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Right mindfulness (part one)

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 26 Oct 2022, 21:32


The word mindfulness means to keep something in mind. To remember.

In Buddhism there are four foundations to Right mindfulness, these are:

1. The body, 

2. Feelings (In Buddhism feelings are a mix of sense impressions and the mental tone of like/dislike that accompanies them, they are not emotions, emotions come under the third foundation of mindfulness.)

3. Mind (emotions, mood, state of mind).

4. Dhamma categories (the teachings on how to use mindfulness to reach nibbana and the end of suffering.)

This is not something that one goes over in one go like a piece of music, this is more a collection of meditation objects, some reflective/contemplative, others for entering states of lucid stillness (samhadi). One does not have to do everything on this list every time they meditate, one just simply chooses a topic that fits well for the situation or mood one is in. A bit like a swiss army knife of helpful tools for different occasions. 

Mindfulness of the body

This starts with awareness of the four postures: walking, standing, sitting or lying down. When one is sitting, one knows they are sitting, when standing, one knows they are standing... and so on... This helps train us to become more aware of the body.The feeling of embodiment can be a pleasurable experience, as it can feel grounding and stops the head floating off like a helium balloon.

Next is mindfulness of breathing. This is something many of us will already be familiar with, so I won't write much, other than one important thing to note is that mindfulness of the breath is not meant to be a dry experience. One should develop interest in it, a sense of wonder about the air element, as this makes the meditation more enjoyable and easier to practise. In time it becomes an indulgence, an opportunity to have a break from your worldly concerns, a tonic that you can take with you anywhere, and the freedom to disengage from the thought processes for a time. 

 Next is mindfulness of the present moment. This is about being aware of where one is, one's surroundings, what one is doing, one's behaviour, of that which is appropriate, and that which is non-delusion. A lucid awakeness during the course of daily life. Here one maintains a sense of composure and dignity, whilst respecting the space and peace of others as you go about your day. 

Next is a list of 32 parts of the body, listed by the Buddha as: head hair, body hair, skin, nails, teeth, flesh, sinews, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, spleen, diaphragm, lungs, intestines, mesentery, contents of stomach, faeces, bile, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, spittle, mucus, oil of joints, fat, and urine.

This exercise is mainly for monks and nuns to help them deal with lust. But it can be helpful for lay people too, as our world is caught up in attachment to the body, which generates much misery and leads to desire, obsession, body dysphoria, mental illness, and the stress of trying to live up to social expectations on how the body should look and perform.To be free of all that worry is a real blessing.

The first five parts in the Buddha's list are easy to remember, and these are also the body parts we tend to find attractive in ourselves and others: head hair, body hair, skin, nails and teeth. It is interesting to note that these are also the dead parts of the body.The living parts, which are hidden under the layer of skin, we find repulsive and are slightly afraid of. It is odd really. What is attraction?

 The most beautiful hair in the world becomes otherwise if it lands in one's soup. A pile of discarded nails is not particularly appealing, nor a set of teeth in a glass.The skin is actually a dead leaky covering, not alive at all, and not even particularly nutritious it seems, as maggots when they eat a corpse, they don't eat the skin. They look for wounds, and openings so they can eat the flesh inside. Once all the flesh is eaten, the skin just flops over bones like a discarded leathery covering. 

It is important to note here, that these reflections are not meant to depress one. They are meant to be used as tools to help change one's perception of the body and free oneself from attachment to it. Which is a wise chess move. Because the body grows and ages outside of our control, it gets sick, disabled, and struggles to perform consistently. It doesn't always look the same, and that which is beautiful, handsome or strong will one day become otherwise. Time comes for all. This body is full of different beings, bacteria, cells, viruses, fungi, parasites, and they all call this body their home, they travel up and down the highways of our veins and arteries. Our being is composed of many different consciousnesses, we are an organic dance of interdependence. It is also important to note that one does not feel hostility towards the body, one feels compassion for it, takes care of it, and looks after it as well as one can, but without clinging. The body is borrowed for a brief time, it is 'not me not mine,' and one day will return to the elements.  

Next is mindfulness of the four elements: earth, water, fire, air. This is one of my favourite topics in mindfulness of the body, I practise mindfulness of the elements a lot. But I won't write much here, as this is a succinct summary of right mindfulness. Other than one contemplates how the body is made up of the four elements. Gets the feeling and sense of each element. Earth is about grounding, weight, solidity. Water is cohesion, fluidity, solubility. Fire is temperature, warmth and light. Air is movement, vibration, change. One becomes aware of the four elements within the body and also outside the body. These four elements can also be used as meditation objects to reach deep states of samhadi (meditative absorption). And it is said they can also be used for the development of psychic powers. 

