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Meditation, Madness, and Psychology, with Tucker Peck

Tucker Peck

Tucker Peck, meditation teacher and clinical psychologist, talks with host Michael Taft about how whether awakening (both in the traditional “stream entry” sense or in other definitions) actually “fixes” a person’s psychology or not. Topics include: the validity of the Progress of Insight model, Tucker’s hellacious Dark Night experience and the dukkha ñanas in general, when to switch from shamatha to vipassana practice, whether people who have mental illness should practice meditation, and much more.

Tucker Peck, Ph.D., is a meditation teacher and clinical psychologist whose specialties include working with advanced meditators and using meditation to help those suffering from psychological disorders. Tucker is a published author on the scientific study of meditation, focusing on how meditation affects the brain and is a faculty member of the University of Arizona College of Medicine. Tucker was also a founding board member of Culadasa’s Dharma Treasure sangha.

Tucker Peck’s website

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Show Notes

0:25 – Introduction

2:54 – Tucker’s teaching activities, how his background in clinical psychology influences teaching meditation

5:26 – The myth that you can lose your psychology/personality/emotions by meditating enough; getting smacked in the face with emotions on retreat

8:29 – How Tucker got into meditation; hitting A&P, and the heart opening

13:43 – How Tucker got into clinical psychology; his long Dark Night experience, and using choiceless awareness to get out of it

23:49 – Progressing towards first path; magga phala; how seeing nonself changed the experience of practice

29:23 – How stable attention helps mitigate Dark Night effects; purification through samatha

33:43 – Tucker’s challenges learning to practice with The Mind Illuminated; description of the TMI stages; when to introduce vipassana practices

41:19 – Whether Tucker’s students are getting stream entry and whether the samatha-first way of working mitigates Dark Night effects in his students; the fetter model, and having only positive emotions

45:47 – The potential for spiritual bypassing with attainment; “wake up, clean up, grow up”; the equanimity windshield; the need for unbiased feedback about one’s behavior and how it’s affecting people

55:17 – Working with mental content outside of meditation, through psychotherapy; will meditation practice help people who have mental illness?; modifying the practice for people with bipolar or manic symptoms, etc.

1:03:25 – Tucker’s experience of the path model; reduction in craving; seeming to go from dramatic changes back to normalcy, but with life altering differences; the individuality of each person’s path of purification

1:12:28 – Outro

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5 thoughts on “Meditation, Madness, and Psychology, with Tucker Peck”

  1. So many great teachers tell us that the “enlightened” mind is the ordinary mind and that the issue is to stop doing the things that prevent us from seeing that this is true. I see the many methods as ways devised to accommodate different learning styles I certainly have gone through many of the “steps” that are enumerated in the TMI path. But its great that I didn’t know about them when I started my practice through the martial arts and Hara breathing. I think that it would have added more stuff to get rid of. I worked out psychological problems on my own using western methods like Gendlin’s “Focusing”. When I decided to practice Zen formally, which I did for many years in the lineage of Joshu Sasaki Roshi, it was to solidify and confirm what I had already experienced. I am very happy to see the work you are doing in demystifying the methods and in creating a simple language to talk about the “steps”. It would have been great to rely on you in 1966 .

  2. Maybe modern Buddhism isn’t what the Buddha taught? Maybe the fetter path model is true, and we just don’t actually know how to do it?

    i mean, I don’t know that’s the case, but… perhaps we should be a little humble and think we aren’t doing what is right? It’s pretty clear we had to re-invent the paths, and we may not have done to it right.

      1. A significant reduction certainly seems like a worthwhile goal but perhaps entirely isn’t a good idea, I agree. Sometimes anger and fear are appropriate and needed. People who never get angry get taken advantage, of people with no fear get dead or hurt.

        Still, it seems past Buddhists did think it (or something close) was a good idea. Did they know how? Have we lost it? Or, were they able to do something much further along the spectrum of positive emotional/personality changes than we can now? David Chapman, who’m you’ve had on, has written that Vipassana was basically reinvented in the 19th century. Did we get what they had?

        Alternatively, was it all BS propaganda? I mean, there were lots of them, did they see people get what they say they got?

        I genuinely don’t know. I’m just not so sure what we’ve got really has a lot to do with what Buddha taught, despite the name.

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