'That which arises, also ceases.'
I have become quite fond of standing and watching puddles in the rain. There is something oddly fascinating about them, they are like the visual equivalent of white noise. I can get into a state of serene composure just standing and watching the shapes and ripples the rain makes on the surface.
The waves of the sea feel magic as I walk along. My peripheral vision changing as I move in sync with the ocean next to me, the waves changing shape all the time, a liquid reminder of anicca (impermanence). The air all around reveals its invisible presence in the dancing movement of the numerous plant beings, under the wings of birds, in sounds, and the tactile sense of it on my skin and within each breath.
I notice my mood, and how I am in a different state of mind than I was at the beginning of my walk and how this too keeps changing.
The mind is a mix of positive and negative tendencies. Some of which can remain dormant for long periods of time until the right causes and conditions in life occur to activate them. The potential for both good and bad lies dormant in us like karmic seeds. I think from what little I know about biology, DNA works in a similar fashion. We all have strands of inactive DNA which remain dormant until the environment around us changes in such a way that the conditions are ripe to activate it.
When a tadpole becomes a frog. During the different stages of mutation in the biological flow, what is it that transfers from one moment to the next?
What is left of the caterpillar when it becomes a butterfly?
This mysterious flow of life has no discernible beginning, even the Buddha said he could not see the beginning of Samsara, no matter how far back in time he looked he found no beginning to it. We have been entangled in this cycle of birth and death for an incalculable amount of time, becoming different beings over the course of our endless rebirths, playing different roles in this neverending story of self.
The Buddha said that the problematic behaviour that keeps us bound to Samsara springs up from three unwholesome roots: greed, hatred, and delusion. But because we are ignorant of their presence in the mind, these three poisons keep creating problems for us. And until we have properly uprooted them we are a mixed bag of karmic seeds, some of which can lie dormant in us for a considerable length of time, some for as long as lifetimes, waiting for the right conditions to sprout. A moral person can become immoral; and a bad person can become good. Beings can turn, sometimes quite suddenly. Angels can become devils, and devils can become angels.
There's a story in the Buddhist suttas which is a dramatic example of the way people can change suddenly when dormant karma becomes activated. (The story can be read here: Angulimala: A murderer's road to sainthood ) Angulimala went from a peace-loving model student, to a serial killer who tried to make the Buddha his 1000th victim, but after his encounter with the Buddha he became his disciple, and after a period of training Angulimala became a fully enlightened being that wouldn't harm a fly.
This story shows the fluidity of self, that nothing is set in stone, things arise and cease due to the causes and conditions that shape them. This knowledge can bring hope, because it means that we are not completely powerless, we can put in the right conditions to activate the wholesome tendencies of the mind and use those to put a stop to the unwholesome tendencies for good. When the mind is no longer clouded by greed, hatred, and delusion, it naturally becomes light and free, luminous like the moon coming out from behind the clouds.
The self is not what we think, whatever we identify with, that is not the self. The self is not a static entity. It is changing. Each mind moment a new moment of becoming. What went before has gone. We try to make the nice moments last, relive them, preserve them, but looking at a photograph is not the same, there's a kind of sadness with photographs, you see something that has passed, has changed, a moment that no longer exists. If you were to stitch photographs of your life together you would see the way we change from one self to another. We are a flow of energy. What we identify with changes. Our passions change. Everything changes. Even if you preserve a moment, and keep trying to relive the pleasant feelings associated with it, eventually it becomes tiring, one gets bored, this can happen with music, movies, books, video games, relationships, drugs. Our senses grow jaded, and our interests and personalities change, and what once excited us we no longer find interesting. This too is change.
I am a different person than I was when I first sat down to write this, and that moment has now gone, it no longer exists.
We die in every moment. Each tick of the clock is a new self.
Time is change.
There's something exhilarating about knowing that, it feels freeing when one can flow from one moment to the next without clinging to anything. In our day to day life, we do not realise how the sense of self with its identifying, its cares, woes, wants, and resentments weighs us down, we carry this stuff around with us like a concrete block that just gets heavier and heavier to carry, the story of self is tiring and burdensome; but when one lets go of the story. One feels lighter, freer and happier. Time feels different then.
Items featuring this painting available at: https://www.redbubble.com/shop/ap/137764706?asc=u
The air element
Beauty of sky
That childlike wonder
Fills the Body with ease.
I am connected to the air
With every breath
But its presence is felt
I watch as it moves through the trees,
Sweeps up leaves
Creates ripples on the water
And makes everything dance.
Unless you're dead or a mannequin,
in any way that you're managing
in a way that is challenging.
Just start moving,
It's on you
things start happening
When stuck in the labyrinth.
It's highly hazardous.
But start moving
It's on you
things start happening
Though these are dark days
I feel something good coming
The wind changing
Bringing an end to greed, hate, and delusion
Emancipation from ignorance and confusion.
Though the heat is on
And the planet burns
We will sing our song.
Skint and emaciated
Struggling to make ends meet
As the waters come flooding
And the suffering comes spinning
We will go on singing.
A song of genorosity, kindness, and clear-seeing.
About the path of peace that leads to the end of suffering.
About profound friendship and harmony with all beings.
We will go on singing.
Till the day is done
Till extinction's won
And all things fade away
Like a Bubble in a stream
A dream within a dream.
Where is the self?
A sad-but-peaceful mood today. Like flowers that are starting to drop their petals after their brief song of colour. I noticed the mind's tendency to move towards sadness as I went about my day and watched the mind's machinery whir and the cogs turn as it began telling itself imaginative stories that altered my perception and intensified and darkened the mood. I interrupted the thought processes, reminding them that all it was generating was just pure conjecture, and I steered the herd of thoughts away from the fields of delusion and gently back towards the three right intentions of: non-ill-will, letting go, and harmlessness.
I kept telling myself: 'Ah mind! Do not worry, everything is okay. It isn't sadness that's the problem it's the aversion towards it that's the problem.' The mind in whole-hearted agreement understood and let the aversion go, and then it just felt peaceful and tranquil like the rain, and I noticed there is an odd beauty to sadness that is hard to capture with words.
And I felt okay, held onto the sign of peace.
Changing brain chemistry, fatigue and bodily aches is just the kamma of having a body. And sometimes I feel vulnerable and need to be in a quiet place, alone, away from the frenetic energies of others. So I can calm down the thought processes and rest in the womb of becoming, be the caterpillar once more, patient and content knowing it will become the butterfly again in due time. Not pushing away or craving for the butterfly. It is just an ancient tide, these changing seasons of the mind. And they don't have to be a problem. I can feel at peace with it all and live like a Buddha, serene, content, with dignity and a heart full of love.
I do not have the power to change what other beings do. Their kamma is their kamma. I only have the power to change what I do; how I choose to act in each moment. So I decide to not feel aversion towards anything. Because the mind is a much nicer place without any hostility, and that's what matters in the end, the mind is one's true home. So I will choose to radiate dhamma and peace of mind. Perhaps that is the best way I can help this suffering world.
I felt a centred whole-hearted calmness come over me and I sitting down, became quiet and still, perfectly in tune with the rain as it fell. Gently cooling the senses and the mind into a state of sweet equanimity.
Contemplating becoming a monk one day. I am not there yet however. I still have a number of things I need to work through to reach that level, but it is something I am aspiring to now. The lifestyle of a Buddhist monk has suddenly becoming very appealing to me. Strange because if you had asked me a month ago, I would not have felt the same. A lot of things seem to have changed in me, things I thought never would change. At first it felt quite disturbing and seemed to upset me at a deep level, I became afraid of the changes, but now it is settling, I am quite happy about it actually. I can't explain, very difficult to put into words what has happened; but suddenly the world just doesn't feel like it has such a pull on me anymore. All the things I thought I wanted suddenly I don't particularly want as much. My main aspiration now is to develop in meditation and grow stronger in the way of dhamma.
But I am not there yet. It may be a while before I get there. When I ask the Buddha about it, (yes I know he is in para-nibanna and will never again incarnate anywhere or teach devas or humans, but sometimes I swear he talks to me.) anyway, it could be a higher aspect of my mind being helpful by taking on the role of the Buddha, he just tells me not to run before I can walk, and not to walk before I can stand, and not stand before I can sit. He advises that a gradual training will suit my particular personality. Escaping the household life by riding off on horseback in the middle of the night as the heroic Bodhisattva may not work out so well for me, we are all a bit different after all and I am certainly not Gautama. So I should get the hang of being an Upasaka first. After that there's the intermediate stage between Upasaka and a monk where one deepens their Upasaka commitment and permanently takes the 8 precepts instead of five, then once one has got the hang of that stage, one can look into ordaining as a novice monk.
Anyway I feel quite happy thinking that one day I could become a monk, it feels possible and I can see a clear path towards accomplishing that goal.
It is interesting how we all rub off on each other, every person we connect with changes us in some way. We truly are all the people we meet.
What self is there?
Our bodies are changing, slowly ageing.
Sensations are changing all the time; like a white-noise of continuous data we either feel as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.
Our perception of life's myriad objects changes.
Our thoughts, memories, emotions, and the story of self we narrate, about who we are, and our life, is always changing. I am not even the same person I was five minutes ago when I sat down to write this.
All these events change our consciousness like light-reflecting ripples on the surface of a pond. Consciousness too is always changing.
This is what I think Buddhism means by emptiness, by no-self. It is saying there is no fixed unchanging entity or soul, just a fluid dynamic process, a flowing stream that's different from one moment to the next.
I find this time of year a bit challenging. I feel depressed just now. Am a bit sick as well, no idea if it is covid, couldn't give a shit if it is. I am isolating myself just in case though as do not want to pass it on to anyone else, so just talking to family on zoom. It is a very mild illness, although my glands are swollen to Hell and I am a bit light-headed and weak on my feet. Some part of me doesn't care though. I honestly don't mind if I live or die, if I die now I will just see it as a mercy and try to feel equanimity instead of a negative state of mind. Mindstate is important at death as that is the seed that becomes your next life.
It is getting harder and harder to survive in this world anyway. I am struggling to get anywhere with right livelihood and I can't work full-time due to my health problems and mood swings, it is tough to stay afloat and tiring trying to. I am not the only one, there are many of us who are feeling this way all around the world. It is a tough world just now and not getting any easier. Many are struggling to make ends meet at the moment, the cost of living has sky-rocketed. Food is twice as expensive as it was this time last year, and so are the utility bills, and the money coming in hasn't changed for many of us. And it is hard to feel much joy living like that. Anyway who wants to live and watch the world go to shit and more animals go extinct. I don't want to see all that. Although I promise I won't take my life, I have made a vow not to do that and will honour it. If I survive and live I will try my best to be a light in this darkening world, and show kindness and compassion to other beings that are suffering where I can. It isn't always easy to do this though. Sometimes my energy is too low, and fatigue gets the better of me, I feel like a weak battery that is unable to hold its charge at the moment.
I think those who go on about how important it is to feel joy on the spiritual path and try to enourage everyone to feel the same aren't struggling with their finances, if they were I imagine they too would be finding it challenging to feel much joy. But nonetheless it is true what they say, joy is important and it is one of the seven factors of enlightenment, albeit for me the most challenging one.
I read an article that said the world economic output has reached $100 trillion for the first time in human history. What it didn't mention is how much of this belongs to the super rich and that most of us won't see any of that, it is being hoarded by humans whose minds are possessed by greed, hatred and delusion. The super rich continue to invest in their rocket-sized penis extensions, with the 'my rocket is better than yours' mentality; trying to be the first to colonise cold dead space, while they leave this rare miracle of a planet behind to die a bleak unhappy death in the aftermath of their greed and madness of mass industrial consumerism. Instead of using all that wealth and power to help this living planet; they dream instead of colonising a much colder smaller dead planet far far away. Strange logic, but delusion does that. The more greedy one becomes, the more deluded one becomes to justify hoarding such large amounts of wealth, and the more they hate others who criticise them and try to get them to share it with others. Greed, hatred and delusion, the three psychic poisons.
