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This topic contains 6 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Don Salmon 6 years, 1 month ago.

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    Blake Barton

    Dear Dharma Treasure Community Members,

    In anticipation of the release of Upasaka Culadasa’s book at the end of the summer, we plan to make the Dharma Treasure Community Forums open to the public. Users will not be able to post, but they may view the posts without registering.

    If you are not comfortable with any of your previous posts being public, please contact me at, and I will remove the posts.

    Blake Barton – Dharma Treasure Community Administrator


    Don Salmon

    Blake, I have a question about copyright issues associated with Culadasa’s book. I hope this is an appropriate place to write this.

    Jan (my wife) and I are developing an e-course on meditation and the brain. We came across Culadasa’s excellent book recently. We’re particularly taken with his distinction between selective attention and peripheral awareness. We’ve found similar descriptions elsewhere – the psychologist Les Fehmi has been making the distinction between narrow, objective focus and wide, immersed focus (essentially the same, including the neurological parallels) since the 1970s; and Iain McGilchrist more recently in his ‘The Master and His Emissary” (the product of 20 years of deep “meditations” on the research literature on left and right hemisphere differences) speaks of “left mode” and “right mode” attention in ways almost identical to the descriptions of selective attention and peripheral awareness.

    However, we’ve found Culadasa’s terminology to be most helpful in portraying these differences. We probably won’t quote any passages verbatim, but I wanted to check if – apart from the fact that we will definitely acknowledge him in our course – it’s ok to use those terms ourselves.



    Aron L

    Hi, Don. I’m interested in seeing how you connect the information that Culadasa’s provided to other sources like Iain McGilchrist’s. When and where will your e-course be available and will it be free(if not how much will it cost?)?


    Hi Don,

    Yes, please feel free to use those terms. I’m very happy to have you do so.

    I would greatly appreciate as much information as you are willing to share of your researches into McGilchrist’s work and the parallels you have drawn. I’ve only recently discovered McGilchrist on Youtube and was quite excited to hear what he was saying. I am just starting to read The Mastery and His Emissary. I will be happy to comment on and if you wish, collaborate with you on this aspect of your course.

    And, like Aron, I am interested to know more about your course.

    Thank you for contacting me through this community. You may reply to me directly at and I will send you my personal email.


    PS For other readers of this forum, the email address above is the main email through which all Dharma Treasure correspondence goes, so we would appreciate it if you didn’t use it to contact me directly. Please use this forum for that purpose.


    Don Salmon

    What a delight to hear from both of you – and thank you for your permission, and yes, we will acknowledge you (and if we have any advanced online students – the course is primarily for beginners – recommend your book!).

    Well, I tend to write a lot, so you both may regret asking me this question:>)) Here is something I just “jotted down” quickly earlier today for my friends in the Sri Aurobindo community:

    Let’s see, where to start:

    Jan (my wife) and I put together our website – – starting in 2011, with the initial intention of creating “breathing videos” to help beginners concentrate enjoyably (balance attention and awareness!) and then hopefully move on to a steady practice. It took longer than we thought – we’ve got over 50 pages, and initially based our work on Dan Siegel’s “interpersonal neurobiology”, but drew a lot from McGilchrist (see and Les Fehmi (I’ll be very curious, by the way, to hear what you think about McGilchrist’s focus on the different hemispheres; I noticed in your notes you associate the RH with peripheral awareness but find structures in both hemispheres associated with selective attention – some of the more astute critics of McGilchrist – and he doesn’t entirely disagree – suggest that he should have made MUCH clearer the fact that his ‘left mode” and “right mode” ways of attending are metaphorical. For example, in the case of significant brain damage, the right hemisphere may take over LH functions, in which case you don’t have the psychological/physiological correlate any more).

    Psychologist Les Fehmi started in the 60s as a Zen meditator, then went to biofeedback (particularly about generating alpha waves). He found one day by accident, after trying as hard as he could to generate alpha waves then completely giving up, that the machine, for the first time, registered alpha waves. Over the years, he found that by opening his attention to “space” (that is, a non-specific, non-gross “object”) he could bring about in himself and in his patients, stunning and very rapid changes; changes related to physical pain, depression, anxiety; relationship problems, and even doing this successfully with Olympic athletes. In his (not so well written, unfortunately) book, Open Focus, he lays out 4 kinds of attention, associated quite loosely with the LH and RH. I’ll save the details for another letter but it is quite fascinating.

    Ok, so, Jan and I figured out earlier this year that people loved our breathing videos but had absolutely no sense of how to use them. We then decided to focus on creating an e-course and providing the breathing videos for free. We started in the late spring sticking with Dan’s work, but his “wheel of awareness” analogy (“I” am in the center and all that I am aware of is on the “rim” of the wheel”) was clunky, dualistic, and problematic in many other ways. In the summer I got a copy of Loch Kelly’s book, “Shift Into Freedom,” which draws on his 25+ year training in Dzogchen and Mahamudra, and teaches “Awake Awareness” (which is, basically, if you take it literally, rigpa, or more humbly, a faint “glimpse” of rigpa). Loch dares to suggest that it is possible to use “pointers” to give people with little or no meditation experience glimpses of this “cognitive shift” as I think you refer to it.

    I thought that was very powerful and we shifted our whole focus away from interpersonal neurobiology to what we’re now calling “open heartful awareness.” We still had a huge problem with the way we talked about the brain. Dan Siegel keeps the “Triune brain” theme. Technically, it’s not entirely wrong, and it’s not really the same as the outdated version that Paul McLean came up with 50 or so years ago. But I keep checking the academic sites (I’m a clinical psychologist with some neuropsychology background but not at all a neuroscientist) and everyone these days seems to be more vigorously negative toward the triune brain theory than ever. So I checked with a friend of mine (doctorate in physiology!) who teaches the brain to med students and he strongly recommended getting rid of the triune brain theory.

    I’m so wary of neurobabble and overuse of brain localization that we basically have only kept the PFC (Pre frontal cortex) and now speak (hopefully not too mechanistically) of “instinctive, emotional and cognitive programming.” I’ve checked this out with some of the teens that I do psych evals with, and they seem to get it right away, and even see how it’s related to their problems, so I think we’ve got that pretty well down.

    We’ve been working the last 5 hours going through your book, page by page, up to page 100 (we’re not likely to take folks past stage 4 in our course, if that far!) trying to integrate selective attention and peripheral awareness with the rest of our course. One of the hardest things is I learned mindfulness from traditional Buddhist texts in the 70s and still to date find it grating to deal with the mcmindfulness definition, but everyone knows it and for our purposes, redefining it is probably going to confuse people. Maybe we could borrow you and your two cowriters to help (just kidding).

    (Now you’re probably very sorry you asked me a question, after all these words):>)) To get back to your McGilchrist question, one of the things I find most powerful in his book is his larger philosophic exploration of how the LH/RH distinction helps us understand cultures. He speculates about modern society that our extreme hyper focused LH/selective attention style is responsible for the overly quantitative, materialistic focus of modern science, the technocratic, de-contextualized politics that we see creating more and more separate “identities” and boundaries around the world, and even may be responsible to some extent for the dramatic increase in schizophrenia and autism (not just from increased diagnoses of these disorders).

    There’s a major critic – major neuroscientist from Harvard whose name escapes me now – who says the only division worthwhile talking about in the brain is the vertical, cortical/subcortical one (which Dan Siegel translates for kids as our “upstairs” and “downstairs” brain). I think McGilchrist and his defenders supported his thesis brilliantly by pointing out the ultimately metaphorical nature of his findings. Personally, I think if you brought to McGilchrist’s attention (!) the way you unfold selective attention and peripheral awareness (and if you can’t get in touch with him directly, one of Dan Siegel’s students, Bonnie Badenoch, who teaches interpersonal neurobiology at the University of Oregon, would LOVE to learn about this) he would be extremely interested. In fact, Bonnie, who is a therapist who incorporates mindfulness, would I think immediately see the profound power of using your distinctions with the full range of her patients.

    Ok, enough words. Jan and I have been so delighted to have your book. We just did a 3 day retreat at Roy Eugene Davis’ Center for Spiritual Awareness in Lakemont, GA and spent much of the time in long meditations inspired by your book. For Jan, it was one of the most powerfully transformative meditative experiences she’s had in a long time. Turns out she’s a MUCH better meditator than she thought:>)) Just needed some clarification. Meanwhile, in studying your work, I’ve found that not only have I gained a much richer and deeper understanding of the Dzogchen teachings I learned at a brief workshop with Alan Wallace 20 years ago, just yesterday and today there’s been a dramatic unfolding and deepening of my understanding of Sri Aurobindo’s sadhana, which I’ve been “practicing” for 40 years.

    So, then, thank you!!


    Don Salmon

    Aha! Just found it. Stephen Kosslyn, whom I assume you know. And here he is, declaring THERE IS NO LEFT BRAIN-RIGHT BRAIN DIVIDE:>))

    Just so you don’t lose heart in McGilchrist’s work, virtually every idea in Kosslyn’s 2013 article is painstakingly dealt with in McGilchrist’s book (written several years before the article). In Kosslyn’s critiques of McGilchrist, even when they’re in conversation together, Kosslyn continues to interpret McGilchrist through the extremely naive lens Kosslyn presents in his Time magazine article. My sense in reading Kosslyn (i had this sense about him when I first read about his work in my intro psych class back in the 1980s) is that he’s someone who lives so completely in the selective attention mode that he simply interprets everything McGilchrist is saying through that mode. I’ve found in talking with materialist skeptics and sometimes with extreme conservatives (and yes, sometimes extreme materialist/Marxist leftists as well) that understanding this attention/awareness distinction helps enormously in stepping outside altogether from the framework they’re talking within and coming at it in a wholly different manner.

    • This reply was modified 6 years, 2 months ago by  Don Salmon.

    Don Salmon

    hi folks,

    just wanted to stop by to update you on attention/awareness/brain info.

    I’ve been trying to be very careful not to fall into the “brain localization” fallacy in an e-course on mindfulness and the brain I’ve been working on. In fact, many of you may be aware that Culadasa, in the endnotes to “Mind Illuminted,” does NOT identify attention strictly with the “left hemisphere.”

    Well I just saw an excellent Scientific American article which speaks of 3 attention networks, that I thought sheds some further light on this phenomenon. Here is it:

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