This world is not easy. Poverty is hard. It is so challenging to make ends meet these days. The cost of living is high, and finding a way to generate an income feels impossible. Every door I open seems to get slammed in my face. Especially when suffering with health problems, it is hard to put in the hours needed to survive. The gig economy is a joke, working for peanuts, and the competition is fierce.
It has been a dark few days within this fathom length body.
This morning I was once again pummelled by the dark forces of the kilesas (greed, hate, conceit, and delusion). They have become my relentless teachers these days. They hit me with everything they got today. Brought me to tears if I am honest.
Revealing to me just how much work there is still left to do on this mind.
I attended a dharma inquiry this evening that really seemed to hit the nail on the head of how I was feeling. I left seeing things more clearly.
I now understand this Buddhist practise is not just about the intellect, it is as much about the heart. Both work together. Complement one another.
Cool head, warm heart.
Friendship is important, as challenging as it can feel at times to relate to others, it teaches me things I miss when practising alone. I think I am a mix of classical Buddhism and Zen, although not the authoritarian kind of Zen. The friendly Zen (-:
I am not really into the Bodhisattva vow, though I respect it. I just feel uncertain about vowing.
I have decided I want to go for full enlightenment, and if I reach that, it will be impossible to help all beings then; but that does not mean I don't feel love for them, I feel compassion, and when wise enough I will try to keep the true dhamma alive for future generations, if I live that long. I want to help as many beings as I can. But not proselytising, not conceited, just living from the heart, and out of compassion teaching those who ask, and only when asked.
But I am getting ahead of myself, I still have much to learn before I realise that lofty aspiration.
I have a three hour exam tomorrow on the topic of cyber security. I am not looking forward to it. Wish me luck!
May all be safe, well, peaceful, and 😊
Four Bases of Psychic Power (satara iddhipada)
Desire or zeal (chanda)
The onus is very much on oneself to do the work, no one else can do it for us. None but ourselves can free our mind. One must make effort.
Bear in mind it is said there are 84 0000 dhamma doors that lead to nibbana. The Buddha taught many paths and skilful means over his 45-year teaching career. We are all different, with different interests and dispositions, and so we must make our own raft out of the huge amount of teachings passed down to us over the ages, find the ones that suit us. There isn't one size that fits all.
In the metaphor of the raft, it isn't a fancy raft that gets us to the other shore. It is just a bundle of sticks placed under the arms to keep us afloat while we paddle across the flood using the four limbs of right effort.
We don't have to know it all. Just grab a bundle of
teachings from the huge pile handed down to us, those that resonate with you
and make those into your raft.
And gently paddle, pace yourself, tune, and balance the energy of right effort:
‘ Thus, have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park. Then, when the night had advanced, a certain devatā of stunning beauty, illuminating the entire Jeta’s Grove, approached the Blessed One. Having approached, he paid homage to the Blessed One, stood to one side, and said to him:
“How, dear sir, did you cross the flood?”
“By not halting, friend, and by not straining I
crossed the flood.”
“But how is it, dear sir, that by not halting and by not straining you crossed the flood?”
“When I came to a standstill, friend, then I sank;
but when I struggled, then I got swept away. It is in this way, friend, that by
not halting and by not straining I crossed the flood.”
~ S 1.1 (Bhikkhu Bodhi trans.)
The reason Buddhist teachings are often in the form of numbered lists is because at the time of the Buddha things weren't written down. The Buddha and the monks couldn't read or write, so they memorised the teachings. Making them into numbered lists made them easier for memory and recall. Then on their own, a person would contemplate and reflect on their meaning, unpack them, investigate them, fill in the details through their own practise and experience of life.
The reason we can't go straight to the deathless, why we need to study and practise, is because the concept of letting go is easy enough to see intellectually, but we are all conditioned and have formed habits that get in the way and make it hard to let go. That's why one must undergo training to decondition the conditioning. Then old habits gradually fall away, and new ones develop that help us to realise the state of non-clinging, or non-attachment. The end of suffering.
The intellectual thinking part is also important as it helps us understand where we are going and what the teachings are for, why we are practising and what the practise is leading towards. Another translation of right view is right understanding.
But it is a gradual process. Which involves making the five aggregates into a path, the noble eightfold path. The robe of liberation. The Buddha likened the path to the continental shelf of India, that gradually slopes down, and eventually reaches a point where it suddenly drops off into the abyss. That's what the path does, it gradually leads us in the direction of nibbana (the end of suffering). And when the path factors are sufficiently developed, there comes the sudden insight, the Eureka moment, were we see something we cannot unsee - that's the drop-off point, enlightenment. From there, there's no going back, one will never see things the same way again.
