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Coming up in April

Hi everyone,

Happy April.


We are starting a six week course on the 18th April based around the amazing book “Not about being good”. You can check it out at any good bookseller 🙂 As usual, the first half of each evening will be devoted to meditation (with full instruction). Then after the tea break we will have the course. Beginners are very welcome. No need to book. Just turn up.

Normally we have random unrelated people leading each week. But this time we are doing something different. The course will be led by a team of people from our GFR sangha. i.e. people in the ordination process (Amber, Bev, Helen, Katey, Keith, Nigel, Rob, and Simon). We have never attempted anything like this before. But it does make a lot of sense to work as a team like this.

It will be a fantastic course. I am really looking forward to it. The book is written by Subhadramati who used to be the female mitra convenor at the London Buddhist Centre. She does have a very special warm energy, and wisdom which is transmitted through the book. When I first started teaching meditation, I used to sneak into her beginners’ meditation sessions at the LBC on Wednesday evenings so I could learn from her:-)

As it says in the book’s blurb: “other people are essentially no different from ourselves. We can, if we choose, actively develop this awareness, through cultivating more and more love, clarity and contentment. Helping us to come into a greater harmony with all that lives, including ourselves, this is ultimately a guidebook to a more satisfactory life.”

04 Apr 2023 Our birthday bash – Celebration of the founding of the Hertford Buddhist Group 14 years ago
11 Apr 2023 Padmajata
18 Apr 2023 Course week 1 – GFR Sangha
25 Apr 2023 Course week 2 – GFR Sangha
02 May 2023 Course week 3 – GFR Sangha
09 May 2023 Course week 4 – GFR Sangha
16 May 2023 Course week 5 – GFR Sangha
23 May 2023 Course week 6 – GFR Sangha

I hope to see you at many of these

Keith

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

Buddhists talk a lot about contentment and simplicity, but what do these ideals actually amount to when we are in the midst of a busy job? What does simplicity mean in a society that is complex, quick to change, technologically sophisticated, and far from simple?

Maybe simplicity is about doing what is really important in our lives and not getting caught up in that which is of lesser importance. There is a well-known exercise in which participants are asked to write down all their plans for the coming year. (If you want to do this exercise yourself, then don’t read any further before you’ve done that bit!)


Then they are given a second sheet of paper and asked to write their plans for the year once again, but this time knowing that it is the last year of their life. The contents of the two sheets are often very different – the hopes and aims of the first suddenly appear in a new perspective. This exercise might show us what is really important and worth focusing on.

6 week course starting 18th April – Meditation and Not About Being Good

You are warmly invited to come to a six-week (ie 6 Tuesday evenings) course for anyone wanting to learn how to meditate or find out about Buddhism or who wants to deepen their knowledge or practice.

This course is based on the excellent book “Not About Being Good” by Subhadramati, and this is the first time we have covered this material at Hertford.

Other people are essentially no different from ourselves. We can, if we choose, actively develop this awareness, through cultivating more and more love, clarity and contentment. Helping us to come into a greater harmony with all that lives, including ourselves, this is ultimately a guidebook to a more satisfactory life.

You are encouraged to buy this book in advance (on Amazon, it is £9.05 for the paperback or £6.99 for the Kindle version), so you can read the relevant section during the week to go deeper into the material.

All are welcome including total beginners, and people who know nothing about meditation or Buddhism. You certainly do not have to “be a Buddhist” or anything like that.

We don’t charge a fee, because Buddhists, we try and practice generosity. But we do invite people to make a donation towards our costs. Your donation could be any amount, but the suggested amount is £5.

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 aware, have more loving kindness, joy, and ultimately more freedom from our reactive mind.

Repetition is important in Buddhism 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 seasoned 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 half way through, so there will be a lot of opportunity to make new friends.

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:

http://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/location/

It is best to get there between 7.00 pm and 7.15pm, as we start shortly after that. Each class will finish at 9.30 pm.

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 and mats. However if you want to bring any cushions, stools etc from home you are very welcome. You don’t need to bring a yoga mat.

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.

All Tuesdays are drop in, and open to newcomers.

Hope to see you soon at one of our evenings 🙂

Keith

Retreats and coming up in March and April

Hi everyone,

Six of us have just returned from a fantastic weekend in the countryside on retreat. I would definitely recommend it. Not only did we get a lot deeper into the meditations, it was just so nice to spend time with such great people – making new friends, and deepening older connections. There is so much magic that happens on a retreat, that it is hard to put into words.

If you would like to go on one, then you can checkout https://www.londonbuddhistcentre.com/retreats . There is a retreat of some kind almost every weekend of the year. Also why not try a longer one?

Also post in our Facebook Group that you have booked, as that will encourage others to book on the same one.

Coming up in Hertford we have:

14 Mar 2023 Kuladipa
21 Mar 2023 Rob
28 Mar 2023 Samudraghosha
04 Apr 2023 Keith
11 Apr 2023 Padmajata
18 Apr 2023 Keith – Week 1 of Course
25 Apr 2023 Helen – Week 2 of Course

Here are some dates for your diary for Festival days at Cambridge Buddhist Centre:

Buddha Day – Sunday 30th April

Dharma Day – Sunday 9th July

Padmasambhava Day – Sunday 24th September

Sangha Day – Sunday 26th November

Also, you may be interested in a couple of practice days that Padmajata will be leading at the CBC over the Easter holiday (8th & 9th April)

Please note that with the Cambridge Buddhist Centre retreats, some of them we are very welcome to go on. We had one last weekend, and another in Dec like that. They love us joining them for these retreats.

Also there are other retreats that they like to restrict to people who regularly go to the Cambridge Centre, so you should not book for those. It is normally clear from the description of the retreat on their website. In particular, these retreats: “Sangha weekend retreat at Vajrasana in May” and “Five day retreat at Vajrasana in June” are only for the Cambridge Sangha.

So that is why if you feel like going on retreat this Spring or Summer, it is best to book one from the London Buddhist Centre website or another centre where the retreat is open to all. Note that the North London Centre have a retreat at Vajrasana open to all 28th April to 30th April, and at least one person from Hertford is already booked for that.

That is all for now.

Hopefully see you at one of our Tuesday classes. Just drop in whenever you feel like it 🙂

Warm wishes

Keith

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

Here, we’ll look at basic elements of right livelihood. These are suggested areas with which to consider to what extent our working life constitutes right livelihood. Does our work give us what we need under each of these headings?

supportive of our practice
Thirdly, for a job to constitute right livelihood, it needs to be part of, and support, our spiritual practice. As my Buddhist teacher once said, ‘Unless your work is your meditation, your meditation is not meditation.’ Whatever your job, it will contain opportunities to cultivate more mindfulness, chances to develop loving-kindness, ways of interacting with others more ethically. This is what is meant by making your work your meditation. Issues will arise that pose spiritual challenges for us: how can we respond to that awkward colleague with loving-kindness? What do we do if our boss has asked us to conceal something from a customer? These may not be easy issues, but they are the stuff of the real spiritual life.

It might be easy to find ways of making our work part of our practice. Or it may be that we decide that circumstances at work are too stressful, or the people we work with unsupportive, and we consider a change to work that will be more conducive to our practice.

Some Buddhists have approached this issue by establishing businesses or ventures in which they can work together as a team. The hope is that they can then really explore what it means for work to be a spiritual practice, together with others who are committed to the same ideals. This can bring about a strong sense of shared purpose, communication, and co-operation.

Work (along with meditation and friendship) can be used as one of the most powerful tools for changing ourselves. Because it demands our energy and skill, it can draw us out and transform us. We learn about our limitations, are spurred to develop new abilities, and can then grow in confidence. This is my experience of work. I’m lucky to work at a Buddhist centre; my work is very much intertwined with my ideals and practice. But my job there has been a crucial part of that practice. Most of what I’ve learned and changed about myself has been through work. For example, I’ve had to learn to think much more for myself, to respond with equanimity to criticism or blame, to deal with difficulties in communication, and to develop more confidence in my own vision.

