OU blog

Personal Blogs

me

The subjective experience

Visible to anyone in the world
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 (-:


Permalink
Share post
me

A metta wave

Visible to anyone in the world


May everyone feel safe, well, happy, and serene (-:

Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Judith McLean, Friday, 28 Oct 2022, 15:00)
Share post
me

Be a refuge to yourself

Visible to anyone in the world

There are moments and days when I feel flat, and wobble about in weakness and vulnerability. To rouse energy for meditation takes a lot of effort.

 Yesterday I was flying high, today I trudged slow through the tortuous harassment of sloth and torpor.

At one point I noticed aversion rise up in me in response to a mistimed moment of clumsiness. And I noticed that the anger arose because I felt like I was swimming in fatigue and malaise, and there are chores which needed doing and my energy felt like a battery unable to hold its charge, everything felt impossible and all I wanted to do was liedown and retreat from it all. I felt harassed! 

Which is another way of describing the five hindrances that stand in the way of meditation: greed, aversion, fatigue, agitation, doubt. These are the five harassments. When those five are gone from the the mind, one can easily settle into deeper states of meditation and enter a calm, lucid, steady stillness of attention and emotional well-being.

Loving-kindness meditation (Metta) felt impossible today. I struggled to get into it. Until it occurred to me that perhaps I should forget about sending Metta to others and instead generate some Metta for myself. Because right at that moment I surely needed it. How could I possibly hope to send Metta to others when my own well was dry. So that's what I did, I put my hand on my heart and said to myself: 'May you be well happy and peaceful.'

And it worked! 

We in the West are often critical and judgemental of ourselves and others, and also tend to feel guilty at the thought of loving ourselves. It is a curse of this modern age I am finding, and I am by no means the only one who suffers from this lack of self love. 

But it is wrong view. 

When one feels friendliness towards oneself then that will naturally radiate out to others. So do not feel guilty for practising Metta for oneself.

Being a friend to oneself is very important on the spiritual path. 

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 17 Jun 2022, 14:37)
Share post
me

Tranquil metta

Visible to anyone in the world

Wishing,
longing,
craving for things to be different.
Like a downcast elephant in the corner of the room.
Won't budge
So I gave up trying,
sat with it as a friend.
'Ah! Sadness be at ease.'
And relaxing,
letting go.
It was gone
transformed
into joy.


Permalink
Share post
me

Go on singing

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 24 Apr 2022, 16:58

a photo of cherry blossoms

‘ I hate a song that makes you think that you’re not any good. A song that makes you think you are born to lose, bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you’re either too old, or too young, or too fat, or too slim, or too ugly, or too this or too that.
Songs that run you down.
Songs that poke fun at you on account of your bad luck, or your hard travelling.
I’m out to fight those kinds of songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood.
I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world.
And yes it can hit you pretty hard and knock you down for a dozen loops; but no matter how hard it runs you down, or rolls over you. No matter what colour, what size you are, how you’re built. I’m out to sing the songs that will make you take pride in yourself, in your work.
The songs I sing are made up for the most part by all sorts of folks, just about like you. ‘

Rise up for the revolution.
A revolution of friendship and love.

Can you hear that?

‘ This grand shout of affirmation. To mark where we’ve been. To testify to what we have within us, what we can accomplish.

And yes in the end everything must finally fall to the universal fact of life. But be of good hearts. Our songs will all be silenced, but what of it? Go on singing. '



Permalink
Share post
me

Right intention

Visible to anyone in the world
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.

Permalink
Share post
me

Sublime abiding

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2022, 13:42


Chest beat a surging flame of worry
I sit and meditate to chill me down
Breath centres open wide
Odd mix of pleasant unpleasant
I calm the energies to a hush and
Let go of the spiky aversion
Greet with love instead
Love does not ask for anything in return
It is its own reward
For it makes one's mind and home
A pleasure to be in
even when
The dark side approaches.


Permalink
Share post
me

A song for a friend

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 22 Jan 2022, 21:48


"All I ask of you is forever to remember me as loving you."


Permalink
Share post
me

Metta for spiders and insects

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 31 Jan 2022, 17:20
Busy cleaning out my room today. Going to make it into a hybrid zendo of sorts. It is an epic task. As I have been neglecting it rather. I have thrown out my bed as it was no longer fit for purpose and giving me a bad back. I had been using the underneath as a crazy storage area, and it was jam-packed full of all sorts of junk, which I have now binned. And underneath all that I discovered life had made a thriving eco-system. There were centipedes, cupboard spiders, woodlice, earthworms, and some other insects whose names I don't know. I didn't have the heart to hurt any of them, and I felt guilty as I must have seemed like a giant destroyer of worlds to them. So I made a part of my room into an insect sanctuary, and piled some compost, soil, wood, cardboard boxes, and old cloth there for them.Then I moved them all gently to their new home. It was rather time-consuming and sometimes hard to get the insects to cooperate, but I managed to move them all in the end without harming any. I like insects. And I can talk to spiders and they will trust me and climb on board and let me move them to another location. I seem to have a good relationship with spiders and feel lots of metta for them. Although no-one else in my household shares my love for them.They are horrified.
Permalink
Share post
me

The metta sutta

Visible to anyone in the world

This is what should be accomplished by one who is wise.

Who seeks the good and has obtained peace.

Let one be strenuous, upright, and sincere.

Without pride, easily content and joyous.

Let one not be submerged by the things of the world.

Nor lay upon oneself the burden of riches.

Let one's senses be controlled.

Let one be wise but not puffed up.

And let one not desire great possessions even for one's family.

Let one do nothing that is mean.

Or that this wise would later reprove.

May all beings be happy!

May they be joyous and live in safety!

All beings. Whether weak or strong.

In high, middle, or low realms of existence.

Great or small.

Visible or invisible.

Near or far.

Born or to be born.

May all beings be happy!

Let none deceive another.

Nor despise any being in any state.

Let none through anger or hatred.

Wish harm upon another.

Even as a mother at the risk of her life;

Watches over and protects her only child.

So too with a boundless heart should one cherish all living things.

Suffusing with love the entire world.

Above and below and all around without limit.

So let one cultivate an infinite goodwill toward the whole world.

Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down. 

Throughout all one's waking hours.

Let one practise the way with gratitude.

Not holding to wrong views.

Endowed with insight.

Freed from senses appetites.

One who realises the way will be freed from the duality of birth and death.


Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Gill Burrell, Sunday, 19 Dec 2021, 13:59)
Share post
me

The metta path

Visible to anyone in the world
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


Permalink
Share post
me

I take refuge in Sangha

Visible to anyone in the world

I tell you something I do love about Zen. Is the focus on friendship and inter-relational practise. We truly are all awakening together - stepping through those dharma gates together. It warms my heart. 

The feeling of Sangha is strong in the Zen tradition. And I am learning how taking refuge in the Sangha is a beautiful powerful thing. 

The best way to learn the noble eight-fold path is with good friends and companions (-: 

We learn and grow together. 

 To learn the path is to see it embodied in others and others to see it in you; we change and shape one another. 

The circle of practice ⭕


Permalink
Share post
me

The eleven benefits of metta practise

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 1 Dec 2021, 21:01

This a short sutta from the Pali cannon on the eleven benefits of metta practise. And is another chant I like to do every day. I tend to do my chanting mostly when walking on the beach, next to the sea. But If there are people about, I'll just recite it silently in my head.

Metta is a Pali word that means: love, kindness, friendship, benevolence, goodwill.

The Buddha addressing the sangha:

" There are eleven benefits that come from the practise of metta. That arise from the emancipation of the heart. That if repeated, developed, made much of, made a habit of, made a basis of. Experienced, practised, well-started. These eleven benefits can be expected for one who practises metta:

One sleeps well.
One does not have nightmares.
One wakes up feeling well.
One becomes affectionate to human beings.
One becomes affectionate to non-human beings.
The deities protect one.
Neither fire, nor poison, nor weapons can harm one. 
One's mind is easily calmed.
One's countenance is serence.
One dies without confusion.
And beyond that should one fail to realise nibbana; one is reborn in the higher heavens. "

...

[n.b. the seventh benefit: 'Neither fire, nor poison, nor weapons can harm one." May be a metaphor for greed, hatred and delusion.]

Permalink
Share post
me

The five remembrances and the nature of change

Visible to anyone in the world

A bit under the weather today. Woke up with a touch of sickness this morning. Didn't feel comfortable lying in bed as had sweated a lot in the night. So I got up and had a bath. Then sat in meditation with a Zen group I sit with regularly. Felt quite unwell whilst I sat, and have an annoying cough which kept interrupting the flow of meditation and stopped me getting into a deep state of concentration. At first I wondered why on Earth I was sitting meditating with others on Zoom when I just wasn't feeling it. But I remembered a story about a monk who got sick with malaria, and he carried on sitting and meditating with the sangha every evening, and even though he felt like he was on death's door, and felt gravely ill, he kept meditating and it was hardwork, he struggled; but he also persevered and eventually managed to reach a flow state known as samhadi (A profound deep stillness, lucidity and unification of mind) and from then on his sickness turned around and he got better. I have heard other stories like this, so I think there is something to it. There's something powerful and healing about getting into a state of samhadi. I didn't manage to do that today, after 30 minutes I felt like I had had enough and left the sitting to lie down for a bit. 

But it was not a wasted effort, there was merit there. I think just sitting with the sickness and learning how to flow with it and be kind to myself was a helpful experience. I tried to remain aware and mindful throughout and learn what I could about the mind and how to be okay with ill health and pain; not reacting, accepting things as they are, letting them be, without the suffering. 

 I can't seem to generate the energy of metta (loving-kindness, goodwill, friendliness) today, feel a bit weak and fatigued, athough I will persevere with that as I have found doing metta practise for the bacteria/viruses causing sickness in my body has powerfully turned things around for me in the past. I can't seem to bring up that feeling just now though, so am spending a lot of time in equanimity. I may listen to a playlist of dharma talks on metta later, as using the voice of another can help to generate the feeling of metta when I am struggling to be able to.

Remembering the five wise reflections oddly brings me comfort, and seems to help the mind to accept the way things are. It reminds me that the first four reflections: ageing, sickness, death, and separation  are natural, and happen to all living beings. The last reflection reminds me to show kindness to myself and others, and develop a generous heart and try to give in whatever form I can, even if that is just silently practising metta for myself and others, it still helps. As these are actions that can bring one good karma. 

The Five wise reflections

I am of the nature to age; I have not gone beyond old age.
I am of the nature to get sick; I have not gone beyond ill health.
I am of the nature to die; I have not gone beyond dying.
Everything I hold dear and everyone that I love,
Will become separated from me due to the nature of change (of impermanence).

I am the owner of my karma, heir of my karma, 
Born of my karma, related to my karma.
My karma is the ground on which I stand.
Therefore should I frequently remember:
Whatever actions I do for good or for ill,
Become the karma I inherit.



Permalink
Share post
me

My spiritual practise is friendship

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 27 Oct 2021, 15:41

This is a nice practise I learnt in Buddhism. It is called sharing your merit with all beings. Merit being your attainments, virtue, knowledge, wisdom, benefits of spiritual practise, wellbeing... all the good wholesome stuff. And you share that freely with all the beings around you. Both seen and unseen. It can help bring a nice vibe I find, especially when out walking. I feel the presence of many different beings, and some I call Devas, (we in the West call them spirits.) I feel them all around me at times, and they bring good energy, and I have found they really appreciate it when we share our merit with them.

We of course lose absolutely nothing when we share our merit with others, what you give out energetically comes back to you exponentially. This means your merit will grow from this practise, and then you will have more to give, and the more you give, the more comes back to you, and so on, it grows and grows.

However, the intention behind giving is also important, as it is our intention that will be the flavour of what comes back to us energetically. What we reap is what we sow. As a rule of thumb, right intention tends to come from the belly or the heart, intentions developed in the brain and our thoughts can generate the wrong kind of intention.

 I think it is a blameless practise, that causes no harm and nothing bad can come from it. 

It has also helped me a couple times with grief. Where I offered to share my merit with loved ones who had crossed over this past couple of years. I felt their presence as I did this and that they really appreciated the merit. All spirits appreciate it when we share our merit with them, I think it can really help them out where they are.

 I think this practise is also a good training for the mind in developing  generosity, good will and friendship with other beings. It can be done silently in one's head, and nobody has to know that you are practising this at all.  You don't have to be wealthy, you can be in poverty and still practise sharing your merit. We have all had moments of genuine kindness, there's some merit right there that can be shared. Share your entire life's worth of merit with all the beings around you in all directions, and dimensions throughout all time and space.

Keep doing that as often as you remember to. 

In Buddhism this energy is known as metta or loving-kindness. It also means friendship, warmth and joviality.
Compassion is a form of metta, it is metta towards another who is suffering. 
Empathetic Joy is also a form of metta, this is where one feels joy in another's happiness. You could say (for anyone who has encountered object-oriented programming) that compassion and empathetic joy are both subclasses of metta (;

Equanimity is also very valuable, and compliments metta perfectly. Ajahn Sona describes metta and equanimity as being like a knife and fork. They work well together. 

Equanimity is welcome for times when generating metta feels impossible, when the grief is too much, and for the times when you make mistakes and fail, when things don't go to plan, for the things you can't change in the world. Nobody can solve all the world's problems, neither me nor you are responsible for solving the world's problems, that's an impossible task. We also should not suffer with other beings. That just leads one to sadness and the complete wrecking ball of depression, which doesn't help you or any other being. The best help we can be to other beings is to practise keeping our own minds bright and lucid, keep our spirits lifted up so we can offer support and friendship, compassion, and uplift others. This world is going to need that now more than ever. One can also radiate equanimity energetically, which can help bring calm to a difficult situation.

This practise takes a while though, lots of repetitive practise, lots of failures, but don't beat yourself up for those, just learn what you can, pick yourself back up and try try again.

 It is good to try and find something that invokes that feeling in you. Can be anything: a loved one, a pet, any person, a mythological figure, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, an animal, a tree, the ocean, something neutral like the snow, water, air, colours, can be something imaginary. Use anything that brings up that feeling of love within you. Even if you get just a finger snap of the feeling, that's good enough, it snowballs. And the mind will find its way back there again, and again, and get better at finding its way back there. And sometimes it will do it without you consciously invoking it. Once it gets the hang of it, the mind will get quicker at finding it, and the amount of time the feeling lasts for will also grow both in intensity and duration.

Remember that what we practise now is what we will become. A way I have found that can help to keep fuelling the determination to practise, is to imagine having compassion for my future self and others. It is a gradual training, much like learning any other craft or skill in life, but with repeated practise it can be done, and the beneifts will blow your mind. Your future self (and all the people around you) will be glad that you did (-:


Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Gill Burrell, Saturday, 23 Oct 2021, 20:31)
Share post
me

A new day

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 20 Jan 2022, 21:36

Feeling much more motivated today. Started my Python revision and surprised myself by being able to get into it. Opened the window wide and tidied up my room a bit, much easier to do that now the weather's cooler. I am determined to make it into a Zendo one day! However long it takes. Even managed some painting. My paintings are taking me much longer than before, there's some I've been working on now for weeks, and they still aren't finished, consisting of more and more layers and changes to colours and shapes. The process is very much keep doing that until some part of me says 'Aye that's done now'. 

I am going to have a shot at selling the paintings themselves eventually. But will keep scanning them and sharing them freely online at the same time. I believe art should be for everyone, not just something hoarded by an art collector. Eventually I will have a website of my own where people can download the scans for free and print their own copies, and also links to where they can buy high-quality prints if they want. 

Also going to try and write a book, and have a go at selling that online when it's finished.