It doesn't mean one is separate from the world though, it just means one stops clinging to it, stops yearning for things. The pain of wanting is gone. Craving is extinguished. Conceit is seen through, and the involuntary movements of the mind cease - which brings profound relief. A peace and happiness not dependent on conditions, independent of the world. And because it is not dependent on conditions, it lasts, and doesn't end.
But love and compassion for other beings is still
there. Friendship and connection are still there. That doesn't go. If anything,
it grows. Loving-kindness becomes unlimited, immeasurable, abundant.
Without the ego placing limitations on it, one's compassion becomes boundless.
The whole process is illustrated nicely in the ten Ox-herding pictures in Zen.
The Buddha noted that dependent co-arising and the causes of suffering are like a tangled skein.
Painted in acrylic. Prints available from here.
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" When angry states of mind arise in meditation, balance them by developing feelings of loving-kindness. If someone does something bad or gets angry, don’t get angry yourself. If you do, you are being more ignorant than they. Be wise. Keep in mind compassion, for that person is suffering. Fill your mind with loving-kindness as if he were a dear brother.” -Ajahn Chah
Anger is suffering. It feels unpleasant. Like a sickness. A poison. Harming the body.
Metta (loving-kindness) feels good. It feels pleasant. Like a medicine. It helps heal the body. Metta fosters connection and friendship. Is good for our health and wellbeing, as well as everyone else’s.
Anger harms the body; metta heals it.
Anger harms society; metta heals it.
It can feel extremely challenging to go from anger to metta
(loving-kindness) though. Sometimes I can't just snap myself out of an angry
Something interesting about feelings: a neutral feeling feels pleasant after a painful feeling. Knowing this can be helpful.
It takes a bit of effort, and some will power at first. One must refuse to enter into any dialogue with the mind. Ignore thoughts. This is not an intellectual matter. For me, anger is a state of emergency, a dangerous fire I need to put out ASAP.
I must forget the past, forget the future, forget the self, forget what the anger is even about, forget it all, words are not what’s needed. There’s no reasoning with a mind absorbed in anger. Keep attentive to the neutral feeling, which becomes easier to do as the mind notices it feels more pleasant than being angry
Let what is sensed be just what is sensed, without adding anymore to it.
Awareness of space. Of the elements, earth, water, or air.
The touch of clothing on the skin.
A cool breeze can also help.
Half-closing my eyes reduces the visual information coming in.
Which can ease agitation. It is amazing how much difference half-closing one’s eyes makes. It helps reduce sensory input, which can be calming.
Pacing back and forth, and gradually slowing my pace down, till it becomes a calm serene walking pace. Imagining myself walking like a Buddha.
Walking can feel good, because it has this feeling that you are
walking through stuff, walking it out of your system. I like the feeling of
motion, the sensations in the feet, the feeling of the space around the body.
When the mind is calm, metta is easier to practise which brings pleasant feelings.
The neutral feeling like a bridge from anger to loving-kindness.
There's a quote I remember, but not sure who said it. (I can't
find it anywhere online.) But it was by a forest monk (I think). Someone asked
him if greed, anger, and conceit still arose in his mind. He answered 'yes, but
there isn't anywhere for it to land, so nothing becomes of it.'
Sometimes I can centre on an empty space within. When I go there the fire of anger can’t take a hold and goes out. Same with wanting, conceit and delusion. They don’t affect me when I am centred with emptiness. It all just stops, ceases before it can take a hold. There’s a lovely feeling in the heart space then. It becomes a place of no fear and can feel freeing and peaceful.
Herein the disciple rouses his will to maintain the wholesome things that have already arisen, and not to allow them to disappear, but to bring them to growth, to maturity, and to the full perfection of development; and he makes effort, stirs up his energy, exerts his mind and strives. - The Buddha
' In the seen there is only the seen,
When, Bahiya, there is no 'you' there.
Sati-sampajanna means mindfulness with clear comprehension (or knowing).
It is a useful exercise to practise while one goes about daily life. It can help calm and centre the mind and bring insight into dependent origination.
Basically, whatever activity one is engaged with becomes one's meditation.
One is aware of what one is doing, where one is. Of one’s behaviour, of that which is appropriate.
Aware of what is non-delusion. Abandoning the wanting, the angst, and the clinging.
Fully here in this present moment, with life as it is -- our dhamma teacher.
One can get into a light samadhi doing this. It can be a refuge from difficult thoughts and emotions. A way of releasing the past and the future by being fully present to whatever task one is doing here and now, without the self-centred dream blinding us to what is real.
