You are made out of People+Towards/Away Pitfalls

I wanted to share a pretty nuanced thing that has recently become more clear to me. It has to do with a concrete instance of interacting with good and bad things in one’s past and future.


I don’t know all the reasons that people meditate. Maybe they have abstract spiritual goals and maybe those goals cash out concretely as better life experience for themselves and the people around them. And I bet a bunch of people just suspect strongly enough that there’s something good enough to get that it’s worth trying to find out what it is.

And then there’s the more “mundane” stuff (which I personally think it sort of the entire point), perhaps more motivation, more time abundance, more intimacy, more ambition, better “luck”, etc., all sorts of stuff, though possibly gained at great cost, and maybe out of desperation, because nothing else was working and meditation is hard.

Away and Towards

I sort of loosely group things into a) “escaping”/”running away” from things and b) “running towards” things.

Like, a person might be “running away” from trauma or hatred of past self or a feeling of “can’t do anything” and that person might simultaneously be “running towards” intimacy or ambitious goals.

Of course “away” and “towards” is partly just how one conceptualizes it.

Pitfalls with Away

But that new age thing “what you resist you’re stuck with” has some truth to it.

The way meditation or the mind seems to work, the meditator, over time, sort of has to learn how to “turn towards” even the things they’re “running away” from.

I think for lots of people this isn’t big news, not a revelation, even if it’s hard to do in practice.

If you’re meditating correctly, one of the things that happens, over hundreds of hours, bit by bit, it becomes safe to look at terrible thing X, and then you do.

You have to “have been” what you were. You have to “have experienced” what you experienced. You might and probably will greatly reinterpret these events and past being of your life, for example, but you can’t escape them, so to speak.

Ok, so, for bad stuff, eventually you have to go back and get it, and that’s hard and scary, but, while the sooner the better, you don’t (and the mind won’t) do it until you and your mind figures out how to make it safe to do so.

Pitfalls with Towards

Now, I want to talk about some of the “towards” stuff.

There’s sort of a similar thing here, that’s maybe a little bit more subtle and counterintuitive than with the bad/”escape”/”away” stuff.

Even for the good stuff, one sort of has to go back and find all the bad (or neutral or even good) stuff that bears on or is relevant to the good stuff. I’ll restate this and give and concrete example in a moment. I’m picking the example I do because it’s so central, and it’s sort of the main point of this post.


Of the reasons that people are meditating, for some people that will be better relationships, and that might look like better boundaries and more independence.

So a person might be using long-range feedback loops like, are they better able to disagree with person X, can they say no, can they do things and make plans independent of person X, Y, and Z, do they feel more independent, stuff like that.

There’s another old saying, like:

codependent → independent → interdependent

My point for the concrete example is that there’s a deep way in which people are radically contingent, radically non-individuated. From the womb to maybe thousands of classroom hours and friendships and sleeping next to someone, and more, we’re just bathed in other people, body language, clothing colors, voice tone and prosody and words. (And of course we’re bathed in so much other sensations, but I’m focusing on people because it’s such a clear, relevant subset.)

Like, we are unreflectively constituted out of other-people-ness, our identities are unreflectively constituted out of other-people-ness, from just all of this flowing through our sense doors, when we were babies, kids, before we knew anything about anything.

Method Interaction with Macro-beliefs

So, say, especially in “Western” culture and, say, perhaps especially in USAmerican culture (I know less about other cultures), people are expected to be independent or (argh) perform independence or something.

And, to the degree that being or performing gets in the way, these sort of macro-sentiments will affect micro-choices in meditation. Like, with a good method, the whole point is that the big beliefs don’t matter, but if you get your big beliefs in slightly better shape, meditation works more smoothly and faster, sometimes much faster.

General Conclusion

And, so, in general, here, the punchline is that you should figure out the ways in which the opposite of what you want or are is already true. Figure out the possibly bad or simply just true thing that is counter to what you are (or profess you are) or what you want. See how the opposite of that thing is already true, even see sort of how you’ve already “failed” (if it’s that kind of thing). If you’re heading “towards” you have to go back and find all the stuff that’s not towards, ultimately not intellectually but “at the grain of experience.”

Concrete Conclusion

And, concretely, here, especially in cultures where people are supposed to be independent, and where people are trying to have better boundaries and be more independent, for the best of reasons, it pays to realize how incredibly constituted out of other people we are. How are reality, in often really painful ways, is a “social reality” (perhaps until it isn’t, depending on how conceptualized). How much we do care, how much other people, even people we hate, can shut us down with a word or a look, how much control they actually do have over us, that sort of thing.

So, it’s sort of nuanced. When we meditate we spend a lot of time alone, and it works much better, goes much faster that way. And more individuation is good, I think, all things being equal. And then, there’s this deep way in which each of us always already is radically non-individuated at the deepest levels, and then we also often feel really lonely and want to connect more, be more intimate. So all these layers of individuation, non-individuation, boundaries, and connection, that all ultimately needs to get untangled. And then I think you do get to this:

codependent → independent → interdependent


So, a lot of examining hidden pitfalls will be clunky and “intellectual”, it will potentially add technical debt (which isn’t always bad), it won’t neatly synergize with where one is in their meditation practice. But, it still pays to toy with some of the “big beliefs” and “big sentiments” even if they’re far away from the grain and responsiveness of meditation. Both matter. Eventually the grain of meditation touches the big, intellectual beliefs, but until then you can poke those intellectual beliefs to sometimes help meditation progress faster, sometimes a lot.

So, sort of, before you get to be unconditional, you have to fully embrace your radical contingency. And, again, let your practice lead you, let your practice order things in a safe way, but it does help to keep these high-level things in mind somewhere.

And, again, not just for bad things, but also for good things, you have to go back and find all the old stuff that’s relevant, and a big part of that is everything that has to do with people.

postures (twitter)

[I have been meaning to list all this out; somehow it happened first/more easily on twitter.]

[future proofing]

[I have been meaning to list all this out; somehow it happened first/more easily on twitter.]


Favorite meditation postures/combinations (unordered): sitting, lying down back/sides, Zhan Zhuang / standing, walking, running/jogging, yoga asanas, eyes open/closed, earplugs +/-, eye shades / complete darkness +/-, netflix, amazon video, facebook, twitter, watching blog stats

See Mark’s other Tweets


Favorite meditation postures/combinations (unordered): sitting, lying down back/sides, Zhan Zhuang / standing, walking, running/jogging, yoga asanas, eyes open/closed, earplugs +/-, eye shades / complete darkness +/-, netflix, amazon video, facebook, twitter, watching blog stats


Ah, also like “erect kneeling”, knees on something padded, and otherwise “standing” straight. (If I’m doing standing meditation and my feet start to hurt, I switch between standing and this type of kneeling.) Different postures change salience of different feedback loops. Safer.

See Mark’s other Tweets


Favorite meditation postures/combinations (unordered): sitting, lying down back/sides, Zhan Zhuang / standing, walking, running/jogging, yoga asanas, eyes open/closed, earplugs +/-, eye shades / complete darkness +/-, netflix, amazon video, facebook, twitter, watching blog stats


more distinctions: sitting without back support, sitting with back support (still erect), and hella slumped in some comfortable couch or chair in some long-term comfortable way. always mix with erect/unsupported sitting and standing!

See Mark’s other Tweets


Of course sometimes (often) it would be completely counterproductive, but, during some regimes, netflix/hulu/amazon video are great for the boring, lonely meditative or entrepreneurial grind. What is this timeline

See Mark’s other Tweets


Of course sometimes (often) it would be completely counterproductive, but, during some regimes, netflix/hulu/amazon video are great for the boring, lonely meditative or entrepreneurial grind. What is this timeline


Ah, protip: You find something with many seasons that is semi-repetitive and not *too* good. Then less cognitive burden while meditating and net less boredom. (If you are going through stuff where tv is interfering or crutch then, again, counterproductive.)

Glamorous / exciting!

See Mark’s other Tweets


Ah, also like “erect kneeling”, knees on something padded, and otherwise “standing” straight. (If I’m doing standing meditation and my feet start to hurt, I switch between standing and this type of kneeling.) Different postures change salience of different feedback loops. Safer.


Oh, more for completeness: leaning with back (butt) against low things like countertops where everything above the lean is unsupported/erect. Leaning back against walls. Finally, sometimes facing wall bracing with hands.

Also, E Tai Chi ( ), custom/ad hoc tai chi, and custom/ad hoc yoga asanas

many enlightenments? a nonrigorous position

[This is a heavily edited transcript. It’s not as organized or nuanced as it could be. It’s more like a position than an argument, for sure.]

[by enlightenment I mean a state or property of a mind versus an social/cultural/intensional [sic] construction. I think there are many of the latter, of course.]

Lots of people think that there are a bunch of different enlightenments. I actually strongly disagree with this. I think there are intermediate things that can be cultivated, and certainly different people will have a preference at least mediately for different things that they want based on what they think is out there, what they think they can get, and what they think is good/useful.

But, I tend to think that the mind is only trying to do one thing. I don’t know exactly what that is, but it’s probably something like predicting what’s going to happen next as elegantly and correctly as possible. Something in that space.

I think it used to be popular to model the brain as a heinous kludge, but I think that neuroscience is going to go in the direction of there being one fundamental operating principle for how the mind works. After all, in some sense animals or say especially humans have a fragmented telos, but in another sense the telos of a humans (and animals) is quite unified.

And that unity increases with training, etc. Importantly, people have different goals. But people’s goals can change, and there’s a question of how deeply those goals can change. And arguably, meditation or enlightenment are tools for changing desires/preferences/goals in a very deep way. So, what are the fundamental principles, neuroscientifically or phenomenologically, that underly the transformation of telos?

One way to look at this is using the concepts of goodness and “betterness.”

I think that, nonmonotonically, people can tack towards goodness or betterness in sort of a global way. Like, with dips and valleys and mistakes and backtracking, just aim for things being better and better.

Like someone might want to experience things as empty or someone might want to have less life problems, or realize that there’s no goal or one goal or lots of other things…

But, imagining people who’ve been doing the thing for forty years… I think that there’s a way in which people who don’t asymptote or who don’t paint themselves into a corner, or don’t get stuck, I strongly suspect that in the limit they will agree more and more about what the right thing to do is and what it looks like when it’s more and more “done”.

Like, the metaphor, there’s many paths up the mountain, but only one peak.

So, for the people who say there’s multiple enlightenments or multiple axes of development, I would imagine that, yes, that’s the case when one is say 5/7’s up the mountain. But 6/7’s, 7/7’s…

There will still be contingency in life situation, personal experience, and use of mind.

But, I think there’s this globally significant invariant or isomorphism at some level of abstraction, that does have a concrete referent, that is converged on at the highest levels of skill and attainment.

[Update: A part of this thread:


Perfect Enlightenment (is perfect rationality)

  • metaphysics: “the branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, substance, cause, identity, time, and space”
  • epistemology: “the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion”
  • cosmology: “study of the origin, evolution, and eventual fate of the universe”
  • phenomenology: “study of the structures of experience and consciousness”
  • ontology: “the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being”
  • eschatology: “[…] final destiny of the soul and of humankind”
  • etiology: “study of causation, or origination”
  • agathology: “science or theory of the good”

Perfect enlightenment is perfect embodied rationality acting on unconditional human values.

Perfect enlightenment is perfect global appropriate provisionality of belief/knowing and perfect up-to-date evenhandedness with old and new/incoming (sensational) evidence. Is there even a world or anything? Is love real or whatever? Sure seems like it but maybe.

So your metaphysics, epistemology, cosmology, phenomenology, ontology, eschatology, etiology, and agathology* will thoroughly rejigger and/but when you’re done you better be able to walk around without bumping into things and have caring, hilarious conversations (or whatever). If you fuck it up you’ll be broken, or a charismatic sociopath, or a risk-taking, desperate megalomaniac. If you get it right you’ll maybe seem really low-key normal and equanimous (or flashy-for-a-reason) and/but, even while making understandable harmful mistake after understandable harmful mistake, given starting position and contingent ignorance, you’ll keep getting on average “lucky” over and over again, cumulatively and compoundingly, in everything you apparently low-key decide to do. Your expected value for everything you do will be relatively positive with some all-things-being-equal relatively lower variance conditioned on starting point and state of world. You might get hit by a bus or meteor, and knowledge and wealth and capital and intimate and/or trusting relationships accumulate slowly in this bureaucratized, atomized, and deceptively high-competition world, but, you are (effortlessly) acting from first-principles-in-your-bones and conditioned by past and convention but not bound by it, etc.

And perhaps our world can run on human care, human trust, and human actualization versus machines made out of humans or metal or both.

technical debt, meditation, and minds

Technical debt (also known as design debt or code debt) is a concept in software development that reflects the implied cost of additional rework caused by choosing an easy solution now instead of using a better approach that would take longer.

Technical debt can be compared to monetary debt.[3] If technical debt is not repaid, it can accumulate ‘interest’, making it harder to implement changes later on. Unaddressed technical debt increases software entropy. Technical debt is not necessarily a bad thing, and sometimes (e.g., as a proof-of-concept) technical debt is required to move projects forward. On the other hand, some experts claim that the “technical debt” metaphor tends to minimize the impact, which results in insufficient prioritization of the necessary work to correct it.

People have really been liking this metaphor, so I thought it would be good to explicitly call it out in a post. It’s not even really a metaphor; it’s just what’s happening.

When a mind is really surprised, or things are happening too fast, or something is just too hard, or a mind enacts ingrained bad habits, in all these cases a mind takes on technical debt in order to keep dealing with the world in real time. The more technical debt a mind has, the harder it is for that mind to solve problems moving forward, so technical debt begets more technical debt.

Technical debt is hard to pay off. Sleep hacks away it and normal problem solving hacks away at it too. For the most part, though, most people are steadily accumulating technical debt their entire lives. That’s why you can’t teach an old dog new tricks or whatever, and I’m suspicious that e.g. the first-language learning window is anything special at all. I think that window closes because of normal processes that are always at work. (And second and nth languages get literally laid down in different places in the mind/brain.) That’s more elegant than supposing there’s like a special language learning window.

One way to look at meditation is that correct meditation pays off technical debt faster than it accumulates until it’s all paid off. As far as I can tell, this is very related to why some traditions call the enlightened mind the natural state. All those invariant structures get shipped around or homomorphically transformed until everything is in the right place–all the gradients and attractive basins that are pushing or pulling all the time, all the things that a mind would want to do if it could only figure out how, that all gets to happen. As far as I can tell, minds are really only trying to do one thing all the time, somethingsomething elegance collapse in terms of a predictive world model or something.

Most meditative practices or at least most practitioners’ interpretation of meditative practices actually increase technical debt!

Most meditative practices or at least most practitioners’ interpretation of meditative practices actually increase technical debt!

Most meditative practices or at least most practitioners’ interpretation of meditative practices actually increase technical debt!

One can get all sorts of positive effects, for months or even years, but eventually things grind to a halt, the practitioner tangles themselves into a corner or piles just too much stuff onto too much stuff.

In particular there’s a right way and a wrong way to use the maps or descriptions of valued states.

If you’re like trying to directly see things as empty or you’re “trying on” spiritual perspectives or construals, or trying to get particular isolated things to stick, whether you succeed or not, you’re probably taking on technical debt.

You can actually get some number of really real attainments, not fake versions, at the expense of increasing technical debt. But if you want all the attainments, or you want to make it all the way, you have to do it in a direction of decreasing technical debt.

Are you increasing technical debt or paying it off in your practice? How can you tell?


Talk About Meditation: Online Video Chat Poll Active to choose times over the next four days

In the left sidebar, click the link to propose video chat times over the next few days. It’s fast and anonymous if you use a fake or just your first name. This is an experiment to try accommodating all time zones, since there are blog readers in a bazillion different countries. Or, click here:

2,000 hours to “full classical enlightenment” plus risks still a bunch of like overlay stuff in here

Update 20201113:

[Editing status: Lots of confusing sentences.]

[Update 20190407: Some light edits and additions to the “risk” section. Still much could be improved.]

The thing I’m roughly shooting for, now, is being able to take people to like “full classical enlightenment” in about 2,000 hours of practice. (Maybe 1,500 hours, eventually.) To be clear, that’s not just stream-entry; I mean the whole thing, according to some very, very high bar but maybe not like “the best-case fruits of have been skillfully practicing for thirty years” bar. So under a year, “full time,” or a few years at one to four hours per day.

Summary of the Positive or Neutral and Highly Salient Stuff

To my mind, these are some of the most interesting things that happen along the way:

  1. Increasingly deep tastes of determinism. You are a lawful process that, especially if left to its own devices, will do a lawful thing which you will experience from the inside knowing that or not. This is sometimes distressing and creepy, sometimes reassuring, and eventually gets metabolized and fades to the background and you’re sort of back to normal on this front.
  2. Increasingly deep understanding of emptiness. What you thought was territory was/is actually map, composed of sensations and not “out there.” This goes very, very, very deep and you sort of have to go find all of it. This is by turns terrifying and exhilarating and ultimately deeply freeing though it (so far, to my mind) doesn’t grant a deep sense of safety or anything like that. Eventual deep understanding of relationship between mind and map (vs territory) and contingency and arbitrariness. (But contingent is not arbitrary and neither contingency nor arbitrariness cut against meaning and unconditionality in the limit.)
  3. All the Zen stuff: nowhere to go, no escape, no goal, nothing to do, start where you are. This maybe follows from the emptiness stuff but doesn’t seem perfectly related or dependent on it. It’s sort of like, there is no magical “other place,” at least in the way that was previously in the back of your mind, no teleportation, no heaven, no hell, no space empire, no fairy kingdom, no “other place,” again, at least not in the way you thought. This can be devastating at first and possibly initially gets overgeneralized. Eventually this gets metabolized and life goes on as before and you get stuff back that you thought you had to give up and there’s still plenty of potential for extreme goodness and meaning.
  4. Increasingly deep contact with “the source,” for me multiple distinct rounds. This was very much a what in the holy actual fuck thing, for me. So, I still believe in neurons and quantum mechanics. And, also, given correct application of method, one’s brain eventually, inevitably, spits out this other thing as being a thing, too. What are the implications for brains and/or metaphysics and/or quantum mechanics? I have lots of thoughts, here, for another time. Join me (and like how many other hardcore meditators, 99% of which don’t lead with this?) in touching the source. It’s cool.
  5. Multiple rounds of Atman-Brahman dissolve. You’re like a ripple in Brahman; you’re a ripple of water in an ocean, not separate from the ocean. And you sort of eventually dissolve into that or being that. So distinct; so weird. Mildly reassuring.
  6. No-self. It’s possible I don’t get this deeply enough, yet. There’s a bunch of good stuff that happens that sort of points in this direction but isn’t really the “core no-self insight.” And this seems quite distinct from that Atman-Brahman dissolve but has a distinctly similar “punctate supramundane” flavor in the initial experience of it. In any case, to my mind, there’s like all the self stuff happening, and you just pretty much realize that you’re like perfectly “bound” to all of it as it’s happening, but you come to realize there’s a very distinct and specific way in which you are not that. Maybe then you’re like awareness itself or something, pace neuroscience. This was a pretty uneventful thing, actually, and didn’t seem to particularly alter my relationship to, say, suffering. So maybe I’m due for a few more rounds of it. Unclear. (The good stuff that’s *not* this is sort of realizing how deeply fragmented and contradictory you are, in say desires/preferences, social persona, general ambivalence at any given time, competing plans and goals. You get a deeper and deeper feel for this, real front-row seating, and this is a precursor to ever-more-profound unification.)
  7. Nonduality. For another thing I probably don’t “get” yet, this would be a candidate. Inside and outside sort of lose “special differentness”; far away distances sort of collapse into “right there in front of you-ness.” This has been a sort of slow gradient, not punctate, so far, and is at least not currently ever present or foregrounded in experience.
  8. Unraveling of deep, desperate life-long goals that you may not have known you were putting all your energy into, your entire being into. This is separate from the Zen stuff, and can happen multiple times, each time for a deeper thing; the first time can be pretty shocking depending on your setup, like waking up from a dream where you were utterly focused on doing or getting some particular thing. Unlike the Zen stuff this I think is usually going to be a relief–some stuff feels like goodness goes away (temporarily) but these, here, are usually more of a realization that there’s a bunch of better ways to get something and oh my god why was I trying so hard to get that in that way.
  9. Synchronicity (as opposed to diachronicity): Everything is happening now, the past is now, the future is now. Future states are experienced/modeled, instantiated in something that’s happening right now. This has been a sort of slow gradient, not punctate so far.
  10. Massive untangling/de-confusing of the boundary between self and other, vastly increased clarity of “nature and identity”
  11. Massive burning off of pointlessness and meaninglessness, highly nonmonotonic.
  12. Massive burning off of “can’t”
  13. Massive de-confusing of epistemology, metaphysics, cosmology, eschatology, culture, historical and complex systems
  14. Massive de-confusing of connection/intimacy; Massive simplifying and de-complexifying and burning off of stuff in the kink/fetish/paraphilia space.
  15. And much more, much of it of equal craziness to some of the craziest stuff above, both bad and extremely good, but I have no idea how to talk about any of it, yet. I did a big brain dump at the bottom of this post, for starters.
  16. I’m expecting one or two more really big things, which might end up just being elaboration or sharpening of one or two of the points above.
  17. A stretch goal is to get all the stuff on this list in like 2000 hours, give or take a few hundred hours. As a caution, in each moment you want to be applying correct method that takes into account context but is in a sense agnostic as to what will happen next. If you start gunning for something in particular you’ll probably tie yourself in knots and have to “undo” or “backtrack.” There’s an important and possibly counterintuitive sense in which you can’t escape everything you ever were or are or everything that’s ever happened to you. And trying to skip or bypass anything will only make things take longer. This could be elaborated to hundreds of pages, but, in any case, at the barest of bare minimums, doing the right thing in your practice doesn’t always feel good and, even more importantly, doing the wrong thing doesn’t always feel bad.
  18. As far as I can tell, once you get through all the big stuff and general refactoring and going through all your “technical debt”, there’s still no “done.” If you have good method, you just keep going and you keep getting good things, for as long as X, and one hopes that the ride becomes very smooth. I suppose I/you/we will find out. Five years? Ten years? Let alone thirty years? Holy shit. (This is like the central thing in my life that feels like one of those RPGs or even incremental cookie clicker type games where the numbers can just keep going up and up and up and up. A risky, opportunity costly way to compoundly invest in yourself for exponential returns over the long term.)
  19. I also want to emphasize how, even if you’re making steady progress, how deeply nonmonotonic one’s experience of all of this is, like it seems like you’re experiencing “fuck this is not actually better” and “the nearly exactly the same positive change in thing X” like thirty times, one hundred times. I don’t think this is an error of method; I think this has something to do with how the mind is structured. Some of your deepest and most terrible stuff, the reason you’re meditating in the first place, will not change at all until the very end, and when it finally does it will only be a little bit at first, or new facets of that terrible thing will keep revealing itself, or for all twenty of your “most terrible things,” and all your time estimates will be shit. Everything will take many months longer than you think it will, even if you take this sentence to heart.
  20. I don’t understand statements about the supposed orthogonality between psychological and spirituality. I think I get how a bunch of stuff becomes “radically unconditional and unchanging” but, at least for me, the journey has been and I assume forever will be deeply psychological and doxastic.
  21. I want to emphasize how “different but totally normal” things eventually return to. Stuff is normal, then it’s not normal (when you’re in the thick of it), then it’s normal again but a lot of subtle, background stuff is profoundly better or subtly different if you go looking and then “normal experience and behavior” is better, whether intimate or ambitious or both.
  22. It’s possible that when I finally have a patient, careful conversation with someone who’s been doing this stuff thirty years my thinking about all of this and where I’m at will radically change. See also:
  23. One really central thing in particular that I don’t know how to talk about yet is benevolence, goodness, care, compassion, ethics, morality, community, duty, obligation, responsibility, etc. Not because it’s particularly counterintuitive or even touchy, well maybe a little, well, maybe a lot, and/but the way it’s sort of woven through the whole thing combined with the challenging tension of this being a weird, risky, antisocial, potentially burdensome thing, and how does it all fit together. (See also:

(So what about stream-entry? I had a profoundly disregulating thing happen early on: The whole world turned inside out and then I was on the other side. [Nothing like “cessation” was salient but a salient thing was that the world “smeared and froze” for an endless moment; that’s the thing that I remember. Quite possibly there was a moment of nothingness in there.] This simultaneously massively increased my resilience and gave me significantly increased degrees of freedom to change and also to fuck myself up. The mind could move and change in a way it couldn’t before. I currently think, with proper method, something like this doesn’t happen and doesn’t need to happen. There is no need for a stream-entry-style event to get all the good stuff. Ok so that being said, I am so, so, so, so, so grateful for the Theravada maps!!!!!!!!!!!!)

(So what about additional fruitions or cessations? Like, once that I remember, I was there on one side, there on the other side, but there was perfect nothingness in the middle. So, I don’t get why fruitions and cessations are such a big deal in say Theravada or modern noting. This could be a gap in my something, but I don’t think they’re important. I’ve had things like “whooshes” or “collapses” which culminate in big insights. But the whooshes aren’t qualitatively different from any other experience of the activity of mind; they’re just “bigger,” they take up “more phenomenological bandwidth.” It’s like just a lot of mind/sensation activity that’s highly correlated in “phenomenology space” and time, a bit interdependent wave. As opposed to the tiny, interdependent waves that are going on all the time. Ok, again, so that being said, I am so, so, so, so, so grateful for the Theravada maps!!!!!!!!!!!!)

(So what about the progress of insight and cycling? For like one month it was very obvious I was stereotypically cycling through the progress of insight. I currently don’t believe that e.g. arahats are definitely always cycling or something like that, even subtly. I don’t think it needs to happen at all, and I don’t think a stereotyped or subtle cycle of insight is needed for progress. When I tweaked my method a bit more, all cycling-type stuff went away. Maybe I’m still extremely subtly cycling but I don’t think so. Ok, and, once again, that being said, I am so, so, so, so, so grateful for the Theravada maps!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Summary of Risks

The stuff below has a mild and transient version all the way up to an extreme and chronic version. I describe sort of the worst-case scenarios below. In the worst case, you might need to drop everything, or as much as you  possibly can, for weeks, months, or longer to solve it, on your own or finding a teacher or teachers who can help. This could be very costly to finances and relationships. If you experience flickers of any of the below, and you likely will, it happens, a lot, it certainly doesn’t mean you’re on your way to a worst-case scenario, but you should treat flickers calmly but with great seriousness. Don’t make seeming “progress” at the expense of even a slight uptick in the direction of any of the below. Again, you will likely skirt the faint or even moderate edges of all this stuff, so don’t freak out, and/but this is all very, very serious stuff.

