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Face to face classes starting on 14th of June plus other events


Hi everyone,

I hope that all is well with you.

1) June is an exciting month for us as we are going to resume face to face Tuesday night drop in classes for the first time since the pandemic started over two years ago.

It has been such a long time. It is hard to remember what face to face classes were like. But I do remember they went a lot deeper than the zoom classes we have been doing. So it will be great to reconnect with old friends, and also meet new ones.

We are starting on the 14th of June (led by Padmajata and Keith)

On the 21st of June Khemananda will come up from London to lead the class. Then there will be a face to face class every week after that.

Doors open at 7pm for the general public. Good to get there between 7pm and 7.20pm, and we will start very promptly at 7.30pm. The venue is the Millbridge Rooms opposite Hertford Theatre. https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/location/

You don’t need to bring anything. We will give full meditation instruction. You do not need to be “a Buddhist”. And newcomers are always very welcome. The classes are free, but we do give you the opportunity to make a small donation if you would like.

We will have a tea and biscuit break around 8.30pm, and we finish around 9.45pm.

2) Regarding the zoom classes, it seemed a shame to just end them, as many of the zoom regulars are unable to come face to face. So on a trial basis, we are making them monthly, and also moving them onto Wednesday night. 7.30pm to 9.30pm on the last Wednesday of every month (starting on 29th June) – using our normal link – https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/zoom

Our final Tuesday drop in zoom class will be on 7th June led by Paramajyoti, Keith and Amber

Also this month there are a couple of other things going on.

3) There is a one off workshop with Vajradaka open to all regulars on 12th June 10am to 1pm in Ware.

He has been teaching meditation since the 1970s and is well known for his creative and engaging workshops. With a skill in teaching simultaneously both newcomers and experienced meditators, Vajradaka offers something for everyone. This really is a great opportunity to develop your meditation practice right from where you are. There is no fixed cost for this Sunday morning three hour workshop, we simply ask for a donation.

All welcome – email hertsbuddhistmeditation@gmail.com to secure your place and receive venue and donation details.

4) Also June is BAM (Buddhist Action Month). The Hertford Earth Sangha are organising some events

June 10 at 10.30am
Nature Walk at RSPB Rye Meads SG12 8JS. Meet outside visitor centre and bring binoculars if you have some.

June 11 at 7.30am
Walking meditation in nature at Hartham Common in Hertford. Meet at the tennis courts followed by breakfast and coffee in town

June 16 & 30 – 7.30pm to 9pm
Climate cafe at the Millbridge Rooms, Hertford. Informally discuss ideas, concerns and action with meditation, tea and cake.

If you want more information about these or future events, then please email hearthsangha@yahoo.com

5) That is all for now. This email is quite long enough, so I will not add a book excerpt this week.

Hope to see you soon 🙂

Keith

Restarting face to face classes on 14th June

Hi there,

Great news!

We will (hopefully) be restarting face to face classes on the 14th June.

Many people are asking me when we will restart. People either seem to have a strong preference for zoom or for face to face.


But I think it is looking like the time is right to restart. It has been over two years now on zoom, but I think most people are starting to realise that face to face does have a lot of advantages (as well as the obvious disadvantages).

Anyway.

This is what is coming up:

5 more Zoom evenings
10/5 Meditation evening led by Keith and Maisie
17/5 Meditation evening led by Paramajyoti
24/5 Meditation evening led by Amber
31/5 Not yet known
07/6 Not yet known

On 14th June we are expecting to resume face to face classes at the Millbridge Rooms after more than 2 years on zoom.

This is slightly up in the air, as it may depend on the covid situation, or something else unforseen. But it is my present intention 🙂

See you at one of these evenings hopefully!

Keith


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

Right Livelihood

Buddhist lifestyles

The wide range of people taught by the Buddha practised in a variety of ways. Some followed his earlier example and went into the forest to explore the depths of meditation. Some remained in their lay lifestyles, but still pursued the spiritual life and made substantial progress. Some became renunciants, living on the outskirts of towns and villages, but travelling into them to gather food from the laypeople, give teachings, and conduct the business of the order.

