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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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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