Today has been challenging. Energy factor low at the moment. But I am calm at least, which is the fifth factor of enlightenment. There's also a bit of equanimity there too (the seventh factor), and there must be some mindfulness (first factor) because I am aware of these states of mind. These three are considered wholesome states of mind to be cultivated and sustained, because they are part of the seven factors of awakening (1. mindfulness -> 2. interest and investigation -> 3. energy and determination -> 4. rapture/joy -> 5. calmness/serentiy -> 6. Samhadi (exquisite stillness) -> 7. equanimity ).
I think out of all the factors generating joy is perhaps the most challenging part of the path for me. Weirdly I can sometimes generate pleasure in the body without joy, but not always. If I can get pleasure going though, it tends to help with invoking joy, and then that joy increases the pleasure, which increases the joy, with them both feeding each other. I think it is because feeling some pleasure makes meditation more enjoyable. Otherwise it is a very dry dull practise that sends one to sleep. I very much dislike the dry insight practises, I did try those one time and it sent me into a long depression, I think the Buddha tells one to generate joy and pleasure when cultivation meditation for a good reason. A gladdened contented mind is much more cooperative and prone to exploring equanimity and insight.
There are days when I can be really joyful, and full of loving-kindness, but maintaining it is hard, because I can sometimes wake up a completely different person, even if I go to bed feeling very well and full of love, get enough sleep, I can wake up the next morning feeling fatigued and struggle to get out of bed and do anything, it is very hard to generate joy and loving-kindness when I am like that. It is hard to just rest and flow with it, due to the demands of the world and the need to build a livelihood to support myself. Especially with the doom coming from the news about how we are heading for a massive food shortage in the world, but I can disengage from that and accept the way things are, but still when I am fatigued, joy and loving-kindness is hard to invoke. I have tried using the voice of another to generate it, i.e. listen to dhamma talks, this can work sometimes, but other times I just can't get anything to generate it. At least that state of mind is impermanent, as joy and loving-kindess does eventually come back again. Very odd.
But I am determined to learn how to generate joy without needing anything external to do so, whatever state of mind I am in, I will learn how to generate it at will. The enlightened mind is about being in a perpetual state of emotional wellbeing. And the practise of meditation, and especially the anapana sati sutta (mindfulness of breathing teaching) is a lot like learning how to play a piece of music, the Buddha uses the word train, it is a training, one is learning how to bring the wholesome states of mind into being and sustain them. In a sense you are learning how to play the emotional structure of the mind, to free yourself from suffering. One is learning to create exquisite beautiful states of mind that cycle and once they have become well-established and like second nature, become who you are, and at that point there is no more going back to the negative states of woe, one has done the work and now abides in a constant state of emotional wellbeing that never fades away - nibanna.
That is what I keep reminding myself, that this is a gradual training. There's nothing magical happening, it is just practise and perseverance. The same way we learn any skill or craft in life, dedication and patient determination. If one keeps putting in the right causes and conditions (the noble eight-fold path), in time once fully developed, enlightenment naturally follows.
Some days it is a trudge, and others like hang-gliding (-:
But through it all one just keeps putting in the causes and conditions and develops and completes the training. The same way we learn anything in life, Buddhism is no different.
It does help to have guidance from an experienced teacher, and to have the right teacher as well. Even in Buddhism there are differing views and not all of Buddhism teaches the same thing, they are not all singing from the same hymn sheet. And some teachings have drifted away from what the Buddha actually taught and make the dhamma confusing and hard to understand.
Once I have properly developed, understood and mastered the eight-fold path, I would like to teach it one day to others and pass on what I have learnt. I have decided there needs to be people who preserve the orighinal teachings (or as close to as possible with what we have passed down to us) of the Buddha. Not that I am criticising other flavours of Buddhism, but I feel strongly that there needs to be people who do keep those core teachings of the Tathagatha (Buddha) alive for future generations, and my heart wants to be one of those.