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TOPIC: Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book

Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 19 Jan 2016 06:38 #102194

Happy to have helped you Noah :)

It is interesting to use that "beginner's" book as a non beginner. I have definitely developed some of the skills from stages 6-9 before some of the ones from stages 2-5. So my average meditation session is hard to frame in Culadasa's stages. For example, I will experience piti within 30 seconds of sitting down, but my mind will be all over the place. What Culadasa calls "binding moments of consciousness" are drastically reduced quite soon in the meditation (so I will immediately perceive inner sounds, inner light, and body sensations which are not bound to the breath), but at the same time I will still encounter gross distraction or even mind-wandering.

The book is still extremely useful to me, but it takes some self-diagnosing in real time as to what needs to be corrected using which technique, and without letting go to discursive thought.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 19 Jan 2016 12:29 #102203

I've been having a similar experience. So far I feel like I'm getting something out of being kind of uncharacteristically rigorous with working the early stages. If nothing else, if anyone asks me for practical meditation feedback in the future, I will probably have a lot more to offer by nailing these fundamentals. So that could be handy. Personally I am very intrigued with the notion of synergy between different facets of training, and with the possibility that insight attainments may look very different depending on the status of one's ethical and stability practices. Stability is definitely the training I am least inclined towards, so it will be interesting to see what may come from putting some diligence into that side of things.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 19 Jan 2016 13:12 #102205

+1 on the rigour.

I am currently looking closely at the distinction between mastery of stages 3 and 4. By my reading, an absence of mind wandering is sufficient for stage 3, which is not the same as absence of distractions. Specifically, things can briefly grab my attention, pushing the breath in the back, but as long as I have the breath somewhere in my conscious attention, that is ok, right?
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 19 Jan 2016 13:29 #102206

Tom, this is clarified in the Fourth Interlude, the "Moments of Consciousness" model. The idea is that your attention will bounce back and forth between the main meditation focus and distractions. Not only that, there will be moments of awareness interspersed with all that, not to name "blank" moments of dullness. Leaving these last two aside:
- Full attention would be when your attention is 100% of the time on your meditation object. This happens around stages 7-10.
- Subtle distractions are when your attention bounces back and forth between your intended meditation object and the distraction, but the meditation object stays in the foreground, and gets most of the attention. There are mostly eliminated at the end of stage 6.
- Stage 5 deals with subtle dullness, which is like subtle distractions, except your mind grabs on to dullness, so to speak. Think of idle CPU cycles.
- Gross distractions are when the distactions passes in the foreground. You still haven't lost the meditation object entirely, but the gross distraction gets most of the attention moments. Defeated at the end of stage 4.
- Gross distractions, left unchecked, lead to forgetfulness. This is when the distraction gets your full attention, and is dealt with in stage 3.
- Forgetfulness leads to mind-wandering, which is when your monkey mind moves on to other things than the original distraction itself, and you only notice the fact after several "hops". This should be mostly eliminated at the end of stage 2.

So if you have mind-wandering, you are in stage 2. If you have forgetfulness but not mind-wandering, stage 3. Gross distractions but not forgetfulness, stage 4. No gross distractions, but subtle dullness: stage 5. No dullness at all, but subtle distractions, stage 6. No subtle distractions either, but effort to keep at it, stage 7. It all becomes effortless in stage 8.

The tricky thing, however, is that although the description of what stage you are at hinges on your level of attention, it is often your level of awareness that determines what your attention will be doing. For mind-wandering and forgetfulness, spontaneous awareness is enough. For gross distractions, you need to have continuous introspective awareness. And to defeat subtle distractions, you will need metacognitive introspective awareness.

Hope this helps,

neko
Last Edit: 19 Jan 2016 13:32 by neko.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 25 Jan 2016 19:55 #102273

On Soundcloud there's a bonus Buddhist Geeks interview with Culadasa where he describes the 10 stages:

Culadasa on the Stages of Meditation
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 28 Jan 2016 19:27 #102311

Eric wrote:
On Soundcloud there's a bonus Buddhist Geeks interview with Culadasa where he describes the 10 stages:

Culadasa on the Stages of Meditation

This is great stuff, a nice summary hitting the important points. I miss the days when there was more stuff like this on Buddhist Geeks.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 12 Feb 2016 13:01 #102554

A quote from Culadasa's book:""It’s possible to achieve exclusive attention by just focusing over and over on the breath at the nose and ignoring subtle distractions until they fade away, but that can take a very long time. Experiencing the whole body with the breath is a faster and more enjoyable method that makes it much easier to completely ignore distractions."

