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Tranquil wisdom meditation

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 9 May 2022, 17:38

Here is a link to a free book that explains much better what I was trying to describe in my previous article. I have found it helpful to practise this and it has brought me results. I am making great progress with weakening both aversion and sensuality, it's great! 

This technique also makes mind wandering a more interesting part of meditation practise. 

In a nutshell: 

1. Recognise the mind has wandered.
2. Let go of the distraction.
3. Become aware of the body.
4. Relax any tension in the body.
5. Smile and gladden the mind.
6. Reflect on the four noble truths. I.e. noticing the craving, letting go of the craving, experiencing the mind free from craving, and the development of the eightfold path
7. Return to meditation object.
8. Rinse and repeat if mind wanders. 

I find when I re-engage with the meditation object after this process it is much easier to stay with it and more enjoyable. You only need to do this when the mind has wandered for some time and the meditation object has been forgotten, for short distractions just go back to the meditation object. This process gets faster and more intuitive the more you practise.

 While meditating you want to keep that feeling of bodily ease and pleasure going. Eventually it feels natural to let go of applied and sustained attention to the meditation object and to allow awareness to become more expansive. The joy and pleasure gradually gets more and more refined, changing to tranquillity and stillness, until it reaches equanimity. Equanimity is how the mind feels when all the different energies that pull us this way or that are perfectly balanced. Like everything is tuned just right and in harmony. There is an exquisite stillness and clarity of mind that is hard to put into words but you will have felt it in your own practise at times I am sure, and will know what I am talking about.

I don't know if any of this is helpful to you, don't worry if it isn't, I won't be offended lol. I just send it in case it is helpful to others. I don't like keeping things to myself. And I could die at any moment so would be a shame not to share this with others.

I am not a normal person lol. I spend an unnatural amount of time researching and practising this stuff. I have never really been that into the material world to be honest, it doesn't do much for me, nothing lasts in this world and death comes for all. I have always found the inner spiritual life more interesting. 

Although I don't judge anyone else for not being the same and I am not trying to proselytise anyone, that's the nice thing about Buddhism one is under no obligation to share the dhamma with others or change the world in any way, there is none of that stressful evangelical stuff trying to convert others - thank goodness. I think this is just my way of giving, or trying to be generous with what I know because I don't have much else to offer really.

And I can say with certainty now that this stuff really works, I have definitely changed. I have not got angry about anything for a good while now and the craving for sense pleasure is also not as powerful a force as it once was and seems to be getting weaker each day.

 It feels great! The mind just becomes more peaceful, lucid and freer.

Be well anyway and sending you good wishes and energy for you own journey to nibanna.


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A good home

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 23 Apr 2022, 13:10

Was ruminating just now over feelings of regret and longing. These can pop up and disrupt the flow of peace at times. How to deal with those?

 I have been practising telling myself each time that I can't change the past. What has happened has happened, there's no super-power I have that can turn back the clock and make me do things different. And even if I could, would I want to?  

Past mistakes were done by a younger self that didn't know any better. But now you do know better, and it is because of your younger self that you know better. So stop punishing yourself, take a bow to your younger self and resolve to honour the mistake by being wiser from now on. And remembering your less-than-graceful moments can help one to be humble, which is helpful for overcoming conceit. But the guilt, longing, aversion, anxiety and remorse is not helpful, that can be let go of.

Your younger self is not who you are now. And it is who you are now that's important. Who you are now is what's generating the kamma for your future self.

Putting oneself down and feeling guilt, shame and anxiety will become a habit when repeated over a lengthy period of time, and it is a habit that is no good for the mind. It depresses it, and a depressed mind is no fun to be in at all. Our mind is our home, and so we should make it the kind of home that is warm, friendly, welcoming, wise, peaceful, and a refuge even when times are shit.

Unfortunately pain, sickness, fatigue, loss and separation is inevitable in this world. That is the kamma of having a body. Noone escapes this, not even enlightened beings. The Buddha aged, got sick, had back problems, had a toxic cousin intent on murdering him, and he died. 

It is the fate of all living beings.

What is the most important thing to have with us when we die? 

 Our time here is short and one could die at any moment, old age is not guaranteed, people die at different ages and that's normal; across the many species of life on Earth both young and old die. Noone knows how much time they have here.

And it isn't these things that are the problem. They are inevitable, they are outside our control, that's the way it is in a changing universe of interdependence and entropy. 

The problem is how we feel about these things. It is the hostility in the mind towards them that is the problem. Aversion is an unpleasant emotion, it comes with unpleasant sensations, unpleasant feelings and thoughts. It makes one's consciousness feel toxic and unhappy. To the point where one would do anything to get rid of it. And it brings us negative consequences - one's kamma, setting us up for more misery in the future. And yet we can't see that it is this hostility in the mind, this craving for things to be different that causes the suffering.

The good news is that aversion is not necessary and can be removed from the mind. And why wouldn't one want to remove it from the mind? It is not helpful, and one can live perfectly well without it. 

Aversion is generated by the mind. And because it is generated by the mind, it is possible to train one's mind to let go of it, and feel the relief of a mind that is not hostile. A serene happy mind filled with unconditional love instead of fear. It is easier to feel love for others when the mind is less hostile, when you realise all beings value their lives. That all beings want to feel safe, loved, and at peace. Just like you do.

Our mind is our true home. It is what we take with us when we die.

It might take time, a lot of practise, perseverance and a huge helping of patience. But continue putting in the right causes and conditions even when it feels like a desert and a trudge, and eventually the garden will flower and fruit all by itself. But remember to be gentle with the mind, a friend to it, take regular breaks and rest from the work. Impatience and overdoing it won't make anything grow faster.


 


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The key to enlightenment

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 15 Apr 2022, 22:18

To greatly weaken the mind’s tendency to aversion is wonderful. But nothing magical, it is just training the mind. If anyone with enough determination puts in the right causes and condtions, they will get the results.

I still have much work to do to go further on the path. I must now weaken sensuality, the next guardian at the gate. And there seems to be a strong resistance to do this in my mind. It is quite attached to sense pleasures. The Buddha said that sense-desire is a lesser stain on the personality than aversion. But comes with a trade-off in that it is harder to remove. And he is right, it is proving tricky to go beyond this guardian at the gate.

But I can see a strategy for overcoming sense desire. It will involve a great deal of patience and playing the long game, it will involve the four right efforts, right mindfulness, and the eighth factor of the noble path: Right Samhadi (right concentration). Right Samhadi is defined by the Buddha as the four jhanas. And jhana is described as a delicious state of consciousness by meditators who have learnt how to get into them.

Once one has learnt how to get in and out of jhana quickly, and can sustain these states of mind indefinitely, as well as come out of them at will. They discover a bliss they can generate all by themselves within, something that is described as being a greater bliss than anything external or that the world can offer. Then one can naturally let go of sense desire. A person at this stage of enlightenment who has completely cut off the two fetters of: greed(sense-desire) and aversion is known as an anagami (non-returner). They are never again born into this world. And in their next life they are reincarnated in the higher heavens, living very long lives there (aeons). They are born there because of their attachment to jhana. But this is absolutely fine, because what happens is they just carry on practising and make it to the fourth stage of enlightenment, realise nibanna and become fully liberated in the higher heavens - like celestial Buddhas (-:

There are some teachers of Buddhism who have been misguided about the jhanas, and some who even say they are not necessary. Whilst it is true that the jhanas aren’t necessary to reach the first and second stages of enlightenment (stream-enterer and once-returner), if one wants to go further, beyond the second stage of enlightenment, one needs to learn and get good at jhana (right samhadi). At least that’s my understanding, and some will disagree, but intuitively what I am thinking here feels right to me (on my journey anyway).

To learn jhana though one needs to be very determined and seclude themselves from sensuality (at least for a set time). The first verse goes: ‘Quite secluded from sense pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states of mind. One enters and abides in the first jhana. Which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, and has the rapture and pleasure born from seclusion from the world and letting go.’

The way I practise this is when I meditate I go outside somewhere quiet away from everyone. Which secludes me from other people’s energies and also from all the technological devices in my room, and the kettle (cups of tea lol). Doing this forces me to concentrate wholeheartedly on the meditation with nothing around me to tempt or distract me. This is what it means to become quite secluded from sense pleasures.

Secluded from unwholesome states of mind, means to let go of the five hindrances (worldy-desire, aversion, stagnation (or lack of motivation), agitation, doubt); and also means to let go of all the stress of the day and problems we encounter in the world and the kamma of having a body. Put that heavy suitcase down for a moment and feel the relief. Refuse to pick up or inspect the contents of the suitcase, just leave it be. No harm will come if you let go of it for a time. We let go of our worries and thoughts every night when we go to sleep, nothing bad happens when we do. Give yourself permission to let go. Then when the body feels relaxed and at ease it naturally starts to feel some joy and pleasure. When this happens meditation becomes more enjoyable, an indulgence, a way to quieten down the thought energies and refresh one’s mind in the jhanic consciousnesses of right samhadi.

There’s nothing wrong with that at all. If one becomes attached to jhana, that also is fine, it won’t stop one getting enlightened, in fact it is actually the way to enlightenment, or at least to full enlightenment anyway. One who is attached to jhana is in the third stage of enlightenment and close to the end of the path. So enjoy jhana fully and keep asking the mind for more joy and pleasure, keep asking until you couldn't ask for more. Don’t feel guilty or be told you shouldn’t get attached to the pleasure of jhana. The Buddha said that jhana was not a pleasure to be feared. He also recalls in MN 36: “… when my father the Sakyan was working, and I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, then — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful mental qualities — I entered & remained in the first jhana where there was rapture & pleasure born from seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation, and wondered, could that be the path to Awakening?’ Then following on from that memory came the realization: ‘That is the path to Awakening.”

