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No separation

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 1 Feb 2022, 18:29

I know that your higher mind is always with me.
Just as my higher mind is always with you.
These small monkey minds are only a tiny part of the whole.
The mind is much bigger than the one narrating the story of self.
With its limited conscious awareness and capabilities.
These physical bodies are not all there is to us. 
But our physical side can get in the way of seeing this.
We get so caught up by the things of the world.
By our past conditioning and culture.
And the erroneous thinking of our modern age.
The truth is much of the mind is unconscious to us.
And what we are conscious of,
is just the tip of the iceberg.
T
here's so much more to us than we realise.

Our being interacts and is connected on a much deeper, more ancient level.
Greater than our briefly existing physical parts are able to see.
And when you look into the core of your being.
And trust the purity of what you feel there.
You will see that this energy is real.
I am you and you are me.
Interdependent.
Unified.
One.

No separation.

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Asoka

Rapture, serenity, a blackbird, and the mountain of awareness

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 24 Jan 2022, 11:20

I have found a nice spot in the Winter gardens which provides adequate shelter from the rain. And I have made friends with a blackbird that hangs out there. It came to say hello as I was meditating, and perched on a stump directly in front of me, watching me in its intent birdish way, at one point it did this cute cartoon-like yawn that opened my heart right up, and then there it was, a great whoosh and rush of something that swept and carried me off in the strength of its current and for a moment took me away from it all, leading to a free-floating spacious rapturous serenity which was a very pleasant state of mind.

 I think an elusive feeling I have been trying to pin down for a good year or so now in meditation, is in fact rapture, which for me at least is a better description of what one is trying to invoke in meditation than joy. Rapture is much more ecstatic, it carries one away in its intensity. With plenty of rushes, tingles and otherworldy feelings, there is a slowing of time that makes sensations exquisite with pleasant trails and echoes as they rise and fade away like the tide of the sea. Rapture feels like a connection to the divine, to the heavenly realms.

I reflected on what one-pointed attention is. Remembering what I heard in a dharma talk that it means an embodied awareness, a wholeheartness involving the whole of one's being paying attention. One should be aware of the whole body, of one's presence while paying attention to the breath. Using the metaphor of attention being like the peak of a mountain. When one is looking at a mountain, it isn't just the peak one sees hovering above an invisible land-mass, one sees the whole of the mountain. This understanding of what one-pointed attention means, and my encounter with the blackbird brought a genuine feeling of rapture which lead to serenity and a happiness that felt otherwordly and freer than anything I have encountered before in the material world.

I left an offering of sunflowers seeds on a nearby stone for the blackbird. Nature has often been a teacher on my journey to enlightenment.

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Asoka

Livelihood, kindness and equanimity

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The cost of living has sky-rocketed here. Food and energy bills are a lot more expensive than they were this time last year. We are really not able to live within our means anymore and have become dependent on generous family members to help us out. I feel ashamed, but also trying to balance that, as I know from experience self-loathing is no help at all. The other extreme is also unhelpful:  too much self-grandiosity. So one has to get as close to the centre as possible with these states of mind. (I imagine it like a needle on a dial, where I am trying to keep the needle in the green area.) But do so with kindness towards oneself, this makes the experience all the sweeter and easier I am finding. The mind works better when it feels loved, especially by oneself. 

So I am finding myself stuck on the 'Right Livelihood' aspect of the path just now. I have discovered this year, rather unpleasantly and quite painfully, I do not seem to have much ability for maths or computing anymore. I really seem to be struggling with the module I am studying this year on computability and algorithms. I am suddenly not sure software development and coding is realistically going to be something I want to or can do anymore as a career.

I enjoy painting, but I cannot support myself financially with painting, I have not yet sold a single painting or a print after nearly a year of trying. I just cannot for the life of me do the marketing involved, I have tried and failed repeatedly. I do not seem to have the right personality and not really cut out for it. I just want to paint, not spend all my time in self-promotion, my mind just won't work that way.

 Sadly chronic pain and faitigue makes even shelf-stacking at the local supermarket impossible. I think from now on I will only be able to work part-time from home, which is not enough to live on these days. I am at a loss with how to realise 'Right livelihood' if I am honest, this is not an easy part of the Noble eight-fold path for me. I am very uncertain as to how to proceed or how I am going to support myself in the coming years. Again I have to be careful not to get overwhelmed by negative states of mind here. I must face all this with kindness and equanimity, remembering to cut myself some slack, because shame and self-loathing is no help either. It is important to balance my life with the other aspects of the path and not just spend all my time and energy focusing on livelihood. One must not neglect the other parts of the mind. If I do not look after the whole of the mind. I will be in danger of becoming burnt out, unwell and unable to do anything. 

Equanimity is a careful balancing act, which is itself balanced out by kindness. Metta (loving-kindness) and Upekkha (equanimity) are like a knife and fork, they compliment one another and support one another perfectly on the path to enlightenment. 


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Metta moon

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

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

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

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

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


   

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Mental renovation

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 21 Jan 2022, 21:37

Fear is a strong emotion, not an easy one to work with. I got bitten by a large dog last night. It was on a leash and I was just walking past it on the street, when it suddenly turned after I had walked past and bit me hard on the back of the knee, drawing blood. The owner was apologetic. But dazed and in shock I just said: "What was that all about?" She looked worried and kept asking me if I was okay, and I saw the dog coming for me again and I just backed away and said again: "What was that all about?" Then turned and walked home as fast as I could. 

When I got home I cleaned the wound, which was quite nasty, with mouth shaped teeth marks, it looked like a shark bite. I put some antiseptic ointment on it and practised letting go of any feelings of ill-will towards the dog or the owner, and instead practised wishing them goodwill. Although I feel maybe I should mention to the dog owner next time I see her that a muzzle for the dog might be a good idea in case it bites someone else; as next time it could be a child or an elderly person. 

The incident has left me feeling somewhat anxious about going outside though, and I was brave enough in the end to go for a walk today, but didn't walk far due to my knee being a bit painful, and also I felt paranoid about any big dogs I saw about, feeling mistrust towards them. I was relieved to get home and shut the door. I think I was still in shock and kept wondering why the dog attacked me. I wonder if it is karma from a past life. I know that practising the spiritual life does not make you immune to past karma. I read that even enlightened beings still have to deal with negative karma from their past, even the Buddha himself did.

Reflecting on equanimity and dependent origination, I understand that unpleasant things can and will still happen to one, and being on the spiritual path does not take one beyond this.

I find myself facing yet another dharma gate. And find my courage is a bit weak suddenly, I feel a distinct lack of confidence today. I am trying to look at it as a spiritual test, maybe the Buddha is testing me. So I am determined not to believe the stories my negative depressed mind comes up with, I have learnt listening to these stories leads to erroneous thinking, so I can't trust those thoughts. I am realising more and more that our delusions come from the way we narrate our experience of life - how we talk to ourselves. 

The stories we tell ourselves about experience programmes our unconscious minds. So I am going to try and feed my unconscious mind clear information about reality and also feed it wholesome stories about letting go, clarity, loving-kindness, compassion, generosity and equanimity, so that this becomes automatic behaviour instead of the old unhelpful habits of the past. 

Reprogramming the unconscious mind is hard work and tricky, because it goes against the grain, its like trying to teach yourself to fold your arms in a different way, it feels uncomfortable. The mind does not like to let go of well-entrenched habits and clings to them even if they are not helpful. 'Neurons that fire together wire together', and once wired there's a strong resistance to rewiring them, but with enough repetitive practise, persistence and patience it can be done, one can change one's mind and automatic behaviour by telling ourselves a different story about reality, one based on lucidity and clear-seeing, and kindness towards oneself and others. 

I can't seem to stop the automatic thoughts that appear: delusions of grandeur, the inner critic, the low self-esteem, the strange weird invasive thoughts that remind me of how crazy I am, the self loathing; but I keep working at interrupting those thought patterns (gently and with kindness), encouraging myself to tell a different story, and it does feel uncomfortable and at times like asking the impossible, but each time I do I am training my mind, and it gets a little bit stronger, a little bit steadier, and a little bit freer. The new enlightenment grooves will slowly and gradually get more habitual. And by training myself to let go of the old negative conditioning when it arises, and replacing it with a new story; I will teach myself slowly but surely to not take personally the events caused by an impersonal universe.

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Asoka

Nibanna

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 6 Jan 2022, 21:08

Knowledge and serenity practise are like two wings of a bird 🕊️

Nourished, well cared for and balanced they can take one to the liberating insight of nibanna. 

What is nibanna?

It is said to be a liberated state of mind that cannot be reversed.
Like what fire becomes when it no longer clings to its fuel.
The breaking of the 12 links of dependent origination.
Something permanent in an impermanent universe.
Something secure that cannot be taken away.
The mind freed from greed, hatred, and delusion.
A radiant samhadi.
Luminous with generosity, kindness and clarity.
A safe haven where one can finally know peace.
Emancipation from grief and suffering.
Final liberating knowledge here and now.
And the realisation of the eightfold path.

At least that's my understanding.

A seagull flying above some hills and the sea.

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Why I write this blog

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 30 Dec 2021, 23:07

Don't worry I am not trying to convert anyone to Buddhism by writing on here. There is absolutely no obligation to do that as a Buddhist; there's no door-knocking evangelical stuff in Buddhism at all thankfully. I just merely write about it because:

a) it helps me to write down my thoughts to see where my current understanding is by attempting to put it into words, and a personal blog is a good place to do this.
b) I really don't have all that much else going on in my life. I live what most would consider to be quite a boring life (-:
c) This is what I think about and practise most of the time so is naturally what I will tend to write about.
d) Some of what I write might be helpful to others and some may find it interesting.
e) The practise has enriched my life in so many different ways and I feel immense gratitude for it, it has been a real help for me and I feel a natural inclination to want to share the benefits of what I have learned with others, especially during these dark times that many are experiencing around the world just now; but I do so with the understanding that people can take it or leave it and I have no interest in trying to convince anyone or change people, or prove I am right or anything like that.

What people do with their lives is up to them, we are all responsible for our own actions, and it is up to each individual to make their own choices in life.

Of course if anyone does find any of what I write interesting and wants to know more, I highly recommend seeking out an experienced teacher of Buddhism and also a sangha to be a part of so one can learn about it properly and have some wise spiritual friends to support one. There are many different Buddhist communities hosting programs and events online at the moment that one can be a part of for free without needing to travel anywhere, it is amazing really. All one needs is a device that can go online and an Internet connection.

Wishing everyone well for the coming year. Hope it is an enriching time for you all.

Much love 

Richie

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Happy new year to everyone

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 3 Jan 2022, 13:50

Next year will be a bit different for me. I will be taking part in the Upasaka/Upasika 2022 training program under Ajahn Sona starting January 1st.

So it will be a new beginning for me as Upasaka Richie. And this post is like me wiping the slate of the past with the intention of being much more careful of what I say and do from now on. 

I have taken the five precepts which are:

No killing
No stealing
No lying or harmful speech
No sexual misconduct
No intoxicants that make me careless

They are not commandments. They are there to protect one, and to help one have a clear mind that is not plagued by regret or worry over past misdeeds. With a clear and peaceful mind one can then go deeper into spiritual practise and meditation. 

 I never thought I would actually get this far on the spiritual path. I am a bit nervous and will try hard not to let anyone down. Although I understand it is normal to make mistakes, and so will not beat myself up about my past errors, everyone makes mistakes, it is one of the ways we learn, and grow into wiser people. Noone is perfect, and if there are any perfect people in this world they are few and far between and they didn't get there without making a few mistakes themselves. Some of the Buddha's disciples did far worse things than any of us would ever dream of doing, yet they changed their ways and got enlightened - remembering that gives me hope. Thankfully there's a lot of forgiveness and grace on the path, and if one is trying their best then others can see that and don't abandon or judge you. There's a lot of support both seen and unseen in the spiritual life.

I am going to be training with another 108 people from around the world. And we are all just starting to get to know one another through email and discussion groups and I look forward to deepening my practise and growing with them in the coming year. This is a big deal for me to commit to Buddhism like this, I have always stood on the sidelines not wanting to plant my flag anywhere; but I feel the time is right now. And am looking forward to it. 

Wishing everyone else the best for 2022.

Upasaka Richie


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Everything changes

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 26 Dec 2021, 19:43

I find this time of year a bit challenging. I feel depressed just now. Am a bit sick as well, no idea if it is covid, couldn't give a shit if it is. I am isolating myself just in case though as do not want to pass it on to anyone else, so just talking to family on zoom. It is a very mild illness, although my glands are swollen to Hell and I am a bit light-headed and weak on my feet. Some part of me doesn't care though. I honestly don't mind if I live or die, if I die now I will just see it as a mercy and try to feel equanimity instead of a negative state of mind. Mindstate is important at death as that is the seed that becomes your next life. 

It is getting harder and harder to survive in this world anyway. I am struggling to get anywhere with right livelihood and I can't work full-time due to my health problems and mood swings, it is tough to stay afloat and tiring trying to. I am not the only one, there are many of us who are feeling this way all around the world. It is a tough world just now and not getting any easier. Many are struggling to make ends meet at the moment, the cost of living has sky-rocketed. Food is twice as expensive as it was this time last year, and so are the utility bills, and the money coming in hasn't changed for many of us. And it is hard to feel much joy living like that. Anyway who wants to live and watch the world go to shit and more animals go extinct. I don't want to see all that. Although I promise I won't take my life, I have made a vow not to do that and will honour it. If I survive and live I will try my best to be a light in this darkening world, and show kindness and compassion to other beings that are suffering where I can. It isn't always easy to do this though. Sometimes my energy is too low, and fatigue gets the better of me, I feel like a weak battery that is unable to hold its charge at the moment. 

I think those who go on about how important it is to feel joy on the spiritual path and try to enourage everyone to feel the same aren't struggling with their finances, if they were I imagine they too would be finding it challenging to feel much joy. But nonetheless it is true what they say, joy is important and it is one of the seven factors of enlightenment, albeit for me the most challenging one.

I read an article that said the world economic output has reached $100 trillion for the first time in human history. What it didn't mention is how much of this belongs to the super rich and that most of us won't see any of that, it is being hoarded by humans whose minds are possessed by greed, hatred and delusion. The super rich continue to invest in their rocket-sized penis extensions, with the 'my rocket is better than yours' mentality; trying to be the first to colonise cold dead space, while they leave this rare miracle of a planet behind to die a bleak unhappy death in the aftermath of their greed and madness of mass industrial consumerism. Instead of using all that wealth and power to help this living planet; they dream instead of colonising a much colder smaller dead planet far far away. Strange logic, but delusion does that. The more greedy one becomes, the more deluded one becomes to justify hoarding such large amounts of wealth, and the more they hate others who criticise them and try to get them to share it with others. Greed, hatred and delusion, the three psychic poisons.

I was wondering today why do some young men kick the shit out of homeless people. I guess they are looking for someone to hate, to blame for their crap miserable lives. Homeless people are easy targets. I remember when I was homeless (many years ago now) and I met another homeless guy who had been beaten badly by the police of all people. I gave him all the money I had made busking and flagged him a taxi and asked the driver to take him to the hospital so he could get stitched up by the A&E as he had a large gaping bleeding wound on his head. Why do people beat up those who are homeless? Is it because they are vulnerable and don't stand a chance of being able to fight back against the attackers? Perhaps there is fear also, the knowledge that many of us are close to homelessness ourselves, some maybe only a paycheck away, and that fear becomes hate. I don't know. What horrible times we live in where this happens. Are we really civilised? It makes me sad. There seems to be so little love and compassion in the world at the moment. But I know not everyone is like this, there are still many good people out there, I just have to try to remember that, no matter how alone and depressed I feel. 

I am trying to see my depression as a state of becoming, with the understanding that it is better to retreat from the world when I am like this, as I often will say things I later regret, and if I am alone, that is less likely to happen. It is hard to do that at this time of year though, as everyone expects one to be sociable and happy. It was difficult doing a zoom call with family yesterday as my mood was low and it was hard pretending not to be, and everyone I spoke to was happy, festive, and enjoying their day, but I felt miserable. I felt like a failure after the zoom call that I couldn't enjoy Christmas day like everyone else or feel happy. 

So I am currently retreating from the world. I look at the depressed cycle now as being like a caterpillar in a cocoon becoming a butterfly, it is an unpleasant painful experience, a complete destruction of the self, like entering the womb again, and birth is painful, but when it is over one emerges as something new, a different person each time and hopefully someone who has grown deeper in wisdom and more developed spiritually. And when one feels renewed strength and energy then one can act and go out to meet the world again. In the meantime, I just have to be patient and try really hard not to believe the dark thoughts about myself or others. Try hard not to react to other people's energy in a negative way. And avoid what the Buddha calls unwise attention to the fault. That automatic critic that pops up iin the mind and judges others, perhaps because it doesn't like the way someone dresses or looks, the sound of their voice, the way they behave and so on. That's unwise attention to the fault. There's also unwise attention to the beautiful, such as desiring the happiness others are feeling, seeing pretty displays in a shop window, or desirable objects online, or lusting after someone you feel attracted to. That is unwise attention to the beautiful. And both unwise attention to the fault or the beautiful can upset the balance of the mind and stop it being centred.

One must also remember as well not to be hard on oneself when these things arise in the mind, none of us can help it, we all do it, it is automatic and outside our control, it happens so fast and much of it is due to DNA, evolution and past conditioning of the mind. One thing we can do though, is to try to let go of it as soon as we notice it and try to bring into being a more wholesome way of thinking, such as loving-kindness, compassion, joy-in-another's-happiness, or equanimity. Try instead to wish other beings well without wanting anything in return. It is hard, but we can persevere and keep trying.

 Depression for me is very difficult at times, and feeling any joy or pleasure is a challenge. But abiding in equanimity whilst retreating from the world can be helpful. I quite like focusing on change and impermanence at the moment, noticing how everything keeps changing. Some changes are immediately apparent, such as the constant information coming from the five senses of: vision, sound, smell, taste, touch. But thoughts are also always changing, and so is the time. Then there are the longer changes that one can contemplate, such as the body as it ages and eventually dies, the sense of self, the world, civilisations that rise and fall, the weather, the seasons, the sky, friends and romantic relationships, day and night, the tide, the moon, even this patch of space is constantly changing as the Earth spins around the sun. Understanding that everything changes can help with developing equanimity and with letting go and being patient. 

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

There is not much else the ego can do, much of the process of awakening/enlightenment happens unconsciously in the deeper mind outside of one's awareness, and it can feel unpleasant as the rest of the mind processes the insights one gains through spiritual practise and rewires itself based on the new information it has received. One just has to sit tight and accept this state of becoming and try not to react. Be patient with it, let the process unfold in its own way, its own time, it cannot be rushed. 



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The metta path

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 24 Dec 2021, 22:09

Metta means: loving-kindness,friendliness, joviality, benevolence, altruism, goodwill.

Traditionally you start training by practising it for yourself. By becoming your own best friend and being kind and compassionate toward yourself. Which is not easy. Once you have got the hang of practising metta for yourself, you start practicing it for others, usually in this order: someone you love, then a neutral person, then an enemy, and then all beings everywhere, radiating the energy outwards in all directions. It is an energetic practise, the first of the four Brahma viharas.

There are lots of tricks one can use to get metta going. Sometimes the sea brings it up in me or the singing of a songbird, even fresh air and a nice breeze can do it. One can also use imagination to invoke the feeling, such as imagining a famous spiritual figure like Jesus, Avalokitishvara, Maitreya, a saint, or the Buddha.

The idea is to invoke the feeling of metta within and then keep it going. Cultivate it, strengthen and increase it.

Saying phrases can help, such as "May I be happy. May I be safe and well. May I be serene and boundless. May I be relieved of suffering. May I be at peace." (Obviously just replace the word 'I' for the name of a person or 'all beings' when practising metta for others). Make your own words and phrases up that help you generate it. In time you won't need words to invoke it, it becomes a warm sensation in the heart area that radiates outwards. 

Sometimes praying for those you love can invoke it. When I ask angels and devas to help with stuff, that can invoke it. Memory can invoke it, most of us have experienced metta at some point in our life, popping an ecstasy pill (MDMA) at a rave and feeling pure empathy and love for everyone is a memory that helps me invoke it at times. Metta (once it builds up momentum and gets going) can feel a bit like that in the first jhana (first stage of meditative absorption). And gradually settles, becoming more tranquil, serene and still, till it reaches equanimity.

The four Brahma viharas are: Metta (loving-kindness), Karuna (compassion), Mudita (joy in another's happiness), Upekka (equanimity).

Karuna and Mudita both come from Metta. Karuna is loving-kindness for one who is suffering. And Mudita is loving-kindness towards one who is happy.

For example, today I saw my crow friends when out walking, this brought up metta within me, I felt compassion for them so gave them some peanuts 🥜 this made them happy and I felt mudita as I watched them enjoy eating them. Then I continued my walk and feeling satisfied and content in the crow's happiness I settled into equanimity.

Metta and equanimity compliment each other like a knife and fork.

Metta, Karuna, and Mudita can take one up to the third jhana (third stage of meditative absorption). The fourth jhana is always equanimity regardless of the meditation object used, so it is said that metta, compassion, mudita can only take you to the third jhana, but to reach the fourth jhana you have to let go of them, as the fourth is pure equanimity. Well technically speaking it is mindfulness purified and born of equanimity. Equanimity actually begins in the third jhana, and the fourth is where it is refined and isolated by itself. In the fourth jhana there is neither pleasure nor pain. The fourth jhana is said to be the ideal state of mind to gain the liberating insight which leads to nibanna. But one does not have to wish for insight, apparrently from that lucid state of mind insights naturally arise. Then once one has fully realised nibanna there is no turning back and the liberation cannot be reversed and one never incarnates ever again in any world. Yet the mind still exists, it is like what fire becomes when it is no longer held captive by its fuel. The fuel being (greed, hatred, and delusion). 

Greed covers lots of stuff such as lust, craving for intoxicants, eating a little more than you needed to, to the extremes of hoarding wealth and stealing - there's many different levels to it.

Hatred also covers many things such as boredom for example which is aversion to the present moment, or aversion from lack of stimulation. Hatred also covers conceit, being boastful, as well as the more obvious extremes such as arguing, fighting and murder.

Delusion can also mean ignorance. It is a lot about the stories we tell ourselves about reality. The excuses we make to justify different behaviour. Or just believing in misinformation, disinformation or acting out of ignorance due to lack of information. The mind is a delusion generator. And delusion is the hardest of all to remove. Greed and hatred sprout from delusion. They also feed delusion. The four Brahma viharas can be helpful at weakening the power of greed and hatred, enough at least to be able to get to the root of the problem which is delusion.

When one has fully uprooted greed, hatred and delusion from the mind that is the state of mind known as nibbana and one becomes a Buddha (fully enlightened being).

 I chant the metta sutta sometimes to help me invoke Metta.

You can be creative with Metta, it is like a craft; and yes it can be a magical practise. For example, when walking along the street I will get focused while walking and invoke the feeling of metta and then think of Maitreya (Bodhisattva of metta and the next Tathagata) and as I do I become a channel and imagine multiple copies of Maitreya coming out of my heart in all directions, holding a bell shaped object that when shaken fills all those around with loving-kindness. I have a weird imagination lol.

But I am sure you can think of your own ways of radiating metta. Sometimes I imagine it as energy waves radiating outwards, and sometimes I don't need to imagine at all it just radiates out if I set the intention to radiate it to all beings and it happens. Different moments require different methods, you have to learn to be spontaneous and do what naturally feels right in each given moment. 

I have different mood cycles. And sometimes during the negative cycles there are days when I can't invoke Metta at all, I feel nothing. It isn't easy and equanimity and patience can help here, although they can be hard to generate too. Patience can be invoked sometimes by imagining the depressed cycle as me retreating from the world and being in a womb of sorts. In a state of becoming. Like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, or a nymph becoming a dragonfly. It can be very painful and challenging. And it may take a while and fill me with doubt and stagnation. Then when the cycle changes and I feel better energy arise and feel well again I am able to practise metta once more, but I find this time it has mysteriously grown deeper, like some part of the unconscious during the gestation period has been working things out and changing things, rearranging them, almost like the mind is rewiring itself. It is unpleasant and can really test one's endurance, shake you to the core, demolish your beliefs and perceptions. But afterwards one gains a new found clarity and freedom, and develops in the eight-fold path. This conscious part of me, let's call it the ego mind has very little to do in the process of becoming, you just have to be patient. Most of the growth happens outside of one's awareness in the deeper hidden mind. Another way of looking at it, is as being like pearls of wisdom. 

Also it seems from my experience that there is a malevolent outside agency that will try its utmost to deter you from the path, so be prepared for a bit of a fight. The sceptic can think of it as a trickster part of the mind. But my experience is there is both an internal and external enemy that will do what it can to make you lose your way. This energy is very tricky, and it can be oppressive as well as seductive. In the suttas this being is known as Mara. 

So don't despair if you can't do this right away, it takes years of practice, perhaps lifetimes for some. You have to persevere, pick yourself up after every failure, brush yourself down and try again. If you do this you will get a bit stronger each time and eventually get there. But don't burn yourself out, try to find a balance between laziness and over-doing it; look for a nice middle setting that works for you, and be prepared to be in it for the long game. 

Also remember to take refuge in the Buddha. The dharma. And the Sangha whenever you need to. These three are known as the triple gem and it is a powerful jewel. And  don't dismiss the power of doing this. There is lots of grace out there I am discovering. And I find whenever I take refuge in any one of these, (again depending on the moment and what feels right), helpful energy and support will come to my aid. I think there are spirits and other beings seen and unseen who are devoted to this practise, and like angels, will help when you struggle. The sangha also includes all Buddhists everywhere, and those who practise Buddhism in the deva worlds as well.

Metta itself is also protection if you can generate it suffiently enough, the good energy will protect you and make you fearless.

I am not enlightened yet, see my previous blog posts and rants for proof of this. But I will keep trying. 

This is the spiritual path I have set for myself, even if it takes me lifetimes to accomplish I will get there one day, although I am aiming to do it in this very life if at all possible.

Peace, metta and good luck on your own journey to nibanna.

The Metta Sutta

Alternative translation of metta sutta

The eleven benefits of practising metta 

Here's a great collection of talks and Q&As done by Ajahn Sona on the topic of Metta:

https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLodJ_OuDCKlexVt5B4exeYkiyM7sE8u5e


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Asoka

The four foundations of mindfulness

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 25 Dec 2021, 15:08


Here is a summary of the four foundations of mindfulness that I chant every day to help me remember the Satipatthana Sutta (The Buddha's famous teachings on mindfulness).

I find chanting to be a powerful tool for instructing mindfulness on what it needs to be paying attention to. After practising a while you will find that sati (mindfulness) works on its own volition like a trusted guard at the gate, a powerful ally, working independently of the narrator mind. I find the phrases I regularly chant  will often pop up out of the blue during the day to remind me of important teachings.

It is important to also bear in mind that simply being aware of these four foundations isn't all there is to the practise. One does so in combination with Right effort. Which in a nutshell is about four practise principles 1. Preventing unwholesome states of mind arising. 2. If prevention doesn't work, one abandons unwholesome states of mind as soon as one notices they have arison. 3. One generates and brings into being wholesome states of mind. 4. One cultivates those wholesome states of mind so that they grow and develop and become continuous, i.e. one's default behaviour. 

I have borrowed heavily from the Birken forest monastery chant book. And changed it in places, adding some extra bits that I find helpful in my own spiritual practise. Particularly in mindfulness of the body, where I have added an extra three elements (space, consciousness, and interdependence) to the traditional four primary elements of earth, water, fire, and air. I also simultaneously practise awareness of the seven chakras that correspond with the seven elements found in kundalini yoga. Which is not what the Buddha taught, but is something I find helpful in my own practise.

 I have also changed the part on cemetary contemplations, to the five remembrances, as in the West we don't have charnel grounds to visit where we can observe a rotting corpse and reflect on death. But I have added a bit extra to the chant to help with the contemplation of death. 

I have also added the eight worldy winds and the brahma viharas to mindfulness of feelings.

Be aware this is very much a chant I have tailored to help me on my spiritual journey, and it may not be right for others, so please bear in mind that some of it has deviated from the original sutta in places. So I would advise the reader to check out the original sutta if they find it interesting. Or read the summary in the Birken forest monastery chant book. 

The four foundations of mindfulness

The Buddha addressing the sangha:

'This is the direct path for the purification of beings. For the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation; the disappearance of pain and grief. The true attainment of the way and the realisation of nibbana. Namely the four foundations of mindfulness: '

Foundation one - mindfulness of the body

  • Mindfulness of the four postures: walking, standing, sitting, and lying down.
  • Mindfulness of the breath.
  • Mindfulness of the present moment.
  • Reflection on the different parts of the body. Hair, nails, teeth, eyeballs, skin, muscles, blood vessels, mucous, nerves, internal organs: brain, heart, lungs, stomach, kidneys, liver,  gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, intestines, bones, bone marrow. 
  • Contemplation of the seven elements:
    Earth element both inside the body and outside the body.
    Water element both inside the body and outside the body.
    Fire element both inside the body and outside the body.
    Air element both inside the body and outside the body.
    Space element both inside the body and outside the body.
    Consciousness both inside the body and outside the body.
    Interdependence both inside the body and outside the body.
  • The five reflections:
    I am of the nature to grow old, I have not gone beyond ageing.
    I am of the nature to become sick, I have not gone beyond ill health.
    I am of the nature to die, I have not gone beyond death.
    I could die at any moment, and that is normal; people die at all different ages. And when I die I will become a rotting corpse and return to the four primary elements (earth, water, fire, air), this is a natural process and the fate of all living beings. Every body has an expiry date. I should not fear death.
    Everything I hold dear and everyone that I love will become separated from me due to the nature of change and impermanence.
    I am the owner of my karma, the heir of my karma, born of my karma, related to my karma, abide supported by my karma. Therefore should I frequently recollect that whatever actions I do for good or for bad - that is the karma I will inherit.

Foundation two - mindfulness of feelings 

(n.b. in Buddhism feelings also means physical sensations as well as mental ones.)

  • Mindfulness of pleasant feelings.
  • Mindfulness of unpleasant feelings.
  • Mindfuness of neutral feelings (something that you are neither grasping for nor pushing away).
  • Mindfulness of worldly feelings. The eight wordly winds: pain and pleasure; wealth and misfortune; success and failure; praise and blame.
  • Mindfulness of unworldly feelings: metta (loving-kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (joy in another's happiness), upekka (equanimity), samhadi (deep state of stillness, focus, absorption), jhana (profound state of samhadi), nibbana (liberation of mind that cannot be reversed).­­­­­

Awareness of the manifestation, arising and disappearance of feelings.

Foundation three - mindfulness of the mind

Understanding the mind as:

  • Greedy or not.
  • Hateful or not.
  • Deluded or not.
  • Vulnerable or not.
  • Conceited or not.
  • Collected or scattered.
  • Developed or not.
  • Focused or not.
  • Liberated or not.

Awareness of the manifestation, arising and disappearance of these states of mind.

Foundation four - mindfulness of dharma categories

­­­­­­The five psychic irritants:

  1. Wordly desire
  2. Aversion
  3. Dullness and fatigue
  4. Agitation and worry
  5. Doubt (lack of confidence)

Awareness of the manifestation, the origination and disappearance of the five hindrances.

The five aggregates of clinging:

Clinging to:

  1. Material form
  2. Feelings
  3. Perceptions
  4. Thoughts, memories and emotions
  5. Consciousness

Awareness of the manifestation, the arising, and the dissolution of the five aggregates of clinging.

The six external and six internal sense bases:

  1. Eye and visual objects
  2. Ear and sounds
  3. Nose and smells
  4. Tongue and tastes
  5. Body and tangible objects
  6. Mind and mental objects

Knowledge of them, of their arising, and of their abandonment (letting go); and the future non-arising of the fetters that originate dependent on both.

The seven factors of enlightenment/awakening:

  1. Mindfulness
  2. Investigation of dharma
  3. Energy and perseverance
  4. Joy
  5. Tranquility
  6. Samhadi
  7. Equanimity

Knowledge of their presence, their arising, and their development.

The four noble truths:

  1. Knowledge of suffering
  2. Of its origination
  3. Its cessation
  4. And the path that leads to the end of suffering (the noble eight-fold path)

The noble eight-fold path

  1. Right view: Use the four noble truths and the other dharma categories as a guide/tool to help one spot, prevent, abandon and uproot the three poisons of greed, hatred and delusion from the mind.
  2. Right intention: The intention of letting go (renunciation); the intention of non-illwill; the intention of harmlessness (non-cruelty).
  3. Right speech: I will refrain from false speech; I will refrain from malicious/divisive speech; I will refrain from harsh speech; I will refrain from pointless/frivolous speech.
  4. Right action: I will abstain from killing any being (including myself); I will abstain from taking what is not given; I will abstain from sexual misconduct.
  5. Right livelihood: Having abandoned wrong livelihood, one continues to make one's living with right livelihood. A livelihood that does not cause harm to oneself or others.
  6. Right effort: One generates the desire for the prevention of unwholesome states of mind, by making effort, rousing energy, exerting one's mind and persevering.
    One generates the desire for the abandonment of unwholesome states of mind, by making effort, arousing energy, exerting one's mind and persevering.
    One generates the desire for the arising of wholesome states of mind, by making effort, rousing energy, exerting one's mind and persevering.
    One generates the desire for the continuance, non-disappearance, strengthening, increase, and full-development of wholesome states of mind. By making effort, arousing energy, exerting one's mind and persevering.
  7. Right mindfulness: Having removed longing and dejection in regard to the world.
    One abides contemplating the body as a body, ardent, clearly-comprehending and mindful.
    One abides contemplating feelings as feelings, ardent, clearly-comprehending and mindful.
    One abides contemplating mind as mind, ardent, clearly-comprehending and mindful.
    One abides contemplating dharma as dharma, ardent, clearly-comprehending and mindful.
  8. Right samhadi: Quite secluded from worldly pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states of mind. One lets go of the story of self and enters and abides in the first jhana. Which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, and has the rapture and happiness born from seclusion from the world and letting go.
    With the subsiding of applied and sustained thought. One enters and abides in the second jhana, which is accompanied by self-confidence and unification of mind. Is without applied and sustained thought, and has the rapture and happiness born of concentration (samhadi).
    With the fading away as well of rapture, one abides in equanimity. And mindful, clearly-comprehending, still feeling pleasure with the body. One enters and abides in the third jhana. On account of which the noble ones annouce: 'One has a pleasant abiding who has equanimity and is mindful.'
    With the letting go of pain and pleasure and the previous disappearance of sadness and joy. One enters and abides in the fourth jhana. Which has neither pleasure nor pain. And has mindfulness purified and born of equanimity.

The Buddha addressing the sangha: ' If one were to properly practise the four foundations of mindfulness for seven years; or in some cases just seven days. One of two results can be expected for that person. Either one gains final liberating knowledge here and now in this very life. Or if there is a trace of clinging remaining, in the next life one is reborn in the higher heavens and gains final liberating knowledge there. In both instances, one is never again born into this world. '


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Asoka

Disillusionment is OK

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 20 Jan 2022, 21:38

Am disillusioned with this world, not much passion for anything just now. Career, painting, technology, science, books, music, films, romance, intoxicants, pleasure, pain. I no longer care for any of it, it all feels so unsatisfying. Politics is a load of crap, same old story of the wealthy shafting everyone else and the planet. Victims of greed they hoard and hoard, and never feel happy or content, there's always that niggling feeling of dissatisfaction in the background, and to fill this they automatically grasp for more wealth and power, but they never fill that emptiness within, never cure that feeling of how unsatisfying everything is, why? 

This modern world we live in is fuelled by greed, hatred and delusion. And all of it is doomed to end, nothing lasts, all things are being constantly chomped away at by impermanence, everything is in a state of entropy. Is why I just stick my paintings to my walls with masking tape, I don't give a shit, I know they're impermanent and I am not attached to them. I don't even know who paints them, it doesn't feel like the Richie tapping away at the keys here, some other geezer and we are both impermanent, empty, and always changing.

Is it possible to feel happiness on the spiritual path? The happiest memories I have are the days in my youth dancing at rave parties high as a kite feeling connected to everything and feeling free. Those were the best feelings I ever had, nothing else I have ever experienced has been as liberating as that was. Full of immense love and empathy for everyone around me, and they also feeling the same way towards me, all of us one, smiling and expressing our good nature, a feeling of unity, of oneness, being completely at ease with everyone and everything. In that place I forgot who I was, forgot my story and didn't care a jot about it anymore, It didn't matter who anyone was, nobody cared, we were all the same, no judgement, no shame, no exclusion, just goodwill, friendliness, and a shared feeling of connection and space to be who we are. Those beautiful  memories stay with me, even now at the age of 46, and they remind me that deep down, all of us, whoever we are, have a good nature underneath all the layers of shit. We all want to love and be loved, to live in peace. I believe that our original mind before it is tainted by the world is good-natured.

It makes me think of the spiritual practise of metta. Metta means unconditional love, kindness, friendship, warmth, benevolence, and jovial good will. Metta also has a good-natured sense of humour, which can help one to not take things too seriously or personally. Metta is the Pali word, but there isn't really a satisfying equivalent that captures it in the English language. So I just use the word metta, as it is easier than listing all the qualities it embodies. It is a nice feeling, and there have been times when practising metta where I thought I came close to how I felt at a rave party (but without the dreaded comedown). Equanimity is also a nice state of mind, and very useful. It is the best one to look at reality with. Not a cold dry dead equanimity, it is alive, warm-hearted and kind, but doesn't take the suffering of the world upon itself. With equanimity one no longer clings to anything, no longer chases after anything, and one doesn't get shaken or swept up by the random nature of things, one is centred. With equanimity one remains calm in a crisis, unshaken and unsuprised by the changing nature of the world, in that lucid state of mind one can look at reality with clarity and see things as they are.

A Zen teacher said that my feelings of disillusionment with the world are a good thing, they are the first noble truth. Disillusionment means one has seen through the illusion.
The second noble truth is to see it is my attachment to the illusion that causes me suffering.
The third noble truth is to come out of the trance and let go of the illusion, stop clinging to the inner story of self.
The fourth noble truth contains the practical instructions on how one trains the mind to let go of and go beyond the self-centred dream. To (through the gradual training of the noble eight-fold path) reach a state of mind that doesn't die, doesn't suffer, and experiences a profound freedom that remains and never ceases - nibbana.

Peace and metta




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Asoka

The Goddess

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 24 Dec 2021, 22:12

Had this vivid dream of being in possession of a magical pebble.

I skimmed it across the water and each time it skipped it grew larger and larger until it became an island with ancient Aztec-style ruins on it. Me and some companions went to explore the island. We found an entrance to an underground tunnel and entered it. Whilst down there we accidently activated a secret entrance that held a sarcophagus, with horror we watched it  open and a female zombie with glowing eyes emerge. She was immensely powerful and terrifying to behold. She butchered all my companions but for some reason spared me and when I was the last person standing, she changed from the form of a zombie to a beautiful self-assured Goddess. She led me out of the underground tunnels to the top of the island, where she stood by the entrance to a cave. She did not seem to want to harm me, in fact she seemed quite protective and motherly towards me. And she had a strong sense of the wild about her, reminded me of the feeling of connection and kinship I feel with nature and other species of life.

Anyway I had no idea what any of that could mean, but it left a strong impression on me. I researched ancient goddesess, from all cultures. And found out some amazing stuff about how humans used to live in a matriarchal society. And it was women who invented agriculture and were leaders during the Neolithic times. The garden of eden story symbolises this, the move away from being hunter-gatherers to farmers.

 Women would often die in childbirth, and those that did would be venerated as fallen heroes. The neolithic peoples worshipped the Goddess. Silbury hill for example took 400 years to build and has stood for over 4000 years. A symbol of the ancient Goddess in the shape of a breast. 

 Things changed roughly around the time of ancient Greece, things became more and more patriarchal, and women became suppressed and demeaned; at the same time the natural world also started to become oppressed. Nature became seen as something to be dominant over, something to exploit and control. The idea of ownership developed, not just of the land, but also of people. Something which still continues to this day.

 Anyway, after much digging I finally found the Goddess from my dream. She was an Aztec goddess. Portrayed sometimes in their art as a frightening zombie-like figure. It is all symbolic though, she was actually quite benevolent, the frightening zombie side to her nature symbolises her consuming our misdeeds/impurities, so we can become pure enough to travel onward. The companions in my dream must have symbolised my impurities. The cave she stood beside, I think symbolised the womb. Ancient caves almost always symbolised the womb. And perhaps I am meant to enter it to become reborn, or maybe it means the world is about to be reborn. Perhaps the cave is the safest place to be in these turbulent times, a place to change, develop and grow into something new.

I dunno, I am maybe reading too much into this dream,  left a strong impression on me though and was odd that I would dream of a Goddess I had never heard of before and find out she was based on an actual ancient mythology. Cool dream anyway... but perhaps I am reading too much into it. 

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