I was wondering today why do some young men kick the shit out of homeless people. I guess they are looking for someone to hate, to blame for their crap miserable lives. Homeless people are easy targets. I remember when I was homeless (many years ago now) and I met another homeless guy who had been beaten badly by the police of all people. I gave him all the money I had made busking and flagged him a taxi and asked the driver to take him to the hospital so he could get stitched up by the A&E as he had a large gaping bleeding wound on his head. Why do people beat up those who are homeless? Is it because they are vulnerable and don't stand a chance of being able to fight back against the attackers? Perhaps there is fear also, the knowledge that many of us are close to homelessness ourselves, some maybe only a paycheck away, and that fear becomes hate. I don't know. What horrible times we live in where this happens. Are we really civilised? It makes me sad. There seems to be so little love and compassion in the world at the moment. But I know not everyone is like this, there are still many good people out there, I just have to try to remember that, no matter how alone and depressed I feel.
I am trying to see my depression as a state of becoming, with the understanding that it is better to retreat from the world when I am like this, as I often will say things I later regret, and if I am alone, that is less likely to happen. It is hard to do that at this time of year though, as everyone expects one to be sociable and happy. It was difficult doing a zoom call with family yesterday as my mood was low and it was hard pretending not to be, and everyone I spoke to was happy, festive, and enjoying their day, but I felt miserable. I felt like a failure after the zoom call that I couldn't enjoy Christmas day like everyone else or feel happy.
So I am currently retreating from the world. I look at the depressed cycle now as being like a caterpillar in a cocoon becoming a butterfly, it is an unpleasant painful experience, a complete destruction of the self, like entering the womb again, and birth is painful, but when it is over one emerges as something new, a different person each time and hopefully someone who has grown deeper in wisdom and more developed spiritually. And when one feels renewed strength and energy then one can act and go out to meet the world again. In the meantime, I just have to be patient and try really hard not to believe the dark thoughts about myself or others. Try hard not to react to other people's energy in a negative way. And avoid what the Buddha calls unwise attention to the fault. That automatic critic that pops up iin the mind and judges others, perhaps because it doesn't like the way someone dresses or looks, the sound of their voice, the way they behave and so on. That's unwise attention to the fault. There's also unwise attention to the beautiful, such as desiring the happiness others are feeling, seeing pretty displays in a shop window, or desirable objects online, or lusting after someone you feel attracted to. That is unwise attention to the beautiful. And both unwise attention to the fault or the beautiful can upset the balance of the mind and stop it being centred.
One must also remember as well not to be hard on oneself when these things arise in the mind, none of us can help it, we all do it, it is automatic and outside our control, it happens so fast and much of it is due to DNA, evolution and past conditioning of the mind. One thing we can do though, is to try to let go of it as soon as we notice it and try to bring into being a more wholesome way of thinking, such as loving-kindness, compassion, joy-in-another's-happiness, or equanimity. Try instead to wish other beings well without wanting anything in return. It is hard, but we can persevere and keep trying.
Depression for me is very difficult at times, and feeling any joy or pleasure is a challenge. But abiding in equanimity whilst retreating from the world can be helpful. I quite like focusing on change and impermanence at the moment, noticing how everything keeps changing. Some changes are immediately apparent, such as the constant information coming from the five senses of: vision, sound, smell, taste, touch. But thoughts are also always changing, and so is the time. Then there are the longer changes that one can contemplate, such as the body as it ages and eventually dies, the sense of self, the world, civilisations that rise and fall, the weather, the seasons, the sky, friends and romantic relationships, day and night, the tide, the moon, even this patch of space is constantly changing as the Earth spins around the sun. Understanding that everything changes can help with developing equanimity and with letting go and being patient.
'Everything I hold dear and everyone I love will become separated from me due to the nature of change.'
There is not much else the ego can do, much of the process of awakening/enlightenment happens unconsciously in the deeper mind outside of one's awareness, and it can feel unpleasant as the rest of the mind processes the insights one gains through spiritual practise and rewires itself based on the new information it has received. One just has to sit tight and accept this state of becoming and try not to react. Be patient with it, let the process unfold in its own way, its own time, it cannot be rushed.
Walking in the rain
heart twisting pain
No more beat within
Is that the price of sin?
Ah but there is no soul
It doesn't exist
Just a changing process
That never stays still
From one moment to the next
Who are you?