It is much the same today. There are a variety of ways in which we can follow the path. Each will have particular strengths and potential dangers. When finding a way to practise, it is also a question of finding what suits our temperament. It is not the case that what is right for one person will work for all. It is important to realize this, otherwise we may become discouraged.

Sometimes we see that a person who teaches Buddhism has a different lifestyle from us – one that we could not follow. Perhaps they live with other Buddhists and go on retreat a lot, whereas we have a busy family life. So we start thinking that practising in our situation is impossible, and we become despondent. Or we might be genuinely impressed with the teacher’s qualities and attributes, so we think we should be able to be like them. But then we find we can’t – our temperament and talents are just different. We have to find our own way – a path that suits our particular abilities and character. This just takes time.

Many people, when they come across the Buddhist path, have responsibilities such as family that they cannot, and do not wish to, leave. So most people pursuing Buddhism in the West are probably going to be practising ‘in the world’. One advantage of this mode of practice is that the world will keep you on your toes! If we are active in the world, ethical challenges are guaranteed. We encounter people we find difficult, and there are multiple demands on our time and generosity. Although we might wish at times that these problems would all go away, they can be challenges that spur us on to develop. Without them, we might not make much effort in our meditation.

This is my experience. It is often when life is difficult, and I’m struggling, that I’m most motivated in meditation. At these times I know I have to meditate – otherwise life will be hell! When times are easier, meditation can seem less of an imperative.The danger inherent in practice in the world is that we can become overwhelmed by the world. We struggle to find the time to meditate, and when we do find it, our minds are so stimulated by the busyness of our day that our meditation seems hopeless. We find it too difficult to implement ethical ideals when surrounded by people who have no interest in them. Perhaps we are so immersed in the world that we even start to lose sight of those ideals ourselves.

With practice apart from the world it is the opposite. The strength of this approach is that we will not be swamped by the world. On the contrary, we have time and space to explore the spiritual life, relatively free from stress, worry, and distraction. We can do so in ideal conditions – perhaps in quiet, beautiful countryside, or with others who are doing the same thing and therefore support our efforts. We dwell in a place where everything is designed to remind us of, and support, our ideals and aspirations.

At the same time, unless we are sufficiently self-motivated and alive to the dangers, we might just tread water. We might be going through the motions in our practice, but our lives don’t really challenge us, spur us on, or provide the medium in which we learn to consider the needs of others. In a way, it could become too supportive.

There is no perfect solution: however we choose to live the spiritual life, there will be opportunities and potential dangers. We just have to be aware of these, and negotiate the territory as best we can. Assuming that most people who will be reading this book will be practising in the world, most of what follows concerns that path.

Learn meditation for free in our 6 week zoom course starting Tuesday 19th April 7.30pm

Hi everyone.

Learn meditation for free in our 6 week course starting Tuesday

On Tuesday we start a free six week zoom meditation course that is suitable for complete beginners as well as old hands.

Hope to see you there 7.30pm to 9.30pm. Best to arrive about 7.20pm, as we will start promptly at 7.30pm.

It is the same link as always which is:

https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/zoom

You can also download a meditation workbook pdf with 32 pages that accompanies the course.

http://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/HBG-6-week-med-course4-complete.pdf

It includes a meditation diary, so you can have a different question to explore every day during your meditation for 6 days each week (Wednesday to Monday) for 6 weeks (36 questions). Plus there are some very deep and useful teachings on our two meditation practices that are contained in the notes.

If you use them as guidance before and after you meditate, they will help you go deeper into the practices.

Hope to see you at the course!

all the best

Keith

Face to face classes postponed till end of May or June. Course starts 19/4

Hi everyone,

I hope that all is well.

In my last monthly email I wrote: “I am hoping to restart face to face classes at the Millbridge Rooms in Hertford just after Easter on the 19th April, and then start a 6 week meditation course there the following week on the 26th April. That is the plan anyway. I will let you know for sure at the beginning of April.”

I was sort of hoping that covid risks would continue going down, but since then the BBC reports “about one in every 16 people is infected, . That’s just under 4.3 million people, up from 3.3 million the week before.” And numbers continue to rise.

I know omicron is not as bad as previous versions, and we can’t stay in lockdown forever.

But it can be pretty bad. One of my boosted friends had it recently and was pretty ill for a couple of days, one horrendous night and she still has some post viral fatigue and coughing. Another boosted friend in her late 60s was ill for two weeks with it, and now still has post viral fatigue.

Although I am really looking forward to face to face classes again, and I know that many of you are too, I am thinking it might be a bit prudent to wait just a bit longer till the warmer weather starts and hopefully the covid risk is down again. So we will stay on zoom a bit longer.

I am thinking of reverting to face to face classes some time between end of May and mid June. I will give you a better idea next month.

So this means we will start the meditation course a week earlier on the 19th April.

Coming up:

05 April 2022 Amarachandra (female mitra convenor at Cambridge Buddhist Centre)
12 April 2022 Amber

then Easter

19 April 2022 Keith (week 1 of 6 week meditation course)
26 April 2022 Paramajyoti (week 2)
03 May 2022 week 3
10 May 2022 week 4
17 May 2022 week 5
24 May 2022 week 6

Our thoughts continue to go out to everyone suffering at this time whereever they are in the world – especially in Ukraine.

In any case. I hope that you have a lovely Easter break and enjoy the rest of April. Hopefully see you soon.

Keith

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

Buddhist lifestyles

We could say, putting it simply, that there are two ways of practising, two basic Buddhist lifestyles. One could be called ‘practice in the world’, and the other, ‘practice apart from the world’.

Practice in the world means living in the midst of society. Maybe we have a job, or we’re bringing up a family, or we continue participating in society in some other way. But we are also, at the same time, trying to put Buddhist teachings and practices into effect.

Practice apart from the world means we leave society to some extent. Perhaps we live in a retreat centre in the countryside, or a monastery, or a hermitage. We have deliberately isolated ourselves from the world in order to be able to concentrate solely on Buddhist practice. We spend as much of our time as possible in this environment, leaving it only when we need to.

Both these are valid forms of practice that have been present in Buddhist traditions right from the start. The Buddha left society in order to pursue a spiritual quest. He went deep into the forests to seek out spiritual teachers and to meditate on the mysteries of existence. This is often the popular image of the Buddha: a solitary, meditating figure.

But that was not the whole story. After the Buddha gained Enlightenment, he returned to the world. He travelled all over north-east India, teaching and communicating his experience of Enlightenment, so that others could experience that freedom for themselves. He founded an order, so that his followers could support each other in their practice, and so that his teaching could be passed from generation to generation. The organization of this order, and all the teaching, meant he was a busy man. As he travelled around, he would often have been accompanied by a retinue of followers, with hundreds of people coming to hear him talk and ask questions. He also went back to his family, and many of them became his followers – some also gaining Enlightenment. He met and taught all sorts of people, from a wide variety of backgrounds.

So we can see that there was a stage in his life when the Buddha did practise apart from the world, but then he returned. We can see both ways of functioning exemplified in his life.

Face to face classes hopefully restarting soon

Hi there,

Hi there,

I am hoping to restart face to face classes at the Millbridge Rooms in Hertford soon.

That is the plan anyway. I will let you know for sure at the beginning of April.

We will carry on with zoom for the next few weeks, but thankfully the risk from covid appears to be diminishing at last.

coming up the next few weeks we have:

08 March 2022 Amber
15 March 2022 Keith
22 March 2022 Keith
29 March 2022 Paramajyoti
05 April 2022 not known
12 April 2022 not known

The zoom link is https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/zoom Tuesdays – log in to zoom 7.15pm to 7.30pm beginners and newcomers always welcome.

Then after Easter we will probably stop zoom and go back to face to face classes in the Millbridge rooms

19 April 2022 Relaunch of the face to face class in the Millbridge rooms
26 April 2022 6 week meditation course starts in the Millbridge rooms.

After we revert back to real life I imagine we will still have occasional zoom events as I know some of you can’t come face to face. More details in future newsletters.

I feel I ought to write some words about the war in Ukraine. Many of us are struggling at the moment with the horrific suffering there. I am trying to witness it with compassion and some equanimity, without becoming overwhelmed with pain and anger.

