Meditation: The Royal Road to the Unconscious, by Michael Washburn.  (Google doc).


(I have used this chapter in one of my transpersonal psych classes; Washburn offers an interesting Jungian/Wilberian psychological take on the process and "psychomechanics" of meditation.)


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Thanks, I'll check this out. As you know I too have used Washburn in my own notions on what happens in meditation.

For now a quick comment of appreciation for Jung's discussion of active imagination, which is why I sometimes play the tarot card meditation game. Also note that images are rooted in the protoself and further developed in the core self, both grounded in the brain stem according to Damasio. And I'm making an educated guess that they are directly related to the basic image schemata of cognitive linguistics.

I like the following from the article:

"Jung is correct in saying that meditation is an exercise of the conscious ego." It does so by using unmoving or unmediated attention to decrease its hold on consciousness and open to the unconscious via an "undoing" (159-60).

In light of the recent Damasio posts we might further clarify that the narrative self (rational ego) works to descend back to the core and proto selves (body ego?) So that upon return to the rational ego it might then perhaps be better able to more fully integrate its forerunners, which were to some extent repressed during the infancy of the rational ego with its dualistic metaphysics. Hence, the integral centaur. Or as I prefer for imagery, Cthulhu, dipping into the depths and horrors of our ancient origins (dark shadows), bringing them to the well lit surface for use and conscious guidance, thereby transmuting them into the Golden elixir of the alchemists. Ok dude, easy on the metaphors...I need a tarot card free association...

Said meditation is in this post. Funny the synchronous relevance...

Cross-posting this from the Levin thread, of direct relevance here.

In Washburn's discussion of the personal embedded and submerged unconscious, he thinks the latter's content can be uncovered by meditation. Here not only Wilber but Kornfield* disagree, since it requires something more, like psychotherapy, to get at this. Wilber is infamous with his Buddha meets Freud metaphor, and how meditators often are completely clueless as to their psychodynamic hangups. Hence shadow work is part of any ITP. Granted the 3-2-1 shadow work as is seems rather shallow and it's debatable just how much it really gets below the surface, since such work takes a lot of time and effort like meditation. But it's a start.

* See his fine essay on the topic here.

I like how he notes that RM gets at the embedded and submerged unconscious directly, whereas CM not so. He posits that CM might do so as one comes out of the meditation on their way back 'up.' I wonder about that. I also wonder if we might make an analogy between the rangtong/shentong and RM/CM? I'm thinking of the difference between vipassana, which comes from Theravada, whereas more concentrative focus seems to be in the more Yogic traditions of most Tibetan sects. Granted the latter might not be exclusive to it but it does seem predominant. This will require further research.

I can only report for now on personal experience. I practiced t'ai chi ch'uan seriously for a length of time and it was most definitely concentrated on the specifics of movement to the exclusion of all extraneous thought/feeling. Rarely did subconscious stuff arise when I was truly focused and 'one' with my 'object.' Whereas when I do Vipassana all sorts of subconscious processes bubble right up to the surface. I think that has helped me immensely in becoming aware of my programming. But many hours of psychotherapy gave me tools to change what I could, accept what I couldn't, and wisdom to know the difference.

I share both your appreciation of, and your questions about, his description.  I have done both RM and CM at different times, in intensive bouts, and while I can relate to his description of submerged content  and structures surfacing through RM, I don't recall coming across such content very often when coming out of CM.  Perhaps this is because I've used CM (specifically, a-khrid meditation) less frequently and have only gotten as far as the dhyana stage, never reaching samadhi yet through a-khrid, but that doesn't seem likely.  I've wondered if this part of his model is just an artifact of his drive for theoretical neatness.

I think Wilber and Kornfield do have a good point; there may be aspects of shadow and other unconscious material that will not be apparent to such an introspective gaze.  What surfaces may have 'more' to it than what is immediately apparent to conscious awareness.  But from my experience, it's also clear that obscured and forgotten material does sometimes manifest vividly and powerfully in the context of a meditation session (more often, for me, on extended retreats).

Here are some excerpts from the site of Chanmyay Yeiktha Meditation Center. I haven't a clue as to their lineage or authority, but it is relevant to the above.

"But a meditator who practices samatha and attains this state of the concentrated mind cannot realise bodily and mental processes in their true nature. Because the Samatha meditator is not able to realise the appearance and disappearance of mental and physical phenomena, he cannot destroy any of the defilements.... Samatha meditation alone cannot destroy any of the defilements even though there is deep concentration. We have to practice vipassana."

Perhaps Washburn is suggesting that a mindfulness-type of practice is possible as one comes out of deep, one-pointed concentration, and that may be, but I'm not aware of much literature out there that supports his account of CM (as a method to clear the unconscious).

Thinking about the use of both RM and CM for these purposes, I am recalling a practice I used to work with years ago that I periodically think about taking up again.  It is called retracing, and is a practice developed by a Western Buddhist and scholar while living and practicing as a monk at a Thai forest monastery, I believe.  The practice involves 1) the development of shamatha, 2) following the breath and noting thoughts or images as they arise (basic mindfulness), and then 3) not simply returning back to the breath or other object of focus when you note the content that arises, but tracing the thought or train of thought back to the point where the focus was initially lost.  This last part is the innovation, and he has several stages he recommends for retracing, such as noting the associative links and triggers that underlie the train of thought and the twists and turns it might take, tracking in several channels at once (body, imaginal cognition, verbal cognition, emotion, etc), running the chain of thought forwards and backwards (replaying it in both directions and at multiple speeds) to note how associations progress (usually towards greater and greater emotional charges), etc.  This practice seems to combine CM and RM at once, since concentration is needed to hold, retrace, and attend to the thought trains under investigation.  Vipassana relies upon shamatha, too, of course, but frequently the concentration is just on a simple object such as the breath; here, the concentration required is more active or demanding.  I mention it here because I think it is rather consonant with the psychodynamic ends and aims Washburn recommends.

Since we mentioned Washburn recently in another thread I re-read this one. Which reminds me of Epstein and the old Gaia thread Buddhism and psychoanalysis. I remembered some of it in this post and following, where CM is more apt to the ego ideal and RM more toward the synthetic ego, which is consistent with our comments above. I also noted that the CM methods are more likely to retain a metaphysical bent due to the ego ideal, and hence a one possible explanation for the Lingam's Causal interpretation. That also fits with Layman's notion about 'becoming one' with It (the universe, Reality, whatever).

Also see this post and following. A few edited excerpts:

"Thus, mindfulness is not a means of forgetting the ego; it is a method of using the ego to observe its own manifestations."

"The ego system is certainly a target of these meditation practices, but what results is more properly conceived of as an intrasystemic reequilibration rather than a progression beyond an outmoded structure."

Regarding the synthetic ego I again support the Lingam when I commented in this post:

Not surprisingly Wilber comes to our rescue in asserting that it is the self-system (aka ego) that integrates all of the various aspects of psyche. (See for example his "outline of an integral psychology," particularly page 4.) And that a strong, healthy ego is prerequisite to take such a journey into transpersonal nonduality, lest the trip be into psychotic dissociation. But again, Wilber is a mixed bag here, often framing such transpersonal integration withing traditional views and their own confusions, particularly with reference to states.

Mindfulness has been co-opted by a melange of well meaning people. To see it wedded to ego is amusing. What is the ego? A teaming heap of transient intentions with some transient memory for glue? Within the original teachings those intentions were conditioned by ignorance rendering them fragmented (unwholesome) and thus bifurcating awareness into subject and object. The factors (AQAL has them as lines) of the 8-fold path have samma as a qualifier. Many translate samma as Right, some as Wholesome, here we could translate it as Integrated. The ego concept then becomes superfluous. We don't need to hypostatize a fragmented or synthetic non-existent entity to account for the heart/mind's integrated functionings do we? Isn't it enough to talk about lines of development and stages? What real use is a ghost in the machine to a view that has been weened off of metaphysical beliefs? 
BTW The Chanmyay Yeiktha Meditation Center a few posts above is Burmese Theravadan. Most Burmese teachers are rather orthodox as they rely heavily on the abhidhamma and Buddhagosa's Visudhimagga for their interpretations of the Buddha-dharma. His idea of a divorced sammatha from vipassana is unfounded as it takes insight to cultivate samatha i.e. the 2 go hand in hand as the mind integrates and becomes one pointed in meditation.

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