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Mind Storms

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 12 Sep 2023, 22:37


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 😊




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Crossing the flood

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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.)

 


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Gradual incline

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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.

...

 


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Calming anger

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 24 Aug 2023, 21:02


" 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 state.

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.

 photo of a tree


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Note to not-self

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' When you can't do anything to change what is happening.

Challenge yourself to change your response to what's happening.

That's where your power is. '

- the Buddha (I think).

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Sati-sampajanna and the six senses

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 10 Aug 2023, 15:33


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’ ?

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Five strategies for mastering the pathways of thought

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 9 Aug 2023, 17:22


' Just as a skilled physician has different medicines for different ailments, so the Buddha has different antidotes for the different hindrances, some equally applicable to all, some geared to a particular hindrance.

(N.b. The five hindrances are: 1. craving, 2. ill will, 3. dullness and drowsiness, 4. restlessness and worry/remorse, 5. doubt.)

In an important discourse the Buddha explains five techniques for expelling distracting thoughts.

1. The first is to expel the defiled thought with a wholesome thought which is its exact opposite, analogous to the way a carpenter might use a new peg to drive out an old one. For each of the five hindrances there is a specific remedy, a line of meditation designed expressly to deflate it and destroy it. This remedy can be applied intermittently, when a hindrance springs up and disrupts meditation on the primary subject; or it can be taken as a primary subject itself, used to counter a defilement repeatedly seen to be a persistent obstacle to one’s practice.

For craving a remedy of general application is the meditation on impermanence, which knocks away the underlying prop of clinging, the implicit assumption that the objects clung to are stable and durable.

For craving in the specific form of sensual lust the most potent antidote is the contemplation of the unattractive nature of the body.

Ill will meets its proper remedy in the meditation on loving-kindness (metta), which banishes all traces of hatred and anger through the methodical radiation of the altruistic wish that all beings be well and happy.

The dispelling of dullness and drowsiness calls for a special effort to arouse energy, for which several methods are suggested: the visualization of a brilliant ball of light, getting up and doing a period of brisk walking meditation, reflection on death, or simply making a firm determination to continue striving.

Restlessness and worry are most effectively countered by turning the mind to a simple object that tends to calm it down; the method usually recommended is mindfulness of breathing, attention to the in-and-out flow of the breath.

In the case of doubt the special remedy is investigation: to make inquiries, ask questions, and study the teachings until the obscure points become clear.

Whereas this first of the five methods for expelling the hindrances involves a one-to-one alignment between a hindrance and its remedy, the other four utilize general approaches.

2. The second marshals the forces of shame (hiri) and moral dread (ottappa) to abandon the unwanted thought: one reflects on the thought as vile and ignoble or considers its undesirable consequences until an inner revulsion sets in which drives the thought away.

3. The third method involves a deliberate diversion of attention. When an unwholesome thought arises and clamours to be noticed, instead of indulging it one simply shuts it out by redirecting one’s attention elsewhere, as if closing one’s eyes or looking away to avoid an unpleasant sight.

4. The fourth method uses the opposite approach. Instead of turning away from the unwanted thought, one confronts it directly as an object, scrutinizes its features, and investigates its source. When this is done the thought quiets down and eventually disappears. For an unwholesome thought is like a thief: it only creates trouble when its operation is concealed, but put under observation it becomes tame.

5. The fifth method, to be used only as a last resort, is suppression — vigorously restraining the unwholesome thought with the power of the will in the way a strong man might throw a weaker man to the ground and keep him pinned there with his weight.

By applying these five methods with skill and discretion, the Buddha says, one becomes a master of all the pathways of thought. One is no longer the subject of the mind but its master. Whatever thought one wants to think, that one will think. Whatever thought one does not want to think, that one will not think. Even if unwholesome thoughts occasionally arise, one can dispel them immediately, just as quickly as a red-hot pan will turn to steam a few chance drops of water. '

- by Bhikkhu Bodhi (from, The noble eightfold path: the way to the end of suffering ) available for free at: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/waytoend.html

'Herein the disciple rouses his will to overcome the evil, unwholesome states that have arisen and he makes effort, stirs up his energy, exerts his mind and strives. He does not retain any thought of craving, ill will, or harmfulness, or any other evil and unwholesome states that may have arisen; he abandons them, dispels them, destroys them, causes them to disappear.' - The Buddha

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Thought purification

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 8 Aug 2023, 09:05


My main practise edge just now seems to be purifying my thoughts. Bloody difficult. But not impossible. The Buddha assures me that it can be done, it just takes time, determination and effort. Very difficult, but the rewards for doing it are well worth it.

The Buddha sometimes talks to me, yeah it sounds crazy, I don't know if it really is him or some aspect of the mind that takes on the persona of the Buddha. I have read a lot of suttas and listened to many dhamma talks, so it could be that my mind has created that voice within to help me. But it also feels real, like it really is the Buddha talking to me. If it is a delusion it is not unhelpful, as the advice is golden.

 I connected with him the first time I actually succeeded at breath meditation and my consciousness suddenly became very different, it went from mundane to an expansive bliss that I can't put into words. All the stress and sorrow, was completely gone. The Buddha appeared to me and said: 'Well done.'

Ever since then he occasionally appears to give me advice when I am struggling. Not just the Buddha but his famous disciples too. I have had the honour of speaking to Mogallana and Sariputta among others. I seem to be part of a spiritual sangha of enlightened beings now, human and non-human who have become my friends and offer support when I need it. But they are always clear I have to do the work myself. It is up to me, noone else can do the work for me.

The impurities of the mind have become relentless on their assualt on the heart, my inner life has become a battlefield. Mindfulness, right effort and samhadi is my protection from them.

 If mindfulness slips though, they can get into the heart and wreak all sorts of damage. But once I see that they have poisoned the heart I then have to remove them. And return to keeping the seven factors of enlightenment going.

The making effort part is not all that pleasant, but I know from experience that eventually what we practice grows stronger and becomes second nature. At that point it gets easier and then becomes effortless. I am just learning skills. There's nothing magical going on, any one of us if we put in the effort can free our minds from greed, hate and delusion, and it is worth it. Samsara is short changing us, nibanna is much better.

If I notice my thoughts are about greed, ill will, conceit, delusion, or are total nonsense (rubbish that comes in from the world). I interrupt the thoughts and label them as such. At first this was tiring to do, it didn't feel like liberation, it felt unpleasant. But something has changed now, when I interrupt the thoughts after they've gone astray and label them. The mind quickly abandons them, just like that, it drops them and willingly returns to centering with the breath and body. No arguments or resistance. 

At the moment the solar plexus and heart area of the body feels really good to anchor attention with as I go about the day. Feels really nice being centred there.

It is like the mind is now understanding at a deep level that greed, hate, conceit and delusion are no good and lead to suffering, and when I interrupt these kind of thoughts the mind willingly drops them. 

The thoughts come back, and I get absorbed in them again. Then I remember, become aware,  mindfulness returns, I interrupt and label the thoughts, and the mind happily lets go of them and centres with the breath and body. I will also generate thoughts of goodwill and peace to all beings or reflect on the dhamma if thinking is not too tiring. Wholesome thoughts I encourage, it's just the unwholesome thoughts I abandon. 

But at times it is nice to not think even good thoughts. To stop thinking and enjoy silence, a wordless peace that doesn't depend on language.


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Summary of stages in Mindfulness of breathing, anapanasati (ultra-concise version)

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 30 Jul 2023, 16:16


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).

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Energy balance

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 12 Jul 2023, 10:08

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.

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Finding the sweet spot

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 22 Jun 2023, 13:54


There's a sweet spot I experience sometimes, where there is a convergence of the mind and it becomes unified and still. It feels like bliss when it happens, but it is not always easy to get into that state and maintain it. My practise edge just now is learning how to bring my mind into that state of convergence and maintain it for longer and longer.

But without straining the mind or taking it all too seriously. Finding a middle way with the effort.

It is hard some days to keep trudging. The dark side of the mind, the kilesas (greed, hatred, and conceit), have been fighting back. They do not want to be transformed into generosity, kindness and clarity, and within my heart there is a conflict. Sometimes the whirlwind within feels like it will kill me. But there is grace I am finding. A kind being always comes to my aid from either the human or the deva realm and their loving energy keeps me steady and brings some warmth and joy to the heart which encourages me to keep going onward on this spiritual journey. The refuge of the sangha.

