Students of Dr. John Yates (Culadasa) — including, by coincidence, one of my best friends from college — describe him as a sweet, humble teacher. Who looks a bit like yoda :).
For decades Culadasa taught meditation in Arizona, beloved by his students but relatively unknown.
He spent years writing a book, then self-published it.
And it sold 18,000 copies in a year.
Suddenly people took notice. Simon & Schuster picked up the book. And now it is being translated and distributed around the world. You're invited to his coming-out party :)
Culadasa is not a grandstanding, boastful teacher. He is simply good :: and clear :: and humble. A neuroscientist, he demystifies "awakening" and shows how each of us can get there. If you follow the subreddit Meditation, you've seen The Mind Illuminated mentioned every day. People are calling it an "instant classic". We were able to speak with him for this exclusive interview in advance of his talk to The Path community tomorrow evening. Read on for priceless advice on growing your practice.
The Path: How long do you recommend householders (normal working people) meditate each day?
Culadasa: I recommend a minimum of 45 minutes to an hour each day. More is always better, of course, and experienced meditators will often sit for longer or add a second sit when they can.
However, new meditators may need to work up to this, both in terms of adjustments to their daily schedules, and how long they are comfortable sitting.
Consistency should take priority over duration, so when it isn't possible to sit for the usual amount of time, it's better to sit a little while anyway, rather than skip it.
The Path: How can we maximize each minute that we meditate?
Culadasa: To maximize the value of your meditation time, be diligent about actually practicing when you sit, but relax and accept whatever comes without judgment. The only "bad" meditation is one you didn't do, and no matter what happens during a sit, it was a "good" meditation. Don't create expectations of how your meditation should go, just trust in the process and follow the instructions.
The Path: Do you think some people have more impactful experiences with mindfulness meditation, others with mantra meditation, and others with loving-kindness? Or should we all know many types and practice what feels most charming to us on a given day?
Meditation systems like the one I teach and write about in "The Mind Illuminated" include a variety of techniques appropriate at different Stages and for different purposes. The various practices you mention have different purposes and are more suitable to different people at different times. This is where having the guidance of a teacher helps enormously. But knowing many different practices and doing "what feels most charming" on a given day won't get you very far. It takes time and consistency to get the real benefits of any practice.
The Path: What is the path towards becoming more "awake" // "self realized" // enlightened? What do you recommend for people holding normal jobs and living in a place like NYC?
Culadasa: The path to becoming "awake" // "self realized" // "enlightened" is one of developing powerful mindfulness on the cushion and applying it throughout your daily life, combined with the practice of virtue and compassion, and some degree of intellectual understanding of the delusion you are living in and the wisdom you seek. All of this can readily be accomplished by lay men and women with jobs and families, regardless of where they live. But notice the emphasis I put on doing these things in daily life. Don't compartmentalize, making meditation some separate activity you do for a little while every day. Extend it into every moment of your life. Then Insight will arise, mature, and give rise to that profound inner transformation we call Awakening. It's available to anyone who dedicates them self to it fully enough. You just have to make your job, family, and other worldly activities a part of your practice. And avoid the time-wasting, mindless, and unnecessary activities that consume most of the ordinary lay persons' lives.