Meditation path, senses, orientation, misc

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Filipe 2 weeks, 3 days ago.

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  • #3005

    Filipe
    Member

    Hello all,

    First of all, i want to say english is not my main language so i might use the wrong words/terms. My apologies if something sounds bad.

    Secondly, thanks for the forum hosts for having a forum dedicated to TMI. Even tough the book explains alot and that alone is great, some stuff still remains a bit unclear for me. I’m in a state of great confusion about certain topics, that might be hurting my practice and orientation. Would appreciate so much, some light on this.

    – The book references how the TMI practice can be done along other meditation paths. For example, how could it be practiced along a Therevada 8 fold path? Can TMI get in the way of it or vice-versa? I have a specific chart if needed. TMI is only about samatha/concentration, right? Or does it contain contain vipassana stages as well?

    – I have read some bits here and there in the later pages of the book. It talks about pacifying the senses. This makes me confused. Will it cause numbness, apathy, disconection from the world? I liked a lot when Kenneth Folk talked about how meditation can help decrease our narrative mode, where you have your typical ego self-talks and enhance our experiental mode. Getting out of our head, feel more our surroundings and feel more connected. So, this senses pacification makes me confused. Isn’t by the senses how we perceive/feel the world?

    – Will it stop whatever craving i may have? I mean, will i stop enjoying a nice meal with close friends? Heck, will my girldfriend be mad about me not “craving” intimacy with her?

    – I’m someone with lack of orientation for life, will meditation help? In technical terms, will unifying the mind, help with that?

    – The book is always reminding how one should be aware of peripheral awareness all the time. Well, how can one do that if it’s possible to pay attention to only one thing at a time? It’s either the breathing or the surroundings, no?

    – I’m not someone to remind/experiencing about dreams, but i have been reminding about them more. Does this mean something?

    #3007

    Ted Lemon
    Member

    Lots of good questions here. First, meditation is one of the aspects of the eightfold path: “right concentration.” So there’s no conflict between TMI and Theravada. TMI is a “shamata/vipassana” practice, meaning that you are practicing vipassana at the same time that you are learning to practice shamata. In order to reach the later stages of the practice, you have to have some insight into what “no self” is referring to, and this process begins somewhere around stage two or three. Of course, it doesn’t usually turn into a supramundane insight at stage three, but it’s a vipassana practice even then.

    Pacifying the senses refers to what happens in meditation. When you are walking around in daily life, your experience when you’ve reached the meditation stage of pacification of the senses should be that your senses are more vivid, not less. You should experience more connection, and more facility in your connection, not less.

    Enjoying a good meal or your relationship with your girlfriend can come with some craving, but craving isn’t essential to these experiences. If you look at the Pali, there are two words that refer to wanting something: tanha and chanda (I’m sure there are more than two, but these are the main two). Tanha is craving, and literally means thirst. Chanda is just noticing that something would be beneficial in a way that motivates you to take action to bring it about. Chanda is useful even to arhats: otherwise you would just sit there staring at the wall until you died of starvation. The transition from being primarily motivated by tanha to being primarily motivated by chanda is quite wonderful, and you will not be deprived of your favorite food. What you may find is that for example when you are in a situation where your favorite food isn’t available, you don’t even notice a problem–you just take what is offered and enjoy it too. But that doesn’t mean that you stop liking your favorite food.

    My experience with the practice has been that at the various stages, my engagement with life has improved. I would hope that you would get a similar benefit!

    You should review the part of the book that talks about the distinction between attention and awareness. Both attention and awareness can be active at the same time; this means that your attention is on something, but you are also aware of other things. You can’t have more than one thing in the focus of your attention at a time, but awareness can continue to encompass everything that is going on around you. Learning to manipulate the balance between attention and awareness is part of developing mindfulness. It is possible for attention to be so focused that you aren’t aware of anything but the object of your attention, and it’s also possible for awareness to be so open that your attention isn’t on anything in particular, but these extremes usually aren’t what you want.

    #3008

    Aniannie
    Member

    Hi Felipe,

    I agree with everything Ted said, and just thought to add a couple of things for you to think about. Modern neuroscience has shown that attention and awareness are meditated by different parts of the brain. What this means is that while you cannot pay full attention to two different objects at the same time, you can simultaneously focus attention on an object and still have awareness of other things. An easy way to experience this is to hold your hand out in front of your face. Now focus your attention on your hand. Notice that you can still see other things in your peripheral vision. Your visual attention is focused on the hand, but you are still aware of your surroundings.

    And an easy way to explain craving is that it is an urge to have something no matter how that thing is obtained. You don’t have to have craving in order to enjoy your friends and your girlfriend and everything else! As a matter of fact, as craving is loosened and you live more and more in the present moment, your enjoyment will increase, and you may even find yourself in a state of contentment and happiness that seemingly springs out of nowhere!

    Meditation and mindfulness are definitely parts of the eightfold path and this meditation technique will strengthen your mind, and increase your capability for mindfulness. As you progress, you will have more mental space which will allow you to make better decisions in daily life, and more easily live the kind of life you wish to live.

    I think it is wonderful that you are willing to ask questions as they occur to you! Please let us know if our English is confusing at all to you, and keep on asking!

    #3018

    Filipe
    Member

    Thanks Aniannie and Ted, i have been clarified. While i know that too much craving is bad, i also know that i don’t want to stare a wall and die of starvation to use Ted’s term. My goal is too live more, not in a sense of “party” more, but live without the ego restraints or own foot shooting.

    Now i’m still confused about a possible interaction between TMI and a Therevada path. Isn’t TMI just anapanasati + peripheral awareness split in various stages to help the beginner meditator “chew” it better?

    The Therevada path i refer too, has various concentration practices, like anapanasati till the 8th jhana, 32 body parts meditation, kasina meditation on your own body parts, dependant origination and of course, insight meditation. How could TMI fit in to this?

    #3021

    Ted Lemon
    Member

    No, TMI is a process for becoming an adept meditator. Once you become an adept meditator, the practices that you’re calling “Theravada” practices are things you can do. Before you are an adept meditator, many of these practices are impossible to do well enough to get much value out of them. However, bear in mind that “vipassana” means insight. All of the practices you are describing, including the early stages of TMI, are insight practices. It’s entirely possible to have insight in the early stages of TMI if you get lucky. Usually the insight will not lead you to awakening at that time because your mind isn’t sufficiently unified until stage 7. But it can happen.

    The point I’m making is that the distinction you are drawing isn’t a real distinction. You’re calling some practices “Theravadan” that are actually coming from sources outside of the Theravada lineage, but which are used by Theravadan teachers because they are effective for some students. This is what you should expect of a good insight teacher: that they pull in whatever they can find that will help you to get to insight, and don’t encourage you to do just one thing that they think is the One True Way to insight. 🙂

    My personal experience of this is that I’ve been doing TMI since 2014, and gotten a lot of good results from it, and also done other insight practices. This is entirely compatible with TMI. Some insight practices are a bit dangerous if you do them outside of the support of a Buddhist community before you have sufficient aptitude at meditation. So e.g. Culadasa recommends that you not do noting as described in the Progress of Insight until you reach stage 7 of TMI. But the practices are not incompatible—you can do these practices at any time. You’ll just get better results when you’ve gotten a bit deeper into the stages of learning meditation.

    Also, bear in mind that the stages Culadasa teaches are not his invention. They come from the suttas and from later teachings in India. You can read about this stuff in Asanga’s writings or Kamalashila’s, which are all first millennium. What’s new in TMI is simply that Culadasa has collected a lot of data from working with students trying to do Asanga and Kamalashila’s stages, and Anapanasati, and added a lot of clarifying explanations that are not available in the Tibetan versions of these texts. The distinction between attention and awareness is a bit of an innovation—the early meditators obviously saw these effects, but did not know about the neuroscience that Culadasa has had access to, which led to some insight into how to use this to make advances in meditation practice more quickly.

    #3024

    Filipe
    Member

    Ted, many thanks for the clarification once again.

    For me, i definitely had/still having insights from meditation in the early stages. The biggest one being aware of the monkey mind that pushes me away from what i really want to do. Being aware that quite probably, this drunk monkey works the entire day. He’s on the driver’s seat. Making me miserable.

    I totally agree with you on a teacher should use whatever is needed. Even if from an outside source. Is this case, the method really emphasizes in concentration practices before going to vipassana. Which is kind of intersting, because to best of my knowledge, there are other methods that are popular, but give minimal attention to concentration. I am aware of Culadasa’s advice about being proficient in concentration before advancing to insight to avoid problematic passages by the dark night / dissolution. Oh and he also says that, better concentration leads to deeper insight.

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