A friend/collaborator has been meditating in Airbnbs:
A friend/collaborator has been meditating in Airbnbs:
Alright, let’s connect up a bunch of stuff:
So, I really like this simple model of a human system:
And, in time, this looks something like the below:
[…] → sensing → representing → doing → sensing → representing → doing → […]
So, one takes stuff in from the world, one does some processing on it, some changes to the world model, planning, goals occur, and system physically does something, sensing occurs, there’s some prediction error, repeat.
(By the way, sensing, representing, and doing map onto the three transcendentals. The good, the true, and the beautiful. Not an accident. Sensing = beauty, representing = truth, doing = goodness. An ideal or goal is to sense/experience/feel beauty, represent/know/believe truth, do/exemplify good.)
Something like that.
The human system is a sensorimotor system.
“Representing” above has maybe too static of a connotation. The thing in the middle is signal processing, sensory processing, signal and sensory transduction. The system is stateful, in a state at any particular time, to be sure. But, depending on what flavor of neuroscience you currently subscribe to, that state is, in some sense, reconstituted in each moment, reconstituted continuously (even accounting for physical protein synthesis, synaptic weights, dendritic and axonic connections, and the physical “locations” of atomic and subatomic particles (and forces and fields)).
The whole thing is “flowing” all the time. It’s a process, with whorls and eddies and feedback looks and strange loops and strange attractors and twists and coiling and uncoiling, etc.
The state of all of that, or, rather, the pattern of all of that, that river of which you can’t step into the same one twice, that’s what it feels like to be you. The feeling of that from the inside is consciousness. Now, of course, there’s lots we aren’t conscious of, and consciousness is a weird, narrow, evolutionarily contingent, low-dimensional projection of somethingsomething. But, no, consciousness is basically that flowing pattern from the inside, or at least a dynamic viewport. When consciousness feels like maybe a static, distant, far-removed thing, that’s more because of the epicycles and epicycles and stacks of virtual machines and reifications that people build up over time, because things are happening too quickly, too intensely, too confusingly. [See technical debt and layer theory.]
In terms of input and output, there’s a lot of things going on in parallel. The world is a blooming, buzzing confusion and one has all these pulsing glands and organs, and twitchy smooth muscle and skeletal muscle.
Despite all that blooming and buzzing and twitching, the system acts really coherently, relatively speaking. People might make poor choices in the large, but people walk and talk and move, in some sense, VERY COHERENTLY. The output of the system is relatively serialized, contiguous, smooth, flowing, and (I think some telos and anthropomorphism is appropriate, here, to balance causal mechanism) planful and goalful.
A related, more human-ish word for representation is “belief.” It’s a decent word, a decent concept. There’s something there. Belief is problematic in a lot of ways, too, though. People express their beliefs, but sometimes it’s just talk? People convince themselves that they believe things, but sometimes it’s self-deception? And sometimes, whatever people say or do in some moment, in some sense their “real” beliefs are revealed by how they actually act in mundane or challenging situations, with stakes and teeth? Sometimes these are referred to as discourse models, self models, and action models. (A “model” being a collection of beliefs, as it were.)
How is “belief” instantiated, anyway? What’s like the real thing, in some sense? Savvy self help and contemporary neuroscience sometimes like to talk about “expectations” instead of beliefs (not to mention free energy minimization and bayesian brains).
I like the word “anticipations.” We inhale before we speak. Be brace ourselves before picking up a heavy object, we shift our weight before stepping or dancing. Muscle length and tension is an ever-shifting, not just reactive but also anticipatory constellation. We’re doing this physical dance all the time. I hazard that what that feels like from the inside is “belief.” When we hear about something that happened on the other side of the world, or we read something in a history book, whether we’re sitting in a chair, or whatever, our hormonal and musculoskeletal system changes its stance, its configuration just a little bit. Our physical anticipation about what’s going to happen next, our readiness, changes just a little bit, fractionally. And, further, our sense of all of that is part of our sensory input into the next moment. I want to say something like stateful-yet-dynamic anticipation, is a critical piece of reconstituting belief in each moment, in some relevant sense is belief.
Ok, so “doing” or action is in some ways pretty straightforward, at least locally. One picks up a cup, kicks the ball, says “thank you.” (I’ll talk about plans and goals, as opposed to local actions, in a moment.)
So, if the idea of “doing,” is relatively clear and straightforward, we can look at what goes wrong. If the thing when it works is coherent, and serialized (even when doing sort of multiple things simultaneously in parallel), and contiguous and flowing (doing in one moment seamlessly flows into the next, tai-chi style), then what’s the thing when it doesn’t work?
Let’s call it “incoherence,” when parts of the motor system aren’t acting together. And let’s call it “contention,” when parts of the motor system are acting *against* each other. Let’s extend the time horizon a little bit from just local doing. If we extend the time horizon a bit, we can mention things like hesitation and perseveration. Bringing it back more locally, or connecting local muscle activity to plans and goals, we can straight-up talk about muscle tension:
Muscle tension is immediate/instantaneous/local contention in motor output due to mediate contradiction in sensorimotor planning.
There’s a way to connect picking up cups or getting food from the refrigerator to long-term plans. There’s some sense in which picking up cups and getting food from the refrigerator *is* the encoding of one’s long-term plans. The brain is router of present sensory experience, and that routing, those tubes take in, sense, the external world including one’s concrete muscular anticipations and ongoing actions, and use that for muscle output in the next moment. And, muscle output in the next moment is “planned” to be sensory input in the moment after that. There’s a way that the system is using its very output (in addition to exploiting its current state) to preserve its future state(s) (including plans and goals with respect to those future states.) Diachronic is always synchronic; the future is always encoded by the present.
Further, what’s going through the tubes/routing sculpts those tubes and routing. And if a system get a better and better “bare-metal” model of how its present-moment behavior conditions next-moment behavior as well as how present-moment behavior sculpts those tubes and routing, well, