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Equanimity towards formations

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 4 Aug 2023, 09:59


Equanimity is a pleasant emotion. It is not dry at all. It is better than you think. You may be forgiven for having the impression of equanimity being a dry scientific sort of apathetic state. But it is not like that. It is a very rich emotion, and the freedom it brings feels slightly ecstatic actually.

Equanimity is a balance of all the different energies of the mind all tuned so that they are in sync and working together harmoniously. It is flowing through life without clinging. A state of non-attachment.

One doesn't care for pain or pleasure anymore. It just doesn't bother one. You can be walking with pain in the joints and it just doesn't matter. One still feels pleasure, but when it ceases one doesn't cling to it, or want it back. It is no big deal anymore.

Equanimity is neither love nor hate.
Neither greed nor self-denial.
It avoids all extremes.

What is love anyway? 
What is hate?

The eight worldly winds of pain and pleasure, success and failure, gain and loss, praise and blame just don't matter when one is equanimous. The worldly winds can blow and blow but the house of cards isn't there anymore. There's nothing to defeat. Just emptiness.

One no longer cares about impressing people, or pleasing anyone, or trying to tick another's boxes, or being perfect. One just doesn't give a shit about that anymore. Worldly views are just those, they change like the wind. They're insubstantial, empty, not-self.

 There's no ill-will towards anybody though, no conceit. Just a sweet freedom from being concerned about the opinions of others. One still listens to the opinions of the wise however, the noble ones. Those who have more experience on the spiritual path. To not take on board their advice would be foolish. But the opinions of the world, they no longer matter or effect one. 

Praise and blame is like honey and bee-stings. Both can be dangerous. Praise can get to our heads. It gives us a dopamine hit, excites us, fluffs up the ego. Which can compel us to behave in unskillful ways, cause us to make poor choices, and crave more praise. This feeds the unwholesome roots of greed and delusion.

Blame can make us feel like shit. Dampen our spirits. We take it personally, and resentments can arise and fester. This feeds the unwholesome root of hate.

To walk the middle way. Is to stand outside of the extremes. To look at both from a vantage point that is beyond good and bad. To see both sides clearly and understand them.

It is to pay wise attention to the fault, and wise attention to the beautiful. 

With equanimity one can feel okay whatever happens, one's peace remains unshaken.

A good spiritual exercise to practice sometimes is to allow ourselves to be misunderstood by someone else and not feel the need to correct them. Not feel bothered at all. One can learn a lot about how we crave praise and construct the self from this exercise.

With equanimity one stops taking everything so seriously, so personally. It just doesn't matter, because one clearly sees that all formations are empty. Conditioned phenomena is transient, dissatisfying, insecure, it doesn't lead to lasting happiness and wellbeing. It just leads to more suffering. Attachment is suffering. The things we are the most attached to in the world, are the things that cause us to suffer the most. 

With equanimity one feels undisturbed by anything. One can walk passed a corpse smiling serenely. It is a freeing emotion, and one I am keen to explore more in my practice.

How to get there? The practise of samhadi naturally leads to it. Equanimity is the seventh factor of enlightenment:

Mindfulness --> Investigation --> Energy --> Rapture --> Calmness --> Samhadi --> Equanimity.

Wanting things is stressful. It is tiring and unpleasant. Through our day to day experience, through being mindful and investigating. One starts to understand this at a deep level. Then the mind reaches a point where it feels fed up with yearning, sick of craving and naturally becomes dispassionate towards worldly formations. Without the pain of wanting, freed from the feeling of lack that comes from craving. One becomes content and one's mind feels invincible, unshakable. At peace. It's not dangerous, the feeling of equanimity doesn't get to one's head. It is not apathy, it works well with the emotion of kindness, kindness and equanimity complement one another.

Equanimity is a pleasant cooling of the senses. A relief. A harmless state of non-grasping. Of non-acquiring, non-hating. There's no conceit there at all. One sees clearly that the self is a delusion. And that seeing is truly liberating for the energies of the mind.

To be a person, to have an identity, to be somebody is tiring. It is stressful, dissatisfying. Being caught up in the self-centred dream is to suffer. How wonderful it feels to let all that go.To go beyond all of it and taste true freedom. Freedom from the prison of the self. The psychic energy involved in this delusion becomes unbound, limitless, no longer subject to conditions -- deathless.


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Asoka

To be outstanding

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" When dealing with the demons of defilement, you have to look for both their good and their bad points. Only when you see both sides can you be said to be discerning and wise. When you can take bad things and make them good, that's when you're really outstanding. If you take good things and make them bad, that's no good at all. Even when you take good things and make other good things out of them, that's not really special. There are three levels of goodness: good, excellent, and outstanding. A good person does good. An excellent person takes something good and makes it better. That's excellent, but not outstanding. An outstanding person takes bad things and makes them good. "

- Ajahn Lee

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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 Jul 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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Asoka

One excellent night

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 25 Jul 2023, 10:21


' Let one not revive the past.

