Master Culadasa defines introspective awareness as knowing 1) what is going on in the mind, 2) Why it is going on, and 3) If it is supposed to be going on. Introspective awareness is a subclass of mindful awareness. He further explains in detail how it is developed to a student at the 4th meditation stage.
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Student: [00:00:00] How does one develop introspective awareness?
Culadasa: First of all, one practices being fully consciously aware as much as you can.
Student: And then what does that practice looks like?
Culadasa: Okay. What that practice looks like is when you're observing your breath seat, totally present with it of the breath. Um, recognizing. Uh, it's not a good idea to get too absorbed with the breath before your mind has reached a certain stage in the training, because at that point, your mind will be very vulnerable to be being hijacked by some other idea, or a fiber sensation that comes along or by dolphins recognizing that, then you'd be fully present with the breath and be fully present with what else is going on in your main mind at the same time.
So I'm sitting here writing Ray brown, you know, there's the beginning and the middle of the air. There's a sensation that make it out. But I'm also aware, you know, the occasional sound that penetrates into my awareness, occasional bodily sensation, like the back of my neck, starting date a little bit, and every now and then it gets through.
So I know these things are there. I have these spots, like, what the hell am I doing this for? And I notice when that. And I leave them in the background. Cause I'm staying present with the graph, but
Student: things, how do
Culadasa: I do that? Well, it's, uh, you just know what you're trying to do and then you practice doing it.
So like, you know, you look at my hands, they'll see my face
Student: and vice versa. Yeah,
Culadasa: you can't have, you can look at me and still be. Not in focus, but of Nancy and Alegra and all your minds, the same way, your attention can be focused on one object and it can try to do so to the exclusion of everything else or while being quite focused on it.
It can also take in other things and it can take in either more or less of the other things now.
Student: So. I haven't experienced with introspective awareness. Find like where, where, um, my breath I'm focused on my breath, but it's out here. So usually my breath is like, in terms of my awareness, it's like narrow.
And so all of a sudden, I won't see the thing that's coming. That's displaced it and there'll be something else there. And, and, you know, I, and then the breath will come back in and w you know, I don't have, I never knew I wasn't on the breath, you know, that kind of stuff. But in this. This, um, experience my breath was out here.
It was like, this is introspective awareness. Cause I could see everything. It's like the thoughts would, I could see them over there. It's like, I go, this is how it would be. It'll be really easy. But how do you know? So that my question is that just a spontaneously lasted a half hour and then the next, you know, it's like, okay,
Culadasa: that's really good.
That's really good. It's not quite introspective, but we're getting there. It is, you know, it is rather than. And I
Student: could, like, I could see the whole, I had the whole, you know, the whole room. It was like, wow, look, I can have my breath. And I'm aware of everything, you know, the wind and the birds and whatever, all at the same time, which was really kind of like, this is easy.
I could do this all day.
Culadasa: So that's, that's, that's really, that's a really good experience and you can work with us. They get this a lot clear. Now what Ana described that is. To different degrees of how tightly focused you are on the graph and what is so tightly focused on the graph that you're watching.
Student: I don't even feel like I'm on the bread part. You know, it's like I keep grinding get closer and closer because cause I, I, you know, realize last four months, it's like, I ha I can't make introspective awareness happened. Cause when I go out to look, okay, well,
Culadasa: like I say, we, that's not quite introspective when you're getting close to it.
We have really, really, really. Uh, so, but that's, that's the zoom in zoom out that has to do with the, the scope of where the, how tightly focused or you back off a little bit less tightly focused and largely taken apart. And it's like the beam of a flashlight. You can turn it one way and it's just, everything else is in the dark hours, as they want a little spiral way different, the other way.
Kind of lit up, but nothing's really greatly that,
Student: well, my experience was, I was, it could be, I was tightly on the breath, but it was just an, you know, there was a certain level of spaciousness
Culadasa: right now. What happens is you get back to the power of mindful awareness. [00:05:00] When you, when you're mindful awareness is not very strong.
It's like the weak flashlight beam. And if you spread the beam and, uh, You can see a whole lot more. Not very clearly you tighten it down, you can see one thing more or less, more or less clearly, but now we double or triple the wattage of a light bulb in your flashlight. Now you spread the beam and you see all of this.
This is real as we used to be able to see on this little spot. Right? So as the power of your mindful awareness increases, you have the ability. Taking a lot more with a lot higher. Your awareness is still remain focused and right in the middle of that field is that's where the most intense awareness is going to be.
You know, the further you get from here then the first year to get now, I give you the classical definition of introspective awareness that the term. Translate is introspective awareness. Uh, Safi is the word that, uh, that means that fully conscious awareness or mindful awareness, uh
is, is the Salway term. That means. Okay. This introspective awareness. So you go from Saturday to Sunday, someplace, and that definition and poly of some pugs enough is knowing exactly what's going on, why it's going on and whether it's supposed to be what's going on in your mind. So, uh, so as you're, you know, you can be very, very tightly focused and, you know, I am totally focused because zero then as closely as I can.
And, uh, and that either is, or is not what I intend to be happening, that's supposed to know,
but it's rather hard to have some. When you're tightly focused until you practice for awhile, soundbitey is really good. It doesn't matter whether they focus a little focused, they can handle a lot of introspective and have a lot of supplies in there, but you see it's some positive that makes you aware that, okay, I'm focused on the breath and this thought just keeps living bigger and bigger.
Knowing what's happening, why it's happening a field, my attention, keeping pulled over like this over the thing. And it's some project. If, if this thought comes in and now, you know, the breadth has kind of slipped into the background, some knows what tells you that, oh, this isn't what I intend to be happening.
Let's switch it back. This is introspective awareness is going beyond just, not only now. Not only seeing the graph and being aware of the other things you've ever owned, but it's knowing the relationship, the mind to what's actually happening.
Student: How do I get that?
Student: you know, is there anything I can, I mean, cause when we first start the instruction, it's all about, you know, just keep you come back to the breath and eventually you're training the mind to stay on, you know, so, but I, I, I'm not sure.
Culadasa: Yeah. I mean earlier on the only time you'd have introspective awareness, is those times when you either spontaneously become aware that of what's happening or when you deliberately kind of check in.
Feels very much like you're abandoning the meditation object for a moment while you check in to see where your mind is that,
but now as your, as your conscious awareness becomes more powerful because you've been training it. And you've been trying to allow yourself to remain focused on one thing while. Shouting out these other things don't begin by trying to take in everything it was pointed out, but just don't, don't get sucked down to the point that you lose everything else.
And this, this will, this will cause the, your mindful awareness to increase those times when you do focus in on the ground. And you're trying to notice, you know, your mind is stable, so you can afford to do that. Yeah, the distractions aren't pulling you here and there. You're not about the [00:10:00] synchrony developments that you're going to afford to get really close on the sensations in your graph.
Then notice that, you know, where I was about 40 from stages, my net breath goes through every single time. You know, that kind of thing, that exercise increases the power of your mind for. But so does backing off from that a little bit and being still focused on the graph, but being aware of this is what feelings, what I'm hearing.
These are the thoughts that are kind of coming and going back in my mind. So these are both increasing the power of your mindful awareness and as it becomes more powerful and it gets easier and easier to, to, uh, to take. What is going on in a way that doesn't leave you so vulnerable to being overcome by a sudden thought or emotion arises.
And this by itself begins to involve more and more introspective awareness because you, you know, you know, when the mind is starting to vacillate, when, you know, when the clarity of the meditation. Starting to be wise, the scattering, you know, when a particular, uh, distraction is a truly strong distraction has the potential to disturb you and a knowing of course, I don't need to say, you'd say as a result of knowing that, that you do something about it, we're really what's in fact, happening so long as you have the intention to meditate product.
As soon as that knowing arises your mind is spontaneously going to make an appropriate correction. It's going to be re re centered focus on the meditation object or brighten up a level of observation,
Student: not hearing a method for developing introspective awareness. I'm hearing all the things we do during meditation, which. The same thing. That's what I'm cutting. My question was kind of like, well, is it not something I can really go after? And then I was thinking about the, um, so when I'm meditating, I know when I'm not really, when I'm not able to focus well, so that's a certain level of introspective awareness.
It's like, I know when it's like, okay, like when, you know, it's like, wow, you know, like count the first 10. Yeah. Well, look, I'm really on it today, you know, which I don't seem to have any control over whether I'm really on it or not. It's interesting because I'm becoming aware of, if I'm honest, there's some edges, I guess like a thought will come in.
I won't be aware that the thought came in because I think I'm still on my breath and my breath will actually I'll become agitated because part of me, I I'm assuming part of me knows that I want to be on my breath. Hey, you're not thinking something. And I'm agitated because. Um, I'll actually start breathing heavier until my, you know, my breath tries to break through.
And so it's like, okay. So then I guess that is a level of introspective awareness, but it's just not, I don't have any control. It's like, I'm aware that it's changed. So there's a process that's helping me stay on concentrated and I'm aware of that process, but I don't feel like I don't have that, like that spaciousness where I could actually, you know what, you just.
