The Mind Illuminated, a journal: day 20

Jhanas, monasticism and renunciation are conceptually and historically connected

These are reflective notes on my experience of practicing Culadasa’s 10 stage meditation system earlier in 2019. The records in this post are from my 20th consecutive day of practice in the system. All these posts are published retrospectively, with some added commentary. There is a page summary of my TMI series with links in the site overview. For an introduction to this project, see this page.

Day 20

I sat for 4.5 hours in three sessions today. There’s a sense in which I think I’m learning to calibrate a movement between concentrative ‘depth’ and expansive awareness. In the language of TMI, I think that would translate to the distinction between stable attention and peripheral awareness.

I find the intentional dissociation in the internalized, concentrative state quite ‘unnatural’. My somewhat inadequate description of this sensation is that it’s like a whole-body fizziness with deeply cocooned awareness. There’s no sense of being in situ. It’s like a suspension of contextual presence so as to expand ‘into’ sensational consciousness. The sensation isn’t relational or reactive.

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The Mind Illuminated, a journal: day 19

The Mind Illuminated, Stage 8, p.311

These are reflective notes on my experience of practicing Culadasa’s 10 stage meditation system. The notes in this post are from my 19th 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 of journal entries is [in square brackets like this].

At this point in my practice of the Mind Illuminated system I began having dissociative experiences. On day 19 I wrote down the first of these: “I’m looking at my iPhone and notice the shape of my hands holding it. Suddenly they’re not a part of me, not mine, they’re outside of me. It’s as though I’m looking at a Rodin sculpture: a moment in time, beautifully captured by someone else, there for me to appreciate – without any sense of personal, physical embodiment. The hands that “I’m” looking at are separate from my subjective experiencing.”

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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

TMI14a

The Mind Illuminated, Stage 4, p. 135

 

TMI14b

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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