It is hard to know what to say, so I will paste here a quote from the Dalai Lama who speaks with much heartfelt wisdom :

“I have been deeply saddened by the conflict in Ukraine.

Our world has become so interdependent that violent conflict between two countries inevitably impacts the rest of the world. War is out-dated – non-violence is the only way. We need to develop a sense of the oneness of humanity by considering other human beings as brothers and sisters. This is how we will build a more peaceful world.

Problems and disagreements are best resolved through dialogue. Genuine peace comes about through mutual understanding and respect for each other’s wellbeing.

We must not lose hope. The 20th century was a century of war and bloodshed. The 21st century must be a century of dialogue.

I pray that peace is swiftly restored in Ukraine.

The Dalai Lama
February 28, 2022″

Keith

Our course continues

Hi there,

I hope all is well with you. Our course is going very well. We have been averaging about 25 attendees which is not bad for zoom.

Also several people on the course have been giving great feedback about how attending is helping them experience a positive change in their lives. Each week is self contained, so it is fine to drop in any week, and it does not matter if you have never been before, or don’t know anything about Buddhism.

We also always try and have breakout groups in our zoom sessions to give people more of a chance to get to know each other and explore the course content. Also, if you want to find out more you can always google “The Journey and the Guide”, you might find versions of it on youtube, mp3s, and also of course the actual book, if you are interested.

Coming up we have the final 4 weeks of the course:
08 February 2022 Week 5 – Amber
15 February 2022 Week 6 – Keith
22 February 2022 Week 7 – Paramajyoti
01 March 2022 Week 8 – not yet known

We are staying on zoom for the moment, but will go back to face to face at some point when covid rates drop a bit more.

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

Keith

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

Anne Donovan has written a funny and perceptive novel called Buddha Da.16 It is the story of a Glaswegian family: Jimmy, a painter and decorator, his wife Liz, and their daughter Anne-Marie. Jimmy has become interested in meditation and started going along to the Buddhist centre. At first, Anne-Marie wonders whether it is just one of his practical jokes, but she gradually realizes he is serious. She and her mother find it weird that dad, who used to spend his evenings sitting with them watching telly and cracking jokes, now goes upstairs to sit for hours on his own in a darkened room. Liz cannot understand why Jimmy comes home from the centre in such awe of what the lama said that night.

To her, it sounds little different to what the priest says on Sunday – but Jimmy has never been interested in church. Anne-Marie’s religious education class at school goes on a visit to the Buddhist centre and she is in terror of the potential embarrassment: what if her dad is there, or one of the lamas recognizes her? You can see that something has awoken in Jimmy, albeit imperfectly – he is at times rather oblivious of the effects he is having on his family. He struggles to explain why it is so vitally important to him, but he can’t quite put it into words. Mutual incomprehension abounds, and the novel goes onto tell us the results.

Where there is such conflict and difficulty, we usually, in time, work through it. In the end, relationships are often stronger and closer as a result. My parents were understandably wary when I got involved in Buddhism. They had brought me up as a Roman Catholic and must have wondered why I was rejecting that faith. They had done their best to explain and teach me their faith – why wasn’t it good enough for me? In time, however, they saw that I was happy and that what I was doing suited me. They are now very supportive of my Buddhist life, and I feel very close to them and grateful for all they have done for me. My father sometimes comes and stays with me in the Buddhist community where I live, and I am glad he’s able to get a closer glimpse of my life in this way.

Sometimes, however, such a resolution and understanding is not possible: friends or partners realize that their paths through life are diverging. They simply have different goals and aims, so they may decide to part. Though this is sometimes sad and painful, they feel it will be better for all concerned in the long run.

How can we negotiate this difficult territory? There are obviously no easy answers or simple formulas. We first need to be aware that if we start getting involved in meditation and Buddhism, it might seem strange to people who are close to us but don’t share our interest. They might not be able to understand why it is meaningful to us. It might even seem alien and threatening to them; they fear our new interest will come between us and them.

We need to attempt to understand this and to communicate what meditation and practice is all about and why it is significant for us. We do our best to help them understand. At the same time, we try not to ignore the call of our heart, even when it causes difficulty for others. We can only remain true to others if we are first true to ourselves, so we try to listen to that voice within that tells us how we really want to live our lives.

Happy New Year and Course on 11th Jan

Hi everyone,

Another year has come and gone.

From one point of view date and time is totally arbitrary and cultural. We are always in the eternal present. The past no longer exists, and the future is just imagined. Also if we were brought up in a different culture, our “year end” might be totally different.

But from another point of view, something really significant happens at midnight tonight as the old year ends, and the new one begins. The reality is every moment is actually a new beginning. But we experience this most strongly at midnight tonight.

In any case it can be a useful opportunity to just take a step back and have a look at our lives. Are we happy? Are we going in the right direction? What were the highlights of the last year – the highs and the lows? From this heightened level of awareness, we may decide to try and shift direction a bit, to jettison some bad habits, and take on new ones.

This is the momentum that drives us to take on new year’s resolutions. Unfortunately these often amount to nothing, as our heightened level of awareness dissolves, and we are very soon back in our familiar unconsious and reactive mind embracing our old bad habits.

One thing we might consider is to look around for external conditions, or people that support us in keeping this expanded consciousness. This is one of things we are trying to do at the Hertford Buddhist group. We are trying to create a supportive community of friends (aka sangha) that help us maintain this perspective. It is very hard to do this alone.

Why not join us for our 8 week course (8 Tuesday evenings) starting on 11th Jan.

The first half of each evening will be meditation with full instruction – both mindfulness of breathing and also loving kindness (metta bhavana) meditation.

The second half of each evening will be based around the amazing book “The Journey and the Guide: A Practical Course in Enlightenment” by our friend Maitreyabandhu. The “Guide” refers to the Buddha.

The blurb of the book says “How can you make the most of your life? Maitreyabandhu, a prize-winning poet who has been sharing his experience of practising Buddhism for over 20 years, sets out to answer this most basic question. With humour and profundity, mixing poetry and myth with down-to-earth instruction, he describes what it means to set out on the Buddha’s journey and how you can follow it day by day and week by week. ‘The natural mode of consciousness is to expand. In every moment we can either allow consciousness to unfold or we can make it me and mine and feel it shrink back to the level of egocentricity. It’s as if we’ve identified with a tiny ripple on the surface of the ocean. Once we let go of that identification there’s the whole ocean: centre-less, edgeless, completely free.’”

It is recommended (but not compulsory) that you buy the book, and read it while doing our course. More info is at https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/8-week-meditation-course-including-journey-and-the-guide/ .

Also here is a message from several of our sangha about an event on Tuesday 4th Jan:

“We are very pleased that, thanks to Zoom, Smritratna will be joining us on Tuesday 4th.

For the last eighteen years he has lived in a forest hut near the Dhanakosa Retreat Centre in Scotland. His talk is called ‘Sangha in the World: A Vision of the Future’ and is based on a discourse in which the Buddha tells a parable to express his vision of the profound value of sangha in the world, even after years of widespread misrule’ – how apt for our times!

If you would like a preview, you can see Smritiratna talking about climate change with Analayo during the recent Triratna Earth Sangha Conference https://youtu.be/bw50O7uk46o

Recently five members of Hertford Sangha attended the launch of the Cambridge Earth Sangha which was very inspiring. A number of other friends have expressed an interest in exploring a conscious approach to climate change which may involve study, discussion, meditation, devotional rituals and activism. More information to follow soon.”

Basically, for all of the above, all you need to do is just turn up on zoom on Tuesday evenings between 7.15pm and 7.30pm for a very prompt start at 7.30. The zoom link is https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/zoom . There is no need to book, or pay anything. Beginners are always very welcome.

04 January 2022 Smritiratna
11 January 2022 Keith Week one of course
18 January 2022 Amber Week two
25 January 2022 Paramajyoti Week three
01 February 2022 Mangala Week four

That is all for now. I hope you have a wonderful New Year’s Eve and 2022.

Best wishes

Keith

8 week meditation course including “Journey and The Guide”

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

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

The course is totally free. There is no charge.

