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John Yates - dual attention

John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/22/18 8:26 PM
Hi,

I'm finding it impossible to hold dual focus attention on the breath and the peripheral awareness.  Neuroscience says you can't hold more than one focus in attention at once.  I can understand that the subconscious keeps watch as awareness, and I can understand that excessive effort on the target (breath) can cause the peripheral attention to close down.  But dual focus... doesn't sound right to me.  What's he saying please?

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/22/18 9:27 PM as a reply to Selfie.
Maybe what he's saying is one should not put too much concentration effort onto the breath.  Doing this will allow peripheral awareness to remain open and active.  When I do that, I find awareness remains open, but of course I still have to switch my attention to it in order to know.  After a while I sort of get a whiff of peripheral awareness coming into the breath, I think.  What's your experience?

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/23/18 1:01 AM as a reply to Selfie.
I agree with you - it doesn't make much sense to me either. I think he's saying attention flickers around to a lot of things, and everything within the scope of the flickering is "awareness." So you're not actually aware of it all at one time.

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/23/18 6:49 AM as a reply to J C.
JC, I think I just need to read more.  There's a thing he's calling 'interoceptive metacognition', which I think might be the ablity to hold both attention and awareness. 

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/23/18 7:17 AM as a reply to Selfie.
You have attention. You have awareness.

Attention can't attend to itself. So you need awareness to know that you are aware and that you are paying attention and to what you are paying attention. That is "metacognitive awareness".

In daily life you are mostly "not present", that means that there is no metacognitive awareness. So if you drive a car for instance. There is of course awareness but you are not aware that you are aware. Also when you are driving a car attention will scan and alternate between what you see on the road, sensations from the driving wheel etc.

According to TMI you have "limited conscious power". That means especially in difficult situation awareness might almost completely fall off and of course metacognitive awareness as well (that is probably the first to go). So if you go down the street with your kid and you see a car about to hit your child, attention will zoom in on it and almost all conscious power will be focused on it, so that there will be barely any awareness left.

When you are aware that you are aware through metacognitive awareness that doesn't mean that you are conscious of specific objects. That is always attention (or that's how I understand it at least).

The most helpful practical tipp regarding awareness is to just intend it. In time it will become clearer what it actually is.

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/23/18 7:24 AM as a reply to Michael.
To start a riff from Michael's comment --

You can be attentive of being attentive, which I assume is what Yates is calling metacognitive awareness. It's the same kind of thing that's going on, in my experience. Everything is an object, including being "aware" of being attentive. We can have endless debates about what "awareness" really is but why bother when we can simply observe what the mind is doing when it thinks it's aware?


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RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/23/18 7:38 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
I mean, it's not really clear to what extent the multitude of "theories" in TMI really correspond to "real phenomena" or are simply there as an conceptual aid to practice. He mentions that himself in regards to his "sub-mind" model.

Although my sense is that he thinks that indeed, attention and awareness are two real, distinctive modes of knowing. But it also gets more fuzzy later because he described how in higher stages of concentration the scope of attention can broaden and encompass all of awareness. Or just more general that the "scope" of attention can expand and contract at all.

If we look specifically at the field of view as an analogy: You will find that you can focus your eyes just on one very small detail. Like if I focus on a single letter on a page and don't move my eyes at all "awareness" (peripheral sight) already starts at the letter right next to it. If I take a slightly bigger object, like a watch and hold it 50cm in front of my eyes I find it hart/impossible to focus the same way on the whole watch face as I have focused on the whole letter.

So with attention it also seems to be just one single object but the rest of the world doesn't vanish (unless awareness collapses in extreme situations) so I think  it probably is justified to view those two modes as "real". Yates then adds more to those two modes and views them as "ways to know the world". That almost amounts to a similar distinction Daniel Kahnemann has in his book "Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow", where he distinguishes between "System 1" and System 2":
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thinking,_Fast_and_Slow

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/23/18 8:02 AM as a reply to Michael.
Again, this is just my experience but when I'm aware of the rest of the world when focusing more discretely on just one object, what I'm experiencing is a mental model of the rest of the world as it's being rapidly interspersed with the experience of that one object. It may seem like the rest of the world doesn't vanish but that's because I have a model of it in my head. That's a valid, real object, of course, but it's a mental model, not a direct sensory experience in the same way sounds, sights, feel, etc. are. The revolutionary change for me has been this recognition of the non-hierarchical nature of experience, which I assume Culadasa is on board with - but I really don't know.

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/23/18 7:24 PM as a reply to Michael.
Thanks everyone.  Michael and Tashi - most helpful.

Michael -  I gently pay attention to the breath, intend awareness, then hopefully some awareness of both will emerge.  Is that right? 

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/24/18 2:19 AM as a reply to Selfie.
Yes, exactly. I re-formulate what you said with my own words here:

I would strongly recommend to use the "4 stage" approach when you start meditating. (In the book in the chapter "Stage One", page 46 -52).
The reason for this is, that it helps you to get to know attention and awareness.

