The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 13

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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 thirteenth 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].

Mastery of stage 6 involves consistency in “subduing subtle distractions”. You have “complete control over your scope of attention, allowing you to examine any object with as broad or narrow a focus as you choose…subtle distractions are more or less completely absent. Thoughts may intrude once in a while but are often absent even from peripheral awareness. Sensations and sounds continue in peripheral awareness, but only rarely become subtle distractions. When they do, they are quickly and automatically corrected for.” (p. 233)

I feel I’m at quite an odd stage with this practice. I can intentionally sit without thought, in a quiet, calm state. In this state, in the language of the system, ‘distractions are absent’. I chose to quote the passage above, because of an optional experience of ‘peripheral’ sounds that has begun to occur. When sounds arise, if I don’t regard them as distractions and allow them to be as they are, fully present in my awareness, there’s no sense of distraction. I can remain aware of the sounds within the field of awareness without losing concentration on the breath, no probs. However, if I make a slight mental shift and regard the sounds as distractions, increasing the ratio of concentration to peripheral awareness, I notice I get a little irritated. An example of this occurred today when I was sitting and David was fighting a rhinoceros in the kitchen. I decided to take the opportunity of readily available peripheral noise to experiment with the different states of mind.

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The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 11

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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 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 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 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

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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 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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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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