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Mind Storms

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 12 Sep 2023, 22:37


It has been a dark few days within this fathom length body.

This morning I was once again pummelled by the dark forces of the kilesas (greed, hate, conceit, and delusion). They have become my relentless teachers these days. They hit me with everything they got today. Brought me to tears if I am honest.

Revealing to me just how much work there is still left to do on this mind.

I attended a dharma inquiry this evening that really seemed to hit the nail on the head of how I was feeling. I left seeing things more clearly.

I now understand this Buddhist practise is not just about the intellect, it is as much about the heart. Both work together. Complement one another.

Cool head, warm heart.

Friendship is important, as challenging as it can feel at times to relate to others, it teaches me things I miss when practising alone. I think I am a mix of classical Buddhism and Zen, although not the authoritarian kind of Zen. The friendly Zen (-:

I am not really into the Bodhisattva vow, though I respect it. I just feel uncertain about vowing. 

I have decided I want to go for full enlightenment, and if I reach that, it will be impossible to help all beings then; but that does not mean I don't feel love for them, I feel compassion, and when wise enough I will try to keep the true dhamma alive for future generations, if I live that long. I want to help as many beings as I can. But not proselytising,  not conceited, just living from the heart, and out of compassion teaching those who ask, and only when asked.

But I am getting ahead of myself, I still have much to learn before I realise that lofty aspiration.

I have a three hour exam tomorrow on the topic of cyber security. I am not looking forward to it. Wish me luck!

May all be safe, well, peaceful, and 😊




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Asoka

Calm and cool

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 16 Jun 2023, 00:23


I am catching up with the studying, only two weeks behind now. My plan is to get slightly ahead if I can, so that I can have some time off for Dad's funeral at the end of the month.


Grief takes a while, I am finding. It can feel lonely as well. Social situations can feel awkward at times. The world around continues, but I feel the need for time and space alone. I guess to process it all, reflect on it, meditate, find some peace in it all.

Sometimes the tears fall, then stop. Arise, flow, and cease. I wipe my eyes and get on with the day. Rinse and repeat. Sunglasses are helpful when out in public.

Is it heart-break or heart-opening? I don't know. I guess it's both. Perhaps heartbreak opens up the heart. It reminds us of what really matters in the end.

 I feel okay though. Not depressed. Just flowing with it. Accepting it. Seeing the dharma in it. Trying to hold it all with kindness, friendliness. Gently, with love, compassion and equanimity.

If I notice myself getting absorbed in thoughts about greed, anger, or conceit I immediately drop them, and re-centre with love and equanimity. It feels good to be with the feeling of embodiment. The breath. The elements. Converge the mind around that. Experience life as it is without words. Sometimes it is nice not to think. To just feel.

 I think he's alright, he let me know. I felt something shift in his transition whilst out walking in the woods, a strong knowing came to me that he had found peace, it felt like truth, and I felt reassured.

It feels like he's transitioned now. He feels both really near and really far.

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Asoka

Hot days

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prepping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Asoka

Renunciation

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

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

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

At their source is the conceit I am.

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

This 'I' is the problem.

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

What is true renunciation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Asoka

Wisdom of the sangha

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 14 Dec 2021, 18:28

This is a tough module I am studying (M269). Spent hours trying to understand and answer a question on the TMA. I tried so hard, but had to quit in the end and submit the assignment, leaving the last parts of the question unanswered, I will lose a lot of marks, but I did try my best. I am honestly wondering if I am going to pass this module, it may be that I'll have to resit it again next year if I don't. 

After submitting the assignment, I sat in Zazen over Zoom. I was feeling stressed about a lot of things during the meditation. And felt quite dark in mood while sat there. I was worrying about the assignment; but also anxious about the state of the world and all the crazy stuff happening just now. Sad and mad about seeing species go extinct, something I am witnessing with my own eyes. 

 Then there's the homelessness crisis, in part due to banks kicking people out of their homes due to missing their mortgage payments, not their fault either, these familes lost their income because of the lockdowns. The government is so keen to save lives by treble-vaxxing everyone, yet I can't help but feel if they really were trying to save lives, why don't they help these poor folks trying to survive on the streets in the middle of winter? Why don't they help the old and vulnerable dying in care homes due to staff shortages or dying in NHS hospitals because relatives can no longer afford to pay for their care. I feel afraid of the huge poverty that is coming from the fallout of this pandemic. Why are they doing nothing to help these people who are at risk of death from extreme poverty?

 I also feel so sorry for the refugees. it was horrifying to hear on the news about that large fishing boat that purposely put itself in the way of drowning refugees and the lifeboats trying to save them. How could they be so heartless and cruel. I cannot understand why people can become like that. 

And I am sick to death of all the happy clappy fake plastic smiley corporate advertisements. Sick of all the celebrity bullshit, blah blah blah so what. All this being broadcast while the Earth is in a major crisis right now. I wish the governments of the world would show more enthusiasm, effort and coordination over reversing the sixth mass extinction event than this mass-vaccination campaign. If they can put so many resources, logistics, academics and energy into vaccinating everyone, surely they could do the same for turning this terrifying mass extinction event around, and also help all those suffering from poverty and homelessness. The governments are so fake, them and the media.

I spoke of all my concerns with the Zen group today (one can stay and have a discussion with the group after meditation). They were all very kind and said a lot of helpful things to cheer me up and help me feel better. Reminding me there are lots of good people out there. And although it all seems futile at times, whatever small way we can help others means something to those we help. That one needs to fight back with compassion. They advised me to read about someone called Joanna Macy, saying she was someone who may be a kindred spirit for me in these dark times, and might help me feel some hope and rekindle love and compassion in my heart.

 I also stated to my friends in the sangha that I had made a vow to never take my life no matter how hard things get. After confessing to them that I had felt like doing so. Mainly because I couldn't bare the thought of seeing any more species go extinct, or witness any more refugees drowning at sea, any more war, poverty or suffering, I didn't want to live in the Orwellian, dystopian world we seem to be heading towards. They were happy to hear that I have made a vow to never commit suicide. I feel publicly making this vow and the painting I made to seal it is a kind of protection for me. Because the thoughts do constantly whirl around my head at times, but seeing my painting and remembering my words can help me stay alive I think.  

One bit of advice that stuck out for me was to try and see my negative mood cycles as like being in a womb, a state of becoming. A time to retreat, nurture and take care, not get too overwhelmed with the sorrow of the world, but care for it with a tenderness like one would a growing baby, and all that sorrow can give birth to something beautiful if one is patient and gentle with it. It can become love and compassion instead of anger and hate. The bodhisattva of compassion Avalokiteshivra has many many hands and eyes, and those who have taken the bodhissatva vow are her many eyes and hands in this world.

I was so glad that I sat with them today and that I stayed to chat at the end. I nearly didn't, my mood was so negative I didn't want to bring it into the online zendo, but at the last minute I decided I would sit with them. And it did help, not just me, but the other people there were grateful for the discussion we had at the end, as the words of wisdom shared by the different members of the group seemed to help everyone. 


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Asoka

Knowledge from one generation to the next

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 4 Oct 2021, 21:04

I have decided I really want to make a go of the Buddhist path and learn as much as I can. Now my son is 16 I have more time to devote to spiritual practise, obviously inbetween studying at the OU, right livelihood is part of the path, so studying this degree is also part of my spiritual practise. 

 I feel the Buddha's teachings are important, especially now in these turbulent  times, and they should be available for everyone. Even though not everyone will be interested, they should be available for those that are. There are some really knowledgable experienced teachers out there, some of who started practising before I was even born. They are currently sharing what they know freely online, running free programmes, events, Q&As and practise discussions. I had the sobering thought that one day in the future these teachers will no longer be with us, so I should make the most of them and learn as much as I can from them. Then the scary thought came to me that twenty years from now it could be up to people like me to carry the torch of dharma forward. When that happens I hope I'm up to the task. I do wish to freely share what I know - I don't want the dharma to be lost. I have found the practise of buddhism has helped me a lot and I am keen to preserve it for future generations.

 Still, that's a long way off in the future, hopefully if I keep practising now, and I don't die any time soon, the Richie in the future will have enough experience, knowledge and wisdom to keep that flame burning, and hopefully be able to pass that knowledge on to the next generation and so on. If it wasn't for all the people in the past who shared what they knew and passed on the teachings of the Buddha, buddhism would have died long ago. The fact it is still so well-preserved 2500 years later is testament to how powerful these teachings are.  


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