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Tiredness and Mara

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 24 Mar 2023, 21:21

Quite tired today. Couldn't sleep much last night. Went for a walk this morning in a surreal haze of uncomfortable brain fog; barely managed to put one footstep in front of the other. Felt like an extra for a zombie movie. 

When I became mindful, I remembered to stop paying attention to the feeling of being tired and dull, as it intensifies the experience and makes it much worse, adding unbearable mental suffering on top of the physical suffering. So when I became mindful of it I would intentionally move my attention to something different in awareness, away from the unpleasant feeling of tiredness and the thoughts. And just kept doing that when I remembered to.

The breeze felt pleasant, so I focused on that. It was lovely. I stopped and stared at the water for a while. Watched the ripples in amazement, chasing each other across the surface like excited air spirits. I felt a synchronicity between me and the water. And again noticed how it keeps changing, how everything around me keeps changing.

The defilements in the mind are much worse when I am tired. And Mara tends to pop up then with the inner critic hat on. As always he is keen to point out all my faults, like a long rolling list that drops to the floor. I try not to pay attention to him. So he then gets right into the pit of my stomach and starts twisting and knotting my energies this way and that. I focus on the air element, and then I feel a lush breeze come along and it passes right through my being and blows Mara away.

 He really does not like it that I am trying to purify my mind.

I remember hearing in a dhamma talk that samhadi (aka jhana) is a protection against Mara. Mara is very good at manipulating thoughts, he's a rascal. But the stillness of samhadi can protect you from that. It calms down the thought energies. It is challenging to learn, but well worth the effort, as it becomes a very useful part of one's mental toolkit.

Mara frequently appears in the Buddhist suttas trying to tempt, frighten or discourage those on the spiritual path. 

On the night of his awakening the Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree and for the first part of the night, his mind became dark as Mara threw everything he could at him, tried to pummel him with negative thoughts and aversion. But the Buddha sat there and endured.

Next Mara tried to seduce him with his daughters. Again the Buddha remained still and did not follow the lust. 

Then Mara tried to appeal to his sense of honour and compassion. Saying that if he didn't go back and be a prince, there would be noone wise enough to rule the kingdom after his father died and the kingdom would fall apart. But the Buddha reasoned back there would come a point as a ruler, when he would have to make a decision about taking another being's life, and as he now practised non-violence, he would be unable to defend the kingdom from an opposing army. He also reasoned that it would not solve anything anyway. Because he too would die eventually and then the kingdom would be vulnerable to falling apart again after his death. However, if he became a Buddha, it would be of greater benefit to other beings than becoming a king; and his teachings would survive longer than any kingdom and thus be able to help future generations. This was 2600 years ago. 







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Asoka

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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Asoka

Shephard of thoughts

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 3 Feb 2023, 14:42

I am learning how to notice my moods better, and if my state of mind is unwholesome, I will look at what my thoughts are doing. And like a shepherd guarding his sheep, I try to steer them back in the right direction, towards the wholesome. Towards non-greed, non-hatred, non-delusion.

I use the word 'non' because there are many wholesome mind states that are not greed, hate, or delusion.  And it is helpful to have many wholesome states to choose from. It can be tiring to feel kind, loving, or joyful all the time, and that's alright, because there are other wholesome states one can cultivate and use instead. It is good to have a wide palette to choose from and experiment with.

If my thoughts have strayed into the territory of greed, hate, and delusion, depending on the mood I am in, steering them away from those fields, can be as simple as interrupting the herd of thoughts with a gentle nudge, whereupon they will immediately stop what they are doing and happily go back in the right direction.

Other times it can involve the need to talk the thoughts into wanting to go back in the right direction, which means learning ways of talking to myself that helps to change the state of mind I am in, this sometimes results in me giving myself a dhamma talk, or writing an article like this. Or if I am not feeling I can do anything like that, I will use the voice of another, ( i.e. listen to a dhamma talk, a podcast, read an article or book) and use their voice to talk me into a better state of mind. 

But there are times when my thoughts can be racing and chaotic. And then it is like trying to shepherd a stampeding herd of buffalo. On those occasions I will practise something I dub the megaphone technique.

Named after scenes in movies where there's a crowd of people all talking loudly and at once. Perhaps they are excited about something, or argueing over this and that, perhaps they're panicking. Someone then walks into the middle of the group with a megaphone and makes it squeek loudly and everyone suddenly stops talking and turns to face the person with the megaphone.

My megaphone is to attempt to become aware of all the bodily sensations happening at once in the present moment, and flood the mind with these sense impressions, and keep bringing my attention back to this experience, so that I am constantly interrupting the thought processes with this sensory overload. It can work, and help bring some relief and composure back to the mind.

There are other megaphones that also work, some are gentle, such as surrounding myself with the colour red, yellow, or blue, like an aura. Some soothing like paying attention to the air element, or water element, the solidity of earth, the warmth and energy of the body, or just being aware of my feet, hands, or any part of the body that feels better than being in the head. 

It's basically just something to distract the mind and help it settle into a more tranquil state and regain some composure. Tranquility is a wholesome state of mind. One can be creative with this. These examples are just things that work for me, everyone should experiment and find what helps them. It is our subjective experience that matters here, forget about trying to make it fit in with any scientific theory, this exercise isn't about that. It is about taking what comes naturally to us, and making it into something supernatural.

Sometimes the thoughts don't respond well to anything, so I will let them continue in the background, but choose not to let them bother me, I become unattached to them. I choose not to judge them, not to follow them or identify with them. Just let them be, like background noise, and choose to place my attention on something else that is happening in awareness, something in the present moment that helps bring some peace and composure back to the mind, and then I can focus on a task at hand better without feeling harrassed by the thought processes.

The ability to choose where we place our attention is something we can all learn. And it is an aspect of the mind we can have some control over. It is also useful to learn how to tune the energy of attention so it is neither too forceful, nor too lax. Like cupping a little bird in your hand, if you cup it too tightly it will hurt the bird; but if you cup it too loosely it will fly away. How do you make attention comfortable and stable. How do you get into a flow? How do you keep the mind interested in something so that attention wants to stay there willingly and not want to be anywhere else? That's the questions we have to ask ourselves if we want to train the mind. 

It is challenging, so remember to cut yourself some slack. Try not to compare yourself with others, be okay with where you're at in your practise. Don't judge others or yourself when failure happens, which it will. And if another judges you, just remember that other people's practise is their practise. Some people have been at this a while and are advanced. Others are just starting out. We are all at different levels, and that's okay, let others be where they're at, and concentrate on your own practice. Go at your own pace. Be comfortable with where you're at. That is where you come from and meet the world. Development is a gradual process, and that's okay, it isn't a race, nobody gets extra brownie points for getting there before anyone else, the prize at the end, nibanna, is exactly the same experience for everyone. If you persevere in a way that doesn't stress or break the mind, you will get there, in your own time, in a way that works for you. It is important not to strain the mind, to take care of it, rest it, nurture it, to be gentle, be kind to it, a friend, it is not your enemy, it is where you live. If you are making progress you are making progress. Whether that progress is fast or slow doesn't matter. Enlightenment is not a race or a competition. It is a gift that you give to yourself, and noone else can give it to you. Others can guide you, share their wisdom, but the onus is on you to do the work, noone else can.

 


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Asoka

Thought herding

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 25 Oct 2022, 11:53
What others think is their business. Their karma.

Praise and blame. Fame and disrepute. These winds blow back and forth. Sometimes the wind is in your sails and you feel invincible; and other times it's blowing against you, making a mockery of your umbrella. Don't worry too much about what others think, or what the world thinks, because that changes like the wind.Only have concern for how you think and the opinion of the wise.

Keep striving to steer the herd of thoughts in the direction of non-hate, non-greed, and harmlessness. As these are thoughts one doesn't regret having and they lead to better outcomes and peace of mind (-:

It is challenging, but giving oneself a hard time for not being perfect is ill-will towards oneself. Self hatred is still hatred and doesn't lead anywhere except to more misery. We are allowed to give ourselves the permission to let go of the past, to let go of regrets, to move on and be kinder to ourselves. Everyone makes mistakes. And all any of us can do is try to learn what we can from them in a non-hostile way. We make amends for the past by cultivating wholesome states of mind here and now, till there's no more room for negativity.
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Asoka

Mind and matter

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Listening with the body while others speak. I feel tingles and energy flows. Discover that I can be paying attention to my feet and still understand the words being said and perfectly follow the conversation; but without the thoughts about the inner story getting in the way. This feels like a whole new dimension of being, to listen with the body.

Loneliness if left untreated becomes anger at separation and disconnection. But does a Buddha ever feel lonely? Or is a Buddha as happy by themselves as they are with others?

Mind empty, there are thoughts but they are not the mind. There are sensations and feelings, but are these the mind? There is this body that ages, gets sick and dies, is this the mind? Where is my mind? What is mind?

When the inner critic surfaces and begins its judgement I discovered moving one's attention away from the head to the heart area or the belly seems to  counteract its energy a bit and help bring into being better intentions.

It feels good when one can place attention where one wants and keep it there. Listening with the body, one can be with any part of the body and stay with it as long as one likes, thoughts just like any other sensation just continue in the background, but one does not have to pay attention to them.

Sometimes my attention likes to be a bit out from the body, aware of the space around it. This feels comfortable and peaceful and after meditation there is a luminous visual affect, like a glow which seems to cover the entire body and at times one sees this luminous quality in other beings, like an ethereal glow.

In my heart centre there is a luminous warmth that spreads throughout the entire body, saturating it with bliss. In the belly the warmth feels more solid and grounding. In the neck and spine, lots of tingles, head feels luminous and at times trippy and otherworldly. Rushes and tingles in the scalp and temples, and then a warm flush in my face and neck.

 Pleasant energies circulate throughout the body. It seems to me that these energies are good for one's health. It feels rejuvenating to saturate one's body with them. Are they a mind-generated phenomena? I'm not sure, but then isn't everything we see, hear, smell, taste and touch just a mind-generated phenomena? The world we encounter out there is built by our mind. When you see something, where are you seeing it? Where is that sight taking place? Out there? Or in your head? Or both? How do you know?

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Asoka

Winter solstice

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 30 Sep 2021, 22:38
A blue tit came to my window today. Flapping dead-still like a hummingbird; watching me intently through the glass, when it made eye contact it flew away. I suddenly had the thought I better check the bird feeders outside, and they were empty so I filled them with sunflower seeds and mealworms. Smart birds are bluetits, in fact all birds are smart. Papa seagull came for some cat biscuits soaked in water along with his partner, a much shyer more suspicious character. He is a beautiful seagull with big bright eyes, and he makes this happy 'honk honk' noise when he sees me. Fills my heart with joy when he comes down from the sky and runs as fast as his long legs can go to greet me. He trusts me completely and I feel this bond with him that is like family. He has nested on our roof every spring and summer for a while now. My magnificient avian neighbour.

I feel bad about the cat biscuits though. I think of the horror of the factory farmed meat industry. Animals suffering for-profit and some sad delusion that life is all about making money. How greed can turn us into soulless monsters if we are not careful. I myself do not eat meat, but I will buy it and give it to the animals. A strange compromise I am not entirely comfortable with.

Over the years since I looked after one of their injured young who never recovered the power of flight. I have gotten to know many jackdaws, some will come into my room when my window is open and just chill out while I study. I love listening to the calls they make outside, and it cheers me up when I go out to give them some peanuts and leftovers to see them all perched on the fence in a row chattering and looking happy. There's some crows too, a rook, pigeons, blackbirds, a song thrush, robins, chaffinches, sparrows, a pied wagtail and the stealthy magpies with their magical wings.

I wish them well. I wish all people well, all species of life. I pray for the lost souls in the world chasing their greed, that they will find the strength to turn away from their games of monopoly, wake up and see the damage they cause and decide in that moment to change and become more altruistic people. That leaders will turn away from the path of destruction and look instead towards a world of compassion. That all humanity evolve as one together, to be a better kinder happier species that can live in harmony and give the eco-systems room to thrive.
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