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Grieving but not depressed

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Tough day.

I think I am still grieving.
Makes me behave in odd ways at times.
My moods go up and down like a yo-yo.

Every so often I remember, and realise he is not here anymore.

 I miss Dad, but I am not depressed. Don't get me wrong. I know my posts can be a bit raw at times. That's just the way I am, I have a bit of a chaotic personality. But I am fine. I know how to care for myself, and the dhamma is my refuge and strength. I have been practising Buddhism for a number of years now, since the start of the pandemic. The Buddha is also with me, and so are the sangha. I am perfectly alright, well-protected and safe. So please don't anyone worry about me, although I have appreciated the many messages of concern. It is nice to feel loved. 

I know it is all impermanent, and there's dependent origination, and that craving is the cause of suffering. And I understand the things we are most attached to are the things that cause us to suffer the most. Yet still I am human and the loss of one's parents is a seismic event.

The mind is complex. And I do not feel ashamed for grieving nor do I think that it is wrong to do so. I am not resisting the process, not suppressing anything, just letting it happen, out of kindness to myself. 

I realise I have known Dad my whole life, right since the beginning, I probably heard his voice whilst I was a foetus growing in the womb. Our parents have a huge impact on us; and so I think there are all these different parts of this mind rising up to grieve his loss and pay homage to him, each in their own way.

I have been told grief can last for years. I heard a monk say when he lost his Mum it took him five years to feel like he had got back to normal. 

 But this is the thing, I am not depressed, I am fine. I am just letting things arise and cease in their own time, letting it all be without clinging to it.

I find writing cathartic, and I know my Dad used to like to read my blog posts sometimes. And I know I could just be all private and keep myself to myself, but maybe what I write might help others out there going through something similar. I don't know. 

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Asoka

The five hindrances in brief

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 7 Aug 2023, 15:17


'The obstructions to samhadi (meditative absorption) are usually presented in a five-fold stack called the 'five hindrances'. 

These are: Sensual desire, ill will, dullness and drowsiness, restlessness and worry, and doubt. 

They are called the hindrances because they block the path to liberation. They cloud the mind, preventing it being calm and developing insight. 

The first two hindrances, sensual desire and ill-will, are the strongest of the set, and are the most formidable barriers to meditative growth, representing respectively, the unwholesome roots of greed and aversion. The other three hindrances, less toxic but still obstructive, are offshoots of delusion.

Sensual desire is interpreted in two ways. Sometimes in the narrow sense as lust for the five strands of sense pleasure: agreeable sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches; and sometimes a broader interpretation is given, by which the term becomes inclusive of craving in all its modes, whether for sense pleasures, wealth, power, position, fame, or anything else it can settle upon. 

The second hindrance ill will, is a synonym for aversion. It comprises hatred, anger, resentment, repulsion of every shade, whether directed towards other people, towards oneself, towards objects, or towards situations.

The third hindrance, dullness and drowsiness, is a compound of two factors linked together by their common feature of mental unwieldiness. One is dullness, manifest as mental inertia; the other is drowsiness, seen as mental sinking, heaviness of mind, or excessive inclination to sleep. 

At the opposite extreme is the fourth hindrance, restlessness and worry. This also is a compound with its two members linked by their common feature of disquietude. Restlessness is agitation or excitement, which drives the mind from thought to thought with speed and frenzy; worry is remorse over past mistakes and anxiety about their possible undesired consequences.

The fifth hindrance, doubt, signifies a chronic indecisiveness and lack of resolution. This is not the probing of critical intelligence (i.e. critical thinking), which is an attitude that was encouraged by the Buddha, but a persistent inability to commit oneself to the course of spiritual training due to lingering doubts concerning the Buddha, his doctrine, and his path. '

From: 'The Noble Eightfold Path, the way to the end of suffering.' by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Available at: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/waytoend.html

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Asoka

What heartbreak taught me

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 2 Oct 2023, 07:45


There was a time I yearned for romance. But that has passed now. I am not looking for that anymore. Falling in love is suffering, and I will never fall in love again. I did fall in love, but she didn’t want me. And when that happend, happiness left me like breath evaporating from a mirror.

Relationships are suffering. I don't need anyone’s emotional support; I don’t need a partner. I don't need anybody. I am okay by myself. And it is okay to be alone.

Besides, I am no one special, I am not particularly attractive, I am nearly 50, and financially unstable, I can barely make ends meet. It wouldn’t be fair on anyone else, but by myself it doesn’t matter if I am poor. I often contemplate becoming homeless because I struggle to live the household life, it is stressful trying to survive and live in these dark times. There’s a longing in me to escape it all, to leave the dusty household life behind and live simply, with few cares and burdens.

I have nothing to give anyway, nothing to offer in a relationship. I am not what women want in a man. And that's fine, I don’t care anymore. That’s why love can be cruel, because not everyone gets that happy-ever-after that Hollywood sells. And those that do often pay a great cost for it in the end.

 Perhaps it is a blessing to be alone. Without anyone to think about. I have the freedom to decide how I best want to use what little time I have left on this Earth.

It is one reason I write so much. Maybe these pieces of writing will help someone else out there. I feel if it helps just one person, it was worth it. 

I have not enjoyed my life; it has been mostly shit if I'm honest. Those brief drops of happiness are just not worth it in the end. The pain far outweighs the pleasure. The thought of coming back here and having to go through all this again, the thought of living another life is unbearable. It is that thought that keeps me making effort.

I am done with wanting things. I relinquish it all. All desire, all longing, all attachment. I release it all.

This world is a slaughterhouse, a cruel and brutal place for most of us. There’s much suffering here, so many beings suffering, and there’s a heartbreaking mass extinction event happening. That one just feels completely powerless to do anything about.

Mass extinction of life on this planet for what? A plastic deluded modern existence. The empty consumer dream of Ken and Barbie. Killing the forests, killing the oceans, and killing ourselves for what? Why? How did it come to this? What good has come from the insatiable greed of our modern times?

It is all so inane, tragic and vacuous. 

I plan to make this my last lifetime; I don’t want to return here. To incarnate here means another being will have to suffer so I can exist, that is the sorrow and horror of interdependence. It isn't beautiful, it is deeply disturbing. For one lifeform to exist it must feed on another. And no lifeform wants to be eaten. All beings value their lives. The cycle of life is not unicorns and rainbows. It is a horror show. 

 Even if you are one of the lucky few who succeed in this challenging modern world. If you do get to live that over-hyped American dream. It all one day gets taken away from you, torn away. All that effort, all that hard work to build the perfect material life is for nought in the end. It is a con. A scam.

What really matters in the end? What doesn't get taken away from you when you die?

When I sat next to my dad, holding his hand, while he fought for his life in that hospital room. I clearly saw anicca, anatta, and dukkha. The three characteristics of conditioned phenomenon. Translated as: impermanence, not-self, suffering.

I finally understood dependent origination. Life is fragile, the body is fragile. When those conditions that support it cease, so does life.

What is there to cling to?

What is real?

What is non-delusion?


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Asoka

Five and Seven

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 25 Aug 2023, 20:19


Craving
Ill-will
Sloth
Agitation
Doubt

These are the five hindrances. The enemies of rapture.
When these five are dissolved, there is an upwelling of relief. 
This relief produces joy and pleasure in the mind.

The Buddha then advises one to spread that joy and pleasure throughout the entire body. Till it is saturated with it.

But this is hard to do when the hindrances are present. So one needs the seven enlightenment factors: 

Mindfulness --> Investigation --> Energy (aka effort) --> Joy --> Calmness --> Samhadi --> Equanimity.

These seven are the nemesis of the five, working together to seclude the mind from their influence.

The five hindrances and the seven factors of enlightenment are mutually exclusive. 
Only one of them can occupy a single mind moment at a time. 

We don't actually multi-task, we just have very fast discrete moments of consciousness. 

Each mind moment is a bit like an old fashioned movie projector, that reads one slide at a time, but goes so fast as to seem like it is all happening at once. 

Each slide of the movie projecter is like a single mind moment. A mind state.

With perseverance and effort, one keeps bringing mindfulness back to the meditation object and sustaining attention to it. This recreates the same mind moments over and over. Which steadies the mind and creates a perception of stillness. This isolates consciousness from the five hindrances. Which brings relief from the emotional stress that comes from those states of mind. 

Joy is an important ally, it uplifts us. Joy brings good energy which can help stop one getting drowsy in meditation. 

We naturally generate joy when we become interested in something. When we find something interesting, we get absorbed in it. How does one generate interest in something as simple as the breath, so that the mind wants to stay with it contentedly and doesn't wander off anyplace else?

Joy naturally leads to serenity (calmness), which is still joy but a calmer more refined joy. The excitement has settled but everything still feels very pleasant. 

Samhadi is when the mind becomes unified, all of it gathered together, collected, composed, centred. It is whole-hearted. All of you is present. The mind is happy to be meditating, and doesn't want to be anywhere else. 

The unification of samhadi naturally leads to the different energies of the mind becoming balanced in a state of equanimity. Which is an exquisite expansive state of mind. A wonderful coolness, spaciousness, emptiness, freedom, clarity. It is not dull and unemotional, far from it, it is perhaps one of the most beautiful states of mind one can experience in this life. Hard to get to though, which is a shame, because it is so useful for us. It is the mind tuned into beautiful harmony, no longer clinging. Non-attachment feels like freedom.

This state of equanimity persists for a time after meditation. Whereupon one can direct the mind towards anything and the mind will see it all clearly. 

One simile the Buddha uses is of someone looking at their reflection in a pool of water. The water symbolises the mind. Desire is like dye on the water which distorts the reflection; ill-will is like boiling water; sloth is like stagnant water; restlessness is like water agitated by the wind; and doubt is like water that is clouded with mud making it hard to see anything. Each of these stop the person being able to see their face clearly in the water. When the five hindrances are no longer present, the water becomes clear and still, and then the person is able to see themselves clearly. 

One thing I have found helpful to do sometimes after meditation, or sometimes before is to listen to a dhamma talk.This can bring insight and also rouse up the desire to practise when the inclination isn't there.

Meditation for me is a mix of walking, sitting, standing, and lying down. It is good to remember that one can meditate in any of those four postures, because it can become uncomfortable to stay in the same posture for too long. Changing postures is helpful.


... 

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Asoka

Equanimity towards formations

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 4 Aug 2023, 09:59


Equanimity is a pleasant emotion. It is not dry at all. It is better than you think. You may be forgiven for having the impression of equanimity being a dry scientific sort of apathetic state. But it is not like that. It is a very rich emotion, and the freedom it brings feels slightly ecstatic actually.

Equanimity is a balance of all the different energies of the mind all tuned so that they are in sync and working together harmoniously. It is flowing through life without clinging. A state of non-attachment.

One doesn't care for pain or pleasure anymore. It just doesn't bother one. You can be walking with pain in the joints and it just doesn't matter. One still feels pleasure, but when it ceases one doesn't cling to it, or want it back. It is no big deal anymore.

Equanimity is neither love nor hate.
Neither greed nor self-denial.
It avoids all extremes.

What is love anyway? 
What is hate?

The eight worldly winds of pain and pleasure, success and failure, gain and loss, praise and blame just don't matter when one is equanimous. The worldly winds can blow and blow but the house of cards isn't there anymore. There's nothing to defeat. Just emptiness.

One no longer cares about impressing people, or pleasing anyone, or trying to tick another's boxes, or being perfect. One just doesn't give a shit about that anymore. Worldly views are just those, they change like the wind. They're insubstantial, empty, not-self.

 There's no ill-will towards anybody though, no conceit. Just a sweet freedom from being concerned about the opinions of others. One still listens to the opinions of the wise however, the noble ones. Those who have more experience on the spiritual path. To not take on board their advice would be foolish. But the opinions of the world, they no longer matter or effect one. 

Praise and blame is like honey and bee-stings. Both can be dangerous. Praise can get to our heads. It gives us a dopamine hit, excites us, fluffs up the ego. Which can compel us to behave in unskillful ways, cause us to make poor choices, and crave more praise. This feeds the unwholesome roots of greed and delusion.

Blame can make us feel like shit. Dampen our spirits. We take it personally, and resentments can arise and fester. This feeds the unwholesome root of hate.

To walk the middle way. Is to stand outside of the extremes. To look at both from a vantage point that is beyond good and bad. To see both sides clearly and understand them.

It is to pay wise attention to the fault, and wise attention to the beautiful. 

With equanimity one can feel okay whatever happens, one's peace remains unshaken.

A good spiritual exercise to practice sometimes is to allow ourselves to be misunderstood by someone else and not feel the need to correct them. Not feel bothered at all. One can learn a lot about how we crave praise and construct the self from this exercise.

With equanimity one stops taking everything so seriously, so personally. It just doesn't matter, because one clearly sees that all formations are empty. Conditioned phenomena is transient, dissatisfying, insecure, it doesn't lead to lasting happiness and wellbeing. It just leads to more suffering. Attachment is suffering. The things we are the most attached to in the world, are the things that cause us to suffer the most. 

With equanimity one feels undisturbed by anything. One can walk passed a corpse smiling serenely. It is a freeing emotion, and one I am keen to explore more in my practice.

How to get there? The practise of samhadi naturally leads to it. Equanimity is the seventh factor of enlightenment:

Mindfulness --> Investigation --> Energy --> Rapture --> Calmness --> Samhadi --> Equanimity.

Wanting things is stressful. It is tiring and unpleasant. Through our day to day experience, through being mindful and investigating. One starts to understand this at a deep level. Then the mind reaches a point where it feels fed up with yearning, sick of craving and naturally becomes dispassionate towards worldly formations. Without the pain of wanting, freed from the feeling of lack that comes from craving. One becomes content and one's mind feels invincible, unshakable. At peace. It's not dangerous, the feeling of equanimity doesn't get to one's head. It is not apathy, it works well with the emotion of kindness, kindness and equanimity complement one another.

Equanimity is a pleasant cooling of the senses. A relief. A harmless state of non-grasping. Of non-acquiring, non-hating. There's no conceit there at all. One sees clearly that the self is a delusion. And that seeing is truly liberating for the energies of the mind.

To be a person, to have an identity, to be somebody is tiring. It is stressful, dissatisfying. Being caught up in the self-centred dream is to suffer. How wonderful it feels to let all that go.To go beyond all of it and taste true freedom. Freedom from the prison of the self. The psychic energy involved in this delusion becomes unbound, limitless, no longer subject to conditions -- deathless.


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Asoka

To be outstanding

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" When dealing with the demons of defilement, you have to look for both their good and their bad points. Only when you see both sides can you be said to be discerning and wise. When you can take bad things and make them good, that's when you're really outstanding. If you take good things and make them bad, that's no good at all. Even when you take good things and make other good things out of them, that's not really special. There are three levels of goodness: good, excellent, and outstanding. A good person does good. An excellent person takes something good and makes it better. That's excellent, but not outstanding. An outstanding person takes bad things and makes them good. "

- Ajahn Lee

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Asoka

Dark night IV

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 3 Aug 2023, 21:00


I felt a sea of sorrows today.
The kilesas hit me hard.

Every dark desire within this mind.
Came out in force to attack me.
The demon armies of Mara.
Defeated my resolve.
Pummelled me to dust.
I fell hard,
broken-hearted.
Shattered.
Ripped to shreds.
Torn.
Almost dying from the intense struggle.
It was fierce.
They were strong.

Compassion failed me.
Love felt impossible.
Chaos reigned.

The hate was like poison in my veins.
An all-consuming fire.
Burning me as it burned the world.

With thoughts tangled up in the net of craving.
Consciousness spiralled into darkness.
Visions of Hellish worlds unfolded.
Countless suffering beings.
I felt overwhelmed.

My heart withdrew.
But there was no escape from the torment.
No relief.

'This practise isn't easy.' I said out loud. "I give up. I can't do this anymore. It is too much. I'm done."

Then the rain fell outside the window.
Washed the Hells to tranquility.
I heard the green of the leaves
As the water trickled down them.

Brahma devas smiled 
Golden coloured clouds.

'Asoka' they said.

And I remembered.
I let it go.
Released it.

No longer clinging
to its fuel.
The fire went cool.

There was an upwelling of relief.
The heart rising like a phoenix
from the ashes.
...



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Asoka

Metta magic

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I often think of you.
I am sure I feel your energy at times.
A part of me says it is all in my head.
That I am deluded.

But the unmistakable warmth in my heart says otherwise.
Tells me it is real.

I am grateful.

There have been dark times where I almost gave up.

Then I felt such love coming from you it melted my heart. Opened it wide like a window letting in a Spring breeze.

The joy returning.. 

...


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Asoka

Summary of stages in Mindfulness of breathing, anapanasati (ultra-concise version)

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 30 July 2023, 16:16


This is a gradual training. 

Find somewhere secluded where one won't be disturbed.

Putting aside longing and dejection in regard to the world.
Setting aside all worldly concerns. 

One trains thus:

Mindfulness of the body

1. To begin just simply notice if the breath is long or short.

2. Then pay attention to the whole of the breath from start to finish.

3. Become sensitive to the body as you breathe in and out. 

4. Breathe calming the body. 

Mindfulness of Feelings

5. Breathe sensitive to joy.

6. Breathe experiencing pleasure. 

7. Breathe sensitive to thoughts.

8. Breathe calming thoughts.

Mindfulness of mind states:

9. Breathe sensitive to one's state of mind.

10. Breathe satisfying and gladdening the mind.

11. Breathe steadying the mind.

12. Breathe releasing the mind.

Mindfulness of dhammas:

13. Breathe contemplating change. (impermanence, anicca, dependent origination). 

14. Breathe contemplating the fading of craving. (Dispassion)

16. Breathe contemplating cessation. (of suffering).

17. Breathe abandoning greed, hate, and delusion. (renunciation).

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Asoka

One excellent night

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 25 July 2023, 10:21


' Let one not revive the past.

Nor upon the future build one's hopes.
For the past has been left behind.
And the future's not yet reached.
Instead with insight let one see,
Each presently arisen state.
Let one know that and be sure of it,
Invincibly, unshakeably.
Today the effort must be made.
Tomorrow death may come.
Who knows?
No bargain with mortality can keep him and his hordes away. 
But for one who dwells thus ardently. 
Keeps at it, does not give up.
Practises by day, by night ---
It is those the peaceful sage has said
Who have had one excellent night. '

-- poem attributed to the Buddha


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Asoka

Resilience

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Sometimes we make poor choices. Bad kamma happens, some of it delayed, some of it instant. It is painful.

One has to just bear it up. There's nothing else for it. The past can't be changed. Take responsibility for your actions. Learn from the experience.  See what mental dispositions led to the suffering and abandon them.

It comes from within us. The greed, hate, and delusion comes from within. It is not something outside us. We ourselves are the source of it and the end of it.

Resilience is important. Because one will fall over time and time again whilst learning how to walk. 

 It is important to not give up. 

To pick oneself up after failure and keep going, this too is part of the path. Learning how to fall. Because greed, hate, and delusion will not go easy on you. 

Just remember we're all human.

We all make mistakes, we all make poor choices that lead to bad kamma. 

 Part of the journey is learning from our mistakes. Seeing what led to them. Reflecting wisely and growing from them. 

Some of our most potent spiritual lessons can come from humiliation and defeat.

Be kind to oneself. 
It is important.
Hate is poison.

Don't be afraid.
You are not alone.
There is grace out there too.
Friends who support you.
Both human and deva, ancestors too.
But they can't do the work for you.
Only you can do the work.
None but ourselves can free our minds.

 ...

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Asoka

Psychic weather front

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Sometimes I feel alive, enthusiastic, full of excitement and wonder. Other times I am like a flat battery that can't seem to hold its charge or see much hope in anything. Other times there's an odd mix of brain chemistry that is so horrible I can't put it into words. 

It is helpful for me to remember the brain is the body. It is dependent on conditions largely outside my control, meaning it will change. It won't always function in the way I wish it would, and eventually it will cease when the conditions it depends on cease.

That is the way of things with dependent origination. Conditioned phenomena is impermanent. It isn't gloomy to think this way. It can be a helpful tool to bring some equanimity to the mind. It helps me let go of the clinging and aversion towards things, and to stop taking it personally. Which decreases the suffering somewhat.

Sometimes difficult things happen that are outside our control. And sometimes it’s our own fault, we behave in unskilful ways and reap the kamma for it. Whatever it is, we then go and add more suffering to the situation with the longing, aversion, and taking it personally. This is the mental pain we add to physical and worldly difficulties. This is what makes us suffer.

I remember one night I got stranded on the mainland after missing the last boat back to the island. I had just completed a lengthy 10-hour journey coming back from my dad’s funeral. And I arrived at the ferry terminal late due to a delay with the coach. I felt exhausted and a bit unwell. There was nowhere to stay, and a long wait till the next ferry in the morning. So I went to sit on the beach, tried to roll a joint to make myself feel better. And I'd almost finished rolling it, when there was a huge gust of wind that blew it all away, and then it started raining. I felt like the person off the Hamlet advert, but without the cigar.

Then the day of the funeral all came back to me, and I burst into tears. It all just gushed out. I felt so lonely.

Then I saw my dad’s face in the sea. And I said I was sorry for not getting chance to speak to him before he died. I wished him well and told him he was loved.

Then the wind and rain became unbearable, so I went to find some shelter. I spent the rest of the night alternating between walking, standing, and sitting meditation.

I went through so many mood swings in that one night. Like the mind was changing, morphing into all sorts of different shapes and patterns. I was even seeing things that weren't there. It was challenging.

Through it all I tried to remain still and not get disturbed by the changing psychic weather. I just kept bringing my attention back to the breath and body to calm and centre the mind. Not engaging with anything else. Meditation felt like a refuge. There were strange eerie sounds at times like banshees wailing. (They turned out to be seabirds, the tunnel making their calls echo in ghostly ways).

 Eventually after many hours of this, the mind converged into a oneness, and it all disappeared. The psychic weather passed. Leaving behind a stillness and beautiful emptiness that I can't put into words. 

I was greeted at sunrise by a friendly pigeon watching me intently with smiley eyes. Then it vocalised a set of patterns, and some moments later another pigeon responded in the distance with a different set of vocal patterns.

The pigeon flew away. 

The wind and rain outside had stopped. It also dependent on conditions.

I went to get a coffee and my card was declined by the reader. I laughed, and the cashier laughed as well. She said that happens to her all the time, and that she keeps a supply of cash with her just in case.

Luckily, I had a few coins on me and managed to buy the coffee.

...


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Asoka

Renunciation

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 23 July 2023, 16:37


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Asoka

Formations

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 22 July 2023, 10:18


Where is all this happening?
Sense impressions.
Feelings.

The body is in the mind.
The mind is in the body.

But what is in the heart?

The centre of
These changing dhammas.
Sankharas 

Built by
A thirst that's
Never satiated.

This empty existence
I cling to.

...




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The safe shore

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 21 July 2023, 17:22

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

When certain conditions cease,
So does human existence.

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

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

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

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

It can be taken away at any moment.

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

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

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

Eveything is interconnected,
interdependent phenomena.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The noble eightfold path has done its work.

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

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

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

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


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Reincarnation and the twelve links of dependent origination

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 19 July 2023, 15:50


The twelve links of dependent origination as I understand them are:

Ignorance --> Mental dispositions and volitional actions --->  Conditioned consciousness ---> Name and form (mind and body) ---> The six senses ---> Sense contact (sense impressions) ---> Feelings (pleasant or unpleasant) ---> Craving ---> Clinging ---> Becoming ---> Birth ---> Death

When it comes to reincarnation and how that works, in a very basic way. 

There is death. After death the mental dispositions, (tendencies of the mind) lead to volitional actions. These condition consciousness to seek out a new womb, a new body, a new state of becoming. This creates the body and mind, the khandhas. Which leads to the six senses: sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, thoughts and ideas. This in turn creates sense impressions. Which we feel as either pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. These feelings lead to craving for more of the pleasant sensations and less of the unpleasant ones. We all tend to like pleasure and dislike pain. So we cling to what we like and want more of. We take on an identity. This is me, this is mine, this is self, the conceit 'I am'. This leads to becoming, which leads to birth, (and if you are a biological being of this Earth realm) old age, sickness, death and loss.

Rinse and repeat

 Upon death, ignorant of the mental dispositions and actions that lead to suffering (both mental and physical). Conditioned consciousness seeks rebirth, this leads to name and form (or body and mind)... and the cycle carries on. 

Because of ignorance it can go on indefinitely.

This is a very brief sketchy description,  Any gaps in my understanding are homework for me and the reader (-;

 It can be helpful to try and articulate one's understanding. I read somewhere that this is one of the ways we learn is through attempting to articulate our understanding of things. It doesn't have to be in writing. Can just be verbally out loud to oneself. This can be suprisingly helpful in checking one's understanding of a teaching and where there are gaps in one's knowledge, which points to what homework needs to be done.

...


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Understanding suffering

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 19 July 2023, 11:45


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

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

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

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

— DHAMMACAKKAPPAVATTANA SUTTA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...



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Abandoning Tanha

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

It feels like this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then the craving comes back again.

Rinse and repeat.

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

***

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Connection

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When I wake up, you are my first thought.

Throughout the day I feel you in my heart. The love shines out into the world. Makes others smile.

Wish I hadn't wrote what I did.
Wish I could take back those foolish words.
I never wanted to make you sad.

But I can't go back and change the past. Nobody can.
I have to let go of this.
Learn what I can.
Be wiser in future.

A connection like that is rare and beautiful. I wish I had been a better friend.

I wonder if we could've made it work.
I felt a good vibe about us.

Nevermind.
What's done is done.
Life moves on.
Things change.

But I still think of you.

...





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Sunday night

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Sound of air like

Gaia speaking

White noise

Whispering 

Thoughts

To sleep

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The noble eightfold path

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 15 July 2023, 22:47


This is a succint and concise summary of the noble eightfold path as I currently understand it  (-:


Right view


Bad kamma comes from actions of greed, hate, and delusion.
Good kamma comes from actions of generosity, kindness, and clarity. 

If you can't help another being; then at least have the intention to cause no harm.

Honour your mother and father.

To realise the paths and fruits of the different stages of enlightenment, one must accomplish the instructions given in the four noble truths.

The four noble truths are:

1. Knowledge of suffering (which is to be understood).

Birth, ageing, and death is hard to bear. Loss and separation from what we love is also hard to bear. Associating with what is disliked is unpleasant. Being apart from what is liked is unpleasant. Not getting what one wants is unpleasant. Identifying with the five aggregates of clinging (body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations (thoughts), sense-consciousness) is also dissatisfying, because they are always changing. The aggregates (khandas) are insubstantial, impermanent, uncertain and empty of self. This is what needs to be understood.

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

The cause of suffering is craving. The Pali word tanha (thirst) is used for this. And it is important to note that there is such a thing as chanda (right desire). Not all desire is to be abandoned. Chanda is the word used to describe right desire (desire that helps to put an end to suffering); and tanha is used to describe wrong desire, that which causes suffering.

Three aspects of tanha (craving) are:

Thirst for sense pleasures (kama tanha);
Thirst for existence (bhava-tanha);
Thirst for non-existence (vibhava tanha).

This is what needs to be abandoned.

