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Shephard of thoughts

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 3 Feb 2023, 14:42

I am learning how to notice my moods better, and if my state of mind is unwholesome, I will look at what my thoughts are doing. And like a shepherd guarding his sheep, I try to steer them back in the right direction, towards the wholesome. Towards non-greed, non-hatred, non-delusion.

I use the word 'non' because there are many wholesome mind states that are not greed, hate, or delusion.  And it is helpful to have many wholesome states to choose from. It can be tiring to feel kind, loving, or joyful all the time, and that's alright, because there are other wholesome states one can cultivate and use instead. It is good to have a wide palette to choose from and experiment with.

If my thoughts have strayed into the territory of greed, hate, and delusion, depending on the mood I am in, steering them away from those fields, can be as simple as interrupting the herd of thoughts with a gentle nudge, whereupon they will immediately stop what they are doing and happily go back in the right direction.

Other times it can involve the need to talk the thoughts into wanting to go back in the right direction, which means learning ways of talking to myself that helps to change the state of mind I am in, this sometimes results in me giving myself a dhamma talk, or writing an article like this. Or if I am not feeling I can do anything like that, I will use the voice of another, ( i.e. listen to a dhamma talk, a podcast, read an article or book) and use their voice to talk me into a better state of mind. 

But there are times when my thoughts can be racing and chaotic. And then it is like trying to shepherd a stampeding herd of buffalo. On those occasions I will practise something I dub the megaphone technique.

Named after scenes in movies where there's a crowd of people all talking loudly and at once. Perhaps they are excited about something, or argueing over this and that, perhaps they're panicking. Someone then walks into the middle of the group with a megaphone and makes it squeek loudly and everyone suddenly stops talking and turns to face the person with the megaphone.

My megaphone is to attempt to become aware of all the bodily sensations happening at once in the present moment, and flood the mind with these sense impressions, and keep bringing my attention back to this experience, so that I am constantly interrupting the thought processes with this sensory overload. It can work, and help bring some relief and composure back to the mind.

There are other megaphones that also work, some are gentle, such as surrounding myself with the colour red, yellow, or blue, like an aura. Some soothing like paying attention to the air element, or water element, the solidity of earth, the warmth and energy of the body, or just being aware of my feet, hands, or any part of the body that feels better than being in the head. 

It's basically just something to distract the mind and help it settle into a more tranquil state and regain some composure. Tranquility is a wholesome state of mind. One can be creative with this. These examples are just things that work for me, everyone should experiment and find what helps them. It is our subjective experience that matters here, forget about trying to make it fit in with any scientific theory, this exercise isn't about that. It is about taking what comes naturally to us, and making it into something supernatural.

Sometimes the thoughts don't respond well to anything, so I will let them continue in the background, but choose not to let them bother me, I become unattached to them. I choose not to judge them, not to follow them or identify with them. Just let them be, like background noise, and choose to place my attention on something else that is happening in awareness, something in the present moment that helps bring some peace and composure back to the mind, and then I can focus on a task at hand better without feeling harrassed by the thought processes.

The ability to choose where we place our attention is something we can all learn. And it is an aspect of the mind we can have some control over. It is also useful to learn how to tune the energy of attention so it is neither too forceful, nor too lax. Like cupping a little bird in your hand, if you cup it too tightly it will hurt the bird; but if you cup it too loosely it will fly away. How do you make attention comfortable and stable. How do you get into a flow? How do you keep the mind interested in something so that attention wants to stay there willingly and not want to be anywhere else? That's the questions we have to ask ourselves if we want to train the mind. 

It is challenging, so remember to cut yourself some slack. Try not to compare yourself with others, be okay with where you're at in your practise. Don't judge others or yourself when failure happens, which it will. And if another judges you, just remember that other people's practise is their practise. Some people have been at this a while and are advanced. Others are just starting out. We are all at different levels, and that's okay, let others be where they're at, and concentrate on your own practice. Go at your own pace. Be comfortable with where you're at. That is where you come from and meet the world. Development is a gradual process, and that's okay, it isn't a race, nobody gets extra brownie points for getting there before anyone else, the prize at the end, nibanna, is exactly the same experience for everyone. If you persevere in a way that doesn't stress or break the mind, you will get there, in your own time, in a way that works for you. It is important not to strain the mind, to take care of it, rest it, nurture it, to be gentle, be kind to it, a friend, it is not your enemy, it is where you live. If you are making progress you are making progress. Whether that progress is fast or slow doesn't matter. Enlightenment is not a race or a competition. It is a gift that you give to yourself, and noone else can give it to you. Others can guide you, share their wisdom, but the onus is on you to do the work, noone else can.

 


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The subjective experience

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 1 Feb 2023, 12:17

Seem to be getting back into writing again, not really feeling the painting at the moment.

I think I have some deva (spirit) friends who hang around with me which is comforting. I can't see them, although there have been times in deep states of meditation where I have seen them in my mind's eye. I tend to sense their presence, and feel their energy around me, and sometimes within me. Some are people I have known in this life who have passed away now. One is my Gran who I was very strongly bonded to as a child. She is a being of light now, like an angel. In her human life she was very kind to animals and to me. A person who was very in sync with nature, which led to her generating good kamma and she was reborn as a deva. She regularly comes to encourage me when I feel stressed and alone.

There are other spirits too, and they often reassure me when I feel weak and afraid. They fill me with peaceful fearless energy, and they tell me all sorts of things. Such as where a being who has recently died has gone. And how I can best help others who are suffering. They teach me about meditation and how to manage my failures. They recently said to me very clearly not to worry about money or finances when I became very stressed about the cost of living and the possibility of future poverty. They said they would take care of me and ensure I always got what I needed to survive if things got desperate. I often feel their gentle encouragement to keep practising the noble eightfold path and develop meditation further, to develop wisdom and emancipate the heart, so I can be a light in this world.

I have helped some spirits too. One's who experienced something tragic when they died, or ended up in darkness and became suffering angry ghosts. Upon encountering them, I felt compassion and I offered to share the merit of my spiritual practise with them, and it worked! It did help them find the light again and they sometimes come to visit me and support me with their jovial good energy, especially when I feel downhearted, or unwell.

There are beings who were wild animals in this life who I helped and prayed over when they were dying who are devas now, and I feel happy for them and glad they are doing well. 

The devas sometimes reveal things to me I can't know with my limited human senses which has been helpful in my practise. I doubt I would have got this far without their help, and I am really grateful for their support. It makes me realise that the sangha is truly great, composed of many different kinds of beings, and taking refuge in the sangha goes beyond just the human realm.

None of us are ever really alone, there are beings of all kinds around us (-:

This may sound crazy to those who hold the annihilist view that there is no existence beyond death of the physical body, but my experience is different. I have no way of proving that spirits exist, nor do I want to. But I have a strong conviction that reincarnation and rebirth is real. And the seeds of karma, the mental tendencies we nurture in this life are what we carry over into the next and they will sprout and grow into a new being.

