Have you had your meds today?

Have you had your meds today?

I came into meditation, like many others, because I had a problem; something I wanted to fix about my existence. At the time, my whole world had been shuck up with my daughter’s brain condition being diagnosed as something the medical world didn’t know much about and couldn’t cure. That fed into more chronic underlying conditions of mental anxiety and physical manifestations of that with systemic psoriasis. I wanted to do something about me, so that I could do more for others. I wanted to fix things. 

No doubt. No doubt at all, after only a few months things had changed, the mental activity and physical actions of my daily life had shifted profoundly. The world looked, smelled, tasted, sounded and felt different- lighter. 

My meditation practice became regular and often, and as that happened, I found that I was no longer doing it for anything, I was not a project to fix or complete. And when people asked, “Why do you meditate?” I found it difficult to answer because I couldn’t relate to the question as much, I would reply “to meditate”. 

Meditation may seem like medication at first, but you may find, as I do, that it’s more like a part of a healthy, balanced diet, not a plastic pill. 

A lotus for you, a Buddha to be,

a dharmacaterpillar

The New You is the True You

The New You is the True You

Many of us harbour both a desire to begin a more sattvic life in order to unravel tensions and bindings- to be at peace- and also innumerable conditioned habits both physical and mental. These habits can obstruct our most venerable quest. These habits are also best at binding us to our ego self. 

Perhaps take some time now to write a list of things that make you- you. Anything that comes to mind, write it, don’t hesitate or hide or even clarify anything. Things you like to do, to eat, things you dislike, bad habits, and good habits. These are often the excercises of our life, reinforcing the notion of our ego being separate and unchanging; because habits are things that don’t seem to go away. I hear a lot “I am, who I am and nothing will change that” and this idea is one of habits.

We already into the 3rd week of the new year, and perhaps New Years resolutions have already been forgotten, maybe they’re still hanging around. But in terms of the practice, this desire to lead a more sattvic life, living in accordance with the dharma, meditating, where are we at? 

5 things to consider 

  1. For now, since we are residing in the world of conditioned phenomena, let’s not ignore time. Get out your diary and schedule. Find a time in the day where time may be allocated to meditation. Find a time for this everyday, so that it can be a regular practice. Maybe make it part of your morning routine? Or otherwise pair it with another daily activity.
  2. Be specific. What meditation? For how long? Why? Be sure to be prepared for what you’re doing, and always remind yourself of intention.
  3. Compassion. Don’t be shameful or cultivate self-guilt if you happen to oversleep and therefore miss the morning meditation in order to get to work on time. Treat it as a great opportunity to cultivate some compassion.
  4. The time is now. Starting a new habit on the 1st of the next month is fair enough but what is there to really prevent you from starting right now? Or at the very least tomorrow?
  5. Be diligent and patient. Your meditation is not to get anywhere, but to realise where you are.

Enjoy the practice friends,

-dharmacaterpillar

Does the Earth need saving?

Does the Earth need saving?

I sit in the coffee shop, awaiting my fair trade decaf-soya-latte and two rather charming peeps approach me. The pair seem a lovely couple, wonderfully matched in their hippy attire and ask me a question, after a prompt “Hey”. The question was- “Are you willing to do your bit to save the planet?”. 

“Which planet?” I asked rather cheekily and chuckled. 

They didn’t appear amused, which was a little disappointing, but I managed to squeeze a smile out of them when I declared, “I jest! I jest!”. 

They asked again, “But seriously, humans are destroying Nature, the Earth needs help, you aren’t denying that much are you?”

I didn’t know how to answer that; I find that far too often people ask me the wrong question for my particular perspective, which has developed in its way through dharma practice. I need to be careful how I answer. 

Does the Earth need saving? If so, by whom

Allow Thay to impart some critical wisdom here;

We classify other animals and living beings as nature, acting as if we ourselves are not part of it. Then we pose the question ‘How should we deal with Nature?’ We should deal with nature the way we should deal with ourselves! We should not harm ourselves; we should not harm nature…Human beings and nature are inseparable. -Thich Nhat Hanh (1988)

Should we stay on this imaginary pedestal and go around pondering whether we should save the planet or not? Or shall we see passed all that and realise that the Earth is not something we have, but more something we are. We didn’t fall from the Heavens to stamp on the Earth. We grew out of the Earth and continually do so every single day.

Human activity has created some issues when it comes to pollution and climate change but these aren’t issues that affect “nature” or “Earth” anymore than they affect you, you right now. 

The Earth is a Bodhiasattva, the Mother Bodhisattva, birthing you, embracing you, and unconditionally doing so, even if we are to rip out her precious metals and choke her to death. She will Hold us, and guide us to see that we aren’t choking her, we’re choking ourselves. She will provide to us the very ground underneath us even if we are completely unaware. 