Buddhist cosmology describes many different worlds, and all of these can be mapped to states of consciousness. Apparently a skilled meditator is able to visit any of these different worlds, i.e. experience these different states of consciousness.  

Awareness can become a refuge from invasive thoughts. When the unpleasant involuntary thoughts appear. I turn my attention away from them and anchor it with some other aspect of awareness. Can be different parts at different times. Sometimes it's my feet, my lower belly, my heart area, my neck, my scalp, my spine, my legs, my hands, the touch of clothing on the skin or the atmosphere, a breeze, a sound, a sight, the breath, the feeling of the whole body together as one, the sense of being embodied. Fluidity, warmth, solidity. The feeling of presence. I can be aware of any of these, whatever feels good at that time. The hard part is keeping the attention anchored there, as it wants to wander and is so easily distracted; before I know it I am back in the head again.

But I know it just takes time and patience, this is the work, and if I keep practising, eventually the mind will be trained to stay centred with the body in the present moment and not get carried off by the thought processes. Then I can think when I want to think, and stop thinking when I want to stop thinking.

Sometimes there are moments when the centre of my attention becomes empty and my consciousness is content to be anchored in that emptiness while everything else continues around me, but I am not making a story about any of it, just watching the arising and ceasing of the present moment. This can happen sometimes when I am in the midst of an activity. I am still aware of the activity, but I am centred in stillness and emptiness. Flowing, while anchored in the inner cave.

Sometimes I will have an inner mind-generated sound, perhaps some musical notes that I can make clearer, and stronger by focusing on them, and this can help to pacify the thought energies. The sound grows louder than them.

Sometimes chanting a poem or a teaching that I have memorised can quieten down the thought energies and bring them into a state of composure.

When the mind is chilled out and calm, it becomes easier to think more about kindness and generosity, and to see things clearly.

Sometimes the mind finds it hard to detach from thoughts. So I have to make effort and practise bursts of single-pointed attention to compose the mind. When it becomes calmer I then reflect on the four noble truths. And insight can arise from this, which brings some joy and gladness to the mind, which in turn makes it easier to settle into meditation. 

Sometimes I have to settle the mood down in stages, gently, gradually, and review each stage, make adjustments if need be. If I am feeling even just a little bit better at each stage, then it is working and I am making progress. One has to be patient and kind to oneself on this journey, and avoid unwise attention to the fault-finding mind. Endure, keep putting in the causes and conditions.

It is a gradual training, it is hard work, can take a while, and it is not always pleasant. Some days it feels impossible. But I know if I keep making effort, keep up the momentum, practise consistently, eventually it will click and the mind will re-wire itself. Old conditioning will fall away, and what I have practised often will become my new automated behaviour and conditioning, then it will get easier. This is something I know from experience, it is true when learning any skill in life.

...





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Psychic alchemy

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 22 May 2023, 22:02


Feeling a wee bit better today. Was in such a dark place for a while. These cycles seem to happen every now and then. My mind goes into shutdown, like when a computer updates its operating system. It can feel slow and frustrating, and there's an element of restlessness there on top of the fatigue, and that bossy part of the mind always tugging at me to do things. Reminding me of deadlines and things I should be doing.

 I kept reminding myself that I don't have to be bossed around by that part of the mind. After all it's me! And it isn't helpful, it can be so bossy and overly-critical. The inner tyrant. A real problem many of us have in modern day society, we've been conditioned that way.

 Actually when one is like that, the best thing to do is to do nothing, just be still, be silent, endure the restless feelings and don't react to the mood. Keep choosing not to get involved with any negative thoughts. They are mostly nonsense anyway, we often create delusional stories in our heads that are not in sync with what is happening in reality when our mood is low. But balance this by also forgiving oneself for having those thoughts, be gentle with the mind when one catches oneself absorbed in the negativity. Don't punish yourself for it, or be judgemental. Just be grateful you noticed, and then stop paying attention to the negativity. Look in a different direction, like you are turning away from a sight that you don't want to see. You don't have to pay attention to negative thoughts. Choose purposely to pay attention to something else, the breath, the feet, some part of awareness that is neutral and helps to calm and centre the mind. And give yourself permission to do that. You are allowed to.

The inner miser might say: 'I don't deserve to be happy, I don't deserve to enjoy myself.' that is just crap, don't listen to that. You are allowed to be happy, you are allowed to feel joy. Cut yourself some slack, one of the enlightenment factors is joy. It is part of the training. So stop listening to the miserly one within who tells you that you can't be happy, that you don't deserve it. And don't be content with just a little taste, ask the mind for more, until you couldn't ask for any more.

We've all done crappy things that we regret. Many great saints and noble people weren't always that way, some were rascals. Everyone on this planet is a mix of good and bad. We make amends for our past mistakes by training our minds now. It is the most compassionate thing we can do for ourselves and others is to train the mind.

Take comfort in the knowledge that the inner critic is entirely a mental construct and not real. It is a phantom. There is nothing substantial there. When one stops paying attention to it, it gets weaker and eventually subsides. It is merely a sankhara, a tape loop from the past, a conditioning that can be unconditioned. It isn't permanent, it isn't self, and it can be changed into something better. And all the psychic energy that went into that sankhara can then be freed up, and with some clever dharma alchemy become something more friendly and supportive on your journey. 

Turn that inner critic into a sankhara of inner friendship. When one becomes a good friend to oneself, one will then naturally become a good friend to others. Friendliness makes one less judgemental, less selfish. Love dissolves the separation between self and other. And without all our inner angsty wanty needy stuff getting in the way, one can properly listen to others and be there for them wholeheartedly. It doesn't make you a doormat though, always at everyone's beck and call. You still assert your boundaries, you don't have to associate with the foolish, the toxic, and don't let yourself be taken advantage of. You have to take care of yourself too.

But when you feel comfortable in yourself, secure, it is easier to be with others and be a friend then, to be a good listener, because your insecurities aren't getting in the way.

It takes work though, a lot of work. Like learning to be skilled at any craft, it doesn't happen over night. When learning any new skill, it is consistent daily repetitive practice that gets you there. Perseverance, endurance. The mind is also lazy, it doesn't like to change habits and make effort. Even if the behaviour is killing us, it prefers to stick with its grooves and keep things the way they are. We can get set in our ways because change feels uncomfortable, unpleasant at first. But the thing to keep in mind is it is possible, these unhelpful habits can be changed. And done without straining the mind, a gentle kind effort that doesn't burn you out is what's needed. Tuning the energies so they are balanced. A middle way, avoiding the extremes. Not too energetic and not too lazy. Be kind to the mind, this is how we train to be friendly, by being a friend to ourselves, which is another meaning of the word: metta, friendliness. Becoming mindful of kindness, or as Ajahn Brahm puts it: kindfulness.

It is a lot about how we talk to ourselves, this is what changes our perceptions of things, and reprograms the sankharas (mental formations).

The mind is an immensely complex, mysterious and powerful thing that we all have, but hardly any of us know how to use it properly. How to train it, how it works. We allow ourselves to be driven around by it. For many of us it is wild and chaotic, not unified, contradictory, pulling us this way and that. A monkey swinging from branch to branch. The mind can be a lot like a wild animal and rebellious, and sometimes it won't play ball and be deliberately difficult, resist the training. It takes patience. In fact there's a set of pictures in Zen called the Ox-herding pictures which puts across this idea of training the mind really well.

There's some beautiful bird song at the moment as I write this. 

I was reflecting on how music is all about change. I do like music. Sometimes if my energy is low I put on my headphones and listen to some music, and that can help uplift me a bit. It Is interesting how music has that effect on the mind. Sometimes when I get an earworm after listening to music, I will meditate on the ear worm and it grows clearer and more otherworldly. A bit like when one pictures a sight they've seen in their mind's eye and it becomes more sharper and colourful. For any readers who are wondering what an earworm is. An earworm is when a piece of music keeps looping over and over in the mind after one has listened to it often. It is not an actual worm that lives in the ear. It is a metaphor for when you can't get a tune out of your head. Although why a worm is used as a metaphor for this I couldn't say for sure.

I have decided to keep writing my blog. I also feel like the devas (shining ones/angels) are encouraging me to keep writing it. It seems to help me. Something about attempting to articulate what I am learning helps me remember and understand it better and absorb the knowledge.




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Music of meditation

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 30 Apr 2023, 15:44


When meditating, be your own refuge. Take what works from different techniques and make it your own. The many different meditation instructions out there are a guide. Generic templates, there to help you find your own way in. It is okay to play around with them, to create your own recipes to get into samhadi. 

Part of meditation practice is about tweaking things, experimenting, trying things out, seeing what gets results. Keep what is useful and disregard what isn't. Everyone has their own style. There is no one size fits all.

It is like learning a musical instrument. At first it is dull because you can't instantly make music, you have to learn how to tune the instrument so it produces the right tone. Then learn the notes, chords and position of fingers. You have to train all these different muscles, and it hurts at first. You can't get it to make the sounds you want in the beginning, and wonder if you ever will. There are scales to learn, and generic songs that teach you about structure, progression and timing.

Learning any skill in the beginning is frustrating and difficult. It can feel repetitive, boring, tedious, the mind wanders, day dreams, gets restless, feels reluctant to practise; but one keeps oneself going with the knowledge that what one is doing now, will enable one's future self to be able to make music one day. That desire is what drives one into putting in the time, dedication and effort to learn the skills needed to get there.

One learns how to talk to oneself, to keep oneself going, to be patient, and content with not getting the results one wants straight away. One learns to wait, and have faith that what one is doing now will one day pay off. It takes time for skills to develop, for new habits to be formed. The process can't be hurried, and it can also take different amounts of time for each one of us, as we don't all learn at the same speed.

This is a desert we all have to cross when learning something new. But as with any training, if one persists at it, keeps a consistent daily practice going. The effort will build up a momentum over time, and eventually there's a tipping point where it suddenly feels easier, and things become more effortless, there is confidence, and there is flow, and you wonder why you used to find it so difficult because it feels so natural now, intuitive, like second nature. At last one is playing the music.

Meditation is like this also.


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I take up the way of speaking truthfully

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I take up the training to be truthful.
And to speak from a deep place within.
To listen from there as well.

May I always receive others with a warm presence.
So they feel comfortable speaking their truth.

Truth is the antidote to delusion.
If there is no honesty when looking at the mind,
not much progress can be made on the spiritual path.

May I transform all these feelings of regret
for lies I've told in the past.
Into wisdom, that informs my discernment here and now.

Let me only speak the truth if it is kind, beneficial, and appropriate;
Otherwise let me wholeheartedly practise noble silence.

May I have the mindfulness and discernment
to know the right time to speak;
and the right time to remain silent.

The power of a truth can heal. There are stories in the suttas where the Buddha's disciples spoke or chanted a truth to people who were sick, (one time this included the Buddha himself when he was sick) and the power of that truth healed them.

The power of a spiritual truth can have a healing effect on the mind and body.

How does one know such a truth?
Because it resonates deep within,
Rings your entire being like a bell.

When a person hears a truth like this it can heal them.
 


 
 


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Serenity practise

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 7 May 2022, 22:52

This is something I have been practising during my own meditation and it has been very helpful and I quite like it.

When the mind becomes distracted in meditation and loses awareness of the meditation object, follow this simple algorithm below:

1. Notice with friendliness towards the mind, without any judgement or shame towards oneself, (always be gentle, be a friend to the mind and it will be a friend back) just become aware that the mind has wandered from the meditation object. Then...

2. Let go of whatever the distraction was, it doesn't matter what it was, the details are irrelevant, there's no need to tie up any lose ends or tidy up the thoughts. Just let go of the distraction and become aware of the body.

3. Relax any tension you feel in the body, remembering also to relax the face and head, as thoughts can bring tension to those areas. Spend some time doing this, take as long as feels natural. One is purposefully calming the body, and bringing into awareness a sense of bodily ease and pleasure.

