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Community Blog - Kathy Denham

Kathy Volunteering At KSD London

I honestly do not know how I got so lucky in this lifetime! It as though this lifetime has been split into two, everything that happened before the dharma and everything that happened after.

I grew up in a religious Christian household and my father was a lay minister in the Anglican Church. My mother was always quite rebellious and naughty, but we were brought up going to church on a Sunday. I spent my teenage years and all the years in my twenties frustrated and chasing dreams, I never felt happy. It was until one day I walked into a room and met someone that I knew I had known in a previous life. I found that confusing because it did not fit in with my then religious outlook. So, I started searching and did a meditation course. That course changed things for me and I left my job working in a stressful emergency call centre and took 2 months off life. I went to live in Cape Town and returned to Johannesburg with no job and no where to live. Someone said that the Buddhist Centre in Kensington Johannesburg rented rooms out. So, I phoned them and went to meet up. And BAM, the course was set, and everything changed.

Chenrezig Practice In Kensington Johannesburg

I lived in the Kensington Centre for 5 years and became a volunteer helping when I could and when needed. I also had a part time job there too helping with marketing in the office. I was also lucky to have a good singing voice so was asked to help be the Chenrezig umzi on Wednesday evenings. It was that commitment and devotion to Chenrezig that really changed me. My mom once said that Buddhism had made me a kinder, nicer, and softer person. I really experienced that it was the commitment, to being at the Centre every Wednesday night, and my utter devotion to Chenrezig that caused a change in my mind and life for the better.

Akong Rinpoche and Kathy In South Africa

And it was also meeting Akong Rinpoche 2004 and then Lama Yeshe Rinpoche a few years later that really changed me and my life. I remember that in one of the moments I met Akong Rinpoche, because I have always been a very cheeky and animated volunteer. After one of the plays that I participated in for Akong’s visit at the Randburg Centre that I was singing in a joking way into the mic, and I heard a ‘hey’ and looked up to a smiling Akong Rinpoche saying; ‘I see what you do there.

Lama Yeshe and Kathy on the ferry to Holy Isle

The dharma changed me from a stressed out and hopeless youngster to a hopeful, living in the moment, joyful and free spirit. I was a volunteer and devotee at the Kensington and Randburg centres in South Africa from 2002 to 2018. In 2018 I immigrated to the UK and now I am lucky enough to extend my dharma family and be a volunteer in London Samye Dzong too. I still attend weekly online talks by Melanie Polatinsky who teaches for the Randburg Centre. I believe I will always be connected to my dharma family in South Africa. And Melanie will always be my dharma mama.

Even though I call myself a lazy Buddhist, I have still received amazing benefit from being committed on this path. In 2021 I received a stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis,

which should have been devastating. But it has been the best thing that has happened to me. Two days after I got the diagnosis, I received a call and a message from Lama Yeshe Rinpoche and the message was; ‘Tell her not to think about the diagnoses’. Itwas in that moment, standing on the street in London, where all the teachings and the practice I have done became very real to me. And I thought to myself, of course nothing is permanent, this is a blessing, death may be immanent at any time and we need to think about it daily, but I could either shrivel up and die or realise how truly blessed I am and approach the disease with a positive, grateful outlook. And that is what I did. I had an excellent response to treatment, and I now enjoy life and every moment. I accept myself and each day as it is and strive to be the best that I can be. I choose to share who I am now with the world, a joyful, positive, strong,and devoted dharma practitioner. Anything is possible, and I know that who we are now creates the future.

How lucky can anyone be. What an adventure to be on this path spanning two continents. I honestly have no idea how long I have, and I am aiming to squeeze as much life (practice, dharma, and service) out of this one as I can! But as any true dharma practitioner would say, I am hoping that this lifetime has created the connection and path for future lifetimes still in the dharma, connected to our wonderful masters. Or even better to aim even deeper and head straight for Dewachen. Emaho!

Play at Randburg Centre


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