So let’s do it for her, the Earth, but let’s do it for ourselves, for her. If you want to save the planet, save it first by saying Thank You, and showing ourselves compassion, because for as long we fail to do that, Earth will always suffer for us. 

There is always more we can all do, but we mustn’t do it thinking we are superior to the Earth, we must do it with humility and true love if it is to make a real difference. 

Many Thanks, 

A lotus for you, a Buddha to be,

-dharmacaterpillar 

Breath Poetry

Breath Poetry

I use poetry in my daily practice, reciting the verse in rhythm with my breath. In this way anchoring mind and body with mindful awareness. 

I have been ill recently (the lack of posts reflects this) and seeds of pain and discomfort have been watered in my mind-body. So this verse arose out of necessity;

 

Upon feeling the burning flesh

I hear the cries of a thousand cells

Rest dear body, rest dear mind 

A thousand cries? Or mindfulness bells? 


There is no use ignoring pain and trying to move on without proper and appropriate acknowledgement of the pain. This only leads to further tightening and entanglement. The body is prone to all kinds of maladies, but held, embraced gently, it has a tremendous healing capacity. So wherever I am, tuning into the body with this kind of verse, using mindfulness of the breath as my anchor into Reality, healing and wisdom are possible, for me and you.

Wishing you all well on the path,

-dharmacaterpillar

Cleaning Up

Cleaning Up

The Sanskrit word śauca (शौच) is the de-cluttering of one’s life. Being able to step back and clean up is important in nourishing the seed of clarity.

What must I try and clean up on a daily basis?

  • The external environment; and in particular my dedicated yoga space. If external and internal are but one; how can a cluttered and untidy environment be conducive to the process of yoga? But I must tread this way with caution; this may become an excercise in ego-stretching, one of “me” controlling and working against the natural way of things. Keeping the external space tidy is important, but I must not fall into the trap of becoming attached to keeping things clean- disinfecting the very creativity that Life embodies constantly.

 

  • The body. The body, impermanent and undergoing the process of decay moment from moment. The body is not clean, not 100%, and this is ok. What is the point of a body covered in disinfectant? It is dead clean. But when the body is not clean, it succumbs to illness, and effort exerted in keeping the body relatively clean is a daily reminder of the body’s inherent impureness and impermanent nature. It is a sobering practice.

 

  • The mind. It is time to clean up the mind. For the mind to “come clean” about many secrets; to reconcile within myself the damage tied up, and then facilitate reconciliation with others. Daily practising of the ability to release suppressed frustrations and sadnesses, with authenticity, clarity (as much as will allow), and ahimsā is śauca, a cleaning process. We must mourn if we need to mourn. Don’t let feelings of embarrassment or guilt imprison what is truly happening. Just apologise, from the heart, and soften the ego in doing so. Don’t clutter the mind with that stuff.

 

The cleaning up process, external and internal, clears the dirt away from the mirror of consciousness- allowing and preparing for that light, purusa, to be seen finally for what it truly is. So let us begin with picking up that mop and bucket and with mindfulness- clean with joy.

Happy Cleaning Up!

-dharmacaterpillar

On the 12th Day of Christmas…

On the 12th Day of Christmas…

On the twelve day of Christmas, my True Self gave to me;

12 Interdependent Links of Co-Arising

(11 Virtuous Mental Factors; 10 Realms of Existence; 9 Points of Death Meditation; 8 Great Tenets of Mahayana; 7 Factors of Awakening; 6 Paramitas; 5 Indriyana; 4 Noble Truths; 3 Dharma Seals; 2 Satyas; and a Buddha by the Bodhi Tree)

The Twelve Interdependent Links of Co-Arising

There has been a theme in these series of posts; in one the rest remain. And this is precisely the message of the twelve interdependent links of co-arising (pratitya samutpadd). Sure we all know what cause-effect entails, do we not? That there is a cause and then an effect? Because the Cosmos is rides on the tracks of time right? The teaching of pratitya samutpadd is the teaching that cause and effect co-arise; the cultivation of the clarity to see that what came first is not the chicken or the egg. The answer is obvious- they are but one. The egg is in the chicken and the chicken in the egg. They inter-be.

There is a simple, yet profound, way to view this link or association; this is such because that is such. Both exist. One did not come before and is now completely eliminated from the Cosmos. It is settling to see things in this way; the wisdom of interdependency shines through, and this feels like a mother’s calming embrace- completely supportive. Everything that has ever existed/happened has lead up to this moment- where you are- and everything that could ever exist or happen is present here too, as pure potentiality. If something has yet to manifest, that is very different from absence. Can we ever really be sure that anything is absent? What would that mean in actuality?

