Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 30 Apr 2023, 15:44
When meditating, be your own refuge. Take what works from different techniques and make it your own. The many different meditation instructions out there are a guide. Generic templates, there to help you find your own way in. It is okay to play around with them, to create your own recipes to get into samhadi.
Part of meditation practice is about tweaking things, experimenting, trying things out, seeing what gets results. Keep what is useful and disregard what isn't. Everyone has their own style. There is no one size fits all.
It is like learning a musical instrument. At first it is dull because you can't instantly make music, you have to learn how to tune the instrument so it produces the right tone. Then learn the notes, chords and position of fingers. You have to train all these different muscles, and it hurts at first. You can't get it to make the sounds you want in the beginning, and wonder if you ever will. There are scales to learn, and generic songs that teach you about structure, progression and timing.
Learning any skill in the beginning is frustrating and difficult. It can feel repetitive, boring, tedious, the mind wanders, day dreams, gets restless, feels reluctant to practise; but one keeps oneself going with the knowledge that what one is doing now, will enable one's future self to be able to make music one day. That desire is what drives one into putting in the time, dedication and effort to learn the skills needed to get there.
One learns how to talk to oneself, to keep oneself going, to be patient, and content with not getting the results one wants straight away. One learns to wait, and have faith that what one is doing now will one day pay off. It takes time for skills to develop, for new habits to be formed. The process can't be hurried, and it can also take different amounts of time for each one of us, as we don't all learn at the same speed.
This is a desert we all have to cross when learning something new. But as with any training, if one persists at it, keeps a consistent daily practice going. The effort will build up a momentum over time, and eventually there's a tipping point where it suddenly feels easier, and things become more effortless, there is confidence, and there is flow, and you wonder why you used to find it so difficult because it feels so natural now, intuitive, like second nature. At last one is playing the music.
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 27 Mar 2023, 15:45
Woke up today in a foul mood. The mind was full of darkness and negative thoughts about myself and others, seething with resentment, it was horrible. For a good few hours I was tormented by this unwholesome state of mind. Not a clue where it came from, it was like it sprung up to ambush me as soon I woke up. I felt overwhelmed by feelings of self-doubt and self-loathing, and the craving for non-existence.
It went on for some time, then I remembered there are stories in the Buddhist Suttas of disciples experiencing the exact same doubts and negativity I was experiencing this morning. Including the Buddha himself on the night of his enlightenment, where in the first part of the night, his mind was pummelled by dark thoughts and energies in an attempt to put him off his quest for awakening. Described in the sutta as the armies of Mara.
Mara could be a metaphor for the defilements in the mind that we all have to face when walking the spiritual path to freedom. But Mara could also well be a real force out there. Something I won't discount, as sometimes I feel like he takes over the minds of other beings to get at me.
He doesn't like people leaving Samsara, and will do whatever he can to keep one's consciousness bound up in it. Whether he keeps you bound up with hatred or greed he does not care, either way he has you snared.
'I see you Mara' or 'I know you Mara' is the stock phrase in all the suttas that a noble disciple uses to put an end to his tricks. Apparently that's how you deal with him. With awareness. His power is in our ignorance of him. He works in the dark places of the mind, the parts that are not visible to us, there he hides and manipulates our thoughts and energies.
'I see you Mara.' I say out loud. And it seems to work. The dark thoughts stop.
Then I notice in their place there are thoughts of wanting to get high, and a strong craving for intoxicants, the wish to indulge in sense-pleasures. 'I see you Mara.' I say again. And the craving fades.
Then he did his classic but now all-too-familiar unpleasant twisting knotting trick in the pit of my stomach. 'I see you Mara.' I say again, ' come out of my belly, and leave this body alone,' and the twisting stopped.
Then I start feeling pleased with myself for getting rid of Mara, for sweeping him out of my mind with the broom of my awareness. 'My mindfulness is getting pretty sharp' I thought to myself. And I felt a swell of pride. Then an 'Aha!' moment when I realised, once again I am being caught out by his clever tricks. This is the craving for becoming, bound up with the conceit I am.
'I see you Mara.'
Feeling less oppressed I went for a walk, and as I walked along, thoughts of what others think about me plagued the mind. 'Nobody likes you. They all think you're a twat. You have nothing to offer this world. You will never become a Buddha, you don't have what it takes. You'll never amount to anything. You will die all sad and alone with no friends. Give up. You're useless, a failure. Everyone thinks so, everyone hates you. You're pathetic and will always be lonely. You will never change anything in this world or do anything worthwhile. Why don't you just top yourself.'
'I see you Mara.'
He's a crafty bugger, he can be tireless in his attacks on the mind, one has to keep on their toes, he's a master of slipping past the guard at the gate.
I reasoned back, that even the Buddha himself with all his supernormal powers couldn't save the world. Wars still happened, people still did wicked things to one another, natural disasters still happened, ageing, sickness, death, and loss still happened. I can't stop that. Nobody can. I can't save the world, I can't save anybody. We each have to save ourselves, that's the only way it happens. Nobody saves anyone. There are guides and teachers who can show us the way, tell us how they did it. But ultimately, we are the ones who have to put in the work to free our minds. We each have to be our own refuge. Learn how to be our own teacher.
So what if others judge me. I am not perfect. We all make mistakes. Nobody can honestly put their hand up and say they have never done anything wrong.
At least I am trying to change, to learn from my mistakes, and grow. Sometimes it happens slowly, sometimes quickly. Sometimes I have to endure and be patient. Old habits can take time to fade, and new habits take time to grow. But I am making progress, because I am failing a bit better each time. And I am noticing more and more that the negativity has less power over me than it once did. And one day I won't fail anymore, and then I will be free.
Who cares what others think about me? It doesn't matter. That's just the worldly winds of praise and blame. Honey and bee-stings.
I won't wish anyone ill. I will practise goodwill, and choose to dwell in a mind of love, in spite of how others may feel about me. It is my choice, so I choose love. I am my own refuge. My own teacher. And I got my own way. My own style.
I am an old soul and I am tired now. I can see the exit and I am heading towards it. I don't need anyone's approval or permission to reach the end of sorrow.
For too long have I let sorrow exist in this mind. And it does no good. It does not bring liberation from suffering, or make anything better. It doesn't benefit me or other beings. It is a destructive and dangerous energy. And I am determined to uproot it from my mind for good. However long it takes.
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 24 Apr 2022, 16:58
‘ I hate a song that makes you think that you’re not any good. A song that makes you think you are born to lose, bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you’re either too old, or too young, or too fat, or too slim, or too ugly, or too this or too that. Songs that run you down. Songs that poke fun at you on account of your bad luck, or your hard travelling. I’m out to fight those kinds of songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood. I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world. And yes it can hit you pretty hard and knock you down for a dozen loops; but no matter how hard it runs you down, or rolls over you. No matter what colour, what size you are, how you’re built. I’m out to sing the songs that will make you take pride in yourself, in your work. The songs I sing are made up for the most part by all sorts of folks, just about like you. ‘
Rise up for the revolution. A revolution of friendship and love.
Can you hear that?
‘ This grand shout of affirmation. To mark where we’ve been. To testify to what we have within us, what we can accomplish.
And yes in the end everything must finally fall to the universal fact of life. But be of good hearts. Our songs will all be silenced, but what of it? Go on singing. '
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 12 Apr 2022, 22:25
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.
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 11 Apr 2022, 22:08
I am happy to love you Even if you don't love me back Love expects nothing in return Love is its own reward That lush euphoric state of mind Is the benefit I receive When I wish you well Makes the world glow.
Thinking even happy thoughts, Gets tiring.... and I rest in footsteps, Crossing over streams, Nothing's what it seems.
Perception shifts to absorption Unified awareness streaming on and on it goes... Flows... into a lucid state of mind this river of consciousness refined refreshed by samhadi profound serenity Hearing as if for the first time Colours and tactile sensations rhyme with ethereal perceptions beautified by luminosity and a loved up bliss cooled by equanimity.
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 5 Mar 2022, 21:34
Contemplating becoming a monk one day. I am not there yet however. I still have a number of things I need to work through to reach that level, but it is something I am aspiring to now. The lifestyle of a Buddhist monk has suddenly becoming very appealing to me. Strange because if you had asked me a month ago, I would not have felt the same. A lot of things seem to have changed in me, things I thought never would change. At first it felt quite disturbing and seemed to upset me at a deep level, I became afraid of the changes, but now it is settling, I am quite happy about it actually. I can't explain, very difficult to put into words what has happened; but suddenly the world just doesn't feel like it has such a pull on me anymore. All the things I thought I wanted suddenly I don't particularly want as much. My main aspiration now is to develop in meditation and grow stronger in the way of dhamma.
But I am not there yet. It may be a while before I get there. When I ask the Buddha about it, (yes I know he is in para-nibanna and will never again incarnate anywhere or teach devas or humans, but sometimes I swear he talks to me.) anyway, it could be a higher aspect of my mind being helpful by taking on the role of the Buddha, he just tells me not to run before I can walk, and not to walk before I can stand, and not stand before I can sit. He advises that a gradual training will suit my particular personality. Escaping the household life by riding off on horseback in the middle of the night as the heroic Bodhisattva may not work out so well for me, we are all a bit different after all and I am certainly not Gautama. So I should get the hang of being an Upasaka first. After that there's the intermediate stage between Upasaka and a monk where one deepens their Upasaka commitment and permanently takes the 8 precepts instead of five, then once one has got the hang of that stage, one can look into ordaining as a novice monk.
Anyway I feel quite happy thinking that one day I could become a monk, it feels possible and I can see a clear path towards accomplishing that goal.
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 3 Mar 2022, 22:49
Are there other worlds existing alongside this one? Irradiant kingdoms and castles in the sky. With strange and fantastic beings living beyond our locked up cognition, our dry empty material condition. Of money, concrete blocks and consumer dreams. Our TV eyes blinking; but nothing is what it seems.
Blinded by dark arts of finance and drab clinical reality of so cold science. Industrial noise, greed, sorrow and disease. Beings factory farmed by dead machines. The wheel of consumerism keeps on churning crushing and breaking everything in its path.
Yet sitting still in serenity I hear celestial music play. See strange beings traverse the air, Their otherworldly kingdom moved by the rhythmic push and pull of my nostrils.
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 15 Feb 2022, 10:40
Life can be a real slog sometimes, well most times actually. I didn't want to get out of bed today, I really didn't, felt disappointed I woke up. I have no idea how to generate joy when I feel like this, and meditation feels impossible without any, like trying to kickstart an engine when there's no fuel, it stutters and goes nowhere, so I try to find some solace in writing instead. Constant thoughts whirring relentlessly in the background: 'Nobody likes you, you will always be alone, why don't you just top yourself?' Each time I answer: 'No I will not take my life' - but it gets tiring. Why does my own brain work against me so? I don't feel much of anything just now, of all the moods this is the most challenging for sure. The complete and utter wrecking ball that is depression.
Shame, as it is such a lovely day, but I can't face going for a walk, feel like I just want to retreat from the world in the sanctuary of my room and not have to deal with anything. I really don't want to be around other people's energies, even though I feel lonely, I just can't handle people right now, odd paradox.
I know this mood will pass, and when it does I will think of all the ways I can manage it better the next time it comes round. But alas, all the things I think will work, never do. I have been trying to overcome this mood since I was a kid and I still do not know how to handle it gracefully, it never seems to get any easier, but I will keep persisting.
'One generates the desire for the prevention of unwholesome states of mind by making effort, rousing energy, exerting one's mind and persevering.
One generates the desire for the abandonment of unwholesome states of mind by making effort, arousing energy, exerting one's mind and persevering.
One generates the desire for the arising of wholesome states of mind by making effort, rousing energy, exerting one's mind and persevering.
One generates the desire for the continuance, non-disappearance, strengthening, increase and full-development of wholesome states of mind by making effort, arousing energy, exerting one's mind and persevering.'
This music reminds me of what I sometimes feel when I become serene, still and lucid in meditation. It feels like an otherworldly place I visit that's safe and warm. Like a golden boundless heaven that exists simultaneously with this world, only you have to slow your consciousness down and tune it in like a radio to get there, and just like a radio it suddenly pops into awareness and then ah there it is! A soothing expansive bliss, a profound feeling of contentment and ease, a feeling of security, of love, peacefulness and pleasant breezes. Something timeless, enigmatic, and a feeling of home, filled with radiant beauty and consciousness untainted by the material world. Like when the rain is falling, but you are sheltered from it and enjoying the sound of the raindrops. So hard to put into words, but I find that sometimes music and paintings will take me there via the language of colour and sound, and this is a song that reminds me a bit of that state of mind.
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 5 Feb 2022, 21:54
A shimmering cold and wet walk in the rain. We have had so much of it lately I feel like I am living in a water world. Future models predict this exact location where I live is to get even more of it in the coming years as the weather changes, which is odd. It reminds me of something my Gran once said to me when I was little. She said she knew I was coming to visit her because she could see the rain-clouds coming over the horizon. I used to wonder if I was a rain God. I remember a character in a book by Douglas Adams (can't remember the title for the life of me). But there's this character who is a rain God and everywhere he goes it rains, with rains of all different kinds: drizzle, torrential, serene. And it is the rain-drops paying homage to him only he doesn't realise and is constantly grumbling about the weather (-:
There is also a strange story in the suttas where the Buddha narrates a tale about an elephant that has the peculiar ability to make it rain, and people from other lands request the king that owns it to send them the elephant to cure a drought they are experiencing so their crops can grow.
