Humans are social creatures and I think that is why we worry so much about how we appear in front of others. We try to maintain an image that pleases those around us. But it is a maze that one can never get out of. It does not lead to the end of suffering, just leads to more suffering, to stress and anxiety. Nobody has control over the opinions of others. If you worry too much about those you will never get free.
Humans are social creatures and I think that is why we worry so much about how we appear in front of others. We try to maintain an image that pleases those around us. But it is a maze that one can never get out of. It does not lead to the end of suffering, just leads to more suffering, to stress and anxiety. Nobody has control over the opinions of others. If you worry too much about those you will never get free.
I will live filling this whole field of experience with feelings of love, empathy, and goodwill.
Above, below, all around, without limit – I will suffuse this entire field of awareness with beauty.
May it uplift myself and all beings everywhere, in all directions and dimensions, across all of time and space.
I will abide in this dwelling, make it my home:
A kindness that is abundant, exalted, immeasurable.
A blessing that is without hostility or greed.
I will abide filling this entire field of awareness with equanimity.
Above, below, all around – pervading it with a bigger view.
Hold it without clinging, without suffering or preference.
With clarity, wisdom, balance and composure.
May it bring calm to myself and all beings everywhere.
I will abide in this dwelling, I will make it my home:
An equanimity that is abundant, exalted, immeasurable.
A blessing without resistance to what is outside my control.
There are four beautiful emotional states that can be cultivated and used as meditation objects in Buddhism, they are called the Brahma viharas (the sublime abidings). These are:
Metta (loving-kindness, friendliness, benevolence).
Karuna (concern and a wish to help those who are suffering).
Mudita (joy when other beings are happy).
Karuna is often translated as compassion. But the word 'compassion' means 'to suffer with' which is not the right way to look at karuna. Karuna does not suffer with others. It tries to help others, shows love, kindness and concern for beings who are suffering, but does not become sorrowful. To suffer with others is like seeing someone sinking in quicksand and then immediately jumping in next to them, it doesn't help either person and both end up being pulled under. It can be tricky, to find the right balance, to be able to feel empathy for others without suffering oneself.
Mudita is to feel joy when other beings are happy. Happiness is such a rare event in this life for many of us. If you see a being who is happy, then smile and enjoy their happiness too, however brief it may be. In this world happiness can be hard to find and doesn't last, so rejoice when you see it.
Equanimity is to be calm among those who are not calm. To accept the way things are without being pulled under by them. To not allow the suffering of the world to drag one down into sadness and depression, as that is no help to oneself or others. It is to keep one's composure and balance of mind even amidst the suffering in the world. This is where contemplation of the changing nature of things, of impermanence, of not-self can be helpful. There are tragic things that happen in this world, and sometimes there is nothing anyone can do to help, or put things right. One wishes those beings well, and that is a noble wish, but if one becomes depressed because of it, that is not much help to the world. There's enough sadness and sorrow, if you can become someone who keeps their head while others are losing theirs it can be a real blessing for others in difficult circumstances, and help bring peace, calm and balance to another's mind.
Feel love for all beings, help those that you can, rejoice with those experiencing happiness, and feel equanimity for the difficult things in life one cannot change, for those beings who can't be helped. Metta and equanimity is like a knife and fork, they complement each other perfectly and bring balance to the mind. The warm heart of metta and the cool head of equanimity.
Sometimes I like to give peanuts to some crows when I go out for a walk. The crows will fly down to greet me and I feel metta well up in my heart for them. I know they are hungry so I feel karuna for them. I give them some peanuts. This makes them happy, and then I feel joy seeing how happy they are to get the peanuts. Unfortunately I don't have enough peanuts to feed all the birds and there are some birds perched nearby who didn't get any, but I have nothing left to give them. I wish them metta, but accept that I can't feed all the hungry birds in the world, as much as I wish I could. Equanimity is also how I feel when I see the crows are satisfied and not hungry anymore, and I then drift into a contented serenity. This brings a composure that leads to stillness and the other side to equanimity which is when one is in a state of equipose and all the different energies of the mind feel balanced and tuned just right. Like being in the zone. Centred. Composed and still, while everything around you is in a state of flux. Walking feels like stilness in motion.
In the beginning, one can cultivate these emotions by saying phrases that invoke it in the mind. Such as may all beings be happy, may all beings be peaceful, may all beings be safe and at ease. One can use whatever phrases one likes to help generate the feeling of unconditional love within.
If it feels difficult it is often because one needs to practise metta for oneself first.
Traditionally one is taught to first practise metta for oneself before radiating it to other beings. This is not wrong and it is not selfish, it is an act of kindness to oneself and others. It is much easier to make friends with other beings if one has become a friend to oneself first. So one can start the practice by saying metta phrases for oneself, may I be well, may I be happy, may I feel safe and at ease, and when the body feels satisfied, one can then radiate that energy out to the world, to all beings everywhere.
Sometimes the feeling of metta can be brought up from seeing something in nature, wildlife, flowers, trees, the sea, colours, the sky, clouds, beautiful sunrises or sunsets, the snow, the sound of rain.
It can also be brought on by memories of kind things one has done in the past, or kind things others have done. It can be generated by thinking of inspiring saintly figures, and characters in stories who radiate the beautiful qualities of the heart.
It can be thinking about angels, devas, ancestors, heavenly realms. Something imaginary, or real. Sometimes I imagine the world at peace with no more violence and war, no more stinginess or cruelty. Just this golden place where all beings live in friendship and peace with one another. It doesn't matter if it isn't how the world actually is, it is the wish for the world to be like that which can bring the feeling of metta up inside. It can also be one's children, one's parents, one's family, one's friends, a beloved pet,. One can recite chants about metta that help bring up the feeling of metta also.
Karuna is basically metta for beings who are suffering. And Mudita is metta for beings who are happy.
There are many ways to find one's way into the sublime abidings. Once there you want to try and keep the momentum going till it becomes strong enough to not need any more input. When the feeling of metta saturates the whole body, one can take the hand off the steering wheel of effort and stop the doing, thoughts will settle into a contented warmth and one can just rest in that feeling and enjoy it, becoming a lucid passenger, depending on the momentum consciousness will just cruise into a state of peaceful stillness that has a healing effect on the body and the mind. This can connect one to deeper mind and the wisdom it contains. There is a deeper wiser part of the mind that wants to talk to us, but we are often too caught up in the self-centred dream to hear what it is saying to us. When we get very still and quiet and are content, not wishing to be any place else, when the mind and body is at ease, and the energies of the mind become balanced, when one is no longer being pulled this way or that by the senses, truth reveals itself and one can see things clearly, then wisdom develops and one can direct that lucid mind state towards anything and understand it better, because one is less deluded and pulled by greed and aversion, one is able to see things better, like having a clean lens.
Not always easy to do though. It takes practise, like anything we learn in this life, repetitive practise, but it is worth it. Over time as one keeps up the practise it starts to develop a momentum of its own going one day to the next, and this momentum grows stronger, builds up an energy of its own. When it gets strong enough, you may not need to say the phrases anymore, you can just connect instantly with the feeling and bring the energy up at will without using thought or words.
The practise of the Brahma viharas has a lot of benefits for oneself and others.
But there can be days I find it hard to practise them. I don't judge myself any more for that (I used to), but now it is okay if that happens. I just try to flow with where I'm at and work with what's in front of me and investigate that. There are other emotional states one can practise, such as mindfulness, investigation of the here and now, reflection, contemplation, studying, serenity, meditation, the stillness and composure of samhadi, the balance of equanimity, and others that don't spring to mind, but the palette of positive emotions is quite varied and wide, which is a good thing to know. My moods change quite rapidly, and I have found it helpful to have many strategies to hand.
Sometimes unfortunate events happen to us in life. Shit happens. The Buddha's metaphor of the second arrow can be helpful to remember here. An archer gets shot, then does a strange thing, he takes out his bow and shoots himself with a second arrow. The first arrow he couldn't do anything about, but the second arrow he didn't need to shoot, this is the mental suffering we create for ourselves after the event, such as the craving for things to be different, the way we might take it personally. All this just adds extra suffering to what is already an unfortunate event. The first arrow we couldn't do anything about; but the second arrow we can train ourselves not to shoot, and not add more pain to what is already there.
Not easy, at least not for many of us. There are some rare lucky folks who become fully enlightened straight away. But for most, it is a gradual process, that happens in stages, and it can go on for lifetimes. The concept of not clinging is easy enough to comprehend but difficult to practise, which is where the noble eightfold path comes in, that is the training that gets you there.
Beings who get enlightened quickly may be beings who have encountered this before in previous lives, who were already pretty far along in their development, so it didn't take much to bring that final liberating insight that permanently set them free from clinging.
Enough waffle from me anyway. I am not trying to convert anyone to Buddhism, or change anything. I do care about the Earth though and the suffering of this current age, brought about by greed, hatred, and delusion. The mass extinction event and endless violence now happening across the planet, which threatens many different species of life, including our species: homo sapiens.
It is a shame we can't make peace with one another, war is so horrific and unnecessary, causes so much misery and destruction. Why do we still have war? It is now 2023, and we seem to be more war-like than ever, with truly horrific weapons of mass destruction, of cruelty and violence. Why can't we transcend this? Why is it so hard for us to be kind to one another, to live in friendship and harmony with one another and all the other beings we share this planet with.
Why can't we share resources with one another, so we all live comfortably and in harmony? It is a shame that out of all the animals here on this planet, humans have become the most violent and cruel of them all. We think ourselves better than animals because we have all this technology; but the way we behave, we come across as lesser beings, as dangerous and not to be trusted. No other being on this planet behaves the way we do and causes so much destruction. Future generations will look back on this time and wonder why it got like this, why we couldn't change ourselves and put a stop to this madness.
We can be better than this. That is why I am training the mind, why I follow the noble eightfold path. It is because of greed, hatred, and selfishness that this world is so dark. If humans can free themselves of these three psychic poisons, imagine what a world we could build together, what a world future generations could inherit. The world doesn't have to be this way. Things can change for the better, if we have the inclination to, if enough of us choose to.
Still, I have hope that all is not yet lost. I think in the end there will be enough of us that care, who will make the changes necessary to create a better world. One that is in harmony with the other beings we share this planet with, one where there is no more inequality or poverty. One where the other species of life on this planet are treated with respect and friendliness, left to live their lives in peace and dignity. Without a thriving eco-system we won't survive.
I am not particularly gifted at anything, not very good at communication, I don't have much money, and I am not a leader; but I will do the best I can with what I've got, which isn't a lot, but I will try anyway. We all have different talents, and this is great, it wouldn't work if we were all exactly the same, our differences mean we work well as a team.
Anyway getting a bit side-tracked here. I am not trying to convert anyone to Buddhism, I am not proselytising, nor am I telling anyone how to live their lives. I have given up trying to change the world. What another being does with their life is their karma, and what I do is mine. I am not the greatest writer in the world, but maybe some of what I write may be helpful to others, both here and now, and perhaps in the future. I have struggled most of my life with mental health problems, and Buddhism has really helped me, and if any of what I share is helpful to others, even just one person, it makes it all worth it.
Take care everyone, peace and metta. May we all realise the end of greed, hate, and delusion. May we all experience the lasting peace and happiness that comes from an unhindered mind.
Agitation bubbling, a feeling of discontent. Why? What is this restless feeling?
I feel regret for past mistakes, for selfish behaviour which has led to a restless sorrow. A melancholy agitation of the mind. This mood is unpleasant, at one point it felt like my consciousness had descended into the Hell of a thousand spears, them piercing my body from all directions, with several spearings a minute. A painful mood, unhappy, alone, broken by my own arrogant stupidity. Suffering feels like this.
I need to disentangle a bit from the story I am absorbed in, the one generated in my head about a reality not based on clear-seeing, i.e. an error prone delusion born of ignorance.
I become aware of the negative mood I am in. Notice my thoughts punishing themselves for past actions I now have no power to change. The mind is good at harrassing itself. An expert at it.
I gently interupt the thought stream, (without judging it), and remind it that the past is gone, and for all the will in the world nothing can change that. What has happened can't unhappen. No use crying over spilt milk as they say, (whoever 'they' are).
I remember something I heard from a wise teacher. The first thing one learns in judo is to learn how to fall. If you want to become free from suffering, to become enlightened, you need to be prepared for failure, and to learn how to fail well. Because you will fall many times on the journey to enlightenment, and the five hindrances to meditation: (longing, aversion, sloth, agitation, doubt) will beat you up over and over. They will come at you fast and hard, and you won't know what hit you. So learn how to fall, to take a beating, how to roll with the punches and then how to get up again. Your own negative conditioning will work against you and defeat you time and time again. It can be a frustrating experience, and one will feel like giving up at times. It takes time to practise and develop the forms and strategies, the skillset of the noble eightfold path, the internal kungfu needed to keep those five hindrances at bay. But once your consciousness is no longer harrassed by them, it becomes peaceful enough to experience joy and serenity and to then reach those deeper states of meditation and equanimity.
I can make this painful experience into a pearl of wisdom. Like how oysters go through pain to create pearls. That is one way to make amends. I can learn from this, I can use this pain as fertilizer to help me grow and develop into a kinder, less self-centred person. I can choose to let go of the story and see this suffering for what it is, understand why it happened, what caused it. Perhaps even feel some gratitude for it, because as unpleasant as it is, it has revealed a negative conditioning that I was ignorant of before. It has pointed out a blindspot in my awareness. And now I see it, it means I can do something about it.
It will take time and effort but it can be done. I won't notice the results straight away, but keeping in mind compassion and concern for the wellbeing of who I will become, my future self, and for those who are affected by this negative cycle. remembering the drawbacks of allowing it to continue, and the benefits of changing it to something more positive. Talking to myself like this helps to generate the desire to make effort to change.
The mind is run by desire, and there are many desires in there all vying for attention. The mind is composed of many different consciousnesses, some we aren't always aware of, but we can notice their energy when it manifests as desire, as intention. The mind is like a committee. And tends to go along with whatever desire is the strongest. And the one that gets the most votes dominates consciousness. The strongest desire will override the others. So to overcome these negative cycles, I will have to generate a stronger desire to change these habits. Which means putting in the effort to train this mind. The results may not be immediate and there may be no gratification straight away, it can be hard going, a bit dry at times, and there will most likely be more dark nights up ahead. There is a lonely desert to cross to get there, to get to the end of sorrow. Training the mind takes patience and perseverance.
I feel like I have done enough thinking for now and move my attention away from thoughts and anchor it in the body. I become aware of the hurricane of swirling feeling circulating in the heart area. It is tense and unpleasant. I put my hand there and wish it well, the feeling of the palm is soothing and the body responds well to this contact and I feel it settle.
I wish myself peace, and then start wishing all beings I have wronged to feel peace, I wish for them to be well and free from sorrow. I ask for their forgiveness. And I in turn forgive all beings who have wronged me, I wish them well and for them to be at peace and free from sorrow. Then as the well-wishing grows, I radiate that warmth in the heart to all beings in all directions, of all kinds, in all dimensions. Wish them all well, wish for them to be at peace, to be sorrowless. I offer to share the merit of my spiritual practise with them.
The heart then feels lighter and freer and now there's a quiet joy rising in the mind. And I become aware of the breath. I feel a sense of relief. The appearance of the breath in awareness like when one has been in a stuffy room and steps outside to get some fresh air and there's an invigorating sigh as one breathes in that cool refreshing air. The mind settles into a still and composed state, it feels lighter, grows quieter, and now I am just a lucid passenger, contentedly flowing with things as they are. The breath energy moves throughout the body, like the waves of the sea, it has a calming effect, and the body feels comfortable, at ease, the mind steady and at peace.
And I notice how when the mind stops harrassing itself, joy and serenity naturally arises.
" This I have made up:
Once the Buddha was walking along the
forest path in the Oak Grove at Ojai, walking without
or having any thought of arriving or not arriving
and lotuses shining with the morning dew
miraculously appeared under each step
soft as silk under the toes of the Buddha
When suddenly, out of the turquoise sky,
dancing in front of his half-shut inward-looking
eyes, shimmering like a rainbow
or a spider's web
transparent as the dew on a lotus flower
--the Goddess appeared quivering
like a hummingbird in the air before him
She, for she was surely a she
as the Buddha could clearly see
with his eye of discriminating awareness wisdom,
was mostly red in color
though when the light shifted
she flashed like a rainbow
She was naked except
for the usual flower ornaments
Her long hair
was deep blue, her two eyes fathomless pits of space
and her third eye a bloodshot
ring of fire.
The Buddha folded his hands together
and greeted the Goddess thus:
"O Goddess, why are you blocking my path.
Before I saw you I was happily going nowhere.
Now I'm not sure where I want to go."
"You can go around me."
said the Goddess, twirling on her heels like a bird
darting away, "or you can come after me.
This is my forest too,
you can't pretend that I'm not here."
With that the Buddha sat
supple as a snake
solid as a rock
beneath a Bo tree
that had sprang full-leaved
to shade him.
"Perhaps we should have a chat,"
After years of arduous practice
at the time of the morning star
I penetrated reality, and now..."
"Not so fast, Buddha.
I am reality."
The Earth stood still,
the oceans paused,
the wind itself listened
--a thousand arhats, bodhisattva, and dakinis
magically appeared to hear
what would happen in the conversation.
"I know I take my life in my hands,"
said the Buddha.
"But I am known as the Fearless One
--so here goes."
And he and the Goddess
without further words
Light rays like sunbeams
so bright that even
Sariputra, the All-Seeing One,
had to turn away.
And then they exchanged thoughts
and the illumination was as bright as a diamond candle.
And then they changed mind
And then there was a great silence as vast as the universe
that contains everything.
And then they exchanged bodies
And the Buddha arose
as the Goddess
and the Goddess arose as the Buddha
and so on back and forth
for a hundred thousand hundred thousand kalpas.
If you meet the Buddha
you meet the Goddess,
the Goddess is the Buddha.
And not only that. This:
The Buddha is the Goddess,
the Goddess is the Buddha.
And not only that:This:
The Buddha is emptiness
The Goddess is bliss,
the Goddess is emptiness
the Buddha is bliss.
And that is what
and what-not you are
So here comes the mantra of the Goddess and the Buddha, the unsurpassed non-dual mantra, just to say this mantra, just to hear this mantra once, just to hear one word of this mantra once makes everything the way it truly is: OK.
So here it is:
Hey, silent one, Hey, great talker
Not two/not one
Not separate/Not apart
That is the heart
Bliss is emptiness
Emptiness is bliss.
Be your breath, Ah
And relax, Ho
And remember this: You can't miss. "
- Rick Fields, Dharma Gaia, pp.3-7
A sad-but-peaceful mood today. Like flowers that are starting to drop their petals after their brief song of colour. I noticed the mind's tendency to move towards sadness as I went about my day and watched the mind's machinery whir and the cogs turn as it began telling itself imaginative stories that altered my perception and intensified and darkened the mood. I interrupted the thought processes, reminding them that all it was generating was just pure conjecture, and I steered the herd of thoughts away from the fields of delusion and gently back towards the three right intentions of: non-ill-will, letting go, and harmlessness.
I kept telling myself: 'Ah mind! Do not worry, everything is okay. It isn't sadness that's the problem it's the aversion towards it that's the problem.' The mind in whole-hearted agreement understood and let the aversion go, and then it just felt peaceful and tranquil like the rain, and I noticed there is an odd beauty to sadness that is hard to capture with words.
And I felt okay, held onto the sign of peace.
Changing brain chemistry, fatigue and bodily aches is just the kamma of having a body. And sometimes I feel vulnerable and need to be in a quiet place, alone, away from the frenetic energies of others. So I can calm down the thought processes and rest in the womb of becoming, be the caterpillar once more, patient and content knowing it will become the butterfly again in due time. Not pushing away or craving for the butterfly. It is just an ancient tide, these changing seasons of the mind. And they don't have to be a problem. I can feel at peace with it all and live like a Buddha, serene, content, with dignity and a heart full of love.
I do not have the power to change what other beings do. Their kamma is their kamma. I only have the power to change what I do; how I choose to act in each moment. So I decide to not feel aversion towards anything. Because the mind is a much nicer place without any hostility, and that's what matters in the end, the mind is one's true home. So I will choose to radiate dhamma and peace of mind. Perhaps that is the best way I can help this suffering world.
I felt a centred whole-hearted calmness come over me and I sitting down, became quiet and still, perfectly in tune with the rain as it fell. Gently cooling the senses and the mind into a state of sweet equanimity.
A bit depressed at the moment. It is a difficult state of mind to shake off as it feels physical as well as mental, and very much accompanied by a distinct lack of energy, making it hard to find the strength to practise at times. I feel quite weak and vulnerable just now. I am trying to abandon this unwholesome state of mind however. I am much better these days at letting go of the thinking processes and resting my attention instead in the feeling of embodiment. But I find it hard being around other people's energies when I am like this, and I prefer solitude. Conversation can be challenging. I try to invoke loving-kindness, but it is hard to generate it consistently, even when using the voice of another (listening to a dhamma talk), I just struggle. So I have resolved to just feel non-ill-will instead, which is the bare minimum I think. I wonder if it might be that I find repeating words and phrases becomes tiring after a short while and yearn to just let go of them, so experimenting with invoking loving-kindness without using words, just going straight to the feeling.
The enlightenment factor of joy is also difficult to generate, so letting go of that one for now.
I feel very much like I need to retreat from the world and go into my coccoon, rest in the deep centre of my being and be still, so I can expend as little energy as possible and just let the world continue around me while I remain in my inner cave, taking refuge in the deepest part of my being. Unfortunately being still like this is not always practical, and feels unpleasant when it is disturbed by external forces, as I don't want to come out of the cave, and do so reluctantly.
So I am exploring other wholesome states of mind I can conjure instead. Equanimity works if I can conjure it, and so does serenity. I am getting much better at conjuring up serenity, and the sign of it can appear even when I am fatigued and depressed. It is a beautiful place that feels boundless, timeless, and can often spontaneously appear without me even trying to conjure it up, whatever mood I am in, it feels like home. I call it serenity, but in fact I think it borders on the edge of samhadi, or perhaps something else entirely, I am not sure, it is so hard to describe what it feels like to go there, but it is a very pleasant place and I often don't want to leave, it is so peaceful and balanced, it is different state of consciousness that transcends this world and the thinking processes. It is wordless, maybe that's why it feels so good. Is much easier to conjure with meditation, but can also be conjured outside of meditation in daily life sometimes.
One can still function whilst in that state of mind, but one feels unhurried, unconcerned and unstressed by things. It is like I am in another dimension whilst simultaneously interacting in this one. It sometimes feels like a secret place I go to, and nobody knows I have gone there. But I haven't perfected it yet and it can be challenging to maintain, especially when other people's energies forcefully intrude and take me out of that tranquil head space and back to this crazy modern world. Which is why I guess there is wisdom at times in seeking solitude. But this isn't always a luxury I can afford.
Still I am making progress with it, as when I first experienced this state of mind it only lasted a few seconds and poof it was gone, and try as I might I couldn't recreate it. But mysteriously it would often appear again when I wasn't expecting it to, then mysteriously disappear if I got too excited at finding it again. And I would try to figure out what I was doing prior to it appearing. But it was frustrating as it seemed to have a will of its own and try as I might it wouldn't play ball. Then after a lengthy time of absence it came back more regularly and stayed for longer, sometimes for minutes at a time. It is what I imagined the kingdom of heaven might feel like when I was a child, it is a beautiful peaceful state of mind that goes beyond time and space, almost dreamlike, but in a good way. Once its gone though a strange emotional amnesia appears and it is hard to remember what it was like to be there.
Sky go from lush blue to ominous grey, to crying a river of rain.
Soaked to the skin, a part of me almost grumbled
But I remained content, calm and at ease
A spiritual lesson in equanimity I thought
And smiling took shelter under a nearby tree
Soaked shoes squelching on the shimmering
Pavement-become-puddles as little birds
Flew-danced across my path
Chasing each other's tails.
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.
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.
Neither going toward nor backing away from.
Not grasping nor pushing away.
I breathe in and train my mind to focus on dispassion.
I breathe out focusing on dispassion.
A creeping feeling,
A voice says:
"Brace yourself for the darkness".
But I don't care for it much, I will fight.
By keeping my mind lucid and bright.
I am no use to the Earth or anybody else
When I'm depressed.
Am disillusioned with this world, not much passion for anything just now. Career, painting, technology, science, books, music, films, romance, intoxicants, pleasure, pain. I no longer care for any of it, it all feels so unsatisfying. Politics is a load of crap, same old story of the wealthy shafting everyone else and the planet. Victims of greed they hoard and hoard, and never feel happy or content, there's always that niggling feeling of dissatisfaction in the background, and to fill this they automatically grasp for more wealth and power, but they never fill that emptiness within, never cure that feeling of how unsatisfying everything is, why?
This modern world we live in is fuelled by greed, hatred and delusion. And all of it is doomed to end, nothing lasts, all things are being constantly chomped away at by impermanence, everything is in a state of entropy. Is why I just stick my paintings to my walls with masking tape, I don't give a shit, I know they're impermanent and I am not attached to them. I don't even know who paints them, it doesn't feel like the Richie tapping away at the keys here, some other geezer and we are both impermanent, empty, and always changing.
Is it possible to feel happiness on the spiritual path? The happiest memories I have are the days in my youth dancing at rave parties high as a kite feeling connected to everything and feeling free. Those were the best feelings I ever had, nothing else I have ever experienced has been as liberating as that was. Full of immense love and empathy for everyone around me, and they also feeling the same way towards me, all of us one, smiling and expressing our good nature, a feeling of unity, of oneness, being completely at ease with everyone and everything. In that place I forgot who I was, forgot my story and didn't care a jot about it anymore, It didn't matter who anyone was, nobody cared, we were all the same, no judgement, no shame, no exclusion, just goodwill, friendliness, and a shared feeling of connection and space to be who we are. Those beautiful memories stay with me, even now at the age of 46, and they remind me that deep down, all of us, whoever we are, have a good nature underneath all the layers of shit. We all want to love and be loved, to live in peace. I believe that our original mind before it is tainted by the world is good-natured.
It makes me think of the spiritual practise of metta. Metta means unconditional love, kindness, friendship, warmth, benevolence, and jovial good will. Metta also has a good-natured sense of humour, which can help one to not take things too seriously or personally. Metta is the Pali word, but there isn't really a satisfying equivalent that captures it in the English language. So I just use the word metta, as it is easier than listing all the qualities it embodies. It is a nice feeling, and there have been times when practising metta where I thought I came close to how I felt at a rave party (but without the dreaded comedown). Equanimity is also a nice state of mind, and very useful. It is the best one to look at reality with. Not a cold dry dead equanimity, it is alive, warm-hearted and kind, but doesn't take the suffering of the world upon itself. With equanimity one no longer clings to anything, no longer chases after anything, and one doesn't get shaken or swept up by the random nature of things, one is centred. With equanimity one remains calm in a crisis, unshaken and unsuprised by the changing nature of the world, in that lucid state of mind one can look at reality with clarity and see things as they are.
A Zen teacher said that my feelings of disillusionment with the world are a good thing, they are the first noble truth. Disillusionment means one has seen through the illusion.
The second noble truth is to see it is my attachment to the illusion that causes me suffering.
The third noble truth is to come out of the trance and let go of the illusion, stop clinging to the inner story of self.
The fourth noble truth contains the practical instructions on how one trains the mind to let go of and go beyond the self-centred dream. To (through the gradual training of the noble eight-fold path) reach a state of mind that doesn't die, doesn't suffer, and experiences a profound freedom that remains and never ceases - nibbana.
The Buddha once asked a king, "Suppose there are armies coming for you in all directions, crushing and killing everything in their path. There is no hope of escape from this impending doom. What would you do?"
The king said, "I would practise generosity, give, and be kind."
The Buddha praised his response, saying that was indeed the wisest thing any of us can do in that situation. Our deeds generate our karma, and that's what we take with us to our next existence.
For the king it was easy, but for some of us we don't have wealth or possessions to give away, so how do we give?
What is compassion's way? Is a question I have been mulling over and reflecting on for this past week or so.
Perhaps sometimes compassion's way is to remember the spiritual practise, other times to help another being in need, to get up and be of service to others, to practise loving-kindness and radiate that all around as you go about your day, maybe it is to be kind to yourself, to let go of something, maybe it is to have a moment of stillness, when we meditate we are not causing harm and this can be a way of giving, a Zen teacher said to me he thought my paintings were a way of giving. I had never thought that before, and that gave me something to reflect on.
How can we practise generosity and kindness? It seems there are a myriad different ways to do this, and when one thinks about it, one can find a way that fits with each moment. It got me thinking of all the different ways we can give. That's what matters in the end, the choices we make in each moment, and despite what the world does, how crazy and disturbing it gets, when that doom comes for us over the distant horizon, we can choose to be kind, to give, despite it all. This includes being kind to yourself as well, no room for judgement or shame, you are a being too. Unconditional love for all beings means just that, all beings. Be a friend to yourself as much as to others.
The world just now feels a lot like the one in the story of the Buddha and the king. But whatever time in history, there is always an impending doom coming for us, we are all dieing after all, a doom none of us can escape, every body has an expiry date. Death is natural, when we die we should remember our good deeds, not the ones we feel shame for, so we should feel good about ourseves, happy that we learnt from any mistakes and grew. We should focus on our acts of giving, of kindness and love. We should remember the friendships and that both the good and bad times created the depth of connections we have. We want to die with a warm, loving, kind, generous, serene heart, as that is what will be the seed for our next existence.
The hardest part sometimes is to remember. The word mindfulness means to remember, to keep something in mind. The five wise reflections are something the Buddha recommended people chant regularly to help them remember what really matters in this life:
The Five Wise Reflections
"I am of the nature to age; I should not be surprised by old age.
I am of the nature to become sick; I should not be surprised by ill health.
I am of the nature to die; I should not be surprised by death.
Everything I hold dear, and everyone I love, will become separated from me due to the nature of change, due to impermanence.
I am the heir of my karma, owner of my karma, born of my karma, related to my karma, abide supported by my karma. Therefore should I frequently recollect that whatever karma I do for good or for ill, of that will I be the heir."
We can also practise compassion for our future self.
What we practise now we become.
Whilst meditating in the garden, I reached a place of lucid stillness and became just a bunch of energetic processes happening moment to moment, and I forgot completely who I was and I didn't care. There was this otherworldly peace, and time slowed a bit and my awareness was perfectly in sync with everything happening around me. The boundary between external and internal seemed to dissolve for a moment and the world and me changed into this complex interwoven dance of energies. My inner story about who I think I am and what will make me happy, was meaningless - and I really just didn't care about it anymore. It felt good, it was a nice state of mind to be in.
These nice states of mind are hard to keep going however. Not long after this I found myself getting stressed about something and I realised I was once again caught up by the things of the world and reacting to the push and pull of wanting, clinging, and aversion. But I did notice this time I no longer felt so attached to the inner story, like its hold on me had weakened somewhat and it is getting easier to drop it, (when I remember to practise).
Metta and equanimity
Meditated for an hour, it took a long time for the mind to settle, but eventually it did and there was a blissful moment of stillness. Was captivated at one point by a robin singing in the branches of the bush next to my open window.
Life doesn't always play ball with our preferences, so it is good to develop some equanimity towards the world, towards pleasure and pain.
Sometimes it is a relief not to think, to just silently pay attention to the sensations of the present moment as they rise and fall in the body. If you do it for long enough, you can let go of liking/disliking and get very still and unattached and feel like you are just a flame burning in each moment.
The Buddha said that Nibbana is not the end of the mind, it is what fire becomes when it is no longer held by its fuel.
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