But it's nothing personal.
I woke up in a strange mood today. Like a dark cloud over the top of my head raining down negative thoughts. There was agitation too, like a knotted twisty wind within.
My automatic reaction was to judge the mind for generating this. I wanted to push it away, make it otherwise. But then remembered that judging and fighting it just reinforces the negative tendency. This is how karma works, each time we grasp a tendency of the mind, it adds more to it and it grows stronger.
I did a bit of thought replacing, knocking the negative ones out like a hammer knocking out a peg, and replacing them with something wholesome. Of course not long after, the new peg gets knocked out, and the negative thought comes back again. Strange how the mind works against itself. Still it is a useful exercise, I make a game out of it. I practise getting quicker at noticing when the new peg has been knocked out and immediately replace it again without entering into any dialogue with the negativity, without seeing it as me, mine, or self. Just an impersonal process that I can change to something more beneficial for myself and others.
When this practise became too tiring, I stopped and practised anchoring the mind on a meditation object instead, being centred with the feeling of the body.
I become aware of the unpleasant feelings and the aversion inside, churning away like a vat of discontent. I experience them fully, remind myself this is suffering, suffering feels like this. This is the first noble truth. Knowledge of suffering.
Why is there suffering?
Because of the second noble truth.
Craving in its three aspects.
I notice the longing, aversion, and selfishness. Notice how unpleasant this feels, this is suffering. It is unpleasant, it is an affliction, it is like a sickness. I feel dispassion towards the craving. Which helps me detach from it.
I open up my awareness and create a feeling of spaciousness within. I let the resentment, longing, and selfishness be there, but choose not to judge, follow it, or identify with it, Just let it be. Give it the space to arise and cease without getting involved with it, without adding anything more to it. Don't shoot the second arrow.
I turn my eye towards the deathless, towards nibanna. The third noble truth. And I remind myself of nirodha, cessation, non-attachment. I become aware of the mind when longing, aversion, and selfishness is no longer present, feel the relief when the mind stops harrassing itself. How much more peaceful, clearer and happier the mind feels when it isn't feeling resentment, isn't clinging to something, isn't identifying with it, taking it personally. Isn't longing for anything, isn't trying to change anything, At peace and content, not wanting to be any place else. 'Nibanna is right here Richie' I remember a wise teacher telling me.
I notice the sound of the seagulls outside the open window, feel a breeze and reconnect with the air element, feel the cool air all around me and within me, it feels invigorating. My attention becomes centred with the air element.
The thoughts continue in the background like white noise, and I notice how similar they are to ringing in the ears, they constantly change. And I feel grateful for the freedom to be able to disengage from them, to stop identifying with them, to stop seeing them as self and be able to absorb my attention into something else instead, something more tranquil.
I keep the body still and upright, enjoying the solidity, the weight, the feeling of the Earth element grounding me, helping to steady the mind and bring some composure.
Mind follows body, and body follows mind. When the body is still with awareness anchored there. The senses start to settle down, the mind grows quiet, more collected, more centred, and the stillness grows deeper, and it feels exquisite just to rest there in that feeling of stillness.
The human body can't stay comfortable in the same position all the time. It has to move, has to rest, has to eat, has to go to the bathroom, has to sleep, gets sick, gets tired, aches, is full of all kinds of icky stuff, is vulnerable, fragile and changed by hormones that pull it this way and that. The body is driven by the desire for survival, the desire to continue, the craving for existence.
We are not our bodies. If we were our bodies we would be able to tell them not to age, not to change, not to get sick, not to ache, not to be ugly, not to be forgetful, not to be weak, not to malfunction, not to die.
But we do not have control over our bodies. The body grows by itself. It came from nature, from biological processes. It appeared and we did not create it, it built itself.
The body does not belong to us. It belongs to nature and will have to be returned one day.
There's no guarantee that any body will live long. Beings die both young and old, sometimes suddenly and unexpectedly. All species of life on Earth experiences this sorrow, death does not differentiate between young and old. It comes for all. Old age is not guaranteed. Death can come at any time, at any age, and this is normal, natural, the way things are.
Even though the body is not me, not mine, not self. I must try my best to take good care of it. Make it comfortable, see to its needs, be kind to it, be a friend to it, not an enemy. It is a home to a myriad different beings and minds and consciousnesses of all kinds. A world within a world. An interdependent ecosystem of different beings working together in symbiosis, fuelled by the desire to live.
The body likes it when we become aware of it. Which is why I think the feeling of embodiment is pleasant. It is the body showing appreciation that we are paying attention to it. It helps it when we do, even if in pain, it can be a kindness to acknowledge that pain, that part of the body which is suffering, to not just be in our heads. Feeling loved can be a powerful medicine.
One nice thing about being centred in the body, is the body doesn't think in words, it just feels. It is another language, a language before language.
It can be a kindness to our minds to move the attention away from the incessant thinking that goes on in our brains and just be in the body, fully present to the here and now. The body also appreciates it when we do this. It is a kindness to the body when we acknowledge its presence and connect with it. And the emotion of loving kindness always makes us feel better.
The suffering of having a body is shared across all species of life. It is something we all have in common. Knowing this can help us show kindness to others as well.
Enlightenment is as much about the heart as it is the intellect.
Wise head. Warm heart.
Mindfulness of feelings
The second foundation in the four foundations of mindfulness is about sense impressions and the mental feeling of pleasure or displeasure that accompanies them. Sense impressions generate feelings, and feelings generate craving.
There are two ways to look at feelings. The first is to look at there being just two kinds of feelings: pleasant or unpleasant. The second way is to look at there being three kinds of feelings: pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant. The Buddha said both ways of looking at feelings is correct. And he also said there is in fact a total of 108 feelings, but one doesn't need to know about them to get liberated, and working with just a set of two or three is enough.
An important thing to grasp here is that a neutral feeling after a painful feeling feels pleasant; and a neutral feeling after a pleasant feeling feels unpleasant. Which makes one wonder if there really is a neutral feeling? Imagine there's a scale with pleasure at the top and pain at the bottom. Feelings get more pleasurable as they go up the scale and more unpleasant as they go down it. So when a hit of pleasure wears off, if the feeling that comes after that is below it in the scale it will feel unpleasant, even if it is a feeling one would normally class as pleasant. This also works vice versa, when one is in pain, any feeling above that in the scale will feel pleasant in comparison, even if it is something that would normally be called unpleasant.
One notices feelings that come from the five senses: eye, ear, smell, taste, touch. As well as feelings that come from the sixth sense: the mind, which is the psychological world of thoughts and ideas. Noting which ones are pleasant and which ones are unpleasant, or which ones are neither pleasant nor unpleasant (neutral).
One also notices what are called worldly feelings.The eight worldly winds can be a helpful tool to simplify this.The eight worldly winds are: pain and pleasure, gain and loss, success and failure, praise and blame. They can blow in either direction and can change at any moment, so one cannot experience one wind without also experiencing it's opposite. For example, perhaps one day you are being praised by a friend for something you did, this feels very pleasant and you feel encouraged and happy. Then a week later you might do something daft and are then belng blamed by that same friend, which feels unpleasant and you feel discouraged and dejected. Blame is particularly unpleasant when it comes after an experience of praise, and vice versa, praise feels very pleasant after an experience of blame. There may also be dry neutral moments when the winds are quiet and you are not getting much praise or blame, but those neutral moments will feel pleasant if they come after being blamed and unpleasant and disatisfying after praise.
There are also pleasant and unpleasant unworldly (spiritual) feelings. The pleasant feelings are the fruits of the path, such as the relief from letting go of the attachment to worldly things, the pleasure of samhadi (deep states of meditation), friendship. Unpleasant spirtual feelings are those that come from still having to live with an unliberated mind still afflicted by the three poisons of: greed, hatred and delusion. This pain can be used in a positive way to spur one forward in the practise of developing the higher mind. There is also the unpleasant feelings that happen when one's meditation practise feels dry.
One notices feelings as they arise, flow and fade away. Noting if they are pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. And one notes whether they come from the five senses, the mind sense, or if they are worldly, or unworldly feelings.
Feelings change a lot and so do our moods in response to them. But they are not actually who you are, there is no substantial self behind feelings. It is just streams of sensory data and your mental response to it of like or dislike, which creates craving for more pleasant feelings and aversion towards the unpleasant ones. But feelings are 'not me, not mine.' They arise because of the six senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, mind and the world of ideas.
The Buddha coined a great simile called 'the second arrow.' Where he talks about a man who has been shot with an arrow, and immediately takes out his bow and shoots himself with a second arrow. This simile is about how there are things that happen in life which are painful and unpleasant, and outside our control. This on its own is bad enough, but then we go and create more pain and misery for ourselves by getting angry and depressed about it. 'Why me? Why does the universe hate me so? I hate my life... and so on' We've all done it! But this part is optional. Something that helped me understand this, is seeing that anger and hate never feels good, anger is always accompanied by an unpleasant feeling, which is why a neutral feeling after anger feels pleasant. Anger is unpleasant and causes suffering. When you see this you realise that anger is unnecessary and doesn't solve anything, it just makes things worse, just adds more suffering. If one is not angry it reduces suffering hugely. It is a life-changing revelation to see that one does not have to be angry about anything, one can choose non-anger instead and feel better and more serene in spite of it all.
There is something interesting to note here. When one is watching feelings arise and pass away. You can be detached from sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch, but the mind cannot be detached from anger. Anger and non-anger are mutually exclusive, only one or the other can exist in the mind at any time. For example, joy cannot be present in the mind if there is anger, loving-kindness cannot be present if there is anger, serenity cannot be present if there is anger. It is either one or the other. This is an important thing to remember, and something that is often misunderstood.
Another thing that is often misunderstood is that one should be detached from pleasant spiritual feelings when they arise. This is incorrect, pleasant spiritual feelings come from the fruits of the path and are the rewards of the spiritual life and are to be cultivated and enjoyed, even when one becomes a fully enlightened being. The Buddha would often ask not to be disturbed, so he could sit in his hut and enjoy the bliss of meditation. He also said that the only time he didn't have backache was when he was practising samhadi.
Mindfulness of feelings is a huge topic and I haven't covered everything. There's more to feelings, such as how feelings of love can act as pain-relief, there's even been scientific research to explore this effect of love on the mind.
There's also other beings feelings to consider. Knowing that other beings also dislike pain and enjoy pleasure just as much as you do, this can help with the development of empathy and compassion. How feelings all have one thing in common in that they are impermanent and change. How this impermanence causes craving and suffering. How it leads to addictions and dissatisfaction when the senses start to become jaded. For example when you listen to a piece of good music over and over, and after a time you start feeling bored of it and long to have that sensory hit again, but can't get the same effect from it, so one searches for another song to fill the void. How a good book or movie can feel very pleasurable, but when you get to the end there's a sadness that it is over and a feeling of dissatisfaction. These are all things to explore in the practise of mindfulness of feelings. But I will stop here as I am trying really hard to make this succinct.
In the next part of right mindfulness, I will write about the next foundation: mindfulness of the mind, which covers moods, emotions, state of mind. But I am tired now and going to bed. Nighty night. Peace and love everyone (-:
To be continued...
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