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Life as it is

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Feeling unwell again today, and that's alright, sickness is part of life. It isn't sickness or fatigue that's the problem. It's my aversion to it that's the problem. Let go of the aversion and one can make peace with anything.

The five wise reflections

' I am of the nature to become sick, I have not gone beyond ill health.

I am of the nature to age, I have not gone beyond growing old.

I am of the nature to die, I have not gone beyond death.

Everything I hold dear and everyone I love will become separated from me due to the nature of change.

I am the heir of my kamma, the owner of my kamma, born of my kamma, related to my kamma. Therefore I should try to remember whatever I do good or bad, becomes the kamma I inherit.' - [attributed to the Buddha]


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The conscious frying pan

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 30 Mar 2022, 17:30

I find writing can be helpful for clarifying my thoughts and reaching insights about things, things perhaps I wouldn't have seen by trying to think through or verbalise out loud.

Sometimes though I find it helpful talking out loud to myself. Giving myself a pep talk in preparation for upcoming challenges I see coming over the horizon, those dragons heading my way about to test me. There's no escape from those unfortunately, such is the kamma of having a body, of existence itself, an existence that is interdependent. It is simply the nature of an ever-changing universe in a state of entropy.

Anyway, talking oneself out of a negative state of mind is the Buddha's fourth strategy for abandoning unwholesome states of mind.  

The five strategies recommended by the Buddha for abandoning negative mental states are:

1. Replacement, replace the negative state with its opposite, e.g. sense-desire with contentment or equanimity, ill-will with serenity and goodwill, and so on...

  If that doesn't work move to step two.

2. Concern for the opinion of the wise. Imagine what someone noble and wise would advise if they saw you in that state of mind; or imagine that you are about to go out to dinner with people you really respect and admire and want to abandon that state of mind post haste as you want to make a good impression and not ruin the evening or feel regret later.

  If that fails move on to step three.

3. Distract yourself from the mood until it either goes away on its own and is replaced by calm and peace, or until it becomes weak enough to apply one of the strategies in the steps above.

 If this fails move to step four.

4. Talk yourself out of it. Try to be gentle, kind, and encouraging if you can. But if you need to be fierce with yourself, be so in a loving way, without feeling emnity towards yourself, treat yourself with compassion, like you would treat a noble friend you were correcting. 

 If this doesn't work, then the next step is considered a last resort, it goes against what is advised in popular psychology, but must be applied nevertheless, as one simply cannot allow that negativity to continue, to do so will cause harm both to oneself and others.

5. Suppress the mood, do not allow it to express itself. The Buddha describes it as: 'When a stronger man pins down a weaker man.' One must hold that mood down and not allow it to dominate the mind or express itself in any way. One must do this until it is sufficiently weak enough to then apply one of the strategies above to safely remove it. 

I ten to use the fourth strategy a lot. I will often use that strategy as a tool to weaken the mood sufficiently so that earlier strategies become more effective. For example I will talk myself into using distraction (third strategy).

With the third strategy it is good to have some activity you like doing that you can distract yourself with, so your attention is not focused so much on the negative mood, and absorbed instead by something else. Preferably the distraction is a wholesome activity. Our intentions and everything we do leave ripples and traces in the mind, when we do something once, we increase the likelihood we will do it again at some point, and then again and again, and the traces and ripples grow larger, leaving deeper and deeper grooves in the mind, which in time become new habits. 

 What we focus on grows stronger, so don't feed the monsters in your head, starve them of attention. What goes on in the mind is a lot to do with what we pay attention to. What we continually pay attention to dominates our conscious awareness, and the unconscious mind (trying to be helpful) will generate more of the same, actively filtering out things from awareness it considers unimportant and bringing us more of the same, reinforcing it. Not too disimilar to how the algorithm on YouTube works I guess, only more complex.The narrator part of mind puts this all together into a story. Which become the stories we tell ourselves about reality, about others, about ourselves. These in turn become our opinions, our delusions. Delusions come from a lack of information (not seeing the whole picture), misinformation and disinformation. Ignorance basically.

The first of the right efforts: prevention, is all about where one places their attention. One trains the mind to let go of unwise attention to the fault in ourselves, the world and others; and to let go of unwise attention to the attractive in ourselves, the world and others. What we pay attention to grows stronger. Unwholesome behaviours grow stronger in the mind, they take root and become harder to shake, so you want to become addicted to the wholesome if you can. Your future self will thank you for it.

The Buddha says with patience and perseverance one will eventually become super fast at removing negative states of mind. He likens consciousness in this instance to being like a red hot frying pan, with unwholesome states of mind like water droplets that upon landing on the pan go psssst and evaporate out of existence, leaving no trace. That's how quick one wants to aspire to be at removing unwholesome states of mind.


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Patience

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There's a bit of a conflict going on with what I am learning in Buddhism and popular psychology where one is encouraged to think that all emotions are okay. In Buddhism we are taught in right effort that unwholesome emotions are not okay and should be prevented or abandoned. Then one should work at bringing into being wholesome emotions and sustaining those. 

In one sutta the Buddha talks about how before he was enlightened he spent some time dividing up his thoughts into either wholesome or unwholesome. He watched his thoughts carefully and reflected on them and saw that those which where to do with sense-desire, ill-will or harmfulness led to harm for himself and others, they obstructed wisdom and did not lead to nibbana, so he placed them in the unwholesome pile and expelled them from his mind bringing them to an end.

And when he observed thoughts of letting go (renunciation), goodwill, and harmlessness, he saw they were beneficial, and where conducive to gaining wisdom, and attaining nibbana. So he nurtured those thoughts, strengthened them and brought them to completion. And at the end of this experiment he said it worked!

How long he spent doing that I don't know, he spent much time prepping his mind before he sat under the Bodhi tree to get enlightened it seems. So one should not get too disheartened at not being able to change one's head straight away lol.

I read something Ajahn Brahm wrote in his book 'mindfulness, bliss and beyond, a meditator's handbook' about how he loathed the all night sits he had to do in Thailand as a monk. He would feel ill-will towards the sits feeling they were stupid and unnecessary. He was also suffering from malnutrition and sleep deprivation at the time. He wrote it took him a couple of years to realise it was his aversion that was the problem, and when saw that he stopped fighting it and then found peace. Reflecting on that I realise I have the same problem sometimes. 

Anyway he's a great monk now, and I find it reassuring when monks and Buddhist teachers talk about how they also struggled on the path in the past and how they overcame it. As it gives me hope that I can do this, and helps me cut myself some slack for not getting it right away, it can take years of training. I guess we have all had years of training the mind in the wrong way and become masters at unwholesome states of mind. One isn't going to change that course in a single night (-:

Patience seems to be my teaching this year. I am having to learn a great deal about being patient. As the mind is a lot like a garden, that grows, flowers and fruits in its own time. Impatience will not make anything grow faster.

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The desert of effort

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 29 Mar 2022, 14:41

Woke up with a right shitty mood today. Agitated depression with a large helping of anger, oh and fatigue, yes agitated fatigue, if that contradiction makes any sense.

 The first right effort of preventing negative moods from arising had clearly failed at some point in the night, and my brain had put me back together in a rather haphazard way. So I tried to practise the second right effort of abandoning this unwholesome state of mind. But the fatigue made it challenging to rouse the energy to abandon it, it was like trying to shake off something stuck with superglue.

 To be honest the four right efforts felt like a joke. I felt like a failure for being unable to practise them. Started feeling doubt that the Buddha's teachings really do work. I think I even nearly swore at the Buddha at one point, which was shameful of me. This made the anger and depression worse. 

And I couldn't get much done, no energy or inclination to study or paint, and couldn't get no sleep, no escape, just stuck in this horrible state of mind. Loving-kindness felt impossible to generate. So I tried equanimity, but maintaining that state of mind wasn't easy, especially as I felt so foggy-headed and physically beat. I felt like giving up. But I can't really, there's nothing to go back to in the world. I have seen through it, and I have no desire to be a worldling again. Once one has seen impermanence and how everything changes and that the self is insubstantial. One just feels dispassion for it all, for material things, for the self. Nothing lasts, everything fades away, we all die, we're all fated to become separated from everything we love and those we hold dear. Our material achievements are meaningless in the end.

I am watching the mind though, and what it does, looking for a chink in its armour and a way I can abandon this negative state of mind and bring a more positive one into being. Mindfulness is considered a wholesome state of mind, but the lack of energy makes it challenging to sustain. Monks apparently are deliberately sleep deprived to learn how to manage fatigue and not suffer. In fact the more I learn about the austerity Buddhist monks practise, the less appealing that lifestyle becomes to me. I don't think I could live like that, I am not into austerity, and very much dislike sleep-deprivation. 

I can't give up though. I have to keep on pushing through this desert of the mind and hope that the Buddha really did know what he was talking about and that there really is a way out of suffering. Many people throughout history have got enlightened, so it must possible. I can't go back now, I have come too far, I have to keep trudging forward. There's still some determination in me I guess, and perseverance is classed as a wholesome state of mind. I willl keep on keeping, even though training this mind feels like walking the wrong way on an escalator sometimes - I've had it with Samsara.

'Row row row your boat gently up the stream,
Merrily merrily merrily life is but a dream.
Row row row your boat gently up the stream,
If you see a crocodile try to stay serene.'


 

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Enjoyment training

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 24 Mar 2022, 21:51

Today has been challenging. Energy factor low at the moment. But I am calm at least, which is the fifth factor of enlightenment. There's also a bit of equanimity there too (the seventh factor), and there must be some mindfulness (first factor) because I am aware of these states of mind. These three are considered wholesome states of mind to be cultivated and sustained, because they are part of the seven factors of awakening (1. mindfulness -> 2. interest and investigation -> 3. energy and determination -> 4. rapture/joy -> 5. calmness/serentiy -> 6. Samhadi (exquisite stillness) -> 7. equanimity ).

I think out of all the factors generating joy is perhaps the most challenging part of the path for me. Weirdly I can sometimes generate pleasure in the body without joy, but not always. If I can get pleasure going though, it tends to help with invoking joy, and then that joy increases the pleasure, which increases the joy, with them both feeding each other. I think it is because feeling some pleasure makes meditation more enjoyable. Otherwise it is a very dry dull practise that sends one to sleep. I very much dislike the dry insight practises, I did try those one time and it sent me into a long depression, I think the Buddha tells one to generate joy and pleasure when cultivation meditation for a good reason. A gladdened contented mind is much more cooperative and prone to exploring equanimity and insight.

There are days when I can be really joyful, and full of loving-kindness, but maintaining it is hard, because I can sometimes wake up a completely different person, even if I go to bed feeling very well and full of love, get enough sleep, I can wake up the next morning feeling fatigued and struggle to get out of bed and do anything, it is very hard to generate joy and loving-kindness when I am like that. It is hard to just rest and flow with it, due to the demands of the world and the need to build a livelihood to support myself. Especially with the doom coming from the news about how we are heading for a massive food shortage in the world, but I can disengage from that and accept the way things are, but still when I am fatigued, joy and loving-kindness is hard to invoke. I have tried using the voice of another to generate it, i.e. listen to dhamma talks, this can work sometimes, but other times I just can't get anything to generate it. At least that state of mind is impermanent, as joy and loving-kindess does eventually come back again. Very odd.

But I am determined to learn how to generate joy without needing anything external to do so, whatever state of mind I am in, I will learn how to generate it at will. The enlightened mind is about being in a perpetual state of emotional wellbeing. And the practise of meditation, and especially the anapana sati sutta (mindfulness of breathing teaching) is a lot like learning how to play a piece of music, the Buddha uses the word train, it is a training, one is learning how to bring the wholesome states of mind into being and sustain them. In a sense you are learning how to play the emotional structure of the mind, to free yourself from suffering. One is learning to create exquisite beautiful states of mind that cycle and once they have become well-established and like second nature, become who you are, and at that point there is no more going back to the negative states of woe, one has done the work and now abides in a constant state of emotional wellbeing that never fades away - nibanna.

That is what I keep reminding myself, that this is a gradual training. There's nothing magical happening, it is just practise and perseverance. The same way we learn any skill or craft in life, dedication and patient determination. If one keeps putting in the right causes and conditions (the noble eight-fold path), in time once fully developed, enlightenment naturally follows.

Some days it is a trudge, and others like hang-gliding (-:

But through it all one just keeps putting in the causes and conditions and develops and completes the training. The same way we learn anything in life, Buddhism is no different.

It does help to have guidance from an experienced teacher, and to have the right teacher as well. Even in Buddhism there are differing views and not all of Buddhism teaches the same thing, they are not all singing from the same hymn sheet. And some teachings have drifted away from what the Buddha actually taught and make the dhamma confusing and hard to understand.

Once I have properly developed, understood and mastered the eight-fold path, I would like to teach it one day to others and pass on what I have learnt. I have decided there needs to be people who preserve the orighinal teachings (or as close to as possible with what we have passed down to us) of the Buddha. Not that I am criticising other flavours of Buddhism, but I feel strongly that there needs to be people who do keep those core teachings of the Tathagatha (Buddha) alive for future generations, and my heart wants to be one of those.


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Path

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 11 Mar 2022, 23:30


Cold industrial echoes of the concrete night
Wet and tarmaccy puddles reflect artificial light
Serene raindrops ripple shape the liquid surface
Like this mind full of the noble eight-fold practise.

I walk with dignity
Rapturously
With the clear knowledge
There's no going back for me.


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Right view

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 21 Mar 2022, 20:50


This is the first factor of the noble eightfold path in Buddhism.

There are two kinds of right view: mundane right view and supra-mundane right view.

