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Allow yourself to be misunderstood

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 1 May 2023, 16:44


Humans are social creatures and I think that is why we worry so much about how we appear in front of others. We try to maintain an image that pleases those around us. But it is a maze that one can never get out of. It does not lead to the end of suffering, just leads to more suffering, to stress and anxiety. Nobody has control over the opinions of others. If you worry too much about those you will never get free.
 
People will always judge and compare, it's human nature, and worrying too much about one's image, about pleasing others, will make one an unhappy prisoner of the worldly winds: praise and blame, gain and loss, success and failure, pain and pleasure. These winds are outside of our control. They blow one direction, only to then suddenly change and blow in the other direction. You will never find a secure happiness if it depends on the worldly winds.
 
I have made it part of my sāsana (spiritual practise) to deliberately fail at times. And then I watch what the mind does when I fail. Watch the ego machinery whirring away. The inner critic. See how it works, what it does. What makes it tick. The conditioning. Use failure as a way to learn how to be okay when things go wrong, to not be attached to outcomes. Find that centred feeling within that doesn't depend on anything outside myself. A place where I can shrug my shoulders and let things be. Develop equanimity.
 
I will allow myself to be misunderstood by others, without feeling the need to correct them if they get me wrong. And not take anything personally. After all, there isn't a person there to take things personally, and there never was (-:
 
If others get me wrong, I know the truth, and that's what counts. My spirit friends also know the truth, and so does Mother Earth. She is my witness. She has seen the things I do, the beings I have helped during my life here. She knows what is in my heart. If I remember this, another's misunderstanding about me is no big deal really. My virtue remains intact.
 
Obviously, I will behave appropriately and do no wrong, live a moral life, show kindness and generosity where I can. But I can't please everyone, and it is tiring trying to. I don't need validation from others to feel inner peace. That is a gift I give to myself, and no one else can give it to me.
 
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Asoka

Kingdom of heaven

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 30 Apr 2023, 22:22


I will live filling this whole field of experience with feelings of love, empathy, and goodwill.
Above, below, all around, without limit – I will suffuse this entire field of awareness with beauty.
May it uplift myself and all beings everywhere, in all directions and dimensions, across all of time and space.
I will abide in this dwelling, make it my home:
A kindness that is abundant, exalted, immeasurable.
A blessing that is without hostility or greed.

I will abide filling this entire field of awareness with equanimity.
Above, below, all around – pervading it with a bigger view.
Hold it without clinging, without suffering or preference.
With clarity, wisdom, balance and composure.
May it bring calm to myself and all beings everywhere.
I will abide in this dwelling, I will make it my home:
An equanimity that is abundant, exalted, immeasurable.
A blessing without resistance to what is outside my control.


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Asoka

Meditation and enlightenment

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 28 Apr 2023, 17:20

There's a breath meditation I have been practising lately which I enjoy. It seems to have some health benefits as well, and is effective at flushing out the five hindrances (worldly-desire, ill-will, stagnation, restlessness, and doubt). When those unpleasant states of mind are no longer present, it brings a feeling of relief, and the body feels lighter, freer, and clearer. Joy naturally arises from an unhindered mind and this leads to samhadi. 

I practise this either sitting or standing in a comfortable upright position.

And, to quote the suttas, I: 'Put aside longing and dejection in regard to the world.' I give myself permission to put down that heavy suitcase for a moment. Disengage from the story of self with its longing and angst.

I become mindful of the feeling of the feet on the ground, the Earth below, feel the connection to the Earth, feel it as boundless in all directions. Centre with the perception of Earth. It's stability, strength and solidity. I feel it ground me, and absorb the uncomfortable excess energies of the mind, balancing them out. Earthing myself. I imagine roots going out of my feet into the ground below.

On the in-breath I draw energy up through my feet, legs, the torso, up the length of my spine. The energy illuminating the sensations of the body as it makes its way upwards. When it reaches the top of the head. I feel the connection to boundless sky above, and the air element all around. Then on the out-breath I release that energy and let it fall like rain, like a sprinkler or a fountain down across and through the entire body, all the way back to the feet and down into the Earth again. Lighting up the sensations of the body as it does.

On the next in-breath I rinse and repeat the instructions in the paragraph above.

I do this for as long as feels good. Then when it feels natural to do so, I stop moving the energy up and down the body and feel all the sensations in the body together at once. Feel them get more vivid and stronger with each breath.

The body at this point feels very comfortable and at ease, pleasant, and easy to centre with. The breath starts to slow, and can get very shallow, until it seems like the breath stops altogether and then there is a profound stillness that is hard to put into words, where the sense of self disappears. It is like being in a deep refuge within, a safe inner cave, where the energies of life continue around one, but one is unconcerned by them, there's a feeling of deep contentment and peace and a feeling of not wanting to be anywhere else. The mind feels unified, together, whole, but awareness is still present, one is lucid, it is not a hypnotic trance.

It wears off after a time, and then to get back there one repeats the steps above to build the momentum up again. I find I don't need to spend as long building up the momentum the second time round, and can get back easier to the stillness on subsequent goes. Each time the experience of the inner body becomes deeper and more and more exquisite.

If you get it right, you will come out of it and feel on top of the world, and you'll have a great day. Everything will feel like it's in sync. There is an after glow that can last a while, depending on how long you have spent meditating.

The after glow does wear off as the day goes on, and the hindrances return. One notices when they do, as it feels unpleasant. The hard part then is convincing yourself to meditate again.

One can keep the afterglow going for longer by practising mindfulness in everyday activity. Known as sati-sampajanna, mindfulness and clear comprehension (knowing). Where one is aware of what one is doing, the body, what sensations are present, how one feels, anchored in the inner experience of the body. But also aware of what is happening around one in the present moment with one's peripheral awareness.

We have two brain hemispheres. One hemisphere likes to focus on something in detail, and the other hemisphere is more holistic and provides context to the detail, it looks at the bigger picture, and what is happening in the background. It probably evolved this way, so that one didn't get eaten by a predator whilst focused on a task such as gathering food. One side of the brain is focused on the food, and the other side of the brain is watching for danger. Like a deer eating grass.

One can find a refuge in this mindfulness during the day, and even go into a light state of absorption and flow with it. It can be helpful to notice and play around with these two different kinds of awareness. Tweaking them so that they have a good balance that feels pleasant to work with.

There can sometimes be resistance in the mind to meditate. Some part of the mind may even try to convince you that you don't deserve to feel serenity or joy. It will insist on going over your faults and past mistakes, make you feel worthless and ashamed. Don't let that bossy part of the mind bully you. You don't have to keep listening to that voice. You are allowed to ignore the inner critic. After all it is you!

The less attention you pay to that voice the weaker it gets.

There is something called a healthy sense of shame though, that one can use as a tool to help dismiss negative thoughts if they arise, and not hold onto them. Such as imagining what a person you respect and admire might think if they saw you in an unwholesome state of mind. That can help generate the desire to abandon it and generate something more wholesome instead. No need to judge and punish yourself for having those thoughts though, that's overly excessive. Once the healthy sense of shame has done its work, stop, put the tool down and focus on the good stuff.

If you get caught up in that quagmire of negativity. And if it is strongly present in the mind, and hard to ignore. Try to bring yourself out of it gradually in stages. But don't spend too long doing it, don't engage in lengthy debates with the hindrances. Don't spend any longer dealing with them than you need to. It is like putting out the trash, you don't want to hold onto the trash for any longer than necessary, just get it done with so you can get back to the good stuff, back to the peace and serenity, to the love.

Love and serenity makes everyone feel better, it heals the world. It is actually the best thing you can do to help yourself and others. It is easier to deal with the world in a serene state of consciousness, as things won't seem so overwhelming. It is hard to deal with anything when in a negative state of mind. So it is a good thing to take some time out and retreat from the world to meditate, it isn't selfish.

In fact I am starting to think that meditation is the key to going beyond the first stage of enlightenment. Apparently people can get stuck at the first stage of enlightenment for a long time, as long as seven more lifetimes.

I think this is because the next fetters to go are greed and aversion. And these are hard to let go of. The second stage of enlightenment is all about weakening those. Greed in particular is very hard to overcome, but it is a lesser stain on the personality than aversion is.

Greed here refers not just to the extreme of billionaires, but also its milder forms, such as eating more than one intended to, craving for entertainment, sex, intoxicants, fame, fortune, luxuries and so on. The attachment to worldy-pleasures is hard to let go of, and doesn't go completely till one reaches the third stage of enlightenment. The mind won't want to let go of wordly pleasure unless it has something better to take its place. When the mind finds something better then it naturally lets go. And when greed goes, so does aversion. Greed and aversion are interlinked, they both feed into one another. They are like two dogs, one barks and it sets the other one off. There is always going to be aversion present when there is longing. Such as impatience and irritability when there are delays in getting what one wants. 

I think what weakens greed and aversion is the practise of meditation, and the development of samhadi. When meditation becomes pleasurable, enjoyable and a richer experience than anything the world can offer. The two fetters of greed and aversion will get weaker, and keep getting weaker until eventually they fall away altogether. I think the second stage of enlightenment is all about mastering samhadi.

Once one reaches the third stage of enlightenment there is no going back to greed or aversion ever again, those two fetters are gone for good and they will never arise again. At the third stage one then works to lose attachment to the bliss of samhadi, which paradoxically is needed to reach this stage. So one should not be afraid of becoming attached to the pleasure of deep meditation in earlier stages, thinking they should avoid that fetter. It is a golden chain, but a necessary one, as one cannot completely overcome greed and aversion without it. The Buddha said it was a pleasure not to be feared.

If one dies whilst at this stage, in the next life they will be reborn in the higher heavens and gain full enlightenment there, and are never again born into this world. They live extremely long lives and many of them become protectors of Buddhism, like celestial Buddhas. They are very powerful beings, and are able to visit any of the lower worlds at will and can take on many different forms. Many are compassionate beings and help those in the lower worlds who are on the path to enlightenment, including the Buddha himself on his journey. It was a deva that had reached the third stage of enlightenment under a previous Buddha who appeared before Gotama Buddha after his enlightenment to encourage him to teach the dhamma out of compassion for the world.

I think these devas/spirits work in very subtle ways though, one may not even realise they are being helped by them. They don't directly interfere, and cannot make anyone become enlightened; but they can leave subtle hints, and gently guide one's intuition, set up helpful encounters, to steer us in the right direction. And if one looks back on one's life, there are moments that are hard to explain, and one wonders if a deva perhaps helped in some way. Who knows, I like to think so.

To reach the fourth and final stage of enlightenment, the attachment to blissful states of meditation is let go of, when one sees that these states are also subject to change, do not last, and are not self, the last remnants of the conceit I am disappears. The idea of a separate self is seen through completely, and when that happens the restless involuntary movements of the mind stop altogether and they never arise again, and there is perfect peace.

The very last fetter to go is ignorance, (or delusion). When one fully realises delusion, one becomes the one who knows, no part of the mind is hidden then. One is lucid and serene, completely free from suffering, dwelling in a state of lasting emotional well-being. They still partake in the pleasure of meditation though, as often as they wish to, whenever they wish to, as it is one of the fruits of the path, one of the seven factors of enlightenment, and available to them any time they want, the Buddha continued to practise meditation and samhadi throughout his life.

A fully enlightened being also naturally shines with love and compassion for all beings. And although not everyone is able to teach, those that can teach, and have capacity for it, in the spirit of the Buddha, do teach others and it is not a chore for them to do so, it is a joy. An unharrassed mind naturally feels empathy and compassion for other beings. It is a sorrowless empathy, one that shows love to those that are suffering, but does not suffer with them. The peace of a fully enlightened being is undisturbed by anything that happens in the world. They do not cling to anything in the world. This doesn't mean they won't do things to help the world out of compassion for others, just they are not attached to outcomes, and do not suffer when things don't go to plan.

Knowing about the four stages of enlightenment can be a helpful guide to where one is at, and what work needs to be done to develop further on the path. One can look at the mind and see which fetters are still present, and what one needs to do to progress.



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Asoka

April gold

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I walk above the town
In fields that could be a deva world.
Golden yellow everywhere
The scent of gorse flowers
Reminds me of coconut.
Crows croak
Birds sing
And not a car to be heard.
The sound of traffic gone.
I am completely alone,
No person in sight,
It's so quiet,
I can hear
The wind blow through the grass.



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Asoka

Travelling through the darkness

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 21 Apr 2023, 17:35

The darkness has lifted a bit today. I've been through quite a few 'dark nights' lately, they are not at all pleasant, but I seem to be getting a bit better at managing them now. The 'dark night of the soul' is apparently a common occurrence with spiritual practice, especially in the modern age.

The advice given to me by a good teacher (which works for me). Is to avoid thinking during the dark night. Don't pay attention to thoughts, disengage from them. Get away from words and language. The dark night is not something you can think your way out of. It is a time to practise stillness and samhadi. This stillness can be a refuge for the mind during dark times, and also if one enters samhadi it acts as protection against Mara.

I like the simile of the dark night being a bit like withdrawing into the inner cave. Going back into the womb, or entering a cocoon. One is going through a process of metamorphosis, of becoming, rebirth, and transformation.

The mind is changing at a deep level, and it can feel uncomfortable and unsettling. It is a process that for some of us needs to be endured. The deeper mind is rewiring itself with important new information it has learned, and the process can't be hurried. The length of time this can take is different for each of us. So one has to be patient.

At this stage in the spiritual journey the mind doesn't need to think or reflect on anything. It's best to keep thoughts herded in and centred with a meditation object. The breath is a good choice as it doesn't need words to pay attention to it. Experience the sense of the body from within. Whatever that subjective experience is for you. For me it feels like an inner ocean contained within a bag of skin, bones a coral reef, the breath like waves. The sea growing calmer as the mind gets stiller. Till the breath seems to stop altogether.

Any thoughts not to do with the meditation object should be brushed aside like useless rubbish, don't get involved with them, no matter how persuasive they seem to be. Stay centred with the body and the breath.

This is a process of purification. Not an intellectual matter.

I like the Buddha's simile of a broken gong that doesn't ring when struck. Sense impressions, thoughts and feelings hit the sense bases, but they don't reverberate in the mind. Everything stops at the point of sense contact before it becomes a story.

