Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The path of insight

It may come as no surprise that there are many people out there meditating to a deep level and getting enlightenment experiences. The path of insight is one of the clearest and quickest ways to get yourself some genuine experiences, and you can read all about it on various web sites. I've refrained from talking about it because I've avoided it, but there comes a time when you have to make sense of what is going on.

So then, here's the sort of thing you might encounter:

1. Establish some level of awareness. Establish the difference between the felt sense in the mind, and thinking about stuff.

2. Establish the difference between mind events (feeling, perception, thoughts and consciousness) and the body. See thoughts as mind events.

3. See cause and effect. Sound, hearing sound, pressure feeling pressure. Scan the body - tense muscles relate to some holding in the mind. Relax the body to loosen the mind.

4. See impermanence at work. Nothing lasts very long in the mind. Sample events at one per second, noting them. Speed things up two to five per second. Establish the knowing of things coming and going. From here you can do some work on thoughts, movement in the mind (the movement suffering thing), things starting and ending.

5. Turn your attention to sensations in the fingers, or the feet or where you feel pressure. Enter the sensation/knowing groove. Try two different places. A place is a higher level concept. Release this and focus on the raw information from the nerve endings.

6. The information is not constant - it can't be. It is pulsing or vibrating. Notice this. Open up to the flux of pulsing in the whole body.

7. This seems to unlock a flood of information that is like being super pleasantly electrocuted from the inside out.

8. Rinse your mind with this for a bit and then settle back to noticing the breath arising and passing.

9. You may feel a sense of loss - the opening of nothingness. The sense that you are an optional manifestation. Everything you have strived for has been meaningless.

10. You may feel like you have lost control and this can also bring on grief and despair.

11. Mind becomes quite still. The misery keeps coming and then the mind gives up - there is no answer to be found in the misery or the logic of the mind.

12. Events slow done. Here we get to the dismantling of the mind. We let go of location, of idea, of knowing. There is nowhere for the sensations to land and they are just disappearing.

13. Because we are not proliferating sensations they are just passing by. We kind of can't be bothered moving the mind into them because it seems coarse, like a waste of effort.

14. We notice cessation. A brief empty moment. Cessation is happening all the time. We might feel ourselves let go and then we are awash with peace.

15. Let go into the flux. Merge awareness and knowing into one thing. See the sense of self forming. See the sense of awareness forming. See the events of the mind forming. Everything is mind.

That gives you some idea of what people get up to. Is it a feel good technique? It probably transcends the idea of feeling good because it dismantles everything about you into an elemental experience of being. Feeling good is not really important anymore, so in a sense your journey to find something to make you feel good is at end. It is not applicable anymore. You have finished with this struggle and you can return to your life and simply enjoy it as it unfolds.

The end.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Vedana, elections, luddites and xenophobia

There is a lot of horror among educated people about democracy and the way things are currently going. Clearly, as enlightened people we should be looking after everyone and making the world a better place. I don't think anyone would disagree with this. The trouble is that human beings are driven by a complex set of animal mechanisms that makes them abhor "otherness" and makes them want to protect a mythical state of "the good old days" even though those days were patently rubbish - people don't like change but they also don't like being left behind.

Now, it doesn't matter who we are, these things will always induce a sense of unpleasantness (negative vedana) in us. Unobserved this unpleasantness will attach itself into thoughts and opinions that get us into a lather and we become these rather unreasonable people. We may find ourselves consumed in fear and hatred and all these other emotions that attempt to deal with the unpleasantness within us. We may find these emotions being reinforced (or introduced) by the media or other people around us. We believe the world is making us feel this way.

I've probably lost most people by now, but if you find yourself getting sucked into this delusion of a poisoned, dark world consider these things:

- intrinsically, your idea of the world is in you. If you feel bad, it is in you not the world.
- life is not about suppressing the unpleasant aspects - they are part of the system. Trying to ignore them (which is what has been happening) does not work.
- when unpleasant things arise, we have an opportunity to examine them as a community and become ever more enlightened.
- you can't change reality - the luddites finally realised this and so will we - the world has moved on even though we might not like it

There, I've said my bit. There's a natural catharsis going on and it's how we move on as a society. Will the world be destroyed? Probably not.


- the world is constantly changing, but the overall direction is towards the wholesome.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The yearning for peace

Once you've been meditating or contemplating for a while, you begin to realise that it's more a question of getting out of the way and letting it happen to you rather than you making it happen. I think we all know that we want a peaceful and stress free existence - we get a taste of it as we go through life - a sunset, an open vista, an afternoon on the riverbank, walking through a snowy field, etc. We yearn for these moments but we don't know how to get there. We don't know what it means. Well, don't worry about meaning, just create space in your life to access these moments more and more often. There's an unstoppable force in all our lives and it lives through all of us - we just need to let it happen.

And it will happen. If you let it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

What is mindfulness?

I like to have a crack at this every now and again because my appreciation of it seems to change as the years go by. This time I'll do it through a series of questions.

How do I know I'm being mindful?

The simplest way to do this is to label your experience as it happens. Keep it casual. Pay attention to what is going on and give it a label - sitting, seeing, thinking, feet, pressure, breathing. If you are able to label what is happening then you know what is happening. This knowing is mindfulness.

Is that it?

