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Pain, the power of intention, and Samadhi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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Asoka

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

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


This is a gradual training. 

Find somewhere secluded where one won't be disturbed.

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

One trains thus:

Mindfulness of the body

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

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

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

4. Breathe calming the body. 

Mindfulness of Feelings

5. Breathe sensitive to joy.

6. Breathe experiencing pleasure. 

7. Breathe sensitive to thoughts.

8. Breathe calming thoughts.

Mindfulness of mind states:

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

10. Breathe satisfying and gladdening the mind.

11. Breathe steadying the mind.

12. Breathe releasing the mind.

Mindfulness of dhammas:

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

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

16. Breathe contemplating cessation. (of suffering).

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

...


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Earth kasina

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


I feel a strong connection to the earth element at the moment. The feeling of it under my feet when standing or walking, or sitting in a chair, is reassuring. I feel its depth and stability. Its boundlessness in all directions beneath. It absorbs the unwanted energies of the mind without me asking it to, neutralises them, grounds me, earths me. Calms me, cools down the senses. Its ancient solidity making me feel safe, at ease, comfortable, peaceful. Like it is holding me, centring me. I become still like a mountain, unperturbed, unshaken, serene, dignified, composed.

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

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

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

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

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

It felt like a taste of freedom. 

I am learning more and more how important the subjective experience of the inner body is. One can centre with that anywhere, live there all the time. Make it your home, inner peace.


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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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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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Menthol meditation

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

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

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

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



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Asoka

Night

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



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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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Energy

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Didn't want to get up today. Felt very fatigued. I lay there, persevering with the desire to make effort to move. Then remembered I had to be up in time for a video call with a friend, which helped me reach for that extra bit of energy tipping the balance in favour of wading through the waves of treacle-like resistance in the mind, to once again awaken to another day of life as a human being.

Made and drank some coffee.

Then sat and meditated for an hour, had a peaceful meditation, first time in a while where I was actually very content to just sit there and watch the breath without wanting to be any place else. Felt awareness naturally want to be centred there, and the composure and stillness grew into a peaceful happy sense of the inner body. The physical outer body like the walls of a cave, weathering the worldly winds and myriad sense impressions like rain on a rock shelter; but the inner body felt safe, warm, comfortable and at ease, like being in a bath of warm contented energy.

Knock on the door.
I reluctantly leave my inner cave.
And serenely collect the post.

Then make effort to generate the desire to eat. Some days it feels like a chore to eat food. I try to eat one meal a day, not for special religous reasons, but because I have noticed that eating just one meal a day (between 11am - 3pm) seems to be better for my health. I don't always succeed at this though.



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Breathing through it

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 30 Dec 2022, 10:14

 Present to the here and now, embodied, anchored, centred with the breath. 

Attention not too forceful or too lax. 

Not a laser beam type focus, not a  contracted awareness. But with an open and expansive awareness, a holistic awareness that includes it all, everything that is happening in the here and now, not grasping for or pushing anything away. Remaining composed and still, with the breath and the whole body at the centre. An anchor for attention. The breath energy like the changing waves of the ocean. 

Allowing it all to happen, whatever is present in the here and now, the sense impressions, the thoughts, feelings, pleasant or unpleasant. Letting things arise and cease without trying to change them or make them otherwise; but also not going along with them, not being drawn in and pulled in different directions by them. 

Not getting involved and tangled up by desire in its three forms, not following the passion, aversion, or selfing. Not making it into a story. Not trying to change the world, not judging anything, not pushing anything away, not clinging to it, and not adding anything to it.

 Just anchored in the body, composed and still. Present to the present moment and letting things be as they are, life as it is, the good, the bad, and breathing through it.


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Asoka

Wind

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

Photo of a seagull gliding on the air

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Kingdom of Samhadi

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 3 Mar 2022, 22:49


Are there other worlds existing alongside this one?
Irradiant kingdoms and castles in the sky.
With strange and fantastic beings 
living beyond our locked up cognition,
our dry empty material condition.
Of money, concrete blocks and consumer dreams.
Our TV eyes blinking;
but nothing is what it seems.

Blinded by dark arts of finance and
drab clinical reality of so cold science.
Industrial noise, greed, sorrow and disease.
Beings factory farmed by dead machines.
The wheel of consumerism keeps on churning
crushing and breaking everything in its path.

Yet sitting still in serenity
I hear celestial music play.
See strange beings traverse the air,
Their otherworldly kingdom moved 
by the rhythmic push and pull of my nostrils.



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