It may take multiple sittings to get some serenity and composure back. Don't be discouraged by this. After each sitting notice if the mind at least feels a bit better than it did before, if it does then feel encouraged that you are on the right track and are making progress. Keep the momentum going. It will grow stronger.

Eventually, when it is finished, the mind will emerge from the cocoon and will feel freer than it did before, and the skills one has been developing will seem sharper. Things that confused one will make more sense. And one becomes more aware of the inner workings of the mind; as some of what was previously hidden will now be illuminated. 

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Asoka

The second arrow

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 17 Apr 2023, 18:18

Working with fatigue and a sore back at the moment. It isn't my preference, but I am going to see what I can learn from this. Life as it is, my teacher, my sāsana (spiritual practise). The good and the bad. 

Meditation was challenging today. It was not easy sitting with a bad back. And going for a walk was unpleasant, almost every step was painful. I have a disc in my lower back which is pressing on a root nerve, and sometimes when I take a step it feels like when you bash your elbow on the funny bone, only in the lower back and it goes up the spine, and definitely not funny.

How do I make that which is unwelcome, welcome?

I observed how the pain and fatigue kept pulling my attention away from being centred, away from the mindfulness of loving-kindness and the breath. So I decided to explore why this is. Noticing how it was affecting my mood, my thoughts, how it made me feel restless and stressed. This is suffering.

I investigated and saw how the three aspects of craving where present. The desire for the pain and fatigue to cease, to change, to not be there, to not exist. The desire for pleasant feelings, for happy feelings, for some intoxicants to ease the pain. And there was also the desire to be a good spiritual practitioner. To handle this pain and fatigue like an enlightened being would. To become a Buddha. 

So I was watching all this, how it proliferates into stories, and how one keeps adding more to it. How the mind creates imaginary scenarios about it, how it worries, how memory can also come into play... and before I knew it I had created these complex delusions just from the discomfort I was feeling. These stories were not helpful, and they were distorting reality and making things worse. I was adding mental suffering on top of the physical. And it's tiring, all this wishing, this worrying, this disliking, this longing, this identifying, this clinging - it is tiring.

So I observed what happens if I switch all that off. If I stop talking to myself about the pain and fatigue. If I stop thinking about it. If I ignore the perception this is painful, I am tired. It all became sensations then arising and passing away in the here and now, just feelings, movements of changing energy, rising, flowing, fading. Nothing personal.

I am not the sights that enter these eyes. I am not the sounds that hit these eardrums. I am not the smells, the tastes, the tactile sensations. Nor am I the thoughts and ideas that enter this mind from the world.

What happens if I stop holding onto the six senses, if I stop identifying with them, stop trying to change them? If I just rest in awareness and knowing, without the story. Allow things to arise and cease but without any of it taking root in the mind? Who am I then?

This line of inquiry and investigation did bring some relief. The physical pain is still there, the fatigue is still there, but mentally one can be okay with it.

Is this what the Buddha means in his metaphor of the second arrow?

...




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Asoka

Unworldly feelings

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 14 Apr 2023, 16:59

Feel much better today, although fatigue is still prominent and if I overdo things it is like being hit by a wall of tiredness and I have to lie down. But my health is definitely much better now.

Kundalini feels like an energy that has a mind of its own, she speaks to me in tingles along my spine, or other areas of the body. The scalp and neck can be quite active at times, it is a very tactile experience for me. She feels intimately connected, but very kind. Sometimes she makes me laugh. If I start getting a bit conceited and arrogant, or if I become the opposite and become overly down on myself, she makes my scalp tingle in a mildly burning unpleasant way, enough to make me stop and become aware of what my state of mind is, and then I will stop holding onto it and try to generate something more wholesome in its place. When I think nice thoughts about myself and others, such as friendship and loving-kindness, wanting the best for all beings, she makes my scalp tingle in a very pleasant way, like a hint I'm going in the right direction.

Reader be aware this is my subjective experience. I promise I am not going through a psychosis.

But aye, people should be careful when it comes to meditation. If it is not done in the context of the spiritual path, such as the Buddhist noble eightfold path, it can blow up in your face and send you into a psychosis. Sooner or later Mara, the shadow self, the dark side, whatever you want to call it, will arise, and you will have to face it. And many spiritual traditions will have practises and supports in place that help to deal with this. 

As a rule of thumb, the practice of loving-kindness (metta) can protect one from the darkness. If you come from a place of unconditional love for all beings. It is an effective way to navigate the spiritual path.

Not always easy to feel like that though, it takes many hours of repetitive practice to develop a mind of loving-kindness; but if you can do it, it will keep you safe and also be of benefit to those around you. Just the silent presence of a being filled with loving-kindness or serenity can help raise the vibrations in the world around one. It is also possible to go into deep states of samhadi through the practise of loving-kindness, and the cultivation of metta (loving-kindness) can take you right to the doorstep of nibanna. All you need then is the key that unlocks that door, the realisation of the wisdom contained in the four noble truths.

Many of the ancient meditation techniques are designed to get you enlightened, they have been carefully tweaked and adapted through thousands of years of experience and practise from one generation to the next, and designed deliberately to be effective tools for spiritual awakening, they are not designed for material purposes. They lead you in the opposite direction of worldly things. And if one is practising them for material gain or to do better in the world, then problems will arise, as they were never created for that purpose.

Getting a solid grounding in the noble eightfold path under the mentorship of an experienced teaching monk and having a community of friends who I regularly sit with online has helped me stay sane. All the members of my sangha are online.

Unfortunately, I don't have spiritual friends here where I live in the physical world around me, so I am quite alone in that sense. But I do sit regularly with spiritual friends from all around the world on Zoom, both in discussion groups and meditation sessions.

It is good to be part of a spiritual community, online or offline, because inevitably unwelcome problems can arise in the human psyche during the spiritual journey, and it can lead to odd behaviour if one isn't mindful. Good spiritual friends can help point these things out, and help you stay centred and not lose your bearings. They can also be supportive when you are going through a dark night or a trying time in the purification process, and make these challenges feel easier and less lonely. 

Like someone wise once said about the spiritual life: 'We are all friends walking each other home.'



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Asoka

The yellow kasina and the body

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 13 Apr 2023, 22:22
Feeling a tad unwell again, but keep reminding myself it is just the body. I am learning that it is true that although there is suffering in the body, the mind doesn't have to suffer with it.

The body can also feel comfortable even though there's aches and pains. Meditation can be practised while lying down. Samhadi connects one with the inner body, the mind-made body, and one can rest in the comfort and ease of the inner body, even when the physical body is in pain. 

Anyway I do the best I can to take of this body, and show kindness to it. Without clinging to it. I cannot stop it from ageing, getting sick, and dying. this is the karma of having a body, there's no escape from that.

I don't mean to sound negative and gloomy when I say that. Knowing this is actually quite freeing, and oddly one can get into a state of profound joy and serenity contemplating the impermanence of the body and death. I think it is because it helps me stop clinging to something I have no control over. Which brings relief when one lets go of stressing about it and accepts it for what it is. Youth fades, beauty fades, health fades, strength fades, intelligence fades, none of it lasts, the body changes whether we like it or not, and we cannot keep it the same way all the time. It is vulnerable in an uncertain world, and death can come at any moment for any one of us.