And caught up in the things of the world.
Hands up, it was me.
I lost my equanimity.
But feel closer now,
closer to the other shore,
Knock knock knocking on heaven's door.
Everything is insubstantial, empty,
just like you and me.
Friendship is impermanent and subject to change just like everything else. One should learn to be fearless without needing friends by their side. I think the Buddha once said (at the time of his death) that we should become an island on to ourselves, we should take refuge in ourselves and the dharma. We shouldn't be dependent on anyone else, we should be our own teacher, our own guru, our own best friend. We should question everything, even what he says.
Don't get me wrong, it is nice to have friends, but life and the nature of change can be a real bitch sometimes and the reality is people aren't always there for you, and there are shitty days where you will feel separated, disconnected and alone. Connections don't last forever, nothing does, and it is everyone's fate (whether we like it or not) to one day become separated from those we love.
The only thing you can really depend on in this universe is that everything is changing, and it is up to you to free yourself from suffering. Friends come and go, but you will always be with yourself. So try to make a friend of your mind, and perhaps that can help ease the pain of separation. Besides one only feels lonely when they think: 'I am lonely'. It is just a state of mind, part of the story we tell ourselves. There are beings all around us, so noone is truly alone. It is all bullshit in the end anyway, none of it is real. At least that's what I am telling myself, I feel lonely as fuck just now, but I don't care anymore.
A bit under the weather today. Woke up with a touch of sickness this morning. Didn't feel comfortable lying in bed as had sweated a lot in the night. So I got up and had a bath. Then sat in meditation with a Zen group I sit with regularly. Felt quite unwell whilst I sat, and have an annoying cough which kept interrupting the flow of meditation and stopped me getting into a deep state of concentration. At first I wondered why on Earth I was sitting meditating with others on Zoom when I just wasn't feeling it. But I remembered a story about a monk who got sick with malaria, and he carried on sitting and meditating with the sangha every evening, and even though he felt like he was on death's door, and felt gravely ill, he kept meditating and it was hardwork, he struggled; but he also persevered and eventually managed to reach a flow state known as samhadi (A profound deep stillness, lucidity and unification of mind) and from then on his sickness turned around and he got better. I have heard other stories like this, so I think there is something to it. There's something powerful and healing about getting into a state of samhadi. I didn't manage to do that today, after 30 minutes I felt like I had had enough and left the sitting to lie down for a bit.
But it was not a wasted effort, there was merit there. I think just sitting with the sickness and learning how to flow with it and be kind to myself was a helpful experience. I tried to remain aware and mindful throughout and learn what I could about the mind and how to be okay with ill health and pain; not reacting, accepting things as they are, letting them be, without the suffering.
I can't seem to generate the energy of metta (loving-kindness, goodwill, friendliness) today, feel a bit weak and fatigued, athough I will persevere with that as I have found doing metta practise for the bacteria/viruses causing sickness in my body has powerfully turned things around for me in the past. I can't seem to bring up that feeling just now though, so am spending a lot of time in equanimity. I may listen to a playlist of dharma talks on metta later, as using the voice of another can help to generate the feeling of metta when I am struggling to be able to.
Remembering the five wise reflections oddly brings me comfort, and seems to help the mind to accept the way things are. It reminds me that the first four reflections: ageing, sickness, death, and separation are natural, and happen to all living beings. The last reflection reminds me to show kindness to myself and others, and develop a generous heart and try to give in whatever form I can, even if that is just silently practising metta for myself and others, it still helps. As these are actions that can bring one good karma.
The Five wise reflections
I am of the nature to age; I have not gone beyond old age.
I am of the nature to get sick; I have not gone beyond ill health.
I am of the nature to die; I have not gone beyond dying.
Everything I hold dear and everyone that I love,
Will become separated from me due to the nature of change (of impermanence).
I am the owner of my karma, heir of my karma,
Born of my karma, related to my karma.
My karma is the ground on which I stand.
Therefore should I frequently remember:
Whatever actions I do for good or for ill,
Become the karma I inherit.
Break for a moment in the rain. Nice sea-breeze. Lovely fresh air soaking deep into my skin.
My imagination created the odd sensation of my negative conditioning slowly becoming like ash, collapsing and being carried away in the wind as I walked along.
Beneath it all, something always burning bright within.
There's a Zen saying: "Wood becomes ash; but ash does not become wood again."
Had this vivid dream of being in possession of a magical pebble.
I skimmed it across the water and each time it skipped it grew larger and larger until it became an island with ancient Aztec-style ruins on it. Me and some companions went to explore the island. We found an entrance to an underground tunnel and entered it. Whilst down there we accidently activated a secret entrance that held a sarcophagus, with horror we watched it open and a female zombie with glowing eyes emerge. She was immensely powerful and terrifying to behold. She butchered all my companions but for some reason spared me and when I was the last person standing, she changed from the form of a zombie to a beautiful self-assured Goddess. She led me out of the underground tunnels to the top of the island, where she stood by the entrance to a cave. She did not seem to want to harm me, in fact she seemed quite protective and motherly towards me. And she had a strong sense of the wild about her, reminded me of the feeling of connection and kinship I feel with nature and other species of life.
Anyway I had no idea what any of that could mean, but it left a strong impression on me. I researched ancient goddesess, from all cultures. And found out some amazing stuff about how humans used to live in a matriarchal society. And it was women who invented agriculture and were leaders during the Neolithic times. The garden of eden story symbolises this, the move away from being hunter-gatherers to farmers.
Women would often die in childbirth, and those that did would be venerated as fallen heroes. The neolithic peoples worshipped the Goddess. Silbury hill for example took 400 years to build and has stood for over 4000 years. A symbol of the ancient Goddess in the shape of a breast.
Things changed roughly around the time of ancient Greece, things became more and more patriarchal, and women became suppressed and demeaned; at the same time the natural world also started to become oppressed. Nature became seen as something to be dominant over, something to exploit and control. The idea of ownership developed, not just of the land, but also of people. Something which still continues to this day.
Anyway, after much digging I finally found the Goddess from my dream. She was an Aztec goddess. Portrayed sometimes in their art as a frightening zombie-like figure. It is all symbolic though, she was actually quite benevolent, the frightening zombie side to her nature symbolises her consuming our misdeeds/impurities, so we can become pure enough to travel onward. The companions in my dream must have symbolised my impurities. The cave she stood beside, I think symbolised the womb. Ancient caves almost always symbolised the womb. And perhaps I am meant to enter it to become reborn, or maybe it means the world is about to be reborn. Perhaps the cave is the safest place to be in these turbulent times, a place to change, develop and grow into something new.
I dunno, I am maybe reading too much into this dream, left a strong impression on me though and was odd that I would dream of a Goddess I had never heard of before and find out she was based on an actual ancient mythology. Cool dream anyway... but perhaps I am reading too much into it.
Link to an exhibition of 50 years of the OU:
Great story, despite all the opposition at the time and people saying it couldn't be done, it happened and fifty years later is still going and has established itself as a credible university with a strong reputation around the world.
This story shows that when the establishment says something isn't realistic or possible, isn't affordable and dismisses it as a silly idea - they can be wrong.
We can change things, we don't have to put up with the status quo. We don't have to keep voting for the same people. The system doesn't have to be the way it is and new ways of doing things are possible. The people who profit off this current system certainly want us all to think like that, believing things can't change. That this rigged economy is the only way to run the system. Don't believe the nonsense, they are just parroting what the financial sector wants us to think, those scoundrels who caused the 2008 credit crunch, who are still behaving the same way, recklessly gambling with the money people bailed them out with. They divide us and like they always do they blame the unemployed, immigrants, people on low wages, (basically any vulnerable person too poor or weak to fight back) for the state of the economy; it is smoke and mirrors to distract people from the real culprits who are still gambling recklessly with the world's economy and don't care.
So don't believe the bollocks that things can't change for the better, that we are stuck in a rigged economy. It's not true, things can change and have changed in the past, we've just forgotten about it after the long years of Thatcher style politics. The truth is we do not have to accept this current reality, things can be better.
I alone cannot change society; but I can change myself. Transform my own consciousness. Overcome the conditioning that limits me. We can all do this, if enough people do, then we can change society from the inside out.
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