The last category in mindfulness of the body is marana-sati, mindfulness of death. In the Buddha's time monks and nuns would visit what was called a charnal ground, a field where people used to dump dead bodies and leave them there to rot and be eaten by animals. The monks and nuns would spend time there meditating, looking at the corpses littered about in the various states of decomposition and remind themselves that they too are made of the same elements as the corpses, that one day their bodies will also die and decay, that they are not excempt from that fate. 

This meditation is helpful for overcoming the fear of death as well as attachment to the body. It is also good for helping motivate oneself out of laziness, as it reminds us that our time on this Earth is brief and death could come at any moment, which helps energize us to want to make best use of our precious time here - as life is short. 

Mindfulness of death is a strong medicine and may not be appropriate for everyone. One should know themselves and know if this will make them go a bit dark. This is not meant to produce depression in the mind, but liberation. In the West we are very sheltered from the sight of death, we see dead animals, but seldom dead humans, and if we do, they are usually a corpse of a relative in a coffin that has been stuffed with preservatives to slow the decay. But one can still do this meditation without needing an actual corpse, as one can use their imagination or look at photos of rotting corpses. It is important to remember that mindfulness of death is meant to be done with serenity and calm lucidity. If it doesn't bring peace to the mind it is not being done correctly. Only do this if you feel you are able to face it, this practise is not about traumatising oneself, it is about freeing oneself. Know your own mind and where you are at in your development and what you are comfortable with. Meditating on the four elements might suit you better.

That's enough for today, I will carry on writing about the other three foundations of mindfulness in another post. 


To be continued...

 

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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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Wind

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The air element
Beauty of sky
That childlike wonder
It disappeared
Why?
Sitting outside
Refreshing breeze
The cool 
Airiness
Fills the Body with ease.
I am connected to the air
With every breath
Invisible
But its presence is felt
Always changing
Vibrating
I watch as it moves through the trees,
Sweeps up leaves
Creates ripples on the water
And makes everything dance.

Photo of a seagull gliding on the air

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Moving

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 20 Oct 2022, 20:22


"Start moving
Unless you're dead or a mannequin,
moving
in any way that you're managing
moving
in a way that is challenging.

Just start moving, 

relax 
stop 
panicking.

It's on you
things start happening

When stuck in the labyrinth.
Start choosing
It's highly hazardous.

But start moving

relax
stop panicking
It's on you
things start happening

Relax stop
Relax stop

Moving."


https://youtu.be/_X-ft9J8TdI

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Thicket of views

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a scan of an abstract painting.

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The boomerang effect

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I have been spending time alone lately, keeping myself to myself, withdrawing from the things of the world. It was hard going at first but is getting easier now, and I am quite enjoying the solitude.

I had some trouble with negativity in the mind for a while, but remembered every time we become angry we literally poison ourselves, as it releases toxic chemicals into our body which can lead to health problems. I noticed how angry I can become with others when I expect them to behave in a certain way and they don’t. This way of thinking causes so much suffering and is futile, the behaviour of others and the world is outside my control. It also creates suffering when I apply it to myself, and become angry and unforgiving of myself for the foolish things I have done in the past. But this doesn’t help solve anything, it just makes things worse, leading to more negative tendencies of the mind.

I am learning it is better to make amends for past errors by cultivating wholesome mental states, that's how you put things right, so there’s no more room for negativity, as it is the negativity which is the problem. There’s no need to hold onto anger because it always makes things worse and clouds one’s vision of the way things are. Just as a single match can start a fire and burn down an entire forest. So too can a moment of anger destroy one’s composure, peace of mind and a lifetime of merit.

I notice each time I get angry it boomerangs back and creates the tendency for me to become angry again in the future, reinforcing that cycle and making it more likely to return. It is the same with greed. Greed begets more greed, and anger begets more anger. But it also works for the opposite emotions, and just one moment of friendliness and loving-kindness, of good-naturedness can create the tendency in me to become loving again in the future, as kindness begets more kindness.

I think that’s how kamma works and why intention is the generator of it.


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New blog post

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“They abused me, they hit me! They beat me, they robbed me!” For those who bear such a grudge, hatred never ends.

“They abused me, they hit me! They beat me, they robbed me!” For those who bear no such grudge, hatred has an end.

For never is hatred settled by hate, it’s only settled by love: this is an eternal truth.

....

If you find an alert companion, a wise and virtuous friend, then, overcoming all adversities, wander with them, joyful and mindful.

If you find no alert companion, no wise and virtuous friend, then, like a king who flees his conquered realm, wander alone like a tusker in the wilds.

It’s better to wander alone, than have  fellowship with fools. Wander alone and do no wrong, at ease like a tusker in the wilds.”

[MN128] 

https://suttacentral.net/mn128

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Right effort

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 6 Oct 2022, 07:32

The sixth factor of the noble eightfold path, and the beginning of the meditator's journey to right samhadi. Right effort contains a set of instructions to be carried out by right mindfulness. The idea is to seclude the mind from the five psychic harrassments: greed, aversion, dullness/drowsiness, restlessness, and doubt.

These are known as the five hindrances in Buddhism, and they are what stops our mind seeing things clearly, they distort our picture of reality. Their influence stirs up the mind like a pool of water so one cannot see clearly into the depths of it, only seeing the distorted surface. This means one is not getting an accurate picture of reality. And when one looks into it they cannot see their reflection properly.

The job of right effort is to prevent these five hindrances from arising in the mind, and to abandon them if they do arise. It works in conjunction with right mindfulness, the next factor of the eightfold path. Right mindfulness is the guard at the gate of consciousness, whose job is to prevent the five harrassments from entering - stopping trouble before it starts. However, if a hindrance gets passed the guard at the gate, then its job is to spot the presence of the hindrance in the mind and remove it, so it is no longer distorting one's ability to see things clearly.

The Buddha's teachings here run contrary to popular modern thinking about mindfulness. The job of mindfulness is not just to simply watch things arise and pass away and do nothing. No, it is to be a sentry that performs the duty of preventing and removing the five hindrances. Right mindfulness follows the instructions of right effort.

So how does one prevent unwholesome states arising? One way is to continually remind oneself to avoid unwise attention to the fault and to avoid unwise attention to the attractive. It does not mean walking around in sensory deprivation, as that's impractical in this world, you will always encounter agreeable and disagreeable sense impressions. What it means is to be at the sensory level and nip things in the bud before a pleasant or unpleasant sensation/feeling becomes the stories/delusions we tell ourselves about the feeling at the conceptual level, these stories are what cause the hindrances to arise and gather momentum in the mind.

It takes a great deal of practise and time to master this, so one will have to be patient as one trains the mind. One also needs to be kind to oneself, as one will make many mistakes while practising this, learn what you can from failures and let go, there is nothing to be gained by being hard on oneself, it does not lead to enlightenment. You are allowed to let it go, it is the past and there's no use crying over spilt milk, that won't solve anything.

One keeps reminding oneself upon waking and throughout the day. 'I will avoid the folly of the fault-finding mind; and I will avoid the folly of the lustful greedy mind.' Remembering that what we pay attention to leaves traces in the mind and grows stronger the more we pay attention to it; and what we repeatedly think about becomes the inclination of the mind.

If the hindrances get past the guard at the gate, then one turns to five strategies for removing them from the mind. Briefly these are:

1. Replacing the unwholesome state of mind with its opposite, there can be many opposites. For example some possible opposites of greed are generosity, contentment, remembering impermanence, or renunciation, and some possible opposites of anger are serenity practises, compassion, or loving-kindness. One does not wait for something external outside oneself to generate the opposite of the hindrance, one deliberately brings the replacement into being by being an emoter. There's a saying: 'Fake it till you make it.' It might well feel fake and inauthentic at first, but with repeated practise it does start to feel genuine and more natural. And the more one practises something, the more the psychic momentum builds up and the stronger it gets.

2. Feeling a sense of shame, imagining what a person you respect and admire might think if they saw you in the unwholesome state of mind. One reminds oneself it is reprehensible, has drawbacks, and is not conducive to enlightenment. This can be enough to drive the unwholesome state of mind away.

3. Distracting oneself from the unwholesome state of mind. Or just simply ignoring it as you would when closing your eyes to block out a sight you don't want to see. By not paying attention to the hindrance it starves it of energy and it grows weak and eventually disappears. Don't feed the monsters!

4. One turns to face the hindrance, confronts it. Sometimes just doing this can be enough to make it fade away like a whisp of a cloud or a phantom. But if this isn't enough, one can sit with it, investigate it, and gradually talk oneself out of the unwholesome state of mind till it dissolves away.

5. This is the last resort, and only to be used if the preceding four strategies fail. The fifth strategy is to suppress the unwholesome state of mind and not allow it to express itself. The Buddha here uses the simile of a stronger man holding down a weaker man. One suppresses the unwholesome state of mind until it calms down enough for one to then use any of the four preceding strategies to remove it if necessary.

Right effort also carries the instructions to bring into being seven positive wholesome states of mind and to develop them and keep them going continuously. These wholesome states of mind are known as the seven factors of enlightenment which are: mindfulness, investigation, energy/effort, joy, serenity, samhadi, equanimity. One can also include wholesome states of mind such as loving-kindness, compassion, joy in another's happiness. These also can be part of the enlightened mind, but are optional because not everyone is able to practise loving-kindness. For them having the intention of non-illwill and non-violence is enough.

Right effort can be practised in the course of daily life by noticing the hindrances when they arise in the mind, how do they feel? Do they feel pleasant or unpleasant? How do they manifest in the body? One watches and learns about them, how they manifest, how they arise, what triggers them, how to stop them arising, and how to remove them from the mind when they do. As one becomes less ignorant of the five hindrances, one's ability to prevent and remove them becomes easier and faster. The Buddha says one who has mastered this becomes so adept at it, that if an unwholesome state of mind arises it is removed as quickly as a chance drop of water on a red hot frying pan.

One way to practise this is through sitting meditation. Here one gradually gathers the whole mind together and secludes it from the five hindrances, by repeatedly bringing the attention back to a single topic, such as a meditation object and keeping it there, doing this every time the mind wanders. This brings into being the wholesome factor of mindfulness. Then to collect the mind together and unify it around the meditation object one generates interest in it, investigates it, this brings into being the wholesome factor of investigation. The repeated effort of doing this builds up a momentum of energy (the third factor), but interest and curiosity also brings energy to the mind. This leads to enjoyment. En-Joy, i.e the combination of energy and joy. Think about how one can become absorbed in a book or a movie, or a physical activity, a hobby, a game, and how one doesn't notice the body or passage of time or the noises around one when absorbed in an activity that one finds interesting. This is because one is enjoying themselves. So the idea is to try to do the same with meditation and become absorbed in that. The excitement of joy (the fourth factor) eventually cools and calms down and settles into a state of sweet serenity the fifth factor of enlightenment, which then takes one to the doorstep of the divine consciousness that is samhadi. Samhadi is a unification of mind, an exquisite stillness and lucidity, which in turn blossoms into equanimity (the seventh factor). This is how the act of meditation can bring into being the seven factors of awakening (-:

This all carries over beyond sitting meditation into every day life, because there is an after-effect which can remain for a while after meditation. When the afterglow wears off, one can top it up again by meditating. The seven factors of enlightenment get stronger with repeated practise, till eventually the whole thing becomes effortless. Then the enlightenment factors are present throughout the day whatever you are doing, wherever you are. When they are well established, whatever happens in this changing world, will not cause you to go into a negative state of mind or lose your composure. Your consciousness remains at peace and unperturbed as it continually cycles through the seven factors of enlightenment, being in any one of them at any time during the day or night.

Another important teaching that comes under right effort is about tuning the energy. If the mind feels strained and stressed at all during meditation or while practising in the midst of daily life, it means you are putting forth too much effort and need to relax it a bit, you are pushing yourself too hard, be gentle. If you feel dull and drowsy it can mean you are not putting forth enough effort which will lead to laziness and lack of motivation for practise. Mindfulness of death (maranasati) is a good way to energize one when feeling lazy. You want to tune the energy of effort so that it neither strains the mind nor makes it lazy. The Buddha describes it as being like tuning the string of a lute. If it is too tight it doesn't sound right, if it is too loose it also doesn't sound right, but when it's tuned correctly it is ready to play some music.

There are five spiritual faculties that can help with right effort, they are called the five spiritual powers, these are faith, energy, mindfulness, samhadi, and wisdom. Sometimes you can't know all the answers about something and you need to take a leap of faith and try things out, otherwise you can be locked in sceptical indecision which is not a pleasant state of mind, one becomes a prisoner of their doubts and this leads to stagnation and inaction. However, one also doesn't want to have blind faith either, some doubt is healthy to stop one being led down the garden path, so wisdom helps balance out faith. Energy and Samhadi also balance each other out. Too much energy leads to restlessness, and too little energy leads to dullness and laziness. Mindfulness is present throughout ensuring the five spiritual faculties are tuned correctly, keeping them in balance.

Despite its length, this has been a succinct piece of writing on right effort. Indeed one could write an essay or a book on this factor of the path. If one would like to learn more about right effort I highly recommend these videos by Ajahn Sona, where he goes into it in great detail.

https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCXN1GlAupG0LqKS3nNCkGv24r94LW5VV

In the words of the Buddha:

The four right efforts

'One generates the desire for the prevention of unwholesome states of mind, by making effort, arousing energy, exerting one's mind, and persevering.

One generates the desire for the abandonment of unwholesome states of mind, by making effort, arousing energy, exerting one's mind, and persevering.

One generates the desire for the arising of wholesome states of mind, by making effort, arousing energy, exerting one's mind, and persevering.