Coming up in Feb

Hi everyone,

I hope that all is well.

We had 31 people attend this week which was the highest number since the pandemic started. Mangala came up and talked about habit. We tend to have a lot of habitual thoughts and actions that just keep us running round our hamster wheels, and stop us from climbing the spiral path to greater levels of loving kindness and joy 🙂 We also had 4 new people who were with us for the first time. Newcomers are always very welcome.

We took the photo a couple of weeks ago, so fairly hot off the digital press.

Coming up in the next few weeks:

07 Feb 2023 Keith
14 Feb 2023 Not yet known
21 Feb 2023 Padmajata
28 Feb 2023 Devamitra
07 Mar 2023 Nigel
14 Mar 2023 Kuladipa

On the 28th Feb Devamitra will be talking about his autobiographical book “Entertaining Cancer: The Buddhist Way”.

This is what it says on Amazon about it: “You’re diagnosed with an aggressive cancer – what do you do? Devamitra – English actor and Buddhist teacher – describes the discomforts and indignities of being treated for prostate cancer. He also draws on the deep well of his Buddhist practice to work with his mind and meet fear, uncertainty and frailty with resolve.”

Hopefully see you at some or all of these classes 🙂

Warm wishes

Keith

p.s. By the way, if you like what we do it would be very helpful if you could leave us a review on Google https://g.page/r/CYFMwq1O9f7oEB0/review . This not only gives us a bit more social proof, it will also help our website rank higher for more keywords, and will help more people find us 🙂

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

Here, we’ll look at basic elements of right livelihood. These are suggested areas with which to consider to what extent our working life constitutes right livelihood. Does our work give us what we need under each of these headings?

support
First, we need work that gives us adequate financial support, work that is enjoyable, and that allows us to be part of society. We do need a reasonable level of income for ourselves and those for whom we are financially responsible. This might require a full-time job, or we might change our priorities and work part time. We might be happy to earn less because we value the time this makes available for other activities. Whatever we do, it is important that we stay emotionally alive. We need something in our lives that draws out the best in us. If this isn’t in our work, we must find it in another aspect of our lives. Our emotional energy needs somewhere to flow. Sometimes we meet people who have been stuck in a rut for years, trundling along on the same old lines. It is as if something inside has been snuffed out. It is a sad waste of potential. As much as we can, we should ‘follow our bliss’. We should do what we love, while also remembering our responsibilities to others.
In many faith traditions, work is seen as a vital aspect of being healthy and human. Most of us need an activity that brings forth our energies and talents, and through which we can make a contribution to society. Through our work we can experience ourselves as part of society. We learn about our interconnectedness as human beings, how we need to give and take.

benefiting others

The second way in which our work can become right livelihood is by ensuring that it is ethical and of benefit to the world. I often notice that people who take up meditation are already employed in right livelihood in this sense. They have taken up jobs that obviously benefit other people. Once we have been meditating for a while, it often becomes even more important to us that our work accords with our altruistic ideals.
But even if our work is not the kind that we usually think of as socially useful, it will still contain opportunities to benefit others. For example, if we are more emotionally positive, calm, and collected, this will have a transforming effect on everyone in our workplace. Most work involves provision of a service or a product, so we can try to provide the best service to others. Or we might give some of our earnings to charities and social projects. Many faiths have a tradition of tithing a proportion of one’s income in this way. A friend of mine used to give a day’s earnings per month to a good cause. On a certain day each month he would remind himself that he wasn’t just working for himself, but for the benefit of others.

Happy New Year, Course starting 10th Jan and Two retreats coming up

Hi everybody and Happy New Year!

Of course on one level, we are all living in the continuous eternal present with memories of the dead past, and imagined future. But on another level, we choose to divide things up into units of seconds, days, years etc.

So on that basis, it is almost a feeling of relief that we have finally completed yet another year – 2022. We probably had good and bad times, successes and failures. But now, at last we can start again with a brand new slate.

So we often see things a bit more clearly, after reflecting on the past, and looking forward to the future. Maybe we might be thinking we might be happier if we made a bit more effort to do things that are good for us like exercise, eating healthily, and of course meditating and connecting with spiritual friends!

We all know that new year’s resolutions have a bad track record of success.

But that does not mean that we should give up completely.

Let us make the effort, and commit ourselves to things we think will not only make us happy, but also bring joy, meaning, friendship and community into our lives.

The problem with new year’s resolutions is not that we make them. It is that we stop making them. I think we should be continually making those sort of resolutions over and over throughout the year. When we do not live up to them, that is OK, we are not perfect. Just start again the following day with more commitment.

For me, the sort of things I have in mind are exercising every day, reducing sugar, processed food and alcohol, meditating with a group once a week, and meditating at home daily. I have found that for me, doing my best to follow these makes me a much happier person.

So please make your own list, and see what works best for you and your lifestyle.

We are starting a course on Tuesday evening 10th Jan for 6 Tuesday evenings. Why not come along? It is perfect for anyone who has not been before, anyone who has not been for a while, plus anyone else who comes all the time.

We will teach meditation and give full instruction, then after the tea break we will give talks, and lead discussions on “The Taste of Freedom”

03/1 Padmajata
10/1 Keith – Course week 1
17/1 Amber – Course week 2
24/1 Mangala – Course week 3
31/2 Helen – Course week 3
07/2 etc to be confirmed

I also wanted to mention that 9 people from Hertford recently attended a weekend retreat at Vajrasana hosted by the Cambridge Buddhist Centre. It was really a wonderful weekend. It was lovely to be in the snowy countryside with our sangha, and also meet new people from the larger Cambridge sangha. We made a lot of new friends, and deepened our existing friendships.

https://www.cambridgebuddhistcentre.com/retreats lists two more retreats that you might be interested in:

3-5 March for newcomers and regulars
and
11-16 June for regulars

also at Vajrasana

That is all for now. I hope to see you soon.

Happy 2023!

Keith

Because of the snow and ice, we are on zoom tonight 13th Dec

The zoom link is https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/zoom , and it is also clickable form the menu bar of the website.

Please do not turn up at the Millbridge Rooms, as there will be no one there!

It will be a great evening, and Nigel will be talking about Going For Refuge in the second half.

Just zoom in at 7.30pm. Class will end at 9.30pm and there will be a break in the middle.

Next week on the 20th Dec we will be back face to face, and we will have Sangha Soiree with several acts including the acclaimed Mid Essex Buddhist Centre Band 🙂

Let me know asap if you would like to perform or present anything.

No class on the 27th Dec, and we are back face to face again on 3rd Jan.

Sangha Soiree and then a new course on 10th Jan

Hi everybody

December is always a bit of a funny month and a mix of heightened emotions of various types. But at least most of us can have a bit of a rest once Christmas Day is over.

It is a special month too at Hertford Buddhist Group. Many of us are going away on retreat the weekend before Christmas with the Cambridge Sangha.

Then on 20th Dec we are having Sangha Soiree (back by popular demand).

So if you are a regular, and fancy giving some kind of performance, then just let me know at least a week beforehand (i.e. by 13th Dec or earlier). In the past we have had poetry, singing, musical performances, photography slideshows and also belly dancing! Also if you want to present a youtube video or something on a laptop, that should be possible.

Maisie has volunteered to bring her projector, so we should be able to watch videos or screenshares on the big screen, and I can bring my laptop and bluetooth speaker.

Also if you want to bring party food, eg cakes, crisps, non alcoholic drinks etc then please feel free 🙂

This is also a great evening if you have not been for a while and just want to enjoy a pleasant social night with us 🙂

Then the following week on the 27th Dec we are shutting up shop and taking a night off. It is a bank holiday then, and many of us are away or with family.

We are back on the 3rd Jan, and on 10th Jan we are starting our 6 week introduction to meditation and Buddhism course called “A Taste of Freedom”. It will include content from one of Bhante’s talks in 1979. It is perfect for complete newcomers as well as regulars. Real freedom actually arises on the arising of insight which means breaking through the three fetters.

So to summarise:

06 Dec 2022 Nandaketu – Experiential evening on the Triratna System of Practice
13 Dec 2022 Keith and Nigel with some reflections from Nigel’s recent retreat
20 Dec 2022 Sangha Soiree
27 Dec 2022 No class this evening. Bank holiday.
03 Jan 2023 Padmajata
10 Jan 2023 Week 1 of meditation and Buddhism course – Keith
17 Jan 2023 Week 2 of meditation and Buddhism course –
24 Jan 2023 Week 3 of meditation and Buddhism course – Mangala

That is all for now. Have a great December, and have a happy Christmas and New Year 🙂

Keith

Coming up in November

Photo taken at our retreat in Burwell 4 years ago

Hi everybody,

I hope that all is well with you.

I went on a weekend retreat at Padmaloka recently. Padmaloka is a men’s retreat centre near Norwich and I have been going there for 40 years. It always takes a little while to adjust into the retreat atmosphere, but by about Saturday mid morning, I was already in full retreat mode and felt fantastic.

It felt like an altered state of consciousness that I had not experienced since my last retreat which was three years ago.  I used to try and get onto retreat every month, but the pandemic put a stop to that.

There were 62 retreatants there, and I had some great conversations with amazing people, although the bit I enjoyed most was actually the periods of silence.

That is the good news. The bad news is that I caught covid there! I have had my booster, so thank fully it was just like a bad cold, and I am almost back to normal now. I think I was just unlucky to catch it. I checked with two other people who travelled with me back to Norwich Station, and neither of them had it.  On the other hand I was lucky to just experience mild symptoms. I know others have had to endure a lot worse.

If you can make it, there is a Sangha Day festival at Cambridge Buddhist Centre on Sunday 13th Nov https://www.cambridgebuddhistcentre.com/SanghaDay2022 . It should be a great day out!

Next Tuesday Rob will give a talk and lead a discussion around meditation.  We will have plenty of great stuff lined up for the following weeks and another course coming in January 🙂

By the way, a new group has recently opened in Luton. It is being led by  Akashasiddhi and Archie from the Letchworth Group https://www.facebook.com/triratnaluton You can email them at triratnaluton@yahoo.com for more info. They meet on Tuesday evenings, just like us. It is worth checking out if you live over that way 🙂

All the best

Keith

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

right livelihood

The Buddha taught what he called the Noble Eightfold Path – eight specific areas of practice that together constitute the path to Enlightenment. The fifth of these is right livelihood, and we’ll consider the process of bringing the practice of awareness and loving-kindness into our lives of activity under this heading.

A friend of mine, when discussing work and spiritual practice, especially if people were complaining about difficulties in their jobs, used to give the following advice. He said that if, by the end of the week, we couldn’t think of one good reason for doing our job, we should leave.

Life is short and precious. Why do something for eight hours a day, five days a week, forty-something weeks a year for the rest of our lives, if we don’t know why we are doing it? Especially when you take into account the idea of karma – that the kind of person we become is a product of the choices and actions we take all day – we can see that work and livelihood is a vital spiritual issue.

Sometimes we do make big changes to our lives because we realize our heart is no longer in what we are doing. This can take courage, especially when we are no longer young, but it may be well worth it. I have one friend who for many years was a stressed-out administrator in the National Health Service. He eventually decided to change direction, retrained, and became much happier giving careers advice to young people.

On the other hand, we might realize therearegood reasons why we do our job. These might be many and varied, or it might simply be that we are doing the job because we need the money to support our family. But that is still a positive reason. If we are clear about our reasons for doing something, it can help us feel much better about doing it.