Nor upon the future build one's hopes.
For the past has been left behind.
And the future's not yet reached.
Instead with insight let one see,
Each presently arisen state.
Let one know that and be sure of it,
Invincibly, unshakeably.
Today the effort must be made.
Tomorrow death may come.
Who knows?
No bargain with mortality can keep him and his hordes away. 
But for one who dwells thus ardently. 
Keeps at it, does not give up.
Practises by day, by night ---
It is those the peaceful sage has said
Who have had one excellent night. '

-- poem attributed to the Buddha


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Asoka

Psychic weather front

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Sometimes I feel alive, enthusiastic, full of excitement and wonder. Other times I am like a flat battery that can't seem to hold its charge or see much hope in anything. Other times there's an odd mix of brain chemistry that is so horrible I can't put it into words. 

It is helpful for me to remember the brain is the body. It is dependent on conditions largely outside my control, meaning it will change. It won't always function in the way I wish it would, and eventually it will cease when the conditions it depends on cease.

That is the way of things with dependent origination. Conditioned phenomena is impermanent. It isn't gloomy to think this way. It can be a helpful tool to bring some equanimity to the mind. It helps me let go of the clinging and aversion towards things, and to stop taking it personally. Which decreases the suffering somewhat.

Sometimes difficult things happen that are outside our control. And sometimes it’s our own fault, we behave in unskilful ways and reap the kamma for it. Whatever it is, we then go and add more suffering to the situation with the longing, aversion, and taking it personally. This is the mental pain we add to physical and worldly difficulties. This is what makes us suffer.

I remember one night I got stranded on the mainland after missing the last boat back to the island. I had just completed a lengthy 10-hour journey coming back from my dad’s funeral. And I arrived at the ferry terminal late due to a delay with the coach. I felt exhausted and a bit unwell. There was nowhere to stay, and a long wait till the next ferry in the morning. So I went to sit on the beach, tried to roll a joint to make myself feel better. And I'd almost finished rolling it, when there was a huge gust of wind that blew it all away, and then it started raining. I felt like the person off the Hamlet advert, but without the cigar.

Then the day of the funeral all came back to me, and I burst into tears. It all just gushed out. I felt so lonely.

Then I saw my dad’s face in the sea. And I said I was sorry for not getting chance to speak to him before he died. I wished him well and told him he was loved.

Then the wind and rain became unbearable, so I went to find some shelter. I spent the rest of the night alternating between walking, standing, and sitting meditation.

I went through so many mood swings in that one night. Like the mind was changing, morphing into all sorts of different shapes and patterns. I was even seeing things that weren't there. It was challenging.

Through it all I tried to remain still and not get disturbed by the changing psychic weather. I just kept bringing my attention back to the breath and body to calm and centre the mind. Not engaging with anything else. Meditation felt like a refuge. There were strange eerie sounds at times like banshees wailing. (They turned out to be seabirds, the tunnel making their calls echo in ghostly ways).

 Eventually after many hours of this, the mind converged into a oneness, and it all disappeared. The psychic weather passed. Leaving behind a stillness and beautiful emptiness that I can't put into words. 

I was greeted at sunrise by a friendly pigeon watching me intently with smiley eyes. Then it vocalised a set of patterns, and some moments later another pigeon responded in the distance with a different set of vocal patterns.

The pigeon flew away. 

The wind and rain outside had stopped. It also dependent on conditions.

I went to get a coffee and my card was declined by the reader. I laughed, and the cashier laughed as well. She said that happens to her all the time, and that she keeps a supply of cash with her just in case.

Luckily, I had a few coins on me and managed to buy the coffee.

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Asoka

Renunciation

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 23 Jul 2023, 16:37


One way I look at this is. It is more about becoming aware of the mental dispositions that cause us suffering, and when we become less ignorant of these and wise up to them, we naturally let go of them.

The good stuff remains though. It is okay to have a good life, to be comfortable and have some fun. This practise does not have to be a morose and sombre experience. After all it is the way that leads to the end of suffering. Enjoy the pleasant moments, as fully as you can, but practise wise attention to them. Notice how the mind clings and thirsts for more, and how this makes us suffer. How the things we are attached to the most, are the things that cause us to suffer the most when we become separated from them.

All conditioned phenomena is transient and uncertain. If one's happiness is dependent on conditions, it is bound to disappoint. As those conditions are outside of one's control, they will change and then that happiness will end. That is why it is precarious to place one's hopes in worldly happiness. It is not wrong to enjoy this happiness. It is just, material things are not the real treasure in life. The pearl of great worth comes from within. That's what we reach for at death, what we take with us when we die. Everything else is torn away from us.

Mindfulness, wonder, interest, investigation, energy, joy, peace, friendliness, love, kindness, good humour, generosity, empathy, connection, compassion, serenity, samhadi, and equanimity to mention some, are all beautiful states of mind that don't cause us or anyone else any harm. These states of mind are good for us mentally and physically. They also bring good kamma, because they reinforce the mental dispositions that lead to good states of becoming, that lead away from suffering. They make us happier, healthier beings, and enrich our lives and those around us.

All the beauty of the heart remains, and shines the more brightly without the clouds of greed, hate, conceit and delusion. 

It is like someone who has been sick with an illness, with a fever, becomes unconscious. A doctor comes along and examines the patient, knows what it is that is wrong with the patient and how to cure them. He gives the patient some medicine. Their consciousness returns, then the colour returns to their cheeks, they sit up feeling much better, then their composure becomes serene and radiant. Feeling the relief of no longer being sick.

In a similar way, when our minds are clear of greed, hate, conceit and delusion, they become well again.

It isn't the world outside that is the problem. It is the greed, hate, and delusion within us that is the problem. That is what causes us suffering. That is what gets in the way.  

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Asoka

Reincarnation and the twelve links of dependent origination

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 19 Jul 2023, 15:50


The twelve links of dependent origination as I understand them are:

Ignorance --> Mental dispositions and volitional actions --->  Conditioned consciousness ---> Name and form (mind and body) ---> The six senses ---> Sense contact (sense impressions) ---> Feelings (pleasant or unpleasant) ---> Craving ---> Clinging ---> Becoming ---> Birth ---> Death

When it comes to reincarnation and how that works, in a very basic way. 

There is death. After death the mental dispositions, (tendencies of the mind) lead to volitional actions. These condition consciousness to seek out a new womb, a new body, a new state of becoming. This creates the body and mind, the khandhas. Which leads to the six senses: sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, thoughts and ideas. This in turn creates sense impressions. Which we feel as either pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. These feelings lead to craving for more of the pleasant sensations and less of the unpleasant ones. We all tend to like pleasure and dislike pain. So we cling to what we like and want more of. We take on an identity. This is me, this is mine, this is self, the conceit 'I am'. This leads to becoming, which leads to birth, (and if you are a biological being of this Earth realm) old age, sickness, death and loss.

Rinse and repeat

 Upon death, ignorant of the mental dispositions and actions that lead to suffering (both mental and physical). Conditioned consciousness seeks rebirth, this leads to name and form (or body and mind)... and the cycle carries on. 

Because of ignorance it can go on indefinitely.

This is a very brief sketchy description,  Any gaps in my understanding are homework for me and the reader (-;

 It can be helpful to try and articulate one's understanding. I read somewhere that this is one of the ways we learn is through attempting to articulate our understanding of things. It doesn't have to be in writing. Can just be verbally out loud to oneself. This can be suprisingly helpful in checking one's understanding of a teaching and where there are gaps in one's knowledge, which points to what homework needs to be done.

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Asoka

Understanding suffering

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 19 Jul 2023, 11:45


Grief seems to have returned. Lots of tears at the moment. Still processing things it seems.

So many unwanted events happening at once just now, coming into a convergence. I feel this longing to escape from it all, to be free from this world. Is that the thirst for non-existence (vibhava-tanhā)?

Have been reflecting on the first noble truth, the knowledge of suffering.
The instruction given for this truth, is that it needs to be understood.
How does one understand suffering?

' The noble truth of suffering (dukkha) is this: birth is suffering; aging is suffering; sickness is suffering; death is suffering; sorrow, pain, loss, grief, and despair are suffering; association with what is disliked is suffering; separation from what is liked is suffering; not getting what one wants is suffering. In brief, the five aggregates of attachment are suffering. '

— DHAMMACAKKAPPAVATTANA SUTTA

Understanding comes from investigation of the four noble truths in one's own life, in one's own experience. That's how true knowing develops.

A definition of the word 'Buddha' is 'One who knows'.

Some intellectual knowledge is needed. There has to be the capacity for wise reflection, and for critical thinking. You also need a map, a description, some guidance to point you in the right direction. So you know where you are heading with all this. Understand what needs to be accomplished, what the work is. The task at hand.

Then one sets the intention. Resolves to do the work. Consulting the map when one gets stuck. The true knowledge and wisdom is learnt from experience. From the present moment, life as it is, this is our dhamma teacher. With patience, gradually, over the course of many hours of repetitive practise. By being our own refuge. Experimenting, tweaking things, tuning them, one develops the eight factors of the noble eightfold path.

The five aggregates of attachment are: 1. The physical body 2. Feelings 3. Perceptions (memory) 4. Mental formations (such as thoughts), and 5. Consciousness (which arises due to contact with sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, and mental objects).

The five aggregates are always changing. Like a flowing stream. One never sees the same stream twice, even though it looks like the same stream. The water molecules you where looking at a moment ago are no longer there.

In a similar way, the five aggregates are a complex process, a flowing stream of events, of cause and effect. Everything conditioned is interdependent. When the right conditions are present something will arise; And when those conditions are no longer present, that something will cease.

For example, fire is dependent on conditions such as dryness, wood, oxygen, tinder, and a spark. Take away any of those conditons and the fire won't start.

The five aggregates (the khandhas/skandhas) are fragile and uncertain, dependent on changing conditions that are largely outside our control. Which is why clinging to them, and identifying with them causes us suffering. There's nothing there to cling to. They are impermanent, insubstantial. Empty.

The things we are attached to the most, are the things that cause us the most suffering.

The twelve links of dependent origination, (ultra-concise version):

These are a representation of the links in the chain of dependent origination (causation) which lead to suffering and rebirth.

Ignorance --> Mental dispositions and volitional actions --> Conditioned consciousness --> Mind and body (aka name and form) --> The six senses --> Sense impressions --> feelings (of like or dislike) --> craving --> clinging/identifying --> becoming --> birth --> death.

It is a continous circle, so death circles back round to ignorance and the circuit begins again...

i.e., becoming --> birth --> death --> Ignorance --> mental dispositions and volitional actions ... and so on -- the cycle continuously goes round and round in a circle.

Need a better way to describe 'mental dispositions and volitional actions.' It is about how our mental dispositions, our intentions become mental and physical actions which condition our consciousness (form habits).

The links are all points where the circuit can be broken. Much of the links are outside our control. But we can work on ignorance, on our intentions, on our volitional actions. Use wisdom and knowledge to weaken the tendency to cling and identify with things. Till eventually one realises a state of non-clinging and stops grasping the seeds of greed, hate and delusion. Then the fuel line to craving is cut off and suffering stops.

Physical pain can still happen, that is the kamma of having a body, of living in an uncertain world full of threats and danger that come in all shapes and sizes. But mentally, emotionally, one can feel okay, can feel free, at ease. Secure, safe, not clinging to anything in the world. Then whatever happens in the body and the outer world, one's peace remains unshakeable. There is no more mental suffering.

It can sound a bit dry and serious, it is serious, but not dry. It is important not to take it all too seriously. Find a middle way through it, a balance. I think a gentle sense of humour can be helpful, especially towards oneself. As well as goodwill towards other beings, of all kinds, in all worlds. This brings joy and wellbeing, gladdens the mind, makes it fearless and golden. The beautiful emotions are part of the path too. Kindness, generosity, goodwill, friendship, compassion, joy, calmness, clarity, equanimity... and so on, non-greed, non-hate, non-conceit. These states strengthen the tendencies of the mind that help with the realisation of nibanna, generate good kamma and make everyone feel better. You don't have to save the world or do anything dramatic. If you can't help; at least cause no harm. That's good enough. The huge problems facing the world just now can feel overwhelming. So much suffering everywhere. But in the darkness, the beautiful emotions are like a light to ourselves and those around us. They make us feel well, like nourishment for the heart and mind.

One definition of the third noble truth, is it is realised when greed, hatred, and delusion are no longer able to take root in the mind. In the space left behind is an unshakeable peace. The psychic energy bound up in greed, hate, and delusion, becomes unbound, freed, limitless. Descriptions of nibanna in the suttas say: 'It is the highest state of happiness. The supreme state of bliss.'

Sounds good to me. I could do with some of that.

During the Buddha's time people from all walks of life and age groups where getting enlightened (by the boat load). Most of them couldn't read or write.

It is a practical path. I think that's why I like it.

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Asoka

Abandoning Tanha

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Something I find helpful as I go about my day. Is to just suddenly stop and notice how I am feeling. The mind, the emotions, the body. Whatever it feels like in this moment.

It feels like this.

It can be helpful to stop sometimes and do that. It creates a bit of space. A pause in the story. The thoughts are still present but I am not absorbed in them anymore. I am centred in emptiness. Sounds strange, and difficult to put into words. The emptiness is not a negative thing, it feels freeing and expansive. It contains everything that is happening in the moment, yet it isn't the things it contains. It is not a dry, detached emptiness. It just feels safe. If that makes any sense...

I have been reflecting a lot on the four noble truths, thinking about craving (tanha).

Craving for sense pleasure (kāma-tanhā);
Craving for existence (bhava-tanhā),
and craving for non-existence (vibhava-tanhā).

The second noble truth says that craving is the cause of suffering and gives the instruction for it to be abandoned. But that sounds a bit harsh, so I am trying to find a better word than 'abandonment'.

One way I do it is. When I notice my mood is a bit off and there is a lack of peace. I stop and inquire. I notice craving in its three aspects. Note how the craving creates a feeling of unease in the mind, a restless anxiety, fear, discomfort, yearning, and discontent. Craving is stressful.

Thoughts to do with longing, resentment and conceit are unpleasant. They don't feel good. They feel toxic and make the mind an unhappy place. I notice how craving creates tension in the mind. How it creates a feeling of lack and dissatisfaction. A feeling of compulsion. How it divides the mind against itself. How all the wanting becomes delusion. The mind gets absorbed in the stories it tells itself about the world and the things it wants, and the things it doesn't want, takes it all personally. The self-centred dream.

I notice this and stop following it. I don't judge it, or identify with it. I feel compassion for it, understand it for what it is. let it be there, and notice how it all feels without the story. How the body feels in this moment. How the mood feels. How this present moment feels. Accept it all for what it is, as it is. And just breathe in, breathe out.

