Stage 3 question .. Please help!

Front Page Forums Meditation Stage 3 question .. Please help!

This topic contains 23 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  B Arnold 2 weeks, 3 days ago.

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  • #2861

    Prashant
    Member

    Hello Blake,

    Thank for all your help so far. So, I have been meditating daily and have reached Stage 4. One question that’s still comes to my mind is regarding checking in –

    If you do turn your attention introspectively, it takes a ‘snapshot’ from peripheral awareness of your mental state right before you looked.”

    Why does attention only take a snapshot instead of monitoring everything that is being projected in introspective awareness – like it would do with objects in extrospective awareness?

    Also which submind produces this moment of attention ( snap shot)when we check in? Is it the narrating mind?

    I am just curious about this mind phenomenon.

    All your help is appreciated!

    -Prashant

    #2873

    Blake Barton
    Keymaster

    Hi Prashant,

    I am glad to hear you are progressing in your meditation practice. I would refer you to my post in this thread from Feb. 28th. I feel like I answered these questions then. Perhaps you overlooked my response, or you need additional clarification.
    http://dharmatreasurecommunity.org/forums/topic/stage-3-question-please-help

    Thanks,
    Blake – DT Teacher

    #2882

    Prashant
    Member

    Hi Blake ,

    Trust me I have read and re read your explanation many times. But I am still not very clear on “introspective attention”.

    Hoping I am clear in expressing my thought this time:

    In the first interlude it is mentioned – “If you do turn your attention introspectively, it takes a ‘snapshot’ from peripheral awareness of your mental state right before you looked.”

    Also, as per Stage 4 there is a concern what attention “sees” when turned inward introspective attention can only produce a conceptual snapshot of what was just happening a kind of delay or echo. So we cannot use attention to monitor the mind continuously.

    As per my experience, When I turn my attention introspectively to meditate on thoughts I am able to monitor the different thoughts via attention. I don’t just see a snapshot from peripheral awareness in the previous moment. Similarly when we turn our attention extrospectively, say for instance to sounds, we can monitor the sounds continuously as well. In both cases the conscious intention MUST be strong and we have overcome gross distraction.

    So, when it comes to state of mind why does attention when turned introspectively only take a “ snap shot” from peripheral awareness of mental state right before we look? In my opinion, the narrating mind keeps projecting the state of the mind as part of binding moments of introspective awareness. So, theoretically can’t attention monitor the state of mind like we can do for thoughts?

    Note, I understand we cannot monitor the activities of the mind because attention cannot attend to itself. This is logical and crystal clear.

    Can you please help me and advise if I am missing an important piece of the puzzle here regarding introspective attention and turning inwards?

    -Prashant

    #2885

    Blake Barton
    Keymaster

    Hi Prashant,

    As you have seen, you can turn your attention to thoughts, and in some traditions thoughts are used as the meditation object. So if you check in and continue to place your attention on thoughts you have basically switched to a new meditation object, but that is not the purpose of the checking in practice.

    However, when it comes to monitoring other mental activities with attention it doesn’t work. Culadasa uses the following example in the book: “When attention is focused on remembering, you can’t use attention to know you are remembering.” Since attention can only be focused on one thing at a time, it can’t be focused on the remembering and the knowing simultaneously. However, awareness can know that you are remembering. These two capabilities of the mind work together to provide a complete picture. Attention drills down and notices details, but it does not necessarily notice context. We are trying to develop the optimal interaction between attention and awareness. Many people have an awareness deficit disorder.

    Blake – DT Teacher

    #2886

    Prashant
    Member

    Hi Blake,
    Thank you so much for the reply. I really appreciate your guidance.

    I now understand that checking in is meant to be brief and the purpose is to just briefly take a snap shot of what’s happening in the mind to strengthen introspective awareness and check for gross distractions.
    I also understand we cannot attend to attention (activity of mind). And awareness can continuously monitor activity of the mind ( attention).

    What I don’t understand yet is why attention cannot monitor states of mind. The only explainatiin given by Culadasa is “Also, because attention works by isolating objects, it cannot observe overall states of the mind.”

    Can you explain the statement above and help me clarify ?

    -Prashant

    #2888

    B Arnold
    Member

    Prashant,

    If I may interject – I get the sense from your wording that you are imagining that attention should be able to turn introspectively and look at the mind as a singular “thing” that “has a state” – but these are just concepts that we build to make sense of our experience, *after the fact of having “looked”*. In a sense, I think of this as attempting to pull the cart before the horse 🙂

    Prior to the moment of introspection, the concept of “my state of mind” doesn’t really exist as *a thing*, therefore, there is no “state”, or singular object, that attention can hone in on to check the desired state, independent of what is already available in awareness, or what can at least be conceptually derived from awareness.

    What does exist prior to the moment of introspection? Lots of individual concurrent mental processes! There is no single “thing” at this point for attention to derive the state of mind from. Given that we know that attention’s specialty is isolating and honing in on singular objects, then it starts to make a little more sense why attention would not be able to gather a snapshot of the mind without using awareness at this point.

    Here’s another way to think about it – without awareness, what would be the alternative? Attention would have to examine each process and then build some conceptual summary of how the individual component or process related to other components or processes. For this to be efficient, it would have to analyze with some degree of concurrency or parallel processing, and perhaps also not scrutinizing for detail, but gathering a kind of “lossy” impression instead … but at this point we’ve already started creating something that sounds a lot more like awareness that attention!

    Anyways, this is my understanding – hope this adds or clarifies something for you!

    – Bobby (DT Teacher-In-Training)

    #2896

    Blake Barton
    Keymaster

    Hi Bobby and Prashant,

    I was pondering how to answer this question, and Bobby’s answer was considerably better than what I had in mind. Thanks for interjecting, and for your clarity.

    Blake

    #2908

    Prashant
    Member

    Hello Blake and Bobby,

    Thank you so much for taking your time and providing me guidance. It took me a while to digest this information. This is excellent. When attention hones in on the snapshot of the introspective awareness it creates a conceptual state of the mind. There is no singular thing called state of mind that attention can hone into. Attention looks at all the objects in the snapshot of awareness and comes up with a state. Hope this is the correct understanding.

    I have a few follow up question on the following:

    What does exist prior to the moment of introspection? Lots of individual concurrent mental processes! There is no single “thing” at this point for attention to derive the state of mind from.

    Question >> I am assuming the individual concurrent mental processes refers to awareness. Is it same as awareness of the states of mind. What objects does this awareness include? Can it be considered as a sensory field as it includes many items?
    Can attention home in to these objects as a meditation object if we choose or intend to do so? If it’s possible then i think it would also be a powerful way to strengthen introspective awareness of the states of the mind. What are your thoughts?

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 4 days ago by  Prashant.
    #2919

    B Arnold
    Member

    Hey Prashant,

    > I am assuming the individual concurrent mental processes refers to awareness. Is it same as awareness of the states of mind. What objects does this awareness include? Can it be considered as a sensory field as it includes many items?

    I think you are correct but I would place more emphasis on your description of “field” than “objects” to describe the contents of awareness. The job of attention is to provide that distinction and definition – to isolate some particular phenomena from awareness and interact with it as an object.

    > Can attention home in to these objects as a meditation object if we choose or intend to do so? If it’s possible then i think it would also be a powerful way to strengthen introspective awareness of the states of the mind.

    Yes, in fact that’s a practice in stage 8 referred to as “momentary concentration”. But your sense of the distinction between attention and awareness will continue to develop in the stages prior, especially as you become more skilled at stabilizing attention – simply keeping it still on the object. Otherwise it’s harder to discern the difference between attention/awareness because the clarity you need is obscured by the (at this point) uncontrolled movements of attention.

    One more thing I’d like to mention, because it’s on my mind in my own practice – is that there can be a tendency to become overly fixated on attention – primarily, I think, because it seems to be under our direct control, and as such we want to place all of our efforts and focus on manipulating attention in some way to somehow make progress. But awareness is equally important.

    I would suggest that you always doing the four step transition as you start your practice, if you are not now. As the book says in Stage One, “every step in the transition provides an opportunity to learn to distinguish between attention and awareness”. It will also help you get in the habit of remembering to invoke an intention not only to keep attention on your meditation object (the breath), but to also simultaneously keep a strong sense of awareness – awareness of body, awareness of sound, awareness of your present context – sitting still and watching the breath. This is not something most of us are used to doing – as Culadasa says, most of us have an “awareness deficit syndrome”. If you start cultivating your sense of awareness now though, it will pay dividends as you progress.

    I hope this helps!

    Bobby
    DT Teacher in Training

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