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What is the Space Between Thoughts?


Q&A: What is the Space Between Thoughts?

Master Culadasa explains what is occurring when the thoughts slow down and there is ‘space’ between them. He explores where thoughts come from in this discussion.

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Student: [00:00:00] We did talk about the spaces between thoughts when you're meditating. Like I, I guess I maybe at catch-ups I thought I know what I'm saying is everything's empty and I guess I thought those spaces were nothing or something, but they seem like their role, like they're pregnant, waiting for the next thought, like almost anxious a little bit regarding, against the next thought or something.

Culadasa: Let's examine closely. Now, when you say thought

Student: I'm thinking image or

Culadasa: an image or words. Yeah. Yeah. But most of our thoughts take those forums. So image or words, sometimes the two will be combined and some thoughts are more kinesthetic we'll have fought horizon or mind that sort of has to do with body movement or body sensation, but the most predominant thoughts are they're verbal or they're images.

Yeah.

Student: And

Culadasa: they're verbal. And we understand the meaning of their words of self-talk that's taken. Or see the ambulant gender is an experience of recognition of the image. But as that there's, there can be some verbal thoughts that they're re are not really paying attention to them. So it's, as if you're understanding them they're return, aren't really focused on, and then there's a period between thoughts, but as you say Even if it's not in the form of an image or not in the form of a, of words or that natural verbalization, you're aware that there is still mental activity there's still intentions.

Arising was still certain degree of discernment of what's taking place. And Maybe evaluation of it. And are you aware of that?

Student: Yeah, I'm aware of a waiting yeah, I guess an expectation of something to come.

Culadasa: Okay. Overweighting okay. So what you're talking about is when you're meditating and the thoughts are really slowing down, so that there's a big noticeable gap between the thoughts

Student: and.

Culadasa: Sometimes it's like the pregnant pause, waiting for the next spot to come up and

Student: It's going to

Culadasa: come, it's tough.

Student: You can almost feel it coming.

Culadasa: Yeah. You can, yeah, you can feel it. It's.

You have an awareness of it, but it's not, you're not fully conscious of it yet. It hasn't quite emerged into your consciousness. Do you sometimes have the experience of a kind of thinking that's taking place that sort of beneath the surface and. That's what I was talking about, where intentions are. You don't have a period where there's no verbal or area of thought or imagery, but you're aware of the present moment.

And you're actually doing a sort of a, there's decisions being made about or questions being asked or but not verbally, it's beneath the surface. It's still

Student: noisy, even though it's quite.

Culadasa: Yeah. So this is because what we're consciously aware of is just a small part of a mental activity that's taking place.

And this is what you're, this is right. You're discovering. You're realizing that, although what I mainly aware of most of the time, Ours is the verbal self-talk and the images and whatever they comes up. And sometimes it's emotions too. We should include that. This is what we're mostly aware of in terms of our metal of contents that we call plots.

But even in the midst of all that, there is a subtle awareness of other things. To use the analogy of saying we can't quite see clearly, but we know that they're there as well. And when those things begin to an obvious ones begins to die our way, we began to be aware of how much other stuff that there is going on.

And so that's really important things to notice. It's nice to work through all that stuff. You don't have to work through. It what's really important is to just see and have that realization of this is the way it is, where I'm consciously aware of. It's just a small part of the mind's activities, because we tend to identify with.

And so it's like discovering that, oh what I thought was myself has all these other parties to it that I usually don't know about. And I can't see very clearly, but now if you think about [00:05:00] it, where do thoughts come from

Student: previous thoughts

Culadasa: they're triggered by previous thoughts, but sometimes they just seem to get. Out of nowhere, most of the time, as a matter of fact, even when they're triggered by previous thoughts, they just seem to arise in response to that bot. So they're coming out of this part of your mind that you're, that you is becoming obvious to you in the gaps between the obvious thoughts that whole subconscious or unconscious part of, And you sit down to meditate and you focus on a meditation object and you start to get calm and relaxed and all of a sudden the thought counter, where does that come from?

It doesn't bring, from nothing into awareness. It trends the subclasses into awareness, but it didn't even come from nothing in the subconscious. There is a continuous ongoing activity at the subconscious level far more actually than that little bit that we're conscious of and all these different.

And if you notice the different kinds of thoughts that come up is sitting and meditating, and sometime it's these trivial things about what happened this morning and what you have to do later on today. And then. Other times it's a more major things in your life. What am I going to do about, am I wasting my life?

Should I have a different career? That thought, I barely know that top. That's thought that everybody has, these kinds of thoughts are to do with their relationships or, these come up, not just to everyday or ordinary things, but the were important, personal thing and deeper.

Question spiritual questions, thoughts about those. So there's all kinds of different kinds of thoughts that come up when we meditate. So it shows you the variety of mental activities that are ongoing your concerns about your path in life. They put that as a category where things to do with your relationship things to do with your career and your future and Andrew past, the things that you've done that maybe you wish you had known things like that.

Okay. These kinds of that this whole category, even though. Most of the time, you're not aware of those. Some part of your mind is always working and that and if you think about the person, meditation becomes obvious, you sit down and get quiet and all of a sudden these things come up. But if you think about it throughout the course of your daily life, there's those odd moments where one of those flats or concerns or the emotions related to it will leak through.

Or some situation will arise. Somebody will say something and that will be the trigger for one of these same state counselors. So you recognize that this is going on all the time.

Student: So

Culadasa: what's going on in your subconscious mind is rich in Berry. And if we look at another thing that happens in meditation received that. You're trying to focus your attention on the meditation object, develop mindful awareness and and some stability of attention, but you're you, there's this constant competition for your conscious awareness, by these thoughts and ideas and the concerns that are coming out of your subconscious.

And that's exactly why we have the problems that we overcome and the practice you sit down and you experienced thoughts that come along and before you have enough skill, those thoughts hijack your attention entirely. You forget the meditation object and you'll get it off on a journey of mind-wandering.

Then as you get more skilled, You don't forget so easily. You don't mind wander so easily, but these thoughts keep coming up and sometimes they take your attention away from the meditation object and sometimes they don't, but you get enough skills so that you never let them take you away from the meditation.

How did you put there? Keep coming up and then you'll come to that place where. You can stay with a meditation object and there's very little else going on. Mine is getting nice and quiet, but you'll notice that you still need to remain vigilant because if you relax too much, the same thing will happen out of nowhere, some thought or concern or emotional trauma, doesn't [00:10:00] grab your attention and take off with it.

So this is telling you. What I've already said, your mind is not one thing, consistent, many different parts. The conscious awareness is just that small bit of light that illuminates one part of what's taking place in your mind and all of these other processes with their own agendas, with their own purposes, but their own function with their own aspect.

Each one has taken care of some different assets. What it means to be you of your personality and middle world your needs, your desires, your versions, all of these different things. So you've got all these different things going on simultaneously, which have, which are serving some particular purpose and have some particular goal.

And,

They interrupted. But, each is doing its own thing and conscious awareness is precious. And so these processes compete with each other for conscious awareness. And the first one conscious awareness is not otherwise fully engaged than some mental process with its favorite thought process wants to lead men to burn.

The gap and get, you got that to become the object of the attention.

Student: So

Culadasa: from this, we realized that in order to really achieve a peace of mind, a calmness and a stability of attention, a clarity, it would be nice if all of these different parts of your mind cause. Functioning cooperatively coherently towards the same goal, or at least not conflicting with each other.

And that's what's that would that would be a unification of mind. And that's actually what we're working towards. It's about you bring about in your practice when you reach the stage where concentration becomes effortless, it becomes effortless because now you don't have so many. Unconscious thought processes or subconscious thought processes going on simultaneously about things that have nothing to do with your meditation, but have nothing to do.

Let's put it this way. They have nothing at all to do with the present moment. They're all concerned with the past and the future and somewhere else and something else.

Student: So

Culadasa: in order to be able to sit there and be fully present on effortless. Requires that all of these other mental processes have temporarily gotten up on, on task with being in the present and are not trying to, th they're not trying to take over your Manchester awareness, but that point, then you start to experience the space between the thoughts.

It was just a really peaceful. Quiet space of being fully present and fully aware. Y you can take whatever enters your conscious awareness, which will be, here you are in the present moment. And so there's a sensation, so the breath, and you can expand that and feel the sensations in your entire body.

You can introspectively examine your mind and see the quality of your mental state does the degree to which it's joyful or that it's not joyful AR or. There's still some agitation beneath the surface, or there's not some agitation beneath the surface and so forth. So you're being fully in the present and it's effortless.

And because it's effortless, now you, your mind, you can do whatever you want with your mind. You can use it much more powerfully. The same thing is true in terms of what we call mindful awareness and the power of mind. Cold randoms. When. The power of your mindful awareness is restricted to a few mental processes or a few mental functions that are basically adopting the same object of observation, the same, they're doing the same thing at the same time.

You, you are sensitive to.

You're sensitive already in your experience for the fact that I went the more. Things that are happening in your mind. The less clear is your awareness and the fewer than a senior, your clarity or clarity gets much greater than the intensity of your perception becomes much, much sharper. And can you imagine if all of your mental resources are, most of your mental resources are now supporting your awareness in the present moment?

It becomes very powerful [00:15:00] anonymously. We do experience this and emergency situations, in an emergency situation, all so it's all these different mental processes do have the same prime director. When when disaster looms, we drop our other concerns and we look after survival and you'll find that, in that kind of situation you're buying, they're gonna have to really.

Totally aware. And there isn't a lot of distraction and you're not worried about paying the rent and your relationships and your job and stuff like that. You're present here and now is what's happening. And the farthest in the future you're going to look is to, to use the example, the glibly cultivate this sort of force in the martial arts.

If you're if you're one of these. In a combat where those least move means, that said it's all over then. Very you're totally present. You're you don't think about anything other than what's happening right now. And in future, on a stands to a few seconds from where you are, so you can understand what's going on.

That's the thing. When you meditate, all of these things come clear, you learn about these thing you learn. Oh, my mind is always settling priors. Oh, the part of my vine I'm conscious. I was just a little bit. And you start to realize saying, oh, the part of my mind. That's just one. That's just one time.

That's it's like you, you have a talker in your head, but it's definitely not the only thing that's going on. And all of us. And the talker can take up the topics of any of these other parts, and you can talk to yourself about all kinds of different topics, but the talker is just one thing and there's all kinds of things going on.

And this is very, if you, as you understand this more clearly, and this is what I want you to do in your meditation is. Is to be open to discovering what is the significance of this? When I realized that thoughts, the thoughts that I'm usually aware of are just a small part of what's happening in my mind.

What are all of these other things about me aware that they're there and the implications of. There's several implications. You realize that, oh, this is, if this is going on, when I'm sitting here being quiet, meditating and all this other stuff is going on all the time as well. And it's having an impact.

When I'm at work tomorrow and somebody comes up and says something to me, the way I react, both what I do and say, and the way I react emotionally, this kind of be influenced by all this other stuff that's going on. That I don't even know. So that's one thing that it tells you. Another thing is it tells you, of course, that this idea that there is somewhere in this, some one single self that is the experiencer and a decision maker on everything.

There's an illusion that this is a collection. This is a board of directors. This is a crowd of Indians trying to come to an agreement. There is no one part of your mind, that's in charge all the time and wears the hat that says hi, and says I'm the president of the company.

Everybody has to do it. I say it just isn't like that. And you're made up of all of these different things going on at all. So this helps you to realize this. It becomes not just an abstract idea, but you began to see the reality that there is no single permanent separate experienced owner of experience and do or deeds.

This is what you're saying in your meditation. Or you're saying something that is revealing them. And so understand what it has to say to you and pursue it further in terms of your practice. Of course you are now aware much more directly of why up to this point, it's seemed so difficult to just remain focused on object.

That's big time. They're all of these other mental processes wanting to take advantage of, here, this precious commodity, this conscious awareness is being wasted on something as boring as a sensation of the breath going in and out, so all these different processes to say, this is my chance, so now you see what's going on and you realize that the calming of your mind has to go deeper and [00:20:00] deeper. If if you've called the surface, but now by calling the surface, you become aware of all of the turmoil that's beneath the surface. So they call me, he needs to continue to deepen.

Student: I can see how it propels me through each day, which this is. Things under the surface are propelling you through each day. They

Culadasa: are. Yeah, absolutely. I'm glad you can see that. It starts to answer the question. Why am I the way I am,

And then when you start to see some of the things that are propelling you, and your reaction is, oh my goodness, that should have been done with.

10 years old. Why is that still here?


Automated transcription

could could talk about the spaces between thoughts when you're meditating, like, I... Case i maybe a catch up sorry dot Me what I'm saying. Guess everything's empty. And I guess I thought those spaces were nothing or something, but they seem like they're full... like the kind of pregnant waiting for the next thought. Yes. Like, almost anxious a little bit. Regarding against the next thought or something Well, Let's examine closely. And when you say thought... I'm thinking image or or or. Any or words?

Yeah. Yeah. As most of our thoughts. Take those forms. So image or words. Sometimes the two will be combined. And some thoughts are more sort of kin aesthetic will have a thought horizon in mind that sort of has to do with a body movement or body sensation. But the most predominant thoughts are their verbal or their images. Yeah. And their verbal and we understand the remaining other words as soft talk that's taken place. Or we see the image and there is an experience of recognition of the image.

But as you know that there's there can be some verbal thoughts that They're they're we are not really paying attention to them. So it says if you're sort of understanding them, they're they're there, which are not really focused on. And then there's a period between dots. But as you say, even if it's not in the form of an image or not in the form of of words or that natural localization, you're aware that there is still mental activity there. There's still intentions are rising. There's still certain degree of a discernment under of what's taking place and any evaluation of it?

And are you aware of that? Yeah. I'm aware of a of a waiting. Like, yeah. I guess next a patient of something to come. Okay. I a waiting. Okay. So what you're talking about is when you're meditating and the thoughts are really slowing down. So that there's a big noticeable gap between the thoughts. Right? And sometimes it's it's like the pregnant pause waiting for the next lot to to come out. And you know it's gonna come. You know, it's gonna come. Right? You can almost feel it coming. Yeah. Right.

Well, you can. Yeah. You you can feel. It's good. You have an awareness of it, but it's not you're not fully conscious of it yet. It hasn't quite emerged into consciousness. Do sometimes have the experience of a kind of thinking that's taking a place that sort of beneath the surface... Yeah. That's what I was talking about where intentions you you'll have a period where there's no verbal or slaughter or imagery, but you're aware out the present nolan, and you're actually doing a a sort know, there's decisions being made about or questions being asked or but not verbally.

Right? It's kind of beneath the surface. Yeah. It's still kind of noisy even though it's quiet weird. Yeah. So this is because What we're consciously aware of is just a small part of the mental activity that's taking place. And this is what your this is what you're discovering. You're realizing that that although what I'm mainly aware of most of the time, ours are is the verbal self talk and the images and whatever that comes up. And sometimes it's emotions too. We should include it that. This is what we're mostly aware of in terms of our mental of contents that we call plots.

But even in the midst of all that, there is a subtle awareness of other things that you know, to use the analogy of seeing, we can't quite see clearly, but we know that they're very as well. And when those things begin to an obvious ones begins to die away. We begin to be aware of how much other stuff that there is going on. And so that's really important things to notice. So I have to work through a that stuff. You don't have to work through it. What's really important is to just see and have that realization.

This is the way it is. Well I'm consciously aware of, it's just a small part of the mine's activities. You know? Because we tend to identify with them mind. And so it's sort of, like discovering that oh, well, what I thought was myself has all these these other parties too. Thought I usually don't know about it. I can't see very clearly. But now if you think about it, where does thoughts come from? Previous stock. They're they're triggered by previous thoughts, but sometimes i just seem to come out of nowhere most of the time.

As a matter of fact even when they're triggered by previous thoughts. They just seem to arise in response to that bot. So they're coming out of this part of your mind that you're... That you... It is becoming obvious to you. In the gaps between the obvious thoughts. That whole subconscious or unconscious part of your mind. You sit down to meditate. And you focus on the meditation object and you start to get calm relax. All of a sudden where that? Come from? It doesn't bring you know, from nothing into awareness it from the subconscious into awareness.

But it didn't even come from nothing in the subconscious. There is a continuous ongoing activity at the sub subconscious level. Far more actually than that little bit that we're conscious of. And always different. And and and if you notice the different kinds of thoughts that come up, is sitting and meditating and sometimes it's these trivial things about what happened this morning and what you have to do later on today. And then other times, it's more major things in your life. What am I gonna do about, you know, am by wasting my life should I have a different career?

Right? You know, that's barely know that top. That's kind of thought that everybody has these kind of thoughts or do did there with their relationships or or, you know, These these come up not just everyday or ordinary things, but the were important personal thing. And deeper questions, spiritual questions and thoughts about those. There's all kinds of different kinds of thoughts that come up when we meditate. So it shows you the the variety of mental activities that are sort of ongoing. Your your concerns about your path and life, which you might sort of put that as a category where things to do with your relationship things to do with your career and your future and andrew paths, you know, the things that you've done maybe you wish you had things like that.

Okay. These these kinds of, this whole category, even though Those of the time you're not aware of those. Some part of your minds always work I now. And and if you think about the person meditation it becomes obvious, you sit down the quiet and all sudden these things come up. But if you think about it, throughout the course of your daily life, there's those odd moments where one of those thoughts or concerns or the emotions related to it will leak through. Or some situation will arise, somebody will say something, and and that will be the trigger for one of these things to come.

So you recognize that this is going on all the time. So what's going on in your subconscious mind is rich and berry. And if we look at another thing that happens in meditation, received that You're trying to focus your attention on the meditation object, develop mindful awareness and and some stability of attention. But you're There's this constant competition for your conscious awareness, why these thoughts and ideas and the concerns that are coming out of your subconscious mind. And that's exactly why we have the problems that we overcome in the practice that you sit down.

And you experience thoughts are kinda along. And and before you have enough skill, those thoughts hijack your attention, entirely, you forget the meditation object, and you'll get off on a journey of mind wandering. Then as you get more skill, and you don't you don't forget so easily. You don't might wander so easily. But you... These thoughts keep coming up, And sometimes they take your attention away from the meditation object, and sometimes they don't. You get enough skill so they you never let them take you away from the meditation.

I just put their teeth coming up. And keep coming out. And then you'll come to that place where You can stay with the meditation logic object and there's very little else going on. Mind is getting nice and quiet. But you'll notice that you still need to remain vigilant because if you relax too much, the same thing will happen out of nowhere some flood or concern emotional come up, and grab your attention and take off with it. K? So this is telling you what I've already said. Your mind is not one thing consists of many different parts.

The conscious awareness is just that small bit of light that illuminate one part of what's taking place in your mind. And all of these other processes with their own agendas with their own purposes with their own function. With their own aspect, each one is taking care of some different aspects what it means to to be you of your world. Of your needs, your desires, your versions, you know, all of these different things. So you've got all these different things going on simultaneously, which have which are serving some particular purpose and have some particular role.

And they interact but, you know, each is doing its own thing. And conscious awareness is precious. And so these processes compete with each other for conscious awareness. And of course, when conscious awareness is not otherwise fully engaged, then some mental process with its favorite thought process wants to leap into the the the gap and get, you know, to get that to become the object of of the attention. So from this, we realized that in order to really achieve a peace of mind or calm and stability of attention, a clarity, it would be nice if all of these different parts of your mind could start functioning cooperative, coherent towards the same goal or at least not conflicting on each other.

And that's what's that that would... That that would be a unification of mine. And that's actually what we're working towards. It's what you bring about. In your practice. When... And you reach the stage where concentration becomes effortless, it becomes effortless because now you don't have so many unconscious thought processes or subconscious thought prices going on simultaneously about things that have nothing to do. With your meditation. But have nothing to do. Let's put it this way. They have nothing at all to do with the present moment.

They're all concerned with the past in the future in somewhere else and something else. Right? So in order to be able to sit there and be fully present on effortlessly, it requires that all of these other mental processes have temporarily gotten on on task with being in the present and are not trying to to, you know, that they're not trying to take over your not just awareness. But that point, then you start to experience the space between the thoughts. It was just a really peaceful quiet space of being fully present and fully aware what you can take whatever enters your conscious awareness, which will be, you know, here you are in the present moment.

And so there's the sensations to the breath, and you can expand that feel sensations in your entire body. You can intros examine your mind and see the quality of your mental state. Degree to which it's joyful or that it's not joyful or or that there's still some agitation beneath a surface or there's not some agitation beneath the surface and so forth. So you're being fully in the present and it's effortless. And because it's effortless, now you you're blind, you can do whatever or you want with your mind.

You can use it much more powerfully. The same is true in terms of what we call mindful awareness and the power of mine rounds. When The power of your mindful awareness is restricted to a few mental processes or a few mental functions. That are basically adopting the same object of observation the same you know, they're doing the same thing at the same time. You you you are sensitive to you're sensitive already in your experience to the fact that when the more different things that are happening in your mind, the less clear is your awareness.

And the fewer, that you're clear your clarity gets much greater in the intensity of your perception becomes much much sharper and Well, can you imagine if all of your mental resources or most of your mental resources are now supporting your awareness in the present moment? It becomes very, very powerful enormously so. We do experience this in emergency situations you know, in an emergency situation. All it's like all these different mental processes do have the same prime directive, you know, when when the disaster looms, we drop our other concerns and and we look after survival.

And you'll find that you know, in in that kind of situation. We volume becomes really clear. You know, totally aware. And there isn't a lot of distraction. You're not worried about paying them around and you know, your relationships and your job and stuff like that. You're present here and now is what's happening. And the farthest in the future you're gonna look is to, you know, to use the the example deliberately cultivate this in person and martial arts. So, you know, if you're if you're one of these Japanese swords fund and combat where those least move means, you know, that said, it's all over.

Then near you're totally present. Right? You're you're you don't think about anything other than what's happening right now and and future all stands. To a few seconds from where you are. So you can understand what's going on. Well, that's the thing. When you meditate all of these things come peter. You learn about tasting. You learn? Oh, my mind is only different parts. Oh, the part of my mind I unconscious was just a little bit. And you start to realize? Oh the y yeah part my nine. That's just one.

That's just one thing address. It's like you you have a talker in your. But it's definitely not the only thing that's going on. And all of are stuff. And the talk can take up the topics of any of these other parts. You know, and you can talk to yourself. About all kinds of different topics. But the tone period is just one thing and there's all kinds of things going on And this is this is very... If if you as you understand this more clearly, and this is what I want you to do in your meditation is to is to be open to discovering what is the significance of this?

When I realized that thoughts, the thoughts that I'm usually aware of are just a small part of what's happening in my mind. What are all these other things about become aware that they're there? And the implications of these, several implications. You realize that oh this is if this is going on when I'm sitting here being applied meditating, and all this other stuff is going on all all of the time as well. And it's having an impact. So, you know, when I'm at work tomorrow, and somebody comes up and says something to me.

The way I react, both what I do and say, and the way I react emotionally like, this kind of be influenced by all of other stuff that's going on that I don't even know about. So that's one thing that it it tells you. Another thing is it tells you of course, that this idea that there is somewhere in this. Some one single self that is the experience or and the decision maker and everything. Is an illusion. This is this is a collection. This is a Board of directors. This is a crowded of Indians trying to come through an agreement.

You know? There is no one part of your mind that's in charge all the time and where a hat that says i you know, so I'm prison with the company, everybody has to do i? It just isn't like that. And you're made up of all of these different things going on at once. So this helps you realize this. It it kind not just an abstract idea, but you begin to see the the reality. That there is no single permanent separate ex of experience and do deeds. This is what you're saying in your meditation. Or you're saying something that is revealing that.

And so understand what it has to say to you and and pursue it further. In terms of your practice, of course, you are now aware much more directly of why up to this point. It's seemed so difficult to just rename focus sign on object. That's because All of these other mental processes wanting to take advantage of, I mean, here here this precious commodity this conscious awareness, is is being wasted on something is boring as a sensation of the breath going in and out. You know, so all these different processes say.

This is my chance. You know? So so now you see what's going on and you realize that the call of your nearby has to go deeper and deeper and deeper You know, if you've called the surface, but now by calling the surface unit become aware of all the turmoil and beneath the surface. So the call needs to to continue to deepen in. I could see how propelled through each day. How rich? How... This is all these things Under know the surface are propelling you through each day. There you are. Yeah. Absolutely.

Yeah. I'm glad you can see that It starts to answer the question. What? Why am i the way I am? You know And then when you start to see some of the things that are propelling you, you know, and, you know, your reaction is my goodness that should've have been done with what I was ten years old.

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