Preparing myself for another all night sit under a tree at the next full moon. I think I will try to make it a regular event every full moon, to go and spend a night of meditation in the wilderness by myself.
I must find a way to repel insects though as some carry diseases and this is a very real danger I need to find a way to counteract, especially when it comes to ticks. Lyme's disease is no fun at all. I am wondering about trying some essential oils on my clothing to see if that puts off biting insects.
I will continue to have a flask of coffee or tea with me to get me through the night, and not feel guilty for that. Very much a believer in practising the middle way, and having a cup of coffee really helped warm me and gladden the mind at times, and I was grateful for the kindness to myself in packing the flask.
To be honest, the biggest fear of being alone in the woods at night is encountering other humans. I am far more afraid of people than I am of animals, insects or spirits. The devas will be with me though and the psychic energies of my friends will also be with me, so I shouldn't be afraid. If I stay centred with metta I will be safe. Wherever I am in the world, being mindful of metta will keep the mind clear of the hindrances.
No matter what someone does to me, even if they kill me, if my mind remains centred in metta, I will be fine, a consciousness filled with metta leads to a good rebirth.
It isn't loss of life that one should fear, it is loss of peace of mind. The defilements within (greed, hatred, and delusion) are far more frightening to me then anything else in this world. They are the real enemy, and they never tire, they're always waiting for me to show a moment of weakness. I have to be careful not to let my guard down, because if they enter my heart, they start to suffocate it with craving, and drag me down into the darkness. The impurities of the mind are no joke. They are far more dangerous than anything else out there. This is where wisdom, morality, mindfulness, right effort, and the stillness of samhadi becomes one's protection. They help prevent greed, hate, and delusion from taking over the mind and leading one into suffering.
I am debating with myself whether to pack some headphones and a device so I can listen to a downloaded dhamma talk. Sometimes if things get difficult it is good to be able to listen to the voice of another, as they can talk one out of a negative state of mind and encourage one to keep going.
This is okay for me as I am a lay follower, not a monastic, so I can do this if I decide it would be beneficial to do so.
" What is commonly referred to as a ‘calm mind’ or a ‘mind integrated in samādhi’ is a state of inner stability that is no longer associated with the meditation object, which merely prepared the mind by holding it steady. Once the mind has entered into samādhi, there exists enough momentum for the mind to remain in this state of calm, independent of the preparatory object, whose function is temporarily discontinued while the mind rests peacefully.
Later on, when the mind withdraws from samādhi, one can focus attention on a dhamma theme (Buddhist teachings). When this is practiced consistently with dedication and sustained effort, a mind long steeped in dukkha (stress, suffering, dissatisfaction) will gradually awaken to its own potential and abandon its unskillful ways. The struggle to tame the mind, which one experiences in the beginning stages of training, will be replaced by a keen interest in the task at hand. "
- Ajaan Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno (Acariya Mun - A spiritual biography)
Feeling a wee bit better today. Was in such a dark place for a while. These cycles seem to happen every now and then. My mind goes into shutdown, like when a computer updates its operating system. It can feel slow and frustrating, and there's an element of restlessness there on top of the fatigue, and that bossy part of the mind always tugging at me to do things. Reminding me of deadlines and things I should be doing.
The inner miser might say: 'I don't deserve to be happy, I don't deserve to enjoy myself.' that is just crap, don't listen to that. You are allowed to be happy, you are allowed to feel joy. Cut yourself some slack, one of the enlightenment factors is joy. It is part of the training. So stop listening to the miserly one within who tells you that you can't be happy, that you don't deserve it. And don't be content with just a little taste, ask the mind for more, until you couldn't ask for any more.
We've all done crappy things that we regret. Many great saints and noble people weren't always that way, some were rascals. Everyone on this planet is a mix of good and bad. We make amends for our past mistakes by training our minds now. It is the most compassionate thing we can do for ourselves and others is to train the mind.
But when you feel comfortable in yourself, secure, it is easier to be with others and be a friend then, to be a good listener, because your insecurities aren't getting in the way.
I have decided to keep writing my blog. I also feel like the devas (shining ones/angels) are encouraging me to keep writing it. It seems to help me. Something about attempting to articulate what I am learning helps me remember and understand it better and absorb the knowledge.
I am still feeling a bit sick, can't seem to shake this illness. Will give it another week or so before I talk to a doctor in case it is Lyme's disease. Apparently there's no point until you've had it a while as the blood test is known to give false negatives if done in the first 4 - 5 weeks. I hope it clears up by itself, as I would rather not take antibiotics. They really mess up my gut system and it took me years to get it back to good health after the last round of anti-biotics I had. Also Western medicine doesn't always feel very welcoming, I don't find it very approachable, and I feel afraid of it. I think it is because the health services in the UK are stretched to breaking point at the moment after years of government austerity. Doctors and nurses are often tired and overworked, stressed out, burnt out, and it isn't their fault, but as a result some can be a bit terse and grumpy. I don't take it personally. I try to be kind and friendly, but it is not a pleasant experience seeking treatment in modern day medicine, and the treatments/medications can also feel a bit brutal on the body as well, they are often unpleasant, so I only tend to seek medical attention as a last resort.
But in hindsight, there's plenty of Buddhist resources online already, and my writing isn't that great to be honest, and isn't going to make much of a difference. It also can feel stressful sometimes, worrying about what I've written, if it is appropriate, kind or beneficial, whether it was wise or not. I find this anxiety can stop me being able to meditate. I am not a teacher of the dharma. Although I would like to be a dhamma teacher one day, because I like helping others, and the Buddha's teachings deserve to be preserved and passed on to future generations. But I would rather do that when I have been practising this for a good while, when I am much wiser than I currently am. It is important that a teacher of dharma is of the highest calibre, impeccable in conduct. Buddhism like all other religions is not without its scandals. It is a shame when that happens because it can tar the image of Buddhism, and fill students with doubt. It is a big responsibility to be a dhamma teacher. Because how a teacher behaves paints an image of the teachings in the public's eyes. Students look up to their teachers as examples, and a bad immoral teacher can cause a lot of harm, heartbreak and disillusionment.
Also, I am not sure that people in this age are all that interested in the true dharma. There are a few who are spiritually hungry and want to learn the deeper truths, but most are worldly and seeking material things and how they can increase that. I don't judge them, but I don't want use up all my energy on something that isn't going to benefit anyone in the long term, as that is tiring and vexing for me, and distracts me from my meditation. I think there's enough out there already online for the spiritually hungry to read and listen to. And I worry my voice might put people off the dharma, I really hope I haven't done that. So I will keep quiet now for a bit, and just focus on my own development and try to get a bit further along on the path if I can. Maybe when I am more spiritually developed and much wiser I will feel differently and share my insights again. But for now I will have a rest from writing I think.
I honestly don't have much else to write about on a blog other than the dhamma. I am not into the world much, I find it tedious, shallow and egoic, always have from an early age. I remember as a child thinking how inane it all was, this material world. Have always felt drawn towards the spiritual.
I won't write anymore about A.I. or politics or any other contentious issues either. I think I will stay away from those topics from now on. I am not against progress or technological development. I just worry about people who will lose their livelihoods and that there won't be any financial support for them. There doesn't seem to be much sign from governments that they will help those who are pushed out of work by automation. I also worry about the environmental cost of A.I., all the electricity needed to power these robots and huge server farms.
But it is true that many of the jobs robots will replace are horrible. I've worked in a few of those myself in the past. Zero hour contracts and cruel inhumane shift patterns. For example, finishing a shift late in the evening and then being expected to work again early the next morning. No holiday, no sick pay. Staff are treated like factory farmed humans. It is truly unpleasant.
This is something important to bear in mind. That what the media tells us, what politicians tell us, what academics tells us, what the modern world says. It is just views, opinions, concepts conjured up by the thinking mind. One must always remember that the truth does not depend on science to verify it or endorse it. The truth exists regardless of what anyone thinks, it is outside of public opinion.
It will always be that good karma comes from love, generosity, friendliness, kindness, selflessness. And bad karma comes from greed, hate, and delusion (the conceit 'I am'). This has always been the case. Being unkind to others, violence, war, stinginess, self-centred arrogance and narcissism, will always lead to bad karma, either in this life or a future one.
The law of karma does not need the world of academia to prove whether it exists or not. It is very real, and being kind, giving, loving, friendly, peaceful, these make oneself and others much happier, they activate wholesome circuits in the mind that make us feel good, make us well, and that is why they lead to good outcomes. But greed, hate and delusion do not make us feel well, they are psychic poisons, a sickness, an affliction, toxic, and they feel unpleasant, and will lead to painful feelings for oneself and others, that is why they lead to bad outcomes.
Poverty is truly awful. It causes so much suffering in society. And it is unnecessary. There's enough wealth in the world for everyone to live a comfortable life and for there to still be enough for the rich to enjoy their luxuries. Generosity and kindness makes the world a better place for everyone. It makes us all happier, more fulfilled, brings us meaning and peace.
It is one of the reasons I put so much effort into the dharma. When you are poor, this world it is not pleasant at all, it is oppressive, unbearable, cruel, a trial of endurance, like a Hell. And it is hard to get out of poverty once you're in it, it feels like a trap. And it is harder to practise the spiritual life when one is stressed and in pain, always worrying about one's finances and making ends meet.
I take comfort and feel inspired knowing that many great meditation masters, especially from Thailand, such as Ajahn Chah, came from poor backgrounds, and they became great dharma teachers, and their influence is still being felt today, still helping people long after their deaths. They must have had a good store of karma from previous lives to be able to do that. So being wealthy doesn't necessarily mean one has good karma from a past life, or that good karma leads to one being wealthy in a future life.
Wealthy people should not look down on those in poverty, thinking of them as lesser, blaming and shaming them; because having lots of money doesn't make you superior to those who have less. Virtue is the source of true wealth. It is what is in the heart that matters. The Buddhist path is open to everyone, rich or poor. Open to anyone who is willing to put in the effort to practise meditation, to study the dhamma. You can practise it in a mansion, a simple dwelling, or penniless living under a tree. The Buddha was homeless and dependent on the generosity of others. The dhamma is free to all, it doesn't cost anything, money is not necessary to be a Buddhist. That is truly liberating to know, especially in these times when there is so much inequality in the world. Because it means anyone willing to make effort with the noble eightfold path has the potential to become enlightened, whatever their circumstances.
Woke up feeling a bit feverish. Meditating in the woods is not without its dangers it seems, I've had a few tick bites, so hope it isn't that what's made me ill.
This technology in all honesty, I don't think we need it. It is just another way for a few people to become more wealthy. Or is it? You have to wonder about the intelligence of these corporate CEOs. If they're all for profit, they aint gonna make much if we're all too poor to afford their products and services.
People may get angry, there could be unrest, riots. Society will come for those in charge, and it will all get ugly in the end. Ultimately you have to feel sorry for them. Their greed and stinginess will come back to bite them on the backside, either in this life or in a future one. There's no escape from the law of karma. The universe will have its pound of flesh to balance the scales. A wise corporate CEO should take heed of this and renounce their greed and delusion. Practise generosity, kindness, and selflessness instead as that will lead to better outcomes for them. Karma is no joke, it is very real.
So the way I look at it is, use this rare opportunity now to get as far along as you can in the dharma, while the current Buddha's teachings are still available and accessible in the world. All you need these days is an Internet connection and some critical thinking to help you navigate through the thicket of views online. I recommend learning the early Buddhist teachings first, the suttas of the Pali canon is a good start, a good foundation. Then after that explore the later developments in Buddhism if you wish to; but use the early teachings as a reference and guide, a touchstone to check you are not being led astray by the myriad views out there. It really is a jungle of views out there, and the early Buddhist teachings are in danger of becoming lost to future generations if we are not careful. They are gradually becoming more and more watered down and changed to suit a worldly material agenda. I keep coming across memes with a picture of the Buddha on, attributing a quote to the Buddha which he didn't say at all. So one has to be careful of misinformation and disinformation, even in Buddhism.
This world doesn't last
Youth and beauty
Fade so fast
that go off in the night.
Beautiful for a moment
But soon out of sight.
Even our memories change
In the long descend.
Is it all worth it, in the end?
But it's nothing personal.
Fatigue is challenging today. I think I may be recovering from COVID. A neighbour last week told me they had it. And I was sick on Thursday last week and through the weekend. the symptoms were mild this time, just a general malaise, but the fatigue really knocked the wind out of my sails.
I am behind with my studying again. It is hard going. I read a paragraph, reflect on it and realise I have not absorbed the information at all. So I read it again, and still can't get my head round it. I see the words on the screen, but can't seem to extract their meaning. It is frustrating.
It is tiring reading from a screen. I could print out the course materials, but printer ink isn't cheap and the cartridges don't seem to last long, and there's a lot of course materials to print out. Just too expensive to do that.
I get on much better with the practical activities. I like those best. It's the reading from a screen and note-taking that's really tiring. It is hard to motivate myself to do it at times.
I don't enjoy studying anymore, it feels like I am doing a degree in suffering.
Cyber security is not an easy subject to learn, it is complicated, and not the most intuitive thing in the world. There's no wonder there's a skill shortage. Still, if I can finish this degree which is getting harder, (like wading through sludge). I should be able to secure a livelihood in the future I think.
I have decided to remain in the household life a bit longer. People need me around still, and going off into homelessness would not be responsible or kind to those around me at this time.
I will try to limit the hours I work though. I honestly cannot work long hours, I get so fatigued sometimes. Nor do I want all my life energy to be spent working at a livelihood. I want to practise meditation too, and it is hard to practise if one is tired after working, with a stressed mind full of worldly stuff and the delusion of self.
When I am sick or dieing it isn't cyber security or my knowledge of A.I. and machine learning I will be reaching out for. My career path will feel meaningless then. It will be my knowledge and experience of dhamma, my spiritual development, my friendships, my skill in meditation that will matter then.
Livelihood is just something to pay the bills, feed and clothe the body. But I don't want it to become my life.
Need to find a middle way.
The heavy baggage of the ego.
There is no 'I',
It went surprisingly quickly. Meditated from 9pm till 6am under an old tree in the woods. Spent some time practising standing and walking meditation inbetween when the prolonged sitting became uncomfortable. I cheated and took a flask of coffee with me, I am glad I did though, it felt good holding the warm coffee in my hands at times (-:
Got an insight into how all our suffering comes from the self. Everything in the world, all of it, all our problems come from the conceit I am. It is the root of all suffering. It is not our fault really. From an early age we are conditioned to take everything personally. The whole consumer society is built around this idea of personalising things. We identify with our jobs, with our families, with our likes and dislikes, our partners, our perceptions, our thoughts and ideas, our memories.
To see that there is nothing substantial behind any of that. That this thing we call self is just process, is a liberating experience. To truly see that the things we identify with and cling to are impersonal, is happiness. One stops taking things personally then, stops taking it all so seriously. To have a self is to take things seriously. It is a huge burden we carry around. The self is stressful, with its wants, and needs. Its attachments, its craving. It never gives us a moment of rest. It is what is behind the involuntary movements of the mind. To put all that down and let it go, is truly liberating.
To know I am not the sights I see, not the sounds I hear. I am not the smells, the tastes, the tactile sensations. I am not the content of my thoughts or ideas. I am not this body, not my memories, not my perceptions, feelings, not even my consciousness. When one examines all these things with a mind calmed through meditation, one sees clearly that there is no self in any of these things. When you filter all that out, what are you left with?
In early Buddhism they didn't have a statue of the Buddha. Just an empty seat, or a set of footprints. This is the meaning of what a tathagatha is. 'One who has thus gone.' There never was a Buddha, just the dhamma. One who sees the dhamma sees the Buddha. One who sees the Buddha sees the dhamma. What does that mean? That there never was a self, there never was any person there. When all ignorance is seen through, one is gone, thoroughly gone. And what a relief that is. To not feel driven by the conceit I am. That is the end of suffering.
The self is the root of all our problems. When we stop clinging to it, suffering ceases. Once you see this, everywhere you look in the world you will see the conceit I am. It is the root of all our world's problems, all our social ills, it is the cause of greed, hate, and delusion.
The world, our attachments, our needs and desires, our pain and resentments come from the self. To get caught up in the things of the world is to get caught up in the delusion of self. All our problems come from this. It is the origin of suffering.
Pain and pleasure, success and failure, gain and loss, praise and blame. These are the eight worldly winds that can never bring happiness, because they change, sometimes quite suddenly. They bring doubt, uncertainty, confusion and instability. They are treacherous, and hard to navigate. They will betray you. The winds will blow in one direction only to suddenly change and blow in the other direction. One cannot find stability, certainty or any lasting peace and happiness if one relies on the worldly winds.
At their source is the conceit I am.
The ignorance, I am this. I am that. I want this. I don't want that. I want to become this. I do not want to become that. I want this to exist. But I do not want that to exist. I want things to be this way, but not that way.
This 'I' is the problem.
It is oneself that is the root of suffering. The craving, the greed, hate, and delusion spring from the self. They take root and grow in it.
What is true renunciation?
It is not so much renunciation of the outer world, although this can make the work of freeing the mind much easier. To be homeless, or a monastic, to live simply, this frees one from the burdens of the household life so one can focus wholeheartedly on the work of liberating the mind.
But true renunciation comes from the heart. It is the inner world bound up in the delusion of self that must be renounced, this is what leads to the end of suffering. Renunciation of the self.
When the self is fully seen through, then so is the world. All the problems in the world have at their root the conceit I am. When the truth of self is fully revealed, fully understood. All things become known then, nothing is hidden. One stops clinging, identifying, judging. Doesn't take things personally. Resentments and longing subside. The truth sets one free. The fetters fall away. The story of self ceases. The involuntary movements of the mind stop. And what is left is peace.
The worldly winds may blow then, but one is unshaken, unperturbed by them. Like the story of the three pigs and the wolf. As much as Mara may huff and puff and try to blow your house down, it does not fall. Unwholesome desires should they arise, will instantly cease. For there is nowhere left in the mind for them to take root. The soil of the ego is not there any more.
One becomes a tathagatha then 'thus gone' no longer to be found anywhere, in any of the worlds.
Gone beyond it all, freed, unbound, no longer a subject of Mara. And wherever Mara looks he will not be able to locate the consciousness of one who has seen through the conceit I am.
I am planning on meditating all night tonight, by myself under a beautiful old tree in some ancient woodland. In honour of the Buddha, and to celebrate Vesak day which happens to be on my birthday this year because of the full moon. So it feels like an auspicious night. Fifth day of the week, on the fifth day of the month, on the fifth month of the year.
A wee bit afraid because the woods can feel a bit spooky in the dark when you are by yourself, also I haven't spent all night in meditation before. I will practise metta (loving-kindness meditation) to start to help bring good energy to the area around me. It is a lovely quiet spot with a good vibe, no sound of cars, no people, lots of pleasant breezes, no biting insects, or dangerous animals. I feel very fortunate to live near such a tranquil place.
It feels like a golden opportunity, and is just one evening of my life. Losing out on some sleep is worth it I think. Many Buddhists in different parts of the world will be celebrating tonight, remembering when the Buddha himself sat under a tree in May on a full moon and got enlightened over 2500 years ago. So I imagine there will be good energy from that. I will sit in honour of his memory, and make a real effort to practise samhadi this evening. And dedicate the practise to all beings everywhere, with the wish for all of us to be free from suffering, free from sorrow, to know peace of mind, serenity and wellbeing wherever we are.
I also feel inspired by stories I've read of others in the past who spent all night meditating under a tree and gained liberation from suffering. I will think of them all to help keep me going. And I will think of my friends, and imagine their energy like a protective loving circle around me, keeping me safe.
I have no expectations, and I'm not attached to any outcomes. But I will have a go, give it my best shot, without straining the mind.
Whatever happens tonight, I think it will be a good learning experience for me.
May all beings be safe, well, happy, and peaceful.
I feel a strong connection to the earth element at the moment. The feeling of it under my feet when standing or walking, or sitting in a chair, is reassuring. I feel its depth and stability. Its boundlessness in all directions beneath. It absorbs the unwanted energies of the mind without me asking it to, neutralises them, grounds me, earths me. Calms me, cools down the senses. Its ancient solidity making me feel safe, at ease, comfortable, peaceful. Like it is holding me, centring me. I become still like a mountain, unperturbed, unshaken, serene, dignified, composed.
I am learning more and more how important the subjective experience of the inner body is. One can centre with that anywhere, live there all the time. Make it your home, inner peace.
Humans are social creatures and I think that is why we worry so much about how we appear in front of others. We try to maintain an image that pleases those around us. But it is a maze that one can never get out of. It does not lead to the end of suffering, just leads to more suffering, to stress and anxiety. Nobody has control over the opinions of others. If you worry too much about those you will never get free.
I will live filling this whole field of experience with feelings of love, empathy, and goodwill.
Above, below, all around, without limit – I will suffuse this entire field of awareness with beauty.
May it uplift myself and all beings everywhere, in all directions and dimensions, across all of time and space.
I will abide in this dwelling, make it my home:
A kindness that is abundant, exalted, immeasurable.
A blessing that is without hostility or greed.
I will abide filling this entire field of awareness with equanimity.
Above, below, all around – pervading it with a bigger view.
Hold it without clinging, without suffering or preference.
With clarity, wisdom, balance and composure.
May it bring calm to myself and all beings everywhere.
I will abide in this dwelling, I will make it my home:
An equanimity that is abundant, exalted, immeasurable.
A blessing without resistance to what is outside my control.
When meditating, be your own refuge. Take what works from different techniques and make it your own. The many different meditation instructions out there are a guide. Generic templates, there to help you find your own way in. It is okay to play around with them, to create your own recipes to get into samhadi.
Part of meditation practice is about tweaking things, experimenting, trying things out, seeing what gets results. Keep what is useful and disregard what isn't. Everyone has their own style. There is no one size fits all.
It is like learning a musical instrument. At first it is dull because you can't instantly make music, you have to learn how to tune the instrument so it produces the right tone. Then learn the notes, chords and position of fingers. You have to train all these different muscles, and it hurts at first. You can't get it to make the sounds you want in the beginning, and wonder if you ever will. There are scales to learn, and generic songs that teach you about structure, progression and timing.
Learning any skill in the beginning is frustrating and difficult. It can feel repetitive, boring, tedious, the mind wanders, day dreams, gets restless, feels reluctant to practise; but one keeps oneself going with the knowledge that what one is doing now, will enable one's future self to be able to make music one day. That desire is what drives one into putting in the time, dedication and effort to learn the skills needed to get there.
One learns how to talk to oneself, to keep oneself going, to be patient, and content with not getting the results one wants straight away. One learns to wait, and have faith that what one is doing now will one day pay off. It takes time for skills to develop, for new habits to be formed. The process can't be hurried, and it can also take different amounts of time for each one of us, as we don't all learn at the same speed.
This is a desert we all have to cross when learning something new. But as with any training, if one persists at it, keeps a consistent daily practice going. The effort will build up a momentum over time, and eventually there's a tipping point where it suddenly feels easier, and things become more effortless, there is confidence, and there is flow, and you wonder why you used to find it so difficult because it feels so natural now, intuitive, like second nature. At last one is playing the music.
Meditation is like this also.
There's a breath meditation I have been practising lately which I enjoy. It seems to have some health benefits as well, and is effective at flushing out the five hindrances (worldly-desire, ill-will, stagnation, restlessness, and doubt). When those unpleasant states of mind are no longer present, it brings a feeling of relief, and the body feels lighter, freer, and clearer. Joy naturally arises from an unhindered mind and this leads to samhadi.
I practise this either sitting or standing in a comfortable upright position.
And, to quote the suttas, I: 'Put aside longing and dejection in regard to the world.' I give myself permission to put down that heavy suitcase for a moment. Disengage from the story of self with its longing and angst.
I become mindful of the feeling of the feet on the ground, the Earth below, feel the connection to the Earth, feel it as boundless in all directions. Centre with the perception of Earth. It's stability, strength and solidity. I feel it ground me, and absorb the uncomfortable excess energies of the mind, balancing them out. Earthing myself. I imagine roots going out of my feet into the ground below.
On the in-breath I draw energy up through my feet, legs, the torso, up the length of my spine. The energy illuminating the sensations of the body as it makes its way upwards. When it reaches the top of the head. I feel the connection to boundless sky above, and the air element all around. Then on the out-breath I release that energy and let it fall like rain, like a sprinkler or a fountain down across and through the entire body, all the way back to the feet and down into the Earth again. Lighting up the sensations of the body as it does.
On the next in-breath I rinse and repeat the instructions in the paragraph above.
I do this for as long as feels good. Then when it feels natural to do so, I stop moving the energy up and down the body and feel all the sensations in the body together at once. Feel them get more vivid and stronger with each breath.
The body at this point feels very comfortable and at ease, pleasant, and easy to centre with. The breath starts to slow, and can get very shallow, until it seems like the breath stops altogether and then there is a profound stillness that is hard to put into words, where the sense of self disappears. It is like being in a deep refuge within, a safe inner cave, where the energies of life continue around one, but one is unconcerned by them, there's a feeling of deep contentment and peace and a feeling of not wanting to be anywhere else. The mind feels unified, together, whole, but awareness is still present, one is lucid, it is not a hypnotic trance.
It wears off after a time, and then to get back there one repeats the steps above to build the momentum up again. I find I don't need to spend as long building up the momentum the second time round, and can get back easier to the stillness on subsequent goes. Each time the experience of the inner body becomes deeper and more and more exquisite.
If you get it right, you will come out of it and feel on top of the world, and you'll have a great day. Everything will feel like it's in sync. There is an after glow that can last a while, depending on how long you have spent meditating.
The after glow does wear off as the day goes on, and the hindrances return. One notices when they do, as it feels unpleasant. The hard part then is convincing yourself to meditate again.
One can keep the afterglow going for longer by practising mindfulness in everyday activity. Known as sati-sampajanna, mindfulness and clear comprehension (knowing). Where one is aware of what one is doing, the body, what sensations are present, how one feels, anchored in the inner experience of the body. But also aware of what is happening around one in the present moment with one's peripheral awareness.
We have two brain hemispheres. One hemisphere likes to focus on something in detail, and the other hemisphere is more holistic and provides context to the detail, it looks at the bigger picture, and what is happening in the background. It probably evolved this way, so that one didn't get eaten by a predator whilst focused on a task such as gathering food. One side of the brain is focused on the food, and the other side of the brain is watching for danger. Like a deer eating grass.
One can find a refuge in this mindfulness during the day, and even go into a light state of absorption and flow with it. It can be helpful to notice and play around with these two different kinds of awareness. Tweaking them so that they have a good balance that feels pleasant to work with.
There can sometimes be resistance in the mind to meditate. Some part of the mind may even try to convince you that you don't deserve to feel serenity or joy. It will insist on going over your faults and past mistakes, make you feel worthless and ashamed. Don't let that bossy part of the mind bully you. You don't have to keep listening to that voice. You are allowed to ignore the inner critic. After all it is you!
The less attention you pay to that voice the weaker it gets.
There is something called a healthy sense of shame though, that one can use as a tool to help dismiss negative thoughts if they arise, and not hold onto them. Such as imagining what a person you respect and admire might think if they saw you in an unwholesome state of mind. That can help generate the desire to abandon it and generate something more wholesome instead. No need to judge and punish yourself for having those thoughts though, that's overly excessive. Once the healthy sense of shame has done its work, stop, put the tool down and focus on the good stuff.
If you get caught up in that quagmire of negativity. And if it is strongly present in the mind, and hard to ignore. Try to bring yourself out of it gradually in stages. But don't spend too long doing it, don't engage in lengthy debates with the hindrances. Don't spend any longer dealing with them than you need to. It is like putting out the trash, you don't want to hold onto the trash for any longer than necessary, just get it done with so you can get back to the good stuff, back to the peace and serenity, to the love.
Love and serenity makes everyone feel better, it heals the world. It is actually the best thing you can do to help yourself and others. It is easier to deal with the world in a serene state of consciousness, as things won't seem so overwhelming. It is hard to deal with anything when in a negative state of mind. So it is a good thing to take some time out and retreat from the world to meditate, it isn't selfish.
In fact I am starting to think that meditation is the key to going beyond the first stage of enlightenment. Apparently people can get stuck at the first stage of enlightenment for a long time, as long as seven more lifetimes.
I think this is because the next fetters to go are greed and aversion. And these are hard to let go of. The second stage of enlightenment is all about weakening those. Greed in particular is very hard to overcome, but it is a lesser stain on the personality than aversion is.
Greed here refers not just to the extreme of billionaires, but also its milder forms, such as eating more than one intended to, craving for entertainment, sex, intoxicants, fame, fortune, luxuries and so on. The attachment to worldy-pleasures is hard to let go of, and doesn't go completely till one reaches the third stage of enlightenment. The mind won't want to let go of wordly pleasure unless it has something better to take its place. When the mind finds something better then it naturally lets go. And when greed goes, so does aversion. Greed and aversion are interlinked, they both feed into one another. They are like two dogs, one barks and it sets the other one off. There is always going to be aversion present when there is longing. Such as impatience and irritability when there are delays in getting what one wants.
I think what weakens greed and aversion is the practise of meditation, and the development of samhadi. When meditation becomes pleasurable, enjoyable and a richer experience than anything the world can offer. The two fetters of greed and aversion will get weaker, and keep getting weaker until eventually they fall away altogether. I think the second stage of enlightenment is all about mastering samhadi.
Once one reaches the third stage of enlightenment there is no going back to greed or aversion ever again, those two fetters are gone for good and they will never arise again. At the third stage one then works to lose attachment to the bliss of samhadi, which paradoxically is needed to reach this stage. So one should not be afraid of becoming attached to the pleasure of deep meditation in earlier stages, thinking they should avoid that fetter. It is a golden chain, but a necessary one, as one cannot completely overcome greed and aversion without it. The Buddha said it was a pleasure not to be feared.
If one dies whilst at this stage, in the next life they will be reborn in the higher heavens and gain full enlightenment there, and are never again born into this world. They live extremely long lives and many of them become protectors of Buddhism, like celestial Buddhas. They are very powerful beings, and are able to visit any of the lower worlds at will and can take on many different forms. Many are compassionate beings and help those in the lower worlds who are on the path to enlightenment, including the Buddha himself on his journey. It was a deva that had reached the third stage of enlightenment under a previous Buddha who appeared before Gotama Buddha after his enlightenment to encourage him to teach the dhamma out of compassion for the world.
I think these devas/spirits work in very subtle ways though, one may not even realise they are being helped by them. They don't directly interfere, and cannot make anyone become enlightened; but they can leave subtle hints, and gently guide one's intuition, set up helpful encounters, to steer us in the right direction. And if one looks back on one's life, there are moments that are hard to explain, and one wonders if a deva perhaps helped in some way. Who knows, I like to think so.
To reach the fourth and final stage of enlightenment, the attachment to blissful states of meditation is let go of, when one sees that these states are also subject to change, do not last, and are not self, the last remnants of the conceit I am disappears. The idea of a separate self is seen through completely, and when that happens the restless involuntary movements of the mind stop altogether and they never arise again, and there is perfect peace.
The very last fetter to go is ignorance, (or delusion). When one fully realises delusion, one becomes the one who knows, no part of the mind is hidden then. One is lucid and serene, completely free from suffering, dwelling in a state of lasting emotional well-being. They still partake in the pleasure of meditation though, as often as they wish to, whenever they wish to, as it is one of the fruits of the path, one of the seven factors of enlightenment, and available to them any time they want, the Buddha continued to practise meditation and samhadi throughout his life.
A fully enlightened being also naturally shines with love and compassion for all beings. And although not everyone is able to teach, those that can teach, and have capacity for it, in the spirit of the Buddha, do teach others and it is not a chore for them to do so, it is a joy. An unharrassed mind naturally feels empathy and compassion for other beings. It is a sorrowless empathy, one that shows love to those that are suffering, but does not suffer with them. The peace of a fully enlightened being is undisturbed by anything that happens in the world. They do not cling to anything in the world. This doesn't mean they won't do things to help the world out of compassion for others, just they are not attached to outcomes, and do not suffer when things don't go to plan.
Knowing about the four stages of enlightenment can be a helpful guide to where one is at, and what work needs to be done to develop further on the path. One can look at the mind and see which fetters are still present, and what one needs to do to progress.
Sensations can feel dull in the morning
But a cup of tea helps
I meditate on the perception of light
To brighten the dullness and drowsiness.
Then go for a walk
Sun is shining
The sea choppy
Splashing over the sea wall
I went into a brief trance watching
The constant state of flux
Always changing, rearranging, never the same.
Later in the day
The weather changed
The wind settled
and the sea was calm
The serene surface reflecting
The sky above with seagull wings
Like a translucent jewel
A massive opal.
But there was movement on the water still
A more refined change
The air quietly whispering gentle patterns on the water's surface.
A happy looking seagull paddles past
Leaving a hypnotic trail of ripples in his wake
They emanate from his being
Across the liquid surface
I sit and meditate on a hill overlooking the bay.
On some dry grass beneath a yew tree in a disused park
Feels like I am sitting in some ancient ruins.
I sit upright and still
Imagine I am the Buddha
Till my foot goes to sleep
And then I laugh at the delusion.
Day turns to night
On this spinning orb in space
That seems perfectly still when you sit on it.
But it is spinning round a huge fiery orb
Which itself is spinning round a black hole.
Like an intergalactic game of snooker.
Is everything spinning?
Am I spinning?
What is everything made of?
I become very still.
The breath stops.
And there's what feels like white noise.
Pixels constantly popping in and out of reality.
But where they pop in and out from is like a blank canvas.
An emptiness I can't see beyond.
Every part of the body is like this.
This background noise
This cosmic vibration
this mysterious white noise
What is it?
This line of inquiry and investigation did bring some relief. The physical pain is still there, the fatigue is still there, but mentally one can be okay with it.
Kundalini feels like an energy that has a mind of its own, she speaks to me in tingles along my spine, or other areas of the body. The scalp and neck can be quite active at times, it is a very tactile experience for me. She feels intimately connected, but very kind. Sometimes she makes me laugh. If I start getting a bit conceited and arrogant, or if I become the opposite and become overly down on myself, she makes my scalp tingle in a mildly burning unpleasant way, enough to make me stop and become aware of what my state of mind is, and then I will stop holding onto it and try to generate something more wholesome in its place. When I think nice thoughts about myself and others, such as friendship and loving-kindness, wanting the best for all beings, she makes my scalp tingle in a very pleasant way, like a hint I'm going in the right direction.
Getting a solid grounding in the noble eightfold path under the mentorship of an experienced teaching monk and having a community of friends who I regularly sit with online has helped me stay sane. All the members of my sangha are online.
Like someone wise once said about the spiritual life: 'We are all friends walking each other home.'
The body can also feel comfortable even though there's aches and pains. Meditation can be practised while lying down. Samhadi connects one with the inner body, the mind-made body, and one can rest in the comfort and ease of the inner body, even when the physical body is in pain.
Anyway I do the best I can to take of this body, and show kindness to it. Without clinging to it. I cannot stop it from ageing, getting sick, and dying. this is the karma of having a body, there's no escape from that.
I don't mean to sound negative and gloomy when I say that. Knowing this is actually quite freeing, and oddly one can get into a state of profound joy and serenity contemplating the impermanence of the body and death. I think it is because it helps me stop clinging to something I have no control over. Which brings relief when one lets go of stressing about it and accepts it for what it is. Youth fades, beauty fades, health fades, strength fades, intelligence fades, none of it lasts, the body changes whether we like it or not, and we cannot keep it the same way all the time. It is vulnerable in an uncertain world, and death can come at any moment for any one of us.
The body doesn't belong to me. It comes from the Earth. It is borrowed for a time, but will one day have to be returned. The body is something other, a world within a world, a composite of many different beings working together in symbiosis. I do have some choice in directing what to do with that energy, but the processes are mostly outside my control. The body is earth, water, fire, air, space, consciousness, and interdependence. These are the seven elements that make up a biological being.
Have been meditating a lot on the yellow kasina lately. Another meditation technique I am finding helpful just now. This is a yellow disc about the size of a dinner plate in the middle of a black square. I set it somewhere in front of me that is easy to look at, and stare at the yellow disc saying silently in the mind: 'yellow', 'yellow', 'yellow'.... and maintain focus on the colour yellow, not too tight a focus, but not so loose as to become blurry.
I notice how the colour yellow makes me feel.Then when the yellow feels bright and strong in my awareness and I can stay centred easily with it, and the body feels comfortable, at ease. I close my eyes and wait for the initial retina burn to fade away, then silently say the word 'yellow', 'yellow', repeatedly in my mind. On the first day nothing happened, but today, the second day of practising this, a beautiful yellow field appeared behind closed eyelids. An internal mind-generated colour that filled all of my awareness, including the body. The body felt like it was full of golden light. It was a delightful experience, like being sat in a field of yellow. It faded and I opened my eyes and focused on the yellow disc again, then closed my eyes and said 'yellow' silently in the mind, and it appeared as if by magic. I didn't try to make it happen, I just suggested it mentally, and the deeper mind did the rest. It is an interesting meditation, and I am enjoying it.
There's also a nice side-effect that happens sometimes, as I look at the yellow disc the room around it starts to become gold coloured, as if illuminated by a heavenly light, and it feels like the whole world is filled with the colour, it feels very peaceful.
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