Can emotions be experienced neutrally like a pain in the knee? Should they?
This post describes a rather sophisticated 3-step approach to teach the level of "One Taste" in Buddhist meditation. It is part of the Pointing Out the Great Way method, developed by the deceased Daniel P Brown. It was implemented in his Level 1 Retreats which currently (April 2022) are sadly no longer offered.
Starting from the rocks
Many years ago I read "One Taste" by Ken Wilber. That is a diary type of book, one of the readable Ken Wilber works. It fascinated me, although I had no clue about what he was speaking when he described his meditative experiences. I had had none at the time, so how could I other than conceptualize?
The one thing I remember most intensely are his somewhat humorous impersonations of hypothetical verbalizations of consciousness at different levels of development (in Wilber 1999, chapter "Anamnesis, or the psychoanalysis of God").
It goes "from mineral to plant to animal, from magic to mythic to supramental, from body to ego to soul to Emptiness to radical One Taste" (p. 143)
They started from where god starts (the consciousness) of rock and ended with an evolved human´s consciousness.
Here is a verbalisation of rock consciousness. Pretty simple.
Push pull crash...push pull crash...push pull crash...push pull crash...push pull crash...push pull crash...push pull crash...push pull crash...push pull crash...push pull crash...push pull crash...push pull crash...push pull crash...push pull crash...push pull crash...push pull crash...push pull crash...push pull crash...push pull crash...push pull crash...push pull crash... (Wilber 1999, p142)
A conscious rock? Why not? Some years after this work, Donald Hoffman came out with his book "The Case Against Reality", where he posits that consciousness (not necessarily awareness) is present at the level of the individual atom. Just a bit simpler. And, Donald Hoffman is a mathematician and converses with the Dalai Lama.
Anyway, that is why I already had at least a conceptual idea what "One Taste" might be when I attended my first Mahamudra retreat.
In short, "One Taste" corresponds to a stage, where whatever mental event arises and passes, it is seen/experienced as having the same "substance" as every other event. This substance is its nature as appearance in consciousness.
For example, a feeling of frustration is like a pain in the knee: an appearance in consciousness. In a somewhat horrifying example, love could have the same taste as hate. There is a kind of neutralisation, a lack of reactivity, or a "holy indifference" (Rob Burbea). A loss of the Self with its attractions and aversions.
Both love and hate - like everything else such as boredom, hunger, the memory of this morning´s breakfast, the fleeting thought of today´s pending yearly performance appraisal are of One Taste - all is emerging, arising in the same way from the ground of awareness as its manifestation. Or, as Sam Harris likes to say, it is a modification or articulation or perturbation of consciousness.
Some people actually experience this as an ontological shock, as loss of life energy, and need therapeutical assistance to recover love to their family. Ok, this is a particularly gruesome extreme example of what some people may call "The Dark Night of the Soul". Some people such as the meditation teachers Culadasa, Shinzen Young and Michael Taft find this idea anything from ridiculous to a toxic meme. They say that it has erroneously been transplanted from Christian Centering Prayer to Buddhism.
One Taste, where one experiences many things in a more neutral way, is a conceptually a pretty advanced level of meditation. Even if a 6-day retreat was sufficient to evoke it on the fifth day, at least, a glimpse of it. A taste of One Taste.
Levels of One Taste
So, today I learned that "One Taste" in the "Pointing out the Great Way" method has three levels: Ocean-Wave, Automatic Emptiness; and Non-Meditation.
So, this is about Buddhist refinement.... I have linked a separate blog entry to each.
The first level of One Tastehappening overall is ocean waves practice.. The second level is what we call this practice automatic emptiness. And a third is moving into non-meditation (DiPerna 2022)
Here they are. The links are to my own posts about the topic.
One Taste Level
Description of the experience
This is the view where you take on the perceptual position of BEING the ocean watching its own waves.
This is where you are in a view where all mental events are recognised (sealed) as "empty" (ie as a construct, a fabrication, an appearance) as soon as they arise. At this very point of arising, they are recognised as such and "automatically" dissolve, without "grabbing" the mind into reactivity.
This is the level where you have stopped using ANY (or nearly any) meditative strategies or tactics, eg to make things happen or prevent them from happenin
Wilber again: god consciousness of radical One Taste
To round this off: Wilber starts his description of radical One Taste consciousness like this:
Around the sea of Emptiness, a faint edge of bliss.
From the sea of Emptiness, a flicker of compassion.
Subtle illuminations fill the sea of awareness,
as radiant forms coalesce in consciousness.
A world is taking shape,
A universe is being born,
I-I breathe out the sublest pattern,
which crystalise into empty forms...."
(Wilber 1999, p. 150f)
Btw it´s worth reading Wilber´s description of the Emptiness stage. It is quite psychedelic.
Blaschke, B. A. (2017). Consciousness of god as god is: Phenomenology of Christian Centering Prayer. XXX. Retrieved March 31, 2023, from https://www.google.de/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10063/6608/thesis_access.pdf%3Fsequence%3D1&ved=2ahUKEwjX6-OVu4T-AhWWT6QEHTWdCwEQFnoECAgQAQ&usg=AOvVaw1XSS6sXYbd31t0uAaIbHUL
Burbea, R. (2015). Seeing That Frees: Meditations on Emptiness and Dependent Arising (English Edition). Hermes Amāra. https://www.amazon.de/dp/B00SI7PQD8
This book is praised by Michael Taft, one of the best contemporary teachers, in is "Best meditation books of 2020"
Culasasa (John Yates), [Culadasa]. (2021, January 29). Culadasa discusses meditation and the ‘Dark Night’: What it is, what it isn’t, and how to avoid it [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved 14 September 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjBXtI1Q2as&feature=youtu.be
Diperna 2022.09.14, D. (n.d.). Pointing Out the Great Way Living Meditation 2022.09.14 Dusting di Perna.
Gebel, T. (2023f, March 3). Articulation, modification, perturbation of consciousness - Sam Harris Daily Meditation 2022.11.05. Till Gebel. https://www.till-gebel.com/post/sam-harris-daily-meditation-2022-11-05-articulation-of-consciousness
Hoffman, D. (2020). The Case Against Reality: How Evolution Hid the Truth from Our Eyes. In No Title. Penguin.
Wilber, K. (1999, January 19). One Taste (1st ed.). Shambhala. https://www.amazon.de/One-Taste-Reflections-Integral-Spirituality/dp/1570625476