The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 5

TMI5

These are reflective notes on my experience of practicing Culadasa’s 10 stage meditation system. The notes in this post are from my fifth 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].

Re my note in the margin above: this is a question I continue to hold about the MI system, and samatha-vipassana approaches generally. To what extent does the focus on positive, wholesome experience, to the exclusion, rejection or ignoring of its opposite, create an unseen dissonance? And if so, what unintended results might that have?

In shi-ne practice, one regards all sensations and arising emotions in the same light, that is, as representatives of a spectrum. The method is to ‘remain uninvolved’ – to develop the capacity to maintain awareness ‘in all directions’ around the arising emotion, to resist ‘collapsing in’ on it. The motivation is the same in samatha: to resist awareness becoming fully caught up in the arising emotion/thought. But the technique is significantly different. In samatha one intentionally disregards some emotions and sensations by ignoring or moving focus away from them ‘unidirectionally’. Rather than expanding awareness out in all directions around the thought, one intentionally shifts attention to a different mental space. This unidirectional movement to a concentrated focus accentuates the experience of a foreground and a background.

This reflects experientially, how the Sutric path tends towards dualism (and Vajrayana towards monism).

[The rejection of negative internal states of mind in favor of intentionally dwelling on wholesome, positive experience feels really good. I suspect that, at some point, this experience begins to cause psychological friction (because positive response, however much it is physically embodied and genuinely felt, is an artificial default response, an imposition in the worldly reality of interrelatedness).] 

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The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 4

TMI4

These are reflective notes on my experience of practicing Culadasa’s 10 stage meditation system. The notes in this post are from my fourth 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].

Day 4

1 hr sit:

  • I think my brain is getting the message to my eyelids to close. Left eyelid closed & relaxed but the right one won’t go down yet. The eyelid twitching & effort is distracting. It’s unusual for me to experience something as ‘distracting’ in meditation. I’m so used to the practice encompassing all sensation, sound & experience into the field of awareness, following the idea that nothing need distract. It’s interesting to me that narrowing my field of awareness to concentrative focus on an ‘object’ is creating an experience of distraction. The same is happening with sounds in the house – noisy heating, for example, not normally distracting, just sound arising in the field of awareness. Now with this concentrative focus, there’s a kind of distinction made between the centre and periphery of awareness, with the idea that the focus should remain concentrated at the center, my breath. My awareness sometimes moves to the sound and back to the breath. 
  • Mostly calm, a little bit dull at times, but less so than yesterday. 
  • Getting over the cold, respiratory tract less snotty.
  • Weird body experiences seem to be settling, not much of that today. 

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The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 3

TMI_intro_for_day_3

These are reflective notes on my experience of practicing Culadasa’s 10 stage meditation system. The notes in this post are from my third 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].

Re my note in the margin pictured above: ‘shi-ne’ and ‘lhatong’ are the Tibetan equivalents of the Pali ‘samatha’ and ‘vipassana’. Despite that, they describe specific meditation practices in the four naljor system, not outcomes of practice.

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The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 2

TMIIntro

Introduction: page xviii, The Mind Illuminated

These are reflective notes on my experience of practicing Culadasa’s 10 stage meditation system. The notes in this post are from my second 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].

The note in the margin of the introduction above, “separateness is not an illusion or a mistake…” expresses my own view. This is reflected in some strands of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, in which I’ve practiced. In Buddhism ‘ego’ is usually a translation of ‘atman’ which is, historically, a concept in Sutra. Generally in Vajrayana view the ego is irrelevant and not problematized.

Day 2

[I chose the Mind Illuminated system to practice because I thought it would be a good system to deepen my capacity for concentrative focus.

In Stage 1 of TMI the suggestion is that having your eyes either slightly open or closed will work. I started the practice before having read the chapter on stage 1 and then decided to keep sitting with my eyes closed because it was, indeed, proving interesting and useful in contrast to my norm. So from here on, unless I state otherwise, I practice this system with my eyes closed for meditation.

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The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 1

Life_is_a_distraction

Foreward: Page xvi, The Mind Illuminated

These are reflective notes on my experience of practicing Culadasa’s 10 stage meditation system. The notes in this post are from my first 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].

Day One

“I’ve already read the forward and introduction of the book. Started reading the overview today. 

Walking meditation (described in TMI appendix 1)

Mind mostly thought free during this exercise. I found the attention to physicality made it very easy to let thought go.

10 mins ordinary speed, walking around the house:

  • Before starting, I noticed mild resistance. Thought I’d rather sit. 
  • Noticed the different sensations moving from carpet to hard floor and back. 
  • Started with noting, this happened unintentionally, noting sensations in soles, legs, body.
  • Soon dropped that & focused attention on soles of feet. Maintained attention for the ten minutes. 
  • Noticed slight boredom at some point, concentrated harder on sensation in soles and it was superseded by enjoyment.

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Journaling a staged path

My_mind_illuminated

Over the past month I have been practicing the staged system outlined in John Yates (a.k.a. Culadasa)’s book The Mind Illuminated. I kept a journal of my daily practice, which I will publish here.

To navigate chronologically through this series scroll to the bottom of the page and use the ‘next page’ and ‘previous page’ links. There is a summary of the series with page content and links on the site overview.

My most recent posts were about the renunciative worldview associated with the Buddhist path of Sutrayana – and yet Vajrayana has been my chosen practice and primary worldview for twenty-five years. Inevitably my ideas about Sutra are embedded in Vajrayana perspective. I regard detachment, renunciation, purification and equanimity (all Sutric descriptions of meditative experience) from an etic perspective. That’s not to say that I haven’t had and appreciate some of those experiences. However, ‘inside’ Vajrayana, they have distinct, different functions. They may even be described uniquely using the language of Tantra or Dzogchen.

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The structure of Buddhism

my Buddhist structure chart

George Box: “All models are wrong. Some are useful.”

Culturally, I have the impression we’re leaving post-modernism behind and that it hasn’t worked. Anecdotally I hear expressions of confusion and lostness. It’s like we’ve come adrift from the past; we’re floating around in a sea of debris trying to make sense of it all. We’re confronted with multiple mashups without reliable tools for discerning which to engage with and which to discard. Approaching Buddhism, mindfulness and meditation can be like this. How do we know what will work and what won’t?

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