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.
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.
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.
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.
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'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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
I miss my Dad.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
.. keep putting one foot in front of the other.
That's how we walk the path to freedom.
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.
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.
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.
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.
" 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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
But it's nothing personal.
The heavy baggage of the ego.
There is no 'I',
It went surprisingly quickly. Meditated from 9pm till 6am under an old tree in the woods. Spent some time practising standing and walking meditation inbetween when the prolonged sitting became uncomfortable. I cheated and took a flask of coffee with me, I am glad I did though, it felt good holding the warm coffee in my hands at times (-:
Got an insight into how all our suffering comes from the self. Everything in the world, all of it, all our problems come from the conceit I am. It is the root of all suffering. It is not our fault really. From an early age we are conditioned to take everything personally. The whole consumer society is built around this idea of personalising things. We identify with our jobs, with our families, with our likes and dislikes, our partners, our perceptions, our thoughts and ideas, our memories.
To see that there is nothing substantial behind any of that. That this thing we call self is just process, is a liberating experience. To truly see that the things we identify with and cling to are impersonal, is happiness. One stops taking things personally then, stops taking it all so seriously. To have a self is to take things seriously. It is a huge burden we carry around. The self is stressful, with its wants, and needs. Its attachments, its craving. It never gives us a moment of rest. It is what is behind the involuntary movements of the mind. To put all that down and let it go, is truly liberating.
To know I am not the sights I see, not the sounds I hear. I am not the smells, the tastes, the tactile sensations. I am not the content of my thoughts or ideas. I am not this body, not my memories, not my perceptions, feelings, not even my consciousness. When one examines all these things with a mind calmed through meditation, one sees clearly that there is no self in any of these things. When you filter all that out, what are you left with?
In early Buddhism they didn't have a statue of the Buddha. Just an empty seat, or a set of footprints. This is the meaning of what a tathagatha is. 'One who has thus gone.' There never was a Buddha, just the dhamma. One who sees the dhamma sees the Buddha. One who sees the Buddha sees the dhamma. What does that mean? That there never was a self, there never was any person there. When all ignorance is seen through, one is gone, thoroughly gone. And what a relief that is. To not feel driven by the conceit I am. That is the end of suffering.
The self is the root of all our problems. When we stop clinging to it, suffering ceases. Once you see this, everywhere you look in the world you will see the conceit I am. It is the root of all our world's problems, all our social ills, it is the cause of greed, hate, and delusion.
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.
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.
Humans are social creatures and I think that is why we worry so much about how we appear in front of others. We try to maintain an image that pleases those around us. But it is a maze that one can never get out of. It does not lead to the end of suffering, just leads to more suffering, to stress and anxiety. Nobody has control over the opinions of others. If you worry too much about those you will never get free.
There's a breath meditation I have been practising lately which I enjoy. It seems to have some health benefits as well, and is effective at flushing out the five hindrances (worldly-desire, ill-will, stagnation, restlessness, and doubt). When those unpleasant states of mind are no longer present, it brings a feeling of relief, and the body feels lighter, freer, and clearer. Joy naturally arises from an unhindered mind and this leads to samhadi.
I practise this either sitting or standing in a comfortable upright position.
And, to quote the suttas, I: 'Put aside longing and dejection in regard to the world.' I give myself permission to put down that heavy suitcase for a moment. Disengage from the story of self with its longing and angst.
I become mindful of the feeling of the feet on the ground, the Earth below, feel the connection to the Earth, feel it as boundless in all directions. Centre with the perception of Earth. It's stability, strength and solidity. I feel it ground me, and absorb the uncomfortable excess energies of the mind, balancing them out. Earthing myself. I imagine roots going out of my feet into the ground below.
On the in-breath I draw energy up through my feet, legs, the torso, up the length of my spine. The energy illuminating the sensations of the body as it makes its way upwards. When it reaches the top of the head. I feel the connection to boundless sky above, and the air element all around. Then on the out-breath I release that energy and let it fall like rain, like a sprinkler or a fountain down across and through the entire body, all the way back to the feet and down into the Earth again. Lighting up the sensations of the body as it does.
On the next in-breath I rinse and repeat the instructions in the paragraph above.
I do this for as long as feels good. Then when it feels natural to do so, I stop moving the energy up and down the body and feel all the sensations in the body together at once. Feel them get more vivid and stronger with each breath.
The body at this point feels very comfortable and at ease, pleasant, and easy to centre with. The breath starts to slow, and can get very shallow, until it seems like the breath stops altogether and then there is a profound stillness that is hard to put into words, where the sense of self disappears. It is like being in a deep refuge within, a safe inner cave, where the energies of life continue around one, but one is unconcerned by them, there's a feeling of deep contentment and peace and a feeling of not wanting to be anywhere else. The mind feels unified, together, whole, but awareness is still present, one is lucid, it is not a hypnotic trance.