There are many ways to practice this. Sometimes it's nice to have an expansive open awareness. Other times it's nice to keep attention fixed on one thing. Depends on the mood, and this is where one must use wisdom and discernment to know what is needed in each given moment. This wisdom and discernment grows with experience. We are all unique, we have all been conditioned differently, no two people are exactly the same. Each one of us must tweak the practice to suit us.
Try to find something in awareness that brings some relief to the mind, even if it just seems like small relief, stay with it, it will grow.
Each situation and circumstance are different. Different objects of meditation work better at different times.
For example, sometimes I will just stay with the feeling of my feet on the ground. When I first did this, the sensations in my feet were quite dull. But after many hours of practise, the soles of my feet have now become very sensitive to the point where I swear I can feel vibrations in the ground, can sense things I couldn’t sense before.
I also like the feeling of the whole body moving as one.
The feeling of movement, how the body feels when it is in motion.
Or the feeling in my hands when holding an object. Is it hot or cold, smooth, or rough, heavy or light etc...
I also like to pay attention to the feeling of the air element in the space immediately around me. Or remain centred with the breath, whilst also aware of everything else happening in peripheral awareness. Where I am, what I am doing.
Sometimes I like being anchored in the spine, that can feel very good. Or the top of my head, the face, the neck, the heart, the belly, the arms, the legs.
The touch of clothing on the skin.
The natural elements are great too. The solidity of earth. The fluidity of water. The cool invisible changing touch of air. The light and warmth of fire, the sun.
The expansive and open feeling of the space element.
The knowing of consciousness, of awareness itself.
Other times I will contemplate interdependence, change, impermanence.
Sometimes I will pay attention to two things at once, such as the breath in my belly and the breath in my nostrils at the same time. Or my feet and hands, or the air element around me as it touches the skin and the sensations in the body caused by breathing.
Sometimes I centre with the emotion of goodwill. With peace and calm. With equanimity.
It depends on what feels good at the time. Take any guidance and make it your own. Find what helps you. Each of us must be our own refuge.
It is not easy; it can be challenging to keep bringing the mind back over and over. One may sometimes need to talk oneself into doing it. Or use the voice of another if really stuck. Read a book, an article or listen to a dhamma talk.
Learn to recognise the hindrances when they are present in the mind: craving, ill-will, fatigue, worry, doubt.
Notice how we talk to ourselves, and how it feels when the hindrances are present in the mind. For me I start feeling unpleasant feelings and notice I am stressed, that for me is a clear sign I am absorbed in unwholesome thoughts. That craving is present in the mind.
During the day, notice if you are stressed. Pause and ask yourself, am I suffering? What is the cause of this suffering? What can I do to ease that suffering? What can I practise to bring relief?
Whenever suffering is present, the five hindrances will also be present.
Applied and sustained attention to something wholesome secludes consciousness from the five hindrances.
When the hindrances are absent, one will feel great relief. When that happens it can help to note how much better it feels when they are absent from the mind, this can help to train it to see the difference and become more willing to abandon unwholesome states of mind, knowing that they are causing suffering, and that it feels much better to let go of them.
Practising sati-sampajanna complements sitting meditation and makes it easier to transition from daily life to sitting, and from sitting to daily life. It keeps the samadhi going and keeps the sign of peace steady in the mind throughout the day.
Sometimes though I do like to think and ponder and reflect on things. Thinking isn’t wrong. It can be a helpful tool. The way we talk to ourselves is a powerful tool. We can talk ourselves into different states of mind.
It depends what mood I'm in. Thought can be used as a meditation object, and used to seclude consciousness from the hindrances by thinking on a topic that is wholesome and staying with that topic.
Repeating a mantra over and over can also do it, or singing, or chanting.
It is the seclusion from the five hindrances that's important. That's what leads to joy, serenity, unification of mind, and equanimity.
It is hard to put into words.
It is an embodied feeling. One is anchored in the body, the subtle body as it feels from within. There's a safe space in the centre of us that is empty. One can anchor the centre of awareness there and still be present to everything else happening, but free from it at the same time, not clinging, not affected negatively by the changing vicissitudes of life. It is the empty seat at the centre of one's being. The inner cave.
Why is it empty? Because there's nobody there. No person. No self.
One can see this directly by playing around with the six senses: sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, mind (thoughts, memories, and ideas).
Divide each sense impression up into three different parts.
1. The object being sensed.
2. The contact with the sense organ.
3. The sense consciousness that arises from that contact.
One can see dependent origination in this. Notice how sense impressions arise dependent on conditions, and when those conditions cease so do the sense impressions.
Am I the object being sensed?
Am I the contact at the sense organ?
Am I the sense-consciousness that arises from that contact?
When I touch an object, I feel sensations. When I stop touching that object the sensations cease.
When my foot touches the ground there are sensations. When the foot is lifted off the ground the sensations cease. Am I the ground? Am I the sensations? Am I the consciousness which arises whilst contact is made, then disappears after?
Am I the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, touches, the thoughts, and ideas?
Where do thoughts and ideas come from? Mostly from the world, from books, articles, podcasts, videos, the media, our memory of the past, from the people we associate with.
Am I any of those things?
Who is this ‘I’ ?
The five hindrances and the seven factors of enlightenment are mutually exclusive.
Only one of them can occupy a single mind moment at a time.
Equanimity is a pleasant emotion. It is not dry at all. It is better than you think. You may be forgiven for having the impression of equanimity being a dry scientific sort of apathetic state. But it is not like that. It is a very rich emotion, and the freedom it brings feels slightly ecstatic actually.
Neither greed nor self-denial.
It avoids all extremes.
Mindfulness --> Investigation --> Energy --> Rapture --> Calmness --> Samhadi --> Equanimity.
This is a gradual training.
Find somewhere secluded where one won't be disturbed.
Putting aside longing and dejection in regard to the world.
Setting aside all worldly concerns.
One trains thus:
Mindfulness of the body
1. To begin just simply notice if the breath is long or short.
2. Then pay attention to the whole of the breath from start to finish.
3. Become sensitive to the body as you breathe in and out.
4. Breathe calming the body.
Mindfulness of Feelings
5. Breathe sensitive to joy.
6. Breathe experiencing pleasure.
7. Breathe sensitive to thoughts.
8. Breathe calming thoughts.
Mindfulness of mind states:
9. Breathe sensitive to one's state of mind.
10. Breathe satisfying and gladdening the mind.
11. Breathe steadying the mind.
12. Breathe releasing the mind.
Mindfulness of dhammas:
13. Breathe contemplating change. (impermanence, anicca, dependent origination).
14. Breathe contemplating the fading of craving. (Dispassion)
16. Breathe contemplating cessation. (of suffering).
17. Breathe abandoning greed, hate, and delusion. (renunciation).
' Let one not revive the past.
And the future's not yet reached.
Instead with insight let one see,
Each presently arisen state.
Let one know that and be sure of it,
Today the effort must be made.
Tomorrow death may come.
No bargain with mortality can keep him and his hordes away.
But for one who dwells thus ardently.
Keeps at it, does not give up.
Practises by day, by night ---
It is those the peaceful sage has said
Who have had one excellent night. '
-- poem attributed to the Buddha
Sometimes I feel alive, enthusiastic, full of excitement and wonder. Other times I am like a flat battery that can't seem to hold its charge or see much hope in anything. Other times there's an odd mix of brain chemistry that is so horrible I can't put it into words.
It is helpful for me to remember the brain is the body. It is dependent on conditions largely outside my control, meaning it will change. It won't always function in the way I wish it would, and eventually it will cease when the conditions it depends on cease.
That is the way of things with dependent origination. Conditioned phenomena is impermanent. It isn't gloomy to think this way. It can be a helpful tool to bring some equanimity to the mind. It helps me let go of the clinging and aversion towards things, and to stop taking it personally. Which decreases the suffering somewhat.
Sometimes difficult things happen that are outside our control. And sometimes it’s our own fault, we behave in unskilful ways and reap the kamma for it. Whatever it is, we then go and add more suffering to the situation with the longing, aversion, and taking it personally. This is the mental pain we add to physical and worldly difficulties. This is what makes us suffer.
I remember one night I got stranded on the mainland after missing the last boat back to the island. I had just completed a lengthy 10-hour journey coming back from my dad’s funeral. And I arrived at the ferry terminal late due to a delay with the coach. I felt exhausted and a bit unwell. There was nowhere to stay, and a long wait till the next ferry in the morning. So I went to sit on the beach, tried to roll a joint to make myself feel better. And I'd almost finished rolling it, when there was a huge gust of wind that blew it all away, and then it started raining. I felt like the person off the Hamlet advert, but without the cigar.
Then the day of the funeral all came back to me, and I burst into tears. It all just gushed out. I felt so lonely.
Then I saw my dad’s face in the sea. And I said I was sorry for not getting chance to speak to him before he died. I wished him well and told him he was loved.
Then the wind and rain became unbearable, so I went to find some shelter. I spent the rest of the night alternating between walking, standing, and sitting meditation.
