OU blog

Personal Blogs

Asoka

Gradual incline

Visible to anyone in the world


The reason Buddhist teachings are often in the form of numbered lists is because at the time of the Buddha things weren't written down. The Buddha and the monks couldn't read or write, so they memorised the teachings. Making them into numbered lists made them easier for memory and recall. Then on their own, a person would contemplate and reflect on their meaning, unpack them, investigate them, fill in the details through their own practise and experience of life. 

 The reason we can't go straight to the deathless, why we need to study and practise, is because the concept of letting go is easy enough to see intellectually, but we are all conditioned and have formed habits that get in the way and make it hard to let go. That's why one must undergo training to decondition the conditioning. Then old habits gradually fall away, and new ones develop that help us to realise the state of non-clinging, or non-attachment. The end of suffering.

 The intellectual thinking part is also important as it helps us understand where we are going and what the teachings are for, why we are practising and what the practise is leading towards. Another translation of right view is right understanding.

But it is a gradual process. Which involves making the five aggregates into a path, the noble eightfold path. The robe of liberation. The Buddha likened the path to the continental shelf of India, that gradually slopes down, and eventually reaches a point where it suddenly drops off into the abyss. That's what the path does, it gradually leads us in the direction of nibbana (the end of suffering). And when the path factors are sufficiently developed, there comes the sudden insight, the Eureka moment, were we see something we cannot unsee - that's the drop-off point, enlightenment. From there, there's no going back, one will never see things the same way again. 

It doesn't mean one is separate from the world though, it just means one stops clinging to it, stops yearning for things. The pain of wanting is gone. Craving is extinguished. Conceit is seen through, and the involuntary movements of the mind cease - which brings profound relief. A peace and happiness not dependent on conditions, independent of the world. And because it is not dependent on conditions, it lasts, and doesn't end. 

But love and compassion for other beings is still there. Friendship and connection are still there. That doesn't go. If anything, it grows. Loving-kindness becomes unlimited, immeasurable, abundant.

Without the ego placing limitations on it, one's compassion becomes boundless. 

The whole process is illustrated nicely in the ten Ox-herding pictures in Zen.

...

 


Permalink
Share post
Asoka

What remains

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 8 Sep 2023, 23:11


The body
Sensations
Feelings
Perceptions
Thoughts
Sense consciousness.

It all comes from what is sensed in the world around.

The world of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, words and ideas.
 
But I am not any of these things.
They are not me or mine.

Am I the objects in the world?
Am I sense-impressions and words?

Dependently originated they do not last.
As conditions change so do they.

This body is not mine. It grew by itself.
A biological process I have no control over.
It changes whether I like it or not.
It ages, gets sick, will one day die.
If it was mine, I would be able to tell it to stop ageing, to not die.
To be handsome, not ugly.
But it changes regardless of what I say.

If I was to chop off a body part and lay it on the ground.
Is that body part the self?

Where is the self in these five streams?
These five aggregates of clinging:
body, feelings, perceptions, thoughts, sense-consciousness.

When one lets go of identifying with them
Filters out all that is not self.

What remains?

A boundless emptiness not dependent on conditions
A state that isn’t born and doesn’t die
The unconditioned
Peace
Liberation
Relief from the pain of wanting.

Hard to put into words.
But I will keep trying.



Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Conceit

Visible to anyone in the world


 The equality-conceit (thinking of oneself as the same as others).
The inferiority-conceit (thinking of oneself as lesser than others).
And the superiority-conceit (thinking of oneself as better than others).

This three-fold conceit should be overcome.
One who has overcome this,
through the full investigation of conceit,
is said to have put an end to suffering
.”

 ~ A 6.49

Investigation of the conceit: ‘I am’
Can feel like trying to split a hair with a pin.
It can be very subtle
Hard to see.

Anatta (not-self) is a negation tool used in Buddhism to reveal what is not the self, like the practise of neti neti (not this, not that).

Anatta investigates the five khandhas (skandhas in Sanskrit), these are: the bodyfeelingsperceptionsmental formationsconsciousness (of the six senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and mental objects).

The khandhas (also known as the five aggregates of clinging) are conditioned phenomena, uncertain, unstable, fragile. Changing. Interdependent. And largely outside our control. Their impermanence causes attachment to them to be bound up with the pain of wanting, frustration, dissatisfaction, stress and sorrow.

There is some gratification in them otherwise we wouldn’t cling to them. But that gratification is transient and when it goes, we suffer and thirst for more, feel pain at loss and separation.

Still, it's not all bad, because some of the aggregates are within our ability to change, we can make a path out of them that leads to the end of suffering: the noble eightfold path.

Seeing the skandhas do not last, are empty of self, and bound up with suffering. One becomes less attached to them, less enthralled by them. One feels dispassionate towards them and stops identifying with them. Stops taking things personally. 

Knowing the khandas are not me, not mine, not self, one lets go, stops clinging to them – and what remains then is the deathless.

It is not meant to be depressing. If done correctly this will bring rapture and peace to the mind. Bliss. The relief of letting go, of relinquishment, of releasing it all. Liberation. Freedom. It's not a dry unemotional experience.

To think of nibbana or nirvana as annihilation is incorrect. If this were the case, it wouldn't be called the deathless.

Nibbana is a conscious experience. Said to be the finest experience that any being can have. If it was about annihilation, it would not be an experience.

 

 


Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Just this

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 16 Aug 2023, 16:36


Sitting here
Sounds all around.
Seagulls sqawking,
Dogs barking,
Cars trafficking.
People talking.
Construction work
and the odd chainsaw.
Cars scrunching the gravel
as they come and go.

I meditate.
Investigate.
The Buddha's teaching to Bahiya.

To let a sound be just a sound.
To let that which is sensed
be only that which is sensed.
Awareness and knowing,
being just that.
Without adding any more to it.
Without the 'I' making.
The story of
the person.

Neither here, nor there, nor inbetween the two.
This, the Buddha said, is the end of suffering.

It's the longing, the loathing, and conceit.
The impatience.
The angst.
The getting stressed
and taking it personally.
That's what gets in the way.
That's the problem.
That's what I need to let go of.

Without that there is just this.
And when there is just this.
there is no subject, no object.

The self disappears.

And when that happens there is peace.

...

-Asoka

Permalink
Share post
Asoka

The wishing jewel

Visible to anyone in the world

If there is to be just one desire, just one wish, let it be this:

May all beings be free from suffering. Free from sorrow.

Me included. I also am a being.

All of us wherever we are.

Every being in every direction.
Of all different kinds, shapes and sizes, in all places, in all worlds.

If I was to be granted only one wish.

Let it be the wish that all beings be happy.

May we all be free.
May we all have peace of mind.
May we all be safe.
May we all be well.
May we all be at ease.

May we all feel loved.
May we all be golden.
May we all be radiant.

May every single being everywhere experience bliss.

May we all be serene
May we all be boundless.

Free of sorrow and unhappiness.

- Asoka.

That is my wish.

Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Renunciation

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 23 Jul 2023, 16:37


One way I look at this is. It is more about becoming aware of the mental dispositions that cause us suffering, and when we become less ignorant of these and wise up to them, we naturally let go of them.

The good stuff remains though. It is okay to have a good life, to be comfortable and have some fun. This practise does not have to be a morose and sombre experience. After all it is the way that leads to the end of suffering. Enjoy the pleasant moments, as fully as you can, but practise wise attention to them. Notice how the mind clings and thirsts for more, and how this makes us suffer. How the things we are attached to the most, are the things that cause us to suffer the most when we become separated from them.

All conditioned phenomena is transient and uncertain. If one's happiness is dependent on conditions, it is bound to disappoint. As those conditions are outside of one's control, they will change and then that happiness will end. That is why it is precarious to place one's hopes in worldly happiness. It is not wrong to enjoy this happiness. It is just, material things are not the real treasure in life. The pearl of great worth comes from within. That's what we reach for at death, what we take with us when we die. Everything else is torn away from us.

Mindfulness, wonder, interest, investigation, energy, joy, peace, friendliness, love, kindness, good humour, generosity, empathy, connection, compassion, serenity, samhadi, and equanimity to mention some, are all beautiful states of mind that don't cause us or anyone else any harm. These states of mind are good for us mentally and physically. They also bring good kamma, because they reinforce the mental dispositions that lead to good states of becoming, that lead away from suffering. They make us happier, healthier beings, and enrich our lives and those around us.

All the beauty of the heart remains, and shines the more brightly without the clouds of greed, hate, conceit and delusion. 

It is like someone who has been sick with an illness, with a fever, becomes unconscious. A doctor comes along and examines the patient, knows what it is that is wrong with the patient and how to cure them. He gives the patient some medicine. Their consciousness returns, then the colour returns to their cheeks, they sit up feeling much better, then their composure becomes serene and radiant. Feeling the relief of no longer being sick.

In a similar way, when our minds are clear of greed, hate, conceit and delusion, they become well again.

It isn't the world outside that is the problem. It is the greed, hate, and delusion within us that is the problem. That is what causes us suffering. That is what gets in the way.  

...

Permalink
Share post
Asoka

The safe shore

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 21 Jul 2023, 17:22

Dependent on conditions.
Human existence is fragile. 
Liable to end.

When certain conditions cease,
So does human existence.

Interdependence is complex.
More than just linear cause and effect.
It spans many levels.
Comes from all directions.

More like a vast incalculable
web of cause and effect.
Interconnected streams
of flowing events
through time and space.

It is why there is change.
Why things are unstable.
Impermanent.
Why nothing lasts.
Why it is empty.
Not-self.
All conditioned phenomena
eventually fades and dies. 

A human life is brief.
Unique and brief.
Like a bubble in a stream.
A flash in the pan.
The flicker of a firefly.

It can be taken away at any moment.

To understand this can help counteract the mental disposition towards conceit.

One realises that one is not a separate self in this universe, this world. That one is nothing special really.

We depend on the elements we are made up of, and on other beings for our survival. A causal chain of events that happen in time and space outside our control.

Eveything is interconnected,
interdependent phenomena.

Thankfully, one doesn't have to know everything about the vast intricacies of dependent orignation to free the mind.

One focuses on one aspect, the dependent origination of suffering. 

The question that matters then is:
How do I feel?
Am I suffering or not?
What is the cause of this suffering? 
And what conditions can I change to bring an end to it?

Birth as a human can be rare apparently.
And humans do have something special.
They have the capacity for wise reflection.
The capacity to practise discernment.
To guide the flow of psychic streams.
That lead to the right view of things.

A human being can become a Buddha.
Enlightened.
The potential is there like a seed.
A seed that can sprout and grow under the right conditions.

When guided by right view,
and right resolve:
the ability to set an intention
and act on that intention.
One can work on removing the conditions that cause suffering and unhappiness in the mind. 

As one keeps practising. Perseveres, and does not give up. Trains the mind ardently. Is heedful. Avoids unwise attention to the fault; and unwise attention to the beautiful.
Keeps abandoning that which leads to suffering.
Keeps cultivating and sustaining that which leads to the end of suffering.

As one becomes more aware of the body, feelings, states of mind, and dhammas.

 As one learns how to calm and centre the mind, bring it together into composure, into wholeness.
How to balance and unify the numerous energies of the mind into a state of equanimity and clarity.
Wisdom naturally arises.
One becomes less ignorant of the mental dispositions that lead to suffering.
More conscious of the unconscious. More lucid. Awake.
Not caught up so easily in the self-centred dream.
Less attached to the conceit 'I am'.
Less absorbed in greed, hate and delusion.
Less affected by the changing worldly winds.
Less attached to conditioned phenomena.
Knowing it for what it is.
Dissatisfying.
Emptiness.

The darkness of delusion disperses.
Ignorance becomes understanding.
Discernment develops.
Resolve gets stronger.
And we begin to behave in ways that don't lead to suffering.
Which weakens the conditions that give rise to it.
Till eventually there is cessation of suffering.

And when greed, hate, and delusion no longer take root in the mind. There is lasting peace, freedom and happiness. An unlimited bliss. 

The noble eightfold path has done its work.

The space left behind is known as the deathless, the unconditioned, the supreme happiness.
Something lasting.
Something secure that doesn't fade away or die.
Something that can't be taken away once it has been realised.

It is an element beyond the changing conditions of dependent origination and the worldly dharmas.

Nibanna is something that is always here, everywhere, it always has been, and always will be. It is the safe shore. The refuge from dukkha (suffering).

The practise of the noble eightfold path: right view (understanding), right intention (resolve), right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right samhadi. Purifies the mind of greed, hate, and delusion. And leads to the lasting peace and happiness of nibanna.
...


Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Understanding suffering

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 19 Jul 2023, 11:45


Grief seems to have returned. Lots of tears at the moment. Still processing things it seems.

So many unwanted events happening at once just now, coming into a convergence. I feel this longing to escape from it all, to be free from this world. Is that the thirst for non-existence (vibhava-tanhā)?

Have been reflecting on the first noble truth, the knowledge of suffering.
The instruction given for this truth, is that it needs to be understood.
How does one understand suffering?

' The noble truth of suffering (dukkha) is this: birth is suffering; aging is suffering; sickness is suffering; death is suffering; sorrow, pain, loss, grief, and despair are suffering; association with what is disliked is suffering; separation from what is liked is suffering; not getting what one wants is suffering. In brief, the five aggregates of attachment are suffering. '

— DHAMMACAKKAPPAVATTANA SUTTA

Understanding comes from investigation of the four noble truths in one's own life, in one's own experience. That's how true knowing develops.

A definition of the word 'Buddha' is 'One who knows'.

Some intellectual knowledge is needed. There has to be the capacity for wise reflection, and for critical thinking. You also need a map, a description, some guidance to point you in the right direction. So you know where you are heading with all this. Understand what needs to be accomplished, what the work is. The task at hand.

Then one sets the intention. Resolves to do the work. Consulting the map when one gets stuck. The true knowledge and wisdom is learnt from experience. From the present moment, life as it is, this is our dhamma teacher. With patience, gradually, over the course of many hours of repetitive practise. By being our own refuge. Experimenting, tweaking things, tuning them, one develops the eight factors of the noble eightfold path.

The five aggregates of attachment are: 1. The physical body 2. Feelings 3. Perceptions (memory) 4. Mental formations (such as thoughts), and 5. Consciousness (which arises due to contact with sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, and mental objects).

The five aggregates are always changing. Like a flowing stream. One never sees the same stream twice, even though it looks like the same stream. The water molecules you where looking at a moment ago are no longer there.

In a similar way, the five aggregates are a complex process, a flowing stream of events, of cause and effect. Everything conditioned is interdependent. When the right conditions are present something will arise; And when those conditions are no longer present, that something will cease.

For example, fire is dependent on conditions such as dryness, wood, oxygen, tinder, and a spark. Take away any of those conditons and the fire won't start.

The five aggregates (the khandhas/skandhas) are fragile and uncertain, dependent on changing conditions that are largely outside our control. Which is why clinging to them, and identifying with them causes us suffering. There's nothing there to cling to. They are impermanent, insubstantial. Empty.

The things we are attached to the most, are the things that cause us the most suffering.

The twelve links of dependent origination, (ultra-concise version):

These are a representation of the links in the chain of dependent origination (causation) which lead to suffering and rebirth.

Ignorance --> Mental dispositions and volitional actions --> Conditioned consciousness --> Mind and body (aka name and form) --> The six senses --> Sense impressions --> feelings (of like or dislike) --> craving --> clinging/identifying --> becoming --> birth --> death.

It is a continous circle, so death circles back round to ignorance and the circuit begins again...

i.e., becoming --> birth --> death --> Ignorance --> mental dispositions and volitional actions ... and so on -- the cycle continuously goes round and round in a circle.

Need a better way to describe 'mental dispositions and volitional actions.' It is about how our mental dispositions, our intentions become mental and physical actions which condition our consciousness (form habits).

The links are all points where the circuit can be broken. Much of the links are outside our control. But we can work on ignorance, on our intentions, on our volitional actions. Use wisdom and knowledge to weaken the tendency to cling and identify with things. Till eventually one realises a state of non-clinging and stops grasping the seeds of greed, hate and delusion. Then the fuel line to craving is cut off and suffering stops.

Physical pain can still happen, that is the kamma of having a body, of living in an uncertain world full of threats and danger that come in all shapes and sizes. But mentally, emotionally, one can feel okay, can feel free, at ease. Secure, safe, not clinging to anything in the world. Then whatever happens in the body and the outer world, one's peace remains unshakeable. There is no more mental suffering.

It can sound a bit dry and serious, it is serious, but not dry. It is important not to take it all too seriously. Find a middle way through it, a balance. I think a gentle sense of humour can be helpful, especially towards oneself. As well as goodwill towards other beings, of all kinds, in all worlds. This brings joy and wellbeing, gladdens the mind, makes it fearless and golden. The beautiful emotions are part of the path too. Kindness, generosity, goodwill, friendship, compassion, joy, calmness, clarity, equanimity... and so on, non-greed, non-hate, non-conceit. These states strengthen the tendencies of the mind that help with the realisation of nibanna, generate good kamma and make everyone feel better. You don't have to save the world or do anything dramatic. If you can't help; at least cause no harm. That's good enough. The huge problems facing the world just now can feel overwhelming. So much suffering everywhere. But in the darkness, the beautiful emotions are like a light to ourselves and those around us. They make us feel well, like nourishment for the heart and mind.

One definition of the third noble truth, is it is realised when greed, hatred, and delusion are no longer able to take root in the mind. In the space left behind is an unshakeable peace. The psychic energy bound up in greed, hate, and delusion, becomes unbound, freed, limitless. Descriptions of nibanna in the suttas say: 'It is the highest state of happiness. The supreme state of bliss.'

Sounds good to me. I could do with some of that.

During the Buddha's time people from all walks of life and age groups where getting enlightened (by the boat load). Most of them couldn't read or write.

It is a practical path. I think that's why I like it.

...



Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Abandoning Tanha

Visible to anyone in the world


Something I find helpful as I go about my day. Is to just suddenly stop and notice how I am feeling. The mind, the emotions, the body. Whatever it feels like in this moment.

It feels like this.

It can be helpful to stop sometimes and do that. It creates a bit of space. A pause in the story. The thoughts are still present but I am not absorbed in them anymore. I am centred in emptiness. Sounds strange, and difficult to put into words. The emptiness is not a negative thing, it feels freeing and expansive. It contains everything that is happening in the moment, yet it isn't the things it contains. It is not a dry, detached emptiness. It just feels safe. If that makes any sense...

I have been reflecting a lot on the four noble truths, thinking about craving (tanha).

Craving for sense pleasure (kāma-tanhā);
Craving for existence (bhava-tanhā),
and craving for non-existence (vibhava-tanhā).

The second noble truth says that craving is the cause of suffering and gives the instruction for it to be abandoned. But that sounds a bit harsh, so I am trying to find a better word than 'abandonment'.

One way I do it is. When I notice my mood is a bit off and there is a lack of peace. I stop and inquire. I notice craving in its three aspects. Note how the craving creates a feeling of unease in the mind, a restless anxiety, fear, discomfort, yearning, and discontent. Craving is stressful.

Thoughts to do with longing, resentment and conceit are unpleasant. They don't feel good. They feel toxic and make the mind an unhappy place. I notice how craving creates tension in the mind. How it creates a feeling of lack and dissatisfaction. A feeling of compulsion. How it divides the mind against itself. How all the wanting becomes delusion. The mind gets absorbed in the stories it tells itself about the world and the things it wants, and the things it doesn't want, takes it all personally. The self-centred dream.

I notice this and stop following it. I don't judge it, or identify with it. I feel compassion for it, understand it for what it is. let it be there, and notice how it all feels without the story. How the body feels in this moment. How the mood feels. How this present moment feels. Accept it all for what it is, as it is. And just breathe in, breathe out.

Not pushing anything away, nor chasing after it. Not seeing anything as self or other. Just breathing through it. The whole body absorbed in the feeling of the cool air going into the nostrils and the warm air going out. Like when one steps out onto a balcony and breathes the fresh air, and it feels soothing. That feeling of invigoration. The body still, calm, open, and at ease. The breath energy filling every part of it. Uplifting the mind, freeing it from concerns, bringing relief.

The craving settles. The involuntary movements of the mind cease and there is peace for a time.

Then the craving comes back again.

Rinse and repeat.

But do the work gently, with good humour. With kindness. Don't take it all too seriously. Joy is part of the path too.

***

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 18 Jul 2023, 17:58)
Share post
Asoka

Be a light

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 20 Jun 2023, 00:38


I know the world feels like a dark place at the moment. The doomsday clock ticking closer to midnight.

I am struggling to live in it. It is heartbreaking witnessing the intense suffering of this time. So many beings in pain just now. The greed, hate and conceit of the world is turning it into a Hell realm.

But remember, this life is brief. And it isn't all there is. It is a tiny moment compared to the length of an aeon. A bubble in a stream. 

Maybe there's no hope at this time, perhaps we are heading toward a dark dystopia, and maybe the world is about to end. Perhaps we will go extinct, who knows?

The best thing to do now, is not let these dark times take away your virtue.

 Practise kindness, generosity, and the way of peace, develop those tendencies of the mind. That is what will lead to a good rebirth, to a good destination in the next life, that's how to become a deva. It's what's in the heart that counts, that is the currency of the heavenly realms. 

Just because the world is getting more and more depraved and crazy doesn't mean we have to be that way. We can choose to practise the opposite. To love. To be different. To be a light in the darkness.

We all have both good and bad tendencies in the mind. And it's these tendencies that lead to our karma. It is better to die with a heart filled with loving-kindness and generosity than one full of hatred and stinginess. 

When we die it is the tendencies of the mind we have cultivated and developed in this life that decide where we end up in the next one. This is the only thing we take with us when we die. That is what will greet us on the otherside.

...


Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 22 Jun 2023, 17:37)
Share post
Asoka

Calm and cool

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 16 Jun 2023, 00:23


I am catching up with the studying, only two weeks behind now. My plan is to get slightly ahead if I can, so that I can have some time off for Dad's funeral at the end of the month.


Grief takes a while, I am finding. It can feel lonely as well. Social situations can feel awkward at times. The world around continues, but I feel the need for time and space alone. I guess to process it all, reflect on it, meditate, find some peace in it all.

Sometimes the tears fall, then stop. Arise, flow, and cease. I wipe my eyes and get on with the day. Rinse and repeat. Sunglasses are helpful when out in public.

Is it heart-break or heart-opening? I don't know. I guess it's both. Perhaps heartbreak opens up the heart. It reminds us of what really matters in the end.

 I feel okay though. Not depressed. Just flowing with it. Accepting it. Seeing the dharma in it. Trying to hold it all with kindness, friendliness. Gently, with love, compassion and equanimity.

If I notice myself getting absorbed in thoughts about greed, anger, or conceit I immediately drop them, and re-centre with love and equanimity. It feels good to be with the feeling of embodiment. The breath. The elements. Converge the mind around that. Experience life as it is without words. Sometimes it is nice not to think. To just feel.

 I think he's alright, he let me know. I felt something shift in his transition whilst out walking in the woods, a strong knowing came to me that he had found peace, it felt like truth, and I felt reassured.

It feels like he's transitioned now. He feels both really near and really far.

...


Permalink
Share post
Asoka

I take up the way of cultivating a clear mind

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 10 Jun 2023, 20:27


I find myself in tears every so often. I just let them fall without trying to resist them.

It is hard to think I will never see Dad again. I talk to him on my walks in the quiet of the woods. Some part of him lives on inside me.

It is a kindness to myself to give the grief space. To hold it all without judging it, or adding any more to it, or taking any of it personally. Just flowing with it, letting it be.

 Life as it is, the only teacher.

I am learning it is okay to not know what to say at times. Sometimes being a silent presence is enough. 

I centre with the breath, and let everything happening around me be as it is. I breathe through it, flood my whole field of awareness with the breath, so it feels like the whole cosmos is breathing with me. 

When the mind is more serene I fill my awareness with love, with compassion, with peace, or equanimity. 

When not in sitting meditation. I take refuge in what is known as sati sampajanna, mindfulness of the present moment. Knowing where I am, what I'm doing. Whatever activity I am engaged in, I try to stay centred with it and with the feeling of embodiment. 

 When I notice I am getting absorbed in thoughts to do with greed, aversion, or conceit. I label them as such and then brush them aside like useless rubbish. Nonsense. Not worth investing in, or wasting psychic energy on. I let them be in the background, but I stop engaging with them, and keep centering the mind with some aspect of mindfulness instead, that feels calming.

It isn't easy. Sometimes I can dismiss thoughts quickly. Other times I have to talk myself into a better state of mind. And sometimes I have to do it gently in stages. 

Mindfulness, effort, samhadi they work together. Both in sitting meditation and in daily life.

It is difficult. But worth it in the end I am assured. Although not liberated yet, I am noticing benefits to dhamma practise, which keep growing steadily. Benefits in terms of increased peace of mind. So I am slowly but surely developing, and seem to be going in the right direction.

 The problem can be narrowed down to just greed, anger, and conceit. These are what harrass the mind. And when those three psychic irritants are absent, there is a feeling of great relief. The mind stops harrassing itself and there is peace.

 It just takes time to get there, perseverance, patience, sometimes endurance. But one day our future selves will be glad we took the time to train the mind - when it all bears fruit.

 What we practise now grows stronger and is who we become.

It is exhausting being someone, being a person. Maintaining an identity. It is a heavy suitcase we carry around. Our moods change, as does the world. And one's ego inevitably falls apart. A fragile house of cards swept up by the worldly winds.

A lot of psychic energy is bound up in the story 'I am'. 

When that psychic energy is released. It becomes unbound, limitless. Free. 

Deathless.

An energy no longer subject to conditions. Something difficult to define and put into words. To define it is to attach conditions to it. 

Anyway that's all I've got just now, and what I am currently working with in my practise.

Here's a poem attributed to the Buddha I have going through my head at the moment:

' Let not a person revive the past   
Or on the future build one's hopes, 
For the past has been left behind 
And the future has not been reached.
Instead with insight let one see 
Each presently arisen state; 
Let one know that and be sure of it, Invincibly, unshakably. 
Today the effort must be made; Tomorrow Death may come, who knows? 
No bargain with Mortality 
Can keep him and his hoards away. 
But one who dwells thus ardently, Relentlessly, by day, by night 
It is those, the Peaceful Sage has said, Who have had one excellent night. '

- the Buddha.

...


Permalink
Share post
Asoka

A wee fairy glade

Visible to anyone in the world

A photo of some woodland.

Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Goodwill

Visible to anyone in the world

Here's a beautiful sutta I came across today (-:

'Devoid of covetousness, devoid of ill will, unbewildered, alert, mindful, one pervades the first direction [the east] with an awareness imbued with good will, likewise the second, likewise the third, likewise the fourth. Thus above, below, & all around, everywhere, in its entirety, one keeps pervading the all-encompassing cosmos with an awareness imbued with good will — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, without hostility, without ill will, just as a strong conch-trumpet blower — without any difficulty — can notify the four directions."

-SN 42.8

Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Prepping

Visible to anyone in the world


Preparing myself for another all night sit under a tree at the next full moon. I think I will try to make it a regular event every full moon, to go and spend a night of meditation in the wilderness by myself.

The all night sit I did in May really helped improve my meditation practice. It was an interesting experience. There's something about being alone in the woods at night which creates a sense of fear. But if one centres with the dhamma, practises metta bhavana (loving-kindness meditation), and samhadi one feels safe and the fear goes away and the mind becomes confident and at ease. So one keeps practising for that reason. When sitting at home alone one can find excuses not to meditate, and books and devices can become a distraction; but being alone at night in the woods really enhances one's mindfulness, because if it slips one becomes afraid and then the mind starts conjuring up all sorts of nonsense, and you start believing your erroneous misperception of things. But mindfulness of the dhamma (Buddhist teachings) keeps you safe, it makes you feel fearless. It is an interesting experience.

I must find a way to repel insects though as some carry diseases and this is a very real danger I need to find a way to counteract, especially when it comes to ticks. Lyme's disease is no fun at all. I am wondering about trying some essential oils on my clothing to see if that puts off biting insects.

I will continue to have a flask of coffee or tea with me to get me through the night, and not feel guilty for that. Very much a believer in practising the middle way, and having a cup of coffee really helped warm me and gladden the mind at times, and I was grateful for the kindness to myself in packing the flask. 

To be honest, the biggest fear of being alone in the woods at night is encountering other humans. I am far more afraid of people than I am of animals, insects or spirits. The devas will be with me though and the psychic energies of my friends will also be with me, so I shouldn't be afraid. If I stay centred with metta I will be safe. Wherever I am in the world, being mindful of metta will keep the mind clear of the hindrances.

No matter what someone does to me, even if they kill me, if my mind remains centred in metta, I will be fine, a consciousness filled with metta leads to a good rebirth.

It isn't loss of life that one should fear, it is loss of peace of mind. The defilements within (greed, hatred, and delusion) are far more frightening to me then anything else in this world. They are the real enemy, and they never tire, they're always waiting for me to show a moment of weakness. I have to be careful not to let my guard down, because if they enter my heart, they start to suffocate it with craving, and drag me down into the darkness. The impurities of the mind are no joke. They are far more dangerous than anything else out there. This is where wisdom, morality, mindfulness, right effort, and the stillness of samhadi becomes one's protection. They help prevent greed, hate, and delusion from taking over the mind and leading one into suffering.

I am debating with myself whether to pack some headphones and a device so I can listen to a downloaded dhamma talk. Sometimes if things get difficult it is good to be able to listen to the voice of another, as they can talk one out of a negative state of mind and encourage one to keep going.

This is okay for me as I am a lay follower, not a monastic, so I can do this if I decide it would be beneficial to do so. 

...




Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Psychic alchemy

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 22 May 2023, 22:02


Feeling a wee bit better today. Was in such a dark place for a while. These cycles seem to happen every now and then. My mind goes into shutdown, like when a computer updates its operating system. It can feel slow and frustrating, and there's an element of restlessness there on top of the fatigue, and that bossy part of the mind always tugging at me to do things. Reminding me of deadlines and things I should be doing.

 I kept reminding myself that I don't have to be bossed around by that part of the mind. After all it's me! And it isn't helpful, it can be so bossy and overly-critical. The inner tyrant. A real problem many of us have in modern day society, we've been conditioned that way.

 Actually when one is like that, the best thing to do is to do nothing, just be still, be silent, endure the restless feelings and don't react to the mood. Keep choosing not to get involved with any negative thoughts. They are mostly nonsense anyway, we often create delusional stories in our heads that are not in sync with what is happening in reality when our mood is low. But balance this by also forgiving oneself for having those thoughts, be gentle with the mind when one catches oneself absorbed in the negativity. Don't punish yourself for it, or be judgemental. Just be grateful you noticed, and then stop paying attention to the negativity. Look in a different direction, like you are turning away from a sight that you don't want to see. You don't have to pay attention to negative thoughts. Choose purposely to pay attention to something else, the breath, the feet, some part of awareness that is neutral and helps to calm and centre the mind. And give yourself permission to do that. You are allowed to.

The inner miser might say: 'I don't deserve to be happy, I don't deserve to enjoy myself.' that is just crap, don't listen to that. You are allowed to be happy, you are allowed to feel joy. Cut yourself some slack, one of the enlightenment factors is joy. It is part of the training. So stop listening to the miserly one within who tells you that you can't be happy, that you don't deserve it. And don't be content with just a little taste, ask the mind for more, until you couldn't ask for any more.

We've all done crappy things that we regret. Many great saints and noble people weren't always that way, some were rascals. Everyone on this planet is a mix of good and bad. We make amends for our past mistakes by training our minds now. It is the most compassionate thing we can do for ourselves and others is to train the mind.

Take comfort in the knowledge that the inner critic is entirely a mental construct and not real. It is a phantom. There is nothing substantial there. When one stops paying attention to it, it gets weaker and eventually subsides. It is merely a sankhara, a tape loop from the past, a conditioning that can be unconditioned. It isn't permanent, it isn't self, and it can be changed into something better. And all the psychic energy that went into that sankhara can then be freed up, and with some clever dharma alchemy become something more friendly and supportive on your journey. 

Turn that inner critic into a sankhara of inner friendship. When one becomes a good friend to oneself, one will then naturally become a good friend to others. Friendliness makes one less judgemental, less selfish. Love dissolves the separation between self and other. And without all our inner angsty wanty needy stuff getting in the way, one can properly listen to others and be there for them wholeheartedly. It doesn't make you a doormat though, always at everyone's beck and call. You still assert your boundaries, you don't have to associate with the foolish, the toxic, and don't let yourself be taken advantage of. You have to take care of yourself too.

But when you feel comfortable in yourself, secure, it is easier to be with others and be a friend then, to be a good listener, because your insecurities aren't getting in the way.

It takes work though, a lot of work. Like learning to be skilled at any craft, it doesn't happen over night. When learning any new skill, it is consistent daily repetitive practice that gets you there. Perseverance, endurance. The mind is also lazy, it doesn't like to change habits and make effort. Even if the behaviour is killing us, it prefers to stick with its grooves and keep things the way they are. We can get set in our ways because change feels uncomfortable, unpleasant at first. But the thing to keep in mind is it is possible, these unhelpful habits can be changed. And done without straining the mind, a gentle kind effort that doesn't burn you out is what's needed. Tuning the energies so they are balanced. A middle way, avoiding the extremes. Not too energetic and not too lazy. Be kind to the mind, this is how we train to be friendly, by being a friend to ourselves, which is another meaning of the word: metta, friendliness. Becoming mindful of kindness, or as Ajahn Brahm puts it: kindfulness.

It is a lot about how we talk to ourselves, this is what changes our perceptions of things, and reprograms the sankharas (mental formations).

The mind is an immensely complex, mysterious and powerful thing that we all have, but hardly any of us know how to use it properly. How to train it, how it works. We allow ourselves to be driven around by it. For many of us it is wild and chaotic, not unified, contradictory, pulling us this way and that. A monkey swinging from branch to branch. The mind can be a lot like a wild animal and rebellious, and sometimes it won't play ball and be deliberately difficult, resist the training. It takes patience. In fact there's a set of pictures in Zen called the Ox-herding pictures which puts across this idea of training the mind really well.

There's some beautiful bird song at the moment as I write this. 

I was reflecting on how music is all about change. I do like music. Sometimes if my energy is low I put on my headphones and listen to some music, and that can help uplift me a bit. It Is interesting how music has that effect on the mind. Sometimes when I get an earworm after listening to music, I will meditate on the ear worm and it grows clearer and more otherworldly. A bit like when one pictures a sight they've seen in their mind's eye and it becomes more sharper and colourful. For any readers who are wondering what an earworm is. An earworm is when a piece of music keeps looping over and over in the mind after one has listened to it often. It is not an actual worm that lives in the ear. It is a metaphor for when you can't get a tune out of your head. Although why a worm is used as a metaphor for this I couldn't say for sure.

I have decided to keep writing my blog. I also feel like the devas (shining ones/angels) are encouraging me to keep writing it. It seems to help me. Something about attempting to articulate what I am learning helps me remember and understand it better and absorb the knowledge.




Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Love's vessel

Visible to anyone in the world


The heavy baggage of the ego.

Full of compulsive,
wants,
demands,
and criticisms.

These restless involuntary movements of the mind.
That lead to confusion,
delusion,
and a whole mountain of suffering in the end,
all for just a teacup of pleasure,
made of fragile bone-china.

When one sees 
That everything we cling to
Is empty of self.
One lets go and
That psychic energy is freed up
Available,
Unbounded,
Limitless,
Empty of conceit. 
Serene and
Boundless.

The compulsions cease,
and there is peace... ah..

Then the self returns.
And one gets deluded once more.
Caught up in the things of the world.
Swept this way and that by the changing winds.
Pain and pleasure,
Gain and loss,
Success and failure,
Fame and disrepute.
These are the eight wordly winds.

Then one sees again that it is stress,
Understands this is suffering,
Remembers. 
The emptiness of self.
Lets go of the trash
Sweeps it aside
All that silly nonsense.
Returns to calm
Composure
Centred
Lucid 
One wakes up from the self-centred dream.

And there is cessation, relief, a moment of bliss.
No longer driven, one rests in peace.

Till thwarted again
by one's past conditioning.
The ego pops back up
like a jack-in-a-box.

Rinse and repeat.

This is the work of purifying the mind
of greed,
hate
and delusion.

It can take lifetimes for some.

But as mindfulness develops,
And one's ability to calm and centre the mind gets stronger.
The untangling gets easier.

And through it all one must not strain,
just the right amount of effort is needed.
Just what you can
The best you got,
At your pace.
That's enough
That will get the work done,
not too tight,
not too loose,
gradually,
patiently,
gently.
One steers one's course through the middle way,
avoiding the extremes.
Centred, composed.
Let love be your compass.

When one realises that nothing is personal.
One's sense of humour returns.
One stops taking it all so seriously.
One feels at peace.
And from that freedom,
joy naturally rises,
Independent of the world.

And love rises too.

Unbound
A greater love.
A love without conditions attached to it.
An unselfish love.
A love without a trace of the conceit 'I am'.

The happiest, most beautiful love of all. 

A vessel emptied of self
can manifest that.

...

Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Renunciation

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 7 May 2023, 15:13

The world, our attachments, our needs and desires, our pain and resentments come from the self. To get caught up in the things of the world is to get caught up in the delusion of self. All our problems come from this. It is the origin of suffering.

Pain and pleasure, success and failure, gain and loss, praise and blame. These are the eight worldly winds that can never bring happiness, because they change, sometimes quite suddenly. They bring doubt, uncertainty, confusion and instability. They are treacherous, and hard to navigate. They will betray you. The winds will blow in one direction only to suddenly change and blow in the other direction. One cannot find stability, certainty or any lasting peace and happiness if one relies on the worldly winds.

At their source is the conceit I am.

The ignorance, I am this. I am that. I want this. I don't want that. I want to become this. I do not want to become that. I want this to exist. But I do not want that to exist. I want things to be this way, but not that way.

This 'I' is the problem.

It is oneself that is the root of suffering. The craving, the greed, hate, and delusion spring from the self. They take root and grow in it.

What is true renunciation?

It is not so much renunciation of the outer world, although this can make the work of freeing the mind much easier. To be homeless, or a monastic, to live simply, this frees one from the burdens of the household life so one can focus wholeheartedly on the work of liberating the mind.

But true renunciation comes from the heart. It is the inner world bound up in the delusion of self that must be renounced, this is what leads to the end of suffering. Renunciation of the self.

When the self is fully seen through, then so is the world. All the problems in the world have at their root the conceit I am. When the truth of self is fully revealed, fully understood. All things become known then, nothing is hidden. One stops clinging, identifying, judging. Doesn't take things personally. Resentments and longing subside. The truth sets one free. The fetters fall away. The story of self ceases. The involuntary movements of the mind stop. And what is left is peace.

The worldly winds may blow then, but one is unshaken, unperturbed by them. Like the story of the three pigs and the wolf. As much as Mara may huff and puff and try to blow your house down, it does not fall. Unwholesome desires should they arise, will instantly cease. For there is nowhere left in the mind for them to take root. The soil of the ego is not there any more.

One becomes a tathagatha then 'thus gone' no longer to be found anywhere, in any of the worlds.

Gone beyond it all, freed, unbound, no longer a subject of Mara. And wherever Mara looks he will not be able to locate the consciousness of one who has seen through the conceit I am.

...
Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Vesak day

Visible to anyone in the world


I am planning on meditating all night tonight, by myself under a beautiful old tree in some ancient woodland. In honour of the Buddha, and to celebrate Vesak day which happens to be on my birthday this year because of the full moon. So it feels like an auspicious night. Fifth day of the week, on the fifth day of the month, on the fifth month of the year.

 A wee bit afraid because the woods can feel a bit spooky in the dark when you are by yourself, also I haven't spent all night in meditation before. I will practise metta (loving-kindness meditation) to start to help bring good energy to the area around me. It is a lovely quiet spot with a good vibe, no sound of cars, no people, lots of pleasant breezes, no biting insects, or dangerous animals. I feel very fortunate to live near such a tranquil place.

It feels like a golden opportunity, and is just one evening of my life. Losing out on some sleep is worth it I think. Many Buddhists in different parts of the world will be celebrating tonight, remembering when the Buddha himself sat under a tree in May on a full moon and got enlightened over 2500 years ago. So I imagine there will be good energy from that. I will sit in honour of his memory, and make a real effort to practise samhadi this evening. And dedicate the practise to all beings everywhere, with the wish for all of us to be free from suffering, free from sorrow, to know peace of mind, serenity and wellbeing wherever we are.

I also feel inspired by stories I've read of others in the past who spent all night meditating under a tree and gained liberation from suffering. I will think of them all to help keep me going. And I will think of my friends, and imagine their energy like a protective loving circle around me, keeping me safe.

I have no expectations, and I'm not attached to any outcomes. But I will have a go, give it my best shot, without straining the mind. 

Whatever happens tonight, I think it will be a good learning experience for me. 

May all beings be safe, well, happy, and peaceful.

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 7 May 2023, 14:57)
Share post
Asoka

Earth kasina

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 2 May 2023, 21:21


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

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

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

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

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

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

It felt like a taste of freedom. 

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


Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Allow yourself to be misunderstood

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 1 May 2023, 16:44


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.
 
People will always judge and compare, it's human nature, and worrying too much about one's image, about pleasing others, will make one an unhappy prisoner of the worldly winds: praise and blame, gain and loss, success and failure, pain and pleasure. These winds are outside of our control. They blow one direction, only to then suddenly change and blow in the other direction. You will never find a secure happiness if it depends on the worldly winds.
 
I have made it part of my sāsana (spiritual practise) to deliberately fail at times. And then I watch what the mind does when I fail. Watch the ego machinery whirring away. The inner critic. See how it works, what it does. What makes it tick. The conditioning. Use failure as a way to learn how to be okay when things go wrong, to not be attached to outcomes. Find that centred feeling within that doesn't depend on anything outside myself. A place where I can shrug my shoulders and let things be. Develop equanimity.
 
I will allow myself to be misunderstood by others, without feeling the need to correct them if they get me wrong. And not take anything personally. After all, there isn't a person there to take things personally, and there never was (-:
 
If others get me wrong, I know the truth, and that's what counts. My spirit friends also know the truth, and so does Mother Earth. She is my witness. She has seen the things I do, the beings I have helped during my life here. She knows what is in my heart. If I remember this, another's misunderstanding about me is no big deal really. My virtue remains intact.
 
Obviously, I will behave appropriately and do no wrong, live a moral life, show kindness and generosity where I can. But I can't please everyone, and it is tiring trying to. I don't need validation from others to feel inner peace. That is a gift I give to myself, and no one else can give it to me.
 
...
 

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 2 May 2023, 20:51)
Share post
Asoka

Kingdom of heaven

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 30 Apr 2023, 22:22


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.


Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Meditation and enlightenment

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 28 Apr 2023, 17:20

There's a breath meditation I have been practising lately which I enjoy. It seems to have some health benefits as well, and is effective at flushing out the five hindrances (worldly-desire, ill-will, stagnation, restlessness, and doubt). When those unpleasant states of mind are no longer present, it brings a feeling of relief, and the body feels lighter, freer, and clearer. Joy naturally arises from an unhindered mind and this leads to samhadi. 

I practise this either sitting or standing in a comfortable upright position.

And, to quote the suttas, I: 'Put aside longing and dejection in regard to the world.' I give myself permission to put down that heavy suitcase for a moment. Disengage from the story of self with its longing and angst.

I become mindful of the feeling of the feet on the ground, the Earth below, feel the connection to the Earth, feel it as boundless in all directions. Centre with the perception of Earth. It's stability, strength and solidity. I feel it ground me, and absorb the uncomfortable excess energies of the mind, balancing them out. Earthing myself. I imagine roots going out of my feet into the ground below.

On the in-breath I draw energy up through my feet, legs, the torso, up the length of my spine. The energy illuminating the sensations of the body as it makes its way upwards. When it reaches the top of the head. I feel the connection to boundless sky above, and the air element all around. Then on the out-breath I release that energy and let it fall like rain, like a sprinkler or a fountain down across and through the entire body, all the way back to the feet and down into the Earth again. Lighting up the sensations of the body as it does.

On the next in-breath I rinse and repeat the instructions in the paragraph above.

I do this for as long as feels good. Then when it feels natural to do so, I stop moving the energy up and down the body and feel all the sensations in the body together at once. Feel them get more vivid and stronger with each breath.

The body at this point feels very comfortable and at ease, pleasant, and easy to centre with. The breath starts to slow, and can get very shallow, until it seems like the breath stops altogether and then there is a profound stillness that is hard to put into words, where the sense of self disappears. It is like being in a deep refuge within, a safe inner cave, where the energies of life continue around one, but one is unconcerned by them, there's a feeling of deep contentment and peace and a feeling of not wanting to be anywhere else. The mind feels unified, together, whole, but awareness is still present, one is lucid, it is not a hypnotic trance.

It wears off after a time, and then to get back there one repeats the steps above to build the momentum up again. I find I don't need to spend as long building up the momentum the second time round, and can get back easier to the stillness on subsequent goes. Each time the experience of the inner body becomes deeper and more and more exquisite.

If you get it right, you will come out of it and feel on top of the world, and you'll have a great day. Everything will feel like it's in sync. There is an after glow that can last a while, depending on how long you have spent meditating.

The after glow does wear off as the day goes on, and the hindrances return. One notices when they do, as it feels unpleasant. The hard part then is convincing yourself to meditate again.

One can keep the afterglow going for longer by practising mindfulness in everyday activity. Known as sati-sampajanna, mindfulness and clear comprehension (knowing). Where one is aware of what one is doing, the body, what sensations are present, how one feels, anchored in the inner experience of the body. But also aware of what is happening around one in the present moment with one's peripheral awareness.

We have two brain hemispheres. One hemisphere likes to focus on something in detail, and the other hemisphere is more holistic and provides context to the detail, it looks at the bigger picture, and what is happening in the background. It probably evolved this way, so that one didn't get eaten by a predator whilst focused on a task such as gathering food. One side of the brain is focused on the food, and the other side of the brain is watching for danger. Like a deer eating grass.

One can find a refuge in this mindfulness during the day, and even go into a light state of absorption and flow with it. It can be helpful to notice and play around with these two different kinds of awareness. Tweaking them so that they have a good balance that feels pleasant to work with.

There can sometimes be resistance in the mind to meditate. Some part of the mind may even try to convince you that you don't deserve to feel serenity or joy. It will insist on going over your faults and past mistakes, make you feel worthless and ashamed. Don't let that bossy part of the mind bully you. You don't have to keep listening to that voice. You are allowed to ignore the inner critic. After all it is you!

The less attention you pay to that voice the weaker it gets.

There is something called a healthy sense of shame though, that one can use as a tool to help dismiss negative thoughts if they arise, and not hold onto them. Such as imagining what a person you respect and admire might think if they saw you in an unwholesome state of mind. That can help generate the desire to abandon it and generate something more wholesome instead. No need to judge and punish yourself for having those thoughts though, that's overly excessive. Once the healthy sense of shame has done its work, stop, put the tool down and focus on the good stuff.

If you get caught up in that quagmire of negativity. And if it is strongly present in the mind, and hard to ignore. Try to bring yourself out of it gradually in stages. But don't spend too long doing it, don't engage in lengthy debates with the hindrances. Don't spend any longer dealing with them than you need to. It is like putting out the trash, you don't want to hold onto the trash for any longer than necessary, just get it done with so you can get back to the good stuff, back to the peace and serenity, to the love.

Love and serenity makes everyone feel better, it heals the world. It is actually the best thing you can do to help yourself and others. It is easier to deal with the world in a serene state of consciousness, as things won't seem so overwhelming. It is hard to deal with anything when in a negative state of mind. So it is a good thing to take some time out and retreat from the world to meditate, it isn't selfish.

In fact I am starting to think that meditation is the key to going beyond the first stage of enlightenment. Apparently people can get stuck at the first stage of enlightenment for a long time, as long as seven more lifetimes.

I think this is because the next fetters to go are greed and aversion. And these are hard to let go of. The second stage of enlightenment is all about weakening those. Greed in particular is very hard to overcome, but it is a lesser stain on the personality than aversion is.

Greed here refers not just to the extreme of billionaires, but also its milder forms, such as eating more than one intended to, craving for entertainment, sex, intoxicants, fame, fortune, luxuries and so on. The attachment to worldy-pleasures is hard to let go of, and doesn't go completely till one reaches the third stage of enlightenment. The mind won't want to let go of wordly pleasure unless it has something better to take its place. When the mind finds something better then it naturally lets go. And when greed goes, so does aversion. Greed and aversion are interlinked, they both feed into one another. They are like two dogs, one barks and it sets the other one off. There is always going to be aversion present when there is longing. Such as impatience and irritability when there are delays in getting what one wants. 

I think what weakens greed and aversion is the practise of meditation, and the development of samhadi. When meditation becomes pleasurable, enjoyable and a richer experience than anything the world can offer. The two fetters of greed and aversion will get weaker, and keep getting weaker until eventually they fall away altogether. I think the second stage of enlightenment is all about mastering samhadi.

Once one reaches the third stage of enlightenment there is no going back to greed or aversion ever again, those two fetters are gone for good and they will never arise again. At the third stage one then works to lose attachment to the bliss of samhadi, which paradoxically is needed to reach this stage. So one should not be afraid of becoming attached to the pleasure of deep meditation in earlier stages, thinking they should avoid that fetter. It is a golden chain, but a necessary one, as one cannot completely overcome greed and aversion without it. The Buddha said it was a pleasure not to be feared.

If one dies whilst at this stage, in the next life they will be reborn in the higher heavens and gain full enlightenment there, and are never again born into this world. They live extremely long lives and many of them become protectors of Buddhism, like celestial Buddhas. They are very powerful beings, and are able to visit any of the lower worlds at will and can take on many different forms. Many are compassionate beings and help those in the lower worlds who are on the path to enlightenment, including the Buddha himself on his journey. It was a deva that had reached the third stage of enlightenment under a previous Buddha who appeared before Gotama Buddha after his enlightenment to encourage him to teach the dhamma out of compassion for the world.

I think these devas/spirits work in very subtle ways though, one may not even realise they are being helped by them. They don't directly interfere, and cannot make anyone become enlightened; but they can leave subtle hints, and gently guide one's intuition, set up helpful encounters, to steer us in the right direction. And if one looks back on one's life, there are moments that are hard to explain, and one wonders if a deva perhaps helped in some way. Who knows, I like to think so.

To reach the fourth and final stage of enlightenment, the attachment to blissful states of meditation is let go of, when one sees that these states are also subject to change, do not last, and are not self, the last remnants of the conceit I am disappears. The idea of a separate self is seen through completely, and when that happens the restless involuntary movements of the mind stop altogether and they never arise again, and there is perfect peace.

The very last fetter to go is ignorance, (or delusion). When one fully realises delusion, one becomes the one who knows, no part of the mind is hidden then. One is lucid and serene, completely free from suffering, dwelling in a state of lasting emotional well-being. They still partake in the pleasure of meditation though, as often as they wish to, whenever they wish to, as it is one of the fruits of the path, one of the seven factors of enlightenment, and available to them any time they want, the Buddha continued to practise meditation and samhadi throughout his life.

A fully enlightened being also naturally shines with love and compassion for all beings. And although not everyone is able to teach, those that can teach, and have capacity for it, in the spirit of the Buddha, do teach others and it is not a chore for them to do so, it is a joy. An unharrassed mind naturally feels empathy and compassion for other beings. It is a sorrowless empathy, one that shows love to those that are suffering, but does not suffer with them. The peace of a fully enlightened being is undisturbed by anything that happens in the world. They do not cling to anything in the world. This doesn't mean they won't do things to help the world out of compassion for others, just they are not attached to outcomes, and do not suffer when things don't go to plan.

Knowing about the four stages of enlightenment can be a helpful guide to where one is at, and what work needs to be done to develop further on the path. One can look at the mind and see which fetters are still present, and what one needs to do to progress.



Permalink
Share post
Asoka

The inner cave

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 13 Apr 2023, 10:49


I am a bit fatigued at the moment, and recovering from an illness I had earlier in the week, which is getting better now. The dark night has returned somewhat. But this time it is less painful than before. Mainly because I am understanding the process a bit better now and am more aware of what is going on with the mind, less ignorant. Normally I would be depressed during this difficult mind state, but this time despite a heavy fatigue there is a distinct absence of sadness and sorrow. When it arises, the mind is quick to dismiss it and it doesn't take root. The inner critic pops up occasionally, but the mind is quick to dismiss that too. I think I am understanding now at a deep level that negativity doesn't help the situation, and I seem to be shooting myself less with the second arrow. I.e. not adding mental suffering on top of the physical suffering.


This is almost certainly because I am getting better at becoming still and centred, which I can do now even when I am experiencing bodily and mental fatigue. Without the thinking and stories we tell ourselves about our experience, the suffering decreases. One can also play around with perceptions by changing the way one talks to oneself about things. But mostly practising samhadi has the effect of calming down excess thought energies, allowing me to go below the surface level of consciousness and go deep within, take refuge in the core of my being. My inner cave. 

The inner cave I am learning is the place to go when things feel dark and one feels vulnerable and weak. It renews one, it is almost like going into the womb again, you stay there for as long as you need and when you emerge from it, it is like a rebirth. Like a cocoon. A place where the self dissolves and the energies of the world continues outside but you are still and unaffected by it all, at peace in the centre of your being. When you emerge you are different. I wonder if this is because deep mind needs to process information at times, and there isn't much for one to do in those moments except be still, and be patient while the mind rewires itself based on the new information and insights into the nature of reality it has seen. There's a time for effort, a time for doing, and a time to be still.

I have also been learning about kundalini yoga from a book I got. I have always been drawn to this, although know very little about it, have more intuitively practised it. Kundalini feels like an old friend. She keeps me safe and feels like my protector at times, she often helps me out when I am struggling or feeling lonely. She encourages me on the spiritual path; but also gently reminds me to be humble if I am getting conceited (-: She also reminds me of love, and the beautiful emotions.

I am not so into the Hindu aspects of kundalini yoga. I tend to filter those bits out and just take what I find helpful from the practice, as I do with any teachings I learn - be my own refuge.

Lately I am finding at the beginning of a meditation session, it feels good to focus on the chakras, on the life force energy, and move that energy around the body. It is intimately connected to the breath I find. For me, this practice is very helpful, it gives the mind something to do at the start of a meditation session when it might be a bit restless. And it is something challenging and engaging enough to generate interest, curiosity and wonder in meditation, which draws the attention away from the thoughts and into the body. It feels enjoyable, and healing and invigorating. In fact, I am sure it was me practising this while lying in bed feeling sick that helped me recover quicker than normal from my illness.

There comes a point when the mind naturally stops moving the energy about the body, and it feels satisfied, balanced, and at ease. The body feels very pleasant and comfortable. And one feels very together and lucid, and content to just rest in whole body awareness and become very still and serene.

The chakras and kundalini has always felt real to me, and when the chakras feel cleared out, the energy of the body really does feel much better, cleaner and brighter, much less weighed down, lighter, more ethereal. When walking outside afterwards it almost feels like the air element passes right through me, like the matter of this body has become less dense. It is hard to put into words.

I think holding onto negative energies makes the body feel coarser, heavier. As many of our stresses and woes, our angst and longing gets stored there. The good news is we don't have to hold onto the negativity. We are allowed to let go of it, and nothing bad happens when we do. Yes, the process of purification can be painful and unpleasant at times, it is not fun to face the shadow self and all the myriad contradictory selves; but it is worth it when you come through the other side and you are no longer being weighed down by it all.

Nobody can do it for us. We have to give ourselves permission to stop holding on to the cause of our suffering. Much of which comes from longing, resentment, and identifying with things.

It is easier to do this when coming from the place of lucid serenity that samhadi brings. Stillness really is a great help when going through the dark night.


Permalink
Share post
Asoka

The Natural Elements in Meditation

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 5 Apr 2023, 14:44


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

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

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

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


Here is the link to the talks on YouTube: 

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


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

Peace and metta


Permalink
Share post

This blog might contain posts that are only visible to logged-in users, or where only logged-in users can comment. If you have an account on the system, please log in for full access.

Total visits to this blog: 404514