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Time is Change, Air is Change, Sound is Change.

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I stand watching the ocean and become aware of the sounds happening all around. I notice there is ringing in my ears, but instead of judging it, I just listen to it with gentle curiosity. Noticing how it keeps changing. How sound is change. How sound needs time, it can’t work without it.

We can preserve an image in a moment, but not sound. Without time, sound doesn’t work. What is sound? It is waves of vibrating air molecules hitting the eardrum, which then creates a sense impression in the mind.

I notice the sound of seagulls and feel the breeze and the cool air all around and within me. It feels invigorating, uplifts my mood, and my attention becomes centred on the air element.

Thoughts continue in the background like whispy white noise, and I notice how similar they are to the ringing in the ears, constantly changing. I feel grateful for the freedom to be able to disengage from them, to stop identifying with them. To be able to absorb my attention into something else instead, something more tranquil. Just that in itself can feel like freedom. It is no fun being caught up in the head. Constant thinking can be tiring and feel like torture.

I keep the body still and upright, enjoying the solidity, the weight, the feeling of the earth element grounding me. I feel the earth below spreading out boundless in all directions, and this helps to steady the mind and bring some composure.


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Asoka

Not Holding On

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 18 Oct 2023, 11:22


Instead of letting go or not clinging. I prefer the term 'not holding onto' that seems to work for me. Just let things be without holding onto them. I can still enjoy things then, and live, but if I don't hold onto them, then I don't have to worry about letting go of them later, because I never became attached. 

I've done some pretty stupid things in my life and made some poor choices. When I try to let go of the regret I feel for that, it doesn't seem to work for me. I find that although I seem to let go for a moment, I find myself clinging again the next moment.

When I think instead about not holding onto anything, then that makes it easier. I don't know why, it means the same thing as not clinging, but a different use of wording has a magic effect on the mind. 

There's nothing to hold onto, everything changes from moment to moment, this moment is already gone, and the next, and the next... and everything and everybody is destined to die one day. I don't mean that to sound depressing. On the contrary, it is a relief to know this. Nothing matters then. One becomes like a peaceful life stream just flowing from one moment to the next without stressing.



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Asoka

The idea of being a person is a mental construct

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 14 Oct 2023, 18:38

Sometimes, I notice the tendency of the mind to take things personally when things go wrong. Quite amusing really, how the mind assumes everything is about itself. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I sometimes hear people cursing the weather, as if it is a person. Or thanking the universe. This human tendency we have to personalise things.

Anthropomorphism: the attribution of human characteristics or behaviour to a god, animal, or object. -Oxford Language Dictionary

The other animals do something similar I’ve discovered but coming from their perspective. For example, our pets don’t see us as human they attribute feline or canine characteristics to us.

Identifying with things and taking them personally can cause us a lot of suffering. A lot of psychic energy is bound up in the story ‘I am’. When that psychic energy is released. It becomes unbound, limitless. No longer restricted by the rigid boundaries of an identity. Freed from those constraints. It becomes boundless.

Deathless.

A state of mind difficult to define and put into words. To define it is to attach conditions to it, and it is the unconditioned. Words cannot go there. They can only point to it.

...


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Asoka

The Effects of Kindness are Incalculable

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 7 Oct 2023, 10:55


We may not be able to change the universe, but we do have the capacity to change ourselves. We can direct our thoughts and actions. Which means we can make informed choices. And if the choices we make are based on the right view of things, which is that there are some actions that lead to good outcomes, and other actions that lead to bad outcomes. Then that becomes a condition that can bring about the end of suffering.

In a nutshell, greed, hate, and delusion are what lead to bad outcomes; and generosity, kindness, and clarity are what lead to good outcomes.

When we become more aware, we start to wise up and notice the recurring patterns and cycles that lead to unhappiness. We become more aware of our triggers and how we respond to things; aware of how our reaction can either lead to more suffering or can lead to peace. We can then choose (intend) to react differently to our circumstances, guided by wisdom and discernment.

Unfortunately, the world is dependent on conditions, it is uncertain and changing. We can’t do much about that. But we can change the way we react to it. Choose to be kind, and not let the darkness take away our light. Then our peace remains unshaken by things outside our control. We don’t have to go along with the stream of the world and do what others do. We can choose to be different. This is where our power lies.

A Zen teacher told a story about a lady on a checkout who went out of her way to help a customer. He was in the queue watching her kindness, and it touched him deeply. It moved him enough to talk about it in a dharma talk, which I and many others attended. And now I am writing about it here in this article. The person who performed that act of kindness created ripples that she is completely unaware of. This is why the results of any act of genuine kindness are incalculable. Who can predict where they will lead, what changes they can make, and who they may affect? By changing ourselves, we can change the world without trying to change the world.




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Asoka

Pain, the power of intention, and Samadhi

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 6 Oct 2023, 21:17

Quite fatigued today. Lots of rain here. I have a sore shoulder, the pain is unrelenting, it has been like this for weeks, I have no idea what I’ve done to it. I probably should see a doctor, but I really dislike using phones and making appointments and don’t feel up to the traveling, so I keep putting it off.

Whilst sat in meditation today I remembered the Buddha say that he suffered from backache almost constantly, and that the only time he got relief from it was when he went into samadhi. So, I tried that, but couldn’t get into samadhi. So, I turned to face the pain instead. Felt it throbbing in my shoulder and noticed how it spread down my arm with a buzzing sort of pain.

I tried to just see the pain as sensations without the perception of like or dislike. Exploring what happens when I move the breath energy through that area, using the breath to bring ease to it. Sometimes that worked and other times it didn’t.

It was hard to sit still for long as my arm kept needing to be moved into different positions as it got very uncomfortable. It was hard practising walking meditation also, as the movement kept jarring the shoulder. But there were moments where I stayed centred with the meditation object and remained there for a good while, and I did seem to enter a momentary samadhi and yes, the pain did go away. But maintaining that state was not always easy.

The mind would sometimes show a lack of inclination to practise, and thoughts about doing something else grabbed my attention. Then I remembered that this is one of the five hindrances, and I don’t have to follow these impulses or thoughts.

(n.b. the five hindrances are: greed, hate, sloth, restlessness, and doubt)

I have the power to choose, to set an intention. I can consciously choose to continue meditating and stay with the object of mindfulness. That’s where my power lies, in choosing. So, I choose to do so each moment, making that choice over and over instead of going along with the hindrances. That worked for a bit, but sometimes a loud noise would pull me out of it, and I had to start again. 

Samadhi is not easy, but it is a very important part of the noble eightfold path. That unification of mind is essential. I notice the difference on the days I don’t practise. It definitely helps. 

Movement is exercise for the body, and stillness is exercise for the mind. 

A mind that keeps wandering and has difficulty become still, is a sign that it is getting out of shape. Learning how to bring the mind to stillness and steadying it, strengthens the mind, it does it a lot of good.

Even if the meditation seems like a waste of time. One can learn a lot about how the mind works from the simple exercise of attempting to keep it centred on one thing. It reveals a lot about what makes us tick, what our desires are, our angst, our delusions. Can be very interesting.

 


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Asoka

Iluminating wisdom

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 18 Sep 2023, 22:06


I am learning to become more aware of the mental dispositions that cause sorrow and suffering. With repetive practice, not giving up, being knocked down and getting up again repeatedly. My awareness is getting stronger, and I am becoming less ignorant of these tendencies of the mind. I think as I become less ignorant, I will wise up to them more, and as I wise up to them, I will feel less inclined to go along with them, which will make it is easier to let go of them.