CFO and see it's getting stronger. And in fact, what I'm noticing is that I think, like there was a situation where I got up and I was done meditating. I got up and I was walking back to the trailer and I had a thought and I realized, I just thought something I'm going to, when did I think that? And I realized, I had thought this thought, you know, little thought back when I was meditating, it's like, well, I remembered, I thought it was when I was meditating, but when I was medicating, I don't, I didn't.
I remember thinking it, I wasn't aware that I had thought so as I was trying to figure out like, well, where's my expected, but where I could keep the thought, remember it later and not be aware. I had thought during meditation at all, I'm like, I didn't remember thinking that at all. And so I was, I'm wondering if, um, yeah, if you have any what's going on there when I'm thinking, and I don't know, I'm thinking, but it's, it must've been strong enough to remember that I had had that.
Culadasa: Yeah, well, we, you said edges and that's probably, you can see even while you're not, well, if we just look at the nature of thoughts that are in the periphery of your awareness, you know,
Student: um, so is that one of those thoughts? I didn't think, I thought it had to be a gross distraction. Complete kind of thoughts are in the periphery of your range all the way through.
Culadasa: can actually have thoughts [00:15:00] that you think all the way. That aren't even within the field of your awareness at all, but suddenly the result of that thought will pop into your mind, or when did I ever figure that out? So there,
Student: because it's shifting. Cause I keep trying to figure out, do I have the object primarily there?
And, and so that makes means I was actually mostly on the breath when that thought was happening. And so I think there's a lot of that going on where I'm mostly on the breath. Yeah, and the thoughts are, but I was because they were complete thoughts. I didn't, I thought they were in center stage. So that's kind of what
Culadasa: those thoughts can complete themselves without having to be in center stage, have those thoughts and complete ourselves, even when you're not aware of them at all.
Student: Remember them later,
Culadasa: there's so much going on in your head. Conscious awareness is oblivious to, uh, but it, but it often pops up later and sometimes it registers and sometimes it doesn't, but yeah, introspective awareness is, is the degree to which, you know, what's going on in your mind and it will increase and you'll experience that, you know, a lot more of what's going on in your mind that.
You had previously been used to and, you know, that's, that's really good thing, but
any time, you know, what's actually going on, that's introspective around anytime, you know, what's actually happening or the tendency of your mind to move in one direction. Right. That's an introspective awareness. So there's a distinction between knowing about a thought and knowing that you know about a thought, see,
Student: okay, they're both introspective awareness though.
Culadasa: Well, knowing about a thought is not so much introspective or knowing FOD is not so much introspective awareness and knowing that you. That's right. And knowing that the mind is Dole, when you said Sundays, you know, your mind is one way. And, uh, the times that we usually need more introspective awareness and we lose it is, is that we know our mind is clear today.
And so. We're not so vigilant. And we ceased and I learned, I was no longer clear until all of a sudden it's like, oh wow. How did I get to here? I started off so well
Student: in terms of supporting introspective awareness or deteriorating from it, I'm trying to figure out how much. My thing is really trying to grasp hold of that object and hang on because I'm still, you know, working with distractions and now I've got these thoughts that go on by themselves.
Um, I don't know. Sometimes it feels like I can put a lot of effort into that and some I'm not, I'm not sure if that's beneficial mean I don't, you know, like there's gotta be a balance somewhere, but if I completely let it go, I don't, then I'm. If I let my mind do whatever it wants,
it's like, okay. I, I, you know, kind of casually go back or, you know, just, it seems like there's a certain level of like where I can be tenacious with it, with the breath anyway, the object. And then I was wondering, well, is that deteriorating from introspective awareness? If I'm too, I mean, I'm not that focused anyway, but yeah.
So it's like, I don't think I'm just hearing from my perspective where just by trying to hang on to. No it was, but
Culadasa: hang on. And then once you're hanging on, see if you instill hang on, but without shutting everything else out, including, especially knowing, knowing what's happening with your mind,
that that is how you practice it, but you're focused on you. And, you know, we can, and it's not us. It's not like a static thing. It's not like I focused on it and I grabbing it so tight and it was not going to let go, and I'm not going to move an entry or anything like that, but it's like, hold onto it. And I was there and hold it close.
And who farther back, I can be aware of less. I can be aware more. I think, you know, but each tried it can't hold on for that, with all those things you do. I can be aware of this and my mind [00:20:00] being aware of this, I can be aware of this by myself. And you just be aware of my mind. I started to lose this. I can grab it back.
That's a lot less boring than just sitting there trying to hold onto your graph. It becomes a lot more interesting.