This past Sunday, Jeffrey presented the 10 Stages of Meditation by Culadasa, a particular path of practice designed to foster insights and Awakening [complete detachment from “Self”].  Jeffrey provided a brief overview of Culadasa’s stages and guided the discussion to the idea of stages in general. How do people feel about progressive stages? Is this model useful for householders who practice on our own, often without one specific teacher or group of adepts to guide us? Is it useful to identify signposts and milestones on “the way”? Is there a downside to this approach?

A few members were already, or interested in starting, working with Culdasa’s Stages. We agreed to check in about July, and October, to assess the value of his approach.

Audio clips from:

Meditation Intro: Training the Mind (I used audio from 7:40 – 9:35)

Intro to 10 Stages of Meditation ~ CULADASA with Stephanie Nash

Mastery of Stages ~ CULADASA with Stephanie Nash

Culadasa on the way to practice with the Ten Stages (starts about 12:30 mark)

Video of Robert Wright & Bhikkhu Bodhi [The Wright Show] in which, about 12:30 into the video, that Robert Wright asks Bhikkhu Bodhi if he has attained liberation.

Sources for the Overview:

How to Master the Art of Meditation: A Complete Guide to the 10 Stages of Meditative Development BY CULADASA (JOHN YATES Ph.D.)

Progressive Stages of Meditation in Plain English – Culadasa

The Mind Illuminated – Culadasa

An interesting annotated reading list


Based on her recent retreat at the IMS, this past Sunday Margaret shared some of Christina Feldman’s reflections on karma, within the Buddhist framework.  (Recall that karma appears as the fifth of the five recollections: ) Karma simply means actions. The focus of the reflections was karma as ethical choices in the present;  karma as contribution, not retribution. 

Practice and Community

This Sunday Ginny guided our reflections, focusing on practice as the ground for, and source of our capacity to be present to and show up for the fullness of life in community.  As James Baldwin said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Sources of Wisdom and Resilience

This past Sunday, Zac guided our explorations of the fundamentals of practice that we can return to as a sources of wisdom, guidance, and resilience in the many conditions we find ourselves in.

Here are the three talks of which Zac played excerpts:

Connecting and Clowning

This week we had a more active Sangha. Sojun guided us to practice an connection and awareness exercise derived from the Clowning tradition and viewed through the lens of Zen. We explored what it was like to fail and what that failure meant, and then how it felt to be held in community even in failure.

Communicating Mindfully

This week, Joey led our Sangha on the topic of mindful communication, using different strategies and practices to improve our interaction with the world.

She played excerpts from three talks, available from the links below.

Will Johnson, The Posture of Meditation; Breathing through the Whole Body: The Buddha’s Instructions on Integrating Mind, Body and Breath

Oren Jay Sofer, Say What You Mean: A Mindful Approach to Nonviolent Communication

Ruth King, Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out

Strong Emotions and Grief

The challenge with difficult emotions is that we don’t want to feel them. During this week’s Sangha, Payton guided the discussion around how we experience and relate to strong emotions like grief, deep sadness, anger, and fear. Buddhism is often characterized as a way to become healed from difficult emotional states, yet perhaps some difficult emotional states are the direct result of having an open heart. How are we to make sense of this?

Payton played a talk by Shaila Catherine on using the body to work with difficult mental states. It is available here:

He also played excerpts from a talk on working with grief, by Matthew Brensilver, available here:


Entanglement, or knotted-ness, is a metaphor often used in the consideration of dependent origination. This week, Sam led our Sangha discussion following excerpts from talks on this topic by Sharon Salzberg and Christina Feldman.

Here is the full talk “Happiness And Mindfulness” by Christina Feldman (1995):

Here is the talk “Disentangling” by Sharon Salzberg (1983):

Sam read a short quote from “Beyond Buddhism” by Stephen Batchelor and the following quote from the Long Discourses of the Buddha #15:

This dependent origination is deep and appears deep. It is because of not understanding and not penetrating this teaching that [people] become tangled like string, knotted like a ball of thread, and matted like rushes and reeds, and it doesn’t escape the places of loss, the bad places, the underworld, transmigration.

How does the mass of suffering originate? Name and form are conditions for consciousness. Consciousness is a condition for name and form. Name and form are conditions for contact. Contact is a condition for feeling. Feeling is a condition for craving. Craving is a condition for grasping. Grasping is a condition for continued existence. Continued existence is a condition for rebirth. Rebirth is a condition for old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress to come to be. That is how this entire mass of suffering originates.

So it is, Ānanda, that feeling is a cause of craving. Craving is a cause of seeking. Seeking is a cause of gaining material possessions. Gaining material possessions is a cause of assessing. Assessing is a cause of desire and lust. Desire and lust is a cause of attachment. Attachment is a cause of possessiveness. Possessiveness is a cause of stinginess. Stinginess is a cause of safeguarding. Owing to safeguarding, many bad, unskillful things come to be: taking up the rod and the sword, quarrels, arguments, and fights, accusations, divisive speech, and lies.

Extending and Maturing Mindfulness

Most of us were introduced to meditation through paying attention to breath, sounds, or sensations, as ways to calm our unruly minds.  While these provide an excellent point of departure, even the early Buddhist teachings recommend that as we gain a foothold in meditation, we learn how to extend and augment our practice, both deepening it and integrating it into our lives. 

Michael guided our reflections this past Sunday, as we explored these ancient yet fresh ways of extending and developing our practice.