Q&A: What is the Space Between Thoughts?
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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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?