Sunday, November 10, 2013

Leicester Great Heart Circle - November 2013

The collection opens with The Ruby  :

work on your stony qualities
and become resplendent like the ruby.
practice self-denial and accept difficulty.
always see infinite life in letting the self die.
your stoniness will decrease; your ruby nature will grow.
the signs of self-existence will leave your body,
and ecstasy will take you over.

Reading and reflecting upon the poem was a nice lead into a sitting meditation.

We were going to look at Bernie Glassman's works on Zen but that didn't happen exactly as planned, but we did follow the instructions to the cook, the Zen Cook will make a meal of the ingredients that are available to hand.  The ingredients available to us for the evening were the room, cups of tea, the sweetmeats, the book of poetry, two chairs, two hearts and time.  Cooked together we were able to make a very pleasant good-tasting evening, no one went home hungry.

The Leicester Great Heart Zendo will now go into hibernation for the winter months. But at the Dergah the Dervishes will still be dancing.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Rumi Reflection Group back for the Autumn in Chester!

Andy (left) from our Zen Peacemaker Circle has offered to start hosting a regular "Rumi Reflection Group" like we offered earlier in the year. He began yesterday evening, meeting in Starbucks in Chester, and I think it'll be nearly every week. Like before, he'll bring along a poem by the Persian Sufi poet Rumi, and we'll read it together and use it as a starting point for reflecting on our own lives and their value, challenges and inspirations...

He began with a poem "Love is the Master":
Love is the One who masters all things;
I am mastered totally by Love.
By my passion of love for Love
I have ground sweet as sugar.
O furious Wind, I am only a straw before you;
How could I know where I will be blown next?
Whoever claims to have made a pact with Destiny
Reveals himself a liar and a fool;
What is any of us but a straw in a storm?
How could anyone make a pact with a hurricane?
God is working everywhere his massive Resurrection;
How can we pretend to act on our own?
In the hand of Love I am like a cat in a sack;
Sometimes Love hoists me into the air,
Sometimes Love flings me into the air,
Love swings me round and round His head;
I have no peace, in this world or any other.
The lovers of God have fallen in a furious river;
They have surrendered themselves to Love's commands.
Like mill wheels they turn, day and night, day and night,
Constantly turning and turning, and crying out.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Circle Dharmaholder Ceremony, Sat 26th Oct

On Saturday, Barbara and Roland Wegmuellerfrom Switzerland performed a Circle Dharmaholder ceremony in Chester for Steve Hart and Chris Zang Starbuck.  Circle Dharmaholder is a role of visionholder/junior teacher in the Zen Peacemakers tradition.  The ceremony was held outdoors in the ruins of the Norman Cathedral, during a weekend of Zen practice and conversations.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Swiss Zen Teachers visiting 26th-27th October

Hi Folks,

Just a last reminder that Barbara and Roland Wegmüller will be visiting Chester in the UK from Switzerland next weekend. There'll be a relaxed day of practice together on Sat from 9am-4pm, including indoors in Bishop Lloyd's Palace medieval rooms in the city centre, and some time out on the streets too. And on Sunday we'll have shorter meet up in Sally's Secret Garden at 11am for an hour or so. Barbara and Roland are Zen teachers in the tradition of Bernie Glassman, the Zen Peacemakers and the White Plum Asanga. They work particularly with the Zen of collaborative circles, and with finding tools for practicing Zen fully in householder rather than semi-monastic life. I've held back from advertising this visit as a 'public event', so that it can be a bit more relaxed as a space for conversation together, so anyone is welcome, and there'll be no charge.

Also visiting the same weekend will be Ari Pliskin from the US, who's developing "Food for All" community cafes from the ideas of Bernie Glassman and the actor Jeff Bridges. He'll talk to us about his projects on the Saturday morning, and we're hopefully arranging for him to give a talk too in the Buddhist House in Narborough, Leicestershire on the evening of Tuesday 29th, home of Caroline Brazier and the Tariki Trust.

If anyone would like any more details, message me and I'll help in any way I can.
Chris Zang Starbuck

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Leicester Great Heart Circle - October 2013

The Dalai Lama having fun with Russell Brand, an image from a video clip of The Dalai Lama talking in Manchester in 2013.  It was lovely to see him laughing and joking.

The theme for the evening was The Dalai Lama's recent book "Beyond Religion - Ethics For A Whole World", the two quotes below set the scene :

In Indian usage, "secular", far from implying antagonism toward religion or toward people of faith, actually implies a profound respect for and tolerance toward all religions. 

“Millions of people have been lifted from poverty and have gained access to modern education and health care. We have a universal declaration of human rights, and awareness of the importance of such rights has grown tremendously. As a result, the ideals of freedom and democracy have spread around the world, and there is increasing recognition of the oneness of humanity.” 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Leicester Great Heart Circle - September 2013

The September Leicester Great Heart Circle took as its topic the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle. We watched a video on Youtube from a lecture which captured well Eckhart's style and approach and we had a discussion around it.

From Eckhart Tolle's book "The Power Of Now"  :

'Those who have not found their true wealth, which is the radiant joy of Being and the deep, unshakeable peace that comes with it, are (like) beggars, even if they have great material wealth. They are looking outside for scraps of pleasure or fulfilment, for validation, security, or love, while they have a treasure within that not only includes all those things but is infinitely greater than anything the world can offer.'  p.9

An extra for you from Rumi :
Didn’t I say, "Don’t sit with sad companions?"
Don’t sit with anyone but those whose hearts are glad.
Since you are in the garden, don’t go to thorns.
Sit amidst the roses, jonquils, and jasmine....

[Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi: Quatrain 1518]

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Leicester Great Heart Circle - August 2013

At the August meeting we discussed a short article by Bernie Glassman about his thoughts on Buddhism and Social Engagement  :
To me, social engagement is working with aspects of oneself and society that are underserved (that’s my definition for social engagement). The Buddhist part (for me) means doing that work coming from the standpoint of non-duality and, in doing that work, trying to help people experience the interconnectedness and oneness of life. So that’s the basis, the foundation from which I do the work.

In all of those works, I try to create ways of doing it which would help the people that I’m serving to realize and actualize the interconnectedness of life–the oneness of life. I look at that as being my role as a Zen teacher. Those are some of the vows that I’ve made to myself and out loud, that I would serve all of society and not just those who come into a meditation hall. I’ve changed the venue to be society and the main service is to realize and actualize the interconnectedness of life. The secondary service is to work with those aspects of society and oneself that are underserved.

To these thoughts from Bernie I would like to add the 7 pieces of advice on compassion for others from Rumi :

In generosity and helping others, be like a river.
In compassion and grace, be like the sun.
In concealing others’ faults, be like the night.
In anger and fury, be like the dead.
In modesty and humility, be like the earth.
In tolerance, be like the sea.
Either appear as you are, or be as you look.

The art work is in glass by Erwin Eisch and called "Buddha - I am open" , it is on display at an exhibition of the artist's work at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Persian Drumming Workshop in Chester

Following on from last year's workshop in Leicester, we invited Arian Sadr to lead another Persian drumming workshop for us, in Chester this time.  People from several different spiritual communities - Zen and Sufi - came together to learn from Arian the basic rhythms and techniques of the wonderful Daf drum - like a giant tambourine!  Keeping with the spirit of the Chester Zen Peacemaker Circle, we held the event outdoors in the city centre, just outside the medieval city walls.  It was a lovely afternoon of sunshine and music and friendship...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Chester Street Zen Training, 21st July

In our Zen Training circle on Sunday we studied a tool for including all aspects of our life in practice, called the Five Buddha Families.  They're sometimes used in the Zen Peacemakers as a way of reflecting on our engagement with life - Spirituality, Study, Livelihood, Social Action, and Integration/Celebration.  Originally they developed in Indian aand Tibetan Buddhism, where they are used as a very rich model of how our psyche operates moment by moment.

As usual, a fantastic meal was shared together outdoors at the end!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Rumi Reflection Group in Chester

The Rumi Reflection Group in Chester finished our exploration of the translation Love's Ripening by Helminski and Rizwani this week, and we'll be moving on to Rumi: Bridge to the Soul, by Coleman Barks next week.  The plan is to cycle through lots of different translations of Rumi so we can hear him in different voices.  We're using Rumi as a starting point for exploring our own lives, so hopefully this will encourage us to hear the diversity in our own voices too.