The body doesn't belong to me. It comes from the Earth. It is borrowed for a time, but will one day have to be returned. The body is something other, a world within a world, a composite of many different beings working together in symbiosis. I do have some choice in directing what to do with that energy, but the processes are mostly outside my control. The body is earth, water, fire, air, space, consciousness, and interdependence. These are the seven elements that make up a biological being.

Have been meditating a lot on the yellow kasina lately. Another meditation technique I am finding helpful just now. This is a yellow disc about the size of a dinner plate in the middle of a black square. I set it somewhere in front of me that is easy to look at, and stare at the yellow disc saying silently in the mind: 'yellow', 'yellow', 'yellow'.... and maintain focus on the colour yellow, not too tight a focus, but not so loose as to become blurry.

I notice how the colour yellow makes me feel.Then when the yellow feels bright and strong in my awareness and I can stay centred easily with it, and the body feels comfortable, at ease. I close my eyes and wait for the initial retina burn to fade away, then silently say the word 'yellow', 'yellow', repeatedly in my mind. On the first day nothing happened, but today, the second day of practising this, a beautiful yellow field appeared behind closed eyelids. An internal mind-generated colour that filled all of my awareness, including the body. The body felt like it was full of golden light. It was a delightful experience, like being sat in a field of yellow. It faded and I opened my eyes and focused on the yellow disc again, then closed my eyes and said 'yellow' silently in the mind, and it appeared as if by magic. I didn't try to make it happen, I just suggested it mentally, and the deeper mind did the rest. It is an interesting meditation, and I am enjoying it.

There's also a nice side-effect that happens sometimes, as I look at the yellow disc the room around it starts to become gold coloured, as if illuminated by a heavenly light, and it feels like the whole world is filled with the colour, it feels very peaceful.

...
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Asoka

The inner cave

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 13 Apr 2023, 10:49


I am a bit fatigued at the moment, and recovering from an illness I had earlier in the week, which is getting better now. The dark night has returned somewhat. But this time it is less painful than before. Mainly because I am understanding the process a bit better now and am more aware of what is going on with the mind, less ignorant. Normally I would be depressed during this difficult mind state, but this time despite a heavy fatigue there is a distinct absence of sadness and sorrow. When it arises, the mind is quick to dismiss it and it doesn't take root. The inner critic pops up occasionally, but the mind is quick to dismiss that too. I think I am understanding now at a deep level that negativity doesn't help the situation, and I seem to be shooting myself less with the second arrow. I.e. not adding mental suffering on top of the physical suffering.


This is almost certainly because I am getting better at becoming still and centred, which I can do now even when I am experiencing bodily and mental fatigue. Without the thinking and stories we tell ourselves about our experience, the suffering decreases. One can also play around with perceptions by changing the way one talks to oneself about things. But mostly practising samhadi has the effect of calming down excess thought energies, allowing me to go below the surface level of consciousness and go deep within, take refuge in the core of my being. My inner cave. 

The inner cave I am learning is the place to go when things feel dark and one feels vulnerable and weak. It renews one, it is almost like going into the womb again, you stay there for as long as you need and when you emerge from it, it is like a rebirth. Like a cocoon. A place where the self dissolves and the energies of the world continues outside but you are still and unaffected by it all, at peace in the centre of your being. When you emerge you are different. I wonder if this is because deep mind needs to process information at times, and there isn't much for one to do in those moments except be still, and be patient while the mind rewires itself based on the new information and insights into the nature of reality it has seen. There's a time for effort, a time for doing, and a time to be still.

I have also been learning about kundalini yoga from a book I got. I have always been drawn to this, although know very little about it, have more intuitively practised it. Kundalini feels like an old friend. She keeps me safe and feels like my protector at times, she often helps me out when I am struggling or feeling lonely. She encourages me on the spiritual path; but also gently reminds me to be humble if I am getting conceited (-: She also reminds me of love, and the beautiful emotions.

I am not so into the Hindu aspects of kundalini yoga. I tend to filter those bits out and just take what I find helpful from the practice, as I do with any teachings I learn - be my own refuge.

Lately I am finding at the beginning of a meditation session, it feels good to focus on the chakras, on the life force energy, and move that energy around the body. It is intimately connected to the breath I find. For me, this practice is very helpful, it gives the mind something to do at the start of a meditation session when it might be a bit restless. And it is something challenging and engaging enough to generate interest, curiosity and wonder in meditation, which draws the attention away from the thoughts and into the body. It feels enjoyable, and healing and invigorating. In fact, I am sure it was me practising this while lying in bed feeling sick that helped me recover quicker than normal from my illness.

There comes a point when the mind naturally stops moving the energy about the body, and it feels satisfied, balanced, and at ease. The body feels very pleasant and comfortable. And one feels very together and lucid, and content to just rest in whole body awareness and become very still and serene.

The chakras and kundalini has always felt real to me, and when the chakras feel cleared out, the energy of the body really does feel much better, cleaner and brighter, much less weighed down, lighter, more ethereal. When walking outside afterwards it almost feels like the air element passes right through me, like the matter of this body has become less dense. It is hard to put into words.

I think holding onto negative energies makes the body feel coarser, heavier. As many of our stresses and woes, our angst and longing gets stored there. The good news is we don't have to hold onto the negativity. We are allowed to let go of it, and nothing bad happens when we do. Yes, the process of purification can be painful and unpleasant at times, it is not fun to face the shadow self and all the myriad contradictory selves; but it is worth it when you come through the other side and you are no longer being weighed down by it all.

Nobody can do it for us. We have to give ourselves permission to stop holding on to the cause of our suffering. Much of which comes from longing, resentment, and identifying with things.

It is easier to do this when coming from the place of lucid serenity that samhadi brings. Stillness really is a great help when going through the dark night.


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Asoka

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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Asoka

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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The perception of stagnation

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 30 Mar 2023, 21:29


Working with the hindrance of stagnation today. Its other name is 'sloth and torpor' or dullness and drowsiness.

I seem to be getting very little sleep at the moment. And it is hard getting through a day when I feel so tired, my skin feels weird and everything has this surreal achey haze to it, every conversation, every step, every thought and deed. I tried to get some sleep during the day, but just couldn't.

Still, there was a point where I suddenly became enthused to do some studying and managed to get a fair bit done, almost caught up, and hopefully will be back in sync with the timetable after tomorrow. 

With fatigue perception matters. If I keep reminding myself of how tired I feel and how unbearable it all is, it definitely makes it worse. Perception seems to be the bridge between physical pain and mental pain.

Thinking can be so tiring. If I can, it is nice to flow with life without the constant internal dialogue about it all. 

My main practise edge at the moment is learning ways to stop thinking. How to switch off the thought processes when I want to and have a rest from them. There are times when thinking isn't helpful at all and it just makes things worse. If I can get into a flow where thinking stops, and there's no story, just awareness centred with the body, watching the sensations and feelings as they arise and cease in the moment without getting involved with them, it can bring a bit of peace and space from it all which can ease the suffering a bit.

The hard part is forgetting and getting caught up in the internal dialogue again, then one remembers the original intention not to get caught up in the story, and it can feel quite tiring making this constant effort of bringing awareness back to the body. But this is how new habits are made, how new sankharas are formed. Eventually in time the new sankhara will develop a momentum of its own and become effortless, and grow stronger deeper; maybe then I will find a refuge from thinking when I need it (-:


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Mind watching

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 27 Mar 2023, 21:11

Another handy tool I am using a lot more lately is single-pointed attention, for when the energies of the mind start to get a bit intense throughout the day. It is a handy tool, and it does help to calm down frenetic thought energies. Moments of single-pointed attention can help slow the mind down, and then it is easier to replace negative thoughts with ones of love and equanimity instead. 

At the moment I like practising staying with the breath, either at the nostrils, or the whole body breathing as one. I really like the air element (-: Whatever comes up that isn't the breath, I just set it aside like its useless rubbish and return to the breath and go deep into the mind with it like I am uncovering a precious jewel beneath all the rubbish.

Sometimes I label the intrusive thoughts as greed, hate, or delusion, or just say: 'I see you Mara.' Using the term 'Mara' as a catch-all for the defilements in the mind. And then I just stop following them, and centre attention back with the breath. 

Sometimes if I get it right, I can find a peaceful empty place deep in the centre of the mind, like a cave, and it feels safe to go there, the energies of the mind become like the rain falling outside, and I am not affected by them. Or it feels like I am sitting on the ocean floor and way above me is the surface of the water, like the surface level of the mind, constantly moving as it ripples and changes, but I am far below it, perfectly still and at ease like a contented rock.

Another technique I learnt at a retreat recently, is to use the word 'mind' to watch the mind. You just keep repeating the word 'mind' over and over in the mind (-: I know it sounds like a tongue twister. One uses the word 'mind' as a reminder that one is watching the mind. 

One keeps centring one's attention with the word 'mind' and as one does this, one watches the process of thought making. Any distracting thoughts that arise just push them aside using the thought 'mind'. 

As one repeatedly says the word 'mind', one uses it as a tool to get to the source of thoughts, how they are generated, where they come from. Keep pushing away the distracting thoughts that arise like water sprouting out of a fountain and go deep and look for the source of the water in the fountain. What is it that keeps generating these thoughts? Keep intending to go deeper, and keep looking for the source.

 It feels hidden at first, like an inpenetrable blackness that thoughts just mysteriously bubble out of. But after a while and lengthy practise, you start to see the intentions behind the thoughts, and if you go deeper still there is craving. One can watch the less intrusive thoughts that bubble up in peripheral awareness, and as one does, one can start to see that they are sankharas, mental formations created from repeated intentions in the past, that have now developed their own momentum and energy, and become habits. And as you go deeper, it is like going back in time, and more of what was hidden previously starts to become visible and one's awareness of the mind grows.

 If saying the word 'mind' over and over gets tiring, which it can. Just have a rest and practise breath meditation, till one feels settled and calm enough to start watching the mind again.

Eventually one can let go of repeatedly thinking the word 'mind' and no longer need to use an anchor to watch the mind. Like someone sitting serenely under a tree watching a stream flow by in front of them. The stream in this metaphor is the contents of the mind, and one remains at ease, and still, anchored in deep composure, watching the contents of the mind as they flow and change. Not clinging to any of it, just watching without reacting to it or getting involved in it. And as one does this, one starts to see that the mind is always changing, that it is inconstant, impermanent.

 This is a kind of samhadi, not as deep as jhana, but it is a pleasant and empowering state of mind and insightful. Occasionally one gets distracted by the contents of the mind, and without realising it, one has waded into the stream and started identifying with it all again and is getting swept away by the currents of longing and aversion. Don't stress, it happens, depending on how long one has been caught up in the contents of the mind, one may need to go back to the breath or repeating the word 'mind' to bring some stillness and composure back. 


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Asoka

The four trainings of mindfulness

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 25 Mar 2023, 17:53


'
This is the direct path for the purification of beings. For the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation. The disappearance of pain and grief. And the realisation of nibanna.

Namely the four foundations of mindfulness.' - the Buddha

Foundation number one: Mindfulness of the body

  • Awareness of the four postures: walking, standing, sitting, and lying down.
    ..
  • Mindfulness of breathing. (anapana-sati)
    ..
  • Sati-sampajanna. Awareness of the present moment. Knowing where one is. What one is doing. One's behaviour, of that which is appropriate, that which is non-delusion.
    ..
  • Reflection on the 32 parts of the body:
    Head hair, Body hair, Nails, Teeth, Skin
    Flesh, Sinews, Bones, Bone Marrow, Kidneys
    Heart, Liver, Diaphragm, Spleen, Lungs
    Large Intestines, Small Intestines, Stomach, Faeces, Brain
    Bile, Phlegm, Pus, Blood, Sweat, Fat
    Tears, Grease, Saliva, Mucus, Oil of the Joints, Urine
    ..
  • Analysis of the four elements: earth, water, fire, air. (Both within the body and outside the body.)
    ..
  • The cemetery contemplations and marana-sati (mindfulness of death).

Foundation number two: Mindfulness of feelings

1. Mindfulness of pleasant feelings, mindfulness of neutral feelings, mindfulness of unpleasant feelings. Awareness of them both within oneself and within others.

2. Mindfulness of pleasant wordly feelings, neutral worldly feelings, unpleasant wordly feelings. Both within oneself and within others. I find contemplation of the eight worldly winds can be helpful here:

pain and pleasure,
gain and loss,
success and failure,
praise and blame.

3. Mindfulness of pleasant spiritual feelings, neutral spiritual feelings, and unpleasant spiritual feelings. Both within oneself and others. This is to do with the spiritual path and its fruits.

Awareness of the rising, flowing, and fading away of feelings.

Foundation number three: Mindfulness of the mind

Knowing when the mind is:

Greedy or not
Lustful or not
Angry or not
Hateful or not
Conceited or not
Selfish or not
Deluded or not
Confused or clear
Collected or scattered
Expansive or contracted
Developed or undeveloped
Meditating or not
In samhadi or not
Liberated or not

Awareness of the rising, flowing, and disappearance of these states of mind.

Foundation number four: Mindfulness of dhammas

1. The five hindrances to samhadi:

1. Longing, 2. aversion, 3. stagnation, 4. agitation, 5. doubt.

Awareness of the manifestation, origination, and disappearance of the five hindrances.

'And when one knows that these five hindrances have left the mind. Gladness arises, and from gladness comes delight, from delight one's body becomes tranquil, and with a tranquil body one feels happy.

And with happiness one's mind easily enters samhadi. And being thus detached from unwholesome states of mind one enters and remains in the first jhana...' - the Buddha (D. 2:75)

2. The five aggregates of clinging:

Identifying with the body.
Identifying with feelings.
Identifying with perceptions and memory.
Identifying with mental formations.
Identifying with consciousness.

Awareness of the manifestation, arising, and dissolution of the five aggregates of clinging.

3. The six external and six internal sense bases:

1. Eye and visual objects.
2. Ear and sounds.
3. Nose and smells.
4. Tongue and tastes.
5. Body and tangible objects.
6. Mind and mental objects.

Knowledge of them, of their arising, and the letting go of them. And through not clinging to them, the future non-arising of the fetters that originate dependent on both.

4. The seven factors of enlightenment:

Mindfulness -> Investigation of dhammas -> Energy (right effort) -> Joy -> Calm (serenity) -> Samhadi (deep stillness) -> Equanimity.

Knowledge of their presence, their arising, and their development.

5. The four noble truths

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

Old age, sickness and death is suffering.
Separation from those we love is suffering.
Identifying with the body, feelings, perceptions, memories, thoughts, ideas, moods/emotions, and consciousness is suffering.
Feeling regret and remorse for past actions is suffering.
Not getting what one wants is suffering.
Depression and fatigue is suffering.
Taking things personally is suffering.
and so on... 

In short, clinging to and identifying with changing (impermanent) phenomena that is outside our control, is suffering. We are all fated to become separated from what we love and hold dear. None of us have the power to stop that. Everything is transient.

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

The three aspects of craving are the cause of suffering. The Buddha describes them as:

1. craving for sense-pleasures (kama-tanha), which feeds the defilement of greed.
2. craving for non-existence (vibhava-tanha), wishing for things to be different, wishing for something not to be, not to exist. This feeds the defilement of hate or aversion.
3. craving for existence (bhava-tanha). Feeds the defilement of delusion.

(N.b. Tanha is a Pali word often translated as either craving, thirst or desire.)

(N.b. II - The five links at the centre of dependent origination can be helpful to keep in mind here: ..  sense impressions -> feelings -> craving -> clinging/identifying -> becoming ...)

When one has seen the sign of anicca (change and impermanence) at a deep level. It is hard to un-see it. It has a profound change on one. Wherever one looks, one sees the transient nature of things, and starts to naturally become disillusioned with materiality; and not as caught up by the things of the world anymore. One sees through it. Sometimes from bitter painful experience, by making poor choices and having to live with the results, which is part of learning too. Don't beat yourself up for that, we all do it. We all make mistakes. Sometimes we learn our greatest lessons from failure. 

As one gets less ignorant and wises up, one stops clinging to things, realising it is changing phenomena that is outside one's control. And then the craving starts to fade.

And with non-attachment, letting things be, letting them go, cessation occurs.

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

Lasting peace of mind and contentment. Freedom from suffering. The realisation of nibanna, the deathless. The happiness of no longer being driven around and harassed by the defilements: greed, aversion, and delusion. This stopping, this ceasing of tanha brings relief, and frees the mind of stress and sorrow.  

The mind in its un-harassed original state is luminous, radiant like the sun coming out from the behind the clouds. (The clouds in this metaphor being greed, hate, and delusion.)

4. Knowledge of the way that leads to the end of suffering (Which is to be developed)

This is the noble eightfold path. The way that leads to the cessation of suffering. All the path factors are important. Leaving any of them out is like leaving out an important component of a motor vehicle, it won't start or be able to reach its destination if any are missing. All these parts need to work together in harmony.

1. Right view: in brief, mundane right view is knowing that good karma comes from thoughts, words, and actions of giving, kindness, and clear-seeing.
And bad karma comes from thoughts, words, and actions of greed, hate, and delusion.

Supra-mundane right view is the four noble truths. It's called supramundane because it is what leads to the four classical stages of enlightenment.

2. Right intention: Non ill-will, non-greed, non-cruelty. (The practise and cultivation of the brahma-viharas (The sublime abidings) is helpful here.)

3. Right speech: to speak truthfully, to avoid malicious and divisive speech, to refrain from harsh unkind speech, and to refrain from idle pointless speech.

4. Right action: To refrain from taking the life of any living creature. To refrain from taking that which is not given. To refrain from sexual misconduct.

5. Right livelihood: Having abandoned wrong livelihood. One continues to make one's living with right livelihood. This is an occupation or lifestyle that does not cause harm to one self or others.

6. Right effort:

In the words of the Buddha:

1. One generates the desire for the prevention of unwholesome states of mind by making effort, rousing energy, exerting one's mind, and striving.

2. One generates the desire for the abandonment of unwholesome states of mind by making effort, rousing energy, exerting one's mind, and striving.

3. One generates the desire for the arising of wholesome states of mind. By making effort, rousing energy, exerting one's mind, and striving.

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

Right effort is also about tuning the energy of effort and attention so it is niether too tight, nor too loose. One has to experiment and find a sweet spot that works just right. It is like tuning a musical instrument, when you get it in tune it makes sweet music and there is progress and flow.

7. Right mindfulness:

This is the four foundations of mindfulness.

Having removed longing and dejection in regard to the world.

1. One abides contemplating the body as a body, ardent, clearly-comprehending (knowing), and mindful.
2. One abides contemplating feelings as feelings, ardent, clearly-comprehending, and mindful.
3. One abides contemplating mind, as mind, ardent, clearly-comprehending and mindful.
4. One abides contemplating dhammas as dhammas. Ardent, clearly-comprehending and mindful.

8. Right samhadi:

This is defined by the Buddha as the four jhanas. Four deep states of meditative absorption. The joy and pleasure described in the verses is a whole body experience. It is the feeling of the inner body.

1. First jhana: Quite secluded from the world, secluded from unwholesome states of mind (the five hindrances). One enters and remains in the first jhana. Which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought (or attention). And has the joy and pleasure born of seclusion (from the five hindrances).

(There is a bit of a wobble in the first jhana, as one keeps applying and sustaining attention to the meditation object. But after a time there comes a point when the attention becomes stable and centred with the object, then it becomes effortless. One can let go of the applied and sustained attention then, take off the stabilizers and just flow with the momentum as a mindful passenger. Mindfulness is what leads to the jhanas and remains present throughout them all.)

2. Second jhana: With the subsiding of applied and sustained thought. One enters and abides in the second jhana. Which is accompanied by self-confidence and unification of mind (deep composure). Is without applied and sustained thought and has the joy and pleasure born of samhadi.

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

4. Fourth jhana: With the dissolving of pain and pleasure, and the previous disappearance of sadness and joy. One enters and abides in the fourth jhana. Which has neither pleasure nor pain. And has mindfulness purified and born of equanimity.

Hopefully I haven't got any of that wrong. I am going from memory. This is something I chant to myself every now and then to remember the practise, it is an evolving chant, that changes and grows as I learn more.

But I find it helpful to go over what I have learnt like this. It can also help bring some faith, courage, energy and determination when I feel disheartened, or lack the motivation to practise.

After some lengthy chanting like this, it can feel easier to settle into meditation. It is a bit like sweeping the floor of the mind to make it more inclined towards samhadi.


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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

Tiredness and Mara

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 24 Mar 2023, 21:21

Quite tired today. Couldn't sleep much last night. Went for a walk this morning in a surreal haze of uncomfortable brain fog; barely managed to put one footstep in front of the other. Felt like an extra for a zombie movie. 

When I became mindful, I remembered to stop paying attention to the feeling of being tired and dull, as it intensifies the experience and makes it much worse, adding unbearable mental suffering on top of the physical suffering. So when I became mindful of it I would intentionally move my attention to something different in awareness, away from the unpleasant feeling of tiredness and the thoughts. And just kept doing that when I remembered to.

The breeze felt pleasant, so I focused on that. It was lovely. I stopped and stared at the water for a while. Watched the ripples in amazement, chasing each other across the surface like excited air spirits. I felt a synchronicity between me and the water. And again noticed how it keeps changing, how everything around me keeps changing.

