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Shape of self

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 17 Feb 2022, 17:23

It is interesting how we all rub off on each other, every person we connect with changes us in some way. We truly are all the people we meet. 

What self is there?

Our bodies are changing, slowly ageing.
Sensations are changing all the time; like a white-noise of continuous data we either feel as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.
Our perception of life's myriad objects changes.
Our thoughts, memories, emotions, and the story of self we narrate, about who we are, and our life, is always changing. I am not even the same person I was five minutes ago when I sat down to write this. 
All these events change our consciousness like light-reflecting ripples on the surface of a pond. Consciousness too is always changing. 

This is what I think Buddhism means by emptiness, by no-self.  It is saying there is no fixed unchanging entity or soul, just a fluid dynamic process, a flowing stream that's different from one moment to the next. 


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Asoka

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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Asoka

Insubstantial

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 11 Dec 2021, 20:07

Walking in the rain
heart twisting pain
No more beat within
Is that the price of sin?
Ah but there is no soul
It doesn't exist
Just a changing process
That never stays still 
From one moment to the next
Who are you?


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Asoka

Phasing

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 30 Nov 2021, 22:01


Tired.
And caught up in the things of the world. 
Hands up, it was me.
I lost my equanimity.
But feel closer now,
closer to the other shore,
Knock knock knocking on heaven's door.
Everything is insubstantial, empty,
just like you and me.
always changing,
rearranging.
Phasing.


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Asoka

Solitude

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 24 Dec 2021, 21:49
It is when you are struggling you discover who your real friends are. Those who don't care for you abandon you in those moments. 

Friendship is impermanent and subject to change just like everything else. One should learn to be fearless without needing friends by their side. I think the Buddha once said (at the time of his death) that we should become an island on to ourselves, we should take refuge in ourselves and the dharma. We shouldn't be dependent on anyone else, we should be our own teacher, our own guru, our own best friend. We should question everything, even what he says.

 Don't get me wrong, it is nice to have friends, but life and the nature of change can be a real bitch sometimes and the reality is people aren't always there for you, and there are shitty days where you will feel separated, disconnected and alone. Connections don't last forever, nothing does, and it is everyone's fate (whether we like it or not) to one day become separated from those we love.

 The only thing you can really depend on in this universe is that everything is changing, and it is up to you to free yourself from suffering. Friends come and go, but you will always be with yourself. So try to make a friend of your mind, and perhaps that can help ease the pain of separation. Besides one only feels lonely when they think: 'I am lonely'. It is just a state of mind, part of the story we tell ourselves. There are beings all around us, so noone is truly alone. It is all bullshit in the end anyway, none of it is real. At least that's what I am telling myself, I feel lonely as fuck just now, but I don't care anymore. 


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Asoka

The five remembrances and the nature of change

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A bit under the weather today. Woke up with a touch of sickness this morning. Didn't feel comfortable lying in bed as had sweated a lot in the night. So I got up and had a bath. Then sat in meditation with a Zen group I sit with regularly. Felt quite unwell whilst I sat, and have an annoying cough which kept interrupting the flow of meditation and stopped me getting into a deep state of concentration. At first I wondered why on Earth I was sitting meditating with others on Zoom when I just wasn't feeling it. But I remembered a story about a monk who got sick with malaria, and he carried on sitting and meditating with the sangha every evening, and even though he felt like he was on death's door, and felt gravely ill, he kept meditating and it was hardwork, he struggled; but he also persevered and eventually managed to reach a flow state known as samhadi (A profound deep stillness, lucidity and unification of mind) and from then on his sickness turned around and he got better. I have heard other stories like this, so I think there is something to it. There's something powerful and healing about getting into a state of samhadi. I didn't manage to do that today, after 30 minutes I felt like I had had enough and left the sitting to lie down for a bit. 

But it was not a wasted effort, there was merit there. I think just sitting with the sickness and learning how to flow with it and be kind to myself was a helpful experience. I tried to remain aware and mindful throughout and learn what I could about the mind and how to be okay with ill health and pain; not reacting, accepting things as they are, letting them be, without the suffering. 

 I can't seem to generate the energy of metta (loving-kindness, goodwill, friendliness) today, feel a bit weak and fatigued, athough I will persevere with that as I have found doing metta practise for the bacteria/viruses causing sickness in my body has powerfully turned things around for me in the past. I can't seem to bring up that feeling just now though, so am spending a lot of time in equanimity. I may listen to a playlist of dharma talks on metta later, as using the voice of another can help to generate the feeling of metta when I am struggling to be able to.

Remembering the five wise reflections oddly brings me comfort, and seems to help the mind to accept the way things are. It reminds me that the first four reflections: ageing, sickness, death, and separation  are natural, and happen to all living beings. The last reflection reminds me to show kindness to myself and others, and develop a generous heart and try to give in whatever form I can, even if that is just silently practising metta for myself and others, it still helps. As these are actions that can bring one good karma. 

The Five wise reflections

I am of the nature to age; I have not gone beyond old age.
I am of the nature to get sick; I have not gone beyond ill health.
I am of the nature to die; I have not gone beyond dying.
Everything I hold dear and everyone that I love,
Will become separated from me due to the nature of change (of impermanence).