So when you start meditating you let attention roam freely. That is basically "choiceless awareness". You just sit. And you will find that some objects will become the focus of your attention. Whether it is what you see, hear, feel inside or outside of your body.

Next you limit the scope of attention to inside your body and let attention roam there etc. (it would take too much space here to fully recount the pages here, so please read them).

So then at last you reach your final meditation object and limit the scope of attention to it: The sensations of the breath in and around your nose and your upper lip.
Then you can experiment a bit. Set different goals for different meditation sessions. Generally you are right, that the attention should be held gently. But you can try to hold it strongly, as to get a sense for the difference. If you focus all your conscious power on the sensations of the breath and focus on it very strongly then there might be hardly any left for awareness. Like Yates writes, that might lead to pleasurable states of concentration but it usually a dead end and also promotes dullness.

So you intend to hold attention on the sensations of the breath and explore them. You will find many more specific directions in the book in the chapters "stage 2" and "stage 3". And then, yes, you also intend to sustain (peripheral) awareness.

I also would think less in the sense that "awareness will emerge". It's more like: Awareness is there already, it's just that it takes a while to understand and recognize it properly. It's like learning a language, where in the beginning everything sounds the same and like one string of gibberish and later on you learn to distinguish automatically between questions, commands, declarations, adjectives, pronomes etc.

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/24/18 8:45 AM as a reply to Michael.
Thanks again.

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/23/18 8:27 AM as a reply to Selfie.
I don't know if this applies to your question, and I'm not familiar with TMI.

If I go years back, mindfulness of breath practice felt like "I" was "focusing on the breath". This experience felt constricted. It felt like a lazer beam trying to catch the breath. Now, within a few minutes of sitting, the experience is more like "breath sensations are coming and going within an enlarged field of awareness." It feels like a big light illuminates a whole room (vs. the earlier lazer beam). Breath sensations come and go within that "room". This also makes other objects of experience (thoughts, sounds, sensations) seem like the same stuff as the breath, arising and passing experiences. 

I don't know if this is what is meant by the dual attention though, but I thought it might.

Benoit

Ps. I'm using the term "awareness" loosely here. That sense of big space encompassing the breath and other experiences is also contemplated as another object of experience at some point within a meditation session. This big space that "seems" aware of other objects, I don't think is aware of anything in reality, since it is an object of experience too (one formation cannot be aware of another formation I think). Anyway, this may be another discussion... Awareness is a mysterious thing. 

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/23/18 9:08 AM as a reply to Selfie.
I'll pick people's quotes from here and there (them >, me -).

>Selfie: dual attention... I'm finding it impossible to hold dual focus attention on the breath and the peripheral awareness... excessive effort on the target (breath) can cause the peripheral attention to close down.

- So what you are doing, is being focused on one point (movement of breath) while having a 360 degree/three-dimensional space around this point. Is that right? I would call this intention and attention combined. In Tibetan terms (at least accordning to some lineages) it would be shamatha with support and without support combined.

>Michael: You have attention. You have awareness.

- To avoid confusion between terms, they way I define attention, has to do with peripheral attention. Both intention and attention involve doing, whether that of light or strong focus. I use the term awareness for the natural state, in the same way as in mahamudra and dzogchen. Awareness is different becase there is no doing, not even feather light focus.

>Chris Marti: You can be attentive of being attentive, which I assume is what Yates is calling metacognitive awareness. It's the same kind of thing that's going on, in my experience. Everything is an object, including being "aware" of being attentive. We can have endless debates about what "awareness" really is but why bother when we can simply observe what the mind is doing when it thinks it's aware?

- How are you attentive of being attentive? Is there effort involved or not? Can you comment what you mean by, "Everything is an object, including being "aware" of being attentive" and "why bother when we can simply observe what the mind is doing when it thinks it's aware"?

>Michael: Although my sense is that he thinks that indeed, attention and awareness are two real, distinctive modes of knowing. But it also gets more fuzzy later because he described how in higher stages of concentration the scope of attention can broaden and encompass all of awareness. Or just more general that the "scope" of attention can expand and contract at all.

- What is "higher stage of concentration"? Also "the scope of attention can broaden and encompass all of awareness"? If he is not talking about intention and attention, as defined above, its pretty fuzzy. Attention as I define it can be expanded like a rubber band. That is nice but ultimately not very useful. You mention the term "knowing". Knowing awareness (tib. rigpa), on the other hand is the heart and soul of buddhism, buddhanature itself, demanding that there is no effort/focus involved at all.

- The difference between attention and awareness can be described for example in these two ways. 1. Look at this letter: 0. As you are looking, and therefore attentive of the figure, at the basis of your looking there is knowing of looking. In the same way, if you choose a sound to listen to, there is knowing at the basis of hearing. This basic knowing comes with and is at the base of all perceptions. 2. Take either or both of the described exercises. Look at the bolded zero, 0, with keenness. As you still see the zero, completely relax the muscles in and around the eyes. When you do this, basic awareness without focus/effort automatically clicks on.

- Now if we think about the triune continuum of intention, attention and awareness, utimately they are all nondual. It is not possible to get to this point just through intention and attention exercises.








 

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/23/18 11:57 AM as a reply to Kim Katami.
The difference between attention and awareness can be described for example in these two ways. 1. Look at this letter: 0. As you are looking, and therefore attentive of the figure, at the basis of your looking there is knowing of looking. In the same way, if you choose a sound to listen to, there is knowing at the basis of hearing. This basic knowing comes with and is at the base of all perceptions. 2. Take either or both of the described exercises. Look at the bolded zero, 0, with keenness. As you still see the zero, completely relax the muscles in and around the eyes. When you do this, basic awareness without focus/effort automatically clicks on.

The knowing of looking is another way to say you are attentive to being attentive. It's usually self-referential: "I'm looking at a bolded zero.". You are thus "aware" of looking at the bolded zero. This realization of what is occurring right now (looking at a bolded zero, listening to music, watching a baseball game, reading a book, etc.) can be intentionally investigated and it can indeed appear on its own. Either way, it's another mental process that can be examined and investigated.

The part that's not obvious to me is when you say "In the same way, if you choose a sound to listen to, there is knowing at the basis of hearing. This basic knowing comes with and is at the base of all perceptions." Can you explain this better? Is it required of hearing that sound be accompanied by the awareness that one is listening?



RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/23/18 12:41 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
>Chris Marti: The knowing of looking is another way to say you are attentive to being attentive. It's usually self-referential: "I'm looking at a bolded zero.". You are thus "aware" of looking at the bolded zero. This realization of what is occurring right now (looking at a bolded zero, listening to music, watching a baseball game, reading a  book, etc.) can be intentionally investigated and it can indeed appear on its own. Either way, it's another mental process that can be examined and investigated.

The part that's not obvious to me is when you say "In the same way, if you choose a sound to listen to, there is knowing at the basis of hearing. This basic knowing comes with and is at the base of all perceptions." Can you explain this better? Is it required of hearing that sound be accompanied by the awareness that one is listening?

- The word attentive or attention implies being attentive, just like cats and dogs raise their ears when they hear some unfamiliar or suspicious sound. From the point of view of the natural state this is already elaboration. I'm way off topic, actually, but the reason why I am is because the whole paradigm of traditional mind training is barking at the wrong tree and can never truly satisfy one's hunger. The natural state, recognition of wakeful awareness, should be prioritized because that is the bedrock of all paths, methods and practices. The way how this can be done is something I have extensively discussed in my book, What's Next? On Post-Awakening Practice.

- As I mentioned in my message, both intention and attention, basic shamatha practices, are essentially nondual and not separate or different from the foundational shamatha, that is, the natural state. When the natural state is familiarised with, all actions, including meditation exercises, become illuminated by it and integrated into it. This cannot be accomplished by intention and attention alone. Exercises of intention (one pointed focus) and attention (three-dimensional space focus, peripheral) is like focusing on the branches of a tree, while awareness is the root and the trunk of it.

- Awareness stands alone and there is no slightest effort in it. Does this answer your question? However, even if for a moment stuff is gone from the mind and there is no seeking or any focus, one likely does not recognise the wakefulness correctly because of the subtle veils, subtle foggyness. Here, again dynamic concentration, as described in my book, is extremely precious.

 


RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/23/18 1:28 PM as a reply to Kim Katami.
... the whole paradigm of traditional mind training is barking at the wrong tree and can never truly satisfy one's hunger. The natural state, recognition of wakeful awareness, should be prioritized because that is the bedrock of all paths, methods and practices. The way how this can be done is something I have extensively discussed in my book, What's Next? On Post-Awakening Practice.


Kim, I understand what you're saying completely, but there are other viable paths and practices. I'd ask you to be more aware of that  emoticon

What I'm not on board with is the notion that there is only one correct way to see and pursue the path, investigate experience, and awaken. That's just not true and it never has been. Yes, there are major differences in the approach taken by the various Buddhist traditions but that's not license for anyone to claim "this is the better path" or worse, "this is the only proper path. That's rather small-minded and I'm pretty sure you'd agree.

People awaken in lots of ways.

Can you explain what "natural state" is but without selling your book at the same time? Seriously. My version would be to throw a drinking glass really hard at a cement wall. How about you?

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/23/18 1:51 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
There's a Korean Zen teacher who demonstrates the natural state by asking the assembled sanga what it is.

"What is it?," he'll ask them.

"What is it?"

WHAT IS IT?

The teacher eventually slams a heavy book to the floor, making a loud noise.

That is your natural state.

WHAM!!

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/23/18 2:28 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
>Chris Marti: Kim, I understand what you're saying completely, but there are other viable paths and practices. I'd ask you to be more aware of that  emoticon What I'm not on board with is the notion that there is only one correct way to see and pursue the path, investigate experience, and awaken. That's just not true and it never has been. Yes, there are major differences in the approach taken by the various Buddhist traditions but that's not license for anyone to claim "this is the better path" or worse, "this is the only proper path. That's rather small-minded and I'm pretty sure you'd agree.
People awaken in lots of ways.
Can you explain what "natural state" is but without selling your book at the same time? Seriously. My version would be to throw a drinking glass really hard at a cement wall. How about you?

- It depends what you mean by awakening. There are many wonderful systems that are good on basic shamatha and vipashyana, that reveal the selfless nature of thoughts and emotions but their effectiveness seems to end there. No one really seems to have the complete picture and a method that carries all the way to perfect enlightenment (buddhahood), and therefore many don't even consider its possible. Theoretically, Tibetans (nyingma and kagyu) do but practically for their systems to be effective, they seem to require a lot of time reserved solely for practice (retreat conditions). Despite of some improvements in mahayana-vajrayana buddhist theory, their practitioners really don't seem to get much farther than theravadans, unless practice is all they do.

- My own work is still a hypothesis, just for the record, and I'm not trying to sell it to you. I'm just saying that from what we have seen so far, combining practices such as dynamic concentration, with basic practices such as refuge and bodhicitta, enables anyone to cut through the layers of the samsaric mind, so that recognition of the natural state (dharmakaya) can take place within a very short time of practice. From this standpoint, (view from the top of the mountain), it is very different to look at what arises in the mind, than from light focus shamatha practices (view from the foot of the mountain). I'm not denying the value of concentration and attention practices, just saying that there is a more effective option available. And I'm not saying this option is easy either.

- If you got the natural state, there is no need to do anything special, even though it can be done too. Boo!

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/23/18 3:28 PM as a reply to Kim Katami.
Kim, glad to hear you're advancing a hypothesis and not a set of final conclusions. I'd like to think we're all willing to keep an open mind. I don't know of any legitimate teachers or long-term practitioners of Buddhism in its various forms who believe anyone has all the answers.

Boo! back at ya!

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/24/18 2:20 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
...I don't know of any legitimate teachers or long-term practitioners of Buddhism in its various forms who believe anyone has all the answers.

Boo! back at ya!

I have the opposite impression from a lot of teachers and practitioners. People have a lot of faith towards their traditions and time tested training systems, and are confident that their boats will carry, which to varying degrees they do.

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/24/18 5:53 AM as a reply to Kim Katami.
Kim Katami:
Chris Marti:
...I don't know of any legitimate teachers or long-term practitioners of Buddhism in its various forms who believe anyone has all the answers.

Boo! back at ya!

I have the opposite impression from a lot of teachers and practitioners. People have a lot of faith towards their traditions and time tested training systems, and are confident that their boats will carry, which to varying degrees they do.

Having faith in a tradition or system is quite different from believing that any single human has all the answers. Big difference, IMO. 

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/24/18 9:40 AM as a reply to Andromeda.
>Andromeda: Having faith in a tradition or system is quite different from believing that any single human has all the answers. Big difference, IMO.

- Plenty of traditions have "all the answers". The point I am trying to make is that, for one reason or the other, few come to embody all of it, become buddhas. Just saying.

>Chris Marti: I know a lot of teachers and long-term practitioners who have preferences and high levels of confidence in specific teaching methods, meditation practices, lineages and traditions. Even so, those same people will freely admit to the efficacy of other ways and means of "getting there." They hold little or no prejudice and are loathe to criticize other traditions and methods because they're aware that the range of human capabilities and the possibilities for human development are so vast.

- Human capabilities and possibilities for human development may be vast but when discussing dharma and realisation of emptiness, human life is a relatively short period of time with limited possibilities. I don't hold grudge or have prejudice towards established systems. By all means, may everyone do whatever they feel best. However, I am critical about some things, first and foremost about the efficacy of methods. Learning how to map bhumis/stages has ruined a lot about the dharma scene for me because it enables one to measure or see anyone's stage/attainment. Sometimes I wish someone offered me a red pill. 

>Chris Marti: I find that the teachers who aren't as successful and forthcoming, and who tend to generate the most skepticism, are the ones whose certainty overshadows their humility.


- That is an interesting statement. I have a beef with humility too. Ha! I dig teachers who are direct, present facts and don't tell fairytales. What makes a teacher succesful, is a good topic for another discussion.

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/24/18 9:56 AM as a reply to Kim Katami.
I dig teachers who are direct, present facts and don't tell fairytales. 

Hey, we agree!

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/24/18 10:13 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
I dig teachers who are direct, present facts and don't tell fairytales. 

Hey, we agree!


I am sure we agree more than what might seem. Plain text communication is always very limited, even more so between strangers.

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/24/18 7:12 AM as a reply to Kim Katami.
I have the opposite impression from a lot of teachers and practitioners. People have a lot of faith towards their traditions and time tested training systems, and are confident that their boats will carry, which to varying degrees they do.

I know a lot of teachers and long-term practitioners who have preferences and high levels of confidence in specific teaching methods, meditation practices, lineages and traditions. Even so, those same people will freely admit to the efficacy of other ways and means of "getting there." They hold little or no prejudice and are loathe to criticize other traditions and methods because they're aware that the range of human capabilities and the possibilities for human development are so vast. I find that the teachers who aren't as successful and forthcoming, and who tend to generate the most skepticism, are the ones whose certainty overshadows their humility.



RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/23/18 12:35 PM as a reply to Selfie.
Selfie:
Hi,

I'm finding it impossible to hold dual focus attention on the breath and the peripheral awareness.  Neuroscience says you can't hold more than one focus in attention at once.  I can understand that the subconscious keeps watch as awareness, and I can understand that excessive effort on the target (breath) can cause the peripheral attention to close down.  But dual focus... doesn't sound right to me.  What's he saying please?
You might want to post your question on https://www.reddit.com/r/TheMindIlluminated/ There are several very good teachers and teachers-in-training there who can give you a refined view and/or tips. 

The TMI instructions are counterintuitive. My understanding is that your job isn't 'to hold dual focus attention on the breath and peripheral awareness.' 

Your job is simply to (1) set the intention to savor those moments when you discover that attention has returned to the breath and (2) just allow everything that isn't the breath to be exactly as it is; let it come, let it be, let it go.

When you do this, you might find that there's a sense of a bigger space, more relaxation, a more open practice than a tight, exclusive focus on the nostrils. That's peripheral awareness. Culadasa uses an analogy along the lines of 'when you carry a cup of boiling tea across a room, your attention is on the tea and keeping it from spilling, but your awareness of the rest of the room is just there on its own as well.' 

What can happen is that attention learns to return to the breath on its own, sooner and sooner after moving off of the object, without 'you' having to 'do' anything (other than savor moments of coming back). You can let peripheral awareness take care of itself.

But others might have clearer and better thoughts on this...  

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/24/18 10:46 AM as a reply to Selfie.
What's he saying?
My suggestion is that you read Yates' (Culadasa's) book.

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/26/18 12:25 AM as a reply to Ward Law.
I just found out Culadasa is suffering serious health issues.  So that's the end of that for me.  The whole idea is to put an end to suffering and he's clearly suffering.  So... absolutely no way.  I'm looking for another method. 

Nothing personal John, if you're reading.  All the best to you for a full recovery. 

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/26/18 4:09 AM as a reply to Selfie.
Selfie:
I just found out Culadasa is suffering serious health issues.  So that's the end of that for me.  The whole idea is to put an end to suffering and he's clearly suffering.  So... absolutely no way.  I'm looking for another method. 

Nothing personal John, if you're reading.  All the best to you for a full recovery. 
There's a false New Age proposition that if somebody has their spiritual shit together they will never have any health issues. This is total bullshit, the opposite of dharma. The body is a physical process; it arises and ceases; it is subject to birth, old age, sickness and death. This is the reality that the Buddha emphasized. How we handle that reality is what practice is all about. Culadasa continues to teach and to work with students and teachers-in-training as he is able. His mood is good. He smiles and laughs a lot during the sessions. He continues to share the dharma and do what he can to help other people learn to discover the happiness that isn't dependent upon conditions. To write off Culadasa and his teachings (which are, essentially, traditional Tibetan shamatha-vipashyana instructions) because, at an advanced age, he has developed health problems--it just doesn't make any sense to me. Of course, it's possible you're just trolling, in which case I took the bait. 

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/26/18 4:30 AM as a reply to Tashi Tharpa.
Tashi Tharpa:
Selfie:
I just found out Culadasa is suffering serious health issues.  So that's the end of that for me.  The whole idea is to put an end to suffering and he's clearly suffering.  So... absolutely no way.  I'm looking for another method. 

Nothing personal John, if you're reading.  All the best to you for a full recovery. 
There's a false New Age proposition that if somebody has their spiritual shit together they will never have any health issues. This is total bullshit, the opposite of dharma. The body is a physical process; it arises and ceases; it is subject to birth, old age, sickness and death. This is the reality that the Buddha emphasized. How we handle that reality is what practice is all about. Culadasa continues to teach and to work with students and teachers-in-training as he is able. His mood is good. He smiles and laughs a lot during the sessions. He continues to share the dharma and do what he can to help other people learn to discover the happiness that isn't dependent upon conditions. To write off Culadasa and his teachings (which are, essentially, traditional Tibetan shamatha-vipashyana instructions) because, at an advanced age, he has developed health problems--it just doesn't make any sense to me. Of course, it's possible you're just trolling, in which case I took the bait. 

+1. A misconception.

"Your body remains human but your mind arrives at the stage of buddhahood" - Guru Rinpoche, Advice from the Lotus-Born

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/26/18 5:13 AM as a reply to Kim Katami.
Yeh I guess that's buddhism isn't it?  We have no personal will, no control and no self-direction which makes life utterly pointless.  We exist only so that life can live its desires through us, making us worthless pawns for its amusement.  "Sit still and take it" would be a good mantra.

Whatever happened to the 4th jhana and directing energy currents around the body to heal it?  That's my interest - doing what I want, not accepting whatever life wants to inflict upon me.

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/26/18 5:28 AM as a reply to Selfie.
For me the existence of illness is an impetus for practice, not discouragement. If the body is an unsuitable base for peace, then we need to relinquish our grasping at it, which is what meditation and the whole Buddhist path helps to do. 

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/26/18 6:09 AM as a reply to Selfie.
We have no personal will, no control and no self-direction which makes life utterly pointless.  We exist only so that life can live its desires through us, making us worthless pawns for its amusement.

When you actually practice you will be confronted with something that to the everday mind looks like a paradox. There is no "free will" or a "little person who sits in the head who has control". That is something that is pretty obvious, regardless of the level of insight or amount of meditation one has done.
It might not be experientially obvious but intellectually, if one is honest with himself. Modern (Neuro)science also points to that conclusion.

Now the interesting thing is this: While it is true that through meditation we also experientially become aware of this fact that "nobody is behind the wheel" at the same time an increase in experiential freedom is happening. That is one general rule: Insight and meditation by tendency always lead to more freedom, not less.

When you are not mindful and not aware of what is going on, you are de facto a complete puppet, entirely at the whim of your insticts and your history, which in turn is the product of your upbringing, your society, your family. You are a complete pawn that is pulled by the strings of his history and bodily desires. The fact that you think you are free and have no awarness of your robot-like nature doesn't change the fact that it is so.
Only by becoming aware and present to your reality right here and now you can even hope to become less re-active and actually reprogram your habit patterns in accordance to your current understanding and rationality.

To become fully human means to grow up and to wake up. The child believes in Santa Claus, the adult has shed this ignorance. It might not always be pleasant but it is the truth. And the truth is worth it for many reasons. Not least of which, because it gives us the tools to actually make a change for the better.

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/26/18 6:48 AM as a reply to Michael.
So...tortured if you resist life, and tortured if you surrender to life.  Just as life wants it. 

Read the thousands of threads here where people struggle to be free of suffering, and none make it.  None.  Just a lot of talk about different paths and stages, and threads crowded with 'lost' souls and people 'starting afresh'. 

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/26/18 6:40 AM as a reply to Selfie.
Selfie:
So...tortured if you resist life, and tortured if you surrender to life.  Just as life wants it. 


Not sure if you are trolling at this point but if you want to suffer, nobody is stopping you.

RE: John Yates - dual attention
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10/26/18 6:56 AM as a reply to Michael.
What the hell would I get out of trolling???????

I came to get help but it turns out there is none here.  You want me to spend my life meditating, and still experience suffering?  How does that make sense?  No one achieves freedom, but I am supposed to try?  Sounds like the worst idea ever.  I'm sorry if I don't sound appreciative but suffering sucks.  If meditation cannot end suffering, then I'm in the wrong place.

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/26/18 7:12 AM as a reply to Selfie.
Selfie:
What the hell would I get out of trolling???????

I came to get help but it turns out there is none here.  You want me to spend my life meditating, and still experience suffering?  How does that make sense?  No one achieves freedom, but I am supposed to try?  Sounds like the worst idea ever.  I'm sorry if I don't sound appreciative but suffering sucks.  If meditation cannot end suffering, then I'm in the wrong place.

I don't want you to do anything. Nobody is obligated to help you here. You have to take responsibility for your own physical and mental well-being. If you are willing to question your own assumptions and having a beginners' mind, people can help you. Otherwise you will remain stuck in your own preconceived notions and pointless judgments.

So you have to ask yourself: Do you really want to reduce suffering? Because to me, it doesn't sound like it. It seems like you value "being right" more.

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/26/18 7:24 AM as a reply to Selfie.
Pain and illness is one thing, suffering is another. We're working to remove the latter, not the former, since removing the former isn't possible.

Pain and illness are just fleeting sensations; it's the mind that turns them into problems which cause suffering. Suffering is a mental phenomena that arises when we don't allow sensory experience to flow naturally, when we try to interfere with it, resist it, or push it away (or the opposite).

There is no practice, belief system or ritual in this entire realm that can prevent pain and illness. That's a fact. Believing otherwise is fruitless. Pain and illness are facts of human life. But there are practices and views that allow you to experience pain and illness in a way that doesn't cause you suffering.

RE: John Yates - dual attention
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10/26/18 7:33 AM as a reply to Lewis James.
Who here is free of that suffering though?  No one.

Why would I invest a minute in such a practice without even the slightest chance of success?  I want to have the ability to control my destiny, not sit and suffer like a dog.  If life wants me to surrender to suffering like a dog, then fuck life.  It's not worth it.

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/26/18 7:47 AM as a reply to Selfie.
Selfie:
Who here is free of that suffering though?  No one.

Why would I invest a minute in such a practice without even the slightest chance of success?  I want to have the ability to control my destiny, not sit and suffer like a dog.  If life wants me to surrender to suffering like a dog, then fuck life.  It's not worth it.


In real life, it is always about quantity. You think there is no difference between lightly stubbing your toe and a rat eating out your eyes? You think there is no difference between being maybe slighty happy once a year at Christmas Eve and waking up almost every day with a feeling of joy and a positive drive to live your life?

Wanting absolutes, is childish. It is nothing but wishful thinking, utterly pointless and harmful.

Maybe it is possible to fully end suffering, I don't know and it doesn't matter. The fruits of the practice are so vast and obvious that it becomes a purely philosphical question that amounts to little more than mental masturbation.

Just because you can think something, doesn't mean there is anything to it. I suggest you start the practice and meditate for a year until you gain some perspective and critical distance to those mental chatterings of yours.

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/26/18 8:11 AM as a reply to Selfie.
Selfie:
Who here is free of that suffering though?  No one.

Why would I invest a minute in such a practice without even the slightest chance of success?  I want to have the ability to control my destiny, not sit and suffer like a dog.  If life wants me to surrender to suffering like a dog, then fuck life.  It's not worth it.

I'd say that many of us have made great and measurable strides. I know in my own experience that the suffering I was experiencing prior to practice vs the suffering I experience now, there's a huge percentage less. Suffering just doesn't stick to my mind the way it once did. It flows.

You don't have to surrender to suffering. But you do have to surrender to pain. Again, those are different things.

Recently I had an ankle injury, and had to see a physio to get it fixed. I woke up in the middle of the night a few times before it was healed with throbbing pain so severe that it was blinding. A thought arose, "oh god, this hurts, oh shit!". But when I paid attention to it with mindfulness, it started to vibrate and wobble. The "oh god this hurts" reaction and pain turned into a curious sensation of pulsing, pressure, vibration and as my mind stopped reacting to it and settled into concentration, the entire sensation became neutral. Nothing really changed; there was pain. But there was no suffering associated with that pain. The ankle was damaged, so it hurt. That's fine, it's all good. I went with it.

If you think that's somehow weak, I would disagree. There's a cosmic significance to this stuff. There's a kind of dignity and strength associated with allowing pain to be pain, and letting it do its thing without reacting. This doesn't just apply to pain, but to all sensations. When you penetrate all of our sensate reality with this quality of attention and awareness, your perspective begins to shift in extremely significant ways that is hard to put into words. It's not to do with controlling destiny. It's not to do with being able to think things into or out of existence. It's to do with knowing that underneath all of this sensate stuff is a fundamental OK-ness, an equanimity that's beyond personal identity. Contacting that transcends anything you can contact in this reality, it's beyond any of that. It's true power to be able to be insulted, hurt, injured, sick, beaten, and know that ultimately everything is perfectly fine.

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/26/18 8:24 AM as a reply to Selfie.
Selfie:
Who here is free of that suffering though?  No one.

Why would I invest a minute in such a practice without even the slightest chance of success?  I want to have the ability to control my destiny, not sit and suffer like a dog.  If life wants me to surrender to suffering like a dog, then fuck life.  It's not worth it.
I want to be able to control my destiny, and that of my loved ones, as well. We all do. We all want all beings to be free of suffering and the causes of suffering. But is there really such a thing as "your" individual destiny, walled off and isolated from the destinies of all other beings?

My father died of cancer at the age of 59. His destiny and my destiny were intertwined. He never met his wonderful grandchildren, and I feel the pain of his loss every day. Back in the 1970s, my cousin Janet was hit by a drunk driver as she walked along the side of the road. She has lived her entire life in a state of painful disability and limitation. Her destiny was intertwined with that of the driver. What control did she have over it? 

The son of a friend of mine was born with severe brain damage. He will never be able to walk, feed himself or even go to the bathroom by himself. What control did my friend have over this? What control does his son have over the condition of his brain? Where do you draw the line between their individual destinies? Can you?

Human beings sometimes do have some amount of limited control over their destinies. Right now, you could vow to shoot heroin, smoke cigarettes, drink eight beers a day and drive triple the speed limit everywhere you go, for the rest of your life. If you did that, I'm pretty sure this decision would have a significant effect on your life trajectory--and of course it would no doubt alter the destinies of many, many other people as well. 

Do you really have enough control over your destiny to guarantee that you will never have a serious illness? Do you really believe that any meditation practice can provide talismanic protection from the vagaries of this world?

None of this is to suggest that you shouldn't do your best to be healthy.  

In Ken Wilbur's integral movement, the idea is to embrace every single form of healthy endeavor that you can--yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, acupuncture, psychotherapy, mindful sex, art therapy, societal, communal and environmental engagement, laughter, music, you name it. For sure, many DhO members take multi-modal approaches along these lines. 

But in the integral movement, they point out a fundamental paradox: "All of these efforts, in the end, are doomed." Even they, in other words, acknowledge the realities of the Three Characteristics and birth, old age, sickness and death. Still, they are joyful and embrace both life and a sense of agency. This is precisely what Culadasa is doing. He is bravely and cheerfully continuing to teach and practice and live his life even amidst a life-threatening illness. 

 

 

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/26/18 7:53 AM as a reply to Lewis James.
Lewis:
Pain and illness is one thing, suffering is another. We're working to remove the latter, not the former, since removing the former isn't possible.

Pain and illness are just fleeting sensations; it's the mind that turns them into problems which cause suffering. Suffering is a mental phenomena that arises when we don't allow sensory experience to flow naturally, when we try to interfere with it, resist it, or push it away (or the opposite).

There is no practice, belief system or ritual in this entire realm that can prevent pain and illness. That's a fact. Believing otherwise is fruitless. Pain and illness are facts of human life. But there are practices and views that allow you to experience pain and illness in a way that doesn't cause you suffering.
+1

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/26/18 6:19 AM as a reply to Selfie.
Selfie:
Yeh I guess that's buddhism isn't it?  We have no personal will, no control and no self-direction which makes life utterly pointless.  We exist only so that life can live its desires through us, making us worthless pawns for its amusement.  "Sit still and take it" would be a good mantra.

Whatever happened to the 4th jhana and directing energy currents around the body to heal it?  That's my interest - doing what I want, not accepting whatever life wants to inflict upon me.
"Properly considering medicinal requisites for curing the sick, I use them: simply to ward off any pains of illness that have arisen and for the maximum freedom from disease." [OP pp.46-47; (Pali: M. I, 10; A. III, 387)]

Unlike, say, Christian Science, Buddhism has no strictures against the use of medicine or any other healing modality. The Goenka and Mahasi lineages alike describe the potential for physical healing through intensive meditation. But there's a big difference between doing what you can to be healthy and thinking that your health is fully under your control. It isn't. That belief is a form of terror management.  

If you're lucky, you'll live into your 70s or 80s relatively free of disease. I'm not sure how old Culadasa is, but given that he was a college professor in the 1970s, he's at least in his late 60s and is probably in his early to mid-70s. It is incredible to me that you seem to believe that being a meditation adept should keep a person free of disease even into old age.

With respect to the magical healing power of the fourth jhana, the jhana master and teacher Rob Burbea, who is middle-aged, has pancreatic cancer and a very grim prognosis. If you think right concentration is a synonym for perfect health, all I can say is good luck with that. 

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/26/18 7:37 AM as a reply to Selfie.
Hey, Selfie,

I see you're questioning the efficacy of the practice of Buddhism. I think this happens a lot more than we here see but folks who see it this way usually come to a place like DhO, find disappointment, and just leave without voicing it. It's good to have a conversation about why you feel you're not getting what you expected. Some of your disappointment is probably due to the "overpromise" kind of language used in some of modern Buddhism. "Suffering" can be described as any kind of thing that makes us hurt, physical, emotional, existential.

Buddhism doesn't really address the physical kind suffering directly, although as you mentioned, there are some folks who say it does. What Buddhism has always claimed to address is the emotional and existential, as so many people who've already responded to you point out.

Likewise, we really can't control everything that happens to us. This, too, is not a binary, yes or no proposition. This, too, is nuanced. Weather, catching certain diseases, economic melt-downs - none of these things are controllable by an individual.

These are misunderstandings sometimes taken as a bait-and-switch. The situation in regard to all of our suffering and how much control we can have over our lives is far more nuanced than it would seem at first, and some dedicated meditation can help us see that. My suggestion would be to really and whole-heartedly investigate for yourself what "suffering" it's possible to relieve using meditation, and what things you can control and what things are pure circumstance or just random. It's a "can't hurt/might help" proposition. The answers are out there for you.

I wish you the best.

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/26/18 7:39 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
thanks.

RE: John Yates - dual attention
Answer
10/26/18 4:40 AM as a reply to Selfie.
The Buddha himself had a personal doctor who looked after many maladies that he had as he aged, it's all in the texts.

If anything it should be a testament to Culadasa's work that he's had advanced stage cancer and is still teaching, helping, instructing, wherever he can, from the goodness of his heart, without complaining.

I think you might have got the wrong end of the stick when it comes to the end of suffering. We're talking about the "2 arrows" example that the Buddha gave. We all experience pain, sickness, old age and death, no matter how enlightened. How much we suffer is to do with our reaction to those realities.