Some Brief, Long Overdue, Probably Regretfully Unsatisfying Updates

The blog has been inactive for a while, now, and I wanted to post a partial explanation. Among other things, I had been pursuing axes of development that were not directly related to stream entry and other meditation attainments. But, because of cross-training or synergy or whatever (really anti-symmetry, in this case), I was still progressing on the path of insight. And, I didn’t realize this, because the insight maps weren’t really in my lens. So, dark night, big time. Whoops. Embarrassing.

So, I ended up attaining stream-entry, accidentally, which was very disregulating, before and after. I got some insights into the mind and self, changes in vision, more degrees of freedom in my belief system, and increased emotional resilience, though. (Much, much more to be said, here, of course.)

The effects of stream-entry kind of faded into the background, and I made the same mistake again! Embarrassing. I was pursuing other axes of development hardcore, ended up in the dark night again without realizing it, and eventually had another accidental, “massive” fruition. (I think I had one or two other fruitions in there before this big second one, but they were pretty inconsequential blinks. They did seem to pass the checks, but I waffle on counting them.)

This second big fruition was much more of what I might have expected stream-entry to be, perhaps if I was doing more traditional practice, much more of a woosh, ahhhhhhhhh, yessssssss. Some deep, non-intellectual insights into emptiness/insubstantiality and the nature of minds and my own mind. Deeply refreshing and peaceful foreground/background reversal (always back there somewhere; most of the time I feel pretty normal), and the beginnings of a bit of time-bending. And my mind stopped doing a bunch of things that weren’t helpful. (Shinzen Young’s clear and precise descriptions of the mid-to-late stages have been resonating with me the most, lately.)

And, thankfully, I gained the ability to spot the cycle of insight in myself. Embarrassing. But, like, normal, especially if arrogant and not practicing with a teacher. And sad, of course!

Figuring things out for oneself is a mixed bag. I think there’s a bunch of stuff I wouldn’t now know if I’d worked more with teachers already on the path or who’d already done the thing. But, I might have avoided some of the bad stuff. It doesn’t have to have been either/or, but the contingency of minds and all that. I hope to continue to get better at learning from other people, rather than only reading widely and thinking and experimenting furiously.

In the past I was concerned about some of what might “turn off,” upon meditative attainments, e.g. certain kinds of self-reference and self-modification. Having gotten a real taste of emptiness and no-self, I’m no longer concerned about this. I think that meditation leaves out many axes of development and is a potential opportunity cost in terms of time spent, depending on one’s goals and needs. Also, I do think that meditation can potentially wind people up tighter and make development on other axes more difficult (cf. spiritual bypassing). And there is finally the very real risk of the dark night, being unable to metabolize emptiness, ruining one’s life, health, etc.

All that being said, meditative insight contains core and knock-on pieces that I would like everyone to have. All things being equal (which it never is), it’s really, really good. I expect I’ll keep progressing along this axis over time, whether I like it or not, and I’m cool with that. And, I’m grateful to the teachers who are doing systematic and comprehensive things and helping people to progress efficiently with mitigated risk. I’ve benefited from their work greatly, and I know I’ll keep doing so.

So, there’s a bit of an update. I put myself somewhere at second or third path, as far as I can tell. There’s much on this blog that I want to revise or recant. I’ll leave the old articles untouched, though maybe I’ll put pointers to new material at the top. And, I intend to start blogging again, to some degree. I have more to say about stream entry, the cycle of insight, etc., of course.

I’m actually running a meditation thing now in the east bay (USA/California) that I soft-launched a few months ago and it’s going well. It was weird to not post about it on the blog, but I wasn’t ready. You’re welcome to come check that out, if you’re reading this. I’m interfacing with the rest of the meditation community a bit more, now, and I hope to keep increasing that over time. I’d like to understand the ways in which my teaching material is safe and risky, effective and ineffective, and how it complements the other work and teaching that’s going on, and has been going on, for thousands of years.

I’m also getting more into the bodywork space (bodymind work…) and I have lots of updated thoughts on “energy work.” I’ll probably post something about that pretty soon. Finally, I’m still figuring out, as always, how to divide my time between different projects and when charging money gets a better thing for everyone and when it doesn’t.

