The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 12

TMI12

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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The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 11

TMI11

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

Stage 6: 

The first step of stage 6 is to achieve ‘exclusive attention, also called single-pointed attention’. No alternation from the focus to ‘subtle distractions’. Peripheral awareness remains present.

This leads to sustaining exclusive attention so that mental objects fade from awareness. The instruction is to “completely ignore everything outside” the scope of attention.

The second step in stage 6 is developing metacognitive introspective awareness.

The technique in stage 6 is to alternate between exclusive attention to the breath at the nose and whole body (or a part of the body) sensations, related to the breath. Maintain exclusive attention without any distractions at the nose for as long as you can. Once exclusive attention fades, return to the whole body breath.

“Completely ignore subtle distractions.” 

This is a different instruction to the four naljors practice in which you maintain awareness of any content of mind without intentional ignoring. The difference here is between ‘remaining uninvolved’ and ‘ignoring’. These alternate methods lead to different experiences. Remaining uninvolved involves no shift of focus, in that the method favors no one locational priority over another. ‘Ignoring’ involves a shift in mental focus to a foreground other than the form (thought/image/emotion) arising, with the intent for that which is ignored to become background. It’s not intentionally stopped, but it is intentionally disregarded. Expansive awareness has omnidirectional intent; concentrated awareness has unidirectional intent. It cultivates a foreground against a background.

I’d like to say a little here about my experience of expansive practice:

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The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 10

TMI10

These are reflective notes on my experience of practicing Culadasa’s 10 stage meditation system. The notes in this post are from my tenth 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 passage from the chapter on stage 5, above, describes an increase in “the feeling of gentle pleasure” as one progresses through the stages. This is in keeping with my experience of the system so far. I think it’s also true to say, as predicted, that my “overall energy level” during meditation has dropped somewhat, alongside the increase in pleasant contentedness.

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The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 9

TMI9

The Mind Illuminated, stage 5: p. 171

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

Notes from the chapter on stage 5:

Focus on finding and noticing subtle dullness. It’s pleasurable and comfortable, but in this state of mind you can be startled, or make an automatic movement without prior intention.

Intentional clear, continuous perception is the antidote, plus vigilance.

It’s useful to read the stage 5 section today because I think it answers the question about whether or not the deeper, pleasurable and strongly absorbed state I was working yesterday is a stage of this path. (No, it’s considered an obstacle.)

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The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 8

TMI8

The Mind Illuminated, stage 4: p. 132

These are reflective notes on my experience of practicing Culadasa’s 10 stage meditation system. The notes in this post are from my eighth 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 8

1hr sit: 

  • Sat in quiet focus, maintained attention to breath and peripheral awareness.
  • A few images arose, labelled them, noticed they were memories of negative experience, didn’t have any particular reaction to them, just saw them & maintained focus on the breath.
  • Some pleasant physical sensations arose at skin level, let them be, didn’t interact with them mentally.
  • There was an argument on the road outside. (This is unusual – I live in the countryside, the road is about 30 yards down a hill. The sound of occasional cars comes up to the house, but not loud.) The voices were clear, transparent and kind of distant. I could hear the sounds of the words, but they had no conceptual meaning, it was like hearing a stream babble. 
  • Generally quiet, noticing the detail of breath to a greater extent than previously, maintained awareness throughout.
  • Towards the end of the hour, noticed dullness encroaching, put more effort into breath concentration & the dullness went away. 

The hard distinction between the breath in the foreground with a background of awareness was much softer after I intentionally raised the peripheral awareness level. This practice resembled a preparation practice for shi-ne meditation.

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The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 7

TMI7

The Mind Illuminated, Stage 3, p. 100

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

Stage 3 introduces a technique of analysing the breath. Analysis is a practice method found in Buddhist Sutrayana. It’s peculiarly fitting to the Sutric path because of its observing, inquiring nature. Sutrayana is dualist: it intentionally creates a division between an observer and an observed, to better understand the nature of the world. To do this, Sutra employs concept-concsiousness as method. Eventually the path leads to the experiential discovery of the illusion of the duality and the experience of ‘no-self’.

Vajrayana methods are non-analytic. The discovery mode is almost entirely through expanding the repertoire of experience. To do this Vajrayana employs sense-field-awareness as method. Concept-consciousness is regarded as one of the senses and treated in the same light. Vajryana method changes one’s experience of the sense-fields, initially by  remaining uninvolved. Once one has stablized uninvolvement, all the sense-fields are regarded as method: they become the ground for transformation.

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The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 6

TMI6

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

My notes in the margin above on ignoring pain: pain is regarded, and thus worked with, differently in different Buddhist meditation lineages. In Sutric lineages, physical pain reflects human conditioning (the karmic cycle of samsara by which we condition our perception and response), which we are working to overcome. In Vajrayana, pain reflects the human condition (how we find ourselves, the qualities which make us human beings), which we are learning to engage with more skilfully. There are no guarantees in Buddhism historically that our experience will be positive or that our lives will be happy, regardless of our level of accomplishment.

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