I went through so many mood swings in that one night. Like the mind was changing, morphing into all sorts of different shapes and patterns. I was even seeing things that weren't there. It was challenging.
Through it all I tried to remain still and not get disturbed by the changing psychic weather. I just kept bringing my attention back to the breath and body to calm and centre the mind. Not engaging with anything else. Meditation felt like a refuge. There were strange eerie sounds at times like banshees wailing. (They turned out to be seabirds, the tunnel making their calls echo in ghostly ways).
Eventually after many hours of this, the mind converged into a oneness, and it all disappeared. The psychic weather passed. Leaving behind a stillness and beautiful emptiness that I can't put into words.
I was greeted at sunrise by a friendly pigeon watching me intently with smiley eyes. Then it vocalised a set of patterns, and some moments later another pigeon responded in the distance with a different set of vocal patterns.
The pigeon flew away.
The wind and rain outside had stopped. It also dependent on conditions.
I went to get a coffee and my card was declined by the reader. I laughed, and the cashier laughed as well. She said that happens to her all the time, and that she keeps a supply of cash with her just in case.
Luckily, I had a few coins on me and managed to buy the coffee.
One way I look at this is. It is more about becoming aware of the mental dispositions that cause us suffering, and when we become less ignorant of these and wise up to them, we naturally let go of them.
The good stuff remains though. It is okay to have a good life, to be comfortable and have some fun. This practise does not have to be a morose and sombre experience. After all it is the way that leads to the end of suffering. Enjoy the pleasant moments, as fully as you can, but practise wise attention to them. Notice how the mind clings and thirsts for more, and how this makes us suffer. How the things we are attached to the most, are the things that cause us to suffer the most when we become separated from them.
Mindfulness, wonder, interest, investigation, energy, joy, peace, friendliness, love, kindness, good humour, generosity, empathy, connection, compassion, serenity, samhadi, and equanimity to mention some, are all beautiful states of mind that don't cause us or anyone else any harm. These states of mind are good for us mentally and physically. They also bring good kamma, because they reinforce the mental dispositions that lead to good states of becoming, that lead away from suffering. They make us happier, healthier beings, and enrich our lives and those around us.
It is like someone who has been sick with an illness, with a fever, becomes unconscious. A doctor comes along and examines the patient, knows what it is that is wrong with the patient and how to cure them. He gives the patient some medicine. Their consciousness returns, then the colour returns to their cheeks, they sit up feeling much better, then their composure becomes serene and radiant. Feeling the relief of no longer being sick.
In a similar way, when our minds are clear of greed, hate, conceit and delusion, they become well again.
It isn't the world outside that is the problem. It is the greed, hate, and delusion within us that is the problem. That is what causes us suffering. That is what gets in the way.
How do I feel?
A seed that can sprout and grow under the right conditions.
Keeps abandoning that which leads to suffering.
Keeps cultivating and sustaining that which leads to the end of suffering.
How to balance and unify the numerous energies of the mind into a state of equanimity and clarity.
Wisdom naturally arises.
More conscious of the unconscious. More lucid. Awake.
Something that can't be taken away once it has been realised.
Grief seems to have returned. Lots of tears at the moment. Still processing things it seems.
So many unwanted events happening at once just now, coming into a convergence. I feel this longing to escape from it all, to be free from this world. Is that the thirst for non-existence (vibhava-tanhā)?
Have been reflecting on the first noble truth, the knowledge of suffering.
The instruction given for this truth, is that it needs to be understood.
How does one understand suffering?
' The noble truth of suffering (dukkha) is this: birth is suffering; aging is suffering; sickness is suffering; death is suffering; sorrow, pain, loss, grief, and despair are suffering; association with what is disliked is suffering; separation from what is liked is suffering; not getting what one wants is suffering. In brief, the five aggregates of attachment are suffering. '
— DHAMMACAKKAPPAVATTANA SUTTA
Understanding comes from investigation of the four noble truths in one's own life, in one's own experience. That's how true knowing develops.
A definition of the word 'Buddha' is 'One who knows'.
Some intellectual knowledge is needed. There has to be the capacity for wise reflection, and for critical thinking. You also need a map, a description, some guidance to point you in the right direction. So you know where you are heading with all this. Understand what needs to be accomplished, what the work is. The task at hand.
Then one sets the intention. Resolves to do the work. Consulting the map when one gets stuck. The true knowledge and wisdom is learnt from experience. From the present moment, life as it is, this is our dhamma teacher. With patience, gradually, over the course of many hours of repetitive practise. By being our own refuge. Experimenting, tweaking things, tuning them, one develops the eight factors of the noble eightfold path.
