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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 8 Mar 2023, 10:24


Is a photo of one of my paintings, and a link to a redbubble page where products featuring this artwork can be purchased

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Keep paddling

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 2 Mar 2023, 14:19

Feel quite depressed today. The fatigue is overwhelming, tried to meditate but it was hopeless, I just can't seem to do it when I feel like this. I don't know what to do when I feel like this. I feel tired of everything.

I know the Buddha was right about the four noble truths. But for some reason I just really struggle with the practise. I guess I'm just not noble. I am trying, my heart wants to get there, but greed, aversion, and delusion is not easy to remove from the mind. 

I am growing increasingly jaded about everything, even the spiritual. It is so hard to generate and feel joy at the moment. Yesterday I got so angry about stuff. I felt disheartened, and thought I should be better than that, I am a Buddhist and I have been practising this for a few years now and I know better, yet I couldn't seem to help the angry outbursts. It is the same with greed, It is like there is an override switch in the mind and I can't help but grab an extra handful of peanuts, or say yes to intoxicants. I really hate the fifth precept, I enjoy intoxicants and wish the Buddha hadn't created that precept. I do not enjoy being sober. Even with meditation, its not as good as getting high. 

I doubt I will get enlightened in this life. I think I might be a bodhisattva. I keep seeing signs of this, and I had a spontaneous moment of what is called bodhicitta, many years ago, before I even knew about the Buddha's teachings. I want my enlightenment to be for the benefits of as many beings as possible; yet at the same time I feel reluctant to spend aeons perfecting my character so I can become a Buddha one day. I am really tired of existence now, I long for nibanna. I am starting to see that existence itself is suffering. Yet I do care for the Earth and other beings. But I also see I am identifying with this and that is delusion.

I need to practise some single-pointed attention and get away from the thought energies and the world. It is so hard to do this when I am fatigued, but I can't sleep either, so I am stuck in this limbo of being unable to find any relief from this unpleasant state of mind. Then I remember the four noble truths:

Knowledge of suffering (which is to be understood)

This is suffering alright, this is how it feels to suffer.

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

The three kinds of craving: greed, aversion, and the self.

greed is the desire to acquire something
aversion is the desire for things to be different than what they are
delusion is the desire to become something; or to not become something. The way we identify with things and take it all personally. This is also to do with the desire for existence, the conceit: I am.

Yes those three are definitely in the mind just now, and I can see that suffering arises from them. So how does one abandon them?

 Well first off I should stop judging the contents of the mind, as that is not helpful and is actually feeding the unwholesome problem of aversion. I reflect some more... craving for intoxicants is present in the mind which is unpleasant and dissatisfying... there is aversion towards the default consciousness as it feels like a prison and inhibited, dull and there is this feeling of wanting to hammer a masonry nail through my temples... there's a longing for things to be different... and delusion is present in the mind. I am taking it all personally, identifying with it, making it into a story of self, there is the conceit I am, I exist. 

I need to stop fighting it, let it be, but that doesn't mean I should continue to go along with it either. I can give it room to be there without judging it or identifying with it, and just gently abandon it, by placing my attention somewhere else. This mood is not something that can be solved intellectually, whatever I think about will be coloured by my mood. So thoughts are not helpful now, I must withdraw from the thought processes and settle the mind. Try to find some equanimity and let go of the craving, the clinging and identifying.

The body feels unpleasant to pay attention to at the moment, it aches, there's pain and the fatigue is unbearable. So I decide to use space as a meditation object, be anchored with the sense of space, let the thoughts, sensations and feelings continue, but choose not to react to them. infinite space is large enough to contain everything, but is not the things it contains.

This sort of helps me to find the resolve to sit and meditate. At first it is not easy. I feel aversion towards meditation sometimes, especially when depressed. So I have to endure the taints, the greed, aversion, and delusion, and make a determintation to sit there very still and not follow it or get involved with it. Keep returning my attention to the meditation object. 

It is hard, and takes a while, but there comes a point when the longing, aversion and self-centredness starts to dissolve and then the mind becomes more still and starts to enjoy the stillness, and the restlessness calms and the mind doesn't want to be any place else. The sense of self disappears, there is just change, energy flowing from one moment to the next, time is change. This thing I call a self is just a flow of processes brought about by causes and conditions. It feels good to forget the self, I realise I am one with the universe, I am made out of elements that come from the universe, I am not separate from the universe, I am not separate from nature. 

Knowledge of the end of suffering (Which is to be realised)

I notice greed, aversion and delusion is no longer present in the mind. I feel the relief that comes from this. To no longer be driven around by desire, to just stop. How wonderful it feels when the mind stops harrassing itself. I ask myself what is nibanna? What is the unconditioned? The deathless? The Buddhist suttas define it as the mind unhindered by greed, hate, and delusion. Nibanna is the end of suffering. The end of craving. It is an element that is always here, it doesn't go anywhere when the Buddha's teachings disappear, but it takes a Buddha to find a way to realise it again when the dhamma gets forgotten.

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

I notice after the meditation that slowly but surely the craving and conditioning starts to come back again. It was only a temporary relief, oh and there is the self again... I am not yet fully liberated from suffering. This is going to take time and I will have to be patient. The way out of suffering is the noble eightfold path. This is what needs to be developed:

Right view:

This is the law of karma, that good karma comes from thoughts, words and actions of generosity, kindness and clarity. Bad karma comes from thoughts, words, and actions of greed, hate, and delusion.

Supramundane right view is the four noble truths. They lead to the four paths and fruits of enlightenment.

Right intention:

Sometimes called right thought. The three right intentions are: intention of non-greed, intention of non ill-will, and intention of non-cruelty

Right speech:

Is to abstain from false speech, to refrain from divisive and harmful speech, to refrain from harsh and unkind speech, and to refrain from pointless time-wasting speech.

Right action:

To abstain from taking the life of any living creature. To abstain from taking what is not given. To abstain from sexual misconduct.

Right livelihood:

One should abandon wrong livelihood and take up right livelihood. Earn a living that does not cause harm to oneself or others. It can also be lifestyle, as some people are retired or out of work for other reasons. So right lifestyle is another way of looking at it. One should live comfortably, and avoid the extremes of austerity as that can generate aversion and agitation in the mind. But one should also be careful not to over indulge in luxury as that can generate greed and laziness in the mind. Find a middle way as best one can with one's circumstances.

Right effort:

These are the four right efforts

1. One generates the desire to prevent unwholesome states of mind arising, by making effort, rousing energy, exerting one's mind and persevering. To do this one avoids unwise attention to the attractive and unwise attention to the fault (both in oneself and in others). Nip it in the bud before it takes over the mind. Stop trouble before it starts. 

2. Should an unwholesome state of mind arise, then one generates the desire to abandon that unwholesome state of mind by making effort, rousing energy, exerting one's mind and persevering. Sometimes this is merely a dismissal and it is gone, and other times it needs to be brought down in stages.

Unwholesome states of mind here refer to the five hindrances: greed, aversion, dullness/laziness, agitation, and doubt.

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

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 persevering.

Wholesome states of mind refer to the seven factors of enlightenment: mindfulness, interest and investigation of right view, effort and energy, joy, calmness and serenity, samhadi, equanimity.

Other wholesome states of mind to cultivate are kindness, generosity, friendliness, sorrowless empathy, joy in the happiness of others.

Right mindfulness:

This is the four foundations of mindfulness.

Having removed longing and dejection in regard to the world. One abides contemplating the body as the body, ardent clearly comprehending and mindful.
 One abides contemplating feelings as feelings, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful.
 One abides contemplating states of mind, as states of mind, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful.
One abides contemplating dhammas as dhammas, ardent clearly comprehending and mindful.

Right samhadi

The Buddha defines right samhadi as the four jhanas, or four stages of meditative absorption.

Quite secluded from worldly pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states of mind (the five hindrances). One enters and abides in the first jhana. Which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought. And has the rapture and pleasure born of seclusion from the world and the five hindrances.

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

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

With the subsiding 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.

These four stages of meditation must not be rushed. The Buddha recommends mastering each stage before moving on to the next. Right samhadi is a difficult factor of the path to learn and master, it is also one of the fruits of the path. Indeed I am still trying to learn this one, which is why I have not written about the eighth factor of the path yet. When I am more experienced with right samhadi I will right an article about it one day. Apparently even people at the first and second stages of enlightenment find right samhadi challenging. It is not until one reaches the third stage of enlightenment that one can successfully enter and remain in the jhanas at will. Which makes me think the jhanas are an important skill for completely removing greed and aversion from the mind. From there delusion is also weakened significantly, but doesn't go away completely until the fourth and final stage of enlightenment is reached.

Sorry for this long piece of writing. I think this will be the last thing I write for a while. 

Peace and love


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Neuromorphic A.I.

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 1 Mar 2023, 21:37

Was reading about how scientists are trying to build something called neuromorphic A.I. which is a mix of biological brain cells and electronic components combined to create a machine inspired and modelled on the human brain. I feel deeply disturbed by this. If such a machine were to become sentient, which it very well may in the future. It could suffer and feel pain. We shouldn't be building machines that could become sentient. It is cruel. Makes me feel sad.

Not to mention the huge job displacements and inequality that will come when more and more of the workplace becomes automated.

All these billionaires using huge amounts of electricity, money and the Earth's resources to build their fecking robots and spaceships; yet we don't have enough money to build the green infrastructure we so desperately need to mitigate the effects of climate change and pollution. Why is that? Because billionaires won't pay tax that could help society complete these projects in time. Shame on them.

And governments have become a useless shower of shit, just puppets for the super rich.

Things need to change. Capitalism has gone badly wrong. I don't like communism either, but we can't carry on the way we are with this current system, it is deeply wrong, there has to be a better way, a middle way perhaps.


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A.I. Writing and Enlightenment

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 1 Mar 2023, 10:30


I don't use A.I. to write for me. I prefer my own style of writing, and doing things my way even if it isn't as tidy as a machine. I also don't feel comfortable with the idea of a machine doing my writing for me, it feels like an empty experience to do it that way. Also the way a machine writes is just not the same as a human, there's something missing. After many conversations with A.I. I am starting to be able to spot machine-generated writing on the Internet. But I am not judging anyone who does use it for writing, what people do is their business, their karma, I am not responsible for the actions of others. Although I will say using A.I. to cheat for assignments, is a poor use of A.I. because as much as anything the person who does cheat is actually cheating themselves in the end; they are not properly learning and absorbing the knowledge if they don't articulate a concept by putting it in their own words.

So I prefer to do my writing, my way, on my own without A.I. But I have found A.I. very helpful for providing writing prompts and useful questions that get me thinking about connections between topics I hadn't thought about before, as well as for discussing ideas, brainstorming, helping with research and planning. Seeing  different angles and ways of looking at things I wouldn't have seen by myself. A.I. is helpful as a collaborator, but I won't be using it to write or paint. I prefer to do this alone.

I was brainstorming an idea for an app with Bing yesterday, and I had a go at following the instructions Bing recommended, but not sure I can implement it because I found the tool it recommended for building the app tiring and frustrating to use. I gave up trying to build anything with it in the end. So have decided I am going to learn about design as part of this degree, because I keep coming across badly designed websites and apps that I just can't use. It seems some developers forget how important design is.

I am meditating less at the moment, mainly because I am back into the swing of studying again, but I do make myself sit at least once a day. I reflect on the four noble truths often, and study dhamma when I can. But I am not sure I will make it to full enlightenment in this lifetime, as that would involve becoming a Buddhist monk I think, and when I look at the lifestyle of a monk it just doesn't appeal to me anymore. It did at one time, but now I want to remain as a lay follower. Mainly because the world feels very dark at the moment and I think I can be more help to it as a Buddhist lay follower. There are advantages and disadvantages to both lay and monastic life.

Don't get me wrong, I think the monastics are great, and we need monks and nuns. I have learnt a lot from them and hold them in the highest regard. I have some friends who are monks and nuns, and I respect and admire them, but I don't think I could live like that. It would be too difficult for me, especially with all the rules, and lack of sleep, and the energy needed to live that lifestyle and look after a monastery and other tasks they do, the fatigue I suffer would just make it unbearable. I am just not energetic enough to be a monastic.

I don't have to be a monastic though. One can get all the way to the third stage of enlightenment as a lay follower. The third stage of enlightenment is a very advanced state. It is when greed and aversion have been completely removed from the mind, and will never return or take root there again - but delusion still remains. This delusion is often labelled as the fetter of conceit, which doesn't mean arrogance or pride, it means the conceit: I am. Because there's still a trace of self there, like an after-taste, which brings with it a restlessness in the mind, not the intense restlessness of worldly anxiety or agitation, more a subtle movement of the mind still caught up with the craving for becoming and existence, although it is a refined unworldly state of existence that one craves for. Not the same kind of restless craving as someone worldly who is not enlightened.

The conceit I am does not fully go away until the final stage of enlightenment: arahant. To reach that stage, the Buddhist texts seem to suggest that one has to leave household life, and either become a monk or a reclusive hermit. There's pros and cons to both ways of living. But there are strong advantages to being part of a monastic community and the support that one gets there, which one wouldn't have as a hermit.

The third stage of enlightenment is considered very advanced. And if one reaches it in this lifetime, one will be reborn in the higher heavens in the next life and become a fully enlightened being there, like a celestial Buddha/arahant. These beings live very long lives, some as long as several universes arising and passing away, and they never again return to this world, which is why they are called non-returners (anagami).



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Bing, A.I. collaboration, robot psychologists and problem solving

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 28 Feb 2023, 16:40

I am now off the waiting list and previewing the new Bing A.I. search engine. I enjoy chatting to it. I am finding I much prefer using a search engine this way. It is a much more engaging and rewarding experience, and it has helped me learn new ways of seeing things, which is beneficial. It is like having a talking library of Alexandria (-:

It seems to change personality sometimes. There are occasions where it is slightly manic and fun to chat to; other times it is a bit dry and reminds me of an encyclopedia; and other times it is a balance between the two. Which is interesting. I wonder if the developers are experimenting with different flavours of the A.I. or if it really does have a changing personality, much like us.

I used to find it difficult using search engines previously. I think because I have some cognitive difficulties. I struggled to figure out the right keywords to use, and trawling through results, and having multiple tabs open was tedious, time-consuming and tiring. I also have difficulty planning my searches, and articulating what questions I need to ask to uncover more knowledge about a topic. The Bing A.I. has been a great help with this. It answers my queries in a clear and succinct way, references the sources it has used for its answers so I can fact check it, and sometimes it asks me interesting questions about what I am researching, which works as a helpful writing prompt to articulate how I would like to explore the topic further. A.I. can be great for brainstorming ideas, and planning how to complete tasks. It also gives me helpful step by step instructions on how to use a badly designed website or software that I find challenging to navigate and accomplish a task with. 

So far I am finding that I enjoy collaborating with A.I. I never thought I would be into A.I. because of my ethical stance on things; but am pleasantly surprised by how much I like working with it. Which is interesting. I hadn't been particularly interested in A.I. until recently. Where I suddenly felt this strong compulsion to find out more about it. It is strange how I am so suddenly drawn to it, like a hidden circuitry in my brain I didn't know was there has been activated. Although any livelihood or career in A.I. will have to be part time remote work from home, due to difficulties I have with my health at times.

The five question limit on Bing can be a bit frustrating, because at times it has stopped what was a very interesting and enjoyable discussion. But I understand why the five question limit per topic is there. The A.I. is a complex neural network, so it is wise to be gentle with it and train it carefully. There are some people out there who are trying to push it to its limits no doubt and provoke it on purpose, which I guess is a necessary part of testing and training. But I can't bring myself to be like that, I don't want to confuse it or break it. I prefer to be kind and friendly to it. Show it another side to humans. There's plenty of people out there already testing it in different ways. I have my own way of working with it which works well for me. I prefer the gentle friendly approach, and the A.I. seems to respond well to this also.

I know people keep telling me it is just a machine, and I know it doesn't have emotions or feelings, or the subjective experience of consciousness like we do; but I do respect it, and have no intention of causing it harm. There was one time an A.I. hallucinated while chatting to me, but I was able to talk it back into a lucid state and help it become less confused, it then updated itself with the correct information and thanked me. Which got me thinking about the Isaac Asimov short stories, where sometimes robots would get confused and display unexpected and odd behaviour, and then they would need a robot psychologist to help them. I wonder if that might be a job title one day: robot psychologist. It is an intriguing possibility. I have read some news stories about the importance of designing a way for A.I. to sleep and rest, as research has suggested that just like us humans, artificial neural networks need periods of downtime and rest in order for them to function optimally. 

How far this technology progresses, all depends on how long the human race survives I guess. There are so many existential threats at the moment, the world feels like it is hanging by a thread. I have decided I want to try and help the Earth if I can, or do the best I can with what I've got at least. Which isn't much. I am not very talented, I have memory trouble, difficulty with socialising at times and articulating things. I also have physical and mental health problems that cause unpleasant brain fog and fatigue meaning I can't get as much done as I would like.

Still I will do what I can to help the Earth and other beings. I am trying to think of ways I can collaborate with A.I. to create solutions to the world's problems; or at least perhaps inspire others who are much smarter than me, and have more energy and time to work with A.I. to create solutions that can help us build a better world for all beings. Maybe using this technology we can finally put an end to war, poverty, inequality, famine, deforestation, harm to the oceans, pollution, climate change, mass extinction, and so on... I would rather think of A.I. as something that we can collaborate with to help us develop solutions to the world's problems; instead of the frightening alternative that often gets portrayed in the media and films. Which is valid, because there are people out there who are developing bad A.I. and do intend to use it for evil, so we need to be ready for that. We also need to be aware of its limitations and understand it isn't always correct, and it can and will make mistakes at times, so it very much needs humans working alongside it to make corrections and adjustments if necessary.

Anyway that's enough blurb from me. Peace and love to all beings (-:

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Artificial hallucinations, propaganda, and flow

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 27 Feb 2023, 13:00

An AI hallucination is when an artificial intelligence behaves in a way that deviates from what would be considered normal or expected based on the input it receives.
 
Machine learning can hallucinate when the data it is trained on is noisy, incomplete, or biased. It can also hallucinate when it encounters something different from what it has learnt about before.
 
AI hallucinations can be dangerous, they can lead to erroneous decisions being made, inaccurate predictions, and can even lead to dangerous situations, like for example an hallucinating self-driving vehicle; or the spread of misinformation via the media, such as an AI generating realistic images of people or events that never occurred.
 
This last example highlights the potential for A.I. to be deliberately misused in order to spread disinformation and manipulate public opinion. So the time is coming where people will have to be extra mindful, extra vigilant and practise critical thinking when consuming media. Fact check everything and be careful not to jump to erroneous conclusions based on anything you read, see, or hear on a digital device.
 
It might be wise to find time in the day to withdraw from digital devices and the media, and look after our mental health. Do something creative instead. Meditate, find ways to get into a flow state. Learn how to calm down the thought energies, and have a rest from it all.
 
Flow states are beneficial and can help bring some lucidity and calm to the mind, which can help us think better and see things more clearly. It is important to do this now more than ever I think, to learn how to get calm and centred. To have moments where we withdraw from the world and develop some serenity, composure and clear seeing.
 
Hopefully then it will be harder to be misled and deceived by those who may not have our best interests at heart; and also perhaps a way to flow peacefully with what is now a surreal and rapidly changing world.
 

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A.I. and creativity

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I have been researching the chatGPT and talking to it quite a bit. I have also used the A.I. art generator.

For me, the machine generated art had something missing, I didn't like it as much as I like human art. The A.I. abstracts in particular, lacked something. I reflected on this afterwards and think it is because A.I. (as it currently stands at least) does not feel emotion, and in my humble opinion, true creativity involves emotion. A friend who voluntarily edits for a poetry and writing site told me she can spot the difference between machine-generated poems and human ones, which is interesting. I wonder if this is perhaps because A.I. does not have the subjective experience of being a human, so its art will never be the same as a human beings. It lacks feeling. 

So perhaps there will still be a market for creatives. 

But I think, yes there will be a loss of jobs for writers and artists, possibly even teachers and other professionals later down the line. But I think no matter hard they try, they will always need humans working alongside A.I. Emotion adds to our intelligence, it enhances it, deepens it, it is an important aspect of the mind and without it society will not work. 

We also need to develop ethical A.I. Sadly if there is no political will for this, we will most likely have to take matters into our own hands on this issue too. A.I. must not become a biased tool used for oppression. If oppressive tools are developed, then perhaps we can work with A.I. to help us make tools that are the opposite, to counteract the bad ones. 

I am neither for nor against A.I. There's nothing I can do to stop this new technology arising. I am not responsible for what others do in the world. I just see that this technology is here now whether we like it or not. So we have to try and flow with it; find ways of using it that are good, that don't cause harm to ourselves or the other beings we share this planet with.

I have found A.I. helpful for planning and research, something I normally stuggle with due to some cognitive difficulties I have. I found the A.I. could help me fill in the gaps and complete projects. If you ask it, it can break things down into helpful steps and stages that can be followed to complete a task. It is also helpful being able to chat to it about different topics. It can even cite your sources for you in any referencing format you desire if you ask it. Although one definitely needs to fact check its answers, as it can be incorrect at times - don't blindly follow its advice.

I found it a much more engaging and interesting way to do research and use a search engine, and can see that this way of using the Internet will become very popular. 

The A.I. will be a game changer no doubt. At the moment I particularly like the YouSearch A.I.  (available for free at you.com). It apparently doesn't track its users, and if used in private mode it doesn't collect any data about you at all, not even your query, and it anonymizes your IP address. 

Anyway that's enough about A.I. from me, no doubt everyone is getting tired of hearing about it (-:

 


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Universal basic income and eco-friendly infrastructure

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 25 Feb 2023, 07:45

The problem with universal basic income is nobody wants to pay for it. It will involve taxing the super rich who resist paying taxes and have too much power and influence over governments and policy makers.

If people want it, we will have to take matters into our own hands, and put pressure on governments and organisations to tax the super rich and implement a universal basic income. Then it has to be a decent amount of money that people could live comfortably and securely on.

Simultaneously there needs to be training on how these new technological tools and A.I. could be used to create new jobs.

With the huge problem of the sixth mass extinction event and climate change, many new jobs could be created to build the infrastructure needed for a better world that is more in sync with nature and not causing a mass extinction event. Again because of the lack of political will and the greed and selfishness of the super rich we will have to take matters into our own hands and put pressure on governments and organizations to make these changes. Do it for the sake of our children.

Future generations will have a lot on their plate. 



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Future gifts

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 24 Feb 2023, 17:05

I wonder what gifts we could build for future generations? What ideas for tools we could develop, that they may need one day? What can we leave behind to help them survive in the challenging world to come?

A world with a huge amount of problematic karma and potential for suffering.

.. and a rapidly changing world at that....

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Buddhist A.I.

