I wonder what gifts we could build for future generations? What ideas for tools we could develop, that they may need one day? What can we leave behind to help them survive in the challenging world to come?
A world with a huge amount of problematic karma and potential for suffering.
.. and a rapidly changing world at that....
I wonder what gifts we could build for future generations? What ideas for tools we could develop, that they may need one day? What can we leave behind to help them survive in the challenging world to come?
I woke up in a strange mood today. Like a dark cloud over the top of my head raining down negative thoughts. There was agitation too, like a knotted twisty wind within.
My automatic reaction was to judge the mind for generating this. I wanted to push it away, make it otherwise. But then remembered that judging and fighting it just reinforces the negative tendency. This is how karma works, each time we grasp a tendency of the mind, it adds more to it and it grows stronger.
I did a bit of thought replacing, knocking the negative ones out like a hammer knocking out a peg, and replacing them with something wholesome. Of course not long after, the new peg gets knocked out, and the negative thought comes back again. Strange how the mind works against itself. Still it is a useful exercise, I make a game out of it. I practise getting quicker at noticing when the new peg has been knocked out and immediately replace it again without entering into any dialogue with the negativity, without seeing it as me, mine, or self. Just an impersonal process that I can change to something more beneficial for myself and others.
When this practise became too tiring, I stopped and practised anchoring the mind on a meditation object instead, being centred with the feeling of the body.
I become aware of the unpleasant feelings and the aversion inside, churning away like a vat of discontent. I experience them fully, remind myself this is suffering, suffering feels like this. This is the first noble truth. Knowledge of suffering.
Why is there suffering?
Because of the second noble truth.
Craving in its three aspects.
I notice the longing, aversion, and selfishness. Notice how unpleasant this feels, this is suffering. It is unpleasant, it is an affliction, it is like a sickness. I feel dispassion towards the craving. Which helps me detach from it.
I open up my awareness and create a feeling of spaciousness within. I let the resentment, longing, and selfishness be there, but choose not to judge, follow it, or identify with it, Just let it be. Give it the space to arise and cease without getting involved with it, without adding anything more to it. Don't shoot the second arrow.
I turn my eye towards the deathless, towards nibanna. The third noble truth. And I remind myself of nirodha, cessation, non-attachment. I become aware of the mind when longing, aversion, and selfishness is no longer present, feel the relief when the mind stops harrassing itself. How much more peaceful, clearer and happier the mind feels when it isn't feeling resentment, isn't clinging to something, isn't identifying with it, taking it personally. Isn't longing for anything, isn't trying to change anything, At peace and content, not wanting to be any place else. 'Nibanna is right here Richie' I remember a wise teacher telling me.
I notice the sound of the seagulls outside the open window, feel a breeze and reconnect with the air element, feel the cool air all around me and within me, it feels invigorating. My attention becomes centred with the air element.
The thoughts continue in the background like white noise, and I notice how similar they are to ringing in the ears, they constantly change. And I feel grateful for the freedom to be able to disengage from them, to stop identifying with them, to stop seeing them as self and be able to absorb my attention into something else instead, something more tranquil.
I keep the body still and upright, enjoying the solidity, the weight, the feeling of the Earth element grounding me, helping to steady the mind and bring some composure.
Mind follows body, and body follows mind. When the body is still with awareness anchored there. The senses start to settle down, the mind grows quiet, more collected, more centred, and the stillness grows deeper, and it feels exquisite just to rest there in that feeling of stillness.
The four noble truths
1. Knowledge of suffering. (Which is to be understood).
What does it feel like to suffer? To feel stressed? To feel dissastisfaction? To feel discontent? How does that feel? No need to give it a perfect label, sometimes it is hard to put it into words. Just say, suffering feels like this. Most of us know from our own direct experience of life what it is to suffer.
2. Knowledge of the cause of suffering. (Which is to be abandoned).
Knowing that whenever there is suffering, desire is also present in its three forms:
1. Wanting something. (greed)
2. Wanting something unpleasant to end. (aversion, pushing away)
3. The desire for becoming. (Our aspirations. The mind's tendency to identify with things, to take things personally. The story of self. The selfing. ' I want to become this, I want to become that. I don't want to become this. I don't want to become that. I am this, I am that. This is mine, I own this, I own that. I want this, I want that.' To counteract this tendency of the mind, it is good to recite often: 'Not me, not mine, not self'.
