I am re-reading The Mind Illuminated again in order to reinvigorate my practice for the new year. I really needed to hear this passage again and actually listened to it about ten times in a row to really get it:
"Awakening from our habitual way of perceiving things. how we understand things requires a profound shift in our intuitive understanding of the nature of reality. Awakening is a cognitive event. the culminating insight in a series of very special insights called vipassana. This climax of the progress of insight only occurs when the mind is in a unique mental state called samatha. Samatha and vippassana are both generated by stable attention (samadi) and mindfulness (sati). Although it is possible to cultivate either samatha or vipassana independently of one another, both are necessary for awakening.
Samatha has five characteristics:
"The complete state of samatha results from working with stable attention and mindfulness until joy emerges. Joy then gradually matures into tranquility, and equanimity arises out of that tranquility. A mind in samatha is the ideal instrument for achieving insight."
These are the definitions provided by John Yates:
This was a great reminder of the steps necessary to progress to awakening. I have been focused on samadhi for a couple years now and less focused on sati. I will adjust my practice to cultivate samatha by combining sati and samadhi.
I love this time of year. People slow down and spend time with each other. We like to get together with family in different places every year and enjoy good food, conversation and sports. This year we spent our time in Newport Beach, hanging out right on the beach. It is fantastic. We have a volleyball court right in front of us, a pretty good surf break, and beautiful sunsets every night.
I watched the kids play with their cousins, learning quickly, and creating joy. It is a beautiful thing to see. They are in flow states when playing on the sand, wheeling around, running, throwing, and diving. Kind of like a kite in the wind. I have been reading "Mapping Cloud Nine" which brings together psychology (back to William James) to neuroscience, psychedelics, and meditation. The book describes how humans have described "flow" states throughout history. He references "Altered Traits" regarding meditation and neuro-plasticity. Meditation produces permanent changes to the brain. Even a small number of hours of compassion meditation are enough to change emotional response and focus. There is a cool concept in there about flow states reducing pre-frontal lobe activity, which contributes to a loss of self. This is similar to the loss of self that meditation and psychedelics can cause and brings together a couple hundred years of research into a cohesive journey.
Eric is a traveller, hacker, and experimenter who is currently researching how to become a happier, calmer, and more compassionate human being.