One generates the desire for the continuance, non-disappearance, strengthening, increase, and development of wholesome states of mind, by making effort, arousing energy, exerting one's mind and persevering.
'

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Connections

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A scan of an abstract painting

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Right Livelihood

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 1 Oct 2022, 14:00


Having abandoned wrong livelihood, one continues to make one’s living with right livelihood.’

This is the fifth factor of the noble eightfold path. It is about how we make an income or get food and shelter in this world. Our career.

In the context of the noble eightfold path we aspire towards a livelihood that causes as little harm as possible to ourselves and other beings.

Becoming a Buddhist monk or nun is one way to practise right livelihood. Remembering that the Buddha left the household life, turned his back on being a wealthy prince, shaved his head and beard and went forth into homelessness, begging, wearing rags for robes. He was dependent on the generosity of others to get his food. This way of living goes against the grain of the world, but the spiritual life is unworldly. And showing generosity to one who is on the spiritual path or at any stage of enlightenment creates good kamma (beneficial consequences) for the giver. Which will return to bless them both in this present life and future ones.

But there is nothing wrong with being a lay follower either, the monk’s life is not for everyone, and one can still reach advanced stages of enlightenment as a householder.

When it comes to work and how we conduct our business in the world. We must try to cause as little harm as possible to other beings, and to ourselves. So careers that deal in weapons, poisons, violence, deceit, stealing, polluting, killing, misinformation, exploiting other beings and harming them, are bad career choices.

Always remember as well that you are a being and you matter too, just as much as any other being does. So one should be kind to oneself, and take care not to strain the mind by working long hours. One should not be taken advantage of by an employer, one does not have to be treated like a factory farmed human. One is not a slave to money, to the economy, to a nation, or to any being.

Our time is valuable and we should spend it wisely. We should be calm, dignified, and composed in our dealings with the world whether we are rich or poor, and not allow ourselves to be mistreated by anyone; and in turn we should not mistreat other beings.

In our world of work we should show kindness and friendship to others, but that does not make us a door mat, we assert our boundaries, in a non-hostile way, coming from a place of peace and friendliness. One does not cut short on morals or the spiritual life to please a boss or work colleagues.

We should make time for the other aspects of our life, especially when it comes to the practise of meditation and the development of the spiritual path. There will at times be the need for solitude, to seclude oneself from the world and the energies of others, to retreat and focus on one’s own emotional and spiritual development, which should be prioritised above all else. Above our career. A career is transient and will one day end, but our spiritual development remains and carries over into old age and our next existence.

Right livelihood can also be thought of as right lifestyle. As some people may be retired and out of work for different reasons. In this instance, one should make good use of the time one has and focus on one’s inner development and spiritual progress. Aspiring to live a peaceful lifestyle that causes as little harm as possible to oneself and other beings.

To accomplish this it helps to reflect on the reality of death frequently, to practise the remembrance of it as often as possible. Because death helps energise and motivate us to practise the noble eightfold path and the spiritual life. It reminds us of what is important. Death is universal and comes for all beings, even enlightened ones, and it can come at any moment. We don’t know when it will pay us a visit. Beings in this world die both young and old, across all species of life, and it is normal. The body is fated to one day become a decomposing corpse, (or ashes if cremated,) and the Earth will reclaim it. The body does not belong to us, it is on loan, and will be returned to the elements one day. We borrow these bodies for a brief time, so we should use them wisely.

It is good to remember this, not out of morbidity or in a depressed way. Not out of fear. But in a calm lucid serene way. Making peace with the fact.

Losing attachment to the body now is like making a wise chess move in anticipation of the future. Because whether any of us likes it or not the body does change, it ages, gets sick, loses strength and abilities, gets weak, and eventually dies. Even if you are the most beautiful and talented being in the world, that beauty will not last, that talent will fade, abilities become disabilities. You have no control over any of it. The body came into being and grows and ages all by itself, and so do other people’s bodies.

By losing attachment to the body now, you save yourself a whole bunch of suffering in the future when the inevitable happens. It also saves you a whole bunch of suffering now, because much of our world is caught up in the body. What it looks like, how strong and healthy it is, how smart it is. It causes us so much anxiety, lust, misery, delusion and mental illness. To no longer be caught up in all that is a relief to the mind.

It doesn’t mean one doesn’t take care of the body though. One looks after the body, feels compassion for it and sees to its needs as well as one can. One tries to keep it alive as long as possible, it is our vehicle to enlightenment after all. It is through the body we can realise the end of suffering, stress, and craving, and liberate the mind permanently from the defilements of greed, hatred, and delusion. But one does so without clinging to the body, knowing it is transient and fated to die.