That's the beginning. Once you know what is going on you can begin to explore experience and what your mind is doing. This gives you some space around experience and this gap is where the freedom happens. This space separates out the details of your life from what you really are.

Why does it come and go?

The mind is a complex instrument that is rapidly switching between different modes of operation (for want of a better phrase). Mindfulness is not a mission critical thing and requires some effort to maintain (although it gets easier and more continuous over time). You can feel the effort of paying attention and the relative non-effort of allowing the mind to wander off. Here's the rub. When you are being mindful you are shielded from unwise mind states that make life seem a bit shit, but when you drifting off the mind will have the annoying tendency to, well, make life seem a bit shit.

Anyway, I digress. One important thing to note is that part of mindfulness is remembering to be mindful. If you look carefully into experience, the mind has this quick flick every now again to check whether it should be remembering something or whether you are doing what you should be doing - if you insert the intention to be mindfulness into your memory banks then you will pop back into mindfulness as if by magic. 

That was a long winded way of saying that remembering is an important aspect of mindfulness.

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

Separating out your experience from who are you is very helpful indeed. This does not, however, stop us from suffering the vagaries of human existence (and this is where a mindfulness course kind of leaves you flapping in the wind - it does not really cure anything). I'm not going to get into what else we need to do to make life a lovely adventure but mindfulness is a useful place to start. Suffice to say that mindfulness offers short term relief to very upsetting things. 

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Exploring unhindered awareness

It turns out that the ultimate feel good technique is to find a state of peace and equanimity and just hang out there. Thoughts pop up every now and again but they are not bothersome, we tolerate just about anything, and we can work up some kundalini excitement whenever we feel like it or we can disappear into a state of nothingness. However, we are not zombies - we still do what we need to do but we are clear why we are doing it and what needs to be done.

So then, it seems as if I am nearing the end of this feel good journey, but I've said that before. The final piece of the puzzle is the exploration of unconditioned awareness - that is to say, the presence that exists in each moment of knowing. This where it gets tricky - you can't investigate awareness because it is not something in the mind, but something that arises to illuminate each moment in the mind - a bit like dust particles and light beams or a rainbow. This kind of awareness is the fabric of physical reality interacting with our brains. #

So how do we investigate it?

Good question.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Going a bit deeper

Not wishing to leave you with half a story, this follows on from my other post 'go deep' - I felt myself shying away from continuing, but, you never know. Hang on to your hats, as it becomes a more of a story as we delve into the mind - the language and words become a little more fantastic.

So then, we have let go of our regular concerns and we are gathered in our body and mind, just a creature resting within ourselves, quiet and still. This allows the background workings of the mind to become available to our awareness. We may notice sprinklings of light, a flux of sensations, sparkles coming and going. We may recognise light in the mind and see it like a flock of starlings whooshing in sweeping waves in response to the bodily sensations of breathing. We may experience a flush of pleasure in the body and see it tingle through the mind's eye. We feel an invitation to go deeper and the mind seemingly becomes brighter - we may feel like we are sitting under floodlights. Perhaps our body disappears, and we feel vast, open and spacious. We feel refined, delicate. Thinking feels like concrete in the mind. We may notice a profound stillness deep within, like a dense, personal black hole so we let go into that. Perhaps our mind unwraps into a crazily fast panoply of lights coming and going - we have no thoughts, just presence. We feel light and flowing. We might recognise that to conceptualise these moments is to destroy them so we just relax with them. Then we may get a glimpse of something beyond these phenomena, a kind of awareness of the fabric of reality that underlies the existence of our minds, an immutable sense of 'what is underneath us'. And perhaps, if we let go into this, we have finally unravelled the centre of our onion-like minds. Or perhaps, we feel our minds move again and all that was within our grasp flutters away, ephemeral and tantalising, shy and beautiful. Leaving us contemplating for another day.

Then a deeper change begins once the meditation has finished. A coolness sets into our natural sense of ourselves; an abiding calmness. We realise that these transient experiences come and go, and that all things come and go. We see everyday life from a cooler perspective, we become less bothered by things. There is something better happening. Then, as if from nowhere, we are drawn into old habits and the coolness departs. The world demands something from us and we answer to it, dutifully. It goes like this. An oscillation, a massaging of reality. A battle between responsibility and freedom. We hang in the balance.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Vegetable and coconut curry

Here's a tasty vegetable curry I knocked together the other day - rich, flavoursome and satisfying.


Olive oil for frying
Black mustard seeds
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 sachet of creamed coconut
Garlic, ginger and a small onion - chopped up
1 tin of tomatoes
Cumin, coriander, turmeric, chilli seeds
Salt and pepper

2 courgettes
1 butternut squash
1 cauliflower
1 yellow pepper
About 200ml of vegetable stock


1. Add some oil to a large pan. Add the mustard seeds, star anise and cinnamon. Put the heat on and wait until the mustard seeds start popping.
2. Add the ginger, garlic and onion. Fry for a minute.
3. Add the courgettes and pepper. Keep frying for a minute.
4. Add the remaining spices and keep on frying for a minute.
5. Now add the tomatoes and coconut. Add some vegetable stock so the mixture is loose.
6. Add the butternut squash. Boil gently for 10 minutes.
7. Add the cauliflower. Boil gently for about 15 minutes until the cauliflower is done.

Delicious. Sprinkle with cashew nuts if you like that sort of thing.