  1. At the very, very worst, some people will run into extreme 24-7 muscle tension somewhere in their body lasting months if not a couple years. (Some people also have a less terrible version where the muscle tension is only present while actually sitting down to meditate.) That’s fine though super not great at all if it’s in your thigh or something. But, if it’s in your head, then you’ve got significantly increased intracranial pressure or something, depending on how your body downregulates blood pressure or vasodilates or etc. I imagine this could be really risky for someone who is at risk for stroke. Additionally, if it happens in your neck or spine then you could be a risk for nerve root impingement and permanent structural or neuromuscular impairment or other disc injury sequelae. And your sleep could get really fucked up depending on how skillful you managing weird musculoskeletal stuff with pillows. These are real risks. It can mess up exercise, intimacy, finances, daily life, etc. One way to mitigate this risk is to be continually cycling through different meditation postures, specifically sit with good posture, stand with good posture, lie down on your back and your side, meditate while walking, maybe meditate in yoga asanas that you can stay in for tens of minutes or an hour. Visciously account for even the subtlest changes in muscle lengths. Never trade increased muscle tension for “progress.” It’s not worth it. The more feedback you give your body, the better. I meditate pretty equally sitting, standing, and lying down (I might do one of these for several days in a row then switch). I do less walking and yoga asanas. Sort of unrelatedly, but I wanted to add it somewhere, I also alternate earplugs versus no earplugs, eyemask or dark room versus bright room or open space, eyes open versus eyes closed, etc.
  2. At the very worst, due to weird subtle stuff that you’ll begin experience extreme sensitivity to other people. Like, being around people, working shoulder-to-shoulder with people, being on the phone or video chat with people, sleeping next to someone you care about, will become radically intolerable for some number of weeks or months. This is a real risk. This could destroy relationships both intimate and financial. Due to the same weird subtle stuff, people might come to find being around you to become completely intolerable even if you’re fine being around them. And this as well could destroy relationships both intimate and financial. (To me, this means that meditation and pregnancy or even having kids under eighteen probably don’t mix or mix in risky ways.)
  3. Whether weird subtle stuff or not, your mind is figuring out how to change itself, and that’s a lot of power for a still-dumb mind to have. So we’ll call this interim magnification of negative traits. There is a (possibly quite long) period where self-deception as well as harm to others can very easily increase, where the meditator is blind to it and also really hurt by all the accusations and doesn’t respond to them in a super-constructive way. This will likely be you, especially if you think of yourself as a person who is generally really careful about this sort of thing and/or who doesn’t have the propensity or desire to hurt other people. For more, see here:
  4. So then, finally, there’s emotional and motivational dysregulation, sometimes extreme, e.g. extreme suffering and can’t do anything, for hours or days or even weeks, or even more. How fucking weird and terrible things can get, in the worse case, cannot be overemphasized. And, it goes without saying that this can be bad for relationships and finances. Interestingly, I currently don’t think “psychosis psychosis” [sic] is much of a risk, even when things are super crazy weird, maybe like little flashes that are rapidly corrected, but there’s probably a non-zero risk.
  5. Finally, there’s opportunity cost.

Stages and Events Minimally Edited, Incorrectly Ordered Braindump

I don’t know how to organize any of this material, yet, so I’m putting it here. It’s like a fine-grain roadmap, except a bunch of stuff is out of order or needs to be edited or elaborated on. I tried to pick out a bunch of the big ones and elaborate on them up top, but there’s more buried in here of equal importance. To be continued.