The desire for becoming can be used skillfully to realise the end of suffering. As desire is what drives us.
Desire comes from feelings, which are either pleasant or unpleasant. And feelings come from sense impressions: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and ideas/ thoughts.
We cling to what we want more of; and push away that which we don't want. We want the pleasant feelings to continue and experience suffering when we don't get what we want, and then feel aversion, bitterness, resentment, and take it personally. But everything is changing and uncertain, the world is outside our control. We cling to phantoms of moments. Chasing after the delights of the six senses like a dog chasing after its tail. Sense gratification is much like an itch, there is only gratification as long as one keeps scratching.
One cannot do much about sense impressions. They happen because we have a body. One also cannot do much about feelings (pleasant, neutral or unpleasant,) they arise because of sense-impressions. Desire may also be something we can't do much about, as it happens automatically because of feelings. But there may be a way to deal with it by slowly and gradually starving it of fuel till it goes out altogether.
One can expand awareness and make it like infinite space, so it shares the same quality. Space can contain many objects, but is not the objects it contains, and is not conditioned by them. One can make awareness like this, and then allow desire (in its three forms) to arise and cease at the sensory level of awareness, before it becomes a story. One can let it be there without judging it. But also not going along with it, not following it, not getting involved. Letting it arise and cease in an expansive space-like awareness without getting tangled up in it.This gets easier to do as one wises up and becomes less ignorant of where desire leads, becomes less ignorant of the link between desire and suffering, usually after bitter experience, where one remembers and decides not to follow it anymore.
3. Knowledge of the end of suffering. (Which is to be realised).
How does the mind feel when it isn't suffering?
Notice when the desire ceases and is no longer present, the relief this brings to the mind. To no longer have that nagging feeling of lack when one doesn't get what they want.
It feels good when the mind is free from greed, aversion, and delusion. It is helpful to spend some time noticing this.To appreciate it and pay special attention to how it feels when there is no anger, no irritation, no resentment, no taking things personally, no lust, no grasping, no chasing, or acquiring. How does that feel to be free of that?
There is a sense of freedom when one realises they no longer have to go along with their desires, their impulses, the urges. No longer have to be a slave to passion, pulled in different directions by the six senses. The relief of no longer being driven around by them. When the mind no longer feels harrassed by greed, hate and delusion, joy and serenity naturally rises. An unharrassed mind is a happy mind.
4. Knowledge of the path that leads to the end of suffering (Which is to be developed).
Knowing that the practise and development of the noble eightfold path is what trains the mind to become an instrument capable of understanding, seeing and realising the wisdom contained in the four noble truths.The noble eightfold path is the skillset needed to extinguish craving.
One can apply the four noble truths like a template to one's own direct experience of life as it is. One can practise it with the mild irritations, the mild forms of greed in daily life, and this works like a vaccine, like homeopathic medicine, through that experience we find that when the more unsettling things happen in life, the deep upsets, that we can manage those better because of practising with the lesser upsets.
We grow and awaken through the understanding of our own suffering, what causes it, how it ceases, and how the wisdom to do this develops. Then as one's suffering decreases, it can become easier to include others, to expand awareness to include the whole world, the whole galaxy if you like, to show boundless compassion to all beings. As one understands that others suffer the same way we do, that suffering is an experience shared across all the myriad species of life on this Earth. Empathy develops.
The four noble truths is an ingenious memory device, an easy to remember template for decreasing suffering in our lives. Like fractals, the four noble truths contain the noble eightfold path, and the noble eightfold path contains the four noble truths.
Most of us will have to keep reminding ourselves of this a thousand times a day for perhaps a thousand days or more. The length of time decreases as minfulness grows stronger. And it is normal to forget, to get caught up in the world again and tangled up in desire. Sometimes this forgetting happens for short periods of time, and sometimes for lengthy periods of time, and for some it can be as long as lifetimes. But then remembering happens again and one resumes the practise, puts in a more sincere effort than before, usually after a painful experience caused from being tangled up in desire. And each time one remembers and practises it weakens that link in the chain of dependent origination between craving and clinging. Keeps weakening it till eventually it breaks altogether and suffering comes to a complete stop and then there are no more states of becoming, no more states of woe.
Was ruminating just now over feelings of regret and longing. These can pop up and disrupt the flow of peace at times. How to deal with those?
I have been practising telling myself each time that I can't change the past. What has happened has happened, there's no super-power I have that can turn back the clock and make me do things different. And even if I could, would I want to?
Past mistakes were done by a younger self that didn't know any better. But now you do know better, and it is because of your younger self that you know better. So stop punishing yourself, take a bow to your younger self and resolve to honour the mistake by being wiser from now on. And remembering your less-than-graceful moments can help one to be humble, which is helpful for overcoming conceit. But the guilt, longing, aversion, anxiety and remorse is not helpful, that can be let go of.
Your younger self is not who you are now. And it is who you are now that's important. Who you are now is what's generating the kamma for your future self.
Putting oneself down and feeling guilt, shame and anxiety will become a habit when repeated over a lengthy period of time, and it is a habit that is no good for the mind. It depresses it, and a depressed mind is no fun to be in at all. Our mind is our home, and so we should make it the kind of home that is warm, friendly, welcoming, wise, peaceful, and a refuge even when times are shit.
Unfortunately pain, sickness, fatigue, loss and separation is inevitable in this world. That is the kamma of having a body. Noone escapes this, not even enlightened beings. The Buddha aged, got sick, had back problems, had a toxic cousin intent on murdering him, and he died.
It is the fate of all living beings.
What is the most important thing to have with us when we die?
Our time here is short and one could die at any moment, old age is not guaranteed, people die at different ages and that's normal; across the many species of life on Earth both young and old die. Noone knows how much time they have here.
And it isn't these things that are the problem. They are inevitable, they are outside our control, that's the way it is in a changing universe of interdependence and entropy.
The problem is how we feel about these things. It is the hostility in the mind towards them that is the problem. Aversion is an unpleasant emotion, it comes with unpleasant sensations, unpleasant feelings and thoughts. It makes one's consciousness feel toxic and unhappy. To the point where one would do anything to get rid of it. And it brings us negative consequences - one's kamma, setting us up for more misery in the future. And yet we can't see that it is this hostility in the mind, this craving for things to be different that causes the suffering.
The good news is that aversion is not necessary and can be removed from the mind. And why wouldn't one want to remove it from the mind? It is not helpful, and one can live perfectly well without it.
Aversion is generated by the mind. And because it is generated by the mind, it is possible to train one's mind to let go of it, and feel the relief of a mind that is not hostile. A serene happy mind filled with unconditional love instead of fear. It is easier to feel love for others when the mind is less hostile, when you realise all beings value their lives. That all beings want to feel safe, loved, and at peace. Just like you do.
Our mind is our true home. It is what we take with us when we die.
It might take time, a lot of practise, perseverance and a huge helping of patience. But continue putting in the right causes and conditions even when it feels like a desert and a trudge, and eventually the garden will flower and fruit all by itself. But remember to be gentle with the mind, a friend to it, take regular breaks and rest from the work. Impatience and overdoing it won't make anything grow faster.
Life can feel dark and harsh
Leaving one gutted like a market fish
Broken like dropped glass.
The lonely cry an ocean of tears
That noone sees, nor hears.
Life is pain
And never again
Will I come back to this world
I'm going to walk away
This is a tough module I am studying (M269). Spent hours trying to understand and answer a question on the TMA. I tried so hard, but had to quit in the end and submit the assignment, leaving the last parts of the question unanswered, I will lose a lot of marks, but I did try my best. I am honestly wondering if I am going to pass this module, it may be that I'll have to resit it again next year if I don't.
After submitting the assignment, I sat in Zazen over Zoom. I was feeling stressed about a lot of things during the meditation. And felt quite dark in mood while sat there. I was worrying about the assignment; but also anxious about the state of the world and all the crazy stuff happening just now. Sad and mad about seeing species go extinct, something I am witnessing with my own eyes.
Then there's the homelessness crisis, in part due to banks kicking people out of their homes due to missing their mortgage payments, not their fault either, these familes lost their income because of the lockdowns. The government is so keen to save lives by treble-vaxxing everyone, yet I can't help but feel if they really were trying to save lives, why don't they help these poor folks trying to survive on the streets in the middle of winter? Why don't they help the old and vulnerable dying in care homes due to staff shortages or dying in NHS hospitals because relatives can no longer afford to pay for their care. I feel afraid of the huge poverty that is coming from the fallout of this pandemic. Why are they doing nothing to help these people who are at risk of death from extreme poverty?
I also feel so sorry for the refugees. it was horrifying to hear on the news about that large fishing boat that purposely put itself in the way of drowning refugees and the lifeboats trying to save them. How could they be so heartless and cruel. I cannot understand why people can become like that.
And I am sick to death of all the happy clappy fake plastic smiley corporate advertisements. Sick of all the celebrity bullshit, blah blah blah so what. All this being broadcast while the Earth is in a major crisis right now. I wish the governments of the world would show more enthusiasm, effort and coordination over reversing the sixth mass extinction event than this mass-vaccination campaign. If they can put so many resources, logistics, academics and energy into vaccinating everyone, surely they could do the same for turning this terrifying mass extinction event around, and also help all those suffering from poverty and homelessness. The governments are so fake, them and the media.
I spoke of all my concerns with the Zen group today (one can stay and have a discussion with the group after meditation). They were all very kind and said a lot of helpful things to cheer me up and help me feel better. Reminding me there are lots of good people out there. And although it all seems futile at times, whatever small way we can help others means something to those we help. That one needs to fight back with compassion. They advised me to read about someone called Joanna Macy, saying she was someone who may be a kindred spirit for me in these dark times, and might help me feel some hope and rekindle love and compassion in my heart.
I also stated to my friends in the sangha that I had made a vow to never take my life no matter how hard things get. After confessing to them that I had felt like doing so. Mainly because I couldn't bare the thought of seeing any more species go extinct, or witness any more refugees drowning at sea, any more war, poverty or suffering, I didn't want to live in the Orwellian, dystopian world we seem to be heading towards. They were happy to hear that I have made a vow to never commit suicide. I feel publicly making this vow and the painting I made to seal it is a kind of protection for me. Because the thoughts do constantly whirl around my head at times, but seeing my painting and remembering my words can help me stay alive I think.
One bit of advice that stuck out for me was to try and see my negative mood cycles as like being in a womb, a state of becoming. A time to retreat, nurture and take care, not get too overwhelmed with the sorrow of the world, but care for it with a tenderness like one would a growing baby, and all that sorrow can give birth to something beautiful if one is patient and gentle with it. It can become love and compassion instead of anger and hate. The bodhisattva of compassion Avalokiteshivra has many many hands and eyes, and those who have taken the bodhissatva vow are her many eyes and hands in this world.
I was so glad that I sat with them today and that I stayed to chat at the end. I nearly didn't, my mood was so negative I didn't want to bring it into the online zendo, but at the last minute I decided I would sit with them. And it did help, not just me, but the other people there were grateful for the discussion we had at the end, as the words of wisdom shared by the different members of the group seemed to help everyone.
I try to chant this at different times throughout the day, and it can sometimes be a powerful tool for overcoming difficult thoughts; as well as a helpful way to remember the Buddha's teachings. I chant it either in my head, or out loud depending on where I am. It can also be a good way to start a meditation practise and gather and settle the mind.
The noble eight-fold path
This is called the noble truth of the way leading to the end of suffering.
The four noble truths.
1. Knowledge of suffering
2. Of its origin.
3. It's cessation.
4. And the path that leads to the end of suffering (The noble eight-fold path).
The intention of renunciation (letting go),
the intention of non-ill-will,
the intention of harmlessness and non-cruelty.
I will refrain from false speech.
I will refrain from malicious and divisive speech.
I will refrain from harsh speech.
I will refrain from pointless (frivolous) speech.
I will abstain from killing any being (including myself).
I will abstain from taking what is not given.
I will abstain from sexual misconduct.
Having abandoned wrong livelihood, one continues to make one's living with right livelihood. A livelihood that does not cause harm to oneself or to others.
One generates the desire for the prevention of unwholesome states of mind; by making effort, rousing energy, exerting one's mind, and persevering.
One generates the desire for the abandonment of unwholesome states of mind; by making effort, arousing energy, exerting one's mind, and persevering.
One generates the desire for the arising of wholesome states of mind; by making effort, rousing energy, exerting one's mind, and persevering.
One generates the desire for the continuance, non-disappearance, strengthening, increase, and full-development of wholesome states of mind; by making effort, arousing energy, exerting one's mind, and persevering.
