to draw the line. We might find that we can have the odd drink without affecting our awareness too much, or we might decide that even one glass of wine mars our clarity. Our experience might be that there are other things that detract from our mindfulness.

For example, we find that spending too long in front of the computer spaces us out. Again, there are no hard and fast rules, but a principle that we have to apply in the world.

However, one could argue that a strong characteristic of our culture is our over-reliance of drink and drugs. Karen Armstrong, a writer on comparative religion, has recently suggested that many are seeking ecstasy through drink, drugs, sport, sex, dancing and clubbing, art, and even shopping.

We are looking for an experience that takes us out of ourselves. This is natural, and what humans have always sought. In the past, many did this through religious experience, but these traditions have today lost their vitality. Much contemporary religion has lost touch with its mystical roots, and may even be suspicious of them. So today we use different means. The problem is that this is often not grounded in ethics. This can lead some people to dependence on, or addiction to, drugs, or to the violence one sometimes sees on the football terraces. Also, the satisfaction it can give us just doesn’t go very deep, nor does it last very long.

This is because true ecstasy is a product of a way of being, not something we consume. So we either have ethics that is wary of ecstasy (much contemporary religion), or ecstasy not grounded in ethics (much of modern culture). Karen Armstrong suggests that the current western interest in Buddhism is connected to this search for an ecstasy that is firmly grounded in ethics. With this precept, we are also exploring the whole area of mindfulness in everyday life as discussed earlier in Chapter 2.

If we are not mindful, we cannot be aware of our actions, words, and underlying motives. In other words, mindfulness is the necessary condition for practising the other precepts, for dwelling more fully in the possibilities of our lives, for bringing more loving-kindness into the world.

6 Week Zoom Meditation Course Starting 21st Sep

Hi everyone,

We are keeping things on zoom at the moment while we are seeing what the next wave of covid is going to look like.


This is what is coming up in September and beyond:

07 September – Rob leading a class on karma and the positive precepts
14 September – Paramajyoti
21 September – 6 week meditation course starts lead by Keith
28 September – Week 2 of the meditation course by Mangala
05 October – Week 3 of the meditation course by Amber
12 October – Week 4 of the meditation course by Padmajata

The link to the Tuesday zoom class is always the same, https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/zoom . Newcomers and beginners are always welcome.

On our download page https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/downloads/ where you can download a few things including a 32 page pdf of notes and a meditation diary that the upcoming course is based around.

That’s all for now. Have a great September!

Keith

p.s. Excerpt from one of my favourite books: “Buddhism: Tools for Living Your Life” by Vajragupta © Windhorse Publications

Avoid false speech, communicate truthfully

The fourth precept asks us to communicate truthfully. Before we can speak the truth to others, we need to be in contact with the truth ourselves. Truthfulness is an inner attitude, as well as an outer quality. As we go about our lives, we tell ourselves a story, we interpret and process our experience internally. We need to do this. We need to construct for ourselves a healthy sense of who we are in relation to the world. But sometimes, if we look closely – and this may even shock us – we find we are telling ourselves a lie. We subtly tell ourselves a version of reality that shows us in a good light. We don’t want to admit, even to ourselves, that we act unkindly, that we have ungenerous thoughts, or that other people sometimes get the better of us.

One of the great qualities connected with truthfulness is authenticity – being seen as we truly are. To be authentic is no small achievement – it takes a great deal of courage and confidence and may take sometime to develop. The first stage in being authentic is to be so with oneself. Only then can we be authentic with others. The more we have this quality, the freer we are. When we are not afraid to be seen as we are, others cannot manipulate us.

When we don’t speak the truth, it is often because we want to be seen in a good light. We don’t exactly blame our colleagues for the mistake we make, but we omit to put our boss right when they assume it was someone else that was in the wrong. Or we exaggerate the details of a story we are telling because we want to impress. Sometimes, when you overhear a conversation between friends, it sounds more like a competition in which each is trying to trump the other with a better story, or a funnier joke. There is very little real communication. You might say that a little bit of exaggeration isn’t that serious. From one point of view it isn’t, but, on the other hand, it is a missed opportunity to be more truly ourselves, rather than merely keep up the pretence.

