The Mind Illuminated, a journal: days 17 and 18

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The Mind Illuminated, Stage 8, p. 306

These are reflective notes on my experience of practicing Culadasa’s 10 stage meditation system. The notes in this post are from my 17th and 18th day of practice in the system. There is a page summary of my TMI series with links in the site overview. For an introduction to this project, see this page. Occasionally I will post-edit the journal. Any post-editing is [in square brackets like this].

The passage above stood out to me as interestingly different. Up until this point in The Mind Illuminated, the practice aims, in the language of this system, to “subdue the sub-minds.” Until now in the TMI system, sub-minds have been tamed of their apparent agency and subdued by a dominant awareness. Now, once they are tamed and subdued, some limited agency is returned to them and employed in service of an overarching “metacognitive introspective awareness” to increase its capacity for powerful mental control.

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What happened to July?

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A few readers asked whether I finished posting my TMI journal? No – I have several draft pages ready to comment and illustrate before posting, and more to say about my continuing exploration of Culadasa’s system. I am posting the journal pages in retrospect,  as and when I get a moment to do so. The TMI journal posts on this site are not synchronous with the practice sessions they describe.

I decided to spend some time this month changing the look and feel of the site. I thought the old site design was looking naff: its wordpress.com theme was ten years out of date. So instead of writing more pages, I spent some time over the last couple of weeks subduing CSS and updating to a more recent theme.

I also met up with Michael Taft from Deconstructing Yourself and we chatted about the changing scene of American Dharma, Buddhist Tantra and True French croissants. We had some fun playing Pokemon Go until we were slaughtered by an armoured Mewtwo and the Berkeley campus turned into a Pokemon charnel ground. We later recorded an episode for the DY podcast, which will likely be published sometime in August. Michael asked me about my experience with TMI; I also talked about the engineering mindset and how it translates well to approaching Vajrayana practice.

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The Mind Illuminated, a journal: days 14 to 16

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The Mind Illuminated, Stage 7, p. 277

These are reflective notes on my experience of practicing Culadasa’s 10 stage meditation system. The notes in this post are from three consecutive days of practice in the system, a fortnight in. For an introduction to this project, see this page. Occasionally I will post-edit the journal. Any post-editing is [in square brackets like this].

Day 14

30 mins sit:

  • Moving in & out of the concentrated state. I felt somewhat less deeply, internally focused than I have been in my sitting practice recently.
  • Had the sense that I was naturally giving up intentional effort, but that released out of the concentrated, deep, internal state, so my mind was kind of alternating between a light, expansive state and a more intentional, internal focus.

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The Mind Illuminated, a journal: purity and impurity

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The Mind Illuminated, Stage 4, p. 135

 

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The Mind Illuminated, Seventh Interlude, p. 284

These are reflective notes on my experience of practicing Culadasa’s 10 stage meditation system. For an introduction to this project, see this page.

Purity and impurity

Like most śamatha-vipassana systems, The Mind Illuminated is big on purification. The system itself views meditation as a method by which the mind is purified. The modern Buddhist view is that some experiences (e.g. unpleasant emotions such as hatred, anger, irritation and discomforting experiences such as suffering and resistance to pain) are inherently impure; that is, they are unwholesome and therefore bad for us. Other stuff arising in our meditation and daily lives is inherently good for us: for example patience and calm, joy, tranquility, equanimity.

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My revelatory no-God experience

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Image from partaj.cz

After reading my biography on this site a friend wrote asking me to tell them about my revelatory no-God experience following a car accident.

I replied and in doing so realized that I’d never told the full story in depth before. As it involves mysticism, expansion of consciousness and a delinquent nonbinary eight-year-old, I thought it might appeal to my readers. So here it is, as a narrative constructed more than thirty years after the event.

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The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 13

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These are reflective notes on my experience of practicing Culadasa’s 10 stage meditation system. The notes in this post are from my thirteenth day of practice in the system. For an introduction to this project, see this page. Occasionally I will post-edit the journal. Any post-editing is [in square brackets like this].

Mastery of stage 6 involves consistency in “subduing subtle distractions”. You have “complete control over your scope of attention, allowing you to examine any object with as broad or narrow a focus as you choose…subtle distractions are more or less completely absent. Thoughts may intrude once in a while but are often absent even from peripheral awareness. Sensations and sounds continue in peripheral awareness, but only rarely become subtle distractions. When they do, they are quickly and automatically corrected for.” (p. 233)

I feel I’m at quite an odd stage with this practice. I can intentionally sit without thought, in a quiet, calm state. In this state, in the language of the system, ‘distractions are absent’. I chose to quote the passage above, because of an optional experience of ‘peripheral’ sounds that has begun to occur. When sounds arise, if I don’t regard them as distractions and allow them to be as they are, fully present in my awareness, there’s no sense of distraction. I can remain aware of the sounds within the field of awareness without losing concentration on the breath, no probs. However, if I make a slight mental shift and regard the sounds as distractions, increasing the ratio of concentration to peripheral awareness, I notice I get a little irritated. An example of this occurred today when I was sitting and David was fighting a rhinoceros in the kitchen. I decided to take the opportunity of readily available peripheral noise to experiment with the different states of mind.

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The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 12

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These are reflective notes on my experience of practicing Culadasa’s 10 stage meditation system. The notes in this post are from my twelfth day of practice in the system. For an introduction to this project, see this page. Occasionally I will post-edit the journal. Any post-editing is [in square brackets like this].

‘Awareness’ is used across meditation systems to mean consciousness of the present moment; cognizant experience. I’ve been using it generally to mean ‘presence of awareness’, a phrase I’m familiar with in connection with Dzogchen practice. ‘Presence of awareness’ may, or may not, include the presence of thoughts and other stuff arising in mind. Presence of awareness is harder to maintain with conceptualization than without it, but it’s still possible for the quality of awareness to remain sharp, clear, full and bright when thoughts are around, even when they are abundant.*

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