This is my first blog installment about TMI Thursdays when we meditate and read from The Mind Illuminated by Upasaka Culadasa. I will be commenting on topics from our discussions in this weekly blog so that if you want to follow along and drop-in when you can, you will have a sense of where we are. Please join us anytime! The sessions are drop-in and by donation. You can purchase the book here. Or if you just want to come without the book, we will have plenty of copies to share :)
On the August 23rd, we made it through page xix of the Introduction.
You may come to meditation because of the many benefits it affords but why stop there? Culadasa makes it clear that there are wonderful benefits to meditating and that Awakening is accessible to any devoted lay practitioner. This was quite a different message than those I had read in other contemporary maps of meditation where often it is communicated that the more refined states of meditation are only available to those that devote every waking moment to the practice such as monks and nuns.
Live with Purpose
Culadasa makes the point that living your life purposefully is the only way to alleviate the suffering of existence and that (echoing the words of the Buddha) direct observations and experiences are the only way to know your mind and the true nature of reality. I have found this to be a very refreshing perspective after being told my whole life how and who I am from sources outside of myself. Culadasa states that to skillfully look inside leads one to Insights that render true happiness and Awakening to true reality.
The Value of a Good Map
Culadasa compiled information from the traditional maps of meditation, from contemporary brain science and from many longtime meditators to create the map in The Mind Illuminated. The result is a very clear map that makes the technique accessible for all.
As we scanned ahead in the book, we saw the map that represents the path of meditation. The map that influenced the illustration in The Mind Illuminated is from Asanga (from about 400CE). The drawing reminds me of a game that I used to play as a child called Snakes and Ladders (or Chutes and Ladders). In the game, you roll the dice and you might land on a spot with a ladder (go up), a snake (go down) or just a numbered square (moving at a measured rate). Simplified one could translate these as positive, negative or neutral. The path of meditation as represented in the Asanga map, too, represents the varied experiences one can have in the path: moving forward, moving backward or staying the course.
The value of a good clear map is that it is a stabilizer. Things happen and disrupt your progress on the path. You might move backwards, forwards, move at a steady pace or turn in circles at any given time, yet the path remains and is always there for you. The TMI map is the infrastructure on which your unique path can reside. This has been invaluable in my own experience. Things happen in life that will move you forward quickly or derail your progress and it is so comforting to have that reliable map to get you back on the path. The TMI technique is the infrastructure on which everybody's practice can comfortably dwell.
Samādhi (concentration or stable attention) and Sati (mindfulness)
As we read one paragraph of Putting the Practice into Context and we briefly questioned whether Sati (attention and awareness) and Samadhi (concentration) were similar. This will be discussed during our next session when we continue with Putting the Practice into Context on August 30th.