Ethically skilful communication involves more than just factual truth. To quote William Blake, ‘A truth that’s told with bad intent, beats all the lies you can invent.’ We are trying to communicate not just truthfully, but also with loving-kindness. We try to avoid harsh, unkind comments. I once heard about a woman who worked in an office where there was a lot of gossip behind someone’s back. She was eventually asked what she thought of that person. She replied that she knew she had plenty of faults herself, so she tried not to dwell on the faults of others. The gossip stopped.

When you are with someone who habitually speaks kindly and appreciatively of others it is very uplifting. I have a friend with whom I spend time every few weeks. When I was first getting to know him, I noticed that each time I returned home I would almost feel inspired, and I’d wonder why. We’d only chatted about ordinary things. I realized it was because he always spoke in a positive and appreciative manner. Negative words poison the atmosphere, but positive words are just as potent in having the opposite effect.

Have a lovely August

Hi everyone,

I hope that you are enjoying the summery weather and the relaxation in the lockdown.


A few Buddhist centres including Cambridge and London are starting to reopen face to face classes again. Some festival dates at the Cambridge centre are Padmasambhava Day on Sunday 19th Sept and Sangha Day on Sunday 21st November.

For the Tuesday night class at Hertford we will keep things on zoom a bit longer for the moment. Among other reasons I want to wait until the threat of covid settles down a bit. So will probably stay on zoom till at least the end of October.

Coming up on Tuesday nights:

10 August 2021 – Amber
17 August 2021 – Padmajata
24 August 2021 – Jnanadaya
31 August 2021 – to be announced
07 September 2021 – Karunadhara
14 September 2021 – Paramajyoti
21 September 2021 – Keith launches a 6 week meditation course

More info on all the above at https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/ .

That’s all for now. Have a great August!

Keith

p.s. Excerpt from one of my favourite books: “Buddhism: Tools for Living Your Life” by Vajragupta © Windhorse Publications

The fourth precept: Avoiding sexual misconduct – stillness, simplicity, and contentment

Why does sex get a precept to itself? Not because there is anything inherently sinful about sex, but because there is something inherently dangerous about it. Our sex life draws out some of our strongest desires, and it is here that we are often at our most intimate, and therefore vulnerable. So the potential to do harm, or be hurt, is increased.

This precept extends the first and second precepts into the arena of sexuality. It asks that we do not hurt or exploit through sexual relationships. This covers the obvious and extreme instances, such as rape, but we can also look at more subtle levels of the precept.

Our culture seems obsessed with sex. It is used to sell everything and anything. Acres of newsprint are given to sniggering at the sex lives of the famous, while magazine articles explain how to spice up your own sex life. As a culture, we’re in reaction to an era of sexual repression; it seems we’re trying to make up for lost time. But maybe we’ve just gone from one extreme to another. The third precept asks that we free ourselves from these cultural influences: there is no need to feel guilty about sex, nor do we have to go along with the current over-obsession.

Sex is natural, human, and can be very pleasurable, but we should not over-value it. Sometimes we get out of touch with ourselves and we feel empty inside. We look for something outside us to fill that gap. Sex is one of the things we turn to. So it is not that there is anything wrong with a healthy sex life, but we do not want to rely too heavily on, or be addicted to, sex.

The positive form of this precept is to practise stillness, simplicity, and contentment. Contentment is not an emotionally dry and withered state, but one of inner richness in which one does not need to look outside oneself for emotional satisfaction. It is not a state of non-emotion. A contented person might still feel passionately about some things. They have passion, but they do not let passion have them. In some religious institutions today, you hear of people who are celibate, but clearly they are not content. They seem emotionally restricted, lonely, and unhappy.

This is not a good advertisement for the states of contentment that are possible when we are deeply in touch with our vision and sources of emotional fulfilment. In the Buddhist tradition, the word for celibacy is brahmacarya, which literally means ‘dwelling with the gods’, which gives you a sense of what is meant by true contentment. It is a state of happiness and pleasure. We develop contentment not just by giving up that which is pleasurable, but also by refining our pleasures. We look for what gives us the deepest, truest satisfaction.

We can perhaps watch ourselves. Are there situations and times in which we are particularly content, and others in which we are prone to craving and restlessness? For example, I know that if I’ve been busy for too long and have lost touch with my inner inspiration, or lost my sense of connection with others, this is when I start to feel empty inside. Then I start craving something to fill the gap, and often think about sex more than usual. On the other hand, when I’m inspired, or enjoying open communication with others, or when I’m on retreat, I think about sex much less, and I feel more deeply content. Once we become aware of these patterns in ourselves, we can try to ensure we take time to cultivate pleasure and contentment.