This may well be my subjective experience. But it is our subjective experience that matters, as that is where we live. We do not live in the objective experience. For example if you are trying to lose weight and you step on the scales, some days you may feel lighter like you have lost weight, even if the scales, (the objectice experience,) tell you your weight is the same. The subjective experience is different, and it is this subjective experience that feels real, as that is where we live, that is where we come from.

There are a lot of stories in the Buddhist suttas about psychic powers and miracles performed by the Buddha and his disciples. Such as flying through the air and teleportation. And there are two ways one can look at these, and both ways of looking at it are correct. The first is that these miracles really did happen, and after experiencing some profound states of mind, I now believe such things are possible. The other way of looking at them is they are describing the subjective experience of being enlightened. The sense of freedom from suffering can make you feel like you are flying through the air, even though objective reality is telling you your feet are on the ground. Time also feels different for an enlightened being, so the subjective experience of moving from A to B may feel like hardly any time has passed at all, as if you have stretched out your hand and instantly gone from one geographical location to another. That is how the passage of time can feel subjectively for an enlightened being.

Another example, is sometimes after practising loving-kindness meditation (metta) it can feel like everyone and everything is my friend, even inanimate objects feel friendly and warm towards me. And when I stand next to the sea, it feels like it is happy to see me, each wave coming towards me like a friendly greeting. That is my subjective experience and there is nothing wrong with this, it can be a very beneficial and heart opening experience.

Part of right Samhadi, the eighth factor of the noble eightfold path is about playing around with our subjective experience of reality, and making it into something beautiful. We all have these beautiful spaces within us that can enrich our lives and the lives of those around us. But some of the circuits that activate these spaces are located deep within the mind, and meditation can teach one how to connect with and activate them. How to become still enough to reach the divine states of consciousness.

We modern humans spend a lot of time stuck in the pre-frontal cortex, it is a useful and important part of the brain, but it is only a small part of it. And it can feel unpleasant and limiting being stuck there all the time. This is why I think humans enjoy intoxicants so much. Intoxicants relax the executive functioning and inhibitions, and allow us to go beyond the boundaries of the prefrontal cortex and connect with the rest of the mind. This can bring a sense of relief and freedom. And it can feel very rewarding and enriching to connect with the deeper parts of the mind. It can refresh our view of things, help broaden our perspective, and see things differently, see everything in a new light, help with problem solving and creativity. The experience of connecting with the rest of the mind and body can bring a feeling of wholeness, of joy, of purpose, peace and oneness.

It is our subjective experience of reality that matters, it is how we feel that is important. If you feel like you are walking on air then you are (-: 

In Buddhism the question is how do I feel? Am I suffering or not? The goal of the Buddhist path is to realise the end of suffering, and this is a subjective experience. The objective experience is not important, it is how you feel within that matters. If you feel lost then you are lost. If you feel free, then you are free. The way to tell if you are making progress in Buddhism is to notice whether the practise is bringing a decrease in suffering. If it is then you are on the right track (-:


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Right Action

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This is the fourth factor of the noble eightfold path, and it is about our behaviour and conduct on this earth. Our morality. Our ethics. How we treat other beings. Morality is an important part of any spiritual practise, without it one will find it difficult to settle into meditation and be at peace.

We want to aspire to pass through this world of myriad beings and cause as little harm as we can. As doing so creates less stress and negative consequences for ourselves and others. It can be summed up quite nicely by the phrase ‘Ahimsa’ which means non-violence.

The three right actions of the noble eightfold path are:

  • To refrain from taking the life of any living creature.
  • To refrain from taking that which is not given.
  • To refrain from sexual misconduct.

All beings value their lives. And all are trying to survive in this world. And most would rather live in peace and friendship with us than be our enemy. No being likes being wronged or hurt, just as much as oneself doesn’t like it.

Watch any insect as you approach and how it runs away afraid. How it tries to hide from you. That being values its life. Imagine how you’d feel if an advanced alien race came and started chasing you, you’d be just like that insect.

The idea that some beings are more important than others is at the root of much of our world’s problems.

Living in peace and friendship with other beings. One’s mind becomes less troubled and averse; more happy; more content. And when the mind is not harrassed by regret, remorse, or fear of retribution. It will find it easier to settle into the deeper states of meditation known as right samhadi (the eighth factor of the noble eightfold path). It is from the lucid stillness of right samhadi that wisdom naturally arises. Because within us all, there is a deeper wiser part of the mind that wants to talk to us, but we often don’t hear it because we are too busy chatting to ourselves about nonsense.


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Keep on keeping on

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 8 Sep 2022, 22:04

Though these are dark days

I feel something good coming 

The wind changing 

Re-invigorating hope

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 

Become undone

Transient 

Like a Bubble in a stream

A dream within a dream.

Where is the self?


Insubstantial


Gone.



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Prevention

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There is longing
Craving
A desire for something
That creates
Attraction or aversion
Draws and sustains attention.
And with the contact of the senses
and their myriad sense impressions
Feelings arise…

But with well-instructed mindfulness acting as the sentinel of consciousness.
Supported by lucid serenity and unification of mind.
With wisdom as chief.
One nips it in the bud right there.
Prunes away unwholesome states of mind
Before they become the self-centred story of greed, hate and delusion.

With perfected practise
and complete mastery of the mind
With equipose
and dignity.
Liberated to the core
With no more clinging remaining.
One abides in the deathless state
Nibbāna
Unperturbed by the changing phenomena of the world.
Knowing and understanding that all things are anicca (impermanent)
Always changing
rising
flowing
fading.

One remains serene and is not suprised by anything.


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Tranquil wisdom meditation

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 9 May 2022, 17:38

Here is a link to a free book that explains much better what I was trying to describe in my previous article. I have found it helpful to practise this and it has brought me results. I am making great progress with weakening both aversion and sensuality, it's great! 

This technique also makes mind wandering a more interesting part of meditation practise. 

In a nutshell: 

1. Recognise the mind has wandered.
2. Let go of the distraction.
3. Become aware of the body.
4. Relax any tension in the body.
5. Smile and gladden the mind.
6. Reflect on the four noble truths. I.e. noticing the craving, letting go of the craving, experiencing the mind free from craving, and the development of the eightfold path
7. Return to meditation object.
8. Rinse and repeat if mind wanders. 

I find when I re-engage with the meditation object after this process it is much easier to stay with it and more enjoyable. You only need to do this when the mind has wandered for some time and the meditation object has been forgotten, for short distractions just go back to the meditation object. This process gets faster and more intuitive the more you practise.

 While meditating you want to keep that feeling of bodily ease and pleasure going. Eventually it feels natural to let go of applied and sustained attention to the meditation object and to allow awareness to become more expansive. The joy and pleasure gradually gets more and more refined, changing to tranquillity and stillness, until it reaches equanimity. Equanimity is how the mind feels when all the different energies that pull us this way or that are perfectly balanced. Like everything is tuned just right and in harmony. There is an exquisite stillness and clarity of mind that is hard to put into words but you will have felt it in your own practise at times I am sure, and will know what I am talking about.

I don't know if any of this is helpful to you, don't worry if it isn't, I won't be offended lol. I just send it in case it is helpful to others. I don't like keeping things to myself. And I could die at any moment so would be a shame not to share this with others.

I am not a normal person lol. I spend an unnatural amount of time researching and practising this stuff. I have never really been that into the material world to be honest, it doesn't do much for me, nothing lasts in this world and death comes for all. I have always found the inner spiritual life more interesting. 

Although I don't judge anyone else for not being the same and I am not trying to proselytise anyone, that's the nice thing about Buddhism one is under no obligation to share the dhamma with others or change the world in any way, there is none of that stressful evangelical stuff trying to convert others - thank goodness. I think this is just my way of giving, or trying to be generous with what I know because I don't have much else to offer really.

And I can say with certainty now that this stuff really works, I have definitely changed. I have not got angry about anything for a good while now and the craving for sense pleasure is also not as powerful a force as it once was and seems to be getting weaker each day.

 It feels great! The mind just becomes more peaceful, lucid and freer.

Be well anyway and sending you good wishes and energy for you own journey to nibanna.


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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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A good home

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 23 Apr 2022, 13:10

Was ruminating just now over feelings of regret and longing. These can pop up and disrupt the flow of peace at times. How to deal with those?

 I have been practising telling myself each time that I can't change the past. What has happened has happened, there's no super-power I have that can turn back the clock and make me do things different. And even if I could, would I want to?  

Past mistakes were done by a younger self that didn't know any better. But now you do know better, and it is because of your younger self that you know better. So stop punishing yourself, take a bow to your younger self and resolve to honour the mistake by being wiser from now on. And remembering your less-than-graceful moments can help one to be humble, which is helpful for overcoming conceit. But the guilt, longing, aversion, anxiety and remorse is not helpful, that can be let go of.

Your younger self is not who you are now. And it is who you are now that's important. Who you are now is what's generating the kamma for your future self.

Putting oneself down and feeling guilt, shame and anxiety will become a habit when repeated over a lengthy period of time, and it is a habit that is no good for the mind. It depresses it, and a depressed mind is no fun to be in at all. Our mind is our home, and so we should make it the kind of home that is warm, friendly, welcoming, wise, peaceful, and a refuge even when times are shit.

Unfortunately pain, sickness, fatigue, loss and separation is inevitable in this world. That is the kamma of having a body. Noone escapes this, not even enlightened beings. The Buddha aged, got sick, had back problems, had a toxic cousin intent on murdering him, and he died. 

It is the fate of all living beings.

What is the most important thing to have with us when we die? 

 Our time here is short and one could die at any moment, old age is not guaranteed, people die at different ages and that's normal; across the many species of life on Earth both young and old die. Noone knows how much time they have here.

And it isn't these things that are the problem. They are inevitable, they are outside our control, that's the way it is in a changing universe of interdependence and entropy. 

The problem is how we feel about these things. It is the hostility in the mind towards them that is the problem. Aversion is an unpleasant emotion, it comes with unpleasant sensations, unpleasant feelings and thoughts. It makes one's consciousness feel toxic and unhappy. To the point where one would do anything to get rid of it. And it brings us negative consequences - one's kamma, setting us up for more misery in the future. And yet we can't see that it is this hostility in the mind, this craving for things to be different that causes the suffering.

The good news is that aversion is not necessary and can be removed from the mind. And why wouldn't one want to remove it from the mind? It is not helpful, and one can live perfectly well without it. 

Aversion is generated by the mind. And because it is generated by the mind, it is possible to train one's mind to let go of it, and feel the relief of a mind that is not hostile. A serene happy mind filled with unconditional love instead of fear. It is easier to feel love for others when the mind is less hostile, when you realise all beings value their lives. That all beings want to feel safe, loved, and at peace. Just like you do.

Our mind is our true home. It is what we take with us when we die.

It might take time, a lot of practise, perseverance and a huge helping of patience. But continue putting in the right causes and conditions even when it feels like a desert and a trudge, and eventually the garden will flower and fruit all by itself. But remember to be gentle with the mind, a friend to it, take regular breaks and rest from the work. Impatience and overdoing it won't make anything grow faster.


 


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Right intention

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 22 Apr 2022, 17:28

What is intention?

Does intention come before thought, like a wordless impulse?

For me it feels like that, but thankfully one does not need to understand what it is to any great depth. Basically what we need to remember is: intention is the generator of kamma. Our intentions lead to actions, and repeated actions become habits. From intention comes speech and action -- our behaviour. What we think about reflects our intentions, and we can change our intentions by changing our thoughts.

Changing our thoughts can also alter our perceptions. For example, Ajahn Sona in a talk during a mindfulness retreat (available both as a podcast and on YouTube), talked about how as a monk one of the first things they are taught is to break the body up into the five parts we are most attracted to and memorise them. This becomes a mental tool one can use to help free the mind of lust and attachment to one's body. These five parts are: head hair, body hair, nails, skin, and teeth. When you separate them by themselves, they are not that attractive or appealing really. Our perception of them changes. There's something else interesting about them as well, they are also the dead parts of the body. And isn't it odd how we are not attracted to the live parts of the human body? The squishy inners underneath the skin, we find the living parts of the body repulsive and horrifying. One never praises one's romantic love's kidneys or the shape of their pancreas, or finds the real beating lump of their heart that appealing. When you break it down the whole thing about attraction can be turned on its head and one's perception can be altered.

During the talk Ajahn Sona likens skin to being like a leaky spandex suit. And I carried out a thought experiment with this whilst I was watching a movie with my family, and as I looked at the Hollywood actors and actresses on the screen I kept thinking: 'Leaky spandex suit', and you know what it worked! My perception was altered and the human body suddenly became quite repulsive to me, I even excitedly shared this with my family, who looked at me strangely lol. Alas they do not share my enthusiasm for the spiritual life.

Anyway to return back to topic, right intention is the second factor of the noble eight-fold path and is guided by right view. These two folds of the path are known as the wisdom faculties. They come at the beginning for a reason, because they act like a compass to steer one in the right direction. They are also at the end of the path after right samhadi and grow deeper and wiser as one's practise of the noble eightfold path develops. The noble eight-fold path cycles, and one's understanding of it grows deeper on each iteration. The eight path factors also support each other outside of the numbered order. I.e. the work of right intention is supported by the four right efforts, which in turn instruct right mindfulness.

Luckily the Buddha simplifies what one needs to remember to just three right intentions. These are: the intention of renunciation (letting go), the intention of non-illwill, and the intention of harmlessness. These are the three directions one should steer the herd of thoughts towards.

It doesn't have to be a stressful exercise, and one does not need to be an enemy or control freak with oneself. I sort of imagine it as a sailing boat following a course bearing. And at times I might go off course, but once I am aware I am going in the wrong direction, I simpy correct course and bring the herd of thoughts back in line with the three right intentions.

I don't judge myself for going in the wrong direction, I don't punish myself, or feel I have to tie up any loose thoughts I was having. I just simply interrupt the thought processes, let go of whatever it was, and simply steer the herd back in the right direction without an iota of judgement for having those thoughts. The Buddha is kind in that he gives us a 'get out of jail free' card which lets us out of the dungeon of guilt and shame. We are allowed to not ruminate over our mistakes. Gleam what wisdom one can from them and let them go. They were done by a younger self and are not who you are now. So let go of aversion towards oneself. Try to be a friend to the mind instead, don't fight it, train it gently with kindness, and it will be a friend back to you. It will become your best friend (-:

In fact metta practice (metta means friendship and loving-kindness) can help weaken the mind's tendency towards aversion, which is helpful for bringing into being the three right intentions. So metta can be part of the practise of right intention also.

It can help also to think of right intention as being like guiding a herd of cattle, when one notices the thoughts are going off course, one imagines oneself to be like a cowherd steering them back in the right direction. This metaphor comes from the Buddha in the Dvedhavitakka sutta - Two sorts of thinking (MN19).

The Buddha also mentions in the sutta that excessive thinking, even about good things, can be tiring after a while. And encourages one to quieten down the thought energies when one is tired and rest in Samhadi. This lucid stillness refreshes the mind and brings relief to the body, which helps with the work of right intention, so the eighth factor: right samhadi is also supporting it.

Calming thoughts down is not always easy though, the habit of thinking can be a hard one to shake, especially for us modern humans. We are conditioned by this industrial world to live constantly in our heads, and the constant thinking becomes a torture. Which is why it feels such a relief when one can let go of the thought processes for a bit and just dwell in another consciousness outside of speech. It feels freeing, refreshing.

To be able to stop thinking when I want, and to only think what I want, when I want. To train and master the thought processes. That is the noble aspiration here with right intention.

The Buddha says that training one's thoughts to follow the three right intentions will lead one to helpful kamma that is conducive to reaching the goal of realising nibanna. Whilst allowing them to wander about untrained in the opposite directions of: craving, hostility, and harmfulness will lead one to unhelpful kamma. 

The three right intentions:

Intention of renunciation.
Intention of non-hostility.
Intention of not causing harm.

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The key to enlightenment

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 15 Apr 2022, 22:18

To greatly weaken the mind’s tendency to aversion is wonderful. But nothing magical, it is just training the mind. If anyone with enough determination puts in the right causes and condtions, they will get the results.

I still have much work to do to go further on the path. I must now weaken sensuality, the next guardian at the gate. And there seems to be a strong resistance to do this in my mind. It is quite attached to sense pleasures. The Buddha said that sense-desire is a lesser stain on the personality than aversion. But comes with a trade-off in that it is harder to remove. And he is right, it is proving tricky to go beyond this guardian at the gate.

But I can see a strategy for overcoming sense desire. It will involve a great deal of patience and playing the long game, it will involve the four right efforts, right mindfulness, and the eighth factor of the noble path: Right Samhadi (right concentration). Right Samhadi is defined by the Buddha as the four jhanas. And jhana is described as a delicious state of consciousness by meditators who have learnt how to get into them.

Once one has learnt how to get in and out of jhana quickly, and can sustain these states of mind indefinitely, as well as come out of them at will. They discover a bliss they can generate all by themselves within, something that is described as being a greater bliss than anything external or that the world can offer. Then one can naturally let go of sense desire. A person at this stage of enlightenment who has completely cut off the two fetters of: greed(sense-desire) and aversion is known as an anagami (non-returner). They are never again born into this world. And in their next life they are reincarnated in the higher heavens, living very long lives there (aeons). They are born there because of their attachment to jhana. But this is absolutely fine, because what happens is they just carry on practising and make it to the fourth stage of enlightenment, realise nibanna and become fully liberated in the higher heavens - like celestial Buddhas (-:

There are some teachers of Buddhism who have been misguided about the jhanas, and some who even say they are not necessary. Whilst it is true that the jhanas aren’t necessary to reach the first and second stages of enlightenment (stream-enterer and once-returner), if one wants to go further, beyond the second stage of enlightenment, one needs to learn and get good at jhana (right samhadi). At least that’s my understanding, and some will disagree, but intuitively what I am thinking here feels right to me (on my journey anyway).

To learn jhana though one needs to be very determined and seclude themselves from sensuality (at least for a set time). The first verse goes: ‘Quite secluded from sense pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states of mind. One enters and abides in the first jhana. Which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, and has the rapture and pleasure born from seclusion from the world and letting go.’

The way I practise this is when I meditate I go outside somewhere quiet away from everyone. Which secludes me from other people’s energies and also from all the technological devices in my room, and the kettle (cups of tea lol). Doing this forces me to concentrate wholeheartedly on the meditation with nothing around me to tempt or distract me. This is what it means to become quite secluded from sense pleasures.

Secluded from unwholesome states of mind, means to let go of the five hindrances (worldy-desire, aversion, stagnation (or lack of motivation), agitation, doubt); and also means to let go of all the stress of the day and problems we encounter in the world and the kamma of having a body. Put that heavy suitcase down for a moment and feel the relief. Refuse to pick up or inspect the contents of the suitcase, just leave it be. No harm will come if you let go of it for a time. We let go of our worries and thoughts every night when we go to sleep, nothing bad happens when we do. Give yourself permission to let go. Then when the body feels relaxed and at ease it naturally starts to feel some joy and pleasure. When this happens meditation becomes more enjoyable, an indulgence, a way to quieten down the thought energies and refresh one’s mind in the jhanic consciousnesses of right samhadi.

There’s nothing wrong with that at all. If one becomes attached to jhana, that also is fine, it won’t stop one getting enlightened, in fact it is actually the way to enlightenment, or at least to full enlightenment anyway. One who is attached to jhana is in the third stage of enlightenment and close to the end of the path. So enjoy jhana fully and keep asking the mind for more joy and pleasure, keep asking until you couldn't ask for more. Don’t feel guilty or be told you shouldn’t get attached to the pleasure of jhana. The Buddha said that jhana was not a pleasure to be feared. He also recalls in MN 36: “… when my father the Sakyan was working, and I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, then — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful mental qualities — I entered & remained in the first jhana where there was rapture & pleasure born from seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation, and wondered, could that be the path to Awakening?’ Then following on from that memory came the realization: ‘That is the path to Awakening.”

The four jhanas take you on a tour of (mind-generated) pleasure which can be safely explored without fear. When the mind has had its fill and feels content and satisfied, it naturally inclines itself more and more to calming and refining the pleasure bit by bit, till it reaches complete stillness and equanimity in the fourth jhana, which has neither pain nor pleasure. When one has sufficiently mastered the fourth jhana, and calmed the energies of aversion and sensuality to a hush, one’s vision is no longer clouded by them and one can clearly see the root of the problem: delusion, which comes from ignorance. Then one can unlock the door to full enlightenment using a key with three teeth that fits perfectly into the lock: knowledge of suffering, knowledge of change/impermanence, knowledge of no-self. These three knowledges are interlinked, and hence part of the same key. They are the key to freeing oneself from delusion.