The five aggregates of attachment are: 1. The physical body 2. Feelings 3. Perceptions (memory) 4. Mental formations (such as thoughts), and 5. Consciousness (which arises due to contact with sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, and mental objects).
The five aggregates are always changing. Like a flowing stream. One never sees the same stream twice, even though it looks like the same stream. The water molecules you where looking at a moment ago are no longer there.
In a similar way, the five aggregates are a complex process, a flowing stream of events, of cause and effect. Everything conditioned is interdependent. When the right conditions are present something will arise; And when those conditions are no longer present, that something will cease.
For example, fire is dependent on conditions such as dryness, wood, oxygen, tinder, and a spark. Take away any of those conditons and the fire won't start.
The five aggregates (the khandhas/skandhas) are fragile and uncertain, dependent on changing conditions that are largely outside our control. Which is why clinging to them, and identifying with them causes us suffering. There's nothing there to cling to. They are impermanent, insubstantial. Empty.
The things we are attached to the most, are the things that cause us the most suffering.
The twelve links of dependent origination, (ultra-concise version):
These are a representation of the links in the chain of dependent origination (causation) which lead to suffering and rebirth.
Ignorance --> Mental dispositions and volitional actions --> Conditioned consciousness --> Mind and body (aka name and form) --> The six senses --> Sense impressions --> feelings (of like or dislike) --> craving --> clinging/identifying --> becoming --> birth --> death.
It is a continous circle, so death circles back round to ignorance and the circuit begins again...
i.e., becoming --> birth --> death --> Ignorance --> mental dispositions and volitional actions ... and so on -- the cycle continuously goes round and round in a circle.
Need a better way to describe 'mental dispositions and volitional actions.' It is about how our mental dispositions, our intentions become mental and physical actions which condition our consciousness (form habits).
The links are all points where the circuit can be broken. Much of the links are outside our control. But we can work on ignorance, on our intentions, on our volitional actions. Use wisdom and knowledge to weaken the tendency to cling and identify with things. Till eventually one realises a state of non-clinging and stops grasping the seeds of greed, hate and delusion. Then the fuel line to craving is cut off and suffering stops.
Physical pain can still happen, that is the kamma of having a body, of living in an uncertain world full of threats and danger that come in all shapes and sizes. But mentally, emotionally, one can feel okay, can feel free, at ease. Secure, safe, not clinging to anything in the world. Then whatever happens in the body and the outer world, one's peace remains unshakeable. There is no more mental suffering.
It can sound a bit dry and serious, it is serious, but not dry. It is important not to take it all too seriously. Find a middle way through it, a balance. I think a gentle sense of humour can be helpful, especially towards oneself. As well as goodwill towards other beings, of all kinds, in all worlds. This brings joy and wellbeing, gladdens the mind, makes it fearless and golden. The beautiful emotions are part of the path too. Kindness, generosity, goodwill, friendship, compassion, joy, calmness, clarity, equanimity... and so on, non-greed, non-hate, non-conceit. These states strengthen the tendencies of the mind that help with the realisation of nibanna, generate good kamma and make everyone feel better. You don't have to save the world or do anything dramatic. If you can't help; at least cause no harm. That's good enough. The huge problems facing the world just now can feel overwhelming. So much suffering everywhere. But in the darkness, the beautiful emotions are like a light to ourselves and those around us. They make us feel well, like nourishment for the heart and mind.
One definition of the third noble truth, is it is realised when greed, hatred, and delusion are no longer able to take root in the mind. In the space left behind is an unshakeable peace. The psychic energy bound up in greed, hate, and delusion, becomes unbound, freed, limitless. Descriptions of nibanna in the suttas say: 'It is the highest state of happiness. The supreme state of bliss.'
Sounds good to me. I could do with some of that.
During the Buddha's time people from all walks of life and age groups where getting enlightened (by the boat load). Most of them couldn't read or write.
It is a practical path. I think that's why I like it.
Something I find helpful as I go about my day. Is to just suddenly stop and notice how I am feeling. The mind, the emotions, the body. Whatever it feels like in this moment.
It feels like this.
It can be helpful to stop sometimes and do that. It creates a bit of space. A pause in the story. The thoughts are still present but I am not absorbed in them anymore. I am centred in emptiness. Sounds strange, and difficult to put into words. The emptiness is not a negative thing, it feels freeing and expansive. It contains everything that is happening in the moment, yet it isn't the things it contains. It is not a dry, detached emptiness. It just feels safe. If that makes any sense...
I have been reflecting a lot on the four noble truths, thinking about craving (tanha).