Exciting news

Hi everybody,

Exciting news – we have our first home grown order member in Hertford.

Kiranadhi (formerly known as Leah) had her public ordination on June 29th. Kiranadhi means “She whose Wisdom shines like a Moonbeam”, which suits her perfectly. We are looking forward to welcoming her back to Hertford when her ordination retreat finishes.

In other news many Buddhist centres are starting to re-open their doors and have face to face classes and retreats. Nigel and Maisie from Hertford are becoming mitras in a few weeks on Dharma Day in Cambridge. This festival will be amazing blast of positive energy and is open to anyone who attends our classes regularly.

Being a mitra means that they want to follow the Buddhist path at a deeper level and become more connected with our spiritual community. If you want to know more, there is a pdf available on the downloads page of our website ( https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/downloads/ ).

(thanks to Bev for putting this montage together 4 years ago).

I am not sure when Hertford will start face to face classes again. I am thinking probably at the beginning of September, and we will have a 6 week meditation course starting around then as well. I will give you an update at the beginning of August.

But don’t wait till then. Please join us on zoom any Tuesday evening. More details are at https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/ .

Coming up:

06 July 2021 – Padmajata
13 July 2021 – Jnanadaya
20 July 2021 – Keith
27 July 2021 – Karunadhara
03 August 2021 – Paramajyoti

I hope to see you at some of these.

Have a great July!

Warm wishes

Keith

Coming up in June

Hi Everyone,

Have you joined our Facebook Group yet? I have just updated the web address from a meaningless string of numbers to https://www.facebook.com/groups/hertfordbuddhist/ . It already has 188 members, and is a great way to keep in touch with people, comment, like posts, ask questions, and build our community.

Did you know about the Mid Essex Buddhist Centre? You can find them on Google. It is about an hour’s drive East of Hertford, and halfway between Southend and Chelmsford. They have a lot of great stuff online including a skills auction to raise funds for their new Centre. We are blessed to be approximately in the middle between 4 centres, and the others are The LBC (London Buddhist Centre), The North London Centre and The Cambridge Centre.

In other news the Vision and Transformation course is now complete. Over the summer we will just have a series of one off classes.

Some Buddhist centres are opening up with in person classes. I am not sure yet about Hertford, but it will depend on what the Government says in the coming weeks. So for the moment, and at least for June, everything will still be on Zoom.

More information about our classes is at https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk

Coming up:

1st June (tonight) Jnanadaya
8th June Amber launches Buddhist Action Month with Earth Care
15th June Karunadhara – Why I am a Buddhist
22nd June Paramajyoti – Dedication Ceremony
29th June Keith
6th July Padmajata

See you soon hopefully

Keith

p.s. Excerpt from one of my favourite books: “Buddhism: Tools for Living Your Life” by Vajragupta © Windhorse Publications

There is a set of guidelines in the Buddhist tradition known as the five precepts. The rest of this chapter will be a brief exploration of these. You’ll see that each has a negative form – what it is we are trying to avoid – and a positive form: how we are trying to act. Because the discussion will be brief, we won’t be looking at some of the more complex dilemmas facing the world, such as ecological questions, or the desirability of genetic engineering. Many of these issues do require exploration from an ethical point of view but, for now, we are trying to capture the spirit of each precept and how it might manifest in ordinary life.

As we’ve already seen, these precepts are not rules, but principles we are trying to bring into effect. It is not the letter that is important, but the spirit and intention behind them. They are about developing skilfulness in our interactions with the world. Developing a skill takes practice. Like meditation, the ethical precepts are a practice. ‘Precept’ in this context means ‘training principle’. We gradually learn through experience and practice how to embody more awareness and love in the world.

First Precept: Not taking life, not harming, and acting with loving-kindness

The negative form of this first precept is not to take life or cause harm; the positive form is to act with loving-kindness. This precept emphasizes the need to try to be aware of others’ needs. It is concerned with putting the loving-kindness meditation into action in everyday life. Our intentions of kindness and well-wishing need to be acted on and made real – otherwise it can just become somewhat sentimental or abstract.

