Our weekly sangha meetings on Thursdays have continued to flourish online, with more people able to attend regularly and valuing the connection with others. Meditation groups on Monday evenings and Sunday mornings have also been much appreciated.
April was a particularly exciting month with three sangha regulars becoming Mitra in a special ceremony on April 15, so declaring and deepening their commitment to the Three Jewels. A long-standing mitra, Pat Mackenzie, was invited for Ordination, and we rejoiced in her and wished her well on April 29 as she prepared for her Ordination retreat. We look forward to welcoming her back in `June and learning her new name.
We continue to welcome newcomers and hope to provide an online introductory course soon.
We’re delighted that Sion, a long-standing friend of the Llangollen Buddhist group, has been invited for Ordination. We had a lovely evening celebrating him and wishing him well on his Ordination retreat which starts in September.
We have continued to meet every Thursday and welcome regulars, and newcomers, and old friends who can’t come very often because of distance and other commitments. We meet, meditate, discuss, reflect, learn more about the Dharma and what that means in our lives. All are welcome.
We now sponsor three outreach meditation groups, in Oswestry, Denbigh and Ruthin, and one of our Order Members is a Chaplain at Glyndwr University.
We organised a Meditation for Well-being Day in June in Llangollen which was well-attended and appreciated, and we plan to run another day like this in early spring next year.
On October 30th 2018, Sangharakshita, the founder of the Triratna Order and movement, died in hospital in Hereford. Although this was a sad time, it was also a time for gratitude and rejoicing in all he had done to make the Dharma accessible to us in contemporary western culture. His funeral at Adhisthana was a great event characterised by deep gratitude and those of us from Llangollen who attended had a clear sense of the strength of the Order and its ability to carry on the work of spreading the Dharma.
In Llangollen, the Story Sharing event on October 12th was a happy occasion and a chance to get to know the Story Telling group, the Llangollen Refugee Support group and other people of goodwill in the town. The event raised nearly £250 for CEFN, the North Wales Refugee charity, and Berni and Caron from CEFN came and talked about their work with refugees, particularly in Greece. We also heard some great stories, and shared some lovely food!
On Thursdays we have been following a series on the Bodhisattva Path and the qualities to be cultivated in our own lives - generosity, ethics, energy, patience, mindfulness and wisdom. We had a special ceremony in November to welcome Deniz as a new Mitra, and in December we celebrated sangha and spiritual friendship and particularly thanked Padmasara for all she has done to keep the Llangollen group going and to help so many of us on our spiritual path through teaching and friendship. She is planning to move away from the area soon and will be much missed.
We have also had good news that Sion who has been part of our Llangollen sangha for many years has been invited for ordination next year (2019). Sadhu Sion!
Here are some of us at the celebration of sangha and friendship!
We are continuing to meet every Thursday 7pm and are planning some special events in 2019. There will be a weekend retreat at Taraloka in May, and a Mental Health Day in Llangollen in June. And of course we will be welcoming Sion back as an Order Member!
In May, we completed our theme of The Three fold Way - ethics, meditation and wisdom, looking at the Three Lakshanas, or characteristics of our lives - impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and lacking a separate and fixed self. We looked at how these ‘negative’ experiences can be doorways to freedom, liberating. June was Buddhist Action Month, and we shared stories of how we put compassion into action in our lives.
We’ll be following that up with a multi-cultural story telling evening in October, sharing stories of kindness.
In July we welcomed Prakashadhi (ex Ros) back to Llangollen.
August is holiday time and many people are away but we are continuing to meet for simple meditation evenings.
Our new programme starts in September - we’ll be looking at the Bodhisattva path - the qualities of one who lives to benefit all living beings.
Shrewsbury sangha are holding a Street meditation on September 1st on Pride Hill Shrewsbury 12-2pm. Just go along if you’d like to witness to the power of mindfulness and metta!
A lovely shrine for Varabhadri’s evening on Confession in our spiritual lives, which ended our evenings on Ethics in February. We have gone on to reflect on the second aspect of the Threefold Way, Meditation and Mindfulness through the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, Body, Feelings, Mind, and objects of mind. We’ve also had a big celebration to send Ros off on her Ordination retreat in Spain. On May 3rd, Varabhadri will be back leading an introduction to Puja (Buddhist ritual), and leading a puja in the inspiring way she always does.
The winter solstice and New Year are both times for reflection. At our last meeting of 2017, we reflected on what we would like to let go of, and what we would like to embrace.The things we wanted to let go of - perhaps habits of behaviour, speech, thought, patterns in relationships, perhaps something we needed to confess - we wrote on a red paper ‘leaf’ and let go into the river at the bridge in Llangollen where they were swept away. On a green paper ‘leaf’ we wrote what we wanted to embrace, keeping in mind our deepest values and how we could give them more space in our lives - and these we took home.
Looking back on 2027, it has been a year of growth for us. We welcomed two new Order members in September, and in November, we welcomed three new mitras. Mitra is word that means ‘friend’,and becoming a mitra is a public acknowledgement of commitment to the Three Jewels within the Triratna community. We were very happy to welcome Josie, Lauren and Belinda as new mitras.
In October, the Introduction to Buddhismand
The Course An Introduction to Meditation and Buddhism started on October 5th and will be running until November 2nd. We are delighted to welcome so many newcomers with an interest in Buddhism.
Meanwhile, the evenings for regulars continue upstairs, and we are following a series on the Five Spiritual Faculties. Sangharakshita our teacher called his talk on these The Pattern of Buddhist Life and Work, and he stressed that they are about how we live a Buddhist life.
‘The overall purpose of these faculties is the living of a Buddhist life. Buddhism is concerned with life . One might almost say that Buddhism is life itself - life in the sense of growth, of realising the potential of one’s life.
A Buddhist is first and last someone who is alive, awake to life’.
We reflected first on sraddha (confidence or trust), sharing our sense of inspiration, what moved us, what we had set our heart upon, and how that sense of meaning nd purpose had changed our lives. Sraddha is sometimes translated as ‘faith’ but it is not a blind faith. The Buddha continually stressed the importance of testing any teaching in one’s own experience, and not being caught in any ‘view’.
Last week, we reflected on virya - energy, effort or exertion, and thought about what blocks our energy and what releases energy. It was a common experience that thinking about what we had yet to do, or worrying about an outcome, would make any task more tiring, and that being fully present to the task in hand, and aware of the process of doing would release more energy. Being in touch with sraddha, our inspiration, our sense of joy in life, would also help us to feel the energy flowing. Feeling a sense of interconnection helped - we can feel the difference between closing in around ‘me’ and ‘mine’, and opening out to a sense of shared work, shared world, shared humanity. There were also other ideas such as doing physical activity, or making a physical act of devotion , that could help us to contact more energy.
A beautiful shrine to welcome back new Order Members Vidyamani (formerly Pen) and Jyotidana (formerly Gill) last Thursday. A lovely warm inspiring evening.
On July 27th, Ros led a celebration to mark Pen's last Thursday evening with us before her Ordination retreat in September. Here's the shrine with Padmasara and Pen. It was a lovely opportunity to 'rejoice in merits' of Pen and the Llangollen sangha which for over 20 years has made the Dharma accessible and so changed the lives of many of us.
There are no meetings in August, but we got together on August 3rd to do some cleaning and tidying in the shrine room - thanks to everyone who helped.
Next meeting September 7th will be a Meditation Evening led by Padmasara.
And please note there will be an Introductory Course beginning October 5th - more about this later.
Wonderful chance to meet people from the wider Triratna community - there will be people from Ireland, Holland, Belgium, Germany, France, Poland as well as the UK. Suitable for newcomers as well as Order members and mitras, children and adults, men and women - all welcome to come and practice together and experience a positive community. Some indoor accommodation still available, lots of camping.
Delicious food, music, talk, making new connections - our 'Great Get Together' Pop Up café yesterday.
This month we are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Triratna Order and Movement, Llangollen Buddhist Centre is part of the Triratna community.
Triratna is a Sanskrit term meaning Three Jewels - the Buddha, the Dharma (his teachings) and the Sangha (the community of all those who follow the teachings). Sangharakshita who founded the Order in 1967 considers Going for Refuge to the Three Jewels to be the defining act of a Buddhist. Founded 50 years ago in London, there are now Triratna centres and activities in 27 countries.
Triratna is not affiliated to any one tradition but draws inspiration from the whole stream of Buddhism. We are neither monastic nor lay, simply Buddhists at varying stages of commitment and understanding, adopting to the best of our ability in our lives the ethical standards of the Dharma.
We started our celebration last week with a Dedication Ritual, and a Puja. This Thursday we'll be thinking about the movement in India, where it is very strong, and the work of the Indian leader Dr Ambedkar.
Next week, we'll be looking at the Six Emphases, the particular features of Triratna, and after that thinking about the Refuge Tree, all the teachers of the past and present from whom we have received the Dharma and take our inspiration.
Many of us are deeply grateful to Triratna and Sangharakshita for making the teachings of the Buddha available to us and applicable in our lives. For many of us, contact with Triratna has been life-changing. We have much to celebrate!
Soft Belly Meditation-Stephen Levine (preparation for Metta practice.
Taking a few deep breaths, feel the body as you breath in
Feel the body expanding and contracting with each breath.
Focus on the rising and falling of the abdomen.
Let awareness receive the beginning, middle and end of each inbreath, of each
out breath expanding and contracting the belly.
Note the constantly changing flow of sensations each inhalation, in each
exhalation and begin to soften around the sensations.
Let the breath breathe itself in a softening belly.
Soften the belly to receive breath, to receive sensations,
to experience life in the body.
Soften the muscles that have held fear for so long.
Soften the tissue, the blood vessels and the flesh,
Letting go of the holding of a lifetime.
Letting go into soft-belly, merciful belly.
Soften the grief, the distrust, the anger,
held so hard in the belly.
Levels and levels of softening, levels and levels of letting go,
Moment to moment allow each breath its full expression in soft belly.
Let go of hardness, Let it float in something softer and gentler, kinder,
Let thoughts come, let them go,
floating like bubbles in the spaciousness of soft-belly
Holding to nothing, softening, softening,
Let the healing in-let the pain go.
Have mercy on yourself, soften the belly.
Open the passageways to the heart.
In soft-belly there is room to be born at last,
and room to die, when the moment comes.
In soft-belly is the vast spaciousness in which to heal,
in which to discover ourselves
In which to discover our vast unbounded nature.
Letting go into the softness of the belly
Fear floats in the gentler vastness we call the heart.
Open to the softness of the belly, open to the heart.
Next Thursday, February 23, we welcome Varabhadri to lead the evening. Her theme is story telling about the animals at the centre of the Wheel of Life, the cock, the pig and the snake that symbolise the craving, hatred and ignorance that drive our habitual unhelpful patterns of behaviour and thought.
Last time Varabhadri came we had an inspirational evening, so don't miss this one!
A beautiful shrine for a beautiful evening reflecting on the Buddha's physical death, his teachings on impermanence, and loved ones that we have lost.
Thank you, Padmasara, for evoking the scene of the Buddha's Parinirvana, with the Buddha lying between two trees, on the forest floor, white petals falling on him, his disciples around him. And for leading us in meditation and puja.
Thank you, Mark, for the photo.
Apologies for the missing blog - the title ' What is spiritual death?' without the content! Somehow what I wrote didn't get published. So perhaps it's for us all to reflect on for ourselves...