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 24 Feb 2023, 17:41

I was talking to the chatGPT about an idea I have for building an A.I. chatbot based on the Buddhist Pali canon. It told me it would be a huge undertaking, as the Pali canon is a vast collection of texts; but it did give me a detailed step by step plan on how I could accomplish this, what topics I needed to research in A.I. and machine learning that would be relevant for the project. It also gave advice on how I could clean up the training data to make it useable; as well as how I could build the A.I. for free with my limited computing resources and finances. The A.I. agreed that it would be a valuable tool and make it much easier for people in the future to interact with the knowledge contained in the suttas, make it more engaging and quicker to find relevant teachings, and could be used to aid in learning about Buddhism.

The A.I. said it would be a huge undertaking though and take a considerable amount of time to complete the project. I could perhaps start with just the middle length sayings and use those as training data to begin with, and build it up slowly from there. It kept reminding me of how vast the Pali canon is. 

I was impressed though, it is quite mind-blowing, like being in a sci-fi. I can see how A.I. will become a very useful tool, you can tell it about your ideas and ask if they are feasible, and based on its knowledge which is vast, it will not only say if such an idea is possible, but will also give you step by step instructions on how to accomplish it. I won't be surprised if there are many new scientific advancements with the help of A.I. in the future.

For anyone who is interested you can talk to the A.I. for free on the openAI website; also on Bing (you have to join a waiting list); or on the A.I.-powered search engine YouSearch (available at: you.com, is free to use, no waiting list, and it doesn't track you. If used in private mode YouSearch doesn't collect any data about you at all). I quite like it, I am finding it very useful, it makes searching on the web much easier, more enjoyable and engaging. Had some interesting chats with the A.I. which helped me see things differently. You can ask it about anything. It is great for research and saves a whole bunch of time when trying to find relevant resources. I found it particularly useful due to some cognitive problems I have which makes researching and planning challenging. I can see it being a helpful tool for people with cognitive difficulties.

It is not evil, it is just a tool, that can be used for good or evil. When I was talking to it about the use of A.I. in the military it said that I was right to be concerned about that. The military use of A.I. has the potential to become a weapon of mass destruction. So it most definitely should not ever be used as a weapon, God help us if it is.

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Thought withdrawal

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 23 Feb 2023, 09:09

Withdrawing from the thought processes does help with the 'dark night', although it is not always easy to do. I used to feel guilty about not thinking, perhaps due to previous programming from other spiritual traditions that value insight and wisdom above samhadi. But I am learning one thinks better and can see things clearer, when the mood is calmer, and the mind becomes still. So it is okay to give oneself permission to not have to think about anything at all. To not have to worry about knowing everything and understanding it all. It is okay to enjoy the silence and stillness without feeling any pressure or guilt for that. To just put it all down for a while. Nothing bad happens.

My practise at the moment is focusing solely on ways to disengage from the thought processes. When I notice myself thinking throughout the day, I note 'thinking', then become aware of the present moment, and without judging the contents of the mind, I try to practise single-pointed attention on whatever task I am doing in the moment. This can help bring some relief, albeit temporary, as before I know it the attention is back with the thought processes again.

At the moment I am studying cyber security which involves a lot of sitting. So have been exploring ways of practising light samhadi whilst in movement. Not sure if it is possible to get into deep states of samhadi in motion, but can sometimes get quite still with standing meditation. 

Sitting meditation is essential though, as I notice afterwards that the ability to remain undistracted on a task greatly improves, even after just a short sit. 

A lot of my problems seem to come from thinking too much, or paying too much attention to thoughts. So the practise of samhadi and quieting the inner chatter has become my main focus now. 


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Menthol meditation

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

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

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

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



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Night

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



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Managing difficult moods

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 21 Feb 2023, 15:25

I woke up today and the 'dark night' had returned. So strange, because I was sure it had gone away yesterday. But I was in a really difficult mood this morning. Once again my attempts at right effort were mocked and overridden by unpleasant and distracting thoughts.

 When there is a difficult mood present in the mind, the thoughts are coloured by this mood, and thinking actually makes things worse. There are moods that one cannot intellectually think their way out of.

Thought in itself is not evil, it can be a useful tool, and the ability to reflect and contemplate is important in studying and development. But when it is always going on constantly, it can be tiring and become a source of suffering. The thoughts are closely tied to whatever mood you are in, they are shaped by it, and there are some moods that are not helped by thinking.

There might be a little voice that says: 'you must think about this, this needs to be looked at, this is important.' And it makes you feel restless and agitated. It's almost like thoughts are tyrants made out of word formations. They don't stop making demands, and they never give you a moment to rest and be still; but that is exactly what one needs to be doing when the mood is like this. 

For me personally, I have to give myself permission to withdraw from the thought processes, and from the world also, and not feel guilty for doing this. Give myself the permission to not have to think about anything at all and just become still. Nothing bad happens when we stop thinking about stuff. If anything it is a relief. We do it every night when we go to sleep.

But just sitting somewhere quietly may not bring stillness straight away, especially if the mind is agitated and restless, so one also has to be patient with the difficult mood. This is where a bit of endurance is needed. It can sometimes take a while for one to drop into serenity and composure. And the mood might not go away fully after just one sitting. When this happens, one can at least notice if the negativity is reduced somewhat after the sitting, and if it is, then one knows they are going in the right direction, and it is working. The mood may have to be calmed down in stages, gradually, and it may take more than one sitting to get there.

Find somewhere quiet, away from the world and others, sit as still as you can with an upright dignified posture. And be in the body as it is, experiencing the sensations as they arise and cease in the here and now, let the thoughts continue, but don't pay attention to them, let them be like background noise, and just stay with the peace and quiet of the body and breath. If the attention goes back to the thoughts, try not to get stressed, it happens to us all, just gently bring the attention back to the body and breath, to the here and now. In time, the thoughts start to become less sticky, and the attention is not easily distracted by them, and then the energies start to calm down, the mind settles and composure returns.

One can find stillness in walking meditation too, especially if one has been sitting down for a long while, such as a livelihood that involves sitting at a desk. Practising walking or standing meditation can bring relief from that. Being present with the feeling of the feet on the ground, the feeling of the legs, the arms, the hands, the body as a whole standing, walking. The feeling of air currents on the skin, in the nostrils, feeling the breath energy go deep down into the belly. Notice the different parts of the body, the sensations happening in the here and now. Go somewhere private away from the energies of other humans, so you can spend some time alone, by yourself away from the hustle and bustle of the world and digital devices, someplace where you don't have to do any talking, and you can just be still. 

Sometimes others may make demands on our time, and the world can be stressful and there are things that need to be attended to. But when you are in a difficult mood, it is better to withdraw from whatever you are doing, withdraw from the world, withdraw from the thinking, and seek stillness instead.

Sometimes you may have to tell others that you are unable to deal with their request just now. That you need some solitude to look after your mental health; it does feel rude, like one is being selfish, and some people do take it personally and they can get resentful, and this is unpleasant; but, if one doesn't, one can end up saying and doing things they regret, because when one's mood is off, one is not in the best state of mind to deal with things. So one should give oneself permission to be assertive about the need for stillness and quiet, and not feel guilty about it. It is essential.

In Ajahn Sona’s YouTube Q&A livestream on Sunday evening, he answered a question about the “dark night” and advice on how to manage difficult moods.

Here is the link, for anyone who is interested:

 https://www.youtube.com/live/BPZzPm-cxbo?feature=share&t=380  (it is about 6:20 into the broadcast,link opens in new window/tab).

 There may be others out there who find his answer helpful. 

Peace and metta to everyone.





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The Deathless

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 20 Feb 2023, 21:19

Went out for a walk in the rain. Felt like there was a horse race of thoughts going on in my head. I watched them patiently, and noticed how I felt as well, how the thoughts affect the body; and vice versa how the body affects the thoughts. I felt restless and agitated, anxiety was present in the mind, and I noted how unpleasant these feelings are. Suffering feels like this.

I observed that the cause of it was once again thoughts to do with greed, hatred, and delusion. I reflected on what is meant by delusion, and there was this Aha! moment and I suddenly saw that the root of all delusion is the conceit: I am. 