When we manage to respond to people’s needs, they usually notice and appreciate it. There was once a lady who came to our Buddhist centre who was in rather an unhappy state. She would talk at you incessantly about nothing in particular. Eventually she got it into her head that we Buddhists should open a vegetarian restaurant. She would phone up and, if we weren’t there, leave messages with soup recipes on our answering machine. Sometimes the messages would last for half an hour and use up all the tape.

One day she caught me on the phone and started to launch into another recipe. I felt myself tensing up with irritation. Just at that moment, I managed to understand what it was she really wanted. ‘But Ruth,’ I said, cutting across her, ‘How are you?’

There was a long silence. Then a sad and sorry voice started to tell me about her difficulties, her sick mother, and her own history of mental illness. Just for a few moments I’d been able to relate to her need to talk to someone. I’d got underneath the hopelessly mistaken strategy of non-stop talking she’d devised for trying to meet her need to communicate. Probably it was only rarely that someone asked her how she was. We’d broken through into real human communication.

How can we live our lives so that we help others to be enriched, expanded, and to be more human, rather than to be lessened or taken for granted? Can we think of appropriate practical activities? They might be large or small, but that doesn’t matter. This is the challenge of the first precept. This precept is the most important, in the sense that it contains the principle of non-harm and loving-kindness that underlies all the other precepts. The remaining four precepts can be seen as consequences of the first, almost as applications of this precept to other areas of life.

Buddha Day is coming up soon

Hi everyone,

I hope that all is well with you and you are enjoying the first signs of Spring.

Buddha Day is coming up soon. This is the biggest festival day in the Buddhist calendar and commemorates the moment of the Buddha’s enlightenment. Traditionally it is celebrated on the full moon day in April or May (May 26th), but different Buddhist centres choose a different day to celebrate it on. In Triratna we normally celebrate all festivals on a Sunday so that more people can attend.

Above photo is from Deb’s mitra ceremony in Cambridge in 2017


The London Buddhist Centre are celebrating it a bit early on Sunday 9th May (I am not sure why). They have a full day zoom event at https://londonbuddhistcentre.com/buddha-day-festival-week/

Everything takes place on the same Zoom link, so you can drop in to some parts or treat the day as a retreat for a more intensive day of practice on the most significant festival in the Buddhist calendar.

10am-1pm – Going for Refuge to the Buddha – meditation, reflection and mantra
2.15-3.15pm – Who is the Buddha? – a collective storytelling event
4-5.30pm – The Buddha’s Social Revolution – a keynote talk from Subhuti
7-9pm – Festival Day Puja with Mitra ceremonies

This post has lots of links to their many different classes https://mailchi.mp/7769ddafed81/next-week-and-an-intensive-yoga-course-1708518?e=6cfc9d496e . As you can see they have a lot of stuff going on.

To get you in the mood, you might also be interested in this collection of videos from last year’s international Buddha Day https://thebuddhistcentre.com/stories/toolkit/buddha-day/ . Hopefully they are doing another one this year but I am not sure of the date yet.) It was a real blast mixing up activities from all over the world and multiple time zones.

Closer to home, we are continuning our Vision and Transformation course at Hertford. It does not matter if you have missed previous weeks. Beginners and newcomers are always very welcome.

Go to https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk for the zoom link and more info.

Leading the class we currently have:-

4th May Jnanadaya
11th May Padmajata
18th May Keith
25th May Paramajyoti

Hope to see you at one or more of these.

I hope that you have a lovely May 🙂

All the best

Keith

p.s. Excerpt from one of our favourite books: “Buddhism: Tools for Living Your Life” by Vajragupta © Windhorse Publications

Ethics is the day-to-day implementation of this creative and responsive attitude to the world. We are attempting to be able to introduce awareness and clarity where there is confusion, understanding and sympathy where there is irritation, generosity where there is the pushing and shoving of too busy a world.

As we develop an ethical sensibility, we see more and more how we always dwell in possibility, how each moment contains choices and opportunities for such creativity. It is interesting to note that the traditional Buddhist Pali words that denote whether an act is ethical or unethical (kusala and akusala) mean ‘skilful’ and ‘unskilful’. So ethical practice involves developing a skill. For example, if someone has to give criticism that they know the recipient will find difficult, it requires an intention of loving-kindness, but also skilled communication and qualities of tact and sensitivity. Thus it is something that we can learn and improve upon.

