The Mind Illuminated, a journal: days 17 and 18

stage8_vi
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.

Continue reading “The Mind Illuminated, a journal: days 17 and 18”

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:

Continue reading “The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 11”

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.

Continue reading “The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 10”

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.)

Continue reading “The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 9”

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.

Continue reading “The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 7”

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).] 

Continue reading “The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 5”

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.

Continue reading “The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 2”