It wears off after a time, and then to get back there one repeats the steps above to build the momentum up again. I find I don't need to spend as long building up the momentum the second time round, and can get back easier to the stillness on subsequent goes. Each time the experience of the inner body becomes deeper and more and more exquisite.
If you get it right, you will come out of it and feel on top of the world, and you'll have a great day. Everything will feel like it's in sync. There is an after glow that can last a while, depending on how long you have spent meditating.
The after glow does wear off as the day goes on, and the hindrances return. One notices when they do, as it feels unpleasant. The hard part then is convincing yourself to meditate again.
One can keep the afterglow going for longer by practising mindfulness in everyday activity. Known as sati-sampajanna, mindfulness and clear comprehension (knowing). Where one is aware of what one is doing, the body, what sensations are present, how one feels, anchored in the inner experience of the body. But also aware of what is happening around one in the present moment with one's peripheral awareness.
We have two brain hemispheres. One hemisphere likes to focus on something in detail, and the other hemisphere is more holistic and provides context to the detail, it looks at the bigger picture, and what is happening in the background. It probably evolved this way, so that one didn't get eaten by a predator whilst focused on a task such as gathering food. One side of the brain is focused on the food, and the other side of the brain is watching for danger. Like a deer eating grass.
One can find a refuge in this mindfulness during the day, and even go into a light state of absorption and flow with it. It can be helpful to notice and play around with these two different kinds of awareness. Tweaking them so that they have a good balance that feels pleasant to work with.
There can sometimes be resistance in the mind to meditate. Some part of the mind may even try to convince you that you don't deserve to feel serenity or joy. It will insist on going over your faults and past mistakes, make you feel worthless and ashamed. Don't let that bossy part of the mind bully you. You don't have to keep listening to that voice. You are allowed to ignore the inner critic. After all it is you!
The less attention you pay to that voice the weaker it gets.
There is something called a healthy sense of shame though, that one can use as a tool to help dismiss negative thoughts if they arise, and not hold onto them. Such as imagining what a person you respect and admire might think if they saw you in an unwholesome state of mind. That can help generate the desire to abandon it and generate something more wholesome instead. No need to judge and punish yourself for having those thoughts though, that's overly excessive. Once the healthy sense of shame has done its work, stop, put the tool down and focus on the good stuff.
If you get caught up in that quagmire of negativity. And if it is strongly present in the mind, and hard to ignore. Try to bring yourself out of it gradually in stages. But don't spend too long doing it, don't engage in lengthy debates with the hindrances. Don't spend any longer dealing with them than you need to. It is like putting out the trash, you don't want to hold onto the trash for any longer than necessary, just get it done with so you can get back to the good stuff, back to the peace and serenity, to the love.
Love and serenity makes everyone feel better, it heals the world. It is actually the best thing you can do to help yourself and others. It is easier to deal with the world in a serene state of consciousness, as things won't seem so overwhelming. It is hard to deal with anything when in a negative state of mind. So it is a good thing to take some time out and retreat from the world to meditate, it isn't selfish.
In fact I am starting to think that meditation is the key to going beyond the first stage of enlightenment. Apparently people can get stuck at the first stage of enlightenment for a long time, as long as seven more lifetimes.
I think this is because the next fetters to go are greed and aversion. And these are hard to let go of. The second stage of enlightenment is all about weakening those. Greed in particular is very hard to overcome, but it is a lesser stain on the personality than aversion is.
Greed here refers not just to the extreme of billionaires, but also its milder forms, such as eating more than one intended to, craving for entertainment, sex, intoxicants, fame, fortune, luxuries and so on. The attachment to worldy-pleasures is hard to let go of, and doesn't go completely till one reaches the third stage of enlightenment. The mind won't want to let go of wordly pleasure unless it has something better to take its place. When the mind finds something better then it naturally lets go. And when greed goes, so does aversion. Greed and aversion are interlinked, they both feed into one another. They are like two dogs, one barks and it sets the other one off. There is always going to be aversion present when there is longing. Such as impatience and irritability when there are delays in getting what one wants.
I think what weakens greed and aversion is the practise of meditation, and the development of samhadi. When meditation becomes pleasurable, enjoyable and a richer experience than anything the world can offer. The two fetters of greed and aversion will get weaker, and keep getting weaker until eventually they fall away altogether. I think the second stage of enlightenment is all about mastering samhadi.
Once one reaches the third stage of enlightenment there is no going back to greed or aversion ever again, those two fetters are gone for good and they will never arise again. At the third stage one then works to lose attachment to the bliss of samhadi, which paradoxically is needed to reach this stage. So one should not be afraid of becoming attached to the pleasure of deep meditation in earlier stages, thinking they should avoid that fetter. It is a golden chain, but a necessary one, as one cannot completely overcome greed and aversion without it. The Buddha said it was a pleasure not to be feared.
If one dies whilst at this stage, in the next life they will be reborn in the higher heavens and gain full enlightenment there, and are never again born into this world. They live extremely long lives and many of them become protectors of Buddhism, like celestial Buddhas. They are very powerful beings, and are able to visit any of the lower worlds at will and can take on many different forms. Many are compassionate beings and help those in the lower worlds who are on the path to enlightenment, including the Buddha himself on his journey. It was a deva that had reached the third stage of enlightenment under a previous Buddha who appeared before Gotama Buddha after his enlightenment to encourage him to teach the dhamma out of compassion for the world.
I think these devas/spirits work in very subtle ways though, one may not even realise they are being helped by them. They don't directly interfere, and cannot make anyone become enlightened; but they can leave subtle hints, and gently guide one's intuition, set up helpful encounters, to steer us in the right direction. And if one looks back on one's life, there are moments that are hard to explain, and one wonders if a deva perhaps helped in some way. Who knows, I like to think so.
To reach the fourth and final stage of enlightenment, the attachment to blissful states of meditation is let go of, when one sees that these states are also subject to change, do not last, and are not self, the last remnants of the conceit I am disappears. The idea of a separate self is seen through completely, and when that happens the restless involuntary movements of the mind stop altogether and they never arise again, and there is perfect peace.
The very last fetter to go is ignorance, (or delusion). When one fully realises delusion, one becomes the one who knows, no part of the mind is hidden then. One is lucid and serene, completely free from suffering, dwelling in a state of lasting emotional well-being. They still partake in the pleasure of meditation though, as often as they wish to, whenever they wish to, as it is one of the fruits of the path, one of the seven factors of enlightenment, and available to them any time they want, the Buddha continued to practise meditation and samhadi throughout his life.
A fully enlightened being also naturally shines with love and compassion for all beings. And although not everyone is able to teach, those that can teach, and have capacity for it, in the spirit of the Buddha, do teach others and it is not a chore for them to do so, it is a joy. An unharrassed mind naturally feels empathy and compassion for other beings. It is a sorrowless empathy, one that shows love to those that are suffering, but does not suffer with them. The peace of a fully enlightened being is undisturbed by anything that happens in the world. They do not cling to anything in the world. This doesn't mean they won't do things to help the world out of compassion for others, just they are not attached to outcomes, and do not suffer when things don't go to plan.
Knowing about the four stages of enlightenment can be a helpful guide to where one is at, and what work needs to be done to develop further on the path. One can look at the mind and see which fetters are still present, and what one needs to do to progress.
Whichever direction thoughts turn there is the poisoned arrow of aversion.
I try to feel serene, but feel overwhelmed with dull fatigue. Blocking thoughts of love, like unwelcome concrete.
Today I failed.
Got stressed. Lost my composure. Wrong thoughts and speech spewed out before I could stop them.
Said things I regret.
I should know better.
The saintly Buddha-self disappeared in a golden wisp. And in its place the arsehole.The self I'd rather not see.
'Śāsana this.' Mara chides rubbing his hands with glee.
The worldly winds sink my little ship.
How to fail well? To fall successfully?
How do I get back to metta?
To the noble shore.
This world so complicated.
I find it hard to understand at times.
I try to navigate the council website to pay the tax; like trying to navigate a hall of mirrors, and when I finally found the right place, the payment was rejected.
Huge energy bills leave huge holes in the bank.
Expensive food and no peanut butter on the shelves.
This human world governed by leaders who support and encourage greed. Who think that it's okay to lie.
To cheat, to steal, to kill.
In some countries they tell you its your duty to kill. To break the precepts.
I yearn to escape.
Long for solitude.
My back hurts.
I must abandon this unwholesome state of mind.
A feat of extraordinary endurance that pays off in the end.
The involuntary movements of the mind begin to settle.
The body melts into the sign of air. Into the beautiful sound of coastal breezes outside.The cool light touch of it on the skin.
This stillness feels like bliss.
The joy of an unhindered mind. Where love naturally arises.
This line of inquiry and investigation did bring some relief. The physical pain is still there, the fatigue is still there, but mentally one can be okay with it.
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