Having removed longing and dejection in regard to the world.
One abides contemplating the body as a body. Ardent, clearly-comprehending and mindful.
One abides contemplating feelings as feelings. Ardent, clearly-comprehending and mindful.
One abides contemplating mind as mind. Ardent, clearly-comprehending and mindful.
One abides contemplating dharma as dharma. Ardent, clearly-comprehending and mindful.
Right Samhadi (Concentration, meditation, stillness, absorption, a deep serenity)
Quite secluded from worldy desires. Secluded from unwholesome states of mind. One lets go of the story of self, and enters and abides in the first jhana. Which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought; and has the rapture and happiness born of seclusion from the world and letting go.
With the subsiding of applied and sustained thought. One enters and abides in the second jhana; which is accompanied by self-confidence and unification of mind. Is without applied and sustained thought, and has the rapture and happiness born of concentration (samhadi).
With the fading away of rapture. One abides in equanimity. And mindful, clearly-comprehending, still feeling pleasure with the body. One enters and abides in the third jhana. On account of which the noble ones announce: 'One has a pleasant abiding who has equanimity and is mindful.'
With the letting go of pain and pleasure; and the previous disappearance of sadness and joy. One enters and abides in the fourth jhana. Which has neither pleasure nor pain. And has mindfulness purified and born of equanimity.
I don't expect anyone to understand it all. It takes a while for it to click (at least it did for me), and is best done under the direction of an experienced Buddhist teacher (online or offline). But if Buddhism is something that interests you, some sanghas I recommend are: Appamada (Zen), Just This (Zen), and Birken Forest Monastery (Theravada), but there are more out there, so just do some research and find a good fit for you, many are available to connect with online now.
Peace and equanimity (-;
The world just seems to get more and more strange.
One where I continually find myself questioning if anything is real?
It feels like we are heading more and more towards a tyrranny orchestrated by those passionate about Greed, Hatred, and Delusion. And when the world becomes dominated by wrong view, nothing good can come of it.
There's a lot of suffering in this world just now, and a lot more to come I wager. Sometimes it gets right into my depths and I wonder how I can help. What can I do? Me a tiny droplet in the sea of humanity.
I help those I can, in the ways I can (I am not good at everything); but I can't stop the collosal tidal wave of Dukkha (shit) coming for us from all directions.
I just hope that love wins out in the end and not fear. Perhaps if we show compassion and warmth to those who are suffering. And not judgement or shame, but forgiveness, warmth and friendliness not distorted by differences of opinion. If we look out for and help one another. Maybe that's our best defence against the coming darkness.
I have found studying difficult lately, and having problems with my memory and fatigue, struggling a bit with the current module. Will try my best though, if I work hard enough hopefully I will get a pass, but it is challenging.
Did some painting. I think painting helps train my visual sense. I sometimes leave things deliberately untidy in my room and can see patterns in the scrumples and textures. When out walking I sometimes see an intricate weave in everything, and interesting shapes and patterns in the cracks of the pavement and walls. Lights reflected in the water of puddles and rainsoaked tarmac. The colourful orange yellow patterns of the fallen leaves on the ground. And if I get really calm and centred there's a beautiful soft ethereal light emanating from everything, and I see Buddha/deva shapes in the stones, trees and sky. And rippling portals to other worlds in the ocean waves.
Sorry for all the spiritual stuff. I know it isn't everyone's cup of tea, but then noone has to read this.
I guess I just don't feel much hope for the future. Feels like the world is ending. The oceans are dying, the forests are burning, the insects are dying, many species are going extinct. The rise of the right wing fascists and the surveillance state. The loss of welfare and worker's rights, loss of human rights next, and the misery of low wage crap jobs, working long hours in sweatshop conditions, suffering from lack of sleep, and despite working so hard having to survive on food banks is the experience of many. And when the shit really hits the fan, there will be a refugee crisis unlike anything the earth has known, worse than the one even now.
I don't feel much hope for this world, and it causes me to want to escape and look deep within for solutions and freedom from all this madness and oppression.
This world is so fucked man. Our poor kids having to inherit this hell.
The only positive I can find is that this amount of suffering makes the incentive to become enlightened much more appealing. A grand opportunity to become awakened for everyone in these times, and there's so much spiritual knowledge at our fingertips, more than at any other time in history, that is something at least.
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