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Sickness Became my Teacher When I Changed my Perception About it

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 30 Sep 2023, 22:24


They say the body is a temple. I contemplate this as I sit here in stillness, connecting with the aliveness within. This mysterious vibrating energy. This interdependent flow. It's a causal stream that's different from one moment to the next. Physics tells us that energy is neither created nor destroyed. It just changes form.

A crow 'caws' in a nearby tree. And some jackdaws 'chack' excitedly. A pigeon coos. And a neighbour drives past in their car. All these are different expressions of life.

The air feels cool and refreshing. Each breath an intimate connection to the air element and also to life. Without air, we soon die.

I am sick today. The body feels weak and fatigued. There's a fever, and a thorny bush in my chest and throat. And I notice that wishing for the illness to go away just makes things feel worse. It adds mental suffering on top of the physical.

---

"When touched with a feeling of pain, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. And he feels two pains, physical & mental. Just as if someone were to shoot a man with an arrow, and right afterward, the man shoots himself with another one, so that he would feel the pains of two arrows; in the same way, when touched with a feeling of pain, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. So he feels two pains, physical & mental." - SN 36.6

---

I can't do much about physical suffering, but the mental suffering I do have some degree of control over. I have the ability to change the way I talk to myself about the experience. Doing this can have a powerful effect on the mind. The stories I tell myself have the power to alter my perception. And perception is the bridge between the physical and the mental.

I can tell myself not to let this experience be a problem. There's not much I can do about it anyway, so what's the point in adding more suffering on top of it. I can just let these unpleasant feelings in the body be as they are and not take them personally. Choose not to feel any hostility towards them. I can choose to be compassionate towards myself instead and show kindness to the body. It is nothing personal. All living beings get sick. It is a dhamma that is largely outside my control.

---

When you can't do anything to change what is happening.
Challenge yourself to change your response to what's happening.
That's where your power is. '
- the Buddha

---

I can choose to let that which is sensed be only that which is sensed. Without labels, without the story. It just becomes sensations and feelings then. And I can go into a flow state just sitting here and watching them arise, persist for a time, and pass away. Like someone sitting serenely on a riverbank under a tree. Watching the contents of the mind flow by like a river. But not jumping in and getting involved with it, not getting swept away by the current.

Being sick is not my preference, but we're seldom given those in life. We have to work with the hand the universe has dealt us. And most of us get a pretty average hand. But still, we have to make choices. Life is the game that must be played.

Some people's gardens are rockier than others, but rock gardens can be beautiful.

We each have to do the best we can with what we've got.

And those who are given much have a great responsibility to use what they have been given wisely.

Be careful what you wish for.

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A wee fairy glade

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A photo of some woodland.

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Calm mind

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 24 May 2023, 20:44


" What is commonly referred to as a ‘calm mind’ or a ‘mind integrated in samādhi’ is a state of inner stability that is no longer associated with the meditation object, which merely prepared the mind by holding it steady. Once the mind has entered into samādhi, there exists enough momentum for the mind to remain in this state of calm, independent of the preparatory object, whose function is temporarily discontinued while the mind rests peacefully.

Later on, when the mind withdraws from samādhi, one can focus attention on a dhamma theme (Buddhist teachings). When this is practiced consistently with dedication and sustained effort, a mind long steeped in dukkha (stress, suffering, dissatisfaction) will gradually awaken to its own potential and abandon its unskillful ways. The struggle to tame the mind, which one experiences in the beginning stages of training, will be replaced by a keen interest in the task at hand. "

- Ajaan Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno (Acariya Mun - A spiritual biography)


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Mind watching

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 27 Mar 2023, 21:11

Another handy tool I am using a lot more lately is single-pointed attention, for when the energies of the mind start to get a bit intense throughout the day. It is a handy tool, and it does help to calm down frenetic thought energies. Moments of single-pointed attention can help slow the mind down, and then it is easier to replace negative thoughts with ones of love and equanimity instead. 

At the moment I like practising staying with the breath, either at the nostrils, or the whole body breathing as one. I really like the air element (-: Whatever comes up that isn't the breath, I just set it aside like its useless rubbish and return to the breath and go deep into the mind with it like I am uncovering a precious jewel beneath all the rubbish.

Sometimes I label the intrusive thoughts as greed, hate, or delusion, or just say: 'I see you Mara.' Using the term 'Mara' as a catch-all for the defilements in the mind. And then I just stop following them, and centre attention back with the breath. 

Sometimes if I get it right, I can find a peaceful empty place deep in the centre of the mind, like a cave, and it feels safe to go there, the energies of the mind become like the rain falling outside, and I am not affected by them. Or it feels like I am sitting on the ocean floor and way above me is the surface of the water, like the surface level of the mind, constantly moving as it ripples and changes, but I am far below it, perfectly still and at ease like a contented rock.

Another technique I learnt at a retreat recently, is to use the word 'mind' to watch the mind. You just keep repeating the word 'mind' over and over in the mind (-: I know it sounds like a tongue twister. One uses the word 'mind' as a reminder that one is watching the mind. 

One keeps centring one's attention with the word 'mind' and as one does this, one watches the process of thought making. Any distracting thoughts that arise just push them aside using the thought 'mind'. 

As one repeatedly says the word 'mind', one uses it as a tool to get to the source of thoughts, how they are generated, where they come from. Keep pushing away the distracting thoughts that arise like water sprouting out of a fountain and go deep and look for the source of the water in the fountain. What is it that keeps generating these thoughts? Keep intending to go deeper, and keep looking for the source.

 It feels hidden at first, like an inpenetrable blackness that thoughts just mysteriously bubble out of. But after a while and lengthy practise, you start to see the intentions behind the thoughts, and if you go deeper still there is craving. One can watch the less intrusive thoughts that bubble up in peripheral awareness, and as one does, one can start to see that they are sankharas, mental formations created from repeated intentions in the past, that have now developed their own momentum and energy, and become habits. And as you go deeper, it is like going back in time, and more of what was hidden previously starts to become visible and one's awareness of the mind grows.

 If saying the word 'mind' over and over gets tiring, which it can. Just have a rest and practise breath meditation, till one feels settled and calm enough to start watching the mind again.

Eventually one can let go of repeatedly thinking the word 'mind' and no longer need to use an anchor to watch the mind. Like someone sitting serenely under a tree watching a stream flow by in front of them. The stream in this metaphor is the contents of the mind, and one remains at ease, and still, anchored in deep composure, watching the contents of the mind as they flow and change. Not clinging to any of it, just watching without reacting to it or getting involved in it. And as one does this, one starts to see that the mind is always changing, that it is inconstant, impermanent.

 This is a kind of samhadi, not as deep as jhana, but it is a pleasant and empowering state of mind and insightful. Occasionally one gets distracted by the contents of the mind, and without realising it, one has waded into the stream and started identifying with it all again and is getting swept away by the currents of longing and aversion. Don't stress, it happens, depending on how long one has been caught up in the contents of the mind, one may need to go back to the breath or repeating the word 'mind' to bring some stillness and composure back. 


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Samatha and vipassana

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 22 Mar 2023, 14:54

Learning that meditation is a mix of samhadi and insight, they are not really separate practises, but part of the same practise. Two sides of the same coin. A lucid serenity.

Sometimes the mind is in the deep stillness and peace of samhadi, and sometimes it is investigating, learning, knowing, clearly-seeing, comprehending. They work together to purify the mind. 

I remember hearing in a dhamma talk that the Buddha said samatha (serenity) and vipassana (clear-seeing) are the two trusted messengers to admit into the city of consciousness. But there are also five trouble-makers to keep out of the city. These are: greed, ill-will, stagnation, agitation, and doubt. If those get into consciousness, it will become disturbed.

So one keeps out the five hindrances. And welcomes in the two trusted messengers.

Who is the guard at the gate? It is mindfulness.

I heard in another dhamma talk that a fully enlightened being may still experience longing and aversion in the mind, but the difference between them and someone who isn't enlightened, is that although greed and anger may occasionally arise for them, there is nowhere in the mind for it to land and take root. So nothing becomes of it.

There are sensations: sights, sounds, tastes, smells, touch, ideas and thoughts. And they feel either pleasant or unpleasant. We like the pleasant feelings, and dislike the unpleasant ones. This leads to craving for more of what we like and less of what we dislike. But if we can let go of it before it becomes the stories we tell ourselves about this and that. Before we identify with it and cling to it, before it becomes a sankhara. Perhaps that is the non-grasping or non-clinging part. 

Eventually the art of non-clinging or letting go gathers a momentum of its own, becomes a powerful sankhara, continually weakening the hold of the defilements: greed, hate, and delusion on the mind. Till eventually the fetters are broken for good, and then there is cessation, freedom from suffering.






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Stilling my way out of this

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 8 Mar 2023, 15:38

A lot of my problems seem to come from mental fabrications. I.e. too much thinking. 

I keep reminding myself of this when things get dark during the unpleasant process of purification. This is not an intellectual matter. I cannot think my way out of this. I still my way out of this. 

What's needed now is to stop paying attention to thoughts, to the mood, and practise single pointed attention on a meditation object instead. Not too tight a focus and not too loose, a gentle focus that can comfortably stay centred with the object of meditation without straining the mind.

At first one has to endure the taints, the greed, aversion, dullness, restlessness, scepticism (aka the five hindrances). Through it all, sit as upright and still as possible, like the Buddha under the Bodhi tree. Without judging anything that is happening, just mindful and bringing attention back to the meditation object and keeping it there, doing this over and over, calming the body, steadying the mind. 

I use different meditation objects at different times, sometimes its the breath, other times space, other times the body, the life energy (kundalini), the emotion of metta, the perception of light, warmth, cold, a primary colour, a sound, a mantra, one of the four primary elements, there's many different meditation objects, whatever meditation object feels like a good fit at the time and holds my interest. 

After a time, the composure deepens and the senses start to settle and calm down, the thoughts fade, dissolve,and the mind becomes more and more centred, more composed and unified around the meditation object, and then secluded from the five hindrances one drops into a pleasant serenity, and this connects one with a deeper part of being, a safe place below the surface level of thoughts. Like an inner refuge. 

 It involves patience at first. One has to endure the five hindrances, endure the taints, the impurities of the mind, the longing, aversion, and delusion, the crazy thoughts, let them be, and just sit as still as possible, anchoring attention with the meditation object. It can take more than one sitting sometimes before it reaches serenity. 

I did have a powerful meditation experience though which encouraged me to keep at this. Where I reached such a state of stillness and composure that afterwards the darkness was gone, and I was in a completely different mood, like I was glowing. It showed me that this is indeed the way out of the dark night. Stillness, samhadi and equanimity. 


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Artificial hallucinations, propaganda, and flow

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 27 Feb 2023, 13:00

An AI hallucination is when an artificial intelligence behaves in a way that deviates from what would be considered normal or expected based on the input it receives.
 
Machine learning can hallucinate when the data it is trained on is noisy, incomplete, or biased. It can also hallucinate when it encounters something different from what it has learnt about before.
 
AI hallucinations can be dangerous, they can lead to erroneous decisions being made, inaccurate predictions, and can even lead to dangerous situations, like for example an hallucinating self-driving vehicle; or the spread of misinformation via the media, such as an AI generating realistic images of people or events that never occurred.
 
This last example highlights the potential for A.I. to be deliberately misused in order to spread disinformation and manipulate public opinion. So the time is coming where people will have to be extra mindful, extra vigilant and practise critical thinking when consuming media. Fact check everything and be careful not to jump to erroneous conclusions based on anything you read, see, or hear on a digital device.
 
It might be wise to find time in the day to withdraw from digital devices and the media, and look after our mental health. Do something creative instead. Meditate, find ways to get into a flow state. Learn how to calm down the thought energies, and have a rest from it all.
 
Flow states are beneficial and can help bring some lucidity and calm to the mind, which can help us think better and see things more clearly. It is important to do this now more than ever I think, to learn how to get calm and centred. To have moments where we withdraw from the world and develop some serenity, composure and clear seeing.
 
Hopefully then it will be harder to be misled and deceived by those who may not have our best interests at heart; and also perhaps a way to flow peacefully with what is now a surreal and rapidly changing world.
 

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Managing difficult moods

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 21 Feb 2023, 15:25

I woke up today and the 'dark night' had returned. So strange, because I was sure it had gone away yesterday. But I was in a really difficult mood this morning. Once again my attempts at right effort were mocked and overridden by unpleasant and distracting thoughts.

 When there is a difficult mood present in the mind, the thoughts are coloured by this mood, and thinking actually makes things worse. There are moods that one cannot intellectually think their way out of.

Thought in itself is not evil, it can be a useful tool, and the ability to reflect and contemplate is important in studying and development. But when it is always going on constantly, it can be tiring and become a source of suffering. The thoughts are closely tied to whatever mood you are in, they are shaped by it, and there are some moods that are not helped by thinking.

There might be a little voice that says: 'you must think about this, this needs to be looked at, this is important.' And it makes you feel restless and agitated. It's almost like thoughts are tyrants made out of word formations. They don't stop making demands, and they never give you a moment to rest and be still; but that is exactly what one needs to be doing when the mood is like this. 

For me personally, I have to give myself permission to withdraw from the thought processes, and from the world also, and not feel guilty for doing this. Give myself the permission to not have to think about anything at all and just become still. Nothing bad happens when we stop thinking about stuff. If anything it is a relief. We do it every night when we go to sleep.

But just sitting somewhere quietly may not bring stillness straight away, especially if the mind is agitated and restless, so one also has to be patient with the difficult mood. This is where a bit of endurance is needed. It can sometimes take a while for one to drop into serenity and composure. And the mood might not go away fully after just one sitting. When this happens, one can at least notice if the negativity is reduced somewhat after the sitting, and if it is, then one knows they are going in the right direction, and it is working. The mood may have to be calmed down in stages, gradually, and it may take more than one sitting to get there.

Find somewhere quiet, away from the world and others, sit as still as you can with an upright dignified posture. And be in the body as it is, experiencing the sensations as they arise and cease in the here and now, let the thoughts continue, but don't pay attention to them, let them be like background noise, and just stay with the peace and quiet of the body and breath. If the attention goes back to the thoughts, try not to get stressed, it happens to us all, just gently bring the attention back to the body and breath, to the here and now. In time, the thoughts start to become less sticky, and the attention is not easily distracted by them, and then the energies start to calm down, the mind settles and composure returns.

One can find stillness in walking meditation too, especially if one has been sitting down for a long while, such as a livelihood that involves sitting at a desk. Practising walking or standing meditation can bring relief from that. Being present with the feeling of the feet on the ground, the feeling of the legs, the arms, the hands, the body as a whole standing, walking. The feeling of air currents on the skin, in the nostrils, feeling the breath energy go deep down into the belly. Notice the different parts of the body, the sensations happening in the here and now. Go somewhere private away from the energies of other humans, so you can spend some time alone, by yourself away from the hustle and bustle of the world and digital devices, someplace where you don't have to do any talking, and you can just be still. 

Sometimes others may make demands on our time, and the world can be stressful and there are things that need to be attended to. But when you are in a difficult mood, it is better to withdraw from whatever you are doing, withdraw from the world, withdraw from the thinking, and seek stillness instead.

Sometimes you may have to tell others that you are unable to deal with their request just now. That you need some solitude to look after your mental health; it does feel rude, like one is being selfish, and some people do take it personally and they can get resentful, and this is unpleasant; but, if one doesn't, one can end up saying and doing things they regret, because when one's mood is off, one is not in the best state of mind to deal with things. So one should give oneself permission to be assertive about the need for stillness and quiet, and not feel guilty about it. It is essential.

In Ajahn Sona’s YouTube Q&A livestream on Sunday evening, he answered a question about the “dark night” and advice on how to manage difficult moods.

Here is the link, for anyone who is interested:

 https://www.youtube.com/live/BPZzPm-cxbo?feature=share&t=380  (it is about 6:20 into the broadcast,link opens in new window/tab).

 There may be others out there who find his answer helpful. 

Peace and metta to everyone.





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The Very Short Sutra on the Meeting of the Buddha and the Goddess

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 25 May 2022, 18:07



" This I have made up:

       Once the Buddha was walking along the

forest path in the Oak Grove at Ojai, walking without

arriving anywhere

or having any thought of arriving or not arriving

and lotuses shining with the morning dew

miraculously appeared under each step

soft as silk under the toes of the Buddha

When suddenly, out of the turquoise sky,

dancing in front of his half-shut inward-looking

eyes, shimmering like a rainbow

or a spider's web

transparent as the dew on a lotus flower

--the Goddess appeared quivering

like a hummingbird in the air before him

She, for she was surely a she

as the Buddha could clearly see

with his eye of discriminating awareness wisdom,

was mostly red in color

though when the light shifted

she flashed like a rainbow

She was naked except

for the usual flower ornaments

Goddesses wear.

Her long hair

was deep blue, her two eyes fathomless pits of space

and her third eye a bloodshot

ring of fire.

The Buddha folded his hands together

and greeted the Goddess thus:

"O Goddess, why are you blocking my path.

Before I saw you I was happily going nowhere.

Now I'm not sure where I want to go."

"You can go around me."

said the Goddess, twirling on her heels like a bird

darting away, "or you can come after me.

This is my forest too,

you can't pretend that I'm not here."

With that the Buddha sat

    supple as a snake

    solid as a rock

beneath a Bo tree

    that had sprang full-leaved

    to shade him.

"Perhaps we should have a chat,"

he said.

    After years of arduous practice

at the time of the morning star

I penetrated reality, and now..."

"Not so fast, Buddha.

I am reality."

The Earth stood still,

the oceans paused,

the wind itself listened

--a thousand arhats, bodhisattva, and dakinis

magically appeared to hear

what would happen in the conversation.

"I know I take my life in my hands,"

said the Buddha.

"But I am known as the Fearless One

--so here goes."

And he and the Goddess

without further words

exchanged glances.

Light rays like sunbeams

shot forth

so bright that even

Sariputra, the All-Seeing One,

had to turn away.

And then they exchanged thoughts

and the illumination was as bright as a diamond candle.

And then they changed mind

And then there was a great silence as vast as the universe

that contains everything.

And then they exchanged bodies

And clothes

And the Buddha arose

as the Goddess

and the Goddess arose as the Buddha

and so on back and forth

for a hundred thousand hundred thousand kalpas.

If you meet the Buddha

you meet the Goddess,

the Goddess is the Buddha.

And not only that.  This:

The Buddha is the Goddess,

the Goddess is the Buddha.

And not only that:This:

The Buddha is emptiness

The Goddess is bliss,

the Goddess is emptiness

the Buddha is bliss.

And that is what

and what-not you are

it's true.

So here comes the mantra of the Goddess and the Buddha, the unsurpassed non-dual mantra, just to say this mantra, just to hear this mantra once, just to hear one word of this mantra once makes everything the way it truly is:  OK.

So here it is:

    Earth-walker/sky-walker

        Hey, silent one, Hey, great talker

    Not two/not one

        Not separate/Not apart

    That is the heart

        Bliss is emptiness

        Emptiness is bliss.

    Be your breath, Ah

    Smile, Hey

   And relax, Ho

And remember this:  You can't miss. "

- Rick Fields, Dharma Gaia, pp.3-7


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Tranquil wisdom meditation

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

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

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

In a nutshell: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Serenity practise

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 7 May 2022, 22:52

This is something I have been practising during my own meditation and it has been very helpful and I quite like it.

When the mind becomes distracted in meditation and loses awareness of the meditation object, follow this simple algorithm below:

1. Notice with friendliness towards the mind, without any judgement or shame towards oneself, (always be gentle, be a friend to the mind and it will be a friend back) just become aware that the mind has wandered from the meditation object. Then...

2. Let go of whatever the distraction was, it doesn't matter what it was, the details are irrelevant, there's no need to tie up any lose ends or tidy up the thoughts. Just let go of the distraction and become aware of the body.

3. Relax any tension you feel in the body, remembering also to relax the face and head, as thoughts can bring tension to those areas. Spend some time doing this, take as long as feels natural. One is purposefully calming the body, and bringing into awareness a sense of bodily ease and pleasure.

4. Gladden the mind, like the zesty zingy feeling of a refreshing spring breeze. Kindle some joy in the mind. Smile inwardly, smile with your heart, and turn the corners of your mouth up, even if it's just a little, teeny slight barely-noticeable smile. That'll do! It doesn't matter if at first it feels fake, smiling releases endorphins and the mind will catch on and the smile will eventually become genuine. Then let that warm pleasant energy spread throughout the whole body. Saturate the entire body with it.

5. Then reflect for a moment on how the mind feels when it is lucid, serene and free from craving.

There are two sides to craving: craving for sense pleasure, and craving for circumstances to be different. They are both two sides of the same coin.

These are the four noble truths:

Knowledge of suffering (which is to be understood).

Knowledge of the cause of suffering (which is to be abandoned).

Knowledge of the end of suffering (which is to be realised).

Knowledge of the way that leads to the end of suffering (which is to be developed). 

Can you see the four noble truths in your meditation practise: noticing the craving, letting go of the craving, experiencing freedom from the craving, and the cultivation of the noble eightfold path that leads to the end of craving. 

6. Return to focusing on the meditation object.

7. Rinse and repeat every time the mind wanders.

Samma Samhadi (Right Concentration) can be translated as lucid serenity. Unfortunately, Right Concentration can create the wrong impression of meditation practise. Samma Samhadi is not a hard tunnel-vision focus. One is not concentrating so hard that it blocks out everything else from conscious awareness, that just creates tension in the mind and the body. No, Samma Samhadi is a still, calm, lucid, relaxed, expansive and serene awareness. Anchored in the body, so the mind does not float off like a helium balloon. One meditates with awareness of the body in the background. This is what is meant by one pointed attention, it means wholehearted attention grounded in the body, it is an embodied attention. A unification of mind, all of the mind collected and gathered together, attending to the meditation object together as one. The four jhanas which the Buddha defined as Samma Samhadi are known as the rupa jhanas because they are embodied, i.e. awareness of the body is present throughout. 

Samhadi (lucid serenity) and vipassana (insight) are actually one and the same, they are not two distinct separate practises. They are part of the same meditation. They are like two wings of a bird that take you to nibanna. Nibanna in a nutshell means irreversible freedom from suffering. I.e. there's no comedown from it, the freedom is permanent. And nibanna can be experienced here and now in this very life if one practises ardently enough. Different stages of enlightenment bring progressively greater freedom from suffering. 

In Buddhist practise there's nothing magical happening, although it can certainly feel like that at times, (encounters with the unconscious parts of the mind can often feel magical,)  one is just simply training the mind. If one puts in the right causes and conditions, one gets the results. In the case of Buddhist training, the final result is irreversible freedom from suffering. 

Right input equals right output. Bad input equals bad output.

Having a good teacher helps immensely, but the training is doable on one's own if one is  determined enough, but honestly find a teacher and some good spiritual friends, it will save you a lot of time and make the practise much richer and joyful. There are many Buddhist teachers and groups available online and one does not need to travel great distances to find one anymore, one can now train virtually via the Internet for free from one's home without having to travel anywhere or go on a lengthy retreat. All my teachers and spiritual friends are online.

The noble eightfold path is the training one undertakes to become a Buddha. The Buddha famously once said: 'One who sees the dhamma sees me. And one who sees me sees the dhamma.'  The dhamma is the mind of the Buddha, and one who has mastered the dhamma, becomes a Buddha. 

Not a clone though, one still has whatever personality traits one had before, but now freed from greed, hatred, and delusion. A bit like how there is a recipe to bake bread, but there can be different kinds of bread, they all however follow the same basic recipe and use the same core ingredients. The loaves of bread can look different when they come out of the oven, but despite their difference in appearance, one can still see and know it is bread. 

Peace and metta!

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A good home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is the fate of all living beings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 


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Sign of peace

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A bit depressed at the moment. It is a difficult state of mind to shake off as it feels physical as well as mental, and very much accompanied by a distinct lack of energy, making it hard to find the strength to practise at times. I feel quite weak and vulnerable just now. I am trying to abandon this unwholesome state of mind however. I am much better these days at letting go of the thinking processes and resting my attention instead in the feeling of embodiment. But I find it hard being around other people's energies when I am like this, and I prefer solitude. Conversation can be challenging. I try to invoke loving-kindness, but it is hard to generate it consistently, even when using the voice of another (listening to a dhamma talk), I just struggle. So I have resolved to just feel non-ill-will instead, which is the bare minimum I think. I wonder if it might be that I find repeating words and phrases becomes tiring after a short while and yearn to just let go of them, so experimenting with invoking loving-kindness without using words, just going straight to the feeling.

The enlightenment factor of joy is also difficult to generate, so letting go of that one for now.

I feel very much like I need to retreat from the world and go into my coccoon, rest in the deep centre of my being and be still, so I can expend as little energy as possible and just let the world continue around me while I remain in my inner cave, taking refuge in the deepest part of my being. Unfortunately being still like this is not always practical, and feels unpleasant when it is disturbed by external forces, as I don't want to come out of the cave, and do so reluctantly.

So I am exploring other wholesome states of mind I can conjure instead. Equanimity works if I can conjure it, and so does serenity. I am getting much better at conjuring up serenity, and the sign of it can appear even when I am fatigued and depressed. It is a beautiful place that feels boundless, timeless, and can often spontaneously appear without me even trying to conjure it up, whatever mood I am in, it feels like home. I call it serenity, but in fact I think it borders on the edge of samhadi, or perhaps something else entirely, I am not sure, it is so hard to describe what it feels like to go there, but it is a very pleasant place and I often don't want to leave, it is so peaceful and balanced, it is different state of consciousness that transcends this world and the thinking processes. It is wordless, maybe that's why it feels so good. Is much easier to conjure with meditation, but can also be conjured outside of meditation in daily life sometimes.

One can still function whilst in that state of mind, but one feels unhurried, unconcerned and unstressed by things. It is like I am in another dimension whilst simultaneously interacting in this one. It sometimes feels like a secret place I go to, and nobody knows I have gone there. But I haven't perfected it yet and it can be challenging to maintain, especially when other people's energies forcefully intrude and take me out of that tranquil head space and back to this crazy modern world. Which is why I guess there is wisdom at times in seeking solitude. But this isn't always a luxury I can afford.

Still I am making progress with it, as when I first experienced this state of mind it only lasted a few seconds and poof it was gone, and try as I might I couldn't recreate it. But mysteriously it would often appear again when I wasn't expecting it to, then mysteriously disappear if I got too excited at finding it again. And I would try to figure out what I was doing prior to it appearing. But it was frustrating as it seemed to have a will of its own and try as I might it wouldn't play ball. Then after a lengthy time of absence it came back more regularly and stayed for longer, sometimes for minutes at a time. It is what I imagined the kingdom of heaven might feel like when I was a child, it is a beautiful peaceful state of mind that goes beyond time and space, almost dreamlike, but in a good way. Once its gone though a strange emotional amnesia appears and it is hard to remember what it was like to be there.


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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.



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Compassion's way

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 3 Oct 2021, 18:36

The Buddha once asked a king, "Suppose there are armies coming for you in all directions, crushing and killing everything in their path. There is no hope of escape from this impending doom. What would you do?"

The king said, "I would practise generosity, give, and be kind."

The Buddha praised his response, saying that was indeed the wisest thing any of us can do in that situation. Our deeds generate our karma, and that's what we take with us to our next existence.

For the king it was easy, but for some of us we don't have wealth or possessions to give away, so how do we give?

What is compassion's way? Is a question I have been mulling over and reflecting on for this past week or so.

Perhaps sometimes compassion's way is to remember the spiritual practise, other times to help another being in need, to get up and be of service to others, to practise loving-kindness and radiate that all around as you go about your day, maybe it is to be kind to yourself, to let go of something, maybe it is to have a moment of stillness, when we meditate we are not causing harm and this can be a way of giving, a Zen teacher said to me he thought my paintings were a way of giving. I had never thought that before, and that gave me something to reflect on.

How can we practise generosity and kindness? It seems there are a myriad different ways to do this, and when one thinks about it, one can find a way that fits with each moment.
 It got me thinking of all the different ways we can give. That's what matters in the end, the choices we make in each moment, and despite what the world does, how crazy and disturbing it gets, when that doom comes for us over the distant horizon, we can choose to be kind, to give, despite it all. This includes being kind to yourself as well, no room for judgement or shame, you are a being too. Unconditional love for all beings means just that, all beings. Be a friend to yourself as much as to others. 

The world just now feels a lot like the one in the story of the Buddha and the king. But whatever time in history, there is always an impending doom coming for us, we are all dieing after all, a doom none of us can escape, every body has an expiry date. Death is natural, when we die we should remember our good deeds, not the ones we feel shame for, so we should feel good about ourseves, happy that we learnt from any mistakes and grew. We should focus on our acts of giving, of kindness and love. We should remember the friendships and that both the good and bad times created the depth of connections we have. We want to die with a warm, loving, kind, generous, serene heart, as that is what will be the seed for our next existence. 

The hardest part sometimes is to remember. The word mindfulness means to remember, to keep something in mind. 
The five wise reflections are something the Buddha recommended people chant regularly to help them remember what really matters in this life:

The Five Wise Reflections

"I am of the nature to age; I should not be surprised by old age.

I am of the nature to become sick; I should not be surprised by ill health.

I am of the nature  to die; I should not be surprised by death.

Everything I hold dear, and everyone I love, will become separated from me due to the nature of change, due to impermanence.

I am the heir of my karma, owner of my karma, born of my karma, related to my karma, abide supported by my karma. Therefore should I frequently recollect that whatever karma I do for good or for ill, of that will I be the heir."

We can also practise compassion for our future self. 
What we practise now we become. 


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