The Mind Illuminated, a journal: 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.

The book has an overview of the ten stages. From the overview section:

Mastery of stage 2 is “you can sustain attention on the meditation object for minutes, while most periods of mind-wandering last only a few seconds”. Mastery of stage 3 is “rarely forgetting the breath or falling asleep.”

The skills for stage 3 include labelling and checking in, which I’ve not used before. I’m finding that focusing on the breath is tending to correlate with my mind seeming duller than usual, so I’m going to experiment with the labelling today. Labelling involves “identifying a distraction with a simple label the moment you realize you are no longer focusing on the breath.”

Following the breath is described as “identifying specific events in the breath cycle, as well as all of the distinct sensations in the course of each in and out-breath. By creating a challenge, and therefore creating more interest in the events of the breath cycle, this type of in-close investigation helps to counter the natural tendency for attention to shift.” (Glossary, pg. 423) This is an investigative, somewhat more analytic approach than simply watching/observing the breath, so I’ll make a point of employing this technique.

I’ll wait until I’ve read the detailed chapters on stage 2 and 3 before moving on.

Day 3

40 minute sit:

After sitting I read the overview of stage 4. ‘Gross distraction’ and ‘alternating awareness’ are explained. Gross distraction: “when some mental object or sensory object becomes the primary focus of attention and pushes the meditation object into the background but not out of awareness.” (Glossary, pg. 423).

My experience so far is that the practice itself induces the states of mind it purports to address. For example, divided attention came as a result of labelling; my mind is somewhat duller resulting from a limited sphere of concentration. This may be because I’m approaching the system ‘backwards’. It’s interesting, anyway.

I guess I’ll drop the labelling if it takes my awareness away from the main point of focus. Not sure I need it. I don’t think it’s mentioned beyond stage 4 in the overview.

45 min sit:

40 min sit: