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Finding the sweet spot

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 22 June 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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Asoka

Be a light

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 20 June 2023, 00:38


I know the world feels like a dark place at the moment. The doomsday clock ticking closer to midnight.

I am struggling to live in it. It is heartbreaking witnessing the intense suffering of this time. So many beings in pain just now. The greed, hate and conceit of the world is turning it into a Hell realm.

But remember, this life is brief. And it isn't all there is. It is a tiny moment compared to the length of an aeon. A bubble in a stream. 

Maybe there's no hope at this time, perhaps we are heading toward a dark dystopia, and maybe the world is about to end. Perhaps we will go extinct, who knows?

The best thing to do now, is not let these dark times take away your virtue.

 Practise kindness, generosity, and the way of peace, develop those tendencies of the mind. That is what will lead to a good rebirth, to a good destination in the next life, that's how to become a deva. It's what's in the heart that counts, that is the currency of the heavenly realms. 

Just because the world is getting more and more depraved and crazy doesn't mean we have to be that way. We can choose to practise the opposite. To love. To be different. To be a light in the darkness.

We all have both good and bad tendencies in the mind. And it's these tendencies that lead to our karma. It is better to die with a heart filled with loving-kindness and generosity than one full of hatred and stinginess. 

When we die it is the tendencies of the mind we have cultivated and developed in this life that decide where we end up in the next one. This is the only thing we take with us when we die. That is what will greet us on the otherside.

...


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Mind web

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 18 June 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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Calm and cool

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 16 June 2023, 00:23


I am catching up with the studying, only two weeks behind now. My plan is to get slightly ahead if I can, so that I can have some time off for Dad's funeral at the end of the month.


Grief takes a while, I am finding. It can feel lonely as well. Social situations can feel awkward at times. The world around continues, but I feel the need for time and space alone. I guess to process it all, reflect on it, meditate, find some peace in it all.

Sometimes the tears fall, then stop. Arise, flow, and cease. I wipe my eyes and get on with the day. Rinse and repeat. Sunglasses are helpful when out in public.

Is it heart-break or heart-opening? I don't know. I guess it's both. Perhaps heartbreak opens up the heart. It reminds us of what really matters in the end.

 I feel okay though. Not depressed. Just flowing with it. Accepting it. Seeing the dharma in it. Trying to hold it all with kindness, friendliness. Gently, with love, compassion and equanimity.

If I notice myself getting absorbed in thoughts about greed, anger, or conceit I immediately drop them, and re-centre with love and equanimity. It feels good to be with the feeling of embodiment. The breath. The elements. Converge the mind around that. Experience life as it is without words. Sometimes it is nice not to think. To just feel.

 I think he's alright, he let me know. I felt something shift in his transition whilst out walking in the woods, a strong knowing came to me that he had found peace, it felt like truth, and I felt reassured.

It feels like he's transitioned now. He feels both really near and really far.

...


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Asoka

Hot days

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 14 June 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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Asoka

The woods today

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A photo of some woodland.

Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Gill Burrell, Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 12:07)
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Pea Souper

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 12 June 2023, 22:02


I am a tired one today.
High humidity and
brain foggier than pea soup.
Energy is a distant memory.
Body aches and grumbles.
The mind struggles to converge.
Would rather lay in the netherworld of sleep.
Can't face the world, let me be.
But there are things to do,
And effort must be made.
Albeit reluctantly...

Three weeks behind in my studies and it is hard to get back into them. Keep staring out of the window. Remembering things from my childhood. My father's face. 

It feels like he has had a peaceful transition at last. When I was in the woods the other day I felt this incredible peace like something had changed, and it felt like he was saying he is alright.

Later that day, an old message he sent me popped up unexpectedly when I logged into a social media account. The message from my Dad contained just one word: 'Thankyou'. 

It felt like a message from the other side. There was a warmth in my heart, and the tears fell. 

Bless him.

My shoulder hurts. I have been carrying about 5 litres of water each day into the woods to help some tadpoles struggling in the drought, but alas they are all dead now. The water evaporated faster than I could keep up with.

Part of me feels relief that I no longer have to carry the water. Another part feels guilty for feeling that way. And another part encourages me by saying at least my heart was in the right place.

How complex the mind is, all these different selves, where do they come from?

It is like a committee sometimes, these different minds within minds. Like fractals. 

How to gather them together and unify the monkey mind.

Meditation... 
Bhāvanā

.. keep putting one foot in front of the other.
That's how we walk the path to freedom.





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Green Haven

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A photo of some ancient woodland. It feels peaceful and magical, like a sanctuary of nature.

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I take up the way of cultivating a clear mind

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 10 June 2023, 20:27


I find myself in tears every so often. I just let them fall without trying to resist them.

It is hard to think I will never see Dad again. I talk to him on my walks in the quiet of the woods. Some part of him lives on inside me.

It is a kindness to myself to give the grief space. To hold it all without judging it, or adding any more to it, or taking any of it personally. Just flowing with it, letting it be.

 Life as it is, the only teacher.

I am learning it is okay to not know what to say at times. Sometimes being a silent presence is enough. 

I centre with the breath, and let everything happening around me be as it is. I breathe through it, flood my whole field of awareness with the breath, so it feels like the whole cosmos is breathing with me. 

When the mind is more serene I fill my awareness with love, with compassion, with peace, or equanimity. 

When not in sitting meditation. I take refuge in what is known as sati sampajanna, mindfulness of the present moment. Knowing where I am, what I'm doing. Whatever activity I am engaged in, I try to stay centred with it and with the feeling of embodiment. 

 When I notice I am getting absorbed in thoughts to do with greed, aversion, or conceit. I label them as such and then brush them aside like useless rubbish. Nonsense. Not worth investing in, or wasting psychic energy on. I let them be in the background, but I stop engaging with them, and keep centering the mind with some aspect of mindfulness instead, that feels calming.

It isn't easy. Sometimes I can dismiss thoughts quickly. Other times I have to talk myself into a better state of mind. And sometimes I have to do it gently in stages. 

Mindfulness, effort, samhadi they work together. Both in sitting meditation and in daily life.

It is difficult. But worth it in the end I am assured. Although not liberated yet, I am noticing benefits to dhamma practise, which keep growing steadily. Benefits in terms of increased peace of mind. So I am slowly but surely developing, and seem to be going in the right direction.

 The problem can be narrowed down to just greed, anger, and conceit. These are what harrass the mind. And when those three psychic irritants are absent, there is a feeling of great relief. The mind stops harrassing itself and there is peace.

 It just takes time to get there, perseverance, patience, sometimes endurance. But one day our future selves will be glad we took the time to train the mind - when it all bears fruit.

 What we practise now grows stronger and is who we become.

It is exhausting being someone, being a person. Maintaining an identity. It is a heavy suitcase we carry around. Our moods change, as does the world. And one's ego inevitably falls apart. A fragile house of cards swept up by the worldly winds.

A lot of psychic energy is bound up in the story 'I am'. 

When that psychic energy is released. It becomes unbound, limitless. Free. 

Deathless.

An energy no longer subject to conditions. Something difficult to define and put into words. To define it is to attach conditions to it. 

Anyway that's all I've got just now, and what I am currently working with in my practise.

Here's a poem attributed to the Buddha I have going through my head at the moment:

' Let not a person revive the past   
Or on the future build one's hopes, 
For the past has been left behind 
And the future has not been reached.
Instead with insight let one see 
Each presently arisen state; 
Let one know that and be sure of it, Invincibly, unshakably. 
Today the effort must be made; Tomorrow Death may come, who knows? 
No bargain with Mortality 
Can keep him and his hoards away. 
But one who dwells thus ardently, Relentlessly, by day, by night 
It is those, the Peaceful Sage has said, Who have had one excellent night. '

- the Buddha.

...


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Asoka

Happy birthday

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Photo of sunlight coming through trees in ancient woodland.

Grief is lonely. 
World continues 
Time 
streams on
Waits for none.
But I can't face anything just now.
I sit alone.
Still
Quiet.
In deep transitions.

Your life taken so suddenly.
It affected many.
Abides within us still.

Such a beautiful moon tonight.

Take care 
Wherever you are 
May you be at ease
On a golden shore
Expansive 
Sorrowless
Your mind at peace
Luminous
and

Free.

...


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A wee fairy glade

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A photo of some woodland.

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Goodwill

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Here's a beautiful sutta I came across today (-:

'Devoid of covetousness, devoid of ill will, unbewildered, alert, mindful, one pervades the first direction [the east] with an awareness imbued with good will, likewise the second, likewise the third, likewise the fourth. Thus above, below, & all around, everywhere, in its entirety, one keeps pervading the all-encompassing cosmos with an awareness imbued with good will — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, without hostility, without ill will, just as a strong conch-trumpet blower — without any difficulty — can notify the four directions."

-SN 42.8

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Prepping

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Preparing myself for another all night sit under a tree at the next full moon. I think I will try to make it a regular event every full moon, to go and spend a night of meditation in the wilderness by myself.

The all night sit I did in May really helped improve my meditation practice. It was an interesting experience. There's something about being alone in the woods at night which creates a sense of fear. But if one centres with the dhamma, practises metta bhavana (loving-kindness meditation), and samhadi one feels safe and the fear goes away and the mind becomes confident and at ease. So one keeps practising for that reason. When sitting at home alone one can find excuses not to meditate, and books and devices can become a distraction; but being alone at night in the woods really enhances one's mindfulness, because if it slips one becomes afraid and then the mind starts conjuring up all sorts of nonsense, and you start believing your erroneous misperception of things. But mindfulness of the dhamma (Buddhist teachings) keeps you safe, it makes you feel fearless. It is an interesting experience.

I must find a way to repel insects though as some carry diseases and this is a very real danger I need to find a way to counteract, especially when it comes to ticks. Lyme's disease is no fun at all. I am wondering about trying some essential oils on my clothing to see if that puts off biting insects.

I will continue to have a flask of coffee or tea with me to get me through the night, and not feel guilty for that. Very much a believer in practising the middle way, and having a cup of coffee really helped warm me and gladden the mind at times, and I was grateful for the kindness to myself in packing the flask. 

To be honest, the biggest fear of being alone in the woods at night is encountering other humans. I am far more afraid of people than I am of animals, insects or spirits. The devas will be with me though and the psychic energies of my friends will also be with me, so I shouldn't be afraid. If I stay centred with metta I will be safe. Wherever I am in the world, being mindful of metta will keep the mind clear of the hindrances.

No matter what someone does to me, even if they kill me, if my mind remains centred in metta, I will be fine, a consciousness filled with metta leads to a good rebirth.

It isn't loss of life that one should fear, it is loss of peace of mind. The defilements within (greed, hatred, and delusion) are far more frightening to me then anything else in this world. They are the real enemy, and they never tire, they're always waiting for me to show a moment of weakness. I have to be careful not to let my guard down, because if they enter my heart, they start to suffocate it with craving, and drag me down into the darkness. The impurities of the mind are no joke. They are far more dangerous than anything else out there. This is where wisdom, morality, mindfulness, right effort, and the stillness of samhadi becomes one's protection. They help prevent greed, hate, and delusion from taking over the mind and leading one into suffering.

I am debating with myself whether to pack some headphones and a device so I can listen to a downloaded dhamma talk. Sometimes if things get difficult it is good to be able to listen to the voice of another, as they can talk one out of a negative state of mind and encourage one to keep going.

This is okay for me as I am a lay follower, not a monastic, so I can do this if I decide it would be beneficial to do so. 

...




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Calm mind

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 24 May 2023, 20:44


" What is commonly referred to as a ‘calm mind’ or a ‘mind integrated in samādhi’ is a state of inner stability that is no longer associated with the meditation object, which merely prepared the mind by holding it steady. Once the mind has entered into samādhi, there exists enough momentum for the mind to remain in this state of calm, independent of the preparatory object, whose function is temporarily discontinued while the mind rests peacefully.

Later on, when the mind withdraws from samādhi, one can focus attention on a dhamma theme (Buddhist teachings). When this is practiced consistently with dedication and sustained effort, a mind long steeped in dukkha (stress, suffering, dissatisfaction) will gradually awaken to its own potential and abandon its unskillful ways. The struggle to tame the mind, which one experiences in the beginning stages of training, will be replaced by a keen interest in the task at hand. "

- Ajaan Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno (Acariya Mun - A spiritual biography)


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Psychic alchemy

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 22 May 2023, 22:02


Feeling a wee bit better today. Was in such a dark place for a while. These cycles seem to happen every now and then. My mind goes into shutdown, like when a computer updates its operating system. It can feel slow and frustrating, and there's an element of restlessness there on top of the fatigue, and that bossy part of the mind always tugging at me to do things. Reminding me of deadlines and things I should be doing.

 I kept reminding myself that I don't have to be bossed around by that part of the mind. After all it's me! And it isn't helpful, it can be so bossy and overly-critical. The inner tyrant. A real problem many of us have in modern day society, we've been conditioned that way.

 Actually when one is like that, the best thing to do is to do nothing, just be still, be silent, endure the restless feelings and don't react to the mood. Keep choosing not to get involved with any negative thoughts. They are mostly nonsense anyway, we often create delusional stories in our heads that are not in sync with what is happening in reality when our mood is low. But balance this by also forgiving oneself for having those thoughts, be gentle with the mind when one catches oneself absorbed in the negativity. Don't punish yourself for it, or be judgemental. Just be grateful you noticed, and then stop paying attention to the negativity. Look in a different direction, like you are turning away from a sight that you don't want to see. You don't have to pay attention to negative thoughts. Choose purposely to pay attention to something else, the breath, the feet, some part of awareness that is neutral and helps to calm and centre the mind. And give yourself permission to do that. You are allowed to.

The inner miser might say: 'I don't deserve to be happy, I don't deserve to enjoy myself.' that is just crap, don't listen to that. You are allowed to be happy, you are allowed to feel joy. Cut yourself some slack, one of the enlightenment factors is joy. It is part of the training. So stop listening to the miserly one within who tells you that you can't be happy, that you don't deserve it. And don't be content with just a little taste, ask the mind for more, until you couldn't ask for any more.

We've all done crappy things that we regret. Many great saints and noble people weren't always that way, some were rascals. Everyone on this planet is a mix of good and bad. We make amends for our past mistakes by training our minds now. It is the most compassionate thing we can do for ourselves and others is to train the mind.

Take comfort in the knowledge that the inner critic is entirely a mental construct and not real. It is a phantom. There is nothing substantial there. When one stops paying attention to it, it gets weaker and eventually subsides. It is merely a sankhara, a tape loop from the past, a conditioning that can be unconditioned. It isn't permanent, it isn't self, and it can be changed into something better. And all the psychic energy that went into that sankhara can then be freed up, and with some clever dharma alchemy become something more friendly and supportive on your journey. 

Turn that inner critic into a sankhara of inner friendship. When one becomes a good friend to oneself, one will then naturally become a good friend to others. Friendliness makes one less judgemental, less selfish. Love dissolves the separation between self and other. And without all our inner angsty wanty needy stuff getting in the way, one can properly listen to others and be there for them wholeheartedly. It doesn't make you a doormat though, always at everyone's beck and call. You still assert your boundaries, you don't have to associate with the foolish, the toxic, and don't let yourself be taken advantage of. You have to take care of yourself too.

But when you feel comfortable in yourself, secure, it is easier to be with others and be a friend then, to be a good listener, because your insecurities aren't getting in the way.

It takes work though, a lot of work. Like learning to be skilled at any craft, it doesn't happen over night. When learning any new skill, it is consistent daily repetitive practice that gets you there. Perseverance, endurance. The mind is also lazy, it doesn't like to change habits and make effort. Even if the behaviour is killing us, it prefers to stick with its grooves and keep things the way they are. We can get set in our ways because change feels uncomfortable, unpleasant at first. But the thing to keep in mind is it is possible, these unhelpful habits can be changed. And done without straining the mind, a gentle kind effort that doesn't burn you out is what's needed. Tuning the energies so they are balanced. A middle way, avoiding the extremes. Not too energetic and not too lazy. Be kind to the mind, this is how we train to be friendly, by being a friend to ourselves, which is another meaning of the word: metta, friendliness. Becoming mindful of kindness, or as Ajahn Brahm puts it: kindfulness.

It is a lot about how we talk to ourselves, this is what changes our perceptions of things, and reprograms the sankharas (mental formations).

The mind is an immensely complex, mysterious and powerful thing that we all have, but hardly any of us know how to use it properly. How to train it, how it works. We allow ourselves to be driven around by it. For many of us it is wild and chaotic, not unified, contradictory, pulling us this way and that. A monkey swinging from branch to branch. The mind can be a lot like a wild animal and rebellious, and sometimes it won't play ball and be deliberately difficult, resist the training. It takes patience. In fact there's a set of pictures in Zen called the Ox-herding pictures which puts across this idea of training the mind really well.

There's some beautiful bird song at the moment as I write this. 

I was reflecting on how music is all about change. I do like music. Sometimes if my energy is low I put on my headphones and listen to some music, and that can help uplift me a bit. It Is interesting how music has that effect on the mind. Sometimes when I get an earworm after listening to music, I will meditate on the ear worm and it grows clearer and more otherworldly. A bit like when one pictures a sight they've seen in their mind's eye and it becomes more sharper and colourful. For any readers who are wondering what an earworm is. An earworm is when a piece of music keeps looping over and over in the mind after one has listened to it often. It is not an actual worm that lives in the ear. It is a metaphor for when you can't get a tune out of your head. Although why a worm is used as a metaphor for this I couldn't say for sure.

I have decided to keep writing my blog. I also feel like the devas (shining ones/angels) are encouraging me to keep writing it. It seems to help me. Something about attempting to articulate what I am learning helps me remember and understand it better and absorb the knowledge.




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True wealth

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 21 May 2023, 12:20


I am still feeling a bit sick, can't seem to shake this illness. Will give it another week or so before I talk to a doctor in case it is Lyme's disease. Apparently there's no point until you've had it a while as the blood test is known to give false negatives if done in the first 4 - 5 weeks. I hope it clears up by itself, as I would rather not take antibiotics. They really mess up my gut system and it took me years to get it back to good health after the last round of anti-biotics I had. Also Western medicine doesn't always feel very welcoming, I don't find it very approachable, and I feel afraid of it. I think it is because the health services in the UK are stretched to breaking point at the moment after years of government austerity. Doctors and nurses are often tired and overworked, stressed out, burnt out, and it isn't their fault, but as a result some can be a bit terse and grumpy. I don't take it personally. I try to be kind and friendly, but it is not a pleasant experience seeking treatment in modern day medicine, and the treatments/medications can also feel a bit brutal on the body as well, they are often unpleasant, so I only tend to seek medical attention as a last resort. 


I am thinking about stopping writing for a time. I am worried that I might put people off the dharma and the Buddha's teachings, which I don't want to do. I originally started writing about it because I found it helpful for me to articulate what I was learning, putting things into my own words helped me absorb the knowledge and remember it better. And Buddhism has been a great help for me with my own battles with mental illness, I have found its teachings much richer, deeper and more meaningful than those in modern day psychology. And I also wanted to share the insights I was getting with others in case it could help someone else out there.

But in hindsight, there's plenty of Buddhist resources online already, and my writing isn't that great to be honest, and isn't going to make much of a difference. It also can feel stressful sometimes, worrying about what I've written, if it is appropriate, kind or beneficial, whether it was wise or not. I find this anxiety can stop me being able to meditate. I am not a teacher of the dharma. Although I would like to be a dhamma teacher one day, because I like helping others, and the Buddha's teachings deserve to be preserved and passed on to future generations. But I would rather do that when I have been practising this for a good while, when I am much wiser than I currently am. It is important that a teacher of dharma is of the highest calibre, impeccable in conduct. Buddhism like all other religions is not without its scandals. It is a shame when that happens because it can tar the image of Buddhism, and fill students with doubt. It is a big responsibility to be a dhamma teacher. Because how a teacher behaves paints an image of the teachings in the public's eyes. Students look up to their teachers as examples, and a bad immoral teacher can cause a lot of harm, heartbreak and disillusionment.

Also, I am not sure that people in this age are all that interested in the true dharma. There are a few who are spiritually hungry and want to learn the deeper truths, but most are worldly and seeking material things and how they can increase that. I don't judge them, but I don't want use up all my energy on something that isn't going to benefit anyone in the long term, as that is tiring and vexing for me, and distracts me from my meditation. I think there's enough out there already online for the spiritually hungry to read and listen to. And I worry my voice might put people off the dharma, I really hope I haven't done that. So I will keep quiet now for a bit, and just focus on my own development and try to get a bit further along on the path if I can. Maybe when I am more spiritually developed and much wiser I will feel differently and share my insights again. But for now I will have a rest from writing I think. 

I honestly don't have much else to write about on a blog other than the dhamma. I am not into the world much, I find it tedious, shallow and egoic, always have from an early age. I remember as a child thinking how inane it all was, this material world. Have always felt drawn towards the spiritual. 

I won't write anymore about A.I. or politics or any other contentious issues either. I think I will stay away from those topics from now on. I am not against progress or technological development. I just worry about people who will lose their livelihoods and that there won't be any financial support for them. There doesn't seem to be much sign from governments that they will help those who are pushed out of work by automation. I also worry about the environmental cost of A.I., all the electricity needed to power these robots and huge server farms.

But it is true that many of the jobs robots will replace are horrible. I've worked in a few of those myself in the past. Zero hour contracts and cruel inhumane shift patterns. For example, finishing a shift late in the evening and then being expected to work again early the next morning. No holiday, no sick pay. Staff are treated like factory farmed humans. It is truly unpleasant.

The word: 'redundant', is also such a demeaning term. I dislike the view that a person only has value if they are employed in some way. That the only worth to a human life is if they are working or not. Where did that horrible view come from?

This is something important to bear in mind. That what the media tells us, what politicians tell us, what academics tells us, what the modern world says. It is just views, opinions, concepts conjured up by the thinking mind. One must always remember that the truth does not depend on science to verify it or endorse it. The truth exists regardless of what anyone thinks, it is outside of public opinion.

 It will always be that good karma comes from love, generosity, friendliness, kindness, selflessness. And bad karma comes from greed, hate, and delusion (the conceit 'I am'). This has always been the case. Being unkind to others, violence, war, stinginess, self-centred arrogance and narcissism, will always lead to bad karma, either in this life or a future one.

 The law of karma does not need the world of academia to prove whether it exists or not. It is very real, and being kind, giving, loving, friendly, peaceful, these make oneself and others much happier, they activate wholesome circuits in the mind that make us feel good, make us well, and that is why they lead to good outcomes. But greed, hate and delusion do not make us feel well, they are psychic poisons, a sickness, an affliction, toxic, and they feel unpleasant, and will lead to painful feelings for oneself and others, that is why they lead to bad outcomes.

Poverty is truly awful. It causes so much suffering in society. And it is unnecessary. There's enough wealth in the world for everyone to live a comfortable life and for there to still be enough for the rich to enjoy their luxuries. Generosity and kindness makes the world a better place for everyone. It makes us all happier, more fulfilled, brings us meaning and peace.

 It is one of the reasons I put so much effort into the dharma. When you are poor, this world it is not pleasant at all, it is oppressive, unbearable, cruel, a trial of endurance, like a Hell. And it is hard to get out of poverty once you're in it, it feels like a trap. And it is harder to practise the spiritual life when one is stressed and in pain, always worrying about one's finances and making ends meet.

I take comfort and feel inspired knowing that many great meditation masters, especially from Thailand, such as Ajahn Chah, came from poor backgrounds, and they became great dharma teachers, and their influence is still being felt today, still helping people long after their deaths. They must have had a good store of karma from previous lives to be able to do that. So being wealthy doesn't necessarily mean one has good karma from a past life, or that good karma leads to one being wealthy in a future life.

Noble people are born to both rich and poor families. So take heart, that being poor doesn't necessarily mean one has bad karma from a previous life, or that it's a person's fault that they are in poverty. I think that way of thinking is erroneous nonsense. Many great spiritual people have come from poor backgrounds, as well as wealthy ones. To be born in this world means we all have a mix of good and bad karma, all humans are a mixed bag of light and shadow.

Wealthy people should not look down on those in poverty, thinking of them as lesser, blaming and shaming them; because having lots of money doesn't make you superior to those who have less. Virtue is the source of true wealth. It is what is in the heart that matters. The Buddhist path is open to everyone, rich or poor. Open to anyone who is willing to put in the effort to practise meditation, to study the dhamma. You can practise it in a mansion, a simple dwelling, or penniless living under a tree. The Buddha was homeless and dependent on the generosity of others. The dhamma is free to all, it doesn't cost anything, money is not necessary to be a Buddhist. That is truly liberating to know, especially in these times when there is so much inequality in the world. Because it means anyone willing to make effort with the noble eightfold path has the potential to become enlightened, whatever their circumstances.

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Karma coma

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Woke up feeling a bit feverish. Meditating in the woods is not without its dangers it seems, I've had a few tick bites, so hope it isn't that what's made me ill. 

Just wasn't feeling like meditating today, mind was hard to still, so I didn't sit this morning, but I got some studying done. I've almost jumped through all the hoops for an assignment due next week. 

Read how BT are planning to axe 55 000 jobs here in the UK over the next ten years in order to replace the staff with A.I. And Vodafone have announced they're going to axe a tenth of their staff and replace them with A.I. over the next three years.

This technology in all honesty, I don't think we need it. It is just another way for a few people to become more wealthy. Or is it? You have to wonder about the intelligence of these corporate CEOs. If they're all for profit, they aint gonna make much if we're all too poor to afford their products and services.

 I imagine it will mostly be customer support they lay off. And customers will phone in to get help with problems they are having, and the A.I. will only help in the way it has been programmed to, which I imagine will be blanket responses that aren't very helpful at all, designed to lead customers into dead ends, unable to resolve their queries. It will leave many people feeling powerless. I wonder if all this rush towards A.I. will blowback up the government and corporation's arses one day.

People may get angry, there could be unrest, riots. Society will come for those in charge, and it will all get ugly in the end. Ultimately you have to feel sorry for them. Their greed and stinginess will come back to bite them on the backside, either in this life or in a future one. There's no escape from the law of karma. The universe will have its pound of flesh to balance the scales. A wise corporate CEO should take heed of this and renounce their greed and delusion. Practise generosity, kindness, and selflessness instead as that will lead to better outcomes for them. Karma is no joke, it is very real.

I am reading a free book at the moment, which helps take my mind off being sick. It is the biography of a famous meditation master from Thailand in the Forest sangha, called Ajahn Mun. It is reassuring to hear the honest accounts of the times he struggled, and accounts of how other meditation masters also had their moments of doubt and weakness. They all made mistakes, and failed at times, did things they regretted. But instead of letting that defeat them, they got back up on their feet and kept going, learnt from their mistakes. Using them as fuel to practise harder, grow wiser and stronger. It reminds me that meditation is something that one practises for the whole of one's life, right up to death, even the Buddha in his last moments meditated.

It is inspiring hearing how these meditation masters lived in the forests of Thailand. They were hardcore meditators. Sadly, Thailand is very different now, the forest is much less than it was, being cut down as the country modernises, it seems no part of the world is safe from the greed of this right-wing capitalism that is causing so much harm to the life on this planet. I am not sure there will be much future for forest monks with the way things are going in the world, there might be city monks still. But I think the future of Buddhism may well be down to householders (lay followers) at this time, to keep the dharma alive for future generations. Perhaps one day when this relentless crazy destruction of the environment stops, and governments, corporations and shareholders start to see sense, perhaps the forest will grow back then, and one day the monks will return.

I experienced a fair bit of pain in the body today. It is unpleasant. But I keep remembering it is nothing personal. Most, (if not all) beings on this planet get sick. I have not gone beyond that. I remind myself of this periodically, and it can help me feel mentally okay with it. Makes me feel more determined to practise, remembering how cruel sickness, ageing, death, and separation is (SODS law). This is what keeps me motivated to practise, the suffering, because it really hammers home how much I really don't want to come back to this world, and have to go through all this again. This is were the law of karma gives me hope. One can use the power of karma to put in the right causes and conditions now, so that one day their actions will bear fruit and eventually bring about the permanent end of suffering.

l am worrying about a cat called Rango at the moment who has a bad eye. It has got really swollen and infected and he is not looking well. I worry it is going septic and needs medicine. But he is a large stray cat and wild, I don't think I will be able to catch him and take him to the vet. He sometimes hangs out in the woods where I meditate and often comes to our garden where I give him some food. A beautiful large ginger cat, with a peaceful temperament. Not sure what to do. It is hard watching him decline and feeling powerless to help him. I am worried the infection will kill him if it isn't treated. I have grown quite fond of him. Another reminder of how cruel and brutal nature can be. This world really is a slaughter house. The challenge for a meditator is how to feel well amidst all the sorrow and suffering of this world. It can feel like a koan. It is hard to feel empathy without also feeling the other's pain and suffering.

 Been working with a low mood today. Very unpleasant at the moment. It seems the kleshas  (The various negative mental states that cloud the mind and lead to unwholesome thoughts, words, and actions. They can all be narrowed down to the three roots of greed, hate, and delusion.) The kleshas tend to come out in force when one is sick or tired. It might sound crazy, but something I picked up both in my own practise and from reading about Ajahn Mun is that the kleshas do fight back, they don't want you to purify the mind, they don't want to be uprooted, they want to keep you trapped in Samsara, and they will even go to the extreme of killing you if they can get away with it, to stop you purifying the mind. It is a serious business this purifying the mind and taking on the kleshas, one should be aware of this. But one can protect oneself by practising mindfulness, right effort, samhadi and also the brahma viharas (loving kindness, compassion, empathetic joy, equanimity), and not taking anything personally, it is all bound up in the conceit 'I am.'

I keep sweeping the negative thoughts aside like useless rubbish, dismissing them, refusing to get into a discussion with them. If I notice I am absorbed in negative thinking, I give myself permission to not have to engage with them or debate with them anymore, no matter how dark, or how much I feel I need to tie up any loose ends to tidy them up. No matter how ashamed I feel for thinking those thoughts. I drop them, ignore them, centre my attention away from them. There's nothing to be solved by continuing to pay attention to them or have a dialogue with them. It doesn't lead to any resolution. One does not think at their best when the mood is low, the thoughts will be coloured by whatever mood one is in. So when depressed, it is best not to think then. I try to watch the sensations and feelings in the body as they are, with acceptance and equanimity, as they manifest in the present moment. The aches, the creaky pains in the joints, the feeling of weakness and dullness. I let it be there, accept it without following it, fighting it or wishing for it to go away. Just noticing it all without the story, without the mental proliferations about it. Without feeling attached to the body and the sense of 'I', seeing it as all empty of self. This can help.

Just letting things be as they are. It is all just sensations at the end of the day. Outside my control. I can't tell the sensations to stop, it doesn't work. They're nothing personal. They arise, persist for a bit, then cease. I can choose not to judge them though, not to follow them, or identify with them. 

 I can get into a bit of a flow doing that, just watching sensations as they arise and cease without adding any more to them, without liking or disliking them. Ignoring the thought processes. Just watching the contents of the mind flow by like a river, but not jumping into it and getting involved with it, not holding on to any of it, not clinging to it or taking it personally, without the story. And this can help decrease the suffering somewhat.

I also practise kindness towards the body. I don't despise or mistreat it, that is wrong. It is the home of many different beings and consciousnesses, this organic walking bag of interdependence. It should still be taken care of and loved, but without clinging to it or identifying with it. It is not me, it is just a vehicle for consciousness, a vehicle that has the potential to set one free, so one should look after it as best they can, make good use of this opportunity I have now, as nibanna is reached through the body. It is the vehicle of a bodhissatva (seeker of enlightenment). We borrow the body for a time from mother nature, but one day we have to return it. It isn't ours to keep.

Death is quite normal, nothing to fear really, except the fear itself. All one needs to remember is, when one is dieing, one wants to be in a good state of mind. Peace, love, kindness, compassion, gladness, joy, serenity, mindfulness, meditation, samhadi, and equanimity, these are all good states of mind to be in when dieing. There are other beautiful emotional states too. The rule of thumb is, if you have a good state of mind in your final moments, you have a good chance of either realising nibanna at death (if you are a Buddhist) or at least getting a more fortunate rebirth in the next life.

Easier said than done though. That's why one practises now, begins training the mind while one can. If one puts it off for too long, and waits till one is old and infirm, one will struggle then, it will feel impossible to steady the mind. The body gets tired as it gets older, wears out, and one's energy to practise will diminish somewhat. If one hasn't trained the mind, a lifetime of unhelpful conditioning will thwart one, and the negative thoughts will be hard to resist in one's final moments. All the meditation we do now, is like a rehearsal, and death is the moment when we have to perform for real. But it will be difficult to perform well if one has not practised and rehearsed beforehand. The monkey mind will be all over the place and the Kleshas will make sure you remain in the realms of Mara. That is why it is a good idea to practise the spiritual life now, because it gets harder to do it when you're older.

We are apparently living in an auspicious aeon just now, one where there will be five Buddhas. This is rare according to the ancient texts. As there can be aeons where there are no Buddhas at all or there may be just one or two. To have an aeon with five Buddhas is quite unusual. Gotama Buddha (our current Buddha) was the fourth. And we are lucky to be around at a time when his teachings are still available. Because they will disappear in time and the true dharma will become lost eventually. The world of humans is prophesised to decline considerably in the period of time between Gotama and the next Buddha and then rise again to happier times. The next Buddha is said to arrive at the tail-end of that golden era, just as things are beginning to decline in the world once again, and it is said the next Buddha will live to reach the ripe old age of 84, 000 years old. Anyway, it is safe to bet it will be a very long wait till the next Buddha arises in the world. Could possibly be millions of years in the future.

So the way I look at it is, use this rare opportunity now to get as far along as you can in the dharma, while the current Buddha's teachings are still available and accessible in the world. All you need these days is an Internet connection and some critical thinking to help you navigate through the thicket of views online. I recommend learning the early Buddhist teachings first, the suttas of the Pali canon is a good start, a good foundation. Then after that explore the later developments in Buddhism if you wish to; but use the early teachings as a reference and guide, a touchstone to check you are not being led astray by the myriad views out there. It really is a jungle of views out there, and the early Buddhist teachings are in danger of becoming lost to future generations if we are not careful. They are gradually becoming more and more watered down and changed to suit a worldly material agenda. I keep coming across memes with a picture of the Buddha on, attributing a quote to the Buddha which he didn't say at all. So one has to be careful of misinformation and disinformation, even in Buddhism. 
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Asoka

Transient

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This world doesn't last
Youth and beauty
Fade so fast
Like fireworks
that go off in the night.
Beautiful for a moment
But soon out of sight.
Forgotten
Even our memories change
Disappear.
In the long descend.

Is it all worth it, in the end?

...

 


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Nothing personal

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Pummelled by negative thoughts.
Sickness often makes them worse.
Creaky joints and muscle aches.
A clumsy fatigue,
And the humidity bakes.
But it's nothing personal.

This body
Where did it come from?
It just grew by itself.
From a sperm and an egg.

I didn't make it.

Am I the body?
This bag of flesh.
Fated to age and one day die.
And when it becomes a corpse,
Is there still an 'I'?
What is it that animates it so?
When the body dies where do 'I' go?

I watch the myriad sense impressions.
Detached
Choosing not to
like or dislike,
but still feeling love.
Metta for the body (-:
May it be well.

These changing sensations.
Not who I am.
Nothing personal.

I brush the delusional thinking aside
The inner critic.
Just rubbish
Nonsense
I know that now.
I don't have to pay attention to it anymore.
Not self, not me, not I.
Just conditioned loops from the past.
Sankharas
They don't last,
They arise, persist for a time, and cease.

I don't have to listen to these negative thoughts.
They're not me
Not self.
So I just let them be,
While I centre with root energy.
The sensations in my feet
As I walk down the street.
Each step a beautiful connection with Mother Earth.
The ancient witness of every birth.

Where does perception come from?
Our memory and
Recollection.
Recognition and
Association.
An interpretation
Of the past.

The mind gives it all meaning
And falls for its own interpretations.
Believes them to be true.
Becoming our opinions.
And the stories we weave in our heads.

We conceptualise our perceptions
Elaborate on them
Identify with them
Make assumptions about them
Assign significance to them.
But their nothing personal.

And consciousness where does it come from?
Is it a product of the brain?
It contains everything.
Yet I don't know how it works
It keeps changing.
Sometimes it isn't even there
When I'm asleep and not aware.
Does it still exist when there's no sensations?
No perceptions?
No thoughts?
No memory?

Who is this 'I' anyway?
This person I cannot find.
Is it just a construct of the mind?

All of this
Where is it happening?
The world.
Life.
The universe.
The mind.
What is it?

Nothing personal.

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Studying, fatigue and livelihood

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Fatigue is challenging today. I think I may be recovering from COVID. A neighbour last week told me they had it. And I was sick on Thursday last week and through the weekend. the symptoms were mild this time, just a general malaise, but the fatigue really knocked the wind out of my sails.

I am behind with my studying again. It is hard going. I read a paragraph, reflect on it and realise I have not absorbed the information at all. So I read it again, and still can't get my head round it. I see the words on the screen, but can't seem to extract their meaning. It is frustrating. 

It is tiring reading from a screen. I could print out the course materials, but printer ink isn't cheap and the cartridges don't seem to last long, and there's a lot of course materials to print out. Just too expensive to do that.

I get on much better with the practical activities. I like those best. It's the reading from a screen and note-taking that's really tiring. It is hard to motivate myself to do it at times.

 I don't enjoy studying anymore, it feels like I am doing a degree in suffering.

Cyber security is not an easy subject to learn, it is complicated, and not the most intuitive thing in the world. There's no wonder there's a skill shortage. Still, if I can finish this degree which is getting harder, (like wading through sludge). I should be able to secure a livelihood in the future I think.

 I have decided to remain in the household life a bit longer. People need me around still, and going off into homelessness would not be responsible or kind to those around me at this time. 

I will try to limit the hours I work though. I honestly cannot work long hours, I get so fatigued sometimes. Nor do I want all my life energy to be spent working at a livelihood. I want to practise meditation too, and it is hard to practise if one is tired after working, with a stressed mind full of worldly stuff and the delusion of self. 

 When I am sick or dieing it isn't cyber security or my knowledge of A.I. and machine learning I will be reaching out for. My career path will feel meaningless then. It will be my knowledge and experience of dhamma, my spiritual development, my friendships, my skill in meditation that will matter then.

Livelihood is just something to pay the bills, feed and clothe the body. But I don't want it to become my life.

Need to find a middle way. 


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Asoka

Love's vessel

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The heavy baggage of the ego.

Full of compulsive,
wants,
demands,
and criticisms.

These restless involuntary movements of the mind.
That lead to confusion,
delusion,
and a whole mountain of suffering in the end,
all for just a teacup of pleasure,
made of fragile bone-china.

When one sees 
That everything we cling to
Is empty of self.
One lets go and
That psychic energy is freed up
Available,
Unbounded,
Limitless,
Empty of conceit. 
Serene and
Boundless.

The compulsions cease,
and there is peace... ah..

Then the self returns.
And one gets deluded once more.
Caught up in the things of the world.
Swept this way and that by the changing winds.
Pain and pleasure,
Gain and loss,
Success and failure,
Fame and disrepute.
These are the eight wordly winds.

Then one sees again that it is stress,
Understands this is suffering,
Remembers. 
The emptiness of self.
Lets go of the trash
Sweeps it aside
All that silly nonsense.
Returns to calm
Composure
Centred
Lucid 
One wakes up from the self-centred dream.

And there is cessation, relief, a moment of bliss.
No longer driven, one rests in peace.

Till thwarted again
by one's past conditioning.
The ego pops back up
like a jack-in-a-box.

Rinse and repeat.

This is the work of purifying the mind
of greed,
hate
and delusion.

It can take lifetimes for some.

But as mindfulness develops,
And one's ability to calm and centre the mind gets stronger.
The untangling gets easier.

And through it all one must not strain,
just the right amount of effort is needed.
Just what you can
The best you got,
At your pace.
That's enough
That will get the work done,
not too tight,
not too loose,
gradually,
patiently,
gently.
One steers one's course through the middle way,
avoiding the extremes.
Centred, composed.
Let love be your compass.

When one realises that nothing is personal.
One's sense of humour returns.
One stops taking it all so seriously.
One feels at peace.
And from that freedom,
joy naturally rises,
Independent of the world.

And love rises too.

Unbound
A greater love.
A love without conditions attached to it.
An unselfish love.
A love without a trace of the conceit 'I am'.

The happiest, most beautiful love of all. 

A vessel emptied of self
can manifest that.

...

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Asoka

Emptiness

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 15 May 2023, 11:54


There is no 'I',
No 'us',
No 'them'.
Whatever I see, hear, smell, taste, touch, think about.
It is not me, not mine.
Just stories I weave in the mind.
Delusion.
Empty of self. 
Insubstantial.
Everything is just emptiness.
Beautiful emptiness.
That's all it is. 

Nothing to fear really.
Except not understanding what is meant by emptiness.
It is our ignorance of this that makes us suffer.

- Asoka




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Asoka

Renunciation

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 7 May 2023, 15:13

The world, our attachments, our needs and desires, our pain and resentments come from the self. To get caught up in the things of the world is to get caught up in the delusion of self. All our problems come from this. It is the origin of suffering.

Pain and pleasure, success and failure, gain and loss, praise and blame. These are the eight worldly winds that can never bring happiness, because they change, sometimes quite suddenly. They bring doubt, uncertainty, confusion and instability. They are treacherous, and hard to navigate. They will betray you. The winds will blow in one direction only to suddenly change and blow in the other direction. One cannot find stability, certainty or any lasting peace and happiness if one relies on the worldly winds.

At their source is the conceit I am.

The ignorance, I am this. I am that. I want this. I don't want that. I want to become this. I do not want to become that. I want this to exist. But I do not want that to exist. I want things to be this way, but not that way.

This 'I' is the problem.

It is oneself that is the root of suffering. The craving, the greed, hate, and delusion spring from the self. They take root and grow in it.

What is true renunciation?

It is not so much renunciation of the outer world, although this can make the work of freeing the mind much easier. To be homeless, or a monastic, to live simply, this frees one from the burdens of the household life so one can focus wholeheartedly on the work of liberating the mind.

But true renunciation comes from the heart. It is the inner world bound up in the delusion of self that must be renounced, this is what leads to the end of suffering. Renunciation of the self.

When the self is fully seen through, then so is the world. All the problems in the world have at their root the conceit I am. When the truth of self is fully revealed, fully understood. All things become known then, nothing is hidden. One stops clinging, identifying, judging. Doesn't take things personally. Resentments and longing subside. The truth sets one free. The fetters fall away. The story of self ceases. The involuntary movements of the mind stop. And what is left is peace.

The worldly winds may blow then, but one is unshaken, unperturbed by them. Like the story of the three pigs and the wolf. As much as Mara may huff and puff and try to blow your house down, it does not fall. Unwholesome desires should they arise, will instantly cease. For there is nowhere left in the mind for them to take root. The soil of the ego is not there any more.

One becomes a tathagatha then 'thus gone' no longer to be found anywhere, in any of the worlds.

Gone beyond it all, freed, unbound, no longer a subject of Mara. And wherever Mara looks he will not be able to locate the consciousness of one who has seen through the conceit I am.

...
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Asoka

Vesak day

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I am planning on meditating all night tonight, by myself under a beautiful old tree in some ancient woodland. In honour of the Buddha, and to celebrate Vesak day which happens to be on my birthday this year because of the full moon. So it feels like an auspicious night. Fifth day of the week, on the fifth day of the month, on the fifth month of the year.

 A wee bit afraid because the woods can feel a bit spooky in the dark when you are by yourself, also I haven't spent all night in meditation before. I will practise metta (loving-kindness meditation) to start to help bring good energy to the area around me. It is a lovely quiet spot with a good vibe, no sound of cars, no people, lots of pleasant breezes, no biting insects, or dangerous animals. I feel very fortunate to live near such a tranquil place.

It feels like a golden opportunity, and is just one evening of my life. Losing out on some sleep is worth it I think. Many Buddhists in different parts of the world will be celebrating tonight, remembering when the Buddha himself sat under a tree in May on a full moon and got enlightened over 2500 years ago. So I imagine there will be good energy from that. I will sit in honour of his memory, and make a real effort to practise samhadi this evening. And dedicate the practise to all beings everywhere, with the wish for all of us to be free from suffering, free from sorrow, to know peace of mind, serenity and wellbeing wherever we are.

I also feel inspired by stories I've read of others in the past who spent all night meditating under a tree and gained liberation from suffering. I will think of them all to help keep me going. And I will think of my friends, and imagine their energy like a protective loving circle around me, keeping me safe.

I have no expectations, and I'm not attached to any outcomes. But I will have a go, give it my best shot, without straining the mind. 

Whatever happens tonight, I think it will be a good learning experience for me. 

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

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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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