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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The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 10

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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 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

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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 7

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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 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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Journaling a staged path

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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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