I have encountered a few situations today that would normally make me angry, but I was mindful and even though I felt the anger arise in me, I saw how it would lead to suffering in the end and chose not to go along with it, to just drop it. The same can be done with longing and conceit. 

Not saying it is easy. I think it is like a muscle that gets stronger the more you use it. It takes many hours of practise to fully uproot ignorance. It can be done in one lifetime, but it can also take many of them. There will also be many failures on the way. 

Another thing I am learning is it is very easy to have a profound meditation experience and think you are enlightened afterwards. Sadly, this wears off, and then when a difficult life event happens, one soon discovers just how unenlightened they are. 

It is a very humbling experience when this happens, but it can also be a great teacher. Never punish yourself for making mistakes. We all do it. There isn’t a single human on Earth who hasn’t made them. Even the Buddha himself made some daft mistakes on his journey to enlightenment. 

The difference is, as awareness grows (with practise), one learns to look at mistakes differently and develop from them, making them part of the path. One learns how to turn something bad into something good. Our failures then become the fertiliser that ripens the fruit. So don't despair. We can learn from it all. 

 Dōgen defined a Buddha as someone who has great realisation of delusion.

...

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Asoka

Like a tusker in the wild

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I am going through another dark night. I feel this oppressive vibe crushing down on my mind. I am trying not to take it personally. It felt like some people were being a bit off with me today, but I am determined not to let other’s moods affect mine.

If other people judge me, well that’s their problem. I know I have been far from perfect in the past, but that is the past. It is not who I am now, I am not the same person I was back then.

I have done my best to learn from past mistakes but reliving them over and over is not going to help anyone. The best thing I can do is resolve never to make those same mistakes again and move on, keep persevering on the noble eightfold path. Turn something bad into something good. That’s how I make amends and put right the bad kamma from the past. But I won’t punish myself anymore for mistakes I made when I was younger. I was ignorant and didn’t know any better. It is cruel to punish oneself for the past. Noone can go back and change it. What good does it do to continually relive it. I am not that person anymore. I’ve changed.

I will just allow myself to be misunderstood by others without worrying about correcting them. I know what’s in my heart and where I am in my spiritual development, as do my deva friends. What others think of me is their business. I don’t have to take on board anyone else’s negativity. I am not responsible for what others think. I am only responsible for what I think. And I don’t want to think negative thoughts or feel ill will.

I remember something a Buddhist teacher said once, that when difficulties like this arise, remember it is just the Buddha testing you, to see how far gone you are (-:

I have been here before, and the dark night usually happens just before I am about to make a sudden transition and make progress. It often feels darkest just before the light returns and becomes brighter still.

The dark night can be a sign one is making progress on the spiritual journey. I am getting familiar with this pattern. What I must do is try very hard not to react to it. No matter how uncomfortable and agitated I feel. I must not say or do anything I will regret later. Try to find some stillness and equanimity.

The truth is that I am the cause of my suffering, no one else is. It is the craving within me that causes my problems. The greed, hate, delusion, ignorance, and conceit. It isn’t something outside the mind, it is something within it. And that means I have the power to change it.

 If I react to the dark night, it will only increase the tendency of the mind to react negatively to it again in the future. But by choosing not to react, to patiently endure the unpleasant feelings and practise the four right efforts. That negative tendency of the mind gets weaker, and the power of right effort and mindfulness gets stronger.

This world can make you feel ashamed to be alone. But it is okay to be alone. I can be my own best friend. My own teacher, my own refuge. There’s great power in seeing that.

The noble eightfold path goes against the stream of this modern world, and the further one gets on the path, the lonelier it can feel.

 It has always been that way though, only the minority of people search for the higher paths and fruits. The majority just want the world and are content to spend their days chasing after sense-impressions and never going beyond that. But I no longer find excitement in the world. The things I used to enjoy; I have lost interest in now. I hunger for higher things. For nibbana, for liberation from craving, relief from the pain of wanting.

And this spiritual hunger is not a bad thing. Some people criticise me for having the desire to liberate the mind. But the Buddha encouraged it, he talked about right desire, he called it chanda. If one does not aspire to realise nibbana, one will never make effort, and if one never makes effort, one will never realise the paths and fruits of enlightenment. Effort is fuelled by desire. It’s what keeps you walking. It is only when the work has been done, that one lets go of the desire for liberation.

Do not be afraid to be alone. Sometimes solitude is the wisest course of action to take when the world is on fire with greed, hate and delusion. Sometimes solitude is the only way to make progress on the path.

In the words of the Buddha:

If you find an alert companion, a wise and virtuous friend, then, overcoming all adversities, wander with them, joyful and mindful.

If you find no alert companion, no wise and virtuous friend, then, like a king who flees his conquered realm, wander alone like a tusker in the wilds.

It’s better to wander alone, than have fellowship with fools. Wander alone and do no wrong, at ease like a tusker in the wilds.

[MN128] 

https://suttacentral.net/mn128








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Asoka

The Buddha's teaching to Vaccha

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 10 Sep 2023, 18:07


Vaccha, “speculative view” is something that the Tathāgata has put away. 

For the Tathāgata, Vaccha, has seen this:

 “Such is material form, such its origin, such its disappearance.
Such is feeling, such its origin, such its disappearance.
Such is perception, such its origin, such its disappearance.
Such are mental formations, such their origin, such their disappearance.
Such is consciousness, such its origin, such its disappearance.”

 Therefore, I say, with the destruction, fading away, cessation, giving up, and relinquishing of all conceivings, all musings, all I-making, mine-making, and the underlying tendency to conceit, the Tathāgata is liberated through not clinging.

~ M 72.15 (Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli & Bhikkhu Bodhi trans. With the word 'excogitations' changed to 'musings' by Upasaka Asoka.)






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Crossing the flood

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The onus is very much on oneself to do the work, no one else can do it for us. None but ourselves can free our mind. One must make effort.

Bear in mind it is said there are 84 0000 dhamma doors that lead to nibbana. The Buddha taught many paths and skilful means over his 45-year teaching career. We are all different, with different interests and dispositions, and so we must make our own raft out of the huge amount of teachings passed down to us over the ages, find the ones that suit us. There isn't one size that fits all. 

In the metaphor of the raft, it isn't a fancy raft that gets us to the other shore. It is just a bundle of sticks placed under the arms to keep us afloat while we paddle across the flood using the four limbs of right effort.

We don't have to know it all. Just grab a bundle of teachings from the huge pile handed down to us, those that resonate with you and make those into your raft. 

And gently paddle, pace yourself, tune, and balance the energy of right effort:

 Thus, have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park. Then, when the night had advanced, a certain devatā of stunning beauty, illuminating the entire Jeta’s Grove, approached the Blessed One. Having approached, he paid homage to the Blessed One, stood to one side, and said to him:

“How, dear sir, did you cross the flood?”

“By not halting, friend, and by not straining I crossed the flood.”

“But how is it, dear sir, that by not halting and by not straining you crossed the flood?”

“When I came to a standstill, friend, then I sank; but when I struggled, then I got swept away. It is in this way, friend, that by not halting and by not straining I crossed the flood.”

~ S 1.1 (Bhikkhu Bodhi trans.)

 


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The five right exertions

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 7 Sep 2023, 19:37


In the Noble eightfold path, the sixth factor is Right Effort. It has five aspects to it. 

 These are the four right exertions, or four right efforts, and the tuning of energy so that it is neither too lax, nor too tight. One learns to tune the energy of effort so that one doesn't become too lazy in their practise, whilst also avoiding the other extreme of over-exertion, overdoing it, and straining the mind. Both extremes are to be avoided. A bit like tuning a guitar string, so that it sounds just right. You want to tune effort so that you don't stagnate in your practise, but you also don't burn out either. If you try too hard you will end up feeling aversion towards meditation practise and dhamma, and if you don't make effort, you will not develop or make progress.

