Last night in my class, we spent time playing with the State I referred to as “Mind of Moon” in my last blog post. What was interesting was that we discovered more about the various Stages through which Mind of Moon progresses and how it is experienced differently by different students. Earlier I offered the possibility that Mind of Moon was a gross State, like waking, because it involves interacting with the waking world, and well, because you do it while you are awake! It is not something that is done necessarily during meditation, and certainly not during sleep. Nevertheless, this State has a progression.
I don’t know exactly yet how to map these Stages to any kind of Graves, Keegan, or Gebsner-named Stages, but here are the Stages I see with Mind of Moon:
Stage 1 – Gross Vision – The student interprets Mind of Moon simply as peripheral vision. Now, peripheral vision has some scientific and physical constraints. In order to see, light must hit your retinae and activate rods and cones which are photoreceptors connected to the two optic nerves that go to your brain where the pictures are made. A region on your retina where the photoreceptors are most concentrated is called the fovea. You instinctively line up your vision so the light hits the fovea because that produces the most detail in what you are seeing. The other parts of your retina have fewer receptors than the fovea so the parts of your vision outside this spot are less detailed. Thus, biologically, your vision is indeed less detailed in your periphery. You can pick out motion and shape, but that’s about it. Reading detail outside of the fovea is difficult, if not impossible as you get farther away from it.
Stage 2 – More Detailed Vision – At this Stage, the student is able to see more detail in the periphery while in Mind of Moon. It’s not that there’s any defiance of the laws of Biology or Physics. Rather, it is that the student learns how to tolerate the blurry vision in the periphery and read it more accurately. I will use myself as an analogy. Without contact lenses, my vision is probably somewhere around 20/500. In other words, I would have to hold this text about 5 inches from my nose in order to see it clearly enough to read it. So, you may guess that when I walk around without my contact lenses, I see the world as one big blur, and that’s mostly true, except that after doing this for 30+ years, I start to understand what certain blurs are, and I can accurately identify blurry objects because I’ve seen them often. Walking around the room, even if I’ve never been there before, is not a problem. Pretty much every near-sighted person reading this knows what I am saying.
So it goes with this Stage of Mind of Moon. The fovea is the only place registering clear objects, but the student learns to identify more accurately what the blurry objects on the periphery are. The brain interprets this as seeing in a more detailed fashion.
Stage 3 – The Other Senses – Eventually the student learns that “taking everything in” means more than just looking at all of it. When standing in a room or in a field, what does it smell like? How does the ground feel beneath your feet? How do the little currents of air moving between your fingers feel? What sounds are there around you? Until now, looking at everything was a big mental exercise, but after that becomes second nature the student is able to put the vision stuff on autopilot and branch out with the senses.
Stage 4 – Gaining Interiority – Until this Stage, Mind of Moon is just an exterior thing. All focus is on what’s happening outside of the body, and it’s really all the student can do to keep track of that with the mind. It’s quite taxing in the beginning. However, eventually it does become natural. As soon as the instructor calls out “Kiotske!!”, and the students move to attention, BAM! Mind of Moon. There’s no thought. It just happens, and from that point all the techniques during that hour or so of class are executed that way. Eventually, the student begins to incorporate internal messages into Mind of Moon. How am I feeling? Do I like this place? What does this place feel like?
Every place we go throughout the day and throughout our lives has a certain feeling or “vibe” to it, as some would say. Most of the time, people ignore this sense, but it is there. You have an emotional opinion of where you are, whether you tap into it or not. It can be very subtle, but it does produce a physical effect. Incorporating this physical gut feeling into the rest of the information you get from Mind of Moon is what happens at this Stage.
Stage 5 – Awareness – Ken Wilber once did a great podcast of “The Five Reasons Why You Are Not Enlightened”. In that podcast, and in some of his books, he speaks of flipping the perspective of awareness. Instead of you being aware of X or whatever, you realize that X is within your awareness. You are in a room right now as you read this, most likely… or maybe in a car, but I hope you aren’t driving! In either case, you are not aware of the room. The room is within your awareness. The “You” that is being aware is not your body or your mind. It is that thing that encompasses everything that can be encompassed, i.e. everything in your awareness. At this Stage, the student realizes that Mind of Moon is awareness. It is about being aware of that thing that is aware, and how it simply envelops all the things within it, as it.
As part of the curriculum I teach, I have people practice this quite often. It is one of the main exercises I give them outside of class: be in Mind of Moon while you drive your car or walk to school. See everything, your windshield, side and rear-view mirrors, your speedometer, your hands on the wheel. It’s not easy! After a few years of practice, the students gain a lot of detail in what they can see, but it takes a while!