The four jhanas take you on a tour of (mind-generated) pleasure which can be safely explored without fear. When the mind has had its fill and feels content and satisfied, it naturally inclines itself more and more to calming and refining the pleasure bit by bit, till it reaches complete stillness and equanimity in the fourth jhana, which has neither pain nor pleasure. When one has sufficiently mastered the fourth jhana, and calmed the energies of aversion and sensuality to a hush, one’s vision is no longer clouded by them and one can clearly see the root of the problem: delusion, which comes from ignorance. Then one can unlock the door to full enlightenment using a key with three teeth that fits perfectly into the lock: knowledge of suffering, knowledge of change/impermanence, knowledge of no-self. These three knowledges are interlinked, and hence part of the same key. They are the key to freeing oneself from delusion.

That’s the plan anyway. I haven’t got that far yet, and I am only just starting to get what jhana is, and sustaining one is challenging, quite tiring actually. But I know if I keep at it for long enough, and keep putting in the right causes and conditions, it is only a matter of time (-:


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Path

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 11 Mar 2022, 23:30


Cold industrial echoes of the concrete night
Wet and tarmaccy puddles reflect artificial light
Serene raindrops ripple shape the liquid surface
Like this mind full of the noble eight-fold practise.

I walk with dignity
Rapturously
With the clear knowledge
There's no going back for me.


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Metta moon

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 19 Jan 2022, 22:22

There was a truly majestic moon earlier this evening. It was large full and coloured with a reddish yellow glow that shone across the ocean in a line towards me - its tranquil light reflected in the rippling water. I had to stop for a moment, almost hypnotised by wonder and just look at it and send it metta - beautiful moon (-:

Very sleepy meditations today, I seem to be struggling with drowsiness just now in my sitting practise. Exploring, when I remember, the treacle-like surrealness that lies on the edge of sleep and the effort involved in staying lucid in that state of mind. Sometimes giving in to the songs of drowsiness only to wake suddenly with a start and feeling disappointed to see that not much time has passed on the clock with still many minutes to go. Then training myself not to feel disappointment whilst simultaneaously being kind to myself. This challenge is teaching me about the sleepy mind at least.

I am enjoying walking meditation a lot just now, there are moments when I get into a nice flow of footsteps, embodiment and breath that feels invigorating, and freeing when for those moments one realises that one has not been thinking. It is lovely to be able to just drop thought like that, to be fully in the body, in sync and flowing with the present moment, not clinging to any of the senses or caught up in the head. It is a bit like riding a bike, once the balance is right it feels effortless and enjoyable. However, once a thought does arise, one's balance starts to wobble a bit and if more thoughts appear the flow state suddenly pops like a bubble and it can feel a bit uncomfortable and unpleasant when this happens, the thoughts feel like torture and an unwelcome interruption to the experience and I then have to be careful not to get tangled up and involved in the stories or react to them. Instead just gently drop them without feeling guilt for not thinking about whatever it is; or that I need to tidy up whatever I am thinking about before I can get back into the pleasant flow state. It takes effort and a bit of will, and some kindness as well, without judging myself; but with practise and getting the balance right, I can just let the thoughts go  and return to the body and breath, the sensation of movement and the feeling of the outside air on the skin. Be with the feet and get back into the beat (-: 

Walking is a kindness to the mind, a rest from the incessant thinking and sedentary lifestyle that many of us lead in the modern world. So when walking one should set aside all the internal dialogue and busyness of study and work, and just enjoy the feeling of embodiment. It is possible to train oneself to do this, I have done it, and the monkey mind does become steadier and wanders less. It does get easier with practise - and then it feels wonderful, like one has gone beyond it all and connected to something much deeper and more real. 


   

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Change

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 30 Nov 2021, 19:57

Whilst sitting in meditation today I was practising the anapana-sati sutta (the Buddha's teaching on mindfulness of the breath). And when I got to the thirteenth step which trains one to focus on change and impermanence. I stayed with this step a while, and I noticed how everything both within me and all around me is constantly changing, the sounds happening outside the window, time, sensations, feelings, the processes happening within the body, thoughts, emotions, the sense of self, the weather going from rain to stillness, the seasons, the changes in the trees outside the window as the leaves fall, the air around me as it constantly moves, the breath. I wasn't really thinking much about it, but experiencing the changes directly moment to moment as I sat there in meditation. It was strangely liberating to sit there just calmly observing each moment as it changed.

The next step in the sutta is to train oneself to focus on dispassion (for the things of the world,) knowing everything is impermanent, we stop grasping for things or pushing them away, there is nothing to cling to, everything is insubstantial, illusory, even those we love change moment to moment, and one day will die and become rotting corpses, 'Everything I hold dear, and everyone I love will become separated from me due to the nature of change.' Remembering this helps one feel dispassion and equanimity for the world.

The next step is to train oneself to focus on the cessation of suffering, and then on renunciation (letting go).

The last four steps in the anapanna sati sutta make me think of the four noble truths. I have never been taught whether those last four steps are the four noble truths, but seems to make sense to me that this is what they represent, albeit phrased in a different way, but these are just my thoughts on it and I could be wrong.

I will write a summary of the anapana-sati sutta below for anyone who might be interested.

I have been taught to do each step three times, but one can do each step for longer if one wants to depending on how much time they have and how strong their attention is. But doing each step three times is probably doable for most, as ideally one wants to be able to practise the whole sutta in a single session without forgetting (losing their mindfulness), as it is a training exercise for the mind, each step has something important to teach which can become invaluable in life, I often find different steps will come up automatically for me at different times during the day and help me bring some balance to the mind.

One should spend longer on a step that proves challenging till one can at least generate a hint of what one is training the mind to experience there before moving on. For example, I find the step where one is training the mind to be sensitive to joy can sometimes be challenging for me.

For the first step (and only the first step) I have been taught to intentionally take long deep breaths. And for the second step to let go of the intentional long breaths and let the breath do its own thing, which tends to naturally become shorter in duration after several long breaths. These first two steps I have been told are preparation for the training, as the third step introduces the words one trains. I understand this is open to interpretation and I merely post this to show how I practise this sutta. The first step is the only time I deliberately manipulate the breath.

For the fifth step, 'one trains I breathe sensitive to joy' - it can be helpful to use a memory of a time you felt joy, or use your imagination to intentionally invoke the feeling. Metta practise can also help generate joy. Joy has a bubbly effervescent quality to it and sometimes it may already be present, as there can be a feeling of joy that naturally arises when one takes time out from the stress of the day and lets go of whatever is on the mind to sit and practise meditation.

Anapana-sati sutta summary:

First one finds a quiet secluded place to practise where one won't be disturbed.

Find a posture you can comfortably be in for a while.

1. Breathing in long, one knows "I am breathing in long"; breathing out long, one knows "I am breathing out long".

2. Breathing in short, one knows "I am breathing in short"; breathing out short, one knows "I am breathing out short".

3. One trains: "I breathe in sensitive to the whole body"; one trains: "I breathe out sensitive to the whole body."

4. One trains: "I breathe in calming the body"; one trains: "I breathe out calming the body."

5. One trains: "I breathe in sensitive to joy"; one trains: "I breathe out sensitive to joy."

6. One trains: "I breathe in sensitive to pleasure"; one trains: "I breathe out sensitive to pleasure."

7. One trains: "I breathe in sensitive to thoughts and emotions"; one trains: "I breathe out sensitive to thoughts and emotions."

8. One trains: "I breathe in calming thoughts and emotions"; one trains: "I breathe out calming thoughts and emotions."

9. One trains: "I breathe in sensitive to the mind"; one trains: "I breathe out sensitive to the mind."

10. One trains: "I breathe in satisfying the mind"; one trains: "I breathe out satisfying the mind."

11. One trains: "I breathe in steadying (concentrating) the mind"; one trains: "I breathe out steadying the mind."

12. One trains: "I breathe in releasing (liberating) the mind"; one trains: "I breathe out releasing the mind."

13. One trains: "I breathe in focusing on change (impermanence); one trains: "I breathe out focusing on change."

14. One trains: "I breathe in focusing on dispassion"; one trains: "I breathe out focusing on dispassion."

15. One trains: "I breathe in focusing on cessation (of suffering); one trains: "I breathe out focusing on cessation."

16. One trains: "I breathe in focusing on letting go (renunciation); one trains: "I breathe out focusing on letting go."

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Abandoning the story

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 21 Sep 2021, 10:57

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


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New blog post

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 12 Sep 2021, 12:48

I think I am tired of this world. The violence, sickness, suffering, dirty crooked politicians, programmed TV-eye opinions, egoic delusions, ridiculous flags and wars on this, wars on that, and the guilt... oh God the guilt, we are constantly being made to feel guilty about one thing or another, from just being different in some way, to the shame of not being able to reach the lofty heights of the rat-race. The next thing we are lacking advertised by invisible data miners... and in religion, more guilt... more delusion.. more shame and heavy concrete blocks to carry up the mountain, more fear, confusion and programming. 

Can anyone really break free of this? 

Is mind itself the prison?

Why did life start? What are we? Why does the body have an expiry date? Why all this striving for something which doesn't last? 

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