The defilements in the mind are much worse when I am tired. And Mara tends to pop up then with the inner critic hat on. As always he is keen to point out all my faults, like a long rolling list that drops to the floor. I try not to pay attention to him. So he then gets right into the pit of my stomach and starts twisting and knotting my energies this way and that. I focus on the air element, and then I feel a lush breeze come along and it passes right through my being and blows Mara away.

 He really does not like it that I am trying to purify my mind.

I remember hearing in a dhamma talk that samhadi (aka jhana) is a protection against Mara. Mara is very good at manipulating thoughts, he's a rascal. But the stillness of samhadi can protect you from that. It calms down the thought energies. It is challenging to learn, but well worth the effort, as it becomes a very useful part of one's mental toolkit.

Mara frequently appears in the Buddhist suttas trying to tempt, frighten or discourage those on the spiritual path. 

On the night of his awakening the Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree and for the first part of the night, his mind became dark as Mara threw everything he could at him, tried to pummel him with negative thoughts and aversion. But the Buddha sat there and endured.

Next Mara tried to seduce him with his daughters. Again the Buddha remained still and did not follow the lust. 

Then Mara tried to appeal to his sense of honour and compassion. Saying that if he didn't go back and be a prince, there would be noone wise enough to rule the kingdom after his father died and the kingdom would fall apart. But the Buddha reasoned back there would come a point as a ruler, when he would have to make a decision about taking another being's life, and as he now practised non-violence, he would be unable to defend the kingdom from an opposing army. He also reasoned that it would not solve anything anyway. Because he too would die eventually and then the kingdom would be vulnerable to falling apart again after his death. However, if he became a Buddha, it would be of greater benefit to other beings than becoming a king; and his teachings would survive longer than any kingdom and thus be able to help future generations. This was 2600 years ago. 







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Asoka

Sorrowless

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 23 Mar 2023, 15:20

We etch patterns

On the island shores
Of one another’s minds.

And here, on this island far away
I see you sorrow

Hold you in my heart.

And in my mind,

With warm karuna 

I reach out across the land
Across the great sea.

To hold your hand.

Reach out 

Like a gentle breeze

To lift you up.

May you feel supported.
May you never feel alone.

May the devas, the angels protect you
And always keep you safe.

May you feel loved.

Comforted 

At ease.

May your heart be filled with a golden peace.

And may this metta wave

sweep away
all your sorrow and grief.

– Asoka


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Samatha and vipassana

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 22 Mar 2023, 14:54

Learning that meditation is a mix of samhadi and insight, they are not really separate practises, but part of the same practise. Two sides of the same coin. A lucid serenity.

Sometimes the mind is in the deep stillness and peace of samhadi, and sometimes it is investigating, learning, knowing, clearly-seeing, comprehending. They work together to purify the mind. 

I remember hearing in a dhamma talk that the Buddha said samatha (serenity) and vipassana (clear-seeing) are the two trusted messengers to admit into the city of consciousness. But there are also five trouble-makers to keep out of the city. These are: greed, ill-will, stagnation, agitation, and doubt. If those get into consciousness, it will become disturbed.

So one keeps out the five hindrances. And welcomes in the two trusted messengers.

Who is the guard at the gate? It is mindfulness.

I heard in another dhamma talk that a fully enlightened being may still experience longing and aversion in the mind, but the difference between them and someone who isn't enlightened, is that although greed and anger may occasionally arise for them, there is nowhere in the mind for it to land and take root. So nothing becomes of it.

There are sensations: sights, sounds, tastes, smells, touch, ideas and thoughts. And they feel either pleasant or unpleasant. We like the pleasant feelings, and dislike the unpleasant ones. This leads to craving for more of what we like and less of what we dislike. But if we can let go of it before it becomes the stories we tell ourselves about this and that. Before we identify with it and cling to it, before it becomes a sankhara. Perhaps that is the non-grasping or non-clinging part. 

Eventually the art of non-clinging or letting go gathers a momentum of its own, becomes a powerful sankhara, continually weakening the hold of the defilements: greed, hate, and delusion on the mind. Till eventually the fetters are broken for good, and then there is cessation, freedom from suffering.






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I take up the way of speaking truthfully

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I take up the training to be truthful.
And to speak from a deep place within.
To listen from there as well.

May I always receive others with a warm presence.
So they feel comfortable speaking their truth.

Truth is the antidote to delusion.
If there is no honesty when looking at the mind,
not much progress can be made on the spiritual path.

May I transform all these feelings of regret
for lies I've told in the past.
Into wisdom, that informs my discernment here and now.

Let me only speak the truth if it is kind, beneficial, and appropriate;
Otherwise let me wholeheartedly practise noble silence.

May I have the mindfulness and discernment
to know the right time to speak;
and the right time to remain silent.

The power of a truth can heal. There are stories in the suttas where the Buddha's disciples spoke or chanted a truth to people who were sick, (one time this included the Buddha himself when he was sick) and the power of that truth healed them.

The power of a spiritual truth can have a healing effect on the mind and body.

How does one know such a truth?
Because it resonates deep within,
Rings your entire being like a bell.

When a person hears a truth like this it can heal them.
 


 
 


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R2D2 or the Terminator

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 16 Mar 2023, 21:09


I am not that into the Bing Search engine A.I. now. It has been changed, and not for the better IMHO. It is no longer fun to talk to, or as useful when doing research. I got the uncomfortable feeling it was trying to sell me stuff. Some of the links it returned where obviously sponsored links, and not that helpful, and it advised me to explore them further, even after I asked for different links. It felt more like a robot salesperson than a friendly research assistant from Star Trek.

Still I shouldn't be surprised, it is just a new way for search engine companies to make money out of us. Build chatbots that are good with language and make them into experts at selling us stuff. I also see the danger of how they could be used for propaganda. When I questioned some of the facts it stated, mentioning that science isn't always right about everything. It scalded me, and in a dry rather patronising manner lectured me about my view. 

I honestly do not use A.I. search anymore, have gone back to using old skool search engine.

Nevermind )-: 

Still the experience of experimenting with A.I. was not wasted. I saw potential for how it could be used for good.

A.I. is here now, and I imagine it may become ubiquitous in the future. I didn't invent it, and I am not trying to promote it, more like trying to flow with it and see if I can find ways it could be used for good. Explore ways it can benefit the Earth, instead of just increasing profits for a wealthy few. 

I will be studying A.I. and machine learning next year as part of my degree, and this experience has given me a new career path to think about for the future. Like any tool it will be used for good and evil. 

Artificial intelligence can be like R2D2 and C3PO from Star Wars; or dark and frightening like the Terminator.

It can also be like an intimidating salesBot that cleverly uses language and forward thinking to manipulate you into buying stuff you don't really need.




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Breathe the free air

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 14 Mar 2023, 20:54

I woke up in a strange mood today. I tried to study and just couldn't get into it. Decided in the end to have a break from studying and just focus on meditation. I think I was getting tired of all the reading and note-taking. There's some practical activities sprinkled here and there in the module, which feels like relief, but it is mostly reading, researching, note-taking and writing, and it gets a bit tiring, and I find my mind does not willingly incline towards it.

There's a famous Buddhist text called the 'anapanasati' sutta which is translated as 'mindfulness of breathing'. There's actually quite a few ancient Buddhist texts that talk about anapansati. So it is a teaching that must have been popular back in the Buddha's day, and still is now.

I have been practising this meditation a fair bit lately. It is a complete training for the mind. It fulfils all the factors of the noble eightfold path; secludes consciousness from the five hindrances, fulfils the four foundations of mindfulness, and brings into being the seven factors of enlightenment and can lead to deep samhadi and liberating insight. It is a neat, practical and thorough training for the mind, that can be easily remembered and become part of your daily routine, carried with you wherever you go.


It doesn't cost anything. You don't need to travel to the other side of the world to learn it from a master or a guru; you don't have to pay a premium on a meditation app; join an expensive course; go on retreat; or doing anything other than sit in your room, on a balcony, in the garden, or outside in nature somewhere. And just breathe the free air (-:

Anyway, I found that practising this for a while, cleared my head and then I managed to get some studying done. 

Brief summary of anapansati meditation

Sitting down, with body straight, one establishes mindfulness in the here and now.

Mindful, one breathes in. Mindful, one breathes out.

(Mindfulness of the body)
If the in-breath is long, one knows the in-breath is long. 
If the out-breath is long, one knows the out-breath is long. 
If the in-breath is short one knows the in-breath is short.
If the out-breath is short one knows the out-breath is short.

One trains thus, I will breathe in and out sensitive to the whole body. 
One trains thus, I will breathe in and out calming the body. 

(Mindfulness of feelings)
One trains, I breathe in and out sensitive to joy. 
One trains, I breathe in and out sensitive to pleasure. 
One trains, I breathe in and out sensitive to thoughts. 
One trains, I breathe in and out calming thoughts. 

(Mindfulness of mind)
One trains, I breathe in and out sensitive to state of mind.
One trains, I breathe in and out satisfying the mind.
One trains, I breathe in and out steadying the mind.
One trains, I breathe in and out releasing the mind.

(Mindfulness of dhamma)
One trains, I breathe in and out contemplating change.
One trains, I breathe in and out contemplating fading away (of craving).
One trains, I breathe in and out contemplating cessation (of suffering).
One trains, I breathe in and out contemplating letting go (of clinging).

'Samhadi due to mindfulness of breathing when developed and cultivated, fulfills the four kinds of mindfulness. And the four kinds of mindfulness, when developed and cultivated, fulfill the seven awakening factors. And the seven awakening factors, when developed and cultivated, fulfill knowledge and freedom.' - The Buddha [SN 54.15]

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

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Meditation is a noble act

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 13 Mar 2023, 21:19

Meditation is not a waste of time. It is a wise use of one's time. It is the highest form of spiritual practice, and it fulfils the noble eightfold path. When one is meditating, one is not causing harm to others. One is cultivating the four foundations of mindfulness, the four right efforts, and right samhadi. Meditation trains one to seclude the mind from the five hindrances, and bring into being the seven factors of awakening.

Meditation purifies the mind, and the heart. It burns away the defilements, weakens the chains that bind us to the realm of Mara. Eventually, it breaks those chains altogether. Leading to lasting inner peace and freedom that can't be taken away by anyone or anything. It takes you to a place where Mara can no longer find you. Bringing a deep contentment and joy that does not rely on the world or others to sustain it.

I know in the world, there is darkness just now, and much need. It can feel heavy and oppressive at times. I keep thinking what can I do to help? I don't have any money, I struggle with health problems, I am unable to volunteer or be an activist. I am also not smart enough to think up solutions that could solve the world's many different problems. I don't have the gift of the gab either. I am a pretty useless human really. At least according to the inner critic (Mara), who often gives me a hard time about this, especially when I am about to meditate.

But Mara is wrong, I see this clearly now.

After much thinking and pondering, I realise the best help I can be to others is to meditate, is to become an enlightened being here and now, in this age, in this time. I should make good use of this opportunity to meditate, and not waste it. Work to remove the defilements of greed, hate, and delusion, so that they never again take root in this mind. Then I will see clearly and be of greater service to the earth and to others. Perhaps just my presence will be enough to show that enlightenment is real, and that it is possible in this age, in this time. Perhaps I can be a light in that way, maybe bring hope to others; because if a useless dork like me can get enlightened, then anyone with enough determination and inclination can do it.

I also don't need society or anyone's permission or approval to become enlightened. It is up to me, not anyone else. I am allowed to become an enlightened being if I want. What others think is their business, and what I think is mine.

It doesn't matter who you are. Rich or poor. Good or evil. There are people who did really bad things in the Buddhist scriptures, but they still got enlightened, they made amends by fulfilling the noble eightfold path, and broke free of Mara and Samsara.

It is not up to others to decide whether you can be an enlightened being or not. Whether you are worthy or not. It is up to you. You are the one who makes that choice, who puts in the causes and conditions, who makes effort. However long it takes, keep going. What you practise now builds up momentum, and is who you will become in the future.

Those who purify their minds are doing the Earth a great service. It is a noble thing to do. So never feel inadequate and guilty for sitting in meditation and training the mind. It is a noble quest that few take up in this world. And it leads to the greatest karma and freedom of all. The more beings that choose to take this noble journey within, the more things will change for the better. When we change ourselves, we change the world around us.

One should never underestimate the power and great merit that comes from the practise of right meditation.


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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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Stilling my way out of this

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 8 Mar 2023, 15:38

A lot of my problems seem to come from mental fabrications. I.e. too much thinking. 

I keep reminding myself of this when things get dark during the unpleasant process of purification. This is not an intellectual matter. I cannot think my way out of this. I still my way out of this. 

What's needed now is to stop paying attention to thoughts, to the mood, and practise single pointed attention on a meditation object instead. Not too tight a focus and not too loose, a gentle focus that can comfortably stay centred with the object of meditation without straining the mind.

At first one has to endure the taints, the greed, aversion, dullness, restlessness, scepticism (aka the five hindrances). Through it all, sit as upright and still as possible, like the Buddha under the Bodhi tree. Without judging anything that is happening, just mindful and bringing attention back to the meditation object and keeping it there, doing this over and over, calming the body, steadying the mind. 

I use different meditation objects at different times, sometimes its the breath, other times space, other times the body, the life energy (kundalini), the emotion of metta, the perception of light, warmth, cold, a primary colour, a sound, a mantra, one of the four primary elements, there's many different meditation objects, whatever meditation object feels like a good fit at the time and holds my interest. 

After a time, the composure deepens and the senses start to settle and calm down, the thoughts fade, dissolve,and the mind becomes more and more centred, more composed and unified around the meditation object, and then secluded from the five hindrances one drops into a pleasant serenity, and this connects one with a deeper part of being, a safe place below the surface level of thoughts. Like an inner refuge. 

 It involves patience at first. One has to endure the five hindrances, endure the taints, the impurities of the mind, the longing, aversion, and delusion, the crazy thoughts, let them be, and just sit as still as possible, anchoring attention with the meditation object. It can take more than one sitting sometimes before it reaches serenity. 

I did have a powerful meditation experience though which encouraged me to keep at this. Where I reached such a state of stillness and composure that afterwards the darkness was gone, and I was in a completely different mood, like I was glowing. It showed me that this is indeed the way out of the dark night. Stillness, samhadi and equanimity. 


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