This is a blog about the (mostly Buddhist) methods of self-examination and self-management that are collectively known as [mental or spiritual] cultivation (bhavanā). I had intended to publish these pages under the title, “Mindfields,” which suggested to me the several vantage points from which consciousness can attempt to view itself, and the variety of maps of the territory that can be drawn from the perspectives of religious tradition, cognitive psychology, philosophy, and neuroscience respectively. The word is attractive also because of its similarity to “minefields.” Any investigation of the related topics of mind, self, and the origins of experience is fraught with dangers. Over decades of practice and reflection, I have come to believe that we “meditators” do not know nearly as much about our arts as we think we do. In these pages I will explore the reasons for that shortfall and related defects in understanding and pedagogy. As it turned out, “Mindfields” was adopted by the authors of at least a dozen other blogs and websites.
I envision the content of these pages as a prolonged meditation on “meditation,” a turning and returning of the eyes of thought upon the processes of stilling the waves of thought—θεωρία, respectful appreciation, and contemplatio, the clearing of an empty space in which the mind can stretch itself out before the altar of the mind.
Trained in time-honored methods in traditional ways, I had the good fortune to meet a few teachers who were not afraid to challenge received knowledge and offer alternative interpretations of basic texts. They know who they are, and cannot be held responsible in the least for the limitations of my thinking.