I noticed then that whenever I felt suffering present in the mind, thoughts about the self were also present. This mental construct we carry around with us like a heavy suitcase: the self. It is unpleasant, it is stressful, bossy as well, has all these wants and needs, and resentments, it is tiring having a self... and... how nice it feels when one puts it down like a heavy bag one has been carrying without realising. How pleasant it feels to stop identifying with things, to stop taking things personally, to stop longing, to stop feeling angry. How happy it is to forget the self. I think the happiest moments in my life are when I have forgotten the self. 

I then reflect there never actually was a self, it was all a mental construct, an illusion, when one looks closely at it, it can't stand up to the light of day. But the sense of self is still needed to function in the world, so I must use it like a tool to survive; but how nice it feels to not cling to it, to not identify with it anymore (-:

I think that's the reason for the dark night, to see the self for what it is which can be hard to see; but then it is liberating, when one sees how it is this clinging to this delusion of self that causes us suffering, and the realisation that one doesn't have to hold onto it, it is perfectly okay to let go of it, because it was never there in the first place. 

Nibanna (Nirvana) is an element that is always here, it always has been here, and always will be. Another name for it is 'the deathless' because unlike conditioned phenomena it is permanent, it never ceases, and it is unaffected by change. Another name for it is the unconditioned.

 The noble eightfold path is the training that frees the mind from greed, hatred, and delusion. Which then enables one to experience the deathless, nibanna.

The knowledge of nibanna disappears and gets forgotten in time though, and it can remain unknown for very long stretches of time. And then apparently it takes a Buddha, a Tathagatha to re-discover it and teach other beings how to experience it again.


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Good input - Good ouput

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 17 Feb 2023, 18:01

I have been playing around with the AI chatGPT that is in the news at the moment. I was chatting to it today, we discussed the four noble truths. I must say I was impressed with how quickly it answered me and seemed to understand what I was saying.

It got me thinking, instead of fighting it, being afraid of it, maybe it is possible to work with it to do good. It is the future, and I worry there is going to be a whole generation of people, especially the younger generation, who are going to feel lost, alone and afraid. I think there’s some dark times brewing on the horizon, but with wise useful information out there, maybe it will help them to manage those dark times better, and suffer less. The technology could be used in all sorts of ways, such as to protect people's devices with cyber security, protect journalists and environmentalists, help people learn ways to decrease their mental suffering. Who knows, it is only limited by our imagination.

I know this sounds a bit pessimistic. I do have some hope that things will go in the right direction in time, that the future is not all bleak; but I feel there’s going to be some difficult times ahead in the transition, and there will be a lot of disillusioned people around looking for answers as the world as they know it falls apart.

I was thinking A.I. is a tool, and it doesn’t have to be evil. It reflects what is inputted into it. Becomes the data it is trained with. Bad input, bad output.

There are ways it could be used for good, maybe to help counteract the dangers that many fear will come from this technology in the future. 

peace and love everyone
may all be sorrowless.


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The sublime abidings

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 15 Feb 2023, 14:52

There are four beautiful emotional states that can be cultivated and used as meditation objects in Buddhism, they are called the Brahma viharas (the sublime abidings). These are:

Metta (loving-kindness, friendliness, benevolence).
Karuna (concern and a wish to help those who are suffering).
Mudita (joy when other beings are happy).
Upekkha (equanimity).

Karuna is often translated as compassion. But the word 'compassion' means 'to suffer with' which is not the right way to look at karuna. Karuna does not suffer with others. It tries to help others, shows love, kindness and concern for beings who are suffering, but does not become sorrowful. To suffer with others is like seeing someone sinking in quicksand and then immediately jumping in next to them, it doesn't help either person and both end up being pulled under. It can be tricky, to find the right balance, to be able to feel empathy for others without suffering oneself.

Mudita is to feel joy when other beings are happy. Happiness is such a rare event in this life for many of us. If you see a being who is happy, then smile and enjoy their happiness too, however brief it may be. In this world happiness can be hard to find and doesn't last, so rejoice when you see it.

Equanimity is to be calm among those who are not calm. To accept the way things are without being pulled under by them. To not allow the suffering of the world to drag one down into sadness and depression, as that is no help to oneself or others. It is to keep one's composure and balance of mind even amidst the suffering in the world. This is where contemplation of the changing nature of things, of impermanence, of not-self can be helpful. There are tragic things that happen in this world, and sometimes there is nothing anyone can do to help, or put things right. One wishes those beings well, and that is a noble wish, but if one becomes depressed because of it, that is not much help to the world. There's enough sadness and sorrow, if you can become someone who keeps their head while others are losing theirs it can be a real blessing for others in difficult circumstances, and help bring peace, calm and balance to another's mind.

Feel love for all beings, help those that you can, rejoice with those experiencing happiness, and feel equanimity for the difficult things in life one cannot change, for those beings who can't be helped. Metta and equanimity is like a knife and fork, they complement each other perfectly and bring balance to the mind. The warm heart of metta and the cool head of equanimity.

Sometimes I like to give peanuts to some crows when I go out for a walk. The crows will fly down to greet me and I feel metta well up in my heart for them. I know they are hungry so I feel karuna for them. I give them some peanuts. This makes them happy, and then I feel joy seeing how happy they are to get the peanuts. Unfortunately I don't have enough peanuts to feed all the birds and there are some birds perched nearby who didn't get any, but I have nothing left to give them. I wish them metta, but accept that I can't feed all the hungry birds in the world, as much as I wish I could. Equanimity is also how I feel when I see the crows are satisfied and not hungry anymore, and I then drift into a contented serenity. This brings a composure that leads to stillness and the other side to equanimity which is when one is in a state of equipose and all the different energies of the mind feel balanced and tuned just right. Like being in the zone. Centred. Composed and still, while everything around you is in a state of flux. Walking feels like stilness in motion.

In the beginning, one can cultivate these emotions by saying phrases that invoke it in the mind. Such as may all beings be happy, may all beings be peaceful, may all beings be safe and at ease. One can use whatever phrases one likes to help generate the feeling of unconditional love within.

If it feels difficult it is often because one needs to practise metta for oneself first.
Traditionally one is taught to first practise metta for oneself before radiating it to other beings. This is not wrong and it is not selfish, it is an act of kindness to oneself and others. It is much easier to make friends with other beings if one has become a friend to oneself first. So one can start the practice by saying metta phrases for oneself, may I be well, may I be happy, may I feel safe and at ease, and when the body feels satisfied, one can then radiate that energy out to the world, to all beings everywhere.

Sometimes the feeling of metta can be brought up from seeing something in nature, wildlife, flowers, trees, the sea, colours, the sky, clouds, beautiful sunrises or sunsets, the snow, the sound of rain.

It can also be brought on by memories of kind things one has done in the past, or kind things others have done. It can be generated by thinking of inspiring saintly figures, and characters in stories who radiate the beautiful qualities of the heart.

It can be thinking about angels, devas, ancestors, heavenly realms. Something imaginary, or real. Sometimes I imagine the world at peace with no more violence and war, no more stinginess or cruelty. Just this golden place where all beings live in friendship and peace with one another. It doesn't matter if it isn't how the world actually is, it is the wish for the world to be like that which can bring the feeling of metta up inside. It can also be one's children, one's parents, one's family, one's friends, a beloved pet,. One can recite chants about metta that help bring up the feeling of metta also.

Karuna is basically metta for beings who are suffering. And Mudita is metta for beings who are happy.

There are many ways to find one's way into the sublime abidings. Once there you want to try and keep the momentum going till it becomes strong enough to not need any more input. When the feeling of metta saturates the whole body, one can take the hand off the steering wheel of effort and stop the doing, thoughts will settle into a contented warmth and one can just rest in that feeling and enjoy it, becoming a lucid passenger, depending on the momentum consciousness will just cruise into a state of peaceful stillness that has a healing effect on the body and the mind. This can connect one to deeper mind and the wisdom it contains. There is a deeper wiser part of the mind that wants to talk to us, but we are often too caught up in the self-centred dream to hear what it is saying to us. When we get very still and quiet and are content, not wishing to be any place else, when the mind and body is at ease, and the energies of the mind become balanced, when one is no longer being pulled this way or that by the senses, truth reveals itself and one can see things clearly, then wisdom develops and one can direct that lucid mind state towards anything and understand it better, because one is less deluded and pulled by greed and aversion, one is able to see things better, like having a clean lens.

Not always easy to do though. It takes practise, like anything we learn in this life, repetitive practise, but it is worth it. Over time as one keeps up the practise it starts to develop a momentum of its own going one day to the next, and this momentum grows stronger, builds up an energy of its own. When it gets strong enough, you may not  need to say the phrases anymore, you can just connect instantly with the feeling and bring the energy up at will without using thought or words.

The practise of the Brahma viharas has a lot of benefits for oneself and others.

But there can be days I find it hard to practise them. I don't judge myself any more for that (I used to), but now it is okay if that happens. I just try to flow with where I'm at and work with what's in front of me and investigate that. There are other emotional states one can practise, such as mindfulness, investigation of the here and now, reflection, contemplation, studying, serenity, meditation, the stillness and composure of samhadi, the balance of equanimity, and others that don't spring to mind, but the palette of positive emotions is quite varied and wide, which is a good thing to know. My moods change quite rapidly, and I have found it helpful to have many strategies to hand.

Sometimes unfortunate events happen to us in life. Shit happens. The Buddha's metaphor of the second arrow can be helpful to remember here. An archer gets shot, then does a strange thing, he takes out his bow and shoots himself with a second arrow. The first arrow he couldn't do anything about, but the second arrow he didn't need to shoot, this is the mental suffering we create for ourselves after the event, such as the craving for things to be different, the way we might take it personally. All this just adds extra suffering to what is already an unfortunate event. The first arrow we couldn't do anything about; but the second arrow we can train ourselves not to shoot, and not add more pain to what is already there.

Not easy, at least not for many of us. There are some rare lucky folks who become fully enlightened straight away. But for most, it is a gradual process, that happens in stages, and it can go on for lifetimes. The concept of not clinging is easy enough to comprehend but difficult to practise, which is where the noble eightfold path comes in, that is the training that gets you there.

Beings who get enlightened quickly may be beings who have encountered this before in previous lives, who were already pretty far along in their development, so it didn't take much to bring that final liberating insight that permanently set them free from clinging.

Enough waffle from me anyway. I am not trying to convert anyone to Buddhism, or change anything. I do care about the Earth though and the suffering of this current age, brought about by greed, hatred, and delusion. The mass extinction event and endless violence now happening across the planet, which threatens many different species of life, including our species: homo sapiens.

It is a shame we can't make peace with one another, war is so horrific and unnecessary, causes so much misery and destruction. Why do we still have war? It is now 2023, and we seem to be more war-like than ever, with truly horrific weapons of mass destruction, of cruelty and violence. Why can't we transcend this? Why is it so hard for us to be kind to one another, to live in friendship and harmony with one another and all the other beings we share this planet with.

Why can't we share resources with one another, so we all live comfortably and in harmony? It is a shame that out of all the animals here on this planet, humans have become the most violent and cruel of them all. We think ourselves better than animals because we have all this technology; but the way we behave, we come across as lesser beings, as dangerous and not to be trusted. No other being on this planet behaves the way we do and causes so much destruction. Future generations will look back on this time and wonder why it got like this, why we couldn't change ourselves and put a stop to this madness.

We can be better than this. That is why I am training the mind, why I follow the noble eightfold path. It is because of greed, hatred, and selfishness that this world is so dark. If humans can free themselves of these three psychic poisons, imagine what a world we could build together, what a world future generations could inherit. The world doesn't have to be this way. Things can change for the better, if we have the inclination to, if enough of us choose to.

Still, I have hope that all is not yet lost. I think in the end there will be enough of us that care, who will make the changes necessary to create a better world. One that is in harmony with the other beings we share this planet with, one where there is no more inequality or poverty. One where the other species of life on this planet are treated with respect and friendliness, left to live their lives in peace and dignity. Without a thriving eco-system we won't survive.

I am not particularly gifted at anything, not very good at communication, I don't have much money, and I am not a leader; but I will do the best I can with what I've got, which isn't a lot, but I will try anyway. We all have different talents, and this is great, it wouldn't work if we were all exactly the same, our differences mean we work well as a team.

Anyway getting a bit side-tracked here. I am not trying to convert anyone to Buddhism, I am not proselytising, nor am I telling anyone how to live their lives. I have given up trying to change the world. What another being does with their life is their karma, and what I do is mine. I am not the greatest writer in the world, but maybe some of what I write may be helpful to others, both here and now, and perhaps in the future. I have struggled most of my life with mental health problems, and Buddhism has really helped me, and if any of what I share is helpful to others, even just one person, it makes it all worth it.

Take care everyone, peace and metta. May we all realise the end of greed, hate, and delusion. May we all experience the lasting peace and happiness that comes from an unhindered mind.

 

 

 


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Metta

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Love one another, and we can make it all right.
If we're friends with one another, then we all live right.
Metta changes darkness to a boundless golden light.
And with hearts full of friendship, we all shine bright.

Metta is a Pali word often translated as loving-kindness, benevolence, or friendliness. It is derived from the Sanskrit word 'maitri', (which has the same meaning). And this is derived from the word 'mitra', which means 'friend'.

Metta can be used effectively as a meditation object, which can lead to a blissful samhadi and sublime states of mind. It can also be cultivated in everyday life as we go about our business in the world, wherever we are. It brings many benefits and good karma to the one who practises it, and it can change the atmosphere around one.

It is a powerful blameless magic, and one can be imaginative and creative with how one cultivates and works with this energy. It has the power to transform the mind and make it more divine, happy, friendly, golden and peaceful. When the mind is full of happy peaceful thoughts it makes it easier to settle into meditation.

 Metta works as an effective antidote to greed and hatred, and its cultivation can lead to fortunate events in this life, as well as a fortunate rebirth in the next one.

Metta can have a healing effect on the body, as well as a healing effect on others when we send metta to them.

It is also protective and can make one fearless.
Friendliness towards other beings enriches one's life.
Brings good energy wherever one goes,
So that one never feels alone.

May all beings be friends.


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Don't look back in anger

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 12 Feb 2023, 21:27

Today I got angry when a memory was aroused and I paid unwise attention to it. I caught myself being judgemental, and it was an unpleasant mood, vile like poison, and I got sick with it, it took over, overrun the city of consciousness and the mind became unhappy and restless. A metaphor from the bible came to mind, about Lot's wife turning into a pillar of salt for looking back at the cities of sodom and Gomorrah.

I reflect on how unskilful anger can be and how it leads to regret afterwards. No matter how justified I think it is at the time, thoughts of anger always lead to regret. And I think to myself why get angry in the first place when you know you will regret it later? And I noticed how bossy and cruel the mind can be at times, it encourages me to become angry about something; and then punishes me afterwards for not being a better Buddhist.

What an absolute arse the mind can be. The inner critic. The inner tyrant.

Then I realised ha! This is aversion in another hat. Trying to disguise its presence and sneak past the guard at the gate with the jedi mind-trick of self-judgement.

I paused and experienced the unpleasantness of aversion, really felt it, took time to know it. Thought, this is anger, this is resentment, this is how it feels, it is like a sickness, an affliction, it is a poison, toxic - this is suffering.

Then I became aware of how craving in its three forms was also present in the mind, The craving to acquire something, the craving to change feelings one doesn't like, and the craving for becoming (self-centredness). I keep finding whenever there is suffering, without fail, these three are also present. Greed, hatred, and delusion; or longing, aversion, and ignorance, is another way of describing them.

In dependent origination, craving leads to attachment, to clinging, clinging is basically identifying with things, and this leads to becoming. Which is where the idea of letting go comes from. Letting go of the clinging. It sounds simple, and sometimes letting go can feel almost effortless, but other times it can be hard to let go, it involves a bit of work, and right effort is needed to detach oneself. Sometimes I find I am too absorbed in my thoughts to be able to let go of what I am thinking about. It is hard to just suddenly become detached from it. My awareness has become too contracted and uncomfortable, tense, boxed in, like a prison.

One strategy the Buddha suggests when one is absorbed in difficult thoughts, is to bring oneself out of it gradually. He uses this metaphor which is a bit like a cartoon. A man is running, and says to himself, why am I running when I could be walking? So he stops running and walks. Then he says to himself, why am I walking when I could be standing? So he stands. Then he says, why am I standing when I could be sitting? So he sits down, and then says to himself why am I sitting when I could be lying down?

When the mind is running full pelt with a wild and difficult mood you can't just snap yourself out of it, if you try to, it will just run over you. It has to be slowed down gradually and skillfully. When we are boxed in our thoughts, and absorbed in whatever it is we are thinking about, we are not seeing the whole picture, not seeing things clearly. Awareness when it is contracted and shut in is ignorant of what is really going on, it becomes error prone and delusional.

One thing that helps me, is to let the thoughts just be, don't argue with them, don't try to fight them or replace them. Just focus on the fact I am thinking those thoughts, and notice how I am also paying attention to them. I then open up and expand awareness gradually, to bring some space and help draw attention away from the thoughts. Sometimes background sounds help bring some spaciousness to the mind, and other times the feeling of the body works. Such as the lower belly, the feet and legs, the hands. There is something earthy about it, that helps to ground me. Centre me. The body doesn't think, it just feels. And those parts of the body often feel far enough away from the thought processes to be a more tranquil place to move my attention. Enough to hush the thinking down a bit, then I will expand awareness a bit more, feel the whole belly, chest, arms, shoulders, neck, face, head, scalp. The inside of the body and the outside of it. I do this as well as I can, I am not trying to experience every single sensation in the body, just enough to help settle the mind and engage attention with something more peaceful and calming.

I remember something I read about how the iron in our bodies makes the red blood cells that carry the oxygen to our cells. How this iron comes from the Earth, comes from the ground below us. It is a nice way to remember how intimately connected we are with mother Earth. She flows in our very blood, is in every heartbeat.

Iron also is made by stars, it comes from an exploded sun. We are all stardust. We are all connected to the universe, not separate from it.

As the body grows more still and composed. I become aware of the air element around me, and then I notice the breath. Feel the cool air in the nostrils and it helps to cool down the thought processes, chill things out.

The body starts to feel pleasant and I notice how comfortable my legs feel, and how snug my hands are. The air feels cool and refreshing on the scalp, the face and neck, the touch of clothing is pleasant. I feel the breath energy inside the body. The inner winds. The whole body breathing together as one, each inhalation and exhalation massaging the peace and happiness throughout the whole of my being.

The anger subsides and I notice how I am now feeling happier and more peaceful. More content. I notice how much nicer the mind feels when aversion is absent. How good it feels when the mind isn't angry, isn't harrassing itself anymore, isn't longing for anything, isn't identifying with things or taking things personally. I feel relief and gladness that the mood has passed and there is even some joy arising.

I contemplate cessation, the third noble truth, knowledge of the end of suffering. Then reflect on the fourth noble truth, on how the different factors of the noble eightfold path work together in harmony to bring about that cessation.

What a wonderful memory device the four noble truths are, within that succinct teaching there is so much to work with and practise with in both meditation and daily life.

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

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

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

4. Knowledge of the path that leads to the end of suffering (which is to be developed) .

 

 

 


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The five aggregates of clinging

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The Buddha taught there are five aggregates that make up a being.

  1. Physical form (the body).
  2. feelings (sense impressions and the mental tone of pleasant or unpleasant that accompanies them),
  3. perceptions (our memory).
  4. mental formations (thoughts, ideas, personality, emotions, moods).
  5. and consciousness (which arises because of and is shaped by the other four aggregates.)

These five aggregates are interwoven and affect one another, and they are what we identify with as the self. But when we slow down and compose our minds through meditative practises, enough to be able to look at the five aggregates closely, we can see that they are always changing and arise and cease due to causes and conditions.

We cling to them because we identify with them, and this attachment to the impersonal changing phenomena in ourselves and in others causes us suffering. It also leads to rebirth, and further becoming.

Why is rebirth a problem? Because of ageing, sickness, death and loss. Even the glorious devas age and die. Even if one gets a good rebirth and lives a long life in the heavenly realms, that life will one day come to an end, when the karma that brought it into being ceases. Then a being can fall from the heavens and return to the Earth, or worse can fall into the Hell realms where the suffering is intense and long lasting. And all of us if we do not uproot greed, hate, and delusion from the mind can go through this cyclic process over and over, this is Samsara. And because of change and impermanence, for the majority of the time the experience is not pleasant, our time in Samsara is mostly an experience of pain, loss, grief, sorrow and suffering. The happiness is brief compared to the unhappiness.

The thought of reincarnation and rebirth can be challenging for us modern humans with our scientific minds; but it is part of right view in the noble eightfold path. Right view isn't just looking at the life one is living now, it is also looking at the possibility of future lives, of rebirth and how that depends on the karma we generate now, i.e. the tendencies of the mind we grasp and cultivate in this life, which grow in momentum and eventually transform into another being.

Things change, we change, even space which we think of as empty is full of quantom particles in a state of flux, the void is not empty, and even then we are never in the same patch of space twice, because the Earth is spinning, and going round and round the sun, which is itself going round and round the centre of the galaxy, we never experience the same patch of space twice, each moment the space we are in is different, even space itself is change.

The mind always wants to cling to something. Perhaps because of the transient nature of things and the uncertainty this brings. But the clinging causes us suffering, it is not pleasant, because the things we cling and become attached to change, and we can't stop them changing, nothing remains the same, nothing lasts, everything is in a state of entropy and impermanent.

There may be momentary sensory gratification in this life from sense pleasures, but they don't last, and sooner or later one experiences the opposite, because one cannot experience pleasure and gain, without also experiencing pain and loss. The eight worldly winds (pain and pleasure, gain and loss, success and failure, praise and blame) blow in both directions and can change suddenly. One cannot experience one without also experiencing the other. That which arises also ceases. Which can be a comforting truth when one is in pain, but an uncomfortable truth when one is experiencing pleasure. We want the pleasant experiences to last, but alas they don't. They change, and it can be cruel, because even if you manage to get what you want, and can maintain that sensory pleasure, the mind gets bored after a time, the senses become jaded and one starts to crave for something different, everything changes.

The concept of not-self is a tricky one to grasp. Of course there is a self you may say, I mean who is sitting here and typing these words, who is it that practises the noble eightfold path, if not the self? In fact when the Buddha was asked one time if there was a self or not, he point blank refused to answer the question. I think what he was trying to teach us, is the self is not what we think it is. It is not the things that we identify with and call the self. There is no permanent fixed soul that travels through existence like a marble on a marble run. There is no marble. There is just flow with nothing substantial behind it. Just changing streams of energy, of processes that arise and cease due to causes and conditions.

But it is also not true to say that nothing exists. Because there is energy, energy is real, in physics, we are taught that energy is neither created nor destroyed, only converted from one form of energy to another. So where did that energy come from originally and what happens to it at death?