Not pushing anything away, nor chasing after it. Not seeing anything as self or other. Just breathing through it. The whole body absorbed in the feeling of the cool air going into the nostrils and the warm air going out. Like when one steps out onto a balcony and breathes the fresh air, and it feels soothing. That feeling of invigoration. The body still, calm, open, and at ease. The breath energy filling every part of it. Uplifting the mind, freeing it from concerns, bringing relief.

The craving settles. The involuntary movements of the mind cease and there is peace for a time.

Then the craving comes back again.

Rinse and repeat.

But do the work gently, with good humour. With kindness. Don't take it all too seriously. Joy is part of the path too.

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Asoka

Thought herding and samhadi

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 14 Jul 2023, 13:37


I have been noticing when the mind gets absorbed in anger, greed, conceit, and delusion, how difficult it can be to let go of these negative states. They can be sticky and it takes real effort and determination to come out of them and become absorbed in something wholesome instead. 

Training the mind is not easy.

In Buddhism, mindfulness is the first of the seven factors of enlightenment: 

1. mindfulness  ->  2. investigation of phenomena  ->  3. energy (effort)  ->  4. joy  ->  5. calmness  ->  6. samhadi  ->  7. equanimity. 

Mindfulness is a wholesome state of mind, and the beginning, the first step. Even in the deepest states of samhadi, mindfulness is still present. And it is sustained mindfulness to a meditation object that leads to samhadi. 

Samhadi is unification of mind, where all the mind is brought together into convergence. A lucid stillness. Wholeness, oneness. There are different levels of depth to samhadi, known in Buddhism as the four jhanas. I won't go into the jhanas in any depth here, but there's loads of resources online about them for interested readers.

Sometimes with negative thoughts, one can simply dismiss and replace them with wholesome thoughts. Such as replacing thoughts of ill-will to ones of friendliness, compassion for example. Or one can reflect on the Buddha, dharma, sangha. Contemplate the Buddha's teachings. Recite a poem, a chant, a mantra, something that reminds one of beautiful states of mind and emotions, reminds one of the way of peace.

Then one tries to sustain the wholesome thoughts, so they grow in strength, become more habitual and deepen. In time with persistent practise, the wholesome thoughts will take up a momentum of their own and become automatic, then the mind will incline towards those rather than the negative thoughts. 

Sometimes though there are difficult thoughts that are hard to work with and dismiss. Racing thoughts, or obssesive thoughts that just won't stop. It can be hard to let go of these. In this situation it can be helpful to gradually calm the thought processes down. It is easier to generate wholesome thoughts then. Mindfulness of the breath can help with this. When the mind is calm and centred, it is easier to work with, more malleable and yieldy. And one can then direct it better and get results, bring into being a wholesome state of mind.

The way I practise breath meditation is I don't worry too much about where I watch the breath. I focus the centre of attention wherever in the body the breath feels comfortable and soothing. Sometimes it is at the nostrils, the mouth, the chest, the abdomen, lower belly, the hands, the feet, even the neck. Sometimes I can be aware of the breath, or air element in the space around the body and that feels pleasant. I keep the attention fixed there, but it is not a tunnel vision focus, like a laser beam. Everything else is still going on in peripheral awareness. Nothing in awareness is pushed away or blocked out. I simply let it all be there, and breathe through it. Sometimes it can feel like the whole field of awareness is breathing with me which calms the mind.

We have two different types of awareness that correspond to the different hemispheres of the brain. One is holistic and open, providing context to a situation, and the other is more focused and attentive to detail. They both work together. 

The attention to detail is neither too tight nor too lose, it is a bit like focusing a pair of binoculars. 

Or like holding a little bird in your hand. If you hold it too tight you will hurt the bird, i.e. give yourself a headache. But if you hold it too loose, the bird will fly away. I.e. the mind will wander, daydream or drift off into sleep.

The attention becomes more whole-hearted and more stable as one keeps engaging with the meditation object, and sustaining attention to it. Eventually the difficult parts of the mind begin to settle down, and the whole of the mind (which includes the body) gathers together around the meditation object. One feels relief and a lightness in the body and the mind, a feeling of contentment and not wanting to be anywhere else. One is absorbed then and in a flow. 

When one has mastered this, one can let go of applied and sustained attention to the meditation object. Take one's hands off the steering wheel, remove the stabilizers. And just glide on the energetic momentum, that has been built up from the repeated effort to sustain attention to the meditation object. The ego can now take a backseat and be a passenger. The mind is unified at this point and goes deeper into stillness and samhadi. Words and thoughts subside, but mindfulness is still present. It is a whole body experience, and the body will feel very comfortable and at ease.

It is not a hypnotic trance though, one knows what is happening, one is lucid and aware. A helpful guide to use to see whether you are going in the right direction. Is to notice if the five hindrances: longing, aversion, sloth, restlessness, doubt and delusion are getting weaker or are no longer present in the mind. When this happens, the mind stops feeling harrassed, and there is relief and happiness. The mind becomes still and centred, energised, calm and lucid.

There are many different meditation objects one can use to get into samhadi. But for simplicities sake I am writing about the breath. But there are times when other meditation objects are useful for me. It depends on the situation and circumstance, what feels good in a particular moment. It is all learning and experimentation.

I use the brahma viharas a lot as well. These are emotional states that can be used as meditation objects. With these, one can use phrases to bring up the feelings of loving-kindness, compassion, joy when other's are happy, or equanimity. Praying can also do it, praying is a way one can centre the mind and bring up wholesome states.

 As one becomes absorbed in the words and phrases, it will have an effect on the body. For me the sign that it is working is a warm feeling that centres around the area of the heart. The words and phrases will bring up that warm feeling of goodwill. When it is strong enough, I then drop the words and phrases and focus exclusively on the feeling of warmth in the heart area and spread that pleasant feeling throughout the whole body and radiate it outwards, fill the whole field of awareness with feelings of goodwill.

Sometimes the natural elements feel good as meditation objects, such as the earth element, water, fire, air, space, consciousness, interdependence. The perception of light can sometimes be helpful, or the primary colours: blue, yellow, red. The feeling of the inner body, the subtle body, the life force can be interesting as well. Being mindful of any of these and sustaining attention to them can lead to different kinds of samhadi. 

 One should experiment and see what works in a given moment. Take what comes natural and turn it into something supernatural. 

Everyone has to find their own way in. Samhadi is what happens when the mind is gathered together, unified, in flow. 

Use meditation instructions as a guide, they are not rules. They are flexible and it is okay to tweak meditation instructions to suit your own individual preference, one should investigate and explore what works, we are all unique, and we have all been conditioned differently, there isn't a universal one size fits all when it comes to meditation techniques. It is a bit like learning a musical instrument. You learn lots of repetitive stuff: notes, chords, scales, timing, songs, before it finally clicks. Then one is able to start making music, and create their own songs.

Also like learning a musical instrument. It is helpful to find a good teacher, if you can. Not always easy, thankfully there's tonnes of videos, talks and articles out there to help you teach yourself. 

But one on one instruction will save you a lot of time and frustration. A good teacher will work with you, adapt their instructions to suit your personality. And their wisdom and experience can steer you away from dead-ends and cul-de-sacs, as well as away from the dangers.

I am not a teacher. This blog is a diary that I decided to make public. I am a lay follower of the noble eightfold path. I like the eightfold path because it is simple and practical, and suits me well.

Whatever I write here is just my perspective and experience.

This is just how I practise dharma in my daily life. I decided to share it in case it may help or inspire someone else out there, either presently or one day in the future. 

There is currently a huge mental health crisis in society and it is going to get worse. As someone who suffers with mental illness, I want to share what helps me. One does not have to be a prisoner of mental illness. Getting well again isn't easy, it takes effort and perseverance, practice, patience, kindness and gentleness, but one can break free of negative mind states I am discovering. The practise of the noble eightfold path has helped me a lot.

...



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Finding the sweet spot

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 22 Jun 2023, 13:54


There's a sweet spot I experience sometimes, where there is a convergence of the mind and it becomes unified and still. It feels like bliss when it happens, but it is not always easy to get into that state and maintain it. My practise edge just now is learning how to bring my mind into that state of convergence and maintain it for longer and longer.

But without straining the mind or taking it all too seriously. Finding a middle way with the effort.

It is hard some days to keep trudging. The dark side of the mind, the kilesas (greed, hatred, and conceit), have been fighting back. They do not want to be transformed into generosity, kindness and clarity, and within my heart there is a conflict. Sometimes the whirlwind within feels like it will kill me. But there is grace I am finding. A kind being always comes to my aid from either the human or the deva realm and their loving energy keeps me steady and brings some warmth and joy to the heart which encourages me to keep going onward on this spiritual journey. The refuge of the sangha.

Buddhist cosmology describes many different worlds, and all of these can be mapped to states of consciousness. Apparently a skilled meditator is able to visit any of these different worlds, i.e. experience these different states of consciousness.  

Awareness can become a refuge from invasive thoughts. When the unpleasant involuntary thoughts appear. I turn my attention away from them and anchor it with some other aspect of awareness. Can be different parts at different times. Sometimes it's my feet, my lower belly, my heart area, my neck, my scalp, my spine, my legs, my hands, the touch of clothing on the skin or the atmosphere, a breeze, a sound, a sight, the breath, the feeling of the whole body together as one, the sense of being embodied. Fluidity, warmth, solidity. The feeling of presence. I can be aware of any of these, whatever feels good at that time. The hard part is keeping the attention anchored there, as it wants to wander and is so easily distracted; before I know it I am back in the head again.

But I know it just takes time and patience, this is the work, and if I keep practising, eventually the mind will be trained to stay centred with the body in the present moment and not get carried off by the thought processes. Then I can think when I want to think, and stop thinking when I want to stop thinking.

Sometimes there are moments when the centre of my attention becomes empty and my consciousness is content to be anchored in that emptiness while everything else continues around me, but I am not making a story about any of it, just watching the arising and ceasing of the present moment. This can happen sometimes when I am in the midst of an activity. I am still aware of the activity, but I am centred in stillness and emptiness. Flowing, while anchored in the inner cave.

Sometimes I will have an inner mind-generated sound, perhaps some musical notes that I can make clearer, and stronger by focusing on them, and this can help to pacify the thought energies. The sound grows louder than them.

Sometimes chanting a poem or a teaching that I have memorised can quieten down the thought energies and bring them into a state of composure.

When the mind is chilled out and calm, it becomes easier to think more about kindness and generosity, and to see things clearly.

Sometimes the mind finds it hard to detach from thoughts. So I have to make effort and practise bursts of single-pointed attention to compose the mind. When it becomes calmer I then reflect on the four noble truths. And insight can arise from this, which brings some joy and gladness to the mind, which in turn makes it easier to settle into meditation. 

Sometimes I have to settle the mood down in stages, gently, gradually, and review each stage, make adjustments if need be. If I am feeling even just a little bit better at each stage, then it is working and I am making progress. One has to be patient and kind to oneself on this journey, and avoid unwise attention to the fault-finding mind. Endure, keep putting in the causes and conditions.

It is a gradual training, it is hard work, can take a while, and it is not always pleasant. Some days it feels impossible. But I know if I keep making effort, keep up the momentum, practise consistently, eventually it will click and the mind will re-wire itself. Old conditioning will fall away, and what I have practised often will become my new automated behaviour and conditioning, then it will get easier. This is something I know from experience, it is true when learning any skill in life.

...





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Mind web

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 18 Jun 2023, 21:40


Some cool air and rain at last. The breeze feels good.

It is pleasant converging the mind on the air around me and the feeling of it going through me. The whole body becoming filled with its cooling energy from head to toe.

The breath has become my favourite meditation object now. I practise breathing with any part of the body. Sometimes I will breathe through the feet, the hands, the spine, the lower belly, the back of the neck, the nostrils, the scalp. it doesn't matter. Whichever area of the body feels good at the time becomes my initial focal point and from there I then spread the breath energy throughout the body, going over each part in turn, till the entire body feels light and at ease. Then there is a feeling of relief, where joy and pleasure seems to naturally arise.

The focal point for the breath is a bit like a spider on a web. The spider is at the centre and sensitive to everything else happening on the web. The body and awareness of the present moment being like the web.

Every time I notice thoughts of longing, anger, or conceit. I immediately label and drop those thoughts and centre with the breath. I label the thoughts, because labelling them as either longing, anger, or conceit helps to put some space between me and them, and also trains the mind to spot them faster, which helps it get better at recognising and knowing when those states are present. 

It is getting easier to abandon unwholesome thoughts now, I can do it quite quickly. Which is amazing when I remember what I used to be like. I struggled so much with my thoughts. I got so absorbed in them and imprisoned by them, they used to cause me so much suffering. It is empowering to be able to just drop them now as soon as I notice them and not be so in the head anymore.

The challenge at the moment is keeping the wholesome states of mind going. It is like a game. I quickly swipe away the longing, aversion, and conceit. And re-converge with the breath. If I am feeling thoughtful and reflective I will incline the mind towards thoughts of love and equanimity, or contemplate the dharma. But if I don't want to think, (sometimes thinking feels tiring and unpleasant). I remain focused on the breath, and the feeling of embodiment, or on the natural elements (earth, water, fire, air, space).

It is a relief to switch thinking off sometimes and to just experience feelings as they arise and cease in the present moment without the internal dialogue about them.

I am trying to train myself to only think when I want to think. And to only use my thought processes when they are at their best. There's no point in thinking otherwise. As thinking when I am mentally fatigued, anxious or stressed is counter-productive and just makes things worse. Thinking isn't necessary to solve every problem. The heart doesn't need to think.

My main practice edge at the moment is maintaining applied and sustained attention to the meditation object for as long as I can. I make a relaxed light-hearted game out of it to keep the mind interested and engaged. Try to see if I can beat my own personal best before the mind wanders off again and starts daydreaming, then the game is how quickly can I notice the mind has wandered and bring it back to the meditation object. It can feel good to get a flow going, and it feels like it is really good for the mind to do this. I notice the difference on days when I don't meditate. Meditation really does help.

A meditation object is used to calm and centre the mind. Once one has got good at converging the mind round a meditation object and can keep it there indefinitely. The next stage is to let go of applied and sustained attention to the meditation object, and remain in the serene state of composure without needing the meditation object. From there one becomes stiller and goes deeper into samhadi. The meditation object is like a key that is needed to unlock and open the door to samhadi, but once inside one can put the key down.

Have been seeing my Dad's face a lot today in my mind's eye. Perhaps because it is Father's day. I keep sending him metta as often as I can, and sharing merit with him. I am fairly sure he is no longer in the ghost realm, which is good to know. I feel certain that he has moved on now. I also have a feeling he hasn't taken a human rebirth and may possibly be a deva now, but I am not sure. I think he might be a deva because it feels like he has gone to a good destination, but I still feel his presence from time to time, and when he visits it feels different than before. He doesn't feel like a ghost anymore, he feels like he is full of light, clear, his presence surrounded by good energy and there is peace.

In any case, my Dad was not someone who liked to procrastinate, he liked to be busy. He would not want to remain stuck in the greyhound station between lifetimes (the ghost realm). He would have been keen to move on to whatever comes next. I think once he saw where the exit was, and after perhaps a farewell to us all, he would have moved on. Bless him.

I miss my Dad. 

May he be safe, well, happy and peaceful. 






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Hot days

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 14 Jun 2023, 23:37


Bit of a low mood today. Even after an hour of meditation my zest was just not there, my zing, my bling, just not present at the moment. 

I woke up feeling fatigued. It is hard coping with anything when the energy is low. Even the simplest of tasks feels unbearable to deal with when there's no energy to support it.

Saw a baby seagull with a broken wing on the seafront. I felt empathy for it. Nothing I could do to help it. Poor bird. I wished it well, and felt a ping in my heart.

This world is quite brutal and cruel at times. Heartbreak is harsh.

Aye, there are some good moments, some pleasures to be had, but not sure the darker times make it worth it in the end. It feels like we all have to pay a heavy price for those moments of happiness.

I don't think I have the stomach to come back to this world again. If I don't reach full enlightenment in this lifetime. I will try to put off coming back here until times are less bleak. I don't want to go through a lifetime in a world like this again. Just the thought of having another round in the school system, and a career, makes me shiver. Things just seem to get darker and more crazy, more industrialised, less beautiful, less green, more grey, more empty. Our world gradually becoming like Mordor from the Lord of the Rings.

So many things are converging at the moment. These turbulent times of great change, that may even threaten our survival as a species. Global warming, forest fires, mass extinction, war, pollution, sickness, mental illness, loneliness, poverty, inequality, exploitation, separation, for-profit fascism, cruelty, violence, weapons of mass destruction. I really don't want to come back to this. 

But there is good in the world, I need to remember that too. It does help to remember this, it can help me stop spiralling into pessimism.The beautiful emotions of love, kindness and generosity they do still exist in the world; and this brings me hope, warms my heart. I must remember this.

Hot day, the temperature reached 28°C  (82.4 °F) today. I couldn't get much studying done. But later when the temperature got cooler at around 7pm I was able to get some work done then. Cyber security has not been an easy topic to learn, but I think it is slowly but surely starting to click a bit now. 

Meditation is hard in the heat. Struggled to converge the mind, it was restless and dull with an almost intangible feeling of discontent/discomfort. When I noticed negativity in the mind I swiped away any thoughts about longing, anger, or conceit. And then centred the mind with something more wholesome, thoughts to do with non-greed, non-hate, non conceit. Or if thinking is tiring, I centre with the breath and the body and practised not-thinking, just feeling without words. Words can feel like a prison for consciousness sometimes.

At least that exercise is getting easier to do now, the mind seems to drop the longing, anger, and conceit much faster than it used to. And the negative thoughts are much less sticky, my attention is not so easily captivated by them.

Maintaining a wholesome state of mind is the tricky part at the moment. That seems to be my practise edge just now, the challenge, to keep that momentum going.

The noble eightfold path is all about building habits, learning new skills. It takes repetitive consistent daily practise. Not too much effort or you will get burnt out and lose enthusiasm for the dharma, get sick of it and apathetic. But not too little effort either or you will get lazy and the greed, anger, and conceit comes back and suffocates the heart, drags it back down into depression.

The energy of effort and attention needs to be tuned just right. Not too much, not too little. Like tuning a string on a musical instrument. One must find the middle way.
...



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Pea Souper

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


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

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

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

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

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

Bless him.

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

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

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

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

How to gather them together and unify the monkey mind.

Meditation... 
Bhāvanā

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





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I take up the way of cultivating a clear mind

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


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

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

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

 Life as it is, the only teacher.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deathless.

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

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

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

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

- the Buddha.

...


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Prepping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...




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Calm mind

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


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

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

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


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Psychic alchemy

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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True wealth

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Asoka

Karma coma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing personal

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

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

I didn't make it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing personal.

...


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Asoka

Love's vessel

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The heavy baggage of the ego.

Full of compulsive,
wants,
demands,
and criticisms.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rinse and repeat.

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

It can take lifetimes for some.

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

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

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

And love rises too.

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

The happiest, most beautiful love of all. 

A vessel emptied of self
can manifest that.

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Asoka

Emptiness

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


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

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

- Asoka




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Renunciation

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

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

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

At their source is the conceit I am.

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

This 'I' is the problem.

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

What is true renunciation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Asoka

Vesak day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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