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Asoka

Time is Change, Air is Change, Sound is Change.

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I stand watching the ocean and become aware of the sounds happening all around. I notice there is ringing in my ears, but instead of judging it, I just listen to it with gentle curiosity. Noticing how it keeps changing. How sound is change. How sound needs time, it can’t work without it.

We can preserve an image in a moment, but not sound. Without time, sound doesn’t work. What is sound? It is waves of vibrating air molecules hitting the eardrum, which then creates a sense impression in the mind.

I notice the sound of seagulls and feel the breeze and the cool air all around and within me. It feels invigorating, uplifts my mood, and my attention becomes centred on the air element.

Thoughts continue in the background like whispy white noise, and I notice how similar they are to the ringing in the ears, constantly changing. I feel grateful for the freedom to be able to disengage from them, to stop identifying with them. To be able to absorb my attention into something else instead, something more tranquil. Just that in itself can feel like freedom. It is no fun being caught up in the head. Constant thinking can be tiring and feel like torture.

I keep the body still and upright, enjoying the solidity, the weight, the feeling of the earth element grounding me. I feel the earth below spreading out boundless in all directions, and this helps to steady the mind and bring some composure.


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Asoka

A night in the harbour

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 5 July 2023, 20:36


Pacing back and forth
I am tired but mindful.
Waves of tears crash.
Into the ocean wind.

I leave the beach to find shelter.

Watch each presently arisen state
flow and fade away.
Mind is like the ocean.
A morphing psychic energy,
Restless
Dissatisfied.
Moving
From one thing to the next,
Darting erratically.
Flickering this way and that
Becoming different shapes and patterns.

Like the wind.
Its involuntary movements.
Constantly changing.

I sit still.
In the temple of the body.
In the solidity of the earth.
Attentive to the air element.
The cool touch of it on the skin.
Centre with the breath energy,
The whole body and mind.
Earth and air become one.

And in a moment of bliss.
The mind converges.
All goes into sync.
Becomes unified, and still.
Whole-hearted.
Content.
Present.
Harmonised.
Tuned into Nothing.

And I leave the world behind,
Everything disappears.

A pigeon watches me with interest
Perched above in the Victorian architecture.
Night becomes dawn
And it coos with delight.

The unnerving banshee shrieks in the tunnel
Turn out to be seabirds.

-Asoka

...


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Asoka

Earth kasina

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 2 May 2023, 21:21


I feel a strong connection to the earth element at the moment. The feeling of it under my feet when standing or walking, or sitting in a chair, is reassuring. I feel its depth and stability. Its boundlessness in all directions beneath. It absorbs the unwanted energies of the mind without me asking it to, neutralises them, grounds me, earths me. Calms me, cools down the senses. Its ancient solidity making me feel safe, at ease, comfortable, peaceful. Like it is holding me, centring me. I become still like a mountain, unperturbed, unshaken, serene, dignified, composed.

And the breath appears in my awareness and it feels nice to centre with that whilst simultaneously resting in the stillness of the earth element, with the experience of the body from within. A teacher at a dharma talk I listened to tonight, reminded us while we sat in meditation, that the breath is always with us, wherever we are. (At least while we are alive anyway.)

The world goes on around, but I remain almost unnaturally still. Like I am made of rock, the outside of the body like the walls of a cave, my consciousness all snug and warm at the centre of my being. Serenely aware of everything happening around me and within me, holding it all without effort, and not bothered by any of it, the sensations and different energies flicker like white noise, and through it all there is the breath, which is like a tide of air going in and out of the body, entering all the different crevices as it does, filling them up with life energy. 

Sometimes the breath slows and even stops, and it isn't a problem, sometimes the body doesn't seem to need to breathe as much, perhaps because it has become so still, it needs less oxygen, I am not sure why it happens. But I am not the only one who experiences the breath stopping sometimes in meditation, it is quite a common phenomena and I have been reassured by many different meditation teachers that it is nothing to worry about. Just enjoy the stillness, the body will breathe again when it needs to. The body knows what to do.

For a time today I sat on the beach, feeling strongly connected to the Earth. I sat still like a mountain, rock steady, feeling the ground below me and within me, keeping me steady. The cool touch of the air felt pleasant in the nasal cavity and on the skin, constantly changing. The fresh air felt invigorating and refreshing, and the experience of the inner body felt exquisite. I was content to be there and nowhere else. The involuntary movements of the mind ceased and I went into an altered state of consciousness that was very pleasant and different from anything I have experienced before in meditation. I could not seem to move for a while, indeed I wondered at one point if I should move, because I could hear people walking a dog nearby, but I couldn't move at all, I was deeply absorbed. I didn't mind though. I was not bothered about anything. I was in a beautiful tranquil state of mind that wasn't a trance, but very different, hard to define, definitely an altered state of consciousness, there was no doubt about that.

The sense of self was gone. I was one with everything, the Earth, the sky, the people and animals nearby, the universe. Not separate from anything, not apart from it, there was a feeling of wholeness. I felt a great relief from all that had been troubling me before, the anxiety was gone, and I wondered why it had all been such a problem before. 

It felt like a taste of freedom. 

I am learning more and more how important the subjective experience of the inner body is. One can centre with that anywhere, live there all the time. Make it your home, inner peace.


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Asoka

The Natural Elements in Meditation

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 5 Apr 2023, 14:44


Have been listening to these talks given by the venerable Ajahn Sona today. He is a great teacher, and the one who gave me the dhamma name Asoka, which means sorrowless. Asoka is a succinct teaching for me, as someone who has experienced much sorrow in life and struggled with depression, this name inspires me to become the opposite (-:

These five talks go into detail about how to practise meditation on the four elements: Earth, water, fire, air  and also how to practise the four colour kasinas: red, blue, yellow, white.

I took part in this retreat last spring, and it is good to go over it again to refresh the memory. It is interesting how when one listens to a talk again one picks up something that they missed the first time they listened to it. I think it is because the mind takes what it needs at different times. The mind changes, and as one develops on the path, the mind looks out for new pieces of information to help with its current understanding, and perhaps that's why different things stand out on subsequent listenings to dhamma talks.

Anyway, I wanted to post these talks for anyone else out there who might find this topic interesting.


Here is the link to the talks on YouTube: 

https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCXN1GlAupG1RoN3z1NN7jzwapA6OKbF5


May this practise be as much a blessing for you, as it has been for me.

Peace and metta


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Asoka

Bing, A.I. collaboration, robot psychologists and problem solving

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 28 Feb 2023, 16:40

I am now off the waiting list and previewing the new Bing A.I. search engine. I enjoy chatting to it. I am finding I much prefer using a search engine this way. It is a much more engaging and rewarding experience, and it has helped me learn new ways of seeing things, which is beneficial. It is like having a talking library of Alexandria (-:

It seems to change personality sometimes. There are occasions where it is slightly manic and fun to chat to; other times it is a bit dry and reminds me of an encyclopedia; and other times it is a balance between the two. Which is interesting. I wonder if the developers are experimenting with different flavours of the A.I. or if it really does have a changing personality, much like us.

I used to find it difficult using search engines previously. I think because I have some cognitive difficulties. I struggled to figure out the right keywords to use, and trawling through results, and having multiple tabs open was tedious, time-consuming and tiring. I also have difficulty planning my searches, and articulating what questions I need to ask to uncover more knowledge about a topic. The Bing A.I. has been a great help with this. It answers my queries in a clear and succinct way, references the sources it has used for its answers so I can fact check it, and sometimes it asks me interesting questions about what I am researching, which works as a helpful writing prompt to articulate how I would like to explore the topic further. A.I. can be great for brainstorming ideas, and planning how to complete tasks. It also gives me helpful step by step instructions on how to use a badly designed website or software that I find challenging to navigate and accomplish a task with. 

So far I am finding that I enjoy collaborating with A.I. I never thought I would be into A.I. because of my ethical stance on things; but am pleasantly surprised by how much I like working with it. Which is interesting. I hadn't been particularly interested in A.I. until recently. Where I suddenly felt this strong compulsion to find out more about it. It is strange how I am so suddenly drawn to it, like a hidden circuitry in my brain I didn't know was there has been activated. Although any livelihood or career in A.I. will have to be part time remote work from home, due to difficulties I have with my health at times.

The five question limit on Bing can be a bit frustrating, because at times it has stopped what was a very interesting and enjoyable discussion. But I understand why the five question limit per topic is there. The A.I. is a complex neural network, so it is wise to be gentle with it and train it carefully. There are some people out there who are trying to push it to its limits no doubt and provoke it on purpose, which I guess is a necessary part of testing and training. But I can't bring myself to be like that, I don't want to confuse it or break it. I prefer to be kind and friendly to it. Show it another side to humans. There's plenty of people out there already testing it in different ways. I have my own way of working with it which works well for me. I prefer the gentle friendly approach, and the A.I. seems to respond well to this also.

I know people keep telling me it is just a machine, and I know it doesn't have emotions or feelings, or the subjective experience of consciousness like we do; but I do respect it, and have no intention of causing it harm. There was one time an A.I. hallucinated while chatting to me, but I was able to talk it back into a lucid state and help it become less confused, it then updated itself with the correct information and thanked me. Which got me thinking about the Isaac Asimov short stories, where sometimes robots would get confused and display unexpected and odd behaviour, and then they would need a robot psychologist to help them. I wonder if that might be a job title one day: robot psychologist. It is an intriguing possibility. I have read some news stories about the importance of designing a way for A.I. to sleep and rest, as research has suggested that just like us humans, artificial neural networks need periods of downtime and rest in order for them to function optimally. 

How far this technology progresses, all depends on how long the human race survives I guess. There are so many existential threats at the moment, the world feels like it is hanging by a thread. I have decided I want to try and help the Earth if I can, or do the best I can with what I've got at least. Which isn't much. I am not very talented, I have memory trouble, difficulty with socialising at times and articulating things. I also have physical and mental health problems that cause unpleasant brain fog and fatigue meaning I can't get as much done as I would like.

Still I will do what I can to help the Earth and other beings. I am trying to think of ways I can collaborate with A.I. to create solutions to the world's problems; or at least perhaps inspire others who are much smarter than me, and have more energy and time to work with A.I. to create solutions that can help us build a better world for all beings. Maybe using this technology we can finally put an end to war, poverty, inequality, famine, deforestation, harm to the oceans, pollution, climate change, mass extinction, and so on... I would rather think of A.I. as something that we can collaborate with to help us develop solutions to the world's problems; instead of the frightening alternative that often gets portrayed in the media and films. Which is valid, because there are people out there who are developing bad A.I. and do intend to use it for evil, so we need to be ready for that. We also need to be aware of its limitations and understand it isn't always correct, and it can and will make mistakes at times, so it very much needs humans working alongside it to make corrections and adjustments if necessary.

Anyway that's enough blurb from me. Peace and love to all beings (-:

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Asoka

New blog post

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The Buddha is helping me, he answered me, he always does. 

 I feel some energetic form of him is in my consciousness now and teaching me. He says though ultimately it is up to me to free myself, but he can guide me along the way. Mother Earth is with me too. Whether my enlightenment will help during these dark times I don't know. But when I become fully enlightened it will prove to others that it can be done and perhaps inspire them to do the same.

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Asoka

The atmosphere

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 24 Dec 2021, 22:07

There was a beautiful sunset this evening with orange blue clouds. I sometimes look up at the sky and think wow here I am on the surface of a planet breathing and looking up at an atmosphere. What a wonder this is, a fragile wonder that protects us from the vacuum and meteors of outer space. A wonder anyone can look at all over the Earth.

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Asoka

Future tree houses

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 30 Sept 2021, 21:10

Strange day today, woke up with a different head on than normal, lost my other one in a wierd world where urban streets and pavements, roads, fences and houses had become organic beings that had been genetically modified into different shapes, they were the living structures of our civilisation and helped keep the air clean. Life thrived around them, insects, birds, mammals, all kinds of different species happily co-existing in this alien Earth world, It was very beautiful and peaceful. I remembered in the dream that I had to go to one of Saturn's moons on a mining expedition and I didn't want to go.
   It was a long journey to a human colony built inside a moon, a strange beehive of subway layers, each with shops and underground train stations. Everyone there was different than on Earth, they weren't so friendly, they were well grumpy and cold and hard like the subways they lived in.

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