The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 5


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).] 

Day 5

1 hr 40 mins sit:

During the day:

I experienced a scintillating scotoma. [Without an associated migraine headache as apparently is the case sometimes.] I’ve never had one of these before. Possibly it’s connected to the virus I’m getting over. But intuitively I think it’s a result of switching from my usual practice to concentration meditation, given the plethora of neuro-physical effects I’ve been experiencing so far. At its peak I lost over half my vision, couldn’t read text. It was like looking through a crystal or a prism. All colors of the spectrum moving things around in a bubble of colorful, transparent triangles. It was cool. Stood still for 10 - 15 minutes while it happened because I couldn’t see to walk properly, texted David when I could see well enough. He knew what it was & sent me a link to the wiki article & some eye tests to check I wasn’t going blind. No other symptoms. After it faded I felt good, like my head was super clear.

1 hr sit: