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Secular Meditation

Attention, Awareness, and the Great Adventure, with Culadasa

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Culadasa talks with Michael W. Taft. After decades of Buddhist practice, Culadasa exploded on the scene a few years ago with his groundbreaking book The Mind Illuminated, an incredibly comprehensive guide to meditation. It’s an erudite mixture of neuroscience, traditional Buddhist practice, and Culadasa’s own ideas about how to gt the most out of practice. In this episode we talk about his definitions of attention and awareness, how his system compares to that of his friend teacher Shinzen Young, how the meditative brain works, dealing with aging and death, and much more.

the mind illuminated

Learn more about Culadasa and his teaching at culadasa.com

Show Notes

0:15 – Introduction and overview
2:30 – Culadasa’s system vs. Shinzen Young’s: stability of attention
7:55 – Sustained attention and effortlessness
10:20 – Culadasa’s system vs. Shinzen Young’s: sensory clarity and peripheral awareness
19:55 – Mindfulness as the optimal interaction between attention and awareness
22:55 – Conceptual overlays and the lower limits of conscious perception
32:50 – Attention selects objects from peripheral awareness
35:00 – The interactive role of attention and awareness in maintaining mindfulness in daily life
38:30 – How strong mindfulness affects emotions, wholesome and unwholesome behavior, and the practice of virtue
43:50 – The importance of the Eightfold Path post-awakening
47:20 – The Ten Fetter, Four Path Model: characteristics of paths and the dropping of fetters
59:49 – Spiritual development does not end at Fourth Path
1:01:57 – Old age, sickness and death are part of the Great Adventure

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9 Comments

  1. Andreas Hakangard December 4, 2017

    Very informing talk, speaks a lot to the upsides with the development of mindfulness. I think it was especially interesting to learn more about the interaction between attention and awareness. Furthermore it is useful to hear about the fetters and the four paths; these are topics that come up again and again. My feeling is that it clears away some of the different opinions about levels of attainment.

    Reply
    1. MWT December 4, 2017

      Thanks, Andreas.

      Reply
  2. lokman December 6, 2017

    Great podcast, as usual! I think Culadasa hit the nail on the head regarding the fetters and their relationship to awakening. That’s always an apparent contradiction with people’s expectation of what awakening means.

    I’m a bit confused about Sensory clarity after that interview though and I’m wondering if my understanding of sensory clarity was just off, or if you decided not to correct what Culadasa said about it. The parallel of Sensory clarity with Peripheral awareness that he drew didn’t seem like an accurate one to me because my understanding of Sensory clarity was that it was the discerning skill of “attention” and not necessarily that of the separate brain function of peripheral awareness. While it makes sense that peripheral awareness would develop as a result, I didn’t think it was the central focus of sensory clarity. One of the primary differences in my mind of Culadasa’s methods and Shinzen’s methods is Culadasa’s focus on this peripheral awareness as the key to maintaining concentration, where Shinzen mainly discusses bringing the attention back when you become aware of being distracted(this Culadasa also does) and also, of using sensory clarity on your object of attention (key difference) to detect the pull of distractions.

    Michael, did I misunderstand this bit, or were you just choosing not to rabbit hole in on this topic?

    Reply
    1. MWT December 6, 2017

      It’s a good questions, Lokman. While I decided not to go further down that rabbit hole with Culadasa at the time, I did wonder about it. My assumption, upon reflection, is that both are talking about sensory clarity, but two different dimensions of sensory clarity. Shinzen is almost always talking about sensory clarity as a kind of high resolution, meaning to see a particular area in greater detail. Culadasa, OHOT, seems to be describing sensory clarity as taking in a wider area, without regard to resolution. Both make sense to me, and neither contradicts the other. You could potentially have both higher resolution and wider area at the same time. Just a guess.

      Reply
  3. ana ma roopa December 30, 2017

    interesting, that i have meditated for years, it continues, deepens, and i cannot find any interest in words about meditation, podcasts or books .. lost all interest in words

    Reply
    1. MWT December 30, 2017

      Well, you were interested enough in words to write that comment.

      Reply
  4. Alex Kelly August 31, 2018

    Excellent explanation of how mindfulness supports the development of virtue. The training in virtue (right action, right speech, right livelihood) is development of the wholesome self. The Buddha said Noble Eightfold path is the kamma that leads to the end of kamma. So one in training uses self to go beyond self.

    Reply
  5. Blinken October 25, 2018

    I am not sure, but isn’t Culadasa talking about ‘sustained attention’ instead of ‘sustained intention’? That would also be consistent to the first interlude in TMI. But maybe I misheard it. So I propose: ‘7:55 – Sustained attention and effortlessness’ instead of ‘7:55 – Sustained intention and effortlessness’. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. MWT October 25, 2018

      Fixed. Thanks.

      Reply

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