He describes this technique by saying to keep your attention on the rise and fall of your belly then, keeping that as an object, also bring your attention to a body part, for example, your big toe and experience the breath in that big toe. Has anyone done that and could give me some hints on technique?
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 12 Feb 2016 13:45 #102555

I always used the in/out breath through the nose as my object of attention. For me that was more effective.
Last Edit: 12 Feb 2016 13:45 by Chris Marti.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 13 Feb 2016 03:56 #102559

Meditation "primary object" as rising/falling of belly is the standard Mahasi-system recommendation, as it's usually easier. They (Mahasi and current teachers), however, allow for using, e.g. sensation at nostrils/upper-lip for those more at home with that.

There's a passage in the Visudhimagga that says the anapanasati methods is very difficult -- only for "Buddha's and Buddha sons" -- but in practice today, it doesn't seem that difficult for many people, though it can take a while to get the hang of it.

Mahasi does mention (I think in the The Progress of Insight (Visuddhiñana-katha)) that much of what he teaches analyzing variations and difficulties in practice is based on persons of "average" intelligence or capability. It could be that in this day and age, people attracted (in the West) are often above average on the cognitive spectrum.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 13 Feb 2016 06:55 #102561

So, nobody has tried C.'s breath whole body meditation.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 13 Feb 2016 07:37 #102562

jackhat1 wrote:
So, nobody has tried C.'s breath whole body meditation.

I have not done (or seen reference to) the "big toe" breathing you mentioned in TMI. However, I use whole body breathing at the early parts of a sit as I am settling down, or when I am particularly unable to narrow down my attention. And I talk in my thread about having difficulty at times noticing breathing (the out breath in particular) at the nose. So I do whatever works. Abre mentioned to me that at some point, attention to the breath can be simply about the idea of the breath, as the breath is itself so subtle as not to be very noticeable at all. I can't say I have been there lately.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 14 Feb 2016 02:12 #102573

I use that breathing regularly as an initial phase of sitting -- "getting the body into position", as Thanissaro Bhikkhu puts it, to allow the mind to subsequently get into position.

btw this method wasn't invented by Culadasa. Than-Geoff has been teaching it for his career, as learned from his teacher's teacher Ajahn Lee, who was taught by Ajahn Mun, of the Thai forest/wilderness tradition; and it no doubt goes back way way further than that.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 14 Feb 2016 07:33 #102576

jackhat1 wrote:
A quote from Culadasa's book:""It’s possible to achieve exclusive attention by just focusing over and over on the breath at the nose and ignoring subtle distractions until they fade away, but that can take a very long time. Experiencing the whole body with the breath is a faster and more enjoyable method that makes it much easier to completely ignore distractions."

He describes this technique by saying to keep your attention on the rise and fall of your belly then, keeping that as an object, also bring your attention to a body part, for example, your big toe and experience the breath in that big toe. Has anyone done that and could give me some hints on technique?

The easiest thing to focus on as the body is the contact of sitting. It doesn't move. So belly is anything moving in the lower torso, body is the unmoving sitting sensation.

The rest that follows is just my own experience/advice and is worth what people have paid for it: nothing! :)

The purpose of the method is to be able to relax the discursive mind and become more aware of raw sensations, which eventually lead to a greater sensitivity to the inherent tension/suffering caused by a sense of observer. Focusing on the belly is good when there is a good base of mindfulness, but can be difficult for people who are "in their head". The practice is working if more and more of the bandwidth of experience can rest upon sensations without "checking in" on the sense of self that is practicing and trying to do it right. Like everything in meditation it is a bit paradoxical, but it works anyway.

The tricky thing about this method is it is all definitional. Breath, belly, body -- all of these things don't exist as discrete things, so you can drive your self absolutely mad trying to do it "right". So if the practice leads to more and more searching for the right objects or the right practice, notice that and then simply find a sensation in the belly that moves with the breath. It's frustratingly simple, but again it's paradoxical how the simple is difficult.