That’s the plan anyway. I haven’t got that far yet, and I am only just starting to get what jhana is, and sustaining one is challenging, quite tiring actually. But I know if I keep at it for long enough, and keep putting in the right causes and conditions, it is only a matter of time (-:


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Enjoyment training

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 24 Mar 2022, 21:51

Today has been challenging. Energy factor low at the moment. But I am calm at least, which is the fifth factor of enlightenment. There's also a bit of equanimity there too (the seventh factor), and there must be some mindfulness (first factor) because I am aware of these states of mind. These three are considered wholesome states of mind to be cultivated and sustained, because they are part of the seven factors of awakening (1. mindfulness -> 2. interest and investigation -> 3. energy and determination -> 4. rapture/joy -> 5. calmness/serentiy -> 6. Samhadi (exquisite stillness) -> 7. equanimity ).

I think out of all the factors generating joy is perhaps the most challenging part of the path for me. Weirdly I can sometimes generate pleasure in the body without joy, but not always. If I can get pleasure going though, it tends to help with invoking joy, and then that joy increases the pleasure, which increases the joy, with them both feeding each other. I think it is because feeling some pleasure makes meditation more enjoyable. Otherwise it is a very dry dull practise that sends one to sleep. I very much dislike the dry insight practises, I did try those one time and it sent me into a long depression, I think the Buddha tells one to generate joy and pleasure when cultivation meditation for a good reason. A gladdened contented mind is much more cooperative and prone to exploring equanimity and insight.

There are days when I can be really joyful, and full of loving-kindness, but maintaining it is hard, because I can sometimes wake up a completely different person, even if I go to bed feeling very well and full of love, get enough sleep, I can wake up the next morning feeling fatigued and struggle to get out of bed and do anything, it is very hard to generate joy and loving-kindness when I am like that. It is hard to just rest and flow with it, due to the demands of the world and the need to build a livelihood to support myself. Especially with the doom coming from the news about how we are heading for a massive food shortage in the world, but I can disengage from that and accept the way things are, but still when I am fatigued, joy and loving-kindness is hard to invoke. I have tried using the voice of another to generate it, i.e. listen to dhamma talks, this can work sometimes, but other times I just can't get anything to generate it. At least that state of mind is impermanent, as joy and loving-kindess does eventually come back again. Very odd.

But I am determined to learn how to generate joy without needing anything external to do so, whatever state of mind I am in, I will learn how to generate it at will. The enlightened mind is about being in a perpetual state of emotional wellbeing. And the practise of meditation, and especially the anapana sati sutta (mindfulness of breathing teaching) is a lot like learning how to play a piece of music, the Buddha uses the word train, it is a training, one is learning how to bring the wholesome states of mind into being and sustain them. In a sense you are learning how to play the emotional structure of the mind, to free yourself from suffering. One is learning to create exquisite beautiful states of mind that cycle and once they have become well-established and like second nature, become who you are, and at that point there is no more going back to the negative states of woe, one has done the work and now abides in a constant state of emotional wellbeing that never fades away - nibanna.

That is what I keep reminding myself, that this is a gradual training. There's nothing magical happening, it is just practise and perseverance. The same way we learn any skill or craft in life, dedication and patient determination. If one keeps putting in the right causes and conditions (the noble eight-fold path), in time once fully developed, enlightenment naturally follows.

Some days it is a trudge, and others like hang-gliding (-:

But through it all one just keeps putting in the causes and conditions and develops and completes the training. The same way we learn anything in life, Buddhism is no different.

It does help to have guidance from an experienced teacher, and to have the right teacher as well. Even in Buddhism there are differing views and not all of Buddhism teaches the same thing, they are not all singing from the same hymn sheet. And some teachings have drifted away from what the Buddha actually taught and make the dhamma confusing and hard to understand.

Once I have properly developed, understood and mastered the eight-fold path, I would like to teach it one day to others and pass on what I have learnt. I have decided there needs to be people who preserve the orighinal teachings (or as close to as possible with what we have passed down to us) of the Buddha. Not that I am criticising other flavours of Buddhism, but I feel strongly that there needs to be people who do keep those core teachings of the Tathagatha (Buddha) alive for future generations, and my heart wants to be one of those.


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Path

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 11 Mar 2022, 23:30


Cold industrial echoes of the concrete night
Wet and tarmaccy puddles reflect artificial light
Serene raindrops ripple shape the liquid surface
Like this mind full of the noble eight-fold practise.

I walk with dignity
Rapturously
With the clear knowledge
There's no going back for me.


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The spiritual life

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 5 Mar 2022, 21:34


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. 



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Dukkha

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 28 Feb 2022, 21:25


To exist is to suffer
And clinging has consequence
Pain follows inextricably, a shadow.
For that which you grasp for has already gone
Each precious moment: a phantom in your hand.

The five Khandha streams are empty.
And not who you really are.






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Right Desire

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 21 Feb 2022, 15:15

We all have COVID here at the moment and are in quarantine for the next ten days after a doctor phoned to confirm a positive PCR test and told us we should all isolate. I don’t mind though, I will just imagine I am on a retreat. I seem to have COVID pretty mild compared to the others in my household who are quite sick with it. It is strange how it effects everyone differently. 

I meditated for two and a half hours today in a single sitting. And it is true there does come a point where the monkey mind gives up and lets go and one drops into a deeper state of serenity and stillness. Although my legs and knees hurt after sitting for so long. I am going to try and keep it up and sit that long every Sunday afternoon, perhaps try three hours next week.

We ordered our shopping online from the local supermarket, who delivered it to us, knocked on the door and scampered post-haste, leaving the bags of shopping outside, lol. Just two bags that came to £30. Everything is getting so expensive, the cost of living has doubled since this time last year and the media keeps telling us it is going to go up even more. Many people are worried about it, and understandly so. Old Richie would have been worried about it, but I find myself oddly calm, semi-detached and just flowing with things as they are. I still have the determination to make a livelihood for myself, but I am not attached to any outcomes, it is purely for functional reasons, as I need to get an income sorted so I can take care of this body, this organic vehicle to enlightenment; but if I fail then I fail, all anyone can do is try their best. I feel like I can die with some peace and dignity. I don’t feel like my time here on Earth was wasted, in fact I feel like I have found the real treasure in this life, the dhamma taught by the Buddha 2600 years ago (-:

I feel like I am part human and part something else these days, like some part of me is not of this world anymore. It is a nice feeling, like a taste of freedom, a kind of heaven on Earth. The stuff happening in the world just doesn’t seem to get me as ‘het up’ anymore. I find myself not getting caught up in the stories or dramas about the world or desiring anything in it that I used to enjoy, except perhaps for weed (;

The thought occurred to me if I die now I wouldn’t mind at all. I will just let go and direct my consciousness to higher things and if I don’t reach nibanna, perhaps I can make it to the stage of enlightenment known as non-returner, as a consolation prize. Then I will never have to be born and exist in this world ever again. Non-returners don’t come back to Earth, they are born in the higher heavens and get fully enlightened there, and although they have extremely long lives (aeons) they never incarnate here or in any of the worlds below them ever again, they can however visit any of the lower worlds whenever they like, and some do from time to time.

Non-returner is the third stage of enlightenment in the four traditional stages which are: 1. stream-enterer, 2. once-returner, 3. non-returner, 4. fully liberated (has reached nibanna and never incarnates anywhere again). 

I was reflecting on what it means to be a non-returner and imagined that there could well be many celestial Buddhas in the heavens right now who were non-returners, living extremely long lives beyond anything we can comprehend, who have seen universes come and go, and I wonder if they sometimes come to Earth out of compassion to help and guide people on the spiritual path. Who knows, but it is a nice thought (-:

Many Buddhists disagree with my thinking here, and I have been challenged on it. They say that devas or other heavenly beings don’t act as spiritual guides or helpers to humans. They only visit the human realm to learn, gain wisdom and knowledge. But in my personal experience I have encountered spiritual guides and helpers from the deva realms who have helped me many times when I have been feeling desperate and alone  (and still do now). So I think perhaps some non-returners do act in a compassionate way towards humans. Brahma Sahampati the anagami (non-returner from a previous Buddha) certainly seemed to be showing compassion towards humans when he came to Earth and persuaded the Buddha to teach after his enlightenment.

But noone really knows. I like thinking of there being celestial Buddhas out there who do show compassion to the lower realms, and guide and help those on the spiritual path. So I think I will believe in this theory whether anyone agrees with me or not (-: I also like to think if I can make it to the third stage of enlighenment and become a non-returner that I would be someone who acts this way; and if I feel like this, then there are bound to be other beings who do as well.

Maybe it is the Mahayana part of me coming through. I have spent a year as a Zen Buddhist so I am a bit influenced by that way of thinking, and do feel somewhat drawn to the Bodhisattva ideal, but not in the extreme way most Mahayana Buddhists do. I don’t particularly want to keep incarnating here over and over until all beings are liberated, in fact I don’t want to be reborn here if I can help it. My life here has felt very lonely and painful, poverty is no fun at all and this material world and the suffering it causes for most if not all of the beings who live here is a misery I never want to encounter again. I have found my time on Earth to be very unpleasant and I am keen not to be reborn here; but I do want to help liberate other beings in the future when I am ready to teach the dhamma, either as a human or a deva.

Anyway it doesn’t really matter, the important thing is practising the eight-fold path. There are certainly many devas who are just visiting Earth for their own personal development and don’t act as spiritual helpers or guides; but I also believe there are just as many who do show compassion and help other beings. Different strokes for different folks I guess, it is a huge multiverse out there with many differnt worlds and beings of all kinds with differing views.

Some of my views are different from what many Buddhists believe. Views that from my own personal experience resonate as truth; but they are so small as to not be worth argueing over. So I will remain silent about them and keep those thoughts just to my blog from now on. I am learning it is better to remain silent about such things when in the company of others. Something I think the Buddha himself practised at times. I don’t think people will ever agree one hundred percent on everything.

I like both Theravada and Mahayana, and seem to be a mixture of the two traditions in my own practise. It may be that I end up practising alone as a result, as it is difficult to plant one’s flag in just the one tradition when I am not wholeheartedly in agreement with any of them. I doubt there is a single teacher out there I will ever one hundred percent agree with, not even the Buddha himself.

I guess there is still desire in me, a desire not to be reborn in this world, a desire not to exist anymore, as it is existence itself which is the problem. Suffering follows existence like a shadow. Interestingly and rather paradoxically one can experience freedom from existence whilst one is still alive, in this very life in fact, a state of mind known as nibanna and when one dies that state of nibanna just continues unceasingly (no comedown). Nibanna is permanent and non-reversible, it is described as neither existence nor non-existence, as something utterly beyond all that, beyond anything we can imagine or comprehend, beyond duality. There are no adequate words to describe it, one has to experience it to know it. There are other experiences like that in life where words are inadequate. Nibanna is one of those experiences, it is a complete state of irreversible freedom that goes beyond everything, beyond all words and worlds, it is neither life nor death.

Desire for freedom may not be a bad thing. In a talk by Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu, he likened the aspiration to become enlightened as a pair of tweezers that one can use to get something out of their eye. Once the offending item is removed from the eye, one simply puts down the tweezers as they have done their job and are no longer needed. I have also heard someone else describe it as a key which unlocks a door, and once inside people don’t then walk around holding the key in their hand, the key has served its purpose and one simply puts it down. In a similar way desire/aspiration can be used as a tool to help liberate oneself from suffering. It does have to be used skillfully mind and that’s the tricky part. If one does not know how to handle a pair of tweezers they might end up poking their eye out.



image of the buddha sat in meditaiton


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Blue Monday

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 16 Feb 2022, 00:04

I am feeling a bit depressed today. 

Certainly this is not a pleasant world to exist in, there’s not much love in it really, can be a bit harsh and lonely. There’s always someone making us feel guilty or ashamed. We have all become masters at criticising one another, pointing out each other’s faults, and we are especially good at criticising ourselves as well. I am trying my best to reprogramme this behaviour as I do not find it helpful. If I can make it through my Buddhist training to be wise and skilled enough to teach one day, I think I will do things a little different and focus much more on friendship and connection. But that’s just me, I’m different, we are all different, yet also the same. As when one understands one’s own mind, one understands all minds; and when one has befriended one’s own being, one finds it easier to make friends with other beings.

Depression sucks, it can be hard to feel any joy or pleasure at all. I gave up trying to generate joy in meditation earlier and just went straight to equanimity. Sometimes joy comes easy and other times it feels like asking the impossible. The spiritual path is challenging and sometimes I wonder if I am cut out for it, but I persevere. Being a human is not easy. I hope I can do enough to not have to come back to this world again, it is not a pleasant place, at least not in my experience it hasn’t been. I understand some people really like it here and actually want to come back. Different strokes for different folks I guess.

My son and I saw a beautiful pheasant in the yard. I think it had escaped from being shot, (I often hear the shotguns going off nearby in the fields and woods). It opened my heart up to see it, and I felt a connection with it and I could see its sentience, it felt like our consciousnesses merged for a moment and we understood one another. I am hoping it will stay and take sanctuary in our garden and the nearby meadow and not go back to where it came from as I fear if it does it will get killed by hunters. Why anyone would want to shoot such a beautiful being is beyond me. But people travel from all over to come here and shoot birds - mad world.




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Shape of self

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 17 Feb 2022, 17:23

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. 


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Water

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 4 Feb 2022, 19:48

Sky go from lush blue to ominous grey, to crying a river of rain.
Soaked to the skin, a part of me almost grumbled
But I remained content, calm and at ease
A spiritual lesson in equanimity I thought
And smiling took shelter under a nearby tree
Soaked shoes squelching on the shimmering
Pavement-become-puddles as little birds 
Flew-danced across my path
Chasing each other's tails.


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No separation

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 1 Feb 2022, 18:29

I know that your higher mind is always with me.
Just as my higher mind is always with you.
These small monkey minds are only a tiny part of the whole.
The mind is much bigger than the one narrating the story of self.
With its limited conscious awareness and capabilities.
These physical bodies are not all there is to us. 
But our physical side can get in the way of seeing this.
We get so caught up by the things of the world.
By our past conditioning and culture.
And the erroneous thinking of our modern age.
The truth is much of the mind is unconscious to us.
And what we are conscious of,
is just the tip of the iceberg.
T
here's so much more to us than we realise.

Our being interacts and is connected on a much deeper, more ancient level.
Greater than our briefly existing physical parts are able to see.
And when you look into the core of your being.
And trust the purity of what you feel there.
You will see that this energy is real.
I am you and you are me.
Interdependent.
Unified.
One.

No separation.

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Rapture, serenity, a blackbird, and the mountain of awareness

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 24 Jan 2022, 11:20

I have found a nice spot in the Winter gardens which provides adequate shelter from the rain. And I have made friends with a blackbird that hangs out there. It came to say hello as I was meditating, and perched on a stump directly in front of me, watching me in its intent birdish way, at one point it did this cute cartoon-like yawn that opened my heart right up, and then there it was, a great whoosh and rush of something that swept and carried me off in the strength of its current and for a moment took me away from it all, leading to a free-floating spacious rapturous serenity which was a very pleasant state of mind.

 I think an elusive feeling I have been trying to pin down for a good year or so now in meditation, is in fact rapture, which for me at least is a better description of what one is trying to invoke in meditation than joy. Rapture is much more ecstatic, it carries one away in its intensity. With plenty of rushes, tingles and otherworldy feelings, there is a slowing of time that makes sensations exquisite with pleasant trails and echoes as they rise and fade away like the tide of the sea. Rapture feels like a connection to the divine, to the heavenly realms.

I reflected on what one-pointed attention is. Remembering what I heard in a dharma talk that it means an embodied awareness, a wholeheartness involving the whole of one's being paying attention. One should be aware of the whole body, of one's presence while paying attention to the breath. Using the metaphor of attention being like the peak of a mountain. When one is looking at a mountain, it isn't just the peak one sees hovering above an invisible land-mass, one sees the whole of the mountain. This understanding of what one-pointed attention means, and my encounter with the blackbird brought a genuine feeling of rapture which lead to serenity and a happiness that felt otherwordly and freer than anything I have encountered before in the material world.

I left an offering of sunflowers seeds on a nearby stone for the blackbird. Nature has often been a teacher on my journey to enlightenment.

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Nibanna

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 6 Jan 2022, 21:08

Knowledge and serenity practise are like two wings of a bird 🕊️

Nourished, well cared for and balanced they can take one to the liberating insight of nibanna. 

What is nibanna?

It is said to be a liberated state of mind that cannot be reversed.
Like what fire becomes when it no longer clings to its fuel.
The breaking of the 12 links of dependent origination.
Something permanent in an impermanent universe.
Something secure that cannot be taken away.
The mind freed from greed, hatred, and delusion.
A radiant samhadi.
Luminous with generosity, kindness and clarity.
A safe haven where one can finally know peace.
Emancipation from grief and suffering.
Final liberating knowledge here and now.
And the realisation of the eightfold path.

At least that's my understanding.

A seagull flying above some hills and the sea.

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Everything changes

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 26 Dec 2021, 19:43

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. 



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The metta path

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 24 Dec 2021, 22:09

Metta means: loving-kindness,friendliness, joviality, benevolence, altruism, goodwill.

Traditionally you start training by practising it for yourself. By becoming your own best friend and being kind and compassionate toward yourself. Which is not easy. Once you have got the hang of practising metta for yourself, you start practicing it for others, usually in this order: someone you love, then a neutral person, then an enemy, and then all beings everywhere, radiating the energy outwards in all directions. It is an energetic practise, the first of the four Brahma viharas.

There are lots of tricks one can use to get metta going. Sometimes the sea brings it up in me or the singing of a songbird, even fresh air and a nice breeze can do it. One can also use imagination to invoke the feeling, such as imagining a famous spiritual figure like Jesus, Avalokitishvara, Maitreya, a saint, or the Buddha.

The idea is to invoke the feeling of metta within and then keep it going. Cultivate it, strengthen and increase it.

Saying phrases can help, such as "May I be happy. May I be safe and well. May I be serene and boundless. May I be relieved of suffering. May I be at peace." (Obviously just replace the word 'I' for the name of a person or 'all beings' when practising metta for others). Make your own words and phrases up that help you generate it. In time you won't need words to invoke it, it becomes a warm sensation in the heart area that radiates outwards. 

Sometimes praying for those you love can invoke it. When I ask angels and devas to help with stuff, that can invoke it. Memory can invoke it, most of us have experienced metta at some point in our life, popping an ecstasy pill (MDMA) at a rave and feeling pure empathy and love for everyone is a memory that helps me invoke it at times. Metta (once it builds up momentum and gets going) can feel a bit like that in the first jhana (first stage of meditative absorption). And gradually settles, becoming more tranquil, serene and still, till it reaches equanimity.

The four Brahma viharas are: Metta (loving-kindness), Karuna (compassion), Mudita (joy in another's happiness), Upekka (equanimity).

Karuna and Mudita both come from Metta. Karuna is loving-kindness for one who is suffering. And Mudita is loving-kindness towards one who is happy.

For example, today I saw my crow friends when out walking, this brought up metta within me, I felt compassion for them so gave them some peanuts 🥜 this made them happy and I felt mudita as I watched them enjoy eating them. Then I continued my walk and feeling satisfied and content in the crow's happiness I settled into equanimity.

Metta and equanimity compliment each other like a knife and fork.

Metta, Karuna, and Mudita can take one up to the third jhana (third stage of meditative absorption). The fourth jhana is always equanimity regardless of the meditation object used, so it is said that metta, compassion, mudita can only take you to the third jhana, but to reach the fourth jhana you have to let go of them, as the fourth is pure equanimity. Well technically speaking it is mindfulness purified and born of equanimity. Equanimity actually begins in the third jhana, and the fourth is where it is refined and isolated by itself. In the fourth jhana there is neither pleasure nor pain. The fourth jhana is said to be the ideal state of mind to gain the liberating insight which leads to nibanna. But one does not have to wish for insight, apparrently from that lucid state of mind insights naturally arise. Then once one has fully realised nibanna there is no turning back and the liberation cannot be reversed and one never incarnates ever again in any world. Yet the mind still exists, it is like what fire becomes when it is no longer held captive by its fuel. The fuel being (greed, hatred, and delusion). 

Greed covers lots of stuff such as lust, craving for intoxicants, eating a little more than you needed to, to the extremes of hoarding wealth and stealing - there's many different levels to it.