Craving for sense pleasure (kāma-tanhā);
Craving for existence (bhava-tanhā),
and craving for non-existence (vibhava-tanhā).
The second noble truth says that craving is the cause of suffering and gives the instruction for it to be abandoned. But that sounds a bit harsh, so I am trying to find a better word than 'abandonment'.
One way I do it is. When I notice my mood is a bit off and there is a lack of peace. I stop and inquire. I notice craving in its three aspects. Note how the craving creates a feeling of unease in the mind, a restless anxiety, fear, discomfort, yearning, and discontent. Craving is stressful.
Thoughts to do with longing, resentment and conceit are unpleasant. They don't feel good. They feel toxic and make the mind an unhappy place. I notice how craving creates tension in the mind. How it creates a feeling of lack and dissatisfaction. A feeling of compulsion. How it divides the mind against itself. How all the wanting becomes delusion. The mind gets absorbed in the stories it tells itself about the world and the things it wants, and the things it doesn't want, takes it all personally. The self-centred dream.
I notice this and stop following it. I don't judge it, or identify with it. I feel compassion for it, understand it for what it is. let it be there, and notice how it all feels without the story. How the body feels in this moment. How the mood feels. How this present moment feels. Accept it all for what it is, as it is. And just breathe in, breathe out.
Not pushing anything away, nor chasing after it. Not seeing anything as self or other. Just breathing through it. The whole body absorbed in the feeling of the cool air going into the nostrils and the warm air going out. Like when one steps out onto a balcony and breathes the fresh air, and it feels soothing. That feeling of invigoration. The body still, calm, open, and at ease. The breath energy filling every part of it. Uplifting the mind, freeing it from concerns, bringing relief.
The craving settles. The involuntary movements of the mind cease and there is peace for a time.
Then the craving comes back again.
Rinse and repeat.
But do the work gently, with good humour. With kindness. Don't take it all too seriously. Joy is part of the path too.
This is a succint and concise summary of the noble eightfold path as I currently understand it (-:
Birth, ageing, and death is hard to bear. Loss and separation from what we love is also hard to bear. Associating with what is disliked is unpleasant. Being apart from what is liked is unpleasant. Not getting what one wants is unpleasant. Identifying with the five aggregates of clinging (body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations (thoughts), sense-consciousness) is also dissatisfying, because they are always changing. The aggregates (khandas) are insubstantial, impermanent, uncertain and empty of self. This is what needs to be understood.
The cause of suffering is craving. The Pali word tanha (thirst) is used for this. And it is important to note that there is such a thing as chanda (right desire). Not all desire is to be abandoned. Chanda is the word used to describe right desire (desire that helps to put an end to suffering); and tanha is used to describe wrong desire, that which causes suffering.
The fading away and cessation of craving is what ends suffering. With wisdom one stops following the craving, and clinging to that which is insubstantial. The involuntary movements of the mind stop and there is an unshakeable peace. One is no longer harrassed and driven by craving and the worldly winds, which brings relief and freedom to the mind.
The Buddha listed the three right intentions above as being thoughts that he did not regret having, these intentions do not lead to unwholesome actions, they lead to good kamma and to nibanna.
The Buddha before his enlightenment divided his thoughts up to those that he regretted having (unwholesome thoughts); and those that he did not regret having (wholesome thoughts). He worked to abandon the unwholesome thoughts, dismissing them until they no longer arose. And he encouraged and cultivated the wholesome thoughts till they happened naturally, automatically without him needing to apply any more effort. He said the experiment worked and eventually his mind was filled with thoughts he didn't regret having. This made it easier then to settle into meditation.
To make a living that does not cause harm to oneself or others.
Needs to be tuned so it is neither too tight, nor too loose. I.e. don't burn yourself out, but also don't get lazy.
The four right efforts are:
1. prevention of unwholesome states of mind from arising. (By avoiding unwise attention to the fault; and unwise attention to the beautiful.)
2. abandonment of unwholesome states of mind should they arise.
3. generating wholesome states of mind.
4. sustaining those wholesome states of mind.
Unwholesome states of mind are the five hindrances: greed, aversion, sloth, restlessness, doubt.
Wholesome states of mind are the seven factors of enlightenment: mindfulness, investigation of phenomena (dhamma), energy (effort), joy, calmness, samhadi, equanimity (balance).
This is the four foundations of mindfulness.
Mindfulness of the body.
Mindfulness of feelings. (pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant).
Mindfulness of mental states.
Mindfulness of dhammas (teachings).
The body is in the mind.