From somewhere beyond myself
grace radiates into my heart.
Somewhere a Candle illumines this whole world.
Who am I? Just the candlestick holder.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Chester Zen Peacemaker Circle

Our Great Heart activities in Chester have been developing using the structure of the Zen Peacemaker Circles, with the aim of creating a network of people coming together to explore the "Three Tenets" of the Zen Peacemakers - Not Knowing, Bearing Witness, and Loving Action.  We're continuing also to explore both Zen and the spirit of Rumi as found in his poems, linking in to the training we've done together for several years in the Leicester meetings.  In Chester we now have three fortnightly meetings:  a "Street Zen Training", where we study, meditate and share a meal outdoors on the streets of Chester; a "Rumi Reflection Group", where we meet in a cafe and discuss one of his poems; and a "Mindfulness and Metta Class" where someone leads practice of two traditional Buddhist meditations.

Everyone is welcome, we are a very diverse group of all ages, genders, nationalities and backgrounds.  Come! Come!

Leicester Great Heart Circle - Rumi and Zen Meditation With Sufi Flavours

What is meditation ?  Sri Sri Ravi Shankar describes it as : “A mind in the present-moment.  A mind without agitation. A mind that becomes no-mind.  A mind that has no hesitation and no anticipation. A mind that has come back to its source.”
The Leicester Great Heart Circle is an established group that meets monthly to practice Zen meditation with a Sufi flavour, to share experiences and to celebrate our interbeing through a shared meal. It is inspired by the Great Heart of the Sufi poet Rumi. The evening is suitable for all regardless of background or experience.

First Thursday of Every Month,  7.30-10.00 pm, Suggested Donation- £5

Unitarian Chapel, City Centre,
45, East Bond Street,
Leicester LE1 4SX

No Meeting In July 2013

For More Information Contact

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Leicester Great Heart Circle June 2013

Walking quietly in the garden of Great Meeting as the sun sets ............

Only Breath  by Rumi    

Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu,
Buddhist , sufi, or zen. Not any religion

or cultural system. I am not from the East
or the West, not out of the ocean or up

from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not
composed of elements at all. I do not exist,

am not a entity in this world or the next,
did not descend from Adam and Eve or any

origin story. My place is placeless , a trace
of the traceless. Neither body or soul.

I belong to the beloved, have seen the two
worlds as one and that one call to and know,

first, last, outer, inner, only that
breath breathing human being.

(Coleman Barks)

Not this, nor that, not this, neti neti
Looking for One, it is not this, it is not that, la ilaha, la ilaha, there is no one to be found
amongst all this diversity, but there is one, ila allahu

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rumi Reflection Group, Chester

Woman is a ray of God -
she is not merely created,
she is Creative


The Rumi Reflection Group is meeting one afternoon a fortnight, taking a poem by Rumi and refecting on what it might mean in our own experience.  This week we were looking at the chapter 'Feminine and Divine' from Kabir Helminski's translation "Love's Ripening".  By coincidence, a member of the group came to say goodbye, she's going home to Italy after studying in Chester for a year - she gave us the painting above which she'd just made today!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Leicester - Great Heart Circle May 2013

A photograph of the magnolia tree in the garden of Great Meeting in Leicester, after our initial meditation we walked silently on the paths in the garden amongst the spring flowers and the fading light of early evening.  

Our topic for discussion was an article in the Guardian newspaper about the recent visit of Jon Kabat-Zinn to the UK and his talks with the NHS and with the Government. Jon teaches mindfulness, his approach is presented as the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programme. He says in the article that he wanted to translate the Buddha's central insight,mindfulness, into a language that anyone could grasp. He has stopped calling himself a Buddhist; this is about being human, he says.  Jon also says that even if mindfulness is used by bankers and by soldiers to improve their professional skills, he says, it will also nurture the innate compassion of their humanity. Needless to say we had plenty to talk about in our discussion !

We also started to talk about Enneagrams if you wondered what it was, an interesting topic in itself.
The Enneagram of Personality (or simply the Enneagram, from the Greek words ennea [nine] and gramma [something written or drawn]) is a model of human personality which is principally used as a typology of nine interconnected personality types.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Chester Rumi Reflection Group

We started a fortnightly Rumi Reflection Group in Chester last week, connected to the Great Heart Society and part of the Chester Zen Peacemaker Circle.  Each time we'll read a poem by Rumi together over coffee and explore what resonances it has for us.  We're using "Love's Ripening" by Kabir Helmisnki and Ahmed Rizwani as our main text to begin with.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Leicester - Great Heart Circle April 2013

Form And Emptiness , Emptiness And Form

This is the essence of The Heart Sutra of Buddhism,  something like - looking for the human body in all the parts of the body and never finding it.  

Deng Ming-Dao in 'The Lunar Tao", a day book of meditations in harmony with the seasons, reflects upon something similiar to this in "The Temple" there he writes :
The body is the temple for the spirit, and it makes sense to keep our temple clean and pure. In every culture , we have made holy places so that the divine can enter into our lives.  Think about a temple,though. If you go to a temple and look in one corner or the other, you won't see the spirit. If you take the building apart beam by beam and post by post, you won't dismantle the spirit. If you burn down the temple, you won't destroy the spirit. Those people who dissect the body looking for the spirit won't ever find it, but it's still here.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Chester Activties from 14th April

The Chester Great Heart Circle will now have two regular activities:

SUNDAYS, fortnightly, starting 14th April 2pm-3.30pm

"Metta Circle" - including a guided period of metta (love/kindness) meditation, a guided discussion on metta in daily life, and a small shared 'sacred meal' to end each time.

THURSDAYS, fortnightly, starting 18th April  4pm-5pm

"Rumi Reflection Group" - exploring the spiritual love poems of Jelaluddin Rumi, the great Persian mystic.  The emphasis will be on how Rumi's teaching can guide and inspire our own living.

The venue for both events is Sally's Secret Garden, 22 Bridge Street Row West, Chester.  There's  no charge for any activities, but donations of around £4 would be very helpful towards room hire for the Metta Circle.  The Rumi group will be drinking coffee and tea together, which allows us to stay there!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Leicester Great Heart Circle - March 2013

We began with readings from "365 Tao" by Master Deng Ming-Dao a day book of Taoist inspired reflections.  Then we read from the "Tao Of Pooh" about the Chinese Vinegar Tasters painting which shows Confucius, Buddha and the Taoist Master  Lao-Tse tasting vinegar (daily life).  For Confucius life tastes sour, present life is out of step with the past glory. For Buddha life is bitter, filled with attachments and desires that trap us and lead to suffering. For Lao-tse, life tastes sweet, if it understood and used wisely for what it is.  The evening finished with tea and sweetmeats and then an inspired Greg played a beautiful violin piece full of longing.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Leicester Great Heart Circle - February 2013

An intimate gathering on a cold dark evening at the Great Meeting Unitarian Chapel in Leicester.
Our theme for discussion was integrating our meditation practice with daily life. There is a nice list of activities in Lama Surya Das' book "Awakening The Buddha Within" that we went through, which includes for example :

-  Whenever you cross a threshold, got through a doorway, or enter a room, see it as entering a temple and do so reverently

- Walk barefoot in the grass or on a thick carpet and feel fully each sensation with your toes and soles

- Try chewing one single raisin for several minutes and experiencing everything you can about it

- Before speaking, notice what motivates your words

Thursday, February 7, 2013

New Weekly Metta Meditation Session in Chester

The new weekly Chester Metta Circle sessions began this afternoon in the historic 17th Century Dutch Houses in Chester.  This follows on from a couple of months of evening meditation sessions in the same venue, Sally's Secret Garden crafts and gift shop.  It was a lovely beginning, eight people  came along and after some guided metta we discussed the old Buddhist story of Kisa Gotami.  We'll have a theme for discussion each time connected in some way with love, not only "spiritual" love, but all the complex, sometimes messy, often beautiful  expressions of love and friendship and connection in our daily life.  The sessions will be weekly at 3.30pm-4.45(ish) on 22 Bridge Street Row North.  Suggested donation of around £4 very welcome, but not essential, to cover costs.

On a personal note - I thought long and hard about whether to focus the weekly Chester group on metta meditation or stay with longer silent zen-style practice.  The day after I decided to go with metta, I found this lovely statue in a charity shop in Chester... it's Kwan Yin, the female Buddha of Love from China.  I took it as a poetic affirmation that I've made the right choice, and I brought it along to be a small symbol of what we're doing together.

May we all be well and happy and appreciate one another,

Chris Starbuck

Friday, January 18, 2013

New Times for Chester Circle

 Dear Friends,

Thanks for coming along and being part of the beginning of this new group in Chester.  I've very much appreciated all of your company, listening and learning from you.  My own role is to steward the group into existence and bring ideas and practices which keep it going... after a year or two, the circle will take on a life of it's own, bigger than my own ideas for it!

I have to change the time of the main circle for a while, because I'm probably going to be working on weekday evenings, and also because I want to change it a little so that instead of drinking tea together in the middle, we share a small "sacred meal" together at the end each time.  This gives us a chance to talk and get to know each other more, and enjoy each other's company.

The new time for the Circle will be WEEKLY, from 3pm till 4.30ish every Thursday, in Sally's Secret Garden.  Sally has a busy day in a fortnight - so we'll have a week's break and start the new weekly meetings on Thursday 7th February.  I'll email you all the weekend before to remind you.

I thought I'd also quickly say something about the purpose of getting together like this.  My own reason for creating this circle is to share my own meditation practice with people, and especially to explore with other people the idea that love and relationship really matter - relationship with all the different kinds of people in our life, and also with the world of nature, our own inner worlds, the physical world, even the cups we drink out of and the bed we sleep in!  The practices I'm offering in the circle are drawn from Buddhist meditation and also a little bit from Sufism, the Islamic mystical tradition.  They're all practices which can help us discover more meaningful relationships in our daily life, and to experience those relationships as a place to give and receive love.  Try to always think of what we're doing with this intention- and then we're on the right track... :-)

Please feel completely free to use anything we do together at home, change it so it fits in with your own understanding, and share it with anyone else if you'd like to.  Whatever we train in together becomes completely yours to help you.  I hope in some small way, coming to this circle will help you appreciate your unique life, and everything in it!

Take care and love to you all,


ps for those who can't make the earlier time on Thursdays- I'd be very happy to meet up with people one-to-one and do some meditation together - I have a meditation room in my home in Blacon, less than 15 mins by bus from the city centre.  I'll also try to arrange some weekend group events throughout the year.  Feel free anytime to ask me questions about anything, or suggest things you'd like to see included too.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Leicester Great Heart Circle - January 2013

An excuse to show a picture of Richard Parker, the tiger from the film "Life Of Pi" which has impressed many of the Circle members !  The theme for the January meeting was "Collectedness" , this was inspired by a recent internet talk by the Sufi and Rumi translator Kabir Helminski, in a section from the Masnavi Book VI, Rumi talks of the great warrior Jafar overunning the Castle single-handedly and then the collectedness of the Cat unbothered by the mice running around her.  We talked around the idea of "collectedness" and how it could help us in our Shikantaza meditation. Hence Richard Parker -alert, present, ready to act - but of course we need to develop the moral compass of a great heart as well.

The stars are many; though the sun is one,
When it appears, their foundation is demolished.
If a thousand mice put forth their heads,
the cat feels no fear or apprehension of danger.
How should a throng of mice advance
if they have no collectedness in their souls?
The collectedness in outward forms is a vain thing:
listen, beg from the Creator collectedness of spirit.
Collectedness is not the result of material quantity:
know that body, like reputation, is built on air.
If there were any collectedness in the heart of the mouse,
a number of mice would arise in indignation,
And, rushing up like assassins,
would without hesitation throw themselves upon the cat!
One would tear out her eyes,
while another would rip her ears with its teeth,
And another tear at her side:
there would be no escape from their unified alliance.
But the soul of the mouse has no collectedness:
at the cry of a cat its wits fly out of its soul.
The mice are paralyzed by the wily cat,
even if the mice are a hundred thousand.
Does the butcher care how big the flock is?
Can your daytime thoughts hold off slumber forever?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Chester Circle First Two Months...

The Chester Circle has been up and running for a couple of months now, meeting once a fortnight.  It's spread by word of mouth and is really well attended by a mixture of people of all ages, genders and backgrounds!  It's developing into a kind of informal zen tea ceremony, with meditation and conversation about a theme of practice in daily life...  So far we've talked about mindfulness, openness, love and happiness.  Thanks to everyone who's been involved in this beginning!

The Circle will be meeting again in a couple of weeks and onwards, from 6.15pm-7.45pm in Sally's Secret Garden, 22 Bridge Street Row.