Mundane right view is to understand that our actions good or bad give rise to our kamma (volitional cause and effect). The seeds we sow now become the fruit we harvest later. "We reap what we sow." 

Kamma can produce results either in this life or a future one. This is because some kamma can lay dormant until the right causes and conditions arise to awaken it and bring it to fruition. This is not so difficult to understand as it works similar to DNA. Each of us inherits DNA from our mother and father and although we inherit lots of DNA, not all of it is switched on, some of it is switched off and lies dormant within us, but if certain environmental conditions arise, then those dormant circuits can light up and the DNA becomes active, a similar thing can happen with our kamma.

The law of cause and effect (kamma) can get quite complex and one can get quite deep reflecting on the many different types of kamma. One's intention is the generator of kamma, from that comes spiritual kamma, material kamma, kamma that comes from our thoughts, our speech, our behaviour. Each volition yields a different result based on its kind. Of them all spiritual kamma is the most potent and beneficial, but is also the one most people are not drawn to, only a minority tend to be drawn to the spiritual life, especially within a society dominated by wrong view. 

There is a supernormal power one can develop whilst in deep states of Samhadi that allow one to see the kamma of other beings past, present and future, and can reveal things hidden from plain everyday sight. It is called the 'Divine eye' , but it is considered extraordinary and one needs to cultivate deep states of samhadi (meditation) to develop it, but if one is determined enough it can be done, and those who have developed it have used it as a tool to investigate the law of kamma for themselves. 

But mundane right view can be simplified and narrowed down to this rule of thumb: greed, hatred and delusion always yields negative kamma; and generosity, kindness, and clarity always yields good kamma. 

Supra-mundane right view is the four noble truths. 

The Four Noble Truths are:

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

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

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

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

The noble eight-fold path when practised correctly, under the guidance of an experienced Buddhist teacher if at all possible, puts in the right causes and condtions that once fully developed and brought to fruition yield the supramundane kamma of complete irreversible freedom from suffering, known as nibanna.

 A teacher is very helpful though, as the suttas passed down to us are a condensed version of the Buddha's teachings, chanted and sung to aid memory. A bit like a concise succinct summary which tends to only mean something to someone who has been studying the subject a while. The suttas without the guidance of a well-developed teacher can be difficult to understand. An experienced Buddhist teacher can unpack the suttas and reveal their meaning fully to those who are interested.

 By the way, that's all you need, a genuine sincere interest to be a disciple of a Buddhist teacher and some perseverance and some etiquette (which can be taught). Not money. The Buddha always shared the dhamma for free and so should any true teacher of the dhamma. If Buddhist teachers charge you for sharing their knowledge of the dhamma then be wary, as that is considered wrong view. If Buddhism becomes a paid for service then it just becomes a refuge for the wealthy, which goes against the spirit of the Buddha and his teachings. The dhamma should be freely available to everyone rich or poor.  

Of course there’s no judgement either if you are well off, and for those who have money to spare, it is good kamma to make a generous donation to your teacher for their time; but if like me you are too poor to do that don’t be hard on yourself or feel ashamed, there are many ways to give and practise generosity, it doesn’t have to just be financial, all forms of generosity yield good kamma. Remember as well that monks and nuns take a vow of poverty, and spiritual folks of the past would become homeless and live without money, surviving on the generosity of others, and this was seen as noble.

The right way to view someone in need, is to see that person as an opportunity to grow spiritually and produce good kamma for oneself by showing compassion and kindness to another. In the West we have wrong view in the way we look at those who are sick or live in poverty. We blame and shame them, even go as far as to despise them; but if we really understood the law of kamma we would go out of our way to help those people and show them compassion and kindness instead, as doing so will bring us good kamma both in this life and the next one to come.

Helping any being in need is a great opportunity for someone to generate good kamma for themselves. It also gladdens the mind when we show kindness to another; and is a blessing to reflect on our good deeds, which should be milked for all they’re worth, especially when we are sick or dying, as remembering the times we showed kindness to others brings some cheer to the mind and can be a great antidote to depression. 



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The spiritual life

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 5 Mar 2022, 21:34


Contemplating becoming a monk one day. I am not there yet however. I still have a number of things I need to work through to reach that level, but it is something I am aspiring to now. The lifestyle of a Buddhist monk has suddenly becoming very appealing to me. Strange because if you had asked me a month ago, I would not have felt the same. A lot of things seem to have changed in me, things I thought never would change. At first it felt quite disturbing and seemed to upset me at a deep level, I became afraid of the changes, but now it is settling, I am quite happy about it actually. I can't explain, very difficult to put into words what has happened; but suddenly the world just doesn't feel like it has such a pull on me anymore. All the things I thought I wanted suddenly I don't particularly want as much. My main aspiration now is to develop in meditation and grow stronger in the way of dhamma.

 But I am not there yet. It may be a while before I get there. When I ask the Buddha about it, (yes I know he is in para-nibanna and will never again incarnate anywhere or teach devas or humans, but sometimes I swear he talks to me.) anyway, it could be a higher aspect of my mind being helpful by taking on the role of the Buddha, he just tells me not to run before I can walk, and not to walk before I can stand, and not stand before I can sit. He advises that a gradual training will suit my particular personality. Escaping the household life by riding off on horseback in the middle of the night as the heroic Bodhisattva may not work out so well for me, we are all a bit different after all and I am certainly not Gautama. So I should get the hang of being an Upasaka first. After that there's the intermediate stage between Upasaka and a monk where one deepens their Upasaka commitment and permanently takes the 8 precepts instead of five, then once one has got the hang of that stage, one can look into ordaining as a novice monk. 

Anyway I feel quite happy thinking that one day I could become a monk, it feels possible and I can see a clear path towards accomplishing that goal. 



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Dukkha

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 28 Feb 2022, 21:25


To exist is to suffer
And clinging has consequence
Pain follows inextricably, a shadow.
For that which you grasp for has already gone
Each precious moment: a phantom in your hand.

The five Khandha streams are empty.
And not who you really are.






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World's on fire

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 28 Feb 2022, 13:51

Eyes blink non-chalantly at ominous events.

Poverty looms and the inner critic judges me.
But with building a livelihood I am stuck.

Felt comforted by my paintings when sick. But cannot seem to make money with my art.
I am not good at promotion and selling.
And lack of energy is a problem.

I contemplated like the Buddha, leaving the household life and going forth into homlessness as a solution. Concluding that maybe in the future that could well be my fate, but it won’t be easy to live that way, especially when I often feel unwell and fatigued. And walking around with an almsbowl just isn’t going to cut it here, nobody is likely to support me, and many will most likely despise me and get angry, so there needs to be another way to eat/survive. Perhaps if I go forth in faith, with courage like the Buddha, I won’t starve.

The five skandhas are empty.
And there is no-self.
But one still has a responsibility to look after the body.


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Asoka

kalyānamitta

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A good companion and honest friend.

A drawing done in colouring pencils

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The wise king

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 26 Feb 2022, 19:19

COVID is absolutely horrendous. I have never had anything quite like this before. It is fecking horrible.

It certainly puts one to the test does sickness, it is quite tiring remembering to try and see the dhamma (four noble truths) in each moment and to disengage from the pain and not suffer, only to wish it would stop the next moment, then remembering dhamma again. I don’t know how advanced practioners do it, how they manage to not suffer when in pain, but I really respect and admire them. Sickness definitely humbles one.

Still I feel an odd peace, my life has not been wasted. I have grown spiritually and that’s all that matters in the end. The true wealth is within. I may be poor and considered a loser by the standards of the material world, but spiritually I feel like I have been very fortunate and the thought occured to me if I die now I don’t mind at all, I feel I can go with some peace and dignity and no regrets.

There’s a story in the suttas about a wise king who answered the Buddha skillfully when he asked him what he would do if armies where coming for him in all directions crushing everything in their path, and the king answered he would practise generosity.

I am not wealthy like the king, but generosity doesn’t have to be just about money. One can be generous in all sorts of ways. Even in poverty and lieing in bed sick one can still practise generosity by sending metta (loving-kindness) energy to others. And a mind imbued with loving-kindness is an excellent state of mind to be in when sick and also at the moment of death.

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Right Desire

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 21 Feb 2022, 15:15

We all have COVID here at the moment and are in quarantine for the next ten days after a doctor phoned to confirm a positive PCR test and told us we should all isolate. I don’t mind though, I will just imagine I am on a retreat. I seem to have COVID pretty mild compared to the others in my household who are quite sick with it. It is strange how it effects everyone differently. 

I meditated for two and a half hours today in a single sitting. And it is true there does come a point where the monkey mind gives up and lets go and one drops into a deeper state of serenity and stillness. Although my legs and knees hurt after sitting for so long. I am going to try and keep it up and sit that long every Sunday afternoon, perhaps try three hours next week.

We ordered our shopping online from the local supermarket, who delivered it to us, knocked on the door and scampered post-haste, leaving the bags of shopping outside, lol. Just two bags that came to £30. Everything is getting so expensive, the cost of living has doubled since this time last year and the media keeps telling us it is going to go up even more. Many people are worried about it, and understandly so. Old Richie would have been worried about it, but I find myself oddly calm, semi-detached and just flowing with things as they are. I still have the determination to make a livelihood for myself, but I am not attached to any outcomes, it is purely for functional reasons, as I need to get an income sorted so I can take care of this body, this organic vehicle to enlightenment; but if I fail then I fail, all anyone can do is try their best. I feel like I can die with some peace and dignity. I don’t feel like my time here on Earth was wasted, in fact I feel like I have found the real treasure in this life, the dhamma taught by the Buddha 2600 years ago (-:

I feel like I am part human and part something else these days, like some part of me is not of this world anymore. It is a nice feeling, like a taste of freedom, a kind of heaven on Earth. The stuff happening in the world just doesn’t seem to get me as ‘het up’ anymore. I find myself not getting caught up in the stories or dramas about the world or desiring anything in it that I used to enjoy, except perhaps for weed (;

The thought occurred to me if I die now I wouldn’t mind at all. I will just let go and direct my consciousness to higher things and if I don’t reach nibanna, perhaps I can make it to the stage of enlightenment known as non-returner, as a consolation prize. Then I will never have to be born and exist in this world ever again. Non-returners don’t come back to Earth, they are born in the higher heavens and get fully enlightened there, and although they have extremely long lives (aeons) they never incarnate here or in any of the worlds below them ever again, they can however visit any of the lower worlds whenever they like, and some do from time to time.

Non-returner is the third stage of enlightenment in the four traditional stages which are: 1. stream-enterer, 2. once-returner, 3. non-returner, 4. fully liberated (has reached nibanna and never incarnates anywhere again). 

I was reflecting on what it means to be a non-returner and imagined that there could well be many celestial Buddhas in the heavens right now who were non-returners, living extremely long lives beyond anything we can comprehend, who have seen universes come and go, and I wonder if they sometimes come to Earth out of compassion to help and guide people on the spiritual path. Who knows, but it is a nice thought (-:

Many Buddhists disagree with my thinking here, and I have been challenged on it. They say that devas or other heavenly beings don’t act as spiritual guides or helpers to humans. They only visit the human realm to learn, gain wisdom and knowledge. But in my personal experience I have encountered spiritual guides and helpers from the deva realms who have helped me many times when I have been feeling desperate and alone  (and still do now). So I think perhaps some non-returners do act in a compassionate way towards humans. Brahma Sahampati the anagami (non-returner from a previous Buddha) certainly seemed to be showing compassion towards humans when he came to Earth and persuaded the Buddha to teach after his enlightenment.

But noone really knows. I like thinking of there being celestial Buddhas out there who do show compassion to the lower realms, and guide and help those on the spiritual path. So I think I will believe in this theory whether anyone agrees with me or not (-: I also like to think if I can make it to the third stage of enlighenment and become a non-returner that I would be someone who acts this way; and if I feel like this, then there are bound to be other beings who do as well.

Maybe it is the Mahayana part of me coming through. I have spent a year as a Zen Buddhist so I am a bit influenced by that way of thinking, and do feel somewhat drawn to the Bodhisattva ideal, but not in the extreme way most Mahayana Buddhists do. I don’t particularly want to keep incarnating here over and over until all beings are liberated, in fact I don’t want to be reborn here if I can help it. My life here has felt very lonely and painful, poverty is no fun at all and this material world and the suffering it causes for most if not all of the beings who live here is a misery I never want to encounter again. I have found my time on Earth to be very unpleasant and I am keen not to be reborn here; but I do want to help liberate other beings in the future when I am ready to teach the dhamma, either as a human or a deva.

Anyway it doesn’t really matter, the important thing is practising the eight-fold path. There are certainly many devas who are just visiting Earth for their own personal development and don’t act as spiritual helpers or guides; but I also believe there are just as many who do show compassion and help other beings. Different strokes for different folks I guess, it is a huge multiverse out there with many differnt worlds and beings of all kinds with differing views.

Some of my views are different from what many Buddhists believe. Views that from my own personal experience resonate as truth; but they are so small as to not be worth argueing over. So I will remain silent about them and keep those thoughts just to my blog from now on. I am learning it is better to remain silent about such things when in the company of others. Something I think the Buddha himself practised at times. I don’t think people will ever agree one hundred percent on everything.

I like both Theravada and Mahayana, and seem to be a mixture of the two traditions in my own practise. It may be that I end up practising alone as a result, as it is difficult to plant one’s flag in just the one tradition when I am not wholeheartedly in agreement with any of them. I doubt there is a single teacher out there I will ever one hundred percent agree with, not even the Buddha himself.

I guess there is still desire in me, a desire not to be reborn in this world, a desire not to exist anymore, as it is existence itself which is the problem. Suffering follows existence like a shadow. Interestingly and rather paradoxically one can experience freedom from existence whilst one is still alive, in this very life in fact, a state of mind known as nibanna and when one dies that state of nibanna just continues unceasingly (no comedown). Nibanna is permanent and non-reversible, it is described as neither existence nor non-existence, as something utterly beyond all that, beyond anything we can imagine or comprehend, beyond duality. There are no adequate words to describe it, one has to experience it to know it. There are other experiences like that in life where words are inadequate. Nibanna is one of those experiences, it is a complete state of irreversible freedom that goes beyond everything, beyond all words and worlds, it is neither life nor death.

Desire for freedom may not be a bad thing. In a talk by Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu, he likened the aspiration to become enlightened as a pair of tweezers that one can use to get something out of their eye. Once the offending item is removed from the eye, one simply puts down the tweezers as they have done their job and are no longer needed. I have also heard someone else describe it as a key which unlocks a door, and once inside people don’t then walk around holding the key in their hand, the key has served its purpose and one simply puts it down. In a similar way desire/aspiration can be used as a tool to help liberate oneself from suffering. It does have to be used skillfully mind and that’s the tricky part. If one does not know how to handle a pair of tweezers they might end up poking their eye out.



image of the buddha sat in meditaiton


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Moods

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 15 Feb 2022, 10:40

Life can be a real slog sometimes, well most times actually. I didn't want to get out of bed today, I really didn't, felt disappointed I woke up. I have no idea how to generate joy when I feel like this, and meditation feels impossible without any, like trying to kickstart an engine when there's no fuel, it stutters and goes nowhere, so I try to find some solace in writing instead. Constant thoughts whirring relentlessly in the background: 'Nobody likes you, you will always be alone, why don't you just top yourself?' Each time I answer: 'No I will not take my life' - but it gets tiring. Why does my own brain work against me so? I don't feel much of anything just now, of all the moods this is the most challenging for sure. The complete and utter wrecking ball that is depression.

Shame, as it is such a lovely day, but I can't face going for a walk, feel like I just want to retreat from the world in the sanctuary of my room and not have to deal with anything. I really don't want to be around other people's energies, even though I feel lonely, I just can't handle people right now, odd paradox.

I know this mood will pass, and when it does I will think of all the ways I can manage it better the next time it comes round. But alas, all the things I think will work, never do. I have been trying to overcome this mood since I was a kid and I still do not know how to handle it gracefully, it never seems to get any easier, but I will keep persisting.

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

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

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

One generates the desire for the continuance, non-disappearance, strengthening, increase and full-development of wholesome states of mind by making effort, arousing energy, exerting one's mind and persevering.
'


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Blue Monday

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 16 Feb 2022, 00:04

I am feeling a bit depressed today. 

Certainly this is not a pleasant world to exist in, there’s not much love in it really, can be a bit harsh and lonely. There’s always someone making us feel guilty or ashamed. We have all become masters at criticising one another, pointing out each other’s faults, and we are especially good at criticising ourselves as well. I am trying my best to reprogramme this behaviour as I do not find it helpful. If I can make it through my Buddhist training to be wise and skilled enough to teach one day, I think I will do things a little different and focus much more on friendship and connection. But that’s just me, I’m different, we are all different, yet also the same. As when one understands one’s own mind, one understands all minds; and when one has befriended one’s own being, one finds it easier to make friends with other beings.

Depression sucks, it can be hard to feel any joy or pleasure at all. I gave up trying to generate joy in meditation earlier and just went straight to equanimity. Sometimes joy comes easy and other times it feels like asking the impossible. The spiritual path is challenging and sometimes I wonder if I am cut out for it, but I persevere. Being a human is not easy. I hope I can do enough to not have to come back to this world again, it is not a pleasant place, at least not in my experience it hasn’t been. I understand some people really like it here and actually want to come back. Different strokes for different folks I guess.

My son and I saw a beautiful pheasant in the yard. I think it had escaped from being shot, (I often hear the shotguns going off nearby in the fields and woods). It opened my heart up to see it, and I felt a connection with it and I could see its sentience, it felt like our consciousnesses merged for a moment and we understood one another. I am hoping it will stay and take sanctuary in our garden and the nearby meadow and not go back to where it came from as I fear if it does it will get killed by hunters. Why anyone would want to shoot such a beautiful being is beyond me. But people travel from all over to come here and shoot birds - mad world.




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Square-shaped day

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There's a teaching in the Suttas where the Buddha gives lay disciples advice about what to do with money. He advises them after they have met their living expenses, to divide up any remaining money into four equal parts. Part one should be invested in something. Part two should be saved. Part three should be donated to a charity/noble cause. And the fourth part should be spent on oneself, so one can enjoy some of what they have earned. 

I thought this was great advice. And I have adapted it to also work with time, by dividing my day's activities into four equal parts. For the first part I study my university degree. For the second part I do some painting. For the third part I work on my dhamma studies (Buddhist lay disciple training). And the fourth part I spend working on my website. This division of time seems to work well for me so far (-: And I wonder in what other ways this division by four may come in useful? 

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Difficult but not impossible

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 8 Feb 2022, 14:37

I have been practising a strategy I heard in a dharma talk about preventing negative states of mind arising. And I have been getting some success with it, although I still get caught out at times, but it makes sense to me and the concept is easy enough to understand.

What one does is say to oneself 'for the next five minutes I am not going to get irritable.' or swap it for any unwholesome state of mind ' I am not going to get angry... stressed... criticise myself... feel any ill-will. I am not going to cling... I am not going to doubt... I am not going to be greedy... I am not going to be conceited... I am not going to be lazy for the next five minutes.'

Or try the inverse 'For the next five minutes I am going to be content... generous... kind... clear-headed... lucid... calm... mindful... interested/curious... persevere... smile.... be serene...be still... be equaminous,' and so on... just pick one mind-state to work with at a time - keep it simple.

Make it into a game you play with yourself. It doesn't matter if you don't manage the whole five minutes and rubber 🦆 it up, even a few seconds of getting it right is enough to begin the process of training the mind. And the good news is, just doing it once even for a few seconds is enough to get the ball rolling, and means you can do it again, and again, and find your way back over and over and the effect will snowball and get stronger, and in time with repeated practise it will become easier.

If it fails and a negative state of mind does arise and manifest itself, then it's no bother, one simply moves on to the strategies for abandoning/letting go of the negative state of mind and then just have another go (-: 

One is just training the mind, creating a new habit, it's nothing intellectual, one doesn't need to be a rocket scientist to do this. But one does need to be determined, patient and persevere. Like anything we learn in life it takes lots of repetitive practise, and if you mess up it's okay, just try again. Don't be hard on yourself, give yourself some encouragement for trying, be kind to the mind. Eventually the mind will get better at it and you will get a nice flow going.

I like this idea anyway, this strategy is hopeful, gives one the power to change oneself and not be fettered to the psychic irritants of: wanting, aversion, stagnation, agitation, and doubt. Those are the five unwholesome states of mind that cause all the problems in our psyche and disturb our peace. The good news is one can fight back, and make a stand, things are not hopeless, we do not have to be at the mercy of unhelpful past conditioning, we can change ourselves, train our minds, master our emotions and become happy and free. 


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Rain God

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 5 Feb 2022, 21:54

A shimmering cold and wet walk in the rain. We have had so much of it lately I feel like I am living in a water world. Future models predict this exact location where I live is to get even more of it in the coming years as the weather changes, which is odd. It reminds me of something my Gran once said to me when I was little. She said she knew I was coming to visit her because she could see the rain-clouds coming over the horizon. I used to wonder if I was a rain God. I remember a character in a book by Douglas Adams (can't remember the title for the life of me). But there's this character who is a rain God and everywhere he goes it rains, with rains of all different kinds: drizzle, torrential, serene. And it is the rain-drops paying homage to him only he doesn't realise and is constantly grumbling about the weather (-:

There is also a strange story in the suttas where the Buddha narrates a tale about an elephant that has the peculiar ability to make it rain, and people from other lands request the king that owns it to send them the elephant to cure a drought they are experiencing so their crops can grow.

If I really am a rain God, then that might not be too bad a life, touring the world, visiting all the places that need rain, sitting there with my umbrella and a cup of tea (and a spliff if I am lucky). Making people happy because I bring the rain (-: Hahaha



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Dispassion

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Working with a negative cycle of the mind just now. But practising not getting entangled and caught up in the story about it all. It is hard work, the bad mood can be sticky like superglue and hard to shake off. But one has to persevere.

The breath can help, feeling the cool air going in, the warm air going out. Bad moods have unpleasant sensations, so focusing on something neutral can bring some relief. Especially if one is unable to feel or generate any pleasure, a neutral feeling can feel pleasant after a negative mood.

Paying attention to the breath can help with abandoning unwholesome states of mind; but more often than not you will need to talk your monkey mind into a more chilled out zone of thinking before it will even settle with the breath. So one has to reason with the mind, I sometimes do this out loud (when I am alone of course). I have a conversation with myself like a crazy person. Hey don’t judge me, it works!

This evening I was experiencing intense agitation, anger, sadness and mental pain. I went for a walk and as I walked I thought about what this unwholesome state of mind was: just sensations, feelings, thoughts, memories, emotions, so what? Why am I so bothered about them? Why do I need to tell myself these stories about it? I know nothing lasts in this world, everything is always changing, other people, me, the weather, society, time, day, night, seasons, this body is ageing and dying. Everything is impermanent, and loss and separation is fated for all, which makes it all feel a bit disatisfying and stressful. Which is the first noble truth: ‘there is suffering.’

The second noble truth is about the origin of suffering. I reflected on our attachment to things, things that are always changing, we chase and want what we think will make us happy, only to find when we grasp for them that there’s nothing but phantom air, just an insubstantial moment that is gone. Our mind comes into contact with something external, which triggers a sensation and a mental feeling, which triggers a perception of like or dislike, which triggers craving or aversion, which then becomes grasping for, or pushing away; and the thoughts and stories we tell ourselves about the world and who we are, which becomes our consciousness.

When one looks deep into one’s being for a permanent soul, there is nothing there. We are just a process that’s always changing. The jewel at the heart of the lotus:l is emptiness. Because everything is changing there’s no substantial self.

I thought about the third noble truth: ‘there is an end to suffering;’ but I find that one difficult to reflect on as I have not yet experienced the end of suffering. So I tend to reflect on that one with faith – faith that there is an end to suffering. That it is possible to be free. There are many others who have achieved this throughout history, and they all say it is possible to put an end to suffering, so that gives me hope and faith.

Which leads nicely to the fourth noble truth: the path that leads to the end of suffering: the noble eightfold path. Which has led many people throughout history to enlightenment and the end of suffering.

And there you have it, talked myself into feeling a bit calmer about it all. I focused on dispassion. Dispassion for my senses, my feelings, dispassion for my emotions, dispassion for this body, this life, the dramas, the ups and downs, the beautiful and the ugly, dispassion for this world and the things of it. Every time a thought popped up in my head and before I got entangled in the stories I just said the word: ‘dispassion’ to silence them. It became like a mantra and did help to quiet the mind. When I got home I even wrote ‘dispassion’ in big letters and hung it on my wall. And you know what it worked! At least sufficiently enough to weaken the unwholesome state of mind so I could then move onto invoking a more wholesome state of mind in its place. Equanimity felt natural at that point, so I worked with that, brought it into being, and cultivated it, equanimity is one of the seven factors of enlightenment. I kept saying the word like a mantra, filling my mind with equanimity, until it all felt a bit like water off a duck’s back and I finally let go, settled into a meditation posture and enjoyed the breath.



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Balance

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 26 Jan 2022, 17:52

Have been listening to dharma talks a lot lately. Especially when out walking with my headphones on. I wear headphones in the town as I find the constant sound of traffic and construction wears my awareness down into a dull grey fatigue. I am practising though, sometimes I don't wear my headphones, and I suspect my aversion to industrial noise is to do with what the Buddha called: 'unwise attention to the fault.' (N.b. there is also 'unwise attention to the beautiful.' The gate swings both ways. ) 

In the first of the four Right Efforts of Buddhism, one works at preventing negative states of mind from arising. This is done by becoming aware of unwise attention to either the ugly or the beautiful and changing it to wise attention. As it is what we attend to in our consciousness that becomes the stories we tell ourselves about the world, which in turn generates either craving or aversion, which then entangles us in unhealthy unhappy states of mind. 

If one fails to prevent negative states of mind arising, then this is where the second right effort comes in, which is to abandon negative states of mind when one becomes aware of them. There are different ways of eliminating them. Some suggestions by the Buddha are to try to invoke the opposite, i.e. wanting and desire comes from a feeling of lack, so the opposite of lack is to cultivate a feeling of contentment. One can also reflect on impermanence, observing how everything is always changing, this can help with developing some equanimity towards it all and dampen the craving a bit. The Buddha also advises one to see the negative mood as a great stain on one's personality, and to imagine it being like having a dead snake around your neck that you want to remove post-haste as you are about to go to dinner with some people you respect and admire. Other techniques are: to distract oneself till the mood has passed; talking oneself out of it; or the last resort, suppress the mood until it is weakened enough to allow one to use some of the other elimination strategies.  

The third right effort is bringing into being wholesome states of mind. And the fourth right effort is cultivating those wholesome states of mind so they thrive and become continuous and fully-developed. 

The hope I get from this is that no-one has to be a prisoner of who they are. We can change ourselves if we want to. Transformation of one's consciousness and emotions is possible; but we are the ones who have to put in the right causes and conditions to make this happen. And do so with equanimity, with the right balance of energy - the middle way. One should not push oneself so hard as to burn out and become unwell; nor just sit on the couch and do nothing. One needs to find a sweet spot, which maybe means something a bit different to each one of us, it doesn't have to be perfectly in the middle. I imagine it as a dial with a section in green that I try to keep the needle steady in by making necessary adjustments; and with two red areas at the extremes of the polarity which I am trying to keep the needle out of. I know its a daft metaphor, it occurred to me while I was adjusting the water pressure for our boiler, but visualising it like that seems to work okay for me.


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Livelihood, kindness and equanimity

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The cost of living has sky-rocketed here. Food and energy bills are a lot more expensive than they were this time last year. We are really not able to live within our means anymore and have become dependent on generous family members to help us out. I feel ashamed, but also trying to balance that, as I know from experience self-loathing is no help at all. The other extreme is also unhelpful:  too much self-grandiosity. So one has to get as close to the centre as possible with these states of mind. (I imagine it like a needle on a dial, where I am trying to keep the needle in the green area.) But do so with kindness towards oneself, this makes the experience all the sweeter and easier I am finding. The mind works better when it feels loved, especially by oneself. 

So I am finding myself stuck on the 'Right Livelihood' aspect of the path just now. I have discovered this year, rather unpleasantly and quite painfully, I do not seem to have much ability for maths or computing anymore. I really seem to be struggling with the module I am studying this year on computability and algorithms. I am suddenly not sure software development and coding is realistically going to be something I want to or can do anymore as a career.

I enjoy painting, but I cannot support myself financially with painting, I have not yet sold a single painting or a print after nearly a year of trying. I just cannot for the life of me do the marketing involved, I have tried and failed repeatedly. I do not seem to have the right personality and not really cut out for it. I just want to paint, not spend all my time in self-promotion, my mind just won't work that way.

 Sadly chronic pain and faitigue makes even shelf-stacking at the local supermarket impossible. I think from now on I will only be able to work part-time from home, which is not enough to live on these days. I am at a loss with how to realise 'Right livelihood' if I am honest, this is not an easy part of the Noble eight-fold path for me. I am very uncertain as to how to proceed or how I am going to support myself in the coming years. Again I have to be careful not to get overwhelmed by negative states of mind here. I must face all this with kindness and equanimity, remembering to cut myself some slack, because shame and self-loathing is no help either. It is important to balance my life with the other aspects of the path and not just spend all my time and energy focusing on livelihood. One must not neglect the other parts of the mind. If I do not look after the whole of the mind. I will be in danger of becoming burnt out, unwell and unable to do anything. 

Equanimity is a careful balancing act, which is itself balanced out by kindness. Metta (loving-kindness) and Upekkha (equanimity) are like a knife and fork, they compliment one another and support one another perfectly on the path to enlightenment. 


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Nibanna

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 6 Jan 2022, 21:08

Knowledge and serenity practise are like two wings of a bird 🕊️

Nourished, well cared for and balanced they can take one to the liberating insight of nibanna. 

What is nibanna?

It is said to be a liberated state of mind that cannot be reversed.
Like what fire becomes when it no longer clings to its fuel.
The breaking of the 12 links of dependent origination.
Something permanent in an impermanent universe.
Something secure that cannot be taken away.
The mind freed from greed, hatred, and delusion.
A radiant samhadi.
Luminous with generosity, kindness and clarity.
A safe haven where one can finally know peace.
Emancipation from grief and suffering.
Final liberating knowledge here and now.
And the realisation of the eightfold path.

At least that's my understanding.

A seagull flying above some hills and the sea.

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Why I write this blog

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 30 Dec 2021, 23:07

Don't worry I am not trying to convert anyone to Buddhism by writing on here. There is absolutely no obligation to do that as a Buddhist; there's no door-knocking evangelical stuff in Buddhism at all thankfully. I just merely write about it because:

a) it helps me to write down my thoughts to see where my current understanding is by attempting to put it into words, and a personal blog is a good place to do this.
b) I really don't have all that much else going on in my life. I live what most would consider to be quite a boring life (-:
c) This is what I think about and practise most of the time so is naturally what I will tend to write about.
d) Some of what I write might be helpful to others and some may find it interesting.
e) The practise has enriched my life in so many different ways and I feel immense gratitude for it, it has been a real help for me and I feel a natural inclination to want to share the benefits of what I have learned with others, especially during these dark times that many are experiencing around the world just now; but I do so with the understanding that people can take it or leave it and I have no interest in trying to convince anyone or change people, or prove I am right or anything like that.

What people do with their lives is up to them, we are all responsible for our own actions, and it is up to each individual to make their own choices in life.

Of course if anyone does find any of what I write interesting and wants to know more, I highly recommend seeking out an experienced teacher of Buddhism and also a sangha to be a part of so one can learn about it properly and have some wise spiritual friends to support one. There are many different Buddhist communities hosting programs and events online at the moment that one can be a part of for free without needing to travel anywhere, it is amazing really. All one needs is a device that can go online and an Internet connection.

Wishing everyone well for the coming year. Hope it is an enriching time for you all.

Much love 

Richie

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Happy new year to everyone

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 3 Jan 2022, 13:50

Next year will be a bit different for me. I will be taking part in the Upasaka/Upasika 2022 training program under Ajahn Sona starting January 1st.

So it will be a new beginning for me as Upasaka Richie. And this post is like me wiping the slate of the past with the intention of being much more careful of what I say and do from now on. 

I have taken the five precepts which are:

No killing
No stealing
No lying or harmful speech
No sexual misconduct
No intoxicants that make me careless

They are not commandments. They are there to protect one, and to help one have a clear mind that is not plagued by regret or worry over past misdeeds. With a clear and peaceful mind one can then go deeper into spiritual practise and meditation. 

 I never thought I would actually get this far on the spiritual path. I am a bit nervous and will try hard not to let anyone down. Although I understand it is normal to make mistakes, and so will not beat myself up about my past errors, everyone makes mistakes, it is one of the ways we learn, and grow into wiser people. Noone is perfect, and if there are any perfect people in this world they are few and far between and they didn't get there without making a few mistakes themselves. Some of the Buddha's disciples did far worse things than any of us would ever dream of doing, yet they changed their ways and got enlightened - remembering that gives me hope. Thankfully there's a lot of forgiveness and grace on the path, and if one is trying their best then others can see that and don't abandon or judge you. There's a lot of support both seen and unseen in the spiritual life.

I am going to be training with another 108 people from around the world. And we are all just starting to get to know one another through email and discussion groups and I look forward to deepening my practise and growing with them in the coming year. This is a big deal for me to commit to Buddhism like this, I have always stood on the sidelines not wanting to plant my flag anywhere; but I feel the time is right now. And am looking forward to it. 

Wishing everyone else the best for 2022.

Upasaka Richie


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Everything changes

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 26 Dec 2021, 19:43

I find this time of year a bit challenging. I feel depressed just now. Am a bit sick as well, no idea if it is covid, couldn't give a shit if it is. I am isolating myself just in case though as do not want to pass it on to anyone else, so just talking to family on zoom. It is a very mild illness, although my glands are swollen to Hell and I am a bit light-headed and weak on my feet. Some part of me doesn't care though. I honestly don't mind if I live or die, if I die now I will just see it as a mercy and try to feel equanimity instead of a negative state of mind. Mindstate is important at death as that is the seed that becomes your next life. 

It is getting harder and harder to survive in this world anyway. I am struggling to get anywhere with right livelihood and I can't work full-time due to my health problems and mood swings, it is tough to stay afloat and tiring trying to. I am not the only one, there are many of us who are feeling this way all around the world. It is a tough world just now and not getting any easier. Many are struggling to make ends meet at the moment, the cost of living has sky-rocketed. Food is twice as expensive as it was this time last year, and so are the utility bills, and the money coming in hasn't changed for many of us. And it is hard to feel much joy living like that. Anyway who wants to live and watch the world go to shit and more animals go extinct. I don't want to see all that. Although I promise I won't take my life, I have made a vow not to do that and will honour it. If I survive and live I will try my best to be a light in this darkening world, and show kindness and compassion to other beings that are suffering where I can. It isn't always easy to do this though. Sometimes my energy is too low, and fatigue gets the better of me, I feel like a weak battery that is unable to hold its charge at the moment. 

I think those who go on about how important it is to feel joy on the spiritual path and try to enourage everyone to feel the same aren't struggling with their finances, if they were I imagine they too would be finding it challenging to feel much joy. But nonetheless it is true what they say, joy is important and it is one of the seven factors of enlightenment, albeit for me the most challenging one.

I read an article that said the world economic output has reached $100 trillion for the first time in human history. What it didn't mention is how much of this belongs to the super rich and that most of us won't see any of that, it is being hoarded by humans whose minds are possessed by greed, hatred and delusion. The super rich continue to invest in their rocket-sized penis extensions, with the 'my rocket is better than yours' mentality; trying to be the first to colonise cold dead space, while they leave this rare miracle of a planet behind to die a bleak unhappy death in the aftermath of their greed and madness of mass industrial consumerism. Instead of using all that wealth and power to help this living planet; they dream instead of colonising a much colder smaller dead planet far far away. Strange logic, but delusion does that. The more greedy one becomes, the more deluded one becomes to justify hoarding such large amounts of wealth, and the more they hate others who criticise them and try to get them to share it with others. Greed, hatred and delusion, the three psychic poisons.

I was wondering today why do some young men kick the shit out of homeless people. I guess they are looking for someone to hate, to blame for their crap miserable lives. Homeless people are easy targets. I remember when I was homeless (many years ago now) and I met another homeless guy who had been beaten badly by the police of all people. I gave him all the money I had made busking and flagged him a taxi and asked the driver to take him to the hospital so he could get stitched up by the A&E as he had a large gaping bleeding wound on his head. Why do people beat up those who are homeless? Is it because they are vulnerable and don't stand a chance of being able to fight back against the attackers? Perhaps there is fear also, the knowledge that many of us are close to homelessness ourselves, some maybe only a paycheck away, and that fear becomes hate. I don't know. What horrible times we live in where this happens. Are we really civilised? It makes me sad. There seems to be so little love and compassion in the world at the moment. But I know not everyone is like this, there are still many good people out there, I just have to try to remember that, no matter how alone and depressed I feel. 

I am trying to see my depression as a state of becoming, with the understanding that it is better to retreat from the world when I am like this, as I often will say things I later regret, and if I am alone, that is less likely to happen. It is hard to do that at this time of year though, as everyone expects one to be sociable and happy. It was difficult doing a zoom call with family yesterday as my mood was low and it was hard pretending not to be, and everyone I spoke to was happy, festive, and enjoying their day, but I felt miserable. I felt like a failure after the zoom call that I couldn't enjoy Christmas day like everyone else or feel happy. 

So I am currently retreating from the world. I look at the depressed cycle now as being like a caterpillar in a cocoon becoming a butterfly, it is an unpleasant painful experience, a complete destruction of the self, like entering the womb again, and birth is painful, but when it is over one emerges as something new, a different person each time and hopefully someone who has grown deeper in wisdom and more developed spiritually. And when one feels renewed strength and energy then one can act and go out to meet the world again. In the meantime, I just have to be patient and try really hard not to believe the dark thoughts about myself or others. Try hard not to react to other people's energy in a negative way. And avoid what the Buddha calls unwise attention to the fault. That automatic critic that pops up iin the mind and judges others, perhaps because it doesn't like the way someone dresses or looks, the sound of their voice, the way they behave and so on. That's unwise attention to the fault. There's also unwise attention to the beautiful, such as desiring the happiness others are feeling, seeing pretty displays in a shop window, or desirable objects online, or lusting after someone you feel attracted to. That is unwise attention to the beautiful. And both unwise attention to the fault or the beautiful can upset the balance of the mind and stop it being centred.

One must also remember as well not to be hard on oneself when these things arise in the mind, none of us can help it, we all do it, it is automatic and outside our control, it happens so fast and much of it is due to DNA, evolution and past conditioning of the mind. One thing we can do though, is to try to let go of it as soon as we notice it and try to bring into being a more wholesome way of thinking, such as loving-kindness, compassion, joy-in-another's-happiness, or equanimity. Try instead to wish other beings well without wanting anything in return. It is hard, but we can persevere and keep trying.

 Depression for me is very difficult at times, and feeling any joy or pleasure is a challenge. But abiding in equanimity whilst retreating from the world can be helpful. I quite like focusing on change and impermanence at the moment, noticing how everything keeps changing. Some changes are immediately apparent, such as the constant information coming from the five senses of: vision, sound, smell, taste, touch. But thoughts are also always changing, and so is the time. Then there are the longer changes that one can contemplate, such as the body as it ages and eventually dies, the sense of self, the world, civilisations that rise and fall, the weather, the seasons, the sky, friends and romantic relationships, day and night, the tide, the moon, even this patch of space is constantly changing as the Earth spins around the sun. Understanding that everything changes can help with developing equanimity and with letting go and being patient. 

 'Everything I hold dear and everyone I love will become separated from me due to the nature of change.' 

There is not much else the ego can do, much of the process of awakening/enlightenment happens unconsciously in the deeper mind outside of one's awareness, and it can feel unpleasant as the rest of the mind processes the insights one gains through spiritual practise and rewires itself based on the new information it has received. One just has to sit tight and accept this state of becoming and try not to react. Be patient with it, let the process unfold in its own way, its own time, it cannot be rushed. 



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