4. Gladden the mind, like the zesty zingy feeling of a refreshing spring breeze. Kindle some joy in the mind. Smile inwardly, smile with your heart, and turn the corners of your mouth up, even if it's just a little, teeny slight barely-noticeable smile. That'll do! It doesn't matter if at first it feels fake, smiling releases endorphins and the mind will catch on and the smile will eventually become genuine. Then let that warm pleasant energy spread throughout the whole body. Saturate the entire body with it.

5. Then reflect for a moment on how the mind feels when it is lucid, serene and free from craving.

There are two sides to craving: craving for sense pleasure, and craving for circumstances to be different. They are both two sides of the same coin.

These are the four noble truths:

Knowledge of suffering (which is to be understood).

Knowledge of the cause of suffering (which is to be abandoned).

Knowledge of the end of suffering (which is to be realised).

Knowledge of the way that leads to the end of suffering (which is to be developed). 

Can you see the four noble truths in your meditation practise: noticing the craving, letting go of the craving, experiencing freedom from the craving, and the cultivation of the noble eightfold path that leads to the end of craving. 

6. Return to focusing on the meditation object.

7. Rinse and repeat every time the mind wanders.

Samma Samhadi (Right Concentration) can be translated as lucid serenity. Unfortunately, Right Concentration can create the wrong impression of meditation practise. Samma Samhadi is not a hard tunnel-vision focus. One is not concentrating so hard that it blocks out everything else from conscious awareness, that just creates tension in the mind and the body. No, Samma Samhadi is a still, calm, lucid, relaxed, expansive and serene awareness. Anchored in the body, so the mind does not float off like a helium balloon. One meditates with awareness of the body in the background. This is what is meant by one pointed attention, it means wholehearted attention grounded in the body, it is an embodied attention. A unification of mind, all of the mind collected and gathered together, attending to the meditation object together as one. The four jhanas which the Buddha defined as Samma Samhadi are known as the rupa jhanas because they are embodied, i.e. awareness of the body is present throughout. 

Samhadi (lucid serenity) and vipassana (insight) are actually one and the same, they are not two distinct separate practises. They are part of the same meditation. They are like two wings of a bird that take you to nibanna. Nibanna in a nutshell means irreversible freedom from suffering. I.e. there's no comedown from it, the freedom is permanent. And nibanna can be experienced here and now in this very life if one practises ardently enough. Different stages of enlightenment bring progressively greater freedom from suffering. 

In Buddhist practise there's nothing magical happening, although it can certainly feel like that at times, (encounters with the unconscious parts of the mind can often feel magical,)  one is just simply training the mind. If one puts in the right causes and conditions, one gets the results. In the case of Buddhist training, the final result is irreversible freedom from suffering. 

Right input equals right output. Bad input equals bad output.

Having a good teacher helps immensely, but the training is doable on one's own if one is  determined enough, but honestly find a teacher and some good spiritual friends, it will save you a lot of time and make the practise much richer and joyful. There are many Buddhist teachers and groups available online and one does not need to travel great distances to find one anymore, one can now train virtually via the Internet for free from one's home without having to travel anywhere or go on a lengthy retreat. All my teachers and spiritual friends are online.

The noble eightfold path is the training one undertakes to become a Buddha. The Buddha famously once said: 'One who sees the dhamma sees me. And one who sees me sees the dhamma.'  The dhamma is the mind of the Buddha, and one who has mastered the dhamma, becomes a Buddha. 

Not a clone though, one still has whatever personality traits one had before, but now freed from greed, hatred, and delusion. A bit like how there is a recipe to bake bread, but there can be different kinds of bread, they all however follow the same basic recipe and use the same core ingredients. The loaves of bread can look different when they come out of the oven, but despite their difference in appearance, one can still see and know it is bread. 

Peace and metta!

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The noble eight-fold path

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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.  

Right view

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).

Right intention

The intention of renunciation (letting go),
the intention of non-ill-will, 
the intention of harmlessness and non-cruelty.

Right speech

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.

Right action

I will abstain from killing any being (including myself).
I will abstain from taking what is not given.
I will abstain from sexual misconduct.

Right livelihood

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.

Right effort

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.

Right Mindfulness

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 (-;


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