– Pick off a piece of some meditation instructions and it’s a big fumbly mess
– clunky unpleasant flailing or pleasant dullness (5-200 hours)
– a whole-lotta barely anything seems to be changing (“maybe some tingles, buzzes, somatic refactoring”) (5-200 hours)
– possible taste of determinism (no free will, just an experiential machine running on current conditions at any particular point and changing based on causal laws
– Crushing hammering bypassing long way trying to become something to stay safe
– Clearing out of shoulds and supposed to use and need to believes
– mind figures out a way to safely relive the thing and then you do, with some reinterpretation, sometimes many angles, many copies, if doesn’t get nailed on one pass, have to go in again, etc. failures, disappoint hment, stress, anxiety, fear, terror. touch it to change it at least once if not many times. hurts each time, just as bad each time, until it isn’t, and can’t rush it.
– adaptive valleys where normal function is wonky, like your eyes have gone crooked and you just can’t X
– Childhood traumas
– School traumas
– Workplace traumas
– possible taste of emptiness, taste of map as map (vs territory)
– possible taste of no-self
– zen stuff: nowhere to go, nothing to do, no goal, just right here, start where you are, no escape (at hour 500-1000?)
– deeper taste of no-self
– prenatal stuff, prenatal content and mother-relationship content, first contact with first and near-first moments of consciousness (earliest memories)
– increased rate of solutions to life (intimacy, care, family, money, meaning) and metaphysical problems
– unraveling of a deep plan/goal piece (800-1200?)
– planning becomes naturalized, world-model becomes naturalized…
– language (and use of concepts) detaches from what you thought it was, how you used it, and how you thought it worked
– will travels down the body
– awareness becomes more expansive and even
– deeper taste of no-self (more proper conceptualization of relationship between sensations, locus of agency, and will)
– reduced difference between inside and outside, changes to experience of time and distance
– everything experienced is empty/map (vs territory)
– first contact with the source (atman/brahman dissolve)
– deeper contact with the source
– increased understanding of causality and “belief-level” epistemology
– increased rate of solutions to life (intimacy, care, family, money, meaning) and metaphysical problems
– improved identity boundaries between self and other
– Dream trance perseveration vacillation avoidance fugue
– few remaining avoidances or terrible-to-know fears or memories
– Realize you can’t bypass your past. Realize you have to have been whatever you were as a kid. Realize that whatever happened to you happened to you. Reinterpretation ok, but you were that and those things happened.
– Touch base with all the weird, one-off things that happened to you. Weird dreams, weird encounters, boring highly unique situations.
– Think you’re not a dick.
– Realize you’re being terrible to a bunch of people and you’ve actually become more terrible even though you had the explicit plan to become less terrible.
– Realize self-deception has increased because your mind has figured out how to do more stuff that you couldn’t do before.
– smoothing of whole system, omnidirectionaly/isotropy of edit distance between valued configuration states, full processing of “technical debt”, relatively no fixed points in system, smoothing
– freefall (nothing to hold onto and don’t need to hold on to anything anyway. no false or fixed touchstones)
– increased rate of solutions to life (intimacy, care, family, money, meaning) and metaphysical problems
– Detaching from what you thought it was and how you thought it worked
– no possible outcome is unthinkable, all outcomes and possible actual states of the world from your vantage point become non-critically bad
– becoming less of a dangerous terrible asshole or emotionally manipulative or controlling, becoming skilled, safe, world-aware, possibly ambitious, possibly strategic, ever-more independent, gentle, patient, caring, intimate… across the decades
– reconceptualization of the relationship between inside, outside, doing, and the future, now, and sensation(s), the body, the bodymap (“you don’t move, sensation space moves in you…”)
– you realize you’re not motivated to do “should’ ambitious thing X because deep down you know it’s not going to get you the things you want as they’re currently conceived, and then you have a whole range of choices for how to interact with that
– emptiness: I don’t know what the long-run thing looks like, fewer and fewer attentional skips; perhaps all sensations are sort of hanging in space; you know everything’s map or nothing is mistakenly reified.
– deep ways fighting self (of course ok to renegotiate, and interact); self-alignment becomes safe
– deep ways fighting what has already happened (of course ok to reinterpret); the past becomes safe
– surface professing is management, not belief. more is possible…
– Realize the deep fragmentation of your social selves.
– think you’ve got the one true method over and over again (have to backtrack; does seem to be like wayfinding)
– Slightly more the same person in a wider variety of circumstances.
– Self Culture society world family relationships connection/intimacy history Metaphysics cosmology eschatology your personal philosophy what is love, intimacy, obligation, selfishness, goodness, badness, evil, desire, goals deservingness attribution everything everything everything everything. will have to through method answer questions about all these things… and even weirder things…
– weirdness lasting months and can have overlapping months-long weirdnesses, taking apart substrate and reassembling it.  disheartening when something weird and knowing maybe many months before its not weird again
– deep experience of arbitrariness
– who but a person that X would proclaim not X [adjusted american book][and most people have miles and miles of this][but you won’t be able to immediately track down what you actually—takes practice…][for some things 100s even 1000s of hours to get beneath your bullshit; surface professing surface stories and apparent beliefs, much of assertoric thinking and knowing and understanding…]
– nothing matters, everything is shit
– meaninglessness/pointlessness means deep down you’re stuck on wanting something and also stuck on believing you can’t get it. may takes hundreds of hours to get there.
– relatively unconstrained world model buildout, relatively unconstrained ability buildout, continuous improvement of life plan [easier and easier to think about self in relation to entire world, easier and easier to pick up new abilities]
– nonmontonicity and apparent backsliding (but usually not actually)
– muscle tension; posture stuff as careful corrective for muscle tension… altering feedback saliences… [is full list an appropriate ]
– Meaninglessness tolerance, weathering it if needed, continuous quest for meaning without getting stuck.
– posture stuff as careful corrective for muscle tension… altering feedback saliences… [is full list an appropriate ]
– weird: collect a lot of weird stuff from culture, media, childhood, etc. and parts of us believe it in really deep ways including strange fantasy stuff. feel like going crazy, stuff doesn’t make sense… in some ways contingentlly totally embedded in other ways standing outside culture
– reconceptualizing I, me, everything else, sensations, etc.
– everything sort of “goes back to normal”, things seem and feel normal, not metaphysically weird, modulo emptiness and some differences in space, time, inside and outside
– additional interesting big bloops
– self-improving self-improving [sic] across the decades