I wish a better thing had happened, and I wish I had been sharing more the whole time. More to come. Onward.

4 thoughts on “Some Brief, Long Overdue, Probably Regretfully Unsatisfying Updates

  1. Hi Mark, I’m soooo glad to see you back in action on your blog!

    I’ve been reading and thinking about a lot of your posts during the last months and now I can finally ask you the Big Question that has been haunting me lately: in light of your recent Awakenings (and of your knowledge of the field of course), do you consider the meditation program outlined by Culadasa in The Mind Illuminated to be safe-ish (obviously keeping in mind that the whole “pursuit of Nirvana” thing is inherently a pretty crazy deal), if followed by a rational, sane, sensible person who generally has his/her life in order?

    Let me explain: what I gather from your recent writings is that you now consider the fruits of insight meditation (disastrous dukkha nanas aside) to be Cool and Good, and this pleases me a lot because I’ve come to the same conclusion, although just intellectually for the moment.

    However I would be very interested in knowing what’s your opinion on Shamatha-heavy practices (like Culadasa’s) and on the Jhanas. I’d love being able to tell you without lying that these questions are merely products of my own selfish curiosity, if it wasn’t for the fact that there are over 5000 people who rigorously follow TMI’s framework (you can find them on r/TheMindIlluminated)…

    Anyway I’m also super interested in your upcoming post on bodywork and energy work (have you checked out Reggie Ray’s books?). Keep up the good stuff!

    • I’ve gotten a lot of value out of Culadasa et al.’s work. I think the practice, the instructions, and the theoretical models are high quality. I think, for a significant portion of practitioners, it will get them the thing (and, as far as I’m aware, lots of people have had success with this method? I haven’t tried to figure out the size of the community and the survivorship/selection bias/file drawer effect).

      As with most practices, though, a significant portion of practitioners will get “stuck.” There will be something avoided in mind or body and/or there will be some error in how mind, body, attention, sensations, etc., are construed.

      Reggie Ray and David Johnson [1] are on to something very important regarding the body.

      Gendlin and parts work people (e.g. Internal Family Systems; Jay Earley [2] are also on to something.

      Sensations are sort of a window into the mind from the outside, and meaning is sort of a window into the mind from the inside.

      The body is a reflection of mind. Muscle tension and uncomfortable feelings point to something important and arguably unhandled in the bodymind system.

      One can help out the system by attending to sensations with a healthy relational intention, i.e. from the “outside.” [Note that hammering away at muscle tension with a strong will is probably very counterproductive. What does it need? How can you help it? How can you and it both get a good thing?]

      And one can also help out the system by attending to the meaning (with a healthy relational intention) that corresponds to those body sensations i.e. from the “inside.” [Does this make sense? Can I look at this terrible, feared thing about self, life, or world, gently and impartially, without it or self needing to change right then and there? ]

      I haven’t tried this, but, in the TMI practice, when one finally ignores everything but mind(?), one might include the entire emotional/interoceptive/sensational body and any “thinking”/”meaningfulness” that’s happening inside the body. So the only thing to be ignored would be sensations that are definitely not being generated by the bodymind. There are probably yet finer distinctions to made, here, and I’d be curious for any TMI practitioners to chime in.

      Stream-entry, in one sense, is the initial realization of important relationships between sensations, meaning, world, self, mind (and hopefully body).

      If you’re good to the system you get more slack in the system to have the right things happen. (cf. spiritual bypassing)

      [1] [See TWIM]

      • Yeah, I get what you’re saying. Honesty is undoubtedly very important, and I guess most people, regardless of their beliefs and pet methods, will at some point have to bite the bullet and start seeking the guidance of an experienced spiritual teacher, maybe a teacher with a perspective different from one’s own.
        I will get back to you when I’ll have obtained some valuable insights.

  2. Pingback: Inside and Outside; Sensations and Meaning | @meditationstuff (Since 2013; 100+ posts; 50,000+ words and counting...)

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