These are the twelve pratitya samutpadd:

  1. Ignorance
  2. Volitional actions
  3. Consciousness
  4. Mind-Body
  5. Six Sense Organs (and corresponding objects)
  6. Contact
  7. Feeling
  8. Craving
  9. Grasping
  10. Coming to be
  11. Birth
  12. Old Age and Death

These needn’t be in that order; the interdependency at the heart of this teaching of course points to a more supportive structure than a linear relationship. These twelve are often taught from the perspective of a deluded mind, but of course there is the flip side. So let us ignite the bodhichitta, the Great Aspiration, and be motivated by Love, looking to future with more peace.

In this way, the twelve links are reframed here, as presented by Thich Nhat Hanh:

  1. Clear Understanding

  2. Great Aspiration

  3. Four Wisdoms

  4. Transformation Body

  5. Result Body

  6. Mindfulness of contact

  7. Mindfulness of feeling

  8. Four Immeasurable Minds

  9. Freedom

  10. Wondrous Being

  11. Wisdom of no-birth

  12. Wisdom of no-death

It is possible you are ignorant in a particular situation, but it is also possible for the clear understanding to emerge also, if one is practising the Dharma. And ignorance (avidya) settles into clear understanding (vidya). Just as the darkness of night recedes for the dawn of the day. And within this of course the others flourish. For example, a clear understanding of situations includes a clear understanding of birth and death (11 & 12). And in this way the wisdom of no-birth and no-death flourishes. Birth and death are not ignored, but we are no longer flittering away energy and power into them. This wisdom is not one of transcending beingness and accomplishing non-beingness; this the Buddha made clear in his first Dharma talk. The path is not one of escapism. But rather no-birth and no-death is to say a complete redefinition of what it means. Birth is okay, and so is death; simply the waves upon which it is completely necessary for a Boddhisatva to ride upon. With clear understanding this is known and will come to be embodied. Thus, from one side birth and death- it is, but the equivalent, made of the exactly the same substance, just viewed with absolute clarity, nirvana- it is.

Just as we can say, for example, clear understanding enables the realisation of the wisdom of no-birth and no-death; we can also say that clear understanding is not clear understanding unless accompanied by this wisdom of no-birth and no-death, since it will be ignorant of this wisdom at least. They co-arise.

“The gate to oneness of cause and effect opens;

neither two nor three, the path runs straight.” -Hakuin Zenji

So what is done, is done with all else is done. This moment is precious because it is where infinity resides– not as some abstract symbol, but in a very literal sense. All is here, the unblemished complete manifest, and not-yet-manifest Cosmos. This is rather good news.

“A beginner’s meditation is the complete expression of perfect enlightenment.” -Dōgen Zenji

Take a seat with me and let us now sit with earnest; allowing Buddhahood to permeate throughout space and time, everywhere in all times is the realm of Buddha.

 

Thank You for visiting Only Yoking,

Your visiting and my writing co-arise!

-dharmacaterpillar

On the 11th Day of Christmas…

On the 11th Day of Christmas…

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my True Self gave to me;

11 Virtuous Mental Factors;

(10 Realms of Existence; 9 Points of Death Meditation; 8 Great Tenets of Mahayana; 7 Factors of Awakening; 6 Paramitas; 5 Indriyana; 4 Noble Truths; 3 Dharma Seals; 2 Satyas; and a Buddha by the Bodhi Tree)

Within the Marvellous Abidharma, there are 51 mental factors, as found in the Abidharma samuccaya, and these are divided into several categories based on what I like to describe as their flavour. Because in my own deep meditative experience these mental factors seem to flavour the mind, maybe this is because I am inclined to experience the taste/smell of an object/memory primarily before the other signals are explored. For another, these mental factors may colour the mind around a certain object; or perception for you may be one more of noise, of frequency. However you may relate, you will come across these mental factors, not only in the Abidharma, but in your experience- the flavours of your experience within the faculty of the mind.

In this post my True Self gave me; the 11 Virtuous Mental Factors (kuśala), these eleven are deemed essential to fruitful Buddhist practice, and thus for Great Peace and Total Freedom. The 11 Virtuous Mental Factors are:

  1. Faith (shraddha)

  2. Self-Respect

  3. Decorum

  4. Non-Attachment

  5. Non-Agression

  6. Non-Bewilderment

  7. Diligence

  8. Pliancy

  9. Conscientiousness

  10. Equanimity

  11. Non-Violence

Faith. Faith in what? As I have mentioned before, I see this faith as a confidence in something observed and experienced. The confidence that, for instance, the Dharma is True only comes from recognising that through practising it, if it even comes at all. For me, what one must have faith in first and foremost is one’s own innate ability to realise and actualise Buddhahood, and one’s own responsibility to practice the Dharma. Faith in our-self, that you are basically decent. Don’t take my word for it- explore the question deeply yourself, are you basically decent?

Self-Respect. With Faith, with the flavour of that confidence that you are closer to Buddhahood than anything else; we cultivate automatically self-respect, if the faith is not blind. With self-respect we are able to cautiously tread the path of our life, and of course mindfulness provides the appropriate lubrication for this. In this way, engaging in actions, even intentions, that would be disastrous for one’s maturation becomes more difficult than engaging in those that are skillful.

Decorum. Not necessarily conforming to society, but is the practice of respecting those societal/public conventions that exist in such a way they are naturally in line with the eight-fold path, and the ability to distinguish between the two is the product of wisdom. I also like to approach this factor with a scenario; someone that is ignorant of any contemplative practice (has not yet touched the wisdom the of Dharma) is suffering, you (a seasoned meditator) approaches and spiels away on non-self. Is that going to help? Or cause further confusion, frustration and even alienation and distance? So in this scenario, I think decorum is what is primarily needed- act appropriately, maybe a hug given in mindfulness (but don’t say that!!) is more skilful?

Non-Attachment. Attachment to what? Possessions? certainly. People? ok, it’s getting difficult. Outcome? Woah! For me, the most difficult “thing” to not be attached too is outcome. Possessions are just stuff; people, though sometimes difficult, I see as essentially free, so the point of attachment can never latch on; but the intended outcome of my actions, I feel that is intimately “me”. I am wrong. Practising non-attachment of this kind alleviates so much suffering and anxiety. As long as my intentions and actions come from a place of mindfulness, I need to not be attached to their outcome- I have done all I can, all is done.

Non-Aggression. Here lies the capacity of the mind to not look upon something, or someone, with hatred. What do you absolutely despise? Sit with it. I have a tea set, with 2 cups, when I meditate alone, I often begin by brewing some tea, and I pour tea in both cups. I sit, cultivating the energy of mindfulness, and sip the tea from my cup- recognising the wonder of the moment, however it happens to present itself. When any feeling arises that may lead to destructive thoughts of angst, aggression, or hatred- I recognise it as a beast starved of love, and I mindfully pick up the other cup and sip- offering the sweet taste of the tea to whatever it is that has arrived at the cushion. In that way, I hope to cultivate and flavour my mind with non-aggression.

Non-Bewilderment. This brews during meditation. It’s the tendency of the mind, during the practice of the dharma, to see things- situations- differently. No longer are we a rag doll to the misery of life, but a spectator, content with the show.

Diligence. When times are good- we may feel that we don’t need to practice. When times are bad- we may feel it’s too difficult to practice. So when are we actually practising? Are we waiting for a cosmic sign, the alignment of the stars in the heavens? Diligence means keeping up the practice, in the good times and the bad. What brings us to the cushion every morning is not anything but the joy of it itself. In the good times- practice is possible; in the bad times-practice is possible.

Pliancy. Just do it.

Conscientiousness. With practice, with getting to know oneself- the ability to become increasingly sensitive to another’s situation at a certain moment is possible. One is better able to respond creatively and appropriately to a given situation, perceiving more clearly and subtly the causes and conditions of the situation. This is not meaning to say one never makes a mistake- says the wrong thing at the wrong time, or is anyway in control of the situation. That’s not it. It’s just that when this is the flavour of the mind, it’s easier, more natural not to step on anyone’s toes; exacerbate suffering.

Equanimity. From a place of equanimity, the good, the bad and the ugly are basically decent. Without equanimity, the mind is prone to all kinds of unskillful tendencies. With equanimity, all the other virtuous mental factors are more favourably cultivated.

Non-Violence. I relate to this as gentleness. The manner by which we enter a room, the way we ask a question, how often we smile gently and authentically to ourselves. I don’t mean we should put-it-on, act it out, but just quieten down. In that state, taking one’s time- respecting time- naturally gentleness manifests through our intent and actions.

These Eleven are cultivated as we practice diligently and deeply, but I think also they are qualities of everyone’s mind- capable of arising just as much as any unhealthy factor given appropriate conditions. And this means that just as they are cultivated as we practice, our practice is ever nourished by these factors, calling us to the cushion, calling us back to our True Home.

 

Thank you for visiting Only Yoking,

A lotus for you, a Buddha to be.

-dharmacaterpillar