Hatred also covers many things such as boredom for example which is aversion to the present moment, or aversion from lack of stimulation. Hatred also covers conceit, being boastful, as well as the more obvious extremes such as arguing, fighting and murder.

Delusion can also mean ignorance. It is a lot about the stories we tell ourselves about reality. The excuses we make to justify different behaviour. Or just believing in misinformation, disinformation or acting out of ignorance due to lack of information. The mind is a delusion generator. And delusion is the hardest of all to remove. Greed and hatred sprout from delusion. They also feed delusion. The four Brahma viharas can be helpful at weakening the power of greed and hatred, enough at least to be able to get to the root of the problem which is delusion.

When one has fully uprooted greed, hatred and delusion from the mind that is the state of mind known as nibbana and one becomes a Buddha (fully enlightened being).

 I chant the metta sutta sometimes to help me invoke Metta.

You can be creative with Metta, it is like a craft; and yes it can be a magical practise. For example, when walking along the street I will get focused while walking and invoke the feeling of metta and then think of Maitreya (Bodhisattva of metta and the next Tathagata) and as I do I become a channel and imagine multiple copies of Maitreya coming out of my heart in all directions, holding a bell shaped object that when shaken fills all those around with loving-kindness. I have a weird imagination lol.

But I am sure you can think of your own ways of radiating metta. Sometimes I imagine it as energy waves radiating outwards, and sometimes I don't need to imagine at all it just radiates out if I set the intention to radiate it to all beings and it happens. Different moments require different methods, you have to learn to be spontaneous and do what naturally feels right in each given moment. 

I have different mood cycles. And sometimes during the negative cycles there are days when I can't invoke Metta at all, I feel nothing. It isn't easy and equanimity and patience can help here, although they can be hard to generate too. Patience can be invoked sometimes by imagining the depressed cycle as me retreating from the world and being in a womb of sorts. In a state of becoming. Like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, or a nymph becoming a dragonfly. It can be very painful and challenging. And it may take a while and fill me with doubt and stagnation. Then when the cycle changes and I feel better energy arise and feel well again I am able to practise metta once more, but I find this time it has mysteriously grown deeper, like some part of the unconscious during the gestation period has been working things out and changing things, rearranging them, almost like the mind is rewiring itself. It is unpleasant and can really test one's endurance, shake you to the core, demolish your beliefs and perceptions. But afterwards one gains a new found clarity and freedom, and develops in the eight-fold path. This conscious part of me, let's call it the ego mind has very little to do in the process of becoming, you just have to be patient. Most of the growth happens outside of one's awareness in the deeper hidden mind. Another way of looking at it, is as being like pearls of wisdom. 

Also it seems from my experience that there is a malevolent outside agency that will try its utmost to deter you from the path, so be prepared for a bit of a fight. The sceptic can think of it as a trickster part of the mind. But my experience is there is both an internal and external enemy that will do what it can to make you lose your way. This energy is very tricky, and it can be oppressive as well as seductive. In the suttas this being is known as Mara. 

So don't despair if you can't do this right away, it takes years of practice, perhaps lifetimes for some. You have to persevere, pick yourself up after every failure, brush yourself down and try again. If you do this you will get a bit stronger each time and eventually get there. But don't burn yourself out, try to find a balance between laziness and over-doing it; look for a nice middle setting that works for you, and be prepared to be in it for the long game. 

Also remember to take refuge in the Buddha. The dharma. And the Sangha whenever you need to. These three are known as the triple gem and it is a powerful jewel. And  don't dismiss the power of doing this. There is lots of grace out there I am discovering. And I find whenever I take refuge in any one of these, (again depending on the moment and what feels right), helpful energy and support will come to my aid. I think there are spirits and other beings seen and unseen who are devoted to this practise, and like angels, will help when you struggle. The sangha also includes all Buddhists everywhere, and those who practise Buddhism in the deva worlds as well.

Metta itself is also protection if you can generate it suffiently enough, the good energy will protect you and make you fearless.

I am not enlightened yet, see my previous blog posts and rants for proof of this. But I will keep trying. 

This is the spiritual path I have set for myself, even if it takes me lifetimes to accomplish I will get there one day, although I am aiming to do it in this very life if at all possible.

Peace, metta and good luck on your own journey to nibanna.

The Metta Sutta

Alternative translation of metta sutta

The eleven benefits of practising metta 

Here's a great collection of talks and Q&As done by Ajahn Sona on the topic of Metta:

https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLodJ_OuDCKlexVt5B4exeYkiyM7sE8u5e


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New blog post

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The Buddha is helping me, he answered me, he always does. 

 I feel some energetic form of him is in my consciousness now and teaching me. He says though ultimately it is up to me to free myself, but he can guide me along the way. Mother Earth is with me too. Whether my enlightenment will help during these dark times I don't know. But when I become fully enlightened it will prove to others that it can be done and perhaps inspire them to do the same.

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I take refuge in Buddha

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 21 Jan 2022, 21:37
I wish I could do the eight-fold path. And I am sorry I messed up again Buddha. I am really trying, but I feel like giving up. I am losing my strength and will. I am sorry for my stupid speech at times, such as writing these blog posts, social media posts and the emails to friends. I have tried, really tried to practise right speech but I seem to be incapable of not messing up. I say the wrong things, and no matter how hard I try it just keeps happening. I don't know if it is the intense anxiety I am always feeling, and that is what makes me impatient, irritable, restless and reckless. I think the agitation is so intense sometimes I just feel like I would do anything to get rid of it, and I don't think before I speak, I just dive right in, and that just adds more fuel to the anxiety, especially when I realise what I did hasn't helped things at all.

To feel this way days on end is like torture. I don't know what to do. I have lost several friends now. I could give up communication and be silent, but if I don't use these written forms of communication, being disconnected from others makes me feel more agitated and lonely, and there's no joy.

The breathing exercises don't help calm me down. They just aren't enough for me, they might help others no doubt, but they're not enough for me. I can't meditate at the moment because of this anxiety/agitation/depression, and therefore can't get enlightened.

I wanted to get enlightened to help this planet as it is going through so much pain just now, and I thought the best way to be of service is to become a Buddha and then I will see clearly enough to know what to do. I really want to help this Earth, I want to do good and be of service to others. But until I get this mood disorder sorted, I can't. I am unable to reach out to others when I feel like this, and if I do, I completely get it wrong and make things worse, and it would have been better had I never reached out. It is clear to me that I need to sort myself out first before I can help sort anyone else out. But as much as my heart wants to be a Bodhisattva I seem to be completely unable to live up to the ideal.

Many friends have deserted me now and I understand why, I would most likely do the same if I was in their shoes. I am too intense to be around at the moment and I can't seem to keep it together very long or let go, however hard I try it is like a clenched fist that will not unclench no matter what I do. However much I reason with it, plead with it. 

 I will keep trying though, and persevere, maybe I will at least reach stream enterer before this life is up.


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