The Mind Illuminated, a journal: day 19

The Mind Illuminated, Stage 8, p.311

These are reflective notes on my experience of practicing Culadasa’s 10 stage meditation system. The notes in this post are from my 19th 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 of journal entries is [in square brackets like this].

At this point in my practice of the Mind Illuminated system I began having dissociative experiences. On day 19 I wrote down the first of these: “I’m looking at my iPhone and notice the shape of my hands holding it. Suddenly they’re not a part of me, not mine, they’re outside of me. It’s as though I’m looking at a Rodin sculpture: a moment in time, beautifully captured by someone else, there for me to appreciate – without any sense of personal, physical embodiment. The hands that “I’m” looking at are separate from my subjective experiencing.”

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The Mind Illuminated, a journal: purity and impurity

TMI14a

The Mind Illuminated, Stage 4, p. 135

 

TMI14b

The Mind Illuminated, Seventh Interlude, p. 284

These are reflective notes on my experience of practicing Culadasa’s 10 stage meditation system. For an introduction to this project, see this page.

Purity and impurity

Like most śamatha-vipassana systems, The Mind Illuminated is big on purification. The system itself views meditation as a method by which the mind is purified. The modern Buddhist view is that some experiences (e.g. unpleasant emotions such as hatred, anger, irritation and discomforting experiences such as suffering and resistance to pain) are inherently impure; that is, they are unwholesome and therefore bad for us. Other stuff arising in our meditation and daily lives is inherently good for us: for example patience and calm, joy, tranquility, equanimity.

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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 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 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 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.

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