The course is held on zoom. Just join us at https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/zoom

The class will start promptly at 7.30pm – so best to get there at least 5 or 10 minutes earlier Each class will finish at 9.30pm. We normally have a 5 minute break halfway through.

The first half of each evening will be meditation with full instruction – both mindfulness of breathing and also loving kindness (metta bhavana) meditation.

The second half of each evening will be based around the amazing book “The Journey and the Guide: A Practical Course in Enlightenment” by our friend Maitreyabandhu. The “Guide” refers to the Buddha.

The blurb of the book says “How can you make the most of your life? Maitreyabandhu, a prize-winning poet who has been sharing his experience of practising Buddhism for over 20 years, sets out to answer this most basic question. With humour and profundity, mixing poetry and myth with down-to-earth instruction, he describes what it means to set out on the Buddha’s journey and how you can follow it day by day and week by week. ‘The natural mode of consciousness is to expand. In every moment we can either allow consciousness to unfold or we can make it me and mine and feel it shrink back to the level of egocentricity. It’s as if we’ve identified with a tiny ripple on the surface of the ocean. Once we let go of that identification there’s the whole ocean: centre-less, edgeless, completely free.'”

It is recommended (but not compulsory) that you buy the book, and read it while doing our course.

You do not have to “be a Buddhist”, or know anything about Buddhism. There is no God in Buddhism, and it is not about having to believe in anything. It is a very practical spiritual path.

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 is no need to bring anything apart from an open mind and willingness to explore your experience.

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

Happy December, Sangha Soiree and a course in January

December is a really weird month, and it is almost impossible to think about it without thinking of the elephant in the room (i.e. Christmas).

Hertford Buddhist Group is going to have its own festive celebration with another Sangha Soiree zoom evening, where several of us are going to have a go at doing some kind of performance – last year we had singing, playing an instrument, reading poetry, presenting artwork, presenting a youtube video etc, and this year we might get a dance performance as well. Just a bit of fun where we can let our hair down and enjoy each other’s company.

If you want to watch it, just turn up on zoom on Tuesday 21st December at the normal class time of 7.20pm for a prompt 7.30pm start.

The other big news is that we are going to start an 8 week course based on Maitreyabandhu’s excellent book “The Journey and The Guide”. If you look on Amazon, you can find some reviews from around the world, and the following blurb from the back cover:


Building on the success of Life with Full Attention, Maitreyabandhu offers a challenging but profoundly useful work on how to practice Buddhism in everyday life.

  • Train your mind to be healthy and calm through learning from the life of the Buddha.
  • Drawing on examples from the life of the Buddha, Maitreyabandhu gives an easily understood outline of the system of spiritual life as undertaken by Buddhists in the Triratna Community.
  • Maitreyabandhu shows how the journey starts with our own mind, particularly when we begin to look into the truth of things — the truth of the old man on the escalator, the friend in hospital, the coffin we carry to the graveside.
  • What we find in our guide, the Buddha, is a man with a fit mind: a healthy, happy, non-neurotic, honest-to-goodness mind. To get fit, we need to work on becoming a happy healthy human being. We need to integrate our thinking faculty with our emotions. We need to wake up to thought and tune in to direct experience. And we need to work against the ever-rising tide of trivia, dissipation, and over-stimulation of the modern world.
  • Maitreyabandhu takes us on this journey with practical week-by-week exercises, focusing on cultivating mindful awareness, being happy, integrating and simplifying our lives, and knowing ourselves.

I am personally very excited about engaging with this material. If you have some free time, you might want to get hold of the book and start reading it now.

That’s all for now. Have a great December and Christmas!

Keith

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

We’ll be looking at how we can live a radical and meaningful spiritual life in the midst of the world, and how this can, in fact, be a strong and effective way of practising. But we’ll also be considering the supportive conditions we need to maintain the depth and momentum of such practice. In other words, we’ll be trying to get some sense of what a Buddhist lifestyle might look like. We’ll see that it involves learning to combine both calm and activity. We will also explore the topic of ‘right livelihood’: how to approach working life from the point of view of Buddhist ideals.