 I keep going for regular walks to stretch my legs and get some fresh air, sometimes the weather defeats me, so I will just stand on the porch and listen to the rain. I am lucky that I live near the sea, woods and some meadows, they are all within a short walking distance. Sometimes I like walking along the seafront, it is nice to see people about and I love the Victorian architecture here, it is magic. Even if I never say anything to anyone, I like remembering that I live in a community of other people. I try to remember to practise metta, and stay attentive to the energy in my heart area, wishing others well (silently in my head) as I walk passed.



Permalink 3 comments (latest comment by Hede Maria Cavell, Saturday, 2 Oct 2021, 13:07)
Share post
me

Metta bee

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 24 Dec 2021, 22:15

Found a bumble-bee struggling on the road earlier today, wasn't moving and seemed barely alive. I put my open hand next to it on the ground, and to my amazement it clambered on, and I carried it home.

 I was taking part in a meditation and writing retreat with a Zen group via Zoom. So I sat in Zazen meditation with it cupped in my upright hand. Where it just rested and warmed up, and over the course of the meditation it perked up and started cleaning itself and stretching. Then began crawling from one hand to the other, seeming to become more and more alive, its feet tickling my palms. At the end of the meditation (30 mins), the group leader on Zoom rang the bell, and the bee started buzzing excitedly and I got the sense it was ready to leave me. So I went back outside and stood on my doorstep, felt it vibrating as it buzzed on my palm. And from my open outstretched hand it took off perfectly, and flew away, seeming to be in good health and happy. I wished it well. 

Permalink
Share post
me

A wish for all beings

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 20 Jan 2022, 21:17

There is a place on the edge of consciousness where angels fly, where devas meditate and dance.
 Where my feet make complex interweaving patterns on the floor.
The ground and colourful shapes pulsing with each footstep like a graffiti beat on the street.
Within my heart is a luminous orb, with many swirling  moving rings circling it, going round and round,
each one containing a neverending chain of orbs, like fractals.
I imagine those swirling rings expanding  beyond my body,
swirling off in all directions,
through all dimensions and time and space,
with the wish that all beings be free, happy and peaceful.


Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 25 Sep 2021, 13:42)
Share post
me

Disillusionment is OK

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 20 Jan 2022, 21:38

Am disillusioned with this world, not much passion for anything just now. Career, painting, technology, science, books, music, films, romance, intoxicants, pleasure, pain. I no longer care for any of it, it all feels so unsatisfying. Politics is a load of crap, same old story of the wealthy shafting everyone else and the planet. Victims of greed they hoard and hoard, and never feel happy or content, there's always that niggling feeling of dissatisfaction in the background, and to fill this they automatically grasp for more wealth and power, but they never fill that emptiness within, never cure that feeling of how unsatisfying everything is, why? 

This modern world we live in is fuelled by greed, hatred and delusion. And all of it is doomed to end, nothing lasts, all things are being constantly chomped away at by impermanence, everything is in a state of entropy. Is why I just stick my paintings to my walls with masking tape, I don't give a shit, I know they're impermanent and I am not attached to them. I don't even know who paints them, it doesn't feel like the Richie tapping away at the keys here, some other geezer and we are both impermanent, empty, and always changing.

Is it possible to feel happiness on the spiritual path? The happiest memories I have are the days in my youth dancing at rave parties high as a kite feeling connected to everything and feeling free. Those were the best feelings I ever had, nothing else I have ever experienced has been as liberating as that was. Full of immense love and empathy for everyone around me, and they also feeling the same way towards me, all of us one, smiling and expressing our good nature, a feeling of unity, of oneness, being completely at ease with everyone and everything. In that place I forgot who I was, forgot my story and didn't care a jot about it anymore, It didn't matter who anyone was, nobody cared, we were all the same, no judgement, no shame, no exclusion, just goodwill, friendliness, and a shared feeling of connection and space to be who we are. Those beautiful  memories stay with me, even now at the age of 46, and they remind me that deep down, all of us, whoever we are, have a good nature underneath all the layers of shit. We all want to love and be loved, to live in peace. I believe that our original mind before it is tainted by the world is good-natured.

It makes me think of the spiritual practise of metta. Metta means unconditional love, kindness, friendship, warmth, benevolence, and jovial good will. Metta also has a good-natured sense of humour, which can help one to not take things too seriously or personally. Metta is the Pali word, but there isn't really a satisfying equivalent that captures it in the English language. So I just use the word metta, as it is easier than listing all the qualities it embodies. It is a nice feeling, and there have been times when practising metta where I thought I came close to how I felt at a rave party (but without the dreaded comedown). Equanimity is also a nice state of mind, and very useful. It is the best one to look at reality with. Not a cold dry dead equanimity, it is alive, warm-hearted and kind, but doesn't take the suffering of the world upon itself. With equanimity one no longer clings to anything, no longer chases after anything, and one doesn't get shaken or swept up by the random nature of things, one is centred. With equanimity one remains calm in a crisis, unshaken and unsuprised by the changing nature of the world, in that lucid state of mind one can look at reality with clarity and see things as they are.

A Zen teacher said that my feelings of disillusionment with the world are a good thing, they are the first noble truth. Disillusionment means one has seen through the illusion.
The second noble truth is to see it is my attachment to the illusion that causes me suffering.
The third noble truth is to come out of the trance and let go of the illusion, stop clinging to the inner story of self.
The fourth noble truth contains the practical instructions on how one trains the mind to let go of and go beyond the self-centred dream. To (through the gradual training of the noble eight-fold path) reach a state of mind that doesn't die, doesn't suffer, and experiences a profound freedom that remains and never ceases - nibbana.

Peace and metta




Permalink 7 comments (latest comment by Jeremy Andrew Howard, Friday, 24 Sep 2021, 13:30)
Share post
me

Healing power of metta

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 21 Sep 2021, 14:25

This may sound crazy but doing metta practise for the viruses/bacteria in my body has helped to consistently turn things round when I have been sick, actually the last three times in fact. Generating unconditional love for the micro-organisms seemed to change their energy a bit, perhaps even effecting their consciousness. And now I feel like they are part of me, but in a more benevolent form. 

 Metta is an energetic practise and means unconditional love, kindness, jovial goodwill, warmth and friendliness towards oneself and all other beings (not just humans).

I told all the virus/bacteria in my body, that they were all welcome to call my body their home, and that my heart-mind has resolved to become a Buddha. I offered to share the merit (benefits/knowledge) of my spiritual (bodhisattva) practise with all the different beings who call this body their home.  All the different consciousnesses living in the body-mind, cells, bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites. I wished them all well and said they were more than welcome to call this body their home and join me on the path to Buddhahood.

I saturated my entire body with this energy and then radiated it out into the world. Offering to share the merit of my spiritual practise with all beings everywhere, wishing them all to be well and serene, and for everyone to realise Buddhahood and cross over to nibbana and be free from suffering.

Metta is a powerful practise and is a skill worth learning, but it takes time for the practise to grow. Equanimity is also an energetic practise that is worth learning as it compliments metta really well. They go together like a knife and fork.

Here are some talks and Q&A sessions from a virtual retreat led by Ajahn Sona I took part in last Christmas, they teach how to practise metta and I can testify that this energy is real and with practise it will  snowball and grow stronger and bring much benefit to one's life and those around.

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


Permalink
Share post
me

Metta sutta (teaching on loving-kindness)

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 11 Sep 2021, 22:36

A picture of an abstract painting - by me

This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech,
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways,
Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful,
Not proud and demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing:
In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease!
Whatever beings there may be,
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short, or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and those far away,
Those born and to-be-born –May all beings be at ease!

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life,
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings.
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths,
Outwards and unbounded,
Free from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down,
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to wrong views,
The pure-hearted one,
Having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is never again born into this world.


Permalink
Share post

This blog might contain posts that are only visible to logged-in users, or where only logged-in users can comment. If you have an account on the system, please log in for full access.

Total visits to this blog: 117647