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

The fading away and cessation of craving is what ends suffering. With wisdom one stops following the craving, and clinging to that which is insubstantial. The involuntary movements of the mind stop and there is an unshakeable peace. One is no longer harrassed and driven by craving and the worldly winds, which brings relief and freedom to the mind.

The abandonment of the second noble truth is what realises the third noble truth. 

4. Knowledge of the way leading to the end of suffering (which is to be developed).

The way to accomplish the abandonment of craving is through the practise of the noble eightfold path: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right samhadi. This is what needs to be developed, when this path has been cultivated the third noble truth is realised.

Right Intention

Intention of non ill-will;
Intention of renunciation (non-greed);
Intention of non-cruelty;

The Buddha listed the three right intentions above as being thoughts that he did not regret having, these intentions do not lead to unwholesome actions, they lead to good kamma and to nibanna.

The Buddha before his enlightenment divided his thoughts up to those that he regretted having (unwholesome thoughts); and those that he did not regret having (wholesome thoughts). He worked to abandon the unwholesome thoughts, dismissing them until they no longer arose. And he encouraged and cultivated the wholesome thoughts till they happened naturally, automatically without him needing to apply any more effort. He said the experiment worked and eventually his mind was filled with thoughts he didn't regret having. This made it easier then to settle into meditation.

Intention is the generator of kamma. It is what leads to verbal thoughts, speech and actions. 

Right speech

To be honest.
To refrain from malicious divisive or contentious speech.
To refrain from harsh unkind speech.
To refrain from pointless time-wasting speech.

Right action

To refrain from killing any living being.
To refrain from stealing.
To refrain from sexual misconduct.

Right livelihood

To make a living that does not cause harm to oneself or others. 

Right effort

Needs to be tuned so it is neither too tight, nor too loose. I.e. don't burn yourself out, but also don't get lazy.

The four right efforts are:

1. prevention of unwholesome states of mind from arising. (By avoiding unwise attention to the fault; and unwise attention to the beautiful.)
2. abandonment of unwholesome states of mind should they arise.
3. generating wholesome states of mind.
4. sustaining those wholesome states of mind.

Unwholesome states of mind are the five hindrances: greed, aversion, sloth, restlessness, doubt.

Wholesome states of mind are the seven factors of enlightenment: mindfulness, investigation of phenomena (dhamma), energy (effort), joy, calmness, samhadi, equanimity (balance).

Right mindfulness

This is the four foundations of mindfulness.

Mindfulness of the body.
Mindfulness of feelings. (pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant).
Mindfulness of mental states.
Mindfulness of dhammas (teachings).

Right samhadi

Sometimes translated as concentration, but concentration can give me the wrong idea, so I prefer to use the word samhadi. Samhadi is the gathering of the mind together into absorption, a unification of mind. Sustained mindfulness to a meditation object leads naturally to samhadi. It is a whole-hearted experience, which includes the body. The body can feel very pleasant and comfortable in samhadi. There may still be aches and pains in the physical body, but these don't bother one. One is absorbed in the experience of the body as it feels from within, the subtle body.

Emotions such as joy can be a whole body experience.

The body is in the mind. 

 A meditation object is used to calm and centre the mind, gather it together and bring it into unity and balance. Common meditation objects used are the breath, natural elements, primary colours, perception of light, or the emotion of goodwill (metta).

The Buddha classifies right samhadi as the four jhanas.

Here are some verses from the suttas that describe the four jhanas.

'Having gone somewhere quiet, away from distractions. Having removed longing and dejection in regard to the world, setting mindfulness before one.

Quite secluded from sense-pleasures and unwholesome states of mind. One enters and abides in the first jhana. Which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought (or attention). And has the joy and pleasure born of seclusion (from unwholesome states).

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 joy and pleasure born of samhadi.

With the fading away of joy. 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 say: 'one has a pleasant abiding, who has equanimity and is mindful.'

With the fading away 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.'

Once the mind has been made malleable and peaceful from samhadi. There is an afterglow, where unwholesome states of mind can remain absent for some time. In that state, the mind has the capacity for wise reflection, and it is easy to work with and train. It can be pointed towards something you want to understand and learn more about, or a truth you want to penetrate and gain insight from, such as the four noble truths. This investigation can lead to the liberating knowledge that brings about the end of suffering.

The continuous practise of jhana gradually weakens the hold of greed and hatred on the mind until eventually those defilements fall away for good and never return. When this happens one becomes a non-returner, (the third stage of enlightenment) and is never again born into this world.

Full enlightenment (fourth and final stage) is the realisation of nibanna, and the complete end of the conceit 'I am' and delusion.

***

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Walking

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Sensations of feet connecting with the ground, and the feeling of the body moving through space from one point to the next. The flow of air all around, touch of it on skin and clothes. Eyes half-closed, with a soft gaze. Mind centered with the body and the experience of walking. But aware of what is happening in peripheral awareness. Knowing where I am. What I am doing.

With walking there is that sense of working through stuff. Perhaps it is the forward motion of walking which brings a feeling of making progress, pushing through it, the sensations of movement and change.

I can get into a flow sometimes when walking. The self disappears and everything becomes energy. There's a feeling of oneness, absorption, a blissful feeling of freedom from the unpleasant feelings that come from longing, aversion and conceit.

Sometimes I stop and look at the sky. And feel a sense of awe, that there is even such a thing as sky. The clouds pass by over the blue background, and the cool breeze feels pleasant, the plants swaying, all of it is changing.

...

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Thought herding and samhadi

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 14 July 2023, 13:37


I have been noticing when the mind gets absorbed in anger, greed, conceit, and delusion, how difficult it can be to let go of these negative states. They can be sticky and it takes real effort and determination to come out of them and become absorbed in something wholesome instead. 

Training the mind is not easy.

In Buddhism, mindfulness is the first of the seven factors of enlightenment: 

1. mindfulness  ->  2. investigation of phenomena  ->  3. energy (effort)  ->  4. joy  ->  5. calmness  ->  6. samhadi  ->  7. equanimity. 

Mindfulness is a wholesome state of mind, and the beginning, the first step. Even in the deepest states of samhadi, mindfulness is still present. And it is sustained mindfulness to a meditation object that leads to samhadi. 

Samhadi is unification of mind, where all the mind is brought together into convergence. A lucid stillness. Wholeness, oneness. There are different levels of depth to samhadi, known in Buddhism as the four jhanas. I won't go into the jhanas in any depth here, but there's loads of resources online about them for interested readers.

Sometimes with negative thoughts, one can simply dismiss and replace them with wholesome thoughts. Such as replacing thoughts of ill-will to ones of friendliness, compassion for example. Or one can reflect on the Buddha, dharma, sangha. Contemplate the Buddha's teachings. Recite a poem, a chant, a mantra, something that reminds one of beautiful states of mind and emotions, reminds one of the way of peace.

Then one tries to sustain the wholesome thoughts, so they grow in strength, become more habitual and deepen. In time with persistent practise, the wholesome thoughts will take up a momentum of their own and become automatic, then the mind will incline towards those rather than the negative thoughts. 

Sometimes though there are difficult thoughts that are hard to work with and dismiss. Racing thoughts, or obssesive thoughts that just won't stop. It can be hard to let go of these. In this situation it can be helpful to gradually calm the thought processes down. It is easier to generate wholesome thoughts then. Mindfulness of the breath can help with this. When the mind is calm and centred, it is easier to work with, more malleable and yieldy. And one can then direct it better and get results, bring into being a wholesome state of mind.

The way I practise breath meditation is I don't worry too much about where I watch the breath. I focus the centre of attention wherever in the body the breath feels comfortable and soothing. Sometimes it is at the nostrils, the mouth, the chest, the abdomen, lower belly, the hands, the feet, even the neck. Sometimes I can be aware of the breath, or air element in the space around the body and that feels pleasant. I keep the attention fixed there, but it is not a tunnel vision focus, like a laser beam. Everything else is still going on in peripheral awareness. Nothing in awareness is pushed away or blocked out. I simply let it all be there, and breathe through it. Sometimes it can feel like the whole field of awareness is breathing with me which calms the mind.

We have two different types of awareness that correspond to the different hemispheres of the brain. One is holistic and open, providing context to a situation, and the other is more focused and attentive to detail. They both work together. 

The attention to detail is neither too tight nor too lose, it is a bit like focusing a pair of binoculars. 

Or like holding a little bird in your hand. If you hold it too tight you will hurt the bird, i.e. give yourself a headache. But if you hold it too loose, the bird will fly away. I.e. the mind will wander, daydream or drift off into sleep.

The attention becomes more whole-hearted and more stable as one keeps engaging with the meditation object, and sustaining attention to it. Eventually the difficult parts of the mind begin to settle down, and the whole of the mind (which includes the body) gathers together around the meditation object. One feels relief and a lightness in the body and the mind, a feeling of contentment and not wanting to be anywhere else. One is absorbed then and in a flow. 

When one has mastered this, one can let go of applied and sustained attention to the meditation object. Take one's hands off the steering wheel, remove the stabilizers. And just glide on the energetic momentum, that has been built up from the repeated effort to sustain attention to the meditation object. The ego can now take a backseat and be a passenger. The mind is unified at this point and goes deeper into stillness and samhadi. Words and thoughts subside, but mindfulness is still present. It is a whole body experience, and the body will feel very comfortable and at ease.

It is not a hypnotic trance though, one knows what is happening, one is lucid and aware. A helpful guide to use to see whether you are going in the right direction. Is to notice if the five hindrances: longing, aversion, sloth, restlessness, doubt and delusion are getting weaker or are no longer present in the mind. When this happens, the mind stops feeling harrassed, and there is relief and happiness. The mind becomes still and centred, energised, calm and lucid.

There are many different meditation objects one can use to get into samhadi. But for simplicities sake I am writing about the breath. But there are times when other meditation objects are useful for me. It depends on the situation and circumstance, what feels good in a particular moment. It is all learning and experimentation.

I use the brahma viharas a lot as well. These are emotional states that can be used as meditation objects. With these, one can use phrases to bring up the feelings of loving-kindness, compassion, joy when other's are happy, or equanimity. Praying can also do it, praying is a way one can centre the mind and bring up wholesome states.

 As one becomes absorbed in the words and phrases, it will have an effect on the body. For me the sign that it is working is a warm feeling that centres around the area of the heart. The words and phrases will bring up that warm feeling of goodwill. When it is strong enough, I then drop the words and phrases and focus exclusively on the feeling of warmth in the heart area and spread that pleasant feeling throughout the whole body and radiate it outwards, fill the whole field of awareness with feelings of goodwill.

Sometimes the natural elements feel good as meditation objects, such as the earth element, water, fire, air, space, consciousness, interdependence. The perception of light can sometimes be helpful, or the primary colours: blue, yellow, red. The feeling of the inner body, the subtle body, the life force can be interesting as well. Being mindful of any of these and sustaining attention to them can lead to different kinds of samhadi. 

 One should experiment and see what works in a given moment. Take what comes natural and turn it into something supernatural. 

Everyone has to find their own way in. Samhadi is what happens when the mind is gathered together, unified, in flow. 

Use meditation instructions as a guide, they are not rules. They are flexible and it is okay to tweak meditation instructions to suit your own individual preference, one should investigate and explore what works, we are all unique, and we have all been conditioned differently, there isn't a universal one size fits all when it comes to meditation techniques. It is a bit like learning a musical instrument. You learn lots of repetitive stuff: notes, chords, scales, timing, songs, before it finally clicks. Then one is able to start making music, and create their own songs.

Also like learning a musical instrument. It is helpful to find a good teacher, if you can. Not always easy, thankfully there's tonnes of videos, talks and articles out there to help you teach yourself. 

But one on one instruction will save you a lot of time and frustration. A good teacher will work with you, adapt their instructions to suit your personality. And their wisdom and experience can steer you away from dead-ends and cul-de-sacs, as well as away from the dangers.

I am not a teacher. This blog is a diary that I decided to make public. I am a lay follower of the noble eightfold path. I like the eightfold path because it is simple and practical, and suits me well.

Whatever I write here is just my perspective and experience.

This is just how I practise dharma in my daily life. I decided to share it in case it may help or inspire someone else out there, either presently or one day in the future. 

There is currently a huge mental health crisis in society and it is going to get worse. As someone who suffers with mental illness, I want to share what helps me. One does not have to be a prisoner of mental illness. Getting well again isn't easy, it takes effort and perseverance, practice, patience, kindness and gentleness, but one can break free of negative mind states I am discovering. The practise of the noble eightfold path has helped me a lot.

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Energy balance

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 12 July 2023, 10:08

Feeling a bit brighter today. Have got back into studying again. I got a good result for my latest assignment (-: which has encouraged me to persevere with what has been a difficult subject to learn.

My energy has been fluctuating a fair bit. Sometimes there is the prison of sloth and fatigue, and other times the bossy vibe of anxiety. My practice edge just now is a lot about learning how to tune that energy. Find a middle way. So I don't overdo things, take it all too seriously and burn out; but also don't get lazy, complacent, and trapped in stagnation.

All this fine energy tuning balanced with the intention to be kind to myself and those around me. To come from the heart, with peaceful intentions and goodwill for other beings. And also take rest and time out for myself when I need it, and not feel guilty for this. Love and goodwill doesn't make me a doormat. Boundaries and self-care are important.

Mastering thought is challenging, but I am making some progress.

Centering with body awareness, the breath, and a sense of space can help chill out the mind. 

It can feel good to be free of words. I find that most of the stuff I was worrying about is no longer a concern when language disappears. There is more to life than words. Deeper things to find, things that words can't contain.

But words are also useful. So it is good to know how to switch the thinking back on when I need it. As I still have to function in the world, socialise, and have the capacity for wise reflection.

It is not easy to train the mind.

Another meaning of equanimity is balance.

There are five psychic irritants, these are: greed, ill-will, sloth, agitation, and doubt. Also known as the five hindrances.

When I become aware of their presence in the mind, I find labeling can be helpful for creating some space between me and them. The label also teaches the mind to get quicker at spotting the hindrance when it arises.

To remove the hindrance I centre with something else. Usually this is an open awareness of the body and the breath, or with whatever activity I am doing at the time, and focus on this instead of the hindrance.

If thoughts are tiring, invasive, disturbing, or difficult to work with I will not pay attention to them at all and practice noble silence in my head. Move the centre of attention away from thoughts and to the breath, body and space. 

But sometimes words are useful and I can talk myself into a better state of mind, change the way I think about experience, which changes my perception of things. 

It depends on what feels right at the time. Sometimes talking myself into a better state of mind is helpful, other times silent awareness and stillness is needed.

Sometines there are unwholesome thoughts at the edge of awareness. And I find I can let them be there without getting absorbed in them or disturbed by them. Eventually they fade away. This can bring a feeling of freedom, to not be constantly caught up in the head.

I try to encourage and engage with wholesome thoughts to make those stronger. But will disengage from even these when I am tired.

A meditation object such as the breath helps to calm and centre the mind, and gives it something safe to anchor with. Sustained attention to a meditation object gathers the mind together into a convergence, unifies and steadies it, which secludes it from the psychic irritants. This seclusion from the five hindrances brings a feeling of relief and happiness to the mind. Which can continue for some time even after meditation.

There are times though where it can take a while for the mind to settle and drop into serenity. The hindrances can be strong. It takes endurance and non-reactivity then to patiently sit still, anchored in the body, until the senses finally settle down and the mind drops into peace. Sometimes it can take lengthy meditation sessions to get there. I think though in time and with practise, the mind will settle faster and less endurance will be needed.

It can be interesting (when mindful) to notice the way I breathe whilst in different states of mind. Notice the connection between mind and body. Observe this, then see if I can breathe in ways that calm the body, and clear the psychic irritants from the mind. Nothing complicated or fancy, just breathing in a way that feels good. This can help change the state of mind to something more wholesome.

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Suffering

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 10 July 2023, 10:10


'The search for a spiritual path is born out of suffering. It does not start with lights and ecstasy, but with the hard tacks of pain, disappointment, and confusion. However, for suffering to give birth to a genuine spiritual search, it must amount to more than something passively received from without. It has to trigger an inner realization, a perception which pierces through the facile complacency of our usual encounter with the world to glimpse the insecurity perpetually gaping underfoot. When this insight dawns, even if only momentarily, it can precipitate a profound personal crisis. It overturns accustomed goals and values, mocks our routine preoccupations, leaves old enjoyments stubbornly unsatisfying. '


- Bhikhu Bodhi


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