Death will separate us from all that we hold dear. All that is beloved and pleasing to us will become otherwise. We cannot take our body, any of our friends, family, or material possessions with us when we die. It is a journey to a far place we must take alone. The only thing we take with us are our acts of generosity, kindness, and clarity. These are the friends that greet us on the other side and help us both in this life and in the next one to come; in whatever world that may be, there are so many different worlds.

Mindfulness of death (Maraṇasati) helps us remember what is important in life, that the clock is ticking and to use our time wisely.



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Beautiful breeze

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 29 Sep 2022, 11:56

A scan of an abstract painting depicting an invigorating breeze.

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Right Action

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This is the fourth factor of the noble eightfold path, and it is about our behaviour and conduct on this earth. Our morality. Our ethics. How we treat other beings. Morality is an important part of any spiritual practise, without it one will find it difficult to settle into meditation and be at peace.

We want to aspire to pass through this world of myriad beings and cause as little harm as we can. As doing so creates less stress and negative consequences for ourselves and others. It can be summed up quite nicely by the phrase ‘Ahimsa’ which means non-violence.

The three right actions of the noble eightfold path are:

  • To refrain from taking the life of any living creature.
  • To refrain from taking that which is not given.
  • To refrain from sexual misconduct.

All beings value their lives. And all are trying to survive in this world. And most would rather live in peace and friendship with us than be our enemy. No being likes being wronged or hurt, just as much as oneself doesn’t like it.

Watch any insect as you approach and how it runs away afraid. How it tries to hide from you. That being values its life. Imagine how you’d feel if an advanced alien race came and started chasing you, you’d be just like that insect.

The idea that some beings are more important than others is at the root of much of our world’s problems.

Living in peace and friendship with other beings. One’s mind becomes less troubled and averse; more happy; more content. And when the mind is not harrassed by regret, remorse, or fear of retribution. It will find it easier to settle into the deeper states of meditation known as right samhadi (the eighth factor of the noble eightfold path). It is from the lucid stillness of right samhadi that wisdom naturally arises. Because within us all, there is a deeper wiser part of the mind that wants to talk to us, but we often don’t hear it because we are too busy chatting to ourselves about nonsense.


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Cool Trees

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blue green painting of trees

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Rising flowing

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 18 Sep 2022, 09:49




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Keep on keeping on

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 8 Sep 2022, 22:04

Though these are dark days

I feel something good coming 

The wind changing 

Re-invigorating hope

Bringing an end to greed, hate, and delusion

Emancipation from ignorance and confusion.

Though the heat is on

And the planet burns

We will sing our song.

Skint and emaciated 

Struggling to make ends meet

As the waters come flooding

And the suffering comes spinning

We will go on singing.

A song of genorosity, kindness, and clear-seeing.

About the path of peace that leads to the end of suffering.

About profound friendship and harmony with all beings.

We will go on singing.

Till the day is done

Till extinction's won

And all things fade away 

Become undone

Transient 

Like a Bubble in a stream

A dream within a dream.

Where is the self?


Insubstantial


Gone.



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Prevention

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There is longing
Craving
A desire for something
That creates
Attraction or aversion
Draws and sustains attention.
And with the contact of the senses
and their myriad sense impressions
Feelings arise…

But with well-instructed mindfulness acting as the sentinel of consciousness.
Supported by lucid serenity and unification of mind.
With wisdom as chief.
One nips it in the bud right there.
Prunes away unwholesome states of mind
Before they become the self-centred story of greed, hate and delusion.

With perfected practise
and complete mastery of the mind
With equipose
and dignity.
Liberated to the core
With no more clinging remaining.
One abides in the deathless state
Nibbāna
Unperturbed by the changing phenomena of the world.
Knowing and understanding that all things are anicca (impermanent)
Always changing
rising
flowing
fading.

One remains serene and is not suprised by anything.


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Ghost tree

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 3 Aug 2022, 14:36

scan of painting, links to a place where one can download high quality scan for free (-:

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Elemental arts and crafts

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Links to a web page where one can download a 300dpi scan of this image for free personal non-commercial use.

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Be a refuge to yourself

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There are moments and days when I feel flat, and wobble about in weakness and vulnerability. To rouse energy for meditation takes a lot of effort.

 Yesterday I was flying high, today I trudged slow through the tortuous harassment of sloth and torpor.

At one point I noticed aversion rise up in me in response to a mistimed moment of clumsiness. And I noticed that the anger arose because I felt like I was swimming in fatigue and malaise, and there are chores which needed doing and my energy felt like a battery unable to hold its charge, everything felt impossible and all I wanted to do was liedown and retreat from it all. I felt harassed! 

Which is another way of describing the five hindrances that stand in the way of meditation: greed, aversion, fatigue, agitation, doubt. These are the five harassments. When those five are gone from the the mind, one can easily settle into deeper states of meditation and enter a calm, lucid, steady stillness of attention and emotional well-being.

Loving-kindness meditation (Metta) felt impossible today. I struggled to get into it. Until it occurred to me that perhaps I should forget about sending Metta to others and instead generate some Metta for myself. Because right at that moment I surely needed it. How could I possibly hope to send Metta to others when my own well was dry. So that's what I did, I put my hand on my heart and said to myself: 'May you be well happy and peaceful.'

And it worked! 

We in the West are often critical and judgemental of ourselves and others, and also tend to feel guilty at the thought of loving ourselves. It is a curse of this modern age I am finding, and I am by no means the only one who suffers from this lack of self love. 

But it is wrong view. 

When one feels friendliness towards oneself then that will naturally radiate out to others. So do not feel guilty for practising Metta for oneself.

Being a friend to oneself is very important on the spiritual path. 

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Right speech

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 9 Jun 2022, 14:57

Speech is not something to take lightly. We humans are social creatures who have developed a complex form of verbal communication, our language and the use of it is very important. Wrong speech can create great harm for ourselves and others. It creates social divisions, leads to violence, and can start wars.

However, right speech can heal, encourage, bring liberating knowledge, wisdom, comfort and peace.

Speech happens fast. Too fast for one to be able to plan their speech ahead. One must also be aware of timing and whether something is appropriate to say. As a general guide, is what one is about to say true, beneficial, and kind?

***

The four right speeches:

I will refrain from false speech,

I will refrain from malicious and divisive speech,

I will refrain from harsh unkind speech,

I will refrain from idle pointless chatter.

***

‘I will refrain from false speech...’

It is very important to be truthful. Telling lies, even white ones, are bad for one’s psyche. If you tell a lie for long enough you start to believe it, and this leads to dangerous delusions about reality and creates an awful split in the mind. If one wants to progress on the spiritual path, one needs to be able to see reality for what it is, and if one is telling lies one is not getting an accurate account of reality. The spiritual path is all about seeking the truth, and to do that one has to be honest with oneself, about one’s experience and what is really happening. To become lucid requires complete truthfulness. When one thinks it is okay to lie, one’s spiritual achievement is meaningless.

‘I will refrain from malicious and divisive speech…’

Malicious and divisive speech causes harm, splits communities and creates disharmony. Even what might be considered harmless gossip is not conducive to beneficial outcomes. Everything we intend, say and do leads to consequences, both for ourselves and others. Gossip divides communities, friends and families.

Why do we become so quick to judge others? To virtue signal, to want to criticise, to shame, to blame. What is that all about? Does that lead to peace of mind? To meaningful social connections? To harmony?

‘I will refrain from harsh unkind speech…’

Harsh words even if they are true can harm the one they are directed at. Sometimes it is better to remain silent than speak the truth. One does not have to answer a question if speaking the truth may cause harm to oneself or another. Harsh unkind words never really help, especially if they are not beneficial for the person hearing them.

We should also try to remember not to be so quick to judge others. No-one has ever got where they are without making mistakes. There’s a saying that I like which goes:

A thorn of experience, is worth more than a wilderness of warnings.’

We have all had our less-than-graceful moments. There’s another saying I like which goes: ‘One should not judge another until they have walked the trail of life in their shoes.’

It is true that sometimes people need to hear things they may not want to hear. These difficult conversations happen better when coming from the heart and done with loving-friendliness, from a heart that genuinely wants the best for that person. If one comes from the heart one’s speech will be gentle, peaceful and not cause harm.

‘I will refrain from idle pointless chatter.’

Idle pointless speech is tiring to listen to. It can drain one’s energy, and put one in a dull fatigued state of mind. Time is precious. So don’t waste it with frivolous speech.

Sometimes there’s the urge to fill the air with words because one feels uncomfortable with silence. But instead one should learn to appreciate the silence, there is something deeper and more subtle in the silence. If one wants to get into deep states of meditation, one needs to learn to appreciate silence. There’s a place one’s consciousness can go to that is much deeper and more profound than words can convey.

Everything on the eightfold path is informed by right view

If one notices their speech is unskilful, then one should check their intentions. And if one’s intentions are wrong, then that means one is holding to a wrong view. So always check if speech is coming from greed, hatred, or delusion. If so, try to come from a place of generosity, kindness, and clarity instead, and remember the four noble truths.