The tendency to see ethics in terms of rules has, unfortunately, gained a real hold in our culture. Sometimes when you talk to people about non-violence, they immediately want to know what you’d do if an evil dictator was about to press the button to start nuclear war and you just happen to be in the same room as them with a gun in your hand. They’re really hoping they can catch you out by having to admit there might be circumstances in which you would need to use violence. They’re interpreting, and they think you are interpreting, ethics in terms of black-and-white regulations, absolute rules. But ethics are principles to be applied in a complex world alongside other important principles and considerations.

Deciding between the death of a megalomaniac or nuclear holocaust is thankfully not a choice I’m confronted with on a daily basis. There are, however, dozens of occasions each day when I could choose to act with more awareness, or greater kindness. It is here that ethics comes into play. Discussions of ethics are often couched in terms of ‘What would you do if X happened?’ But perhaps a better question would be ‘What kind of person do I want to become?’ It is more important to develop the good qualities with which to make ethical decisions, than to know all the rights and wrongs of specific situations.

If we notice ourselves relating to ethics in terms of fixed rules, we may need to free ourselves of this mindset. On the other hand, it can be helpful to have ethical guidelines. They help us to be conscious of our ethical values, to remember those values and bear them in mind from day to day. These guidelines become benchmarks that we use to train ourselves, to develop more skill in the ethical sphere. They become apart of our way of life.

exercise – living on a desert island

This is an exercise I’ve sometimes done in groups, but you can try it as a reflection to do on your own.
Imagine you are stranded on a desert island with several other people, and you are together devising guidelines on how you should behave towards each other. What five guidelines would you suggest to your fellow islanders? Formulate them and write them down. Try to come up with your personal response, what you believe is most important, rather than repeat ethical guidelines you have come across elsewhere (including Buddhist ones). Do you find it easy or difficult to come up with ideas? Later, you can compare your list with the traditional Buddhist guidelines, such as the five precepts discussed below. Are there overlaps and similarities? Are there notable differences?

No matter how many times I’ve seen this exercise repeated in different groups of people, there is a noticeable overlap in the guidelines among the different groups. This suggests that, even if we are not fully conscious of them, we do have ethical values that inform our lives. We have a strong intuitive sense of ethics.

New 6w course starting Tuesday 13th April – Vision and Transformation

Happy Easter 🙂

I love this time of year as Spring is in the air, and I even got the sun lounger out of the shed yesterday. This annual ritual heralds the advent of sunshine, and lighter warmer evenings.

Also the pandemic continues to contract as more people get vaccinated. Having got used to this hermit like existence, it is actually possible to start dreaming of meeting up again with friends and family in real life once again. Plus we will be able to go away on retreat which is something I really miss.

It has been so long, that I have almost forgotten what all this was like. But I know it was good, and will be good again 🙂

I am not sure yet about our group. But I am guessing that things will stay on zoom for at least the next couple of months.

In other news we have a course starting on the 13th April – Vision and Transformation. Like all our courses we will teach meditation from scratch, newcomers are very welcome, and you don’t have to “be a Buddhist”. This one will also focus on getting in touch with our spiritual vision, and transforming our lives into more alignment with that.

No need to book, just turn up on 13th April.

06 April – Paramjyoti will talk on Milarepa
13 April – Keith will kick off week 1 of the course
20 April – Mangala will lead week 2
27 April – Amber will lead week 3
04 May – Jnanadaya will lead week 4
11 May – Padmajata will lead week 5
18 May – Karunadhara will lead Week 6

I hope to see you at some of these.

All the best, and enjoy the sunshine 🙂

Keith

p.s. Excerpt from one of our favourite books: “Buddhism: Tools for Living Your Life” by Vajragupta © Windhorse Publications

buddhist ethics
It is worth reflecting on our predisposition to the idea of an ethical life, since we often, I think, inherit from our surrounding culture a seriously impoverished view of what ethics is about. Or sometimes we have negative associations with the idea of ethics and morality because our previous experience was of it being inculcated in us in a narrow or dogmatic way. I’ve frequently noticed upon meeting someone and their discovering I’m a Buddhist, their first question is something like, ‘What does that mean you’re not allowed to do, then?’ or, ‘Does that mean you’re not allowed to drink?’ They identify ethics with rules, and with not being allowed to do what you want.

My reply to their questions is that as a Buddhist I can do whatever I like. However, I might choose to do, or not do, some things because of the effects I know they will have on me and on others. Buddhist ethics is not a list of rules and regulations, but about trying to make wise and aware choices. In the last two chapters we looked at meditation as the cultivation of positive frames of mind: those of mindfulness and loving-kindness. The practice of ethics involves acting in ways that are motivated by these qualities. If we do this, certain consequences follow. First, the positive frame of mind that we’ve acted from is reinforced. We are cultivating happiness for ourselves. Secondly, it has a much more positive effect on the world than if we had acted on the basis of a negative frame of mind. We are also cultivating happiness for others.

In other words, we could say that we are trying to bring creativity to our actions, in the sense of bringing awareness into our interactions with the world, instead of acting in the same tired, habitual, irritable, or busy way. When we are being creative, in the sense the word is being used here, we bring something new to the situation. We are more able to rise above a difficult situation. Whatever happens, we will try to be creative; to do so becomes deeply part of who we are. Someone like the Dalai Lama seems to be creative in this way. To all the troubles his people have faced under Chinese occupation, he could have easily – and understandably – responded with hatred or anger. But he seems to rise above the situation and encourage others to respond peacefully and with equanimity. This example has inspired many people all over the world.

Put another way, happiness is not something you can ‘get’ if only your life would work out just right. Happiness is a by-product of an aware and creative approach to life. It is this creativity that is the true source of happiness and contentment. That’s why you can sometimes meet someone who has everything materially, but still doesn’t seem satisfied. Or, you may meet someone whose life circumstances are hard, who undergoes suffering, but they meet it with an inner richness and optimism that is uplifting to witness. Despite their difficulties, they seem to be happy.

A new course starting in April – Vision and Transformation

Hi everyone,

Hopefully all is good with you.

I personally feel a new optimism in the air. Covid rates seem to be falling quite fast, more and more people are getting vaccinated and we have already had a couple of nice sunny days.

I am looking forward to the time when we can start meeting up in person again at the Millbridge Rooms in Hertford, but at the moment everything is still zoom only.

Just to let you know what is coming up on Zoom.

Please join us 🙂

9th March – Paramajyoti is leading the class. After the meditation we will be exploring the poem “Meditation” by Sangharakshita which contains some deep insights on the subject.
16th March – Jnanadaya is leading the class. He is currently on staff at the London Buddhist Centre, although he is leaving there soon to return to Buckinghamshire.
23rd March – Padmajata
30th March – not yet known
6th April – not yet known
13th April – Keith leads week one of a new six week course “Vision and Transformation” which explores how we can start with a vision of a higher more expansive state of consciousness, and then how we can then transform our lives based on that vision.
20th April – Mangala is leading week two

Basically, just zoom in at https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/zoom around 7.20pm for a prompt start at 7.30pm. Newcomers and beginners are always welcome. You don’t have to “be a Buddhist”. There is no charge. The class ends at 9.30pm. Every class includes meditation with full instruction.

Kind regards

Keith

p.s. Excerpt from one of our favourite books: “Buddhism: Tools for Living Your Life” by Vajragupta © Windhorse Publications

Ethics: taking practice into the world

Do not take lightly small misdeeds,
Believing they can do no harm:
Even a tiny spark of fire
Can set alight a mountain of hay.

Do not take lightly small good deeds,
Believing they can hardly help:
For drops of water one by one
In time can fill a giant pot.12

Three weeks into a weekly meditation course, a man came to speak to -me. ‘If I carry on with this,’ he said, looking at me intently, ‘doesn’t it mean that I’m going to have to change my life?’

He’d already seen that if he seriously engaged with meditation it was going to have implications for his whole life. Meditation wasn’t just something one did to unwind for half an hour at the end of the day, but a whole new way of living.

Taking up meditation doesn’t necessarily entail living in a remote cave, or setting fire to our TV in a fit of renunciation. But if we are systematically cultivating awareness and loving-kindness, it is bound to have an effect on how we act on a day-to-day level. As we begin to enjoy a greater clarity of mind, we might start to resist aspects of our lives that detract from that awareness. Or we may start to notice emotional attitudes that are unhelpful, which might cause us to act in ways we regret, and we realize we want to revise them.

So we start making changes. Sometimes we do this without noticing – it just happens automatically. For example, we realize that formerly when we ate our breakfast, we would have listened to the radio while we read the paper. Now we only read the paper, or listen to the radio, but not both. We notice that these days we prefer to be without too much distraction around us.

Sometimes the change is more of a deliberate choice, yet it still comes easily and naturally. We might decide, for instance, to drink less alcohol because we’ve noticed that it doesn’t help our meditation the following morning. In the event, we are surprised how little we miss it.

At other times, we decide to make a change that involves a bit more of a wrench, but we do it anyway. Although part of us resists, there is enough of us behind doing it to make it seem like a good idea. For example, when we have done the loving-kindness meditation for awhile, we may feel we want to be vegetarian, but we also know we will miss eating meat. So perhaps we decide to change our diet over a period of time, say by not eating meat but still eating fish for a while.

In other words, we start lifting the practice away from the meditation cushion and spreading it more widely into our daily lives. We increasingly want to be able to act on the basis of the positive states of mind that we are cultivating in meditation. We aspire to change ourselves, move away from habits that limit us, and become better able to embody awareness and embrace loving-kindness. We want, if we can, to have a more positive effect on the world. Taking awareness and loving-kindness into our lives and out into the world is the practice of ethics.

exercise – what about ethics?

Take a few minutes to consider your thoughts, feelings, and associations with the idea of being ethical. What does this mean to you? Does it sound pious and off-putting? Or is it necessary, but dull? Or do you find the idea interesting, even inspiring? Jot down any responses as they occur to you.

Welcome to February.

Hi everyone,

Welcome to February.

Our course is going really well, and we had a lot of newcomers joining us.

This evening, the whole evening will be focussed on meditation.

Just turn up tonight https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/zoom , or at any Tuesday between 7.15pm and 7.30pm. Newcomers are very welcome.

The current line up is as follows:

02 Feb Jnanadaya
09 Feb Padmajata
16 Feb Karunadhara
23 Feb Keith
02 March Amber
09 March Paramajyoti

Hopefully see you at some or all of these.

Have a great month!

All the best.

Keith


p.s. Excerpt from one of our favourite books: Buddhism: Tools for Living Your Life by Vajragupta © Windhorse Publications

expanding outwards

The final stage of the loving-kindness meditation has two aspects. First, we think of the four people in the practice so far (ourselves, the good friend, the neutral person, and the difficult person), and try to cultivate this sense of well-wishing to them equally. Then we gradually include more and more people. We can do this in a number of ways. We could try to sense loving-kindness radiating out in all directions, or even visualize it in the form of light or a colour expanding outwards. Or we might imagine people in different parts of the world.

In our imaginations we can travel north, south, east, and west, trying to get a sense of all the people we might meet. Or we can bring to mind people in different situations. At this very moment babies are being born and old people are breathing their last few breaths, some people are going to bed and others are getting up to a new day, some are facing terrible suffering, while others experience joy.

Sometimes we find this stage of the practice difficult. It may have been going along quite well, but then trying to hold all these people and situations in our imagination is too much and we lose the thread. If this happens, we can take a more modest approach: just thinking of new people and situations. The principle is simply to expand outwards in whatever way we can.

Whatever technique we use, we are trying to bring about a warm well-wishing to all that live. We want anyone and everyone to be happy. This is a high ideal, but sometimes when this stage of the practice goes well, it feels as though loving-kindness is flowing through us. We can feel light, expansive, and open-hearted.

exercise – reaching out into the world

Now incorporate this final stage into your loving-kindness meditation.

You could start by thinking of people in a distant place you have recently seen on TV or read about in a newspaper, putting yourself in their shoes in the same way as in stage three. Or, if this does not help you to connect emotionally, you could try thinking of a distant place you have visited, and the people who are there right now. Alternatively, you might imagine a part of the world where you have a relative or a friend, and then imagine other people around them. The trick is to find some way of establishing an emotional connection, but not being impatient if it doesn’t always work, or takes a long time.


Through this meditation, and through using the same principles in our actual daily life, we can radically transform our emotional attitudes. We can come to a much better understanding of our own emotions and learn to see others more kindly.

Of course, we will never completely understand other people and should be careful of being too keen to analyse and think we understand them. Each of our histories, influences, and hidden potentials are too deep and subtle for that. We should always hold our opinions about people with a degree of tentativeness. In fact, we will never completely understand ourselves, let alone other people. As we grow older, one of the things we realize is that we will always be, to some extent, a mystery, even to ourselves. There will be parts of ourselves we never fully perceive or comprehend. Despite this, our understanding of ourselves and of others can always go deeper, and so, in consequence, can our ability to love.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year’s Eve everyone,

1) This is a very unique time of year. A time where “year in review”, “5 year plan”, “10 year plan” types of thoughts rise to the surface.