If I really am a rain God, then that might not be too bad a life, touring the world, visiting all the places that need rain, sitting there with my umbrella and a cup of tea (and a spliff if I am lucky). Making people happy because I bring the rain (-: Hahaha
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 26 Jan 2022, 17:52
Have been listening to dharma talks a lot lately. Especially when out walking with my headphones on. I wear headphones in the town as I find the constant sound of traffic and construction wears my awareness down into a dull grey fatigue. I am practising though, sometimes I don't wear my headphones, and I suspect my aversion to industrial noise is to do with what the Buddha called: 'unwise attention to the fault.' (N.b. there is also 'unwise attention to the beautiful.' The gate swings both ways. )
In the first of the four Right Efforts of Buddhism, one works at preventing negative states of mind from arising. This is done by becoming aware of unwise attention to either the ugly or the beautiful and changing it to wise attention. As it is what we attend to in our consciousness that becomes the stories we tell ourselves about the world, which in turn generates either craving or aversion, which then entangles us in unhealthy unhappy states of mind.
If one fails to prevent negative states of mind arising, then this is where the second right effort comes in, which is to abandon negative states of mind when one becomes aware of them. There are different ways of eliminating them. Some suggestions by the Buddha are to try to invoke the opposite, i.e. wanting and desire comes from a feeling of lack, so the opposite of lack is to cultivate a feeling of contentment. One can also reflect on impermanence, observing how everything is always changing, this can help with developing some equanimity towards it all and dampen the craving a bit. The Buddha also advises one to see the negative mood as a great stain on one's personality, and to imagine it being like having a dead snake around your neck that you want to remove post-haste as you are about to go to dinner with some people you respect and admire. Other techniques are: to distract oneself till the mood has passed; talking oneself out of it; or the last resort, suppress the mood until it is weakened enough to allow one to use some of the other elimination strategies.
The third right effort is bringing into being wholesome states of mind. And the fourth right effort is cultivating those wholesome states of mind so they thrive and become continuous and fully-developed.
The hope I get from this is that no-one has to be a prisoner of who they are. We can change ourselves if we want to. Transformation of one's consciousness and emotions is possible; but we are the ones who have to put in the right causes and conditions to make this happen. And do so with equanimity, with the right balance of energy - the middle way. One should not push oneself so hard as to burn out and become unwell; nor just sit on the couch and do nothing. One needs to find a sweet spot, which maybe means something a bit different to each one of us, it doesn't have to be perfectly in the middle. I imagine it as a dial with a section in green that I try to keep the needle steady in by making necessary adjustments; and with two red areas at the extremes of the polarity which I am trying to keep the needle out of. I know its a daft metaphor, it occurred to me while I was adjusting the water pressure for our boiler, but visualising it like that seems to work okay for me.
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.
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 19 Jan 2022, 10:16
I am practising regular meditation at the moment. And currently doing three sittings a day, one in the morning, one at noon, and one in the evening. Just for 30 minutes each time, although I am contemplating the idea of doing a 2 hour long sit on a Sunday afternoon, as I want to experiment with sitting for longer to see if it will help me settle into deeper states of serenity. Out of the three daily sittings, the morning one is the hardest, I often battle with drowsiness in the first sitting (even with coffee) and I was experimenting this morning with trying to remain lucid during the drowsy surreal states of mind that arise when one is on the edge of sleep. I sometimes experience what are known as hypnagogic hallucinations just as I am about to doze off which alters my perception a bit and things can get quite weird, so I practise staying still and being mindful during those experiences, which can generate some interest in what is happening and help me stay awake.
The easiest of the three meditations is the evening one I find, I seem to feel a much stronger connection between mind and body and a greater depth of stillness and can feel energy that at times feels otherwordly but profoundly peaceful, with some interesting visual effects behind closed eyelids. The evening meditation also seems to go by the fastest, and I am often suprised by how quickly the time seems to go in the evening sitting. The morning meditation however seems to drag on, one minute can feel like ten and it can be very challenging to stay sat there.
It is interesting how one's perception of time changes, and how the mind seems to be able to alter how slow or quickly the passage of time goes by, but only relative to one's mind, everyone else's perception of time is not effected by ours. I am reminded of how Einstein said that time is relative, that time can be a unique experience to us all. This goes quite deep when you think about other species of life. Plants for example have a completely different sense of time to us humans. Their world seems very slow to us, but to them it is normal. Birds apparently experience time seven times faster than we do, and insects even more so, to insects we appear to move very slowly. And there are apparently bacteria that live deep under the ocean floor that are as old as 100 million years and reproduce once every 10 000 years.Yet despite our differences in speed, to each species of life their experience of time feels normal.
An interesting thing that I experimented with one time in music was slowing down bird song, and when I did this it sounded like a human singing, and vice versa when I sped up the human voice it sounded like a bird singing. I saw one time on a documentary that when humans are sped up seven times faster than normal on camera their movement looks similar to the movement of birds.
Perception of time is an interesting phenomenon, time really is relative. But one thing we can all be sure of, is whatever species of life - time comes for all.