The four right efforts are:

1. Preventing unwholesome states of mind arising

This involves talking to oneself in the morning when you get up to start the day. You prep the mind and tell yourself: 'I will avoid the folly of the fault-finding mind; and I will avoid the folly of the greedy/lustful mind."

 As one goes about the day one aspires to hold on to the sign of peace and keep one's consciousness secluded from anger/hate and lust/greed. This is done by avoiding unwise attention to the fault (both in oneself and in others); and by avoiding unwise attention to the beautiful. 

 One cannot avoid sensing things in the world, we can't walk around with our eyes closed etc, we will be bombarded by sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, words, and ideas. It isn't about shutting off the senses, it is about practising wise attention to them, so they don't lead us to greed, hate and delusion. One senses what is sensed without adding any more to it.

I find the teaching the Buddha gave to Bahiya helpful here: 

'In the seen, there is only the seen.
In the heard, there is only the heard.
In the sensed, there is only the sensed.
In the cognized, there is only the cognized.
This Bahiya is how you should train yourself.

 When for you Bahiya there is:

 In the seen, only the seen.
In the heard, only the heard.
In the sensed, only the sensed.
In the cognized, only the cognized.

Then there is no you in connection to that.
And when there is no you in connection to that.
There is no you there.
And when there is no you there.
You are neither here nor there, nor in between the two.
This, just this, is the end of suffering.'

2. Removal of unwholesome states of mind should they arise

The second right effort is used when the first right effort: prevention, fails. This is about removing (letting go of, abandoning) greed, aversion, and delusion, (aka the five hindrances: longing, aversion, sloth, restlessness/worry, and doubt) should they arise in the mind. The Buddha suggests five strategies for doing this.

The first is dismissal and replacement, i.e. replacing the unwholesome state of mind with its opposite. Such as replacing anger with calmness or loving-kindness (metta). Like a carpenter knocking out a peg by replacing it with another.

 If that fails then one uses a healthy sense of shame, reflecting on how for example, anger is a great stain on the personality, how it is ignoble and leads to painful states of mind for oneself and others. This sense of shame can help one let go of it. The Buddha likens it to a person about to go out to meet some people they respect and admire. They look at themselves in a mirror and see the corpse of a snake hanging round their neck, and feeling repulsed by it they immediately remove it, as that is not how one wants to appear in front of people one respects and admires. 

If that fails then one is to ignore the unwholesome state of mind, not pay attention to it, as if turning away from a sight one does not wish to see. A Nun described it during a retreat I attended, as being like walking down the street and seeing some dogshit on the pavement, one is careful not to step into it. One can also use distraction as well, find something that distracts the mind from the unwholesome feelings, till they cease.

If that fails one turns to face it, looks directly at it. And then brings oneself of it gradually in stages. The Buddha uses a cartoon metaphor of a man running, who says to himself, why am I running when I could be walking? Then he says to himself, why am I walking when I could be standing? Then why am I standing when I could be sitting? Why am I sitting when I could be lying down? At each stage one reviews if it is working, noticing if the unwholesome state of mind is weakening, if it is that means you are going in the right direction and should keep doing what you are doing, eventually it will cease.

If that strategy fails then the Buddha suggests as a last resort one suppresses the unwholesome state of mind. He uses the metaphor of a strong man pinning down a weaker man. He makes it clear one must not allow that unwholesome state to express itself as it can lead to suffering for both oneself and others.

There are other strategies for abandoning unwholesome states of mind. One must experiment and find what is helpful for you. Investigate in your own life, see what works. We are all unique and conditioned differently. The way I do things, may not necessarily work for everyone else. We must know ourselves and find our own way. It doesn't matter what strategy you use. The main thing is to be mindful, investigate and make effort. Find ways of bringing yourself out of destructive states of mind before they cause harm to oneself and others, before they cause suffering, that's the main reason. It is not a commandment; it isn't about judging anyone or being authoritarian. What other people do is up to them, it's their business. The reason one abandons greed, hate, and delusion is because they cause us suffering, and the noble eightfold path is about putting an end to suffering.

3. Generating wholesome states of mind

Wholesome states of mind are the seven factors of enlightenment: 1. mindfulness, 2. investigation, 3.effort (energy), 4.joy, 5. calmness, 6. samadhi (aka collectedness, concentration, composure, unification of mind, stillness), and 7. equanimity (Balance). 

The Brahma viharas are also wholesome states of mind, these are: loving-kindness/friendliness/goodwill (metta), compassion (karuna), joy in the happiness of others (mudita), and equanimity (upekkha). In fact, practising the brahma viharas fulfils much of the eightfold path and can take you to the doorstep of nibbana. The brahma viharas fulfils, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right samadhi (concentration). When one has perfected the brahma viharas, one then needs to look again at right view and penetrate and understand the four noble truths,

1. Knowledge of suffering (which is to be understood)
2. Knowledge of the cause of suffering (which is to be abandoned)
3. Knowledge of the end of suffering (which is to be realised)
4. Knowledge of the way that leads to the end of suffering (which is to be developed)  

One can unlock the door to nibbana with a key that has three teeth which fit the lock. The three teeth that fit the lock are the understanding of: anicca (impermanence, change), dukkha (stress, sorrow, unsatisfactoriness, grief, suffering), and anatta (not-self). One investigates conditioned phenomena, investigates the five aggregates (body, feelings, perceptions, thoughts, sense-consciousness), and observes the three characteristics in them. And when with wisdom and insight, with direct knowing and experience in one's own life, (not just an intellectual understanding). The mind stops clinging to conditioned phenomena, and what remains then is the deathless, the unconditioned, nibbana. Which is an experience, it is not annihilation. It goes beyond concepts of existence and non-existence. Beyond all views. I think in the Mahayana tradition it is known as Buddha nature, or the original mind. And from there without the ego getting in the way and attaching conditions to things, no longer caught in the self-centred dream, unlimited, immeasurable, boundless compassion for all beings can flow. 

4. Sustaining wholesome states of mind

The fourth right effort is about keeping the wholesome states of mind going continuously, throughout the day. On and off the cushion.

In the words of the Buddha:

'One generates the desire for the prevention of unwholesome states of mind. By making effort, rousing energy, exerting one's mind, and persevering.
One generates the desire for the abandonment of unwholesome states of mind. By making effort, rousing energy, exerting one's mind, and persevering.
One generates the desire for the arising of wholesome states of mind. By making effort, rousing energy, exerting one's mind, and persevering.
One generates the desire for the continuance, non-disappearance, strengthening, increase, and full development of wholesome states of mind. By making effort, rousing energy, exerting one's mind and persevering.
 '

Hope this helps others out there. I have found the teaching on right effort to be very helpful and empowering for me. If one keeps practising, the effort builds up a momentum and energy of its own and it then gets easier, becomes more automatic. It is just building habits really.

 I still have much work to do, but I can testify that this works. It is powerful stuff, and the Buddha's teachings on right effort are not often taught in the West, which is a shame, because they are so important. Right effort is the third factor in the seven factors of enlightenment, aka energy, and the Buddha mentions this factor more times than any other factor, even more so than mindfulness. It is very important, and one won't make much progress without making effort.

This isn't me teaching or anything. I am not a teacher, and I am not telling others what to do with their lives. It is just my perspective and what I practise with in my own life that I have found helpful. It may or may not be helpful to others. And I honestly won't take it personally if it isn't anyone else’s cup of tea. 

I find it is useful for keeping the precepts, as well as developing the other aspects of the path, or any other skill in life you want to learn actually. 

Take care.

May we all be safe, well, peaceful and happy.

...



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Calming anger

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


" When angry states of mind arise in meditation, balance them by developing feelings of loving-kindness. If someone does something bad or gets angry, don’t get angry yourself. If you do, you are being more ignorant than they. Be wise. Keep in mind compassion, for that person is suffering. Fill your mind with loving-kindness as if he were a dear brother.”  -Ajahn Chah

Anger is suffering. It feels unpleasant. Like a sickness. A poison. Harming the body.

Metta (loving-kindness) feels good. It feels pleasant. Like a medicine. It helps heal the body. Metta fosters connection and friendship. Is good for our health and wellbeing, as well as everyone else’s. 

Anger harms the body; metta heals it. 
Anger harms society; metta heals it.

It can feel extremely challenging to go from anger to metta (loving-kindness) though. Sometimes I can't just snap myself out of an angry state.

Something interesting about feelings: a neutral feeling feels pleasant after a painful feeling. Knowing this can be helpful.

It takes a bit of effort, and some will power at first. One must refuse to enter into any dialogue with the mind. Ignore thoughts. This is not an intellectual matter. For me, anger is a state of emergency, a dangerous fire I need to put out ASAP.

I must forget the past, forget the future, forget the self, forget what the anger is even about, forget it all, words are not what’s needed. There’s no reasoning with a mind absorbed in anger. Keep attentive to the neutral feeling, which becomes easier to do as the mind notices it feels more pleasant than being angry

Let what is sensed be just what is sensed, without adding anymore to it. 

Awareness of space. Of the elements, earth, water, or air.

The touch of clothing on the skin.

A cool breeze can also help.

Half-closing my eyes reduces the visual information coming in.
Which can ease agitation. It is amazing how much difference half-closing one’s eyes makes. It helps reduce sensory input, which can be calming.

Pacing back and forth, and gradually slowing my pace down, till it becomes a calm serene walking pace. Imagining myself walking like a Buddha.

Walking can feel good, because it has this feeling that you are walking through stuff, walking it out of your system. I like the feeling of motion, the sensations in the feet, the feeling of the space around the body.

When the mind is calm, metta is easier to practise which brings pleasant feelings.

The neutral feeling like a bridge from anger to loving-kindness.

There's a quote I remember, but not sure who said it. (I can't find it anywhere online.) But it was by a forest monk (I think). Someone asked him if greed, anger, and conceit still arose in his mind. He answered 'yes, but there isn't anywhere for it to land, so nothing becomes of it.'

Sometimes I can centre on an empty space within. When I go there the fire of anger can’t take a hold and goes out. Same with wanting, conceit and delusion. They don’t affect me when I am centred with emptiness. It all just stops, ceases before it can take a hold. There’s a lovely feeling in the heart space then. It becomes a place of no fear and can feel freeing and peaceful.

 photo of a tree


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Note to not-self

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

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

That's where your power is. '

- the Buddha (I think).

...


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Just this

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 16 Aug 2023, 16:36


Sitting here
Sounds all around.
Seagulls sqawking,
Dogs barking,
Cars trafficking.
People talking.
Construction work
and the odd chainsaw.
Cars scrunching the gravel
as they come and go.

I meditate.
Investigate.
The Buddha's teaching to Bahiya.

To let a sound be just a sound.
To let that which is sensed
be only that which is sensed.
Awareness and knowing,
being just that.
Without adding any more to it.
Without the 'I' making.
The story of
the person.

Neither here, nor there, nor inbetween the two.
This, the Buddha said, is the end of suffering.

It's the longing, the loathing, and conceit.
The impatience.
The angst.
The getting stressed
and taking it personally.
That's what gets in the way.
That's the problem.
That's what I need to let go of.

Without that there is just this.
And when there is just this.
there is no subject, no object.

The self disappears.

And when that happens there is peace.

...

-Asoka

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Asoka

Satta bojjhanga (The seven factors of awakening)

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 15 Aug 2023, 10:44


'Herein the disciple rouses his will to arouse wholesome states that have not yet arisen; and he makes effort, stirs up his energy, exerts his mind and strives.' - The Buddha

Simultaneously with the removal of the defilements (craving, ill-will, dullness/drowsiness, restlessness/worry, doubt). Right effort also has the task of cultivating wholesome states of mind. This involves two divisions: the arousing of wholesome states not yet arisen and the maturation of wholesome states already arisen.

Though the wholesome states to be developed can be grouped in various ways --- serenity and insight, the four foundations of mindfulness, the eight factors of the path, etc. --- the Buddha lays special stress on a set called the seven factors of enlightenment: mindfulness, investigation of phenomena, energy, rapture, tranquility, concentration (samadhi), and equanimity.

The seven states are grouped together as 'enlightenment factors' both because they lead to enlightenment and because they constitute enlightenment. In the preliminary stages of the path they prepare the way for the great realization; in the end they remain as its components. The experience of enlightenment, perfect and complete understanding, is just these seven components working in unison to break all shackles and bring final release from sorrow.

The way to enlightenment starts with mindfulness. Mindfulness clears the ground for insight into the nature of things by bringing to light phenomena in the now, the present moment, stripped of all subjective commentary, interpretations, and projections.

Then, when mindfulness has brought the bare phenomena into focus, the factor of investigation steps in to search out their characteristics, conditions, and consequences. Whereas mindfulness is basically receptive, investigation is an active factor which unflinchingly probes, analyzes, and dissects phenomena to uncover their fundamental structures.

The work of investigation requires energy, the third factor of enlightenment, which mounts in three stages. The first inceptive energy, shakes off lethargy and arouses intitial enthusiasm. As the work of contemplation advances, energy gathers momentum and enters the second stage, perseverance, wherein it propels the practise without slackening. Finally, at the peak, energy reaches the third stage, invincibility, where it drives contemplation forward leaving the hindrances powerless to stop it.

As energy increases, the fourth factor of enlightenment is quickened. This is rapture, a pleasurable interest in the object. Rapture gradually builds up, ascending to ecstatic heights: waves of bliss run through the body, the mind glows with joy, fervor and confidence intensify. But these experiences, as encouraging as they are, still contain a flaw: they create an excitation verging on restlessness. 

With further practice, however, rapture subsides and a tone of quietness sets in signalling the rise of the fifth factor, tranquility. Rapture remains present, but it is now subdued, and the work of contemplation proceeds with self-possessed serenity.

Tranquility brings to ripeness samadhi (concentration), the sixth factor, one-pointed unification of mind. Then, with the deepening of samadhi, the last enlightenment factor comes into dominance. 

This is equanimity, inward poise and balance free from the two defects of excitement and inertia. When dullness prevails, energy must be aroused; when excitement prevails, it is necessary to exercise restraint. But when both these defects have been vanquished the practice can unfold evenly without need for concern. The mind of equanimity is compared to the driver of a chariot when the horses are moving at a steady pace: he neither has to urge them forward nor hold them back, but can just sit comfortably and watch the scenery go by. Equanimity has the same "on-looking" quality.

When the other factors are balanced the mind remains poised watching the play of phenomena.

Maintain Arisen Wholesom States

Herein the disciple rouses his will to maintain the wholesome things that have already arisen, and not to allow them to disappear, but to bring them to growth, to maturity, and to the full perfection of development; and he makes effort, stirs up his energy, exerts his mind and strives.  
- The Buddha

This last of the four right efforts aims at maintaining the arisen wholesome factors and bringing them to maturity. Called the "endeavour to maintain", it is explained as the effort to "keep firmly in mind a favorable object of concentration that has arisen." The work of guarding the object causes the seven enlightenment factors to gain stability and gradually increase in strength until they issue in the liberating realization. This marks the culmination of right effort, the goal in which the countless individual acts of exertion finally reach fulfilment. "

By Bhikkhu Bodhi (Excerpt from the book, The Noble eightfold path: the way to the end of suffering)

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Sati-sampajanna and the six senses

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


Sati-sampajanna means mindfulness with clear comprehension (or knowing).

It is a useful exercise to practise while one goes about daily life. It can help calm and centre the mind and bring insight into dependent origination.

Basically, whatever activity one is engaged with becomes one's meditation.

One is aware of what one is doing, where one is. Of one’s behaviour, of that which is appropriate.

Aware of what is non-delusion. Abandoning the wanting, the angst, and the clinging.

Fully here in this present moment, with life as it is -- our dhamma teacher.

One can get into a light samadhi doing this. It can be a refuge from difficult thoughts and emotions. A way of releasing the past and the future by being fully present to whatever task one is doing here and now, without the self-centred dream blinding us to what is real.

There are many ways to practice this. Sometimes it's nice to have an expansive open awareness. Other times it's nice to keep attention fixed on one thing. Depends on the mood, and this is where one must use wisdom and discernment to know what is needed in each given moment. This wisdom and discernment grows with experience. We are all unique, we have all been conditioned differently, no two people are exactly the same. Each one of us must tweak the practice to suit us.

Try to find something in awareness that brings some relief to the mind, even if it just seems like small relief, stay with it, it will grow.

Each situation and circumstance are different. Different objects of meditation work better at different times.

For example, sometimes I will just stay with the feeling of my feet on the ground. When I first did this, the sensations in my feet were quite dull. But after many hours of practise, the soles of my feet have now become very sensitive to the point where I swear I can feel vibrations in the ground, can sense things I couldn’t sense before.

I also like the feeling of the whole body moving as one.

The feeling of movement, how the body feels when it is in motion.

Or the feeling in my hands when holding an object. Is it hot or cold, smooth, or rough, heavy or light etc...

I also like to pay attention to the feeling of the air element in the space immediately around me. Or remain centred with the breath, whilst also aware of everything else happening in peripheral awareness. Where I am, what I am doing.

Sometimes I like being anchored in the spine, that can feel very good. Or the top of my head, the face, the neck, the heart, the belly, the arms, the legs.

The touch of clothing on the skin.

The natural elements are great too. The solidity of earth. The fluidity of water. The cool invisible changing touch of air. The light and warmth of fire, the sun.

The expansive and open feeling of the space element.

The knowing of consciousness, of awareness itself.

Other times I will contemplate interdependence, change, impermanence.

Sometimes I will pay attention to two things at once, such as the breath in my belly and the breath in my nostrils at the same time. Or my feet and hands, or the air element around me as it touches the skin and the sensations in the body caused by breathing.

Sometimes I centre with the emotion of goodwill. With peace and calm. With equanimity.

It depends on what feels good at the time. Take any guidance and make it your own. Find what helps you. Each of us must be our own refuge.

It is not easy; it can be challenging to keep bringing the mind back over and over. One may sometimes need to talk oneself into doing it. Or use the voice of another if really stuck. Read a book, an article or listen to a dhamma talk.

Learn to recognise the hindrances when they are present in the mind: craving, ill-will, fatigue, worry, doubt.

Notice how we talk to ourselves, and how it feels when the hindrances are present in the mind. For me I start feeling unpleasant feelings and notice I am stressed, that for me is a clear sign I am absorbed in unwholesome thoughts. That craving is present in the mind.

During the day, notice if you are stressed. Pause and ask yourself, am I suffering? What is the cause of this suffering? What can I do to ease that suffering? What can I practise to bring relief?

Whenever suffering is present, the five hindrances will also be present.

Applied and sustained attention to something wholesome secludes consciousness from the five hindrances.

When the hindrances are absent, one will feel great relief. When that happens it can help to note how much better it feels when they are absent from the mind, this can help to train it to see the difference and become more willing to abandon unwholesome states of mind, knowing that they are causing suffering, and that it feels much better to let go of them.

Practising sati-sampajanna complements sitting meditation and makes it easier to transition from daily life to sitting, and from sitting to daily life. It keeps the samadhi going and keeps the sign of peace steady in the mind throughout the day.

Sometimes though I do like to think and ponder and reflect on things. Thinking isn’t wrong. It can be a helpful tool. The way we talk to ourselves is a powerful tool. We can talk ourselves into different states of mind.

It depends what mood I'm in. Thought can be used as a meditation object, and used to seclude consciousness from the hindrances by thinking on a topic that is wholesome and staying with that topic.

Repeating a mantra over and over can also do it, or singing, or chanting.

It is the seclusion from the five hindrances that's important. That's what leads to joy, serenity, unification of mind, and equanimity.

It is hard to put into words.

It is an embodied feeling. One is anchored in the body, the subtle body as it feels from within. There's a safe space in the centre of us that is empty. One can anchor the centre of awareness there and still be present to everything else happening, but free from it at the same time, not clinging, not affected negatively by the changing vicissitudes of life. It is the empty seat at the centre of one's being. The inner cave.

Why is it empty? Because there's nobody there. No person. No self.

One can see this directly by playing around with the six senses: sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, mind (thoughts, memories, and ideas).

Divide each sense impression up into three different parts.

1. The object being sensed.
2. The contact with the sense organ.
3. The sense consciousness that arises from that contact.

One can see dependent origination in this. Notice how sense impressions arise dependent on conditions, and when those conditions cease so do the sense impressions.

Am I the object being sensed?
Am I the contact at the sense organ?
Am I the sense-consciousness that arises from that contact?

When I touch an object, I feel sensations. When I stop touching that object the sensations cease.

When my foot touches the ground there are sensations. When the foot is lifted off the ground the sensations cease. Am I the ground? Am I the sensations? Am I the consciousness which arises whilst contact is made, then disappears after?

Am I the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, touches, the thoughts, and ideas?

Where do thoughts and ideas come from? Mostly from the world, from books, articles, podcasts, videos, the media, our memory of the past, from the people we associate with.

Am I any of those things?

Who is this ‘I’ ?

...


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Five and Seven

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 25 Aug 2023, 20:19


Craving
Ill-will
Sloth
Agitation
Doubt

These are the five hindrances. The enemies of rapture.
When these five are dissolved, there is an upwelling of relief. 
This relief produces joy and pleasure in the mind.

The Buddha then advises one to spread that joy and pleasure throughout the entire body. Till it is saturated with it.

But this is hard to do when the hindrances are present. So one needs the seven enlightenment factors: 

Mindfulness --> Investigation --> Energy (aka effort) --> Joy --> Calmness --> Samhadi --> Equanimity.

These seven are the nemesis of the five, working together to seclude the mind from their influence.

The five hindrances and the seven factors of enlightenment are mutually exclusive. 
Only one of them can occupy a single mind moment at a time. 

We don't actually multi-task, we just have very fast discrete moments of consciousness. 

Each mind moment is a bit like an old fashioned movie projector, that reads one slide at a time, but goes so fast as to seem like it is all happening at once. 

Each slide of the movie projecter is like a single mind moment. A mind state.

With perseverance and effort, one keeps bringing mindfulness back to the meditation object and sustaining attention to it. This recreates the same mind moments over and over. Which steadies the mind and creates a perception of stillness. This isolates consciousness from the five hindrances. Which brings relief from the emotional stress that comes from those states of mind. 

Joy is an important ally, it uplifts us. Joy brings good energy which can help stop one getting drowsy in meditation. 

We naturally generate joy when we become interested in something. When we find something interesting, we get absorbed in it. How does one generate interest in something as simple as the breath, so that the mind wants to stay with it contentedly and doesn't wander off anyplace else?

Joy naturally leads to serenity (calmness), which is still joy but a calmer more refined joy. The excitement has settled but everything still feels very pleasant. 

Samhadi is when the mind becomes unified, all of it gathered together, collected, composed, centred. It is whole-hearted. All of you is present. The mind is happy to be meditating, and doesn't want to be anywhere else. 

The unification of samhadi naturally leads to the different energies of the mind becoming balanced in a state of equanimity. Which is an exquisite expansive state of mind. A wonderful coolness, spaciousness, emptiness, freedom, clarity. It is not dull and unemotional, far from it, it is perhaps one of the most beautiful states of mind one can experience in this life. Hard to get to though, which is a shame, because it is so useful for us. It is the mind tuned into beautiful harmony, no longer clinging. Non-attachment feels like freedom.

This state of equanimity persists for a time after meditation. Whereupon one can direct the mind towards anything and the mind will see it all clearly. 

One simile the Buddha uses is of someone looking at their reflection in a pool of water. The water symbolises the mind. Desire is like dye on the water which distorts the reflection; ill-will is like boiling water; sloth is like stagnant water; restlessness is like water agitated by the wind; and doubt is like water that is clouded with mud making it hard to see anything. Each of these stop the person being able to see their face clearly in the water. When the five hindrances are no longer present, the water becomes clear and still, and then the person is able to see themselves clearly. 

One thing I have found helpful to do sometimes after meditation, or sometimes before is to listen to a dhamma talk.This can bring insight and also rouse up the desire to practise when the inclination isn't there.

Meditation for me is a mix of walking, sitting, standing, and lying down. It is good to remember that one can meditate in any of those four postures, because it can become uncomfortable to stay in the same posture for too long. Changing postures is helpful.


... 

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

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


This is a gradual training. 

Find somewhere secluded where one won't be disturbed.

Putting aside longing and dejection in regard to the world.
Setting aside all worldly concerns. 

One trains thus:

Mindfulness of the body

1. To begin just simply notice if the breath is long or short.

2. Then pay attention to the whole of the breath from start to finish.

3. Become sensitive to the body as you breathe in and out. 

4. Breathe calming the body. 

Mindfulness of Feelings

5. Breathe sensitive to joy.

6. Breathe experiencing pleasure. 

7. Breathe sensitive to thoughts.

8. Breathe calming thoughts.

Mindfulness of mind states:

9. Breathe sensitive to one's state of mind.

10. Breathe satisfying and gladdening the mind.

11. Breathe steadying the mind.

12. Breathe releasing the mind.

Mindfulness of dhammas:

13. Breathe contemplating change. (impermanence, anicca, dependent origination). 

14. Breathe contemplating the fading of craving. (Dispassion)

16. Breathe contemplating cessation. (of suffering).

17. Breathe abandoning greed, hate, and delusion. (renunciation).

...


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One excellent night

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 25 Jul 2023, 10:21


' Let one not revive the past.

Nor upon the future build one's hopes.
For the past has been left behind.
And the future's not yet reached.
Instead with insight let one see,
Each presently arisen state.
Let one know that and be sure of it,
Invincibly, unshakeably.
Today the effort must be made.
Tomorrow death may come.
Who knows?
No bargain with mortality can keep him and his hordes away. 
But for one who dwells thus ardently. 
Keeps at it, does not give up.
Practises by day, by night ---
It is those the peaceful sage has said
Who have had one excellent night. '

-- poem attributed to the Buddha


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Renunciation

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 23 Jul 2023, 16:37


One way I look at this is. It is more about becoming aware of the mental dispositions that cause us suffering, and when we become less ignorant of these and wise up to them, we naturally let go of them.

The good stuff remains though. It is okay to have a good life, to be comfortable and have some fun. This practise does not have to be a morose and sombre experience. After all it is the way that leads to the end of suffering. Enjoy the pleasant moments, as fully as you can, but practise wise attention to them. Notice how the mind clings and thirsts for more, and how this makes us suffer. How the things we are attached to the most, are the things that cause us to suffer the most when we become separated from them.

All conditioned phenomena is transient and uncertain. If one's happiness is dependent on conditions, it is bound to disappoint. As those conditions are outside of one's control, they will change and then that happiness will end. That is why it is precarious to place one's hopes in worldly happiness. It is not wrong to enjoy this happiness. It is just, material things are not the real treasure in life. The pearl of great worth comes from within. That's what we reach for at death, what we take with us when we die. Everything else is torn away from us.

Mindfulness, wonder, interest, investigation, energy, joy, peace, friendliness, love, kindness, good humour, generosity, empathy, connection, compassion, serenity, samhadi, and equanimity to mention some, are all beautiful states of mind that don't cause us or anyone else any harm. These states of mind are good for us mentally and physically. They also bring good kamma, because they reinforce the mental dispositions that lead to good states of becoming, that lead away from suffering. They make us happier, healthier beings, and enrich our lives and those around us.

All the beauty of the heart remains, and shines the more brightly without the clouds of greed, hate, conceit and delusion. 

It is like someone who has been sick with an illness, with a fever, becomes unconscious. A doctor comes along and examines the patient, knows what it is that is wrong with the patient and how to cure them. He gives the patient some medicine. Their consciousness returns, then the colour returns to their cheeks, they sit up feeling much better, then their composure becomes serene and radiant. Feeling the relief of no longer being sick.

In a similar way, when our minds are clear of greed, hate, conceit and delusion, they become well again.

It isn't the world outside that is the problem. It is the greed, hate, and delusion within us that is the problem. That is what causes us suffering. That is what gets in the way.  

...

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Abandoning Tanha

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Something I find helpful as I go about my day. Is to just suddenly stop and notice how I am feeling. The mind, the emotions, the body. Whatever it feels like in this moment.

It feels like this.

It can be helpful to stop sometimes and do that. It creates a bit of space. A pause in the story. The thoughts are still present but I am not absorbed in them anymore. I am centred in emptiness. Sounds strange, and difficult to put into words. The emptiness is not a negative thing, it feels freeing and expansive. It contains everything that is happening in the moment, yet it isn't the things it contains. It is not a dry, detached emptiness. It just feels safe. If that makes any sense...

I have been reflecting a lot on the four noble truths, thinking about craving (tanha).

Craving for sense pleasure (kāma-tanhā);
Craving for existence (bhava-tanhā),
and craving for non-existence (vibhava-tanhā).

The second noble truth says that craving is the cause of suffering and gives the instruction for it to be abandoned. But that sounds a bit harsh, so I am trying to find a better word than 'abandonment'.

One way I do it is. When I notice my mood is a bit off and there is a lack of peace. I stop and inquire. I notice craving in its three aspects. Note how the craving creates a feeling of unease in the mind, a restless anxiety, fear, discomfort, yearning, and discontent. Craving is stressful.

Thoughts to do with longing, resentment and conceit are unpleasant. They don't feel good. They feel toxic and make the mind an unhappy place. I notice how craving creates tension in the mind. How it creates a feeling of lack and dissatisfaction. A feeling of compulsion. How it divides the mind against itself. How all the wanting becomes delusion. The mind gets absorbed in the stories it tells itself about the world and the things it wants, and the things it doesn't want, takes it all personally. The self-centred dream.

I notice this and stop following it. I don't judge it, or identify with it. I feel compassion for it, understand it for what it is. let it be there, and notice how it all feels without the story. How the body feels in this moment. How the mood feels. How this present moment feels. Accept it all for what it is, as it is. And just breathe in, breathe out.

Not pushing anything away, nor chasing after it. Not seeing anything as self or other. Just breathing through it. The whole body absorbed in the feeling of the cool air going into the nostrils and the warm air going out. Like when one steps out onto a balcony and breathes the fresh air, and it feels soothing. That feeling of invigoration. The body still, calm, open, and at ease. The breath energy filling every part of it. Uplifting the mind, freeing it from concerns, bringing relief.

The craving settles. The involuntary movements of the mind cease and there is peace for a time.

Then the craving comes back again.

Rinse and repeat.

But do the work gently, with good humour. With kindness. Don't take it all too seriously. Joy is part of the path too.

***

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The noble eightfold path

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 15 Jul 2023, 22:47


This is a succint and concise summary of the noble eightfold path as I currently understand it  (-:


Right view


Bad kamma comes from actions of greed, hate, and delusion.
Good kamma comes from actions of generosity, kindness, and clarity. 

If you can't help another being; then at least have the intention to cause no harm.

Honour your mother and father.

To realise the paths and fruits of the different stages of enlightenment, one must accomplish the instructions given in the four noble truths.

The four noble truths are:

1. Knowledge of suffering (which is to be understood).

Birth, ageing, and death is hard to bear. Loss and separation from what we love is also hard to bear. Associating with what is disliked is unpleasant. Being apart from what is liked is unpleasant. Not getting what one wants is unpleasant. Identifying with the five aggregates of clinging (body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations (thoughts), sense-consciousness) is also dissatisfying, because they are always changing. The aggregates (khandas) are insubstantial, impermanent, uncertain and empty of self. This is what needs to be understood.

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

The cause of suffering is craving. The Pali word tanha (thirst) is used for this. And it is important to note that there is such a thing as chanda (right desire). Not all desire is to be abandoned. Chanda is the word used to describe right desire (desire that helps to put an end to suffering); and tanha is used to describe wrong desire, that which causes suffering.

Three aspects of tanha (craving) are:

Thirst for sense pleasures (kama tanha);
Thirst for existence (bhava-tanha);
Thirst for non-existence (vibhava tanha).

This is what needs to be abandoned.

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

The fading away and cessation of craving is what ends suffering. With wisdom one stops following the craving, and clinging to that which is insubstantial. The involuntary movements of the mind stop and there is an unshakeable peace. One is no longer harrassed and driven by craving and the worldly winds, which brings relief and freedom to the mind.

The abandonment of the second noble truth is what realises the third noble truth. 

4. Knowledge of the way leading to the end of suffering (which is to be developed).

The way to accomplish the abandonment of craving is through the practise of the noble eightfold path: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right samhadi. This is what needs to be developed, when this path has been cultivated the third noble truth is realised.

Right Intention

Intention of non ill-will;
Intention of renunciation (non-greed);
Intention of non-cruelty;

The Buddha listed the three right intentions above as being thoughts that he did not regret having, these intentions do not lead to unwholesome actions, they lead to good kamma and to nibanna.

The Buddha before his enlightenment divided his thoughts up to those that he regretted having (unwholesome thoughts); and those that he did not regret having (wholesome thoughts). He worked to abandon the unwholesome thoughts, dismissing them until they no longer arose. And he encouraged and cultivated the wholesome thoughts till they happened naturally, automatically without him needing to apply any more effort. He said the experiment worked and eventually his mind was filled with thoughts he didn't regret having. This made it easier then to settle into meditation.

Intention is the generator of kamma. It is what leads to verbal thoughts, speech and actions. 

Right speech

To be honest.
To refrain from malicious divisive or contentious speech.
To refrain from harsh unkind speech.
To refrain from pointless time-wasting speech.

Right action

To refrain from killing any living being.
To refrain from stealing.
To refrain from sexual misconduct.

Right livelihood

To make a living that does not cause harm to oneself or others. 

Right effort

Needs to be tuned so it is neither too tight, nor too loose. I.e. don't burn yourself out, but also don't get lazy.

The four right efforts are:

1. prevention of unwholesome states of mind from arising. (By avoiding unwise attention to the fault; and unwise attention to the beautiful.)
2. abandonment of unwholesome states of mind should they arise.
3. generating wholesome states of mind.
4. sustaining those wholesome states of mind.

Unwholesome states of mind are the five hindrances: greed, aversion, sloth, restlessness, doubt.

Wholesome states of mind are the seven factors of enlightenment: mindfulness, investigation of phenomena (dhamma), energy (effort), joy, calmness, samhadi, equanimity (balance).

Right mindfulness

This is the four foundations of mindfulness.

Mindfulness of the body.
Mindfulness of feelings. (pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant).
Mindfulness of mental states.
Mindfulness of dhammas (teachings).

Right samhadi

Sometimes translated as concentration, but concentration can give me the wrong idea, so I prefer to use the word samhadi. Samhadi is the gathering of the mind together into absorption, a unification of mind. Sustained mindfulness to a meditation object leads naturally to samhadi. It is a whole-hearted experience, which includes the body. The body can feel very pleasant and comfortable in samhadi. There may still be aches and pains in the physical body, but these don't bother one. One is absorbed in the experience of the body as it feels from within, the subtle body.

Emotions such as joy can be a whole body experience.

The body is in the mind. 

 A meditation object is used to calm and centre the mind, gather it together and bring it into unity and balance. Common meditation objects used are the breath, natural elements, primary colours, perception of light, or the emotion of goodwill (metta).

The Buddha classifies right samhadi as the four jhanas.

Here are some verses from the suttas that describe the four jhanas.

'Having gone somewhere quiet, away from distractions. Having removed longing and dejection in regard to the world, setting mindfulness before one.

Quite secluded from sense-pleasures and unwholesome states of mind. One enters and abides in the first jhana. Which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought (or attention). And has the joy and pleasure born of seclusion (from unwholesome states).

With the subsiding of applied and sustained thought. One enters and abides in the second jhana. Which is accompanied by self-confidence and unification of mind. Is without applied and sustained thought, and has the joy and pleasure born of samhadi.

With the fading away of joy. One abides in equanimity. And mindful, clearly comprehending, still feeling pleasure with the body. One enters and abides in the third jhana. On account of which the noble ones say: 'one has a pleasant abiding, who has equanimity and is mindful.'

With the fading away of pain and pleasure. And the previous disappearance of sadness and joy. One enters and abides in the fourth jhana. Which has neither pleasure nor pain. And has mindfulness purified and born of equanimity.'

Once the mind has been made malleable and peaceful from samhadi. There is an afterglow, where unwholesome states of mind can remain absent for some time. In that state, the mind has the capacity for wise reflection, and it is easy to work with and train. It can be pointed towards something you want to understand and learn more about, or a truth you want to penetrate and gain insight from, such as the four noble truths. This investigation can lead to the liberating knowledge that brings about the end of suffering.

The continuous practise of jhana gradually weakens the hold of greed and hatred on the mind until eventually those defilements fall away for good and never return. When this happens one becomes a non-returner, (the third stage of enlightenment) and is never again born into this world.

Full enlightenment (fourth and final stage) is the realisation of nibanna, and the complete end of the conceit 'I am' and delusion.

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Walking

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Sensations of feet connecting with the ground, and the feeling of the body moving through space from one point to the next. The flow of air all around, touch of it on skin and clothes. Eyes half-closed, with a soft gaze. Mind centered with the body and the experience of walking. But aware of what is happening in peripheral awareness. Knowing where I am. What I am doing.

With walking there is that sense of working through stuff. Perhaps it is the forward motion of walking which brings a feeling of making progress, pushing through it, the sensations of movement and change.

I can get into a flow sometimes when walking. The self disappears and everything becomes energy. There's a feeling of oneness, absorption, a blissful feeling of freedom from the unpleasant feelings that come from longing, aversion and conceit.

Sometimes I stop and look at the sky. And feel a sense of awe, that there is even such a thing as sky. The clouds pass by over the blue background, and the cool breeze feels pleasant, the plants swaying, all of it is changing.

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Finding the sweet spot

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mind web

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 18 Jun 2023, 21:40


Some cool air and rain at last. The breeze feels good.

It is pleasant converging the mind on the air around me and the feeling of it going through me. The whole body becoming filled with its cooling energy from head to toe.

The breath has become my favourite meditation object now. I practise breathing with any part of the body. Sometimes I will breathe through the feet, the hands, the spine, the lower belly, the back of the neck, the nostrils, the scalp. it doesn't matter. Whichever area of the body feels good at the time becomes my initial focal point and from there I then spread the breath energy throughout the body, going over each part in turn, till the entire body feels light and at ease. Then there is a feeling of relief, where joy and pleasure seems to naturally arise.

The focal point for the breath is a bit like a spider on a web. The spider is at the centre and sensitive to everything else happening on the web. The body and awareness of the present moment being like the web.

Every time I notice thoughts of longing, anger, or conceit. I immediately label and drop those thoughts and centre with the breath. I label the thoughts, because labelling them as either longing, anger, or conceit helps to put some space between me and them, and also trains the mind to spot them faster, which helps it get better at recognising and knowing when those states are present. 

It is getting easier to abandon unwholesome thoughts now, I can do it quite quickly. Which is amazing when I remember what I used to be like. I struggled so much with my thoughts. I got so absorbed in them and imprisoned by them, they used to cause me so much suffering. It is empowering to be able to just drop them now as soon as I notice them and not be so in the head anymore.

The challenge at the moment is keeping the wholesome states of mind going. It is like a game. I quickly swipe away the longing, aversion, and conceit. And re-converge with the breath. If I am feeling thoughtful and reflective I will incline the mind towards thoughts of love and equanimity, or contemplate the dharma. But if I don't want to think, (sometimes thinking feels tiring and unpleasant). I remain focused on the breath, and the feeling of embodiment, or on the natural elements (earth, water, fire, air, space).

It is a relief to switch thinking off sometimes and to just experience feelings as they arise and cease in the present moment without the internal dialogue about them.

I am trying to train myself to only think when I want to think. And to only use my thought processes when they are at their best. There's no point in thinking otherwise. As thinking when I am mentally fatigued, anxious or stressed is counter-productive and just makes things worse. Thinking isn't necessary to solve every problem. The heart doesn't need to think.

My main practice edge at the moment is maintaining applied and sustained attention to the meditation object for as long as I can. I make a relaxed light-hearted game out of it to keep the mind interested and engaged. Try to see if I can beat my own personal best before the mind wanders off again and starts daydreaming, then the game is how quickly can I notice the mind has wandered and bring it back to the meditation object. It can feel good to get a flow going, and it feels like it is really good for the mind to do this. I notice the difference on days when I don't meditate. Meditation really does help.

A meditation object is used to calm and centre the mind. Once one has got good at converging the mind round a meditation object and can keep it there indefinitely. The next stage is to let go of applied and sustained attention to the meditation object, and remain in the serene state of composure without needing the meditation object. From there one becomes stiller and goes deeper into samhadi. The meditation object is like a key that is needed to unlock and open the door to samhadi, but once inside one can put the key down.

Have been seeing my Dad's face a lot today in my mind's eye. Perhaps because it is Father's day. I keep sending him metta as often as I can, and sharing merit with him. I am fairly sure he is no longer in the ghost realm, which is good to know. I feel certain that he has moved on now. I also have a feeling he hasn't taken a human rebirth and may possibly be a deva now, but I am not sure. I think he might be a deva because it feels like he has gone to a good destination, but I still feel his presence from time to time, and when he visits it feels different than before. He doesn't feel like a ghost anymore, he feels like he is full of light, clear, his presence surrounded by good energy and there is peace.

In any case, my Dad was not someone who liked to procrastinate, he liked to be busy. He would not want to remain stuck in the greyhound station between lifetimes (the ghost realm). He would have been keen to move on to whatever comes next. I think once he saw where the exit was, and after perhaps a farewell to us all, he would have moved on. Bless him.

I miss my Dad. 

May he be safe, well, happy and peaceful. 






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Hot days

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 14 Jun 2023, 23:37


Bit of a low mood today. Even after an hour of meditation my zest was just not there, my zing, my bling, just not present at the moment. 

I woke up feeling fatigued. It is hard coping with anything when the energy is low. Even the simplest of tasks feels unbearable to deal with when there's no energy to support it.

Saw a baby seagull with a broken wing on the seafront. I felt empathy for it. Nothing I could do to help it. Poor bird. I wished it well, and felt a ping in my heart.

This world is quite brutal and cruel at times. Heartbreak is harsh.

Aye, there are some good moments, some pleasures to be had, but not sure the darker times make it worth it in the end. It feels like we all have to pay a heavy price for those moments of happiness.

I don't think I have the stomach to come back to this world again. If I don't reach full enlightenment in this lifetime. I will try to put off coming back here until times are less bleak. I don't want to go through a lifetime in a world like this again. Just the thought of having another round in the school system, and a career, makes me shiver. Things just seem to get darker and more crazy, more industrialised, less beautiful, less green, more grey, more empty. Our world gradually becoming like Mordor from the Lord of the Rings.

So many things are converging at the moment. These turbulent times of great change, that may even threaten our survival as a species. Global warming, forest fires, mass extinction, war, pollution, sickness, mental illness, loneliness, poverty, inequality, exploitation, separation, for-profit fascism, cruelty, violence, weapons of mass destruction. I really don't want to come back to this. 

But there is good in the world, I need to remember that too. It does help to remember this, it can help me stop spiralling into pessimism.The beautiful emotions of love, kindness and generosity they do still exist in the world; and this brings me hope, warms my heart. I must remember this.

Hot day, the temperature reached 28°C  (82.4 °F) today. I couldn't get much studying done. But later when the temperature got cooler at around 7pm I was able to get some work done then. Cyber security has not been an easy topic to learn, but I think it is slowly but surely starting to click a bit now. 

Meditation is hard in the heat. Struggled to converge the mind, it was restless and dull with an almost intangible feeling of discontent/discomfort. When I noticed negativity in the mind I swiped away any thoughts about longing, anger, or conceit. And then centred the mind with something more wholesome, thoughts to do with non-greed, non-hate, non conceit. Or if thinking is tiring, I centre with the breath and the body and practised not-thinking, just feeling without words. Words can feel like a prison for consciousness sometimes.

At least that exercise is getting easier to do now, the mind seems to drop the longing, anger, and conceit much faster than it used to. And the negative thoughts are much less sticky, my attention is not so easily captivated by them.

Maintaining a wholesome state of mind is the tricky part at the moment. That seems to be my practise edge just now, the challenge, to keep that momentum going.

The noble eightfold path is all about building habits, learning new skills. It takes repetitive consistent daily practise. Not too much effort or you will get burnt out and lose enthusiasm for the dharma, get sick of it and apathetic. But not too little effort either or you will get lazy and the greed, anger, and conceit comes back and suffocates the heart, drags it back down into depression.

The energy of effort and attention needs to be tuned just right. Not too much, not too little. Like tuning a string on a musical instrument. One must find the middle way.
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