My own life never really much panned out according to my plans. It just seemed to be a succession of accidents – some fortunate, some unfortunate, most very insignificant, and a handful extremely significant.

Nonetheless, I think it is extremely useful every now and again to just take a step back from our “hamster running in a wheel” type existences and just re-evaluate our lives a bit.

Maybe our life is full of joy and meaning. In which case that is great.

And maybe it isn’t. In that case, the question arises is there anything you can do about it? Or do you just have to grin and bear it.

So many of us live our lives to keep others happy – parents, wife, husband, partner, kids, family, boss, co-workers, customers etc. So many people are making constant demands on us.

So just make sure that you realise you do actually have a degree of choice. This is not to say we have to make dramatic changes in our external life. More important is the inner change we can make in our awareness. To have more inner freedom and choice, and less running on autopilot with our voiceovers.

Did you spend 2020 wisely? Did you live from your highest ideals? Did you do what you really wanted? Is it a year that you will look back on fondly, full of meaning, kindness and growth?

In a sense, it does not really matter, as we can’t go back and change the past. However, we can use this contemplation to steer us on a better course in 2021, and for the rest of our lives.

I have personally found that what really helps give my life more meaning is when I take a step back and see things from a higher perspective. Normally I would go on a retreat, but I am waiting till the covid risk recedes a bit before I do this. Another way of doing this is to participate in a course.

2) Just like every other year, we are holding a beginners meditation and Buddhism course in January. This is ALWAYS our busiest time of the year.

People are full of good intentions to turn over a new leaf. That is of course a good thing. The bad thing is that we are not like this the rest of the year. But that doesn’t mean we should just give up and be cynical about the whole exercise.

Just like every other Tuesday evening, you are very welcome to join us. https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/zoom

It is not about joining an organisation, having to believe in any belief system, surrender to a guru, or pay lots of money etc. You do not have to know anything about Buddhism, or know how to meditate, or anything like that.

There is no charge. We are doing this freely, as we really believe in what we are doing – becoming more conscious together, building a supportive spiritual community, creating a loving space which supports our inner journeys etc.

Maybe you have never attended one of our classes, maybe you have come once or a few times before. In any case, you are very welcome to join us any Tuesday evening. We start proceedings very promptly at 7.30pm and finish about 9.30pm. Best to get there about 7.20.

This year we are doing the acclaimed Radical Dharma course. I hope that you enjoy it and also get a lot out of it. See you there hopefully 🙂

05 January 2021 Keith
12 January 2021 Amber
19 January 2021 Nandaketu
26 January 2021 Jnanadaya
02 February 2021 Paramajyoti
09 February 2021 Padmajata
16 February 2021 Karunadhara

Future Tuesdays – to be confirmed

3) 8 week online Mindfulness courses January 2021

Helen Bond has been part of the Triratna Buddhist community for over 20 years and is a qualified counsellor. She is offering two 8-week mindfulness courses on zoom in January 2021; starting on Monday January 25th; one in the afternoon from 2-4pm and one in the evening from 7-9pm.

MBSR (Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction) and MBCT (Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy) are based on mindfulness courses developed originally by the acclaimed teacher Jon Kabat Zinn; offering a scientifically proven, evidence-based approach that demonstrates how attending to experience in a non-judgemental way can help you to face stressful situations with increased confidence and improve overall well-being

The course consists of talks, guided meditations (sitting and movement) and exercises as well as a chance to discuss your experience in breakout groups. You will be sent guided meditations and encouraged to bring mindfulness into everyday life.

Although the course is secular, it is based on Buddhist principles, and is suitable for those who are experienced meditators or those who are new to mindfulness practices – no prior experience of mindfulness is necessary.

There will be a joining fee of £40 and then by donation. If you are interested in attending a course, or would like to know more about the course please contact Helen at bondhelen7@gmail.com . Please indicate your preference for Monday afternoon or evening.

4) If you’d like to find out more about the zoom sangha yoga class please email Amber at ecogreenkashmir@gmail.com . The class is led by Amber and is every Tuesday 6.15pm to 7.15pm .

I hope that you have a wonderful New Year’s Eve and 2021.

Keith