If the attention can rest on the moving belly and it's too easy or boring, then find a sensation that associated with sitting and hold it at the same time. The deep reason for doing this is the mind cannot technically hold two things in attention at the same time. So by holding two things in attention, you are actually training the mind to switch back and forth at the speed to of the mind. This eventually allows greater and greater precision in experience, eventually allowing the fundamental sense of suffering to be fully experienced and dropped like a hot coal.

In any case, no bonus points are awarded for finding "the belly" or "the body". It's about whether the mind can rest on the feeling of sensations.

Again, the purpose of the method is to develop a sensitivity that notices the inherent tension of the observer >in< the objects of attention. The observer isn't over here and the object isn't over there. The observer is in the observed. Ultimately the sought is in the seeking. So practice has to go right into experiencing raw sensations.

Stream entry is experiencing a momentary gap without an object, but that still doesn't fully crack the nut. Awakening is experiencing the raw sensation of the observer itself.

Lots of people use meditation methods to obscure what is at the heart of these practices. Practice should allow the sense of the observer to relax and yet become increasingly uncomfortable (paradox) while becoming increasingly unfindable (paradox)... until the fundamental problem of always thinking of ourselves as a separate entity doing practices upon separate things is clearly seen. That whole practice attitude is... an attitude. Easy to say and easy to convince our self that we've experienced it... and even after awakening, easy to fall back into old habits. So back to the cushion...

So when we return to the cushion, the body breaths, the belly moves, the body let's us know it is there by other sensations. Simple.

And if problems with the simplicity come up, those can be good to look at: Why am I complicating things? Why am I having difficulty? What is this problem covering up? What do I avoid experiencing by having this problem?

Often there is a fundamental sense of inadequacy at the heart of our spiritual practice. Why?
Last Edit: 14 Feb 2016 07:35 by shargrol.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 14 Feb 2016 08:50 #102579

Yep -- every meditation method is a kind of koan. You're doing it so you can eventually know you don't know. It's a cosmic joke. You think you're learning something and heck, thats' the way everything works, right? I mean, you get all your new skills that way.

Uh huh.

:)
Last Edit: 14 Feb 2016 08:59 by Chris Marti.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 14 Feb 2016 10:17 #102585

Thanks for the responses. In my meditations I sometimes use the breath as it affects either my nose or abdomen as an anchor and then expand my attention to my whole body. Culadasa adds a wrinkle that eludes me. He is saying be aware of “the breath-related sensations occurring simultaneously throughout the whole body.” To quote Culadasa:

"When the perception of the breath at the abdomen is well-established, choose an isolated area of the body far from the abdomen, one where you wouldn’t expect to feel sensations related to breathing. Shift your attention to this area while at the same time keeping the sensations of the breath at the abdomen in your peripheral awareness. Consider the foot as an example. Shift the attention to the front half of one foot. Thoroughly examine all the sensations in that part of the foot without losing awareness of the breath. Investigate the foot sensations to see if any of them change with the in- or the out-breath. (When you first start, you will probably not notice any changes.) Repeat this with the back half of the same foot. Then, move to the calf and lower leg, again examining all the sensations while looking for any specifically connected to the breath.

I have thought of using this method as a koan or as a "ships in the harbor" meditation but I think Culadasa is presenting something else.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 14 Feb 2016 10:37 #102586

does he explain why?
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 14 Feb 2016 12:35 #102595

One reason he gives is something like Kenneth's fill up your bandwidth in order to create a unified mind without mental chatter.
Last Edit: 14 Feb 2016 12:36 by jackhat1.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 14 Feb 2016 16:17 #102602

That makes sense and does sound different than the "ships in the harbor" approach.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 25 Feb 2016 12:45 #102700

I've just purchased TMI on the strength of discussions here and elsewhere. I get the impression we're looking at an instant classic here, the sort of book people will still be fondly talking about in twenty years' time.
Jim wrote:
I was curious that there didn't seem to be any reference to dark night stages in the author's model, so I looked up "dark night" in the index. There is a relatively short appendix devoted to it, the main idea of which is that the dark night becomes problematic for those who don't have well-developed shamatha skills.

That fits with the evidence. The no-shamatha people are the ones who report ferocious dark nights, whether no-shamatha means insight-only (as in MCTB) or no meditation at all (as in Eckhart Tolle or Jed McKenna). Any kind of shamatha-like practice (as in Nisargadatta) does away with the dark night.

I also purchased Leigh Brasington's book as part of the same order.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 25 Feb 2016 15:38 #102701

Derek wrote:
That fits with the evidence. The no-shamatha people are the ones who report ferocious dark nights...

I don't think it's so clear cut. I've met folks doing shamatha practices that were dark nighting. (Hmm, spell check is changing that to dark knighting which sounds totally D&D and goth to me. :) )

Unfortunately, I've met people who want to so strongly argue that shamatha (or their teacher's shamatha teaching) doesn't create dark night symptoms that they are in denial of their own dark night symptoms, creating a huge psychological shadow situation. And some folks seem willing to "cook" the evidence by saying "oh that evidence doesn't count, because that person wasn't doing >real< shamatha practice". The argument becomes tautological at that point.

It's much safer to say that the dismantling of habits of identification can always cause adverse effects and be prepared for it. Seems straightforward to me, but no worries if you disagree.
Last Edit: 25 Feb 2016 16:25 by shargrol.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 25 Feb 2016 17:15 #102704

I'm starting to think that the idea that this can be done WITHOUT a 'dark night' is really misguided - on the one hand, pretty much any biography of a saint or serious practitioner has periods of intense difficulty and suffering, and on the other, it seems absurd to think that you can let go and deconstruct attachment, ego etc without distress. Add to that that many come to meditation because they are already suffering and looking for a way out of it... in that way it seems to me to perpetuate a kind of anti-human-condition fantasy about the spiritual path to look for ways that there can be no 'dark night' (of course having said that, people can do practice which is over ascetic or unbalanced, and I know because I've done it... and fail to seek other useful modalities outside formal meditation e.g. psychotherapy, exercise etc which would help with difficulties)

I would also just sound a slightly different note about TMI being eg a classic - in spiritual (and other) circles there's a tendency for something to become flavour of the month (ahem, Actual Freedom) and seen as 'it' by the ingroup - I see this also in other circles I move in i.e. natural movement, etc. On the one hand, it's a beautiful thing when a community comes together, investigates and discusses around a common theme, but on the other I think that that self-reinforcing tendency needs to be borne in mind. Of course I am not a fan of states-and-stages models so that is my own prejudice disclaimer :)
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 25 Feb 2016 18:00 #102708

... pretty much any biography of a saint or serious practitioner has periods of intense difficulty and suffering...

I think we could say this of pretty much every human being :cheer:

Also, Rowan, I tend to agree with you about the flavor of the month club phenomenon. It's part of what we do.
Last Edit: 25 Feb 2016 18:01 by Chris Marti.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 26 Feb 2016 07:28 #102713

every3rdthought wrote:
I'm starting to think that the idea that this can be done WITHOUT a 'dark night' is really misguided - on the one hand, pretty much any biography of a saint or serious practitioner has periods of intense difficulty and suffering, and on the other, it seems absurd to think that you can let go and deconstruct attachment, ego etc without distress.

I think that DN is such an overblown thing. Yes, shit happens, and it happens to everyone to a greater or lesser degree. I strongly doubt there is a connection between the type of practice and whether someone goes through messy periods or not.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 26 Feb 2016 07:32 #102714

I am looking for practical tips on how to manage this whole stage 4/5 thing. Part of me thinks it will just happen organically by simply "putting in the time", but I am also open to little tips or tricks to keep attention more tightly under check. The reality is that many times, I just don't find the breath *interesting enough* to keep me going. Using counting was good, but now it is too coarse.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 26 Feb 2016 07:37 #102715

Tom Otvos wrote:
I am looking for practical tips on how to manage this whole stage 4/5 thing. Part of me thinks it will just happen organically by simply "putting in the time", but I am also open to little tips or tricks to keep attention more tightly under check. The reality is that many times, I just don't find the breath *interesting enough* to keep me going. Using counting was good, but now it is too coarse.

What is your goal Tom? If it is learning to focus on something dull, so that you will later be able to focus on whatever you want, I think the only option is keeping at it. Otherwise, you can try "experiencing the whole body with the breath", which Culadasa introduces in Stage Six.

A third possibility, if you are already able to access soft jhanas, and you are interested in making them harder, I would suggest entering soft 1st/2nd jhana ASAP, and then tweaking Culadasa's tips on how to work with distractions while focusing on piti/sukha.
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