I am the owner of my karma, heir of my karma, 
Born of my karma, related to my karma.
My karma is the ground on which I stand.
Therefore should I frequently remember:
Whatever actions I do for good or for ill,
Become the karma I inherit.



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Asoka

Bright and breezy

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 24 Dec 2021, 21:46

Break for a moment in the rain. Nice sea-breeze. Lovely fresh air soaking deep into my skin.

My imagination created the odd sensation of my negative conditioning slowly becoming like ash, collapsing and being carried away in the wind as I walked along. 

Beneath it all, something always burning bright within. 

There's a Zen saying: "Wood becomes ash; but ash does not become wood again."

Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Gill Burrell, Thursday, 30 Sept 2021, 17:33)
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Asoka

The Goddess

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 24 Dec 2021, 22:12

Had this vivid dream of being in possession of a magical pebble.

I skimmed it across the water and each time it skipped it grew larger and larger until it became an island with ancient Aztec-style ruins on it. Me and some companions went to explore the island. We found an entrance to an underground tunnel and entered it. Whilst down there we accidently activated a secret entrance that held a sarcophagus, with horror we watched it  open and a female zombie with glowing eyes emerge. She was immensely powerful and terrifying to behold. She butchered all my companions but for some reason spared me and when I was the last person standing, she changed from the form of a zombie to a beautiful self-assured Goddess. She led me out of the underground tunnels to the top of the island, where she stood by the entrance to a cave. She did not seem to want to harm me, in fact she seemed quite protective and motherly towards me. And she had a strong sense of the wild about her, reminded me of the feeling of connection and kinship I feel with nature and other species of life.

Anyway I had no idea what any of that could mean, but it left a strong impression on me. I researched ancient goddesess, from all cultures. And found out some amazing stuff about how humans used to live in a matriarchal society. And it was women who invented agriculture and were leaders during the Neolithic times. The garden of eden story symbolises this, the move away from being hunter-gatherers to farmers.

 Women would often die in childbirth, and those that did would be venerated as fallen heroes. The neolithic peoples worshipped the Goddess. Silbury hill for example took 400 years to build and has stood for over 4000 years. A symbol of the ancient Goddess in the shape of a breast. 

 Things changed roughly around the time of ancient Greece, things became more and more patriarchal, and women became suppressed and demeaned; at the same time the natural world also started to become oppressed. Nature became seen as something to be dominant over, something to exploit and control. The idea of ownership developed, not just of the land, but also of people. Something which still continues to this day.

 Anyway, after much digging I finally found the Goddess from my dream. She was an Aztec goddess. Portrayed sometimes in their art as a frightening zombie-like figure. It is all symbolic though, she was actually quite benevolent, the frightening zombie side to her nature symbolises her consuming our misdeeds/impurities, so we can become pure enough to travel onward. The companions in my dream must have symbolised my impurities. The cave she stood beside, I think symbolised the womb. Ancient caves almost always symbolised the womb. And perhaps I am meant to enter it to become reborn, or maybe it means the world is about to be reborn. Perhaps the cave is the safest place to be in these turbulent times, a place to change, develop and grow into something new.

I dunno, I am maybe reading too much into this dream,  left a strong impression on me though and was odd that I would dream of a Goddess I had never heard of before and find out she was based on an actual ancient mythology. Cool dream anyway... but perhaps I am reading too much into it. 

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50 years of the Open University

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 30 Sept 2021, 22:14

Link to an exhibition of 50 years of the OU:

https://www.open.ac.uk/…/digit…/exhibition/53/theme/1/page/1

Great story, despite all the opposition at the time and people saying it couldn't be done, it happened and fifty years later is still going and has established itself as a credible university with a strong reputation around the world.

This story shows that when the establishment says something isn't realistic or possible, isn't affordable and dismisses it as a silly idea - they can be wrong.

We can change things, we don't have to put up with the status quo. We don't have to keep voting for the same people. The system doesn't have to be the way it is and new ways of doing things are possible. The people who profit off this current system certainly want us all to think like that, believing things can't change. That this rigged economy is the only way to run the system. Don't believe the nonsense, they are just parroting what the financial sector wants us to think, those scoundrels who caused the 2008 credit crunch, who are still behaving the same way, recklessly gambling with the money people bailed them out with. They divide us and like they always do they blame the unemployed, immigrants, people on low wages, (basically any vulnerable person too poor or weak to fight back) for the state of the economy; it is smoke and mirrors to distract people from the real culprits who are still gambling recklessly with the world's economy and don't care.

So don't believe the bollocks that things can't change for the better, that we are stuck in a rigged economy. It's not true, things can change and have changed in the past, we've just forgotten about it after the long years of Thatcher style politics. The truth is we do not have to accept this current reality, things can be better.

https://www.open.ac.uk/…/digital-arc…/program/video:JOUZ408R


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Asoka

Move the mountain of greed

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 30 Sept 2021, 22:43

I alone cannot change society; but I can change myself. Transform my own consciousness. Overcome the conditioning that limits me. We can all do this, if enough people do, then we can change society from the inside out. 

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