A meditation object is used to calm and centre the mind, gather it together and bring it into unity and balance. Common meditation objects used are the breath, natural elements, primary colours, perception of light, or the emotion of goodwill (metta).
The Buddha classifies right samhadi as the four jhanas.
'Having gone somewhere quiet, away from distractions. Having removed longing and dejection in regard to the world, setting mindfulness before one.
The continuous practise of jhana gradually weakens the hold of greed and hatred on the mind until eventually those defilements fall away for good and never return. When this happens one becomes a non-returner, (the third stage of enlightenment) and is never again born into this world.
Full enlightenment (fourth and final stage) is the realisation of nibanna, and the complete end of the conceit 'I am' and delusion.
Feeling a bit brighter today. Have got back into studying again. I got a good result for my latest assignment (-: which has encouraged me to persevere with what has been a difficult subject to learn.
My energy has been fluctuating a fair bit. Sometimes there is the prison of sloth and fatigue, and other times the bossy vibe of anxiety. My practice edge just now is a lot about learning how to tune that energy. Find a middle way. So I don't overdo things, take it all too seriously and burn out; but also don't get lazy, complacent, and trapped in stagnation.
All this fine energy tuning balanced with the intention to be kind to myself and those around me. To come from the heart, with peaceful intentions and goodwill for other beings. And also take rest and time out for myself when I need it, and not feel guilty for this. Love and goodwill doesn't make me a doormat. Boundaries and self-care are important.
Mastering thought is challenging, but I am making some progress.
Centering with body awareness, the breath, and a sense of space can help chill out the mind.
It can feel good to be free of words. I find that most of the stuff I was worrying about is no longer a concern when language disappears. There is more to life than words. Deeper things to find, things that words can't contain.
But words are also useful. So it is good to know how to switch the thinking back on when I need it. As I still have to function in the world, socialise, and have the capacity for wise reflection.
It is not easy to train the mind.
Another meaning of equanimity is balance.
There are five psychic irritants, these are: greed, ill-will, sloth, agitation, and doubt. Also known as the five hindrances.
When I become aware of their presence in the mind, I find labeling can be helpful for creating some space between me and them. The label also teaches the mind to get quicker at spotting the hindrance when it arises.
To remove the hindrance I centre with something else. Usually this is an open awareness of the body and the breath, or with whatever activity I am doing at the time, and focus on this instead of the hindrance.
If thoughts are tiring, invasive, disturbing, or difficult to work with I will not pay attention to them at all and practice noble silence in my head. Move the centre of attention away from thoughts and to the breath, body and space.
But sometimes words are useful and I can talk myself into a better state of mind, change the way I think about experience, which changes my perception of things.
It depends on what feels right at the time. Sometimes talking myself into a better state of mind is helpful, other times silent awareness and stillness is needed.
Sometines there are unwholesome thoughts at the edge of awareness. And I find I can let them be there without getting absorbed in them or disturbed by them. Eventually they fade away. This can bring a feeling of freedom, to not be constantly caught up in the head.
I try to encourage and engage with wholesome thoughts to make those stronger. But will disengage from even these when I am tired.
A meditation object such as the breath helps to calm and centre the mind, and gives it something safe to anchor with. Sustained attention to a meditation object gathers the mind together into a convergence, unifies and steadies it, which secludes it from the psychic irritants. This seclusion from the five hindrances brings a feeling of relief and happiness to the mind. Which can continue for some time even after meditation.
There are times though where it can take a while for the mind to settle and drop into serenity. The hindrances can be strong. It takes endurance and non-reactivity then to patiently sit still, anchored in the body, until the senses finally settle down and the mind drops into peace. Sometimes it can take lengthy meditation sessions to get there. I think though in time and with practise, the mind will settle faster and less endurance will be needed.
It can be interesting (when mindful) to notice the way I breathe whilst in different states of mind. Notice the connection between mind and body. Observe this, then see if I can breathe in ways that calm the body, and clear the psychic irritants from the mind. Nothing complicated or fancy, just breathing in a way that feels good. This can help change the state of mind to something more wholesome.
'The search for a spiritual path is born out of suffering. It does not start with lights and ecstasy, but with the hard tacks of pain, disappointment, and confusion. However, for suffering to give birth to a genuine spiritual search, it must amount to more than something passively received from without. It has to trigger an inner realization, a perception which pierces through the facile complacency of our usual encounter with the world to glimpse the insecurity perpetually gaping underfoot. When this insight dawns, even if only momentarily, it can precipitate a profound personal crisis. It overturns accustomed goals and values, mocks our routine preoccupations, leaves old enjoyments stubbornly unsatisfying. '
- Bhikhu Bodhi
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