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Asoka

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

Sunday night

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Sound of air like

Gaia speaking

White noise

Whispering 

Thoughts

To sleep

...


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Asoka

A night in the harbour

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 5 Jul 2023, 20:36


Pacing back and forth
I am tired but mindful.
Waves of tears crash.
Into the ocean wind.

I leave the beach to find shelter.

Watch each presently arisen state
flow and fade away.
Mind is like the ocean.
A morphing psychic energy,
Restless
Dissatisfied.
Moving
From one thing to the next,
Darting erratically.
Flickering this way and that
Becoming different shapes and patterns.

Like the wind.
Its involuntary movements.
Constantly changing.

I sit still.
In the temple of the body.
In the solidity of the earth.
Attentive to the air element.
The cool touch of it on the skin.
Centre with the breath energy,
The whole body and mind.
Earth and air become one.

And in a moment of bliss.
The mind converges.
All goes into sync.
Becomes unified, and still.
Whole-hearted.
Content.
Present.
Harmonised.
Tuned into Nothing.

And I leave the world behind,
Everything disappears.

A pigeon watches me with interest
Perched above in the Victorian architecture.
Night becomes dawn
And it coos with delight.

The unnerving banshee shrieks in the tunnel
Turn out to be seabirds.

-Asoka

...


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Asoka

Earth kasina

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 2 May 2023, 21:21


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.

And the breath appears in my awareness and it feels nice to centre with that whilst simultaneously resting in the stillness of the earth element, with the experience of the body from within. A teacher at a dharma talk I listened to tonight, reminded us while we sat in meditation, that the breath is always with us, wherever we are. (At least while we are alive anyway.)

The world goes on around, but I remain almost unnaturally still. Like I am made of rock, the outside of the body like the walls of a cave, my consciousness all snug and warm at the centre of my being. Serenely aware of everything happening around me and within me, holding it all without effort, and not bothered by any of it, the sensations and different energies flicker like white noise, and through it all there is the breath, which is like a tide of air going in and out of the body, entering all the different crevices as it does, filling them up with life energy. 

Sometimes the breath slows and even stops, and it isn't a problem, sometimes the body doesn't seem to need to breathe as much, perhaps because it has become so still, it needs less oxygen, I am not sure why it happens. But I am not the only one who experiences the breath stopping sometimes in meditation, it is quite a common phenomena and I have been reassured by many different meditation teachers that it is nothing to worry about. Just enjoy the stillness, the body will breathe again when it needs to. The body knows what to do.

For a time today I sat on the beach, feeling strongly connected to the Earth. I sat still like a mountain, rock steady, feeling the ground below me and within me, keeping me steady. The cool touch of the air felt pleasant in the nasal cavity and on the skin, constantly changing. The fresh air felt invigorating and refreshing, and the experience of the inner body felt exquisite. I was content to be there and nowhere else. The involuntary movements of the mind ceased and I went into an altered state of consciousness that was very pleasant and different from anything I have experienced before in meditation. I could not seem to move for a while, indeed I wondered at one point if I should move, because I could hear people walking a dog nearby, but I couldn't move at all, I was deeply absorbed. I didn't mind though. I was not bothered about anything. I was in a beautiful tranquil state of mind that wasn't a trance, but very different, hard to define, definitely an altered state of consciousness, there was no doubt about that.

The sense of self was gone. I was one with everything, the Earth, the sky, the people and animals nearby, the universe. Not separate from anything, not apart from it, there was a feeling of wholeness. I felt a great relief from all that had been troubling me before, the anxiety was gone, and I wondered why it had all been such a problem before. 

It felt like a taste of freedom. 

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.


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The Song Thrush and the Sea

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 7 Apr 2023, 14:41


Ocean wavelets
Make pebbles sing
A song of stone
Of Ancient days
Sun shadows of time
Flickering before me.

I am still and silent like a human sundial
And somewhere close by
A song-thrush sings
The sounds carve
Spiral
Beautiful shapes
Across the air
Gladdening the mind.

A joyful usher of Spring
Reminding me of 
Love
And the beautiful spaces within.

- Asoka



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The Natural Elements in Meditation

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 5 Apr 2023, 14:44


Have been listening to these talks given by the venerable Ajahn Sona today. He is a great teacher, and the one who gave me the dhamma name Asoka, which means sorrowless. Asoka is a succinct teaching for me, as someone who has experienced much sorrow in life and struggled with depression, this name inspires me to become the opposite (-:

These five talks go into detail about how to practise meditation on the four elements: Earth, water, fire, air  and also how to practise the four colour kasinas: red, blue, yellow, white.

I took part in this retreat last spring, and it is good to go over it again to refresh the memory. It is interesting how when one listens to a talk again one picks up something that they missed the first time they listened to it. I think it is because the mind takes what it needs at different times. The mind changes, and as one develops on the path, the mind looks out for new pieces of information to help with its current understanding, and perhaps that's why different things stand out on subsequent listenings to dhamma talks.

Anyway, I wanted to post these talks for anyone else out there who might find this topic interesting.


Here is the link to the talks on YouTube: 

https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCXN1GlAupG1RoN3z1NN7jzwapA6OKbF5


May this practise be as much a blessing for you, as it has been for me.

Peace and metta


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Air kasina

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 31 Mar 2023, 15:39

The breezes at this time of year are very pleasant.  And the blackbirds and song thrushes are singing all around and it is beautiful. I enjoy having my window open or sitting outside, and being absorbed in it all, lifts up my heart.

The air kasina is great to practise at this time of year, in the Northen hemisphere at least. We have lots of breezes at the moment. Air kasina is basically breath meditation, but there's a component to it which isn't often taught. Which is to focus on the sensation and feeling of the air element as it touches the skin, and notice how that affects the mind. Apparently in ancient times a monk wanting to learn the air kasina would find a cave high in a mountain where there was a breeze and practise there. In modern times, one can practise this in any location with a plug in fan (-:

The fresh air can feel invigorating, and this feeling of invigoration is a breath nimitta. A tactile nimitta, some people get a visual nimitta, but for me the nimitta is always a tactile feeling. In Pali, nimitta means sign. And in this context it is the sign of the air element in the mind; or the effect that the air element has on the mind. It is a mind-generated phenomena, an internal feeling created in response to the air element.

If you stay centred with the nimitta it grows stronger and will expand and fill the whole body, which feels very pleasant and healing. One then keeps intending to stay with it, sustain it, soak the entire body with the tranquility and happiness. This can be challenging to do at first, but it gains momentum over the long term. With consistent practise the nimitta and the feeling of joy and pleasure grows, snowballs, and becomes more effortless and automatic. This is how the mind works, how we create sankharas. Samhadi begets more samhadi, i.e. what we practise grows stronger and becomes a habit, which then carries a momentum and energy of its own that continues and grows deeper.

After many hours of practise, one will be able to bring the air nimitta up at will, without needing a breeze. One can just incline the mind towards it and it will appear. Even the slightest zephyr of air movement in a room will bring it up. Sometimes one can go into absorption just watching the air blowing through the leaves of the trees and plants, or from the ripples it makes on the surface of water. It feels like magic, but it is just how the mind works. The same thing can happen when meditating on any other element, a colour, or on love. One will start to notice it more and more in the world around them and find this will bring up the samhadi associated with it. 

A teacher told me that for those brief moments when people take a break from being in a stuffy room and stand outside and enjoy the feeling of the breeze on their faces. For those brief moments those people have been practising breath meditation. He added that when it comes to samhadi, the Buddha says, use the low-hanging fruit. Find that which comes natural and then make it into something supernatural (-:

 


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Asoka

Spring breeze

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photograph of a painting

Prints of this painting are available from here.

May all beings be safe, well, peaceful and happy (-:


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Asoka

Turbulence

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Sea swirl, 
smash on path
air turbulently
picks up things
makes them dance
with playful icy fingers
that blow open my hood
Exposing head and neck
to ice chill blows
It is unpleasant.
But I endure 
retreat to a deep
sheltered place within.

The path changes direction
And now the wind is at my back.
I replace my hood and
The warmth feels pleasant
Soft touch of cloth flapping like wings.
As excited air blows all around me
Swirling puddles into
hypnotic patterns and shapes
A liquid reflection of how things change.

Seagulls hover above in perfect stillness
effortlessly flowing with the wind
weaving in and out of each other's paths
Masters of stillness in motion.



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Menthol meditation

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 22 Feb 2023, 14:22

One trick Buddhist monks apparently have for helping them learn breath meditation is to put some menthol under their nostrils (-:

I accidently did this today when doing an olbas oil inhalation to help with my sinuses. I accidently got some under my nostrils, and can confirm it does make breath meditation more interesting, and also seemed to help a little bit with the brain fog.

I am not sure olbas oil is the best thing to put under the nose though, must research some skin-friendly alternatives (-:



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Asoka

Night

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Window open just a crack,
Cool air on face and neck.
Warm body under blankets
Breath like the ocean waves.
Sound of traffic slices shapes through the air.
A plane passes overhead like a crackly Thunderbird.
Voices talk in the background and
I imagine I am another animal, and the vocalisations become like the mysterious utterances of another species.
I listen detached.
Breath at the centre of it all.
Even at the very centre of my being.
Which is hollow and empty like an inner cave.



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Magic

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There's a phenomenon where you might hear something on the radio or video, in a song, a podcast, in an article, perhaps in a conversation with someone. Where something that is said, a phrase, a word really sticks out for you, and seems to speak directly to you, as it resonates with what you are going through at that time, and it feels like it is a message for you specifically from the universe. And it is! Your mind is homing in on that because it is something you need to hear. It is one of the ways the deeper mind tries to help us, tries to communicate with us, by bringing something important to our attention that we are ignorant of, we are often so caught up in our heads we are not listening to the deeper mind. So it will sometimes do something like that, to stop us in our tracks, and bring us a eureka moment, an insight.

When I was practising meditating on the colour red, afterwards wherever I went I would notice the colour red pop out everywhere. It felt magical like I had a special connection with the colour red and it was protecting me. And it was protecting me, that was my subjective experience, as its presence helped me feel calmer, more alive and at ease wherever I went, so it was helping me. This also happened when practising the air kasina, I would notice even the slightest whisper of air in a room, and it would make my scalp and spine light up and tingle with excitement, filling me with a feeling of light. This was all my subjective experience, but it was helpful, it helped me feel better emotionally, and inside it felt more real than what was going on objectively. This is how the mind works, this is what magic is.


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Wind

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The air element
Beauty of sky
That childlike wonder
It disappeared
Why?
Sitting outside
Refreshing breeze
The cool 
Airiness
Fills the Body with ease.
I am connected to the air
With every breath
Invisible
But its presence is felt
Always changing
Vibrating
I watch as it moves through the trees,
Sweeps up leaves
Creates ripples on the water
And makes everything dance.

Photo of a seagull gliding on the air

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Beautiful breeze

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 29 Sep 2022, 11:56

A scan of an abstract painting depicting an invigorating breeze.

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