As a rule of thumb. If one is coming from the heart, from a place of loving-kindness. Then one’s speech will be right. As it will not cause harm and will want only the best for the other person.

Right speech also applies to the way we talk to ourselves.

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Free online meditation retreat starting tomorrow

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 7 Jun 2022, 14:19

There is a free virtual online meditation retreat happening on Wednesday the 8th June (tomorrow) till 13th June 2022.

The theme will be on the elements: wind, fire, water, earth and the primary colours found in nature, and how these can be used to help bring stillness and clarity to the mind as meditation subjects. The Buddha called them kasinas.

Retreat info available here: https://birken.ca/elements/

Open to everyone! Can be taken from home and fitted round your household schedule. The talks will also be recorded, so you can catch up later if you miss anything live or because of timezone differences.

A PDF of the schedule is available here:

N.b. the times listed in the schedule are PDT (Pacific Standard time). We are 8 hours ahead in the UK.

You can use this tool to convert times to your local time:

https://dateful.com/time-zone-converter 

The events will be available to watch at the times in the schedule here: https://www.youtube.com/AjahnSona

Anyway, putting the info out there for anyone who might be interested.

Keep it real and
Be well, peaceful, and happy (-:

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Worldly winds

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Time
Memory
Flows
Now gone
The second hand ticking.

Self-streams
A narrative 
Clarative
Breathing.

Notice
the wanting.

Pulled by the eight wordly winds:

'Pain and pleasure;
Wealth and misfortune;
Success and failure;
Fame and disrepute.'

These are the eight worldly winds.
That pull one's craving
This way and that
That way and this

Freedom from desire is bliss.

To learn to gently let go of the clinging.
And be kind to each moment
Making peace.

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

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



" This I have made up:

       Once the Buddha was walking along the

forest path in the Oak Grove at Ojai, walking without

arriving anywhere

or having any thought of arriving or not arriving

and lotuses shining with the morning dew

miraculously appeared under each step

soft as silk under the toes of the Buddha

When suddenly, out of the turquoise sky,

dancing in front of his half-shut inward-looking

eyes, shimmering like a rainbow

or a spider's web

transparent as the dew on a lotus flower

--the Goddess appeared quivering

like a hummingbird in the air before him

She, for she was surely a she

as the Buddha could clearly see

with his eye of discriminating awareness wisdom,

was mostly red in color

though when the light shifted

she flashed like a rainbow

She was naked except

for the usual flower ornaments

Goddesses wear.

Her long hair

was deep blue, her two eyes fathomless pits of space

and her third eye a bloodshot

ring of fire.

The Buddha folded his hands together

and greeted the Goddess thus:

"O Goddess, why are you blocking my path.

Before I saw you I was happily going nowhere.

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

"You can go around me."

said the Goddess, twirling on her heels like a bird

darting away, "or you can come after me.

This is my forest too,

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

With that the Buddha sat

    supple as a snake

    solid as a rock

beneath a Bo tree

    that had sprang full-leaved

    to shade him.

"Perhaps we should have a chat,"

he said.

    After years of arduous practice

at the time of the morning star

I penetrated reality, and now..."

"Not so fast, Buddha.

I am reality."

The Earth stood still,

the oceans paused,

the wind itself listened

--a thousand arhats, bodhisattva, and dakinis

magically appeared to hear

what would happen in the conversation.

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

said the Buddha.

"But I am known as the Fearless One

--so here goes."

And he and the Goddess

without further words

exchanged glances.

Light rays like sunbeams

shot forth

so bright that even

Sariputra, the All-Seeing One,

had to turn away.

And then they exchanged thoughts

and the illumination was as bright as a diamond candle.

And then they changed mind

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

that contains everything.

And then they exchanged bodies

And clothes

And the Buddha arose

as the Goddess

and the Goddess arose as the Buddha

and so on back and forth

for a hundred thousand hundred thousand kalpas.

If you meet the Buddha

you meet the Goddess,

the Goddess is the Buddha.

And not only that.  This:

The Buddha is the Goddess,

the Goddess is the Buddha.

And not only that:This:

The Buddha is emptiness

The Goddess is bliss,

the Goddess is emptiness

the Buddha is bliss.

And that is what

and what-not you are

it's true.

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

So here it is:

    Earth-walker/sky-walker

        Hey, silent one, Hey, great talker

    Not two/not one

        Not separate/Not apart

    That is the heart

        Bliss is emptiness

        Emptiness is bliss.

    Be your breath, Ah

    Smile, Hey

   And relax, Ho

And remember this:  You can't miss. "

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


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Energy

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Links to a webpage where one can download a 300dpi scan of this painting for free.

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Tranquil wisdom meditation

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

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

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

In a nutshell: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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