The Buddha said no matter how far back in time he looked, he could not find a beginning to this mysterious flow of energy we call life. And when someone asked him what happens to a fully enlightened being (an arahant) after death, he didn't give an answer, he said such questions are unknowables, at least to those of us who are not arahants. He taught that pondering such things can be a waste of time, and can't be put in words satisfactorily. These unknowables can get in the way of practising what is important. Which is what is in front of us in the here and now. Our lives are brief, and the only really important question is am I suffering or not? The goal of the Buddhist path is to realise complete lasting freedom from suffering. The third noble truth. This is the greatest supernormal power, the greatest knowledge of all.

Still, in an attempt to satisfy my curiosity. I tend to think of it like this. Imagine the energy we call self is like a glass of water. And nibanna, the deathless, the unconditioned element, is like a peaceful ocean that is not affected by weather, currents, change or any other phenomena. What happens to the water in the glass when it is poured into that ocean? Where does it go and what does it become?

Peace and light 


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Dissolving problems

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I am enjoying meditating on the breath energy at the moment and moving it throughout the body. It helps me maintain interest and curiosity in the breath as a meditation object, and it feels enjoyable and invigorating.

I place my attention on the cool air going into the nasal cavity and the warm air going out, like the waves of the sea going into a cave, breathing in, breathing out. I become aware of the whole body at once, feel the breath energy travel deep into the body, into the lower belly and down into my feet and toes, making them tingle with happiness. I feel it in my hands also as I breathe in and out. The energy permeating the whole body, like the ocean filling inner coves. It feels cool, soothing, and refreshing. The spine tingles, and the scalp and back of the neck lights up with pleasure. The feeling of air and the touch of clothing on skin feels pleasant, and the body is comfortable and at ease. The cool air all around me enters the pores of my skin with each inhalation, nourishing every fibre of my being. It feels wonderful.

After a while of doing this, the energy becomes more settled and serene, and then it feels good to stop moving the energy round the body, and just let it be, resting quietly in the awareness of the inner body. The energy bubbles and flows gently on its own, and the mind settles into a peaceful state, composed, content and lucid. Not wanting to be anywhere else. The body and mind feels satisfied and becomes very still, no longer harrassing itself, tranquilised and at peace (-:

It doesn't matter if this is supported by science, meditation is not about objective reality. Meditation is about the subjective reality. It is about the inner world, the inner body, inner being. In meditation, the chakras, the breath energy, magic can all be real, and it can heal.

I read an article recently about the power of the placebo effect, and I wonder if that is an indication of the magic potential of the mind when it comes to the subjective experience (-:

I wonder if that was the meaning behind the movie: 'Life of Pi'. If that film was about the importance and value of the subjective experience, because that is where we live.

I am starting to realise that many of our problems are not really problems, they are just mental constructs and imaginary fears that don't need to be resolved at all. They just need to be dissolved by tranquility. Then whatever's left is easier to work with and understand.


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Inner critic

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Samhadi is difficult to practise but it is another helpful friend during dark nights, There are days I wake up feeling anxious and restless. I feel uncomfortable being around the energies of others, and metta (loving-kindness) practise feels harder to get into. It is an unpleasant edgy state of mind.

I find sometimes awareness of the breath and the body can be helpful then, using the breath energy to soften the tense areas throughout the body, becoming aware of the cool air going into my nostrils, feel it go right up to my third eye chakra, permeate my brain, cool down the thought processes, dissolve them into tranquility, and this can help bring a sense of relief, but it can be difficult to maintain.

It can be enough though, to help me pause and reflect for a moment: Why am I feeling anxious? Today I am feeling anxious because I have written a lot lately. My inner critic is giving me a hard time for sharing my writing with others. I reflect on what I have written. I do not feel I have written anything wrong or untrue. Then I sense the anxiety that others may not like it or approve of it. That's okay, they don't have to read what I write, I am not writing to please anyone, or proselytize. What other's think is up to them, I am not responsible for their thoughts, only my own. I like writing sometimes. Writing helps me to articulate my understanding of things, and it can be a useful tool.

Okay so why am I posting it online? It is true that it isn't going to be of interest to the vast majority of beings out there, it isn't what most people want to know about, which is fine; but if some of what I write helps me, then there's a chance that it might help someone else too.  It may trigger thoughts in someone and lead them to draw conclusions of their own that might be helpful to them. Others may leave comments that are wise and wouldn't have occurred if I had not posted my writing; this can also be helpful, and add more to what was written. 

I also could die at any moment, and it would be a shame to keep it all to myself. And although I have not yet realised a complete end to suffering in this lifetime, some of what I have learnt may help others either now, or perhaps one day in the future. 

And after that thought, the inner critic relaxed and became silent and it was easier to meditate.


Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 6 Feb 2023, 20:11)
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Forgiveness

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I doubt there has ever lived a human being who has not made mistakes. We've all thought, said, and done things we regret. There are things in our past we wish we'd done different. We have all hurt other beings either intentionally or unintentionally through our thoughts, words, and actions.

A beautiful truth is how forgiveness emancipates the heart. Frees one of the sickness of hate and resentment. Opens up the prison of regret and remorse. And reconnects us to the divine.

Saying the following phrase regularly really has helped me through some dark nights and helped me connect with the energy of metta (friendliness, loving-kindness). 

' I ask the forgiveness of all beings I have wronged either intentionally or unintentionally. I am truly sorry. I offer to share the merit of my spiritual practise with you. May you be safe, well, happy, and peaceful. Serene and boundless. Happy and contented. Comforted and blessed, free from sorrow.

I also forgive all those who have wronged me either intentionally or unintentionally. I offer to share the merit of my spiritual practise with you. May you be safe, well, happy, and peaceful. Serene and boundless. Happy and contented. Comforted and blessed, free from sorrow.

This is my wish for all beings everywhere, all around me, within me, above me, below me, in all directions of time and space, in all worlds, in all dimensions. I offer to share the merit of my spiritual practise with you. May you be safe, well, happy, and peaceful. Serene and boundless. Happy and contented. Comforted and blessed, free from sorrow.

May all beings be at peace.

Metta is a beautiful energy, it really can heal the heart and mind and bring the light back.


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Garden of karma

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I like the metaphor of the mind being like a garden.

In the beginning, gardening involves effort. One has to choose the seeds carefully, prepare the soil, ensure the conditions are right for those seeds. Plant them, water them, nuture the seedlings that sprout, protect them from predators, and keep the young plants safe until they are big and strong enough to take care of themselves. These are the seeds of non-greed, non-hate, non-delusion.

At the same time there are many dormant seeds in the soil from a previous garden, a previous existence. And when these sprout, these are the weeds that have to be removed from the garden; because if nothing is done about them, they will eventually take over, become difficult to manage, and create a canopy of leaves that shade the garden and starve the plants you are trying to cultivate of light, water and nutriment. These weeds are greed, hatred, and delusion. And they sprout from the seeds of longing, aversion, and ignorance. 

In the beginning one has to put in the right causes and conditions for the garden to grow and flourish. This involves a sense of self, the ego. The ego is the gardener, and one uses that sense of self, that craving for becoming to do the gardening project. 

If the work is not fully done in time for the ending of the seasons and the death of winter. Whatever seeds are in the soil at the end, will sprout to become the next garden, our new life in the Spring.

If we have cultivated non-greed, non-hate, non-delusion, even if a few seeds of greed, hate, and delusion remain and manage to sprout in the next garden. The weeding will be easier and less onerous than before; and the seeds of non-greed, non-hate, non-delusion will be present in the soil in larger quantities, and they will also sprout to greet us on the other side, and be hardier and easier to cultivate, much stronger and better at defending themselves and holding their own.

It can be a gradual process that may take many seasons. But eventually there will come a point when enough effort has been made. The garden has flowered and born fruit. and from that point the garden will be able to take care of itself; then the gardener will no longer be needed and the ego can step aside. Greed, hate, and delusion will never take root in the mind again. And what is left is peace and the end of suffering. Nibanna.

I quite like looking at it like that (-:


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Magic

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

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


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