But first, we will look at some areas of conflict that can arise as we start to get more involved in the Buddhist life. Perhaps we have been attending a Buddhism class for a few months, we find we enjoy meditation, and notice we that we are starting to change. We begin to make friends at the class, and appreciate the contact with people who think and feel as we do. But we are also worried about certain questions. Isn’t it selfish to be spending so much time meditating? How can you justify all that time for yourself? What will your family think? Is this meditation business just a form of escapism? Do your friends secretly worry that you’ve gone weird and joined a cult? Do they even think that you’ll soon be clearing out the bank account and disappearing in the middle of the night to join some mystical guru with seventeen Rolls-Royces? (Maybe you recognize versions of these, or similar areas of conflict and uncertainty?)

Some people do seem to worry that meditation is a bit selfish. The fact that it involves taking time out and going into our inner world leads some people to feel guilty about meditating. But if we are doing it in order to live our lives better, in order to interact with the world with more awareness and loving-kindness, then it is far from selfish. It is an investment in ourselves now, so that we have more to give later: not necessarily more in the quantitative sense, but in enabling ourselves to do what we do with a better quality of mind. This will affect how well we are able to do it. Such an investment is wise, not selfish.

Meditation is the exact opposite of escapism. Escapism is avoiding oneself – perhaps by losing oneself in an activity that allows us to forget our lives. But when we meditate we are looking into our minds and trying to be aware and honest about what we see. We are taking responsibility for our minds in a radical and uncompromising way. Meditation is a challenge, but a worthwhile and rewarding one.

Happy November!

The cold weather is really starting to kick in, and a sense is rising of the calm before the storm (i.e. Christmas!).

Our meditation course is now complete, and we will have a bit more Buddhist content in our Tuesday night classes and another course starting early January.

No need to wait for that though, newcomers and beginners are always welcome, and will always be given full meditation instruction.

The photo above is of the Hertford Sangha at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre Sangha Day in 2019

Coming up:

09 November 2021 Mangala
16 November 2021 Amber
23 November 2021 Padmajata
30 November 2021 Paramajyoti
07 December 2021 Keith

There is no news yet about when we will start in person classes again. Just waiting to see what happens with the covid (and flu) data.

Also coming up on the afternoon of Sunday 21st November (2pm to 5.30pm) is Sangha Day at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre. This just comes once a year, and is always a very heart warming event.

We have some fantastic news which is that Katey and Meridith from our Hertford Sangha are going to become mitras then, as well as at least three other people from other locations.

It is a hybrid event (in person and also zoom). You have to book if you are coming in person, and there are not many places. it is suitable for regulars and sangha members. https://www.cambridgebuddhistcentre.com/sanghaday .

That is all for now.

Warm wishes

Keith

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

5 Right livelihood:

Chopping wood, fetching water
Water to draw
brushwood to cut
greens to pick –
all in moments when
morning showers let up.

When they encounter Buddhism and meditation for the first time, some people feel it rekindles something deep within them, something that may have been lying dormant for a very long time. In the busyness of everyday affairs we can lose contact with that deeper sense of ourselves and the potential creativity of our lives. But the inner spaciousness we discover in meditation brings back the feeling of dwelling in possibility. We may feel we have rediscovered something precious that we don’t want lose sight of again.

But then we wonder whether, with our current life and responsibilities, it is possible to stay in touch with all this. Can we fully implement Buddhist ideals and really change ourselves? Can we really make significant progress in the midst of bringing up a family, or a busy job, or both? Can we do it in a world driven by consumerism, which seems intent on distracting us? Or is serious practice only for those who can gonad live in the mountains, far away from worldly concerns?

exercise – is it really possible for me?

Take a few moments to sit quietly and consider the above questions, and unravel your feelings and beliefs as to whether the path of self-transformation is possible for you. Try to be just as honest in acknowledging your underlying attitudes, regardless of whether they express doubt or confidence. You might find they are a mixture of the two.

Another question that might help you to think about this is, ‘What prevents me from practising more fully? What holds me back from making more progress in meditation, ethics, and the process of self-transformation?’

Make notes about your responses to these questions.

It is important to know because, if we are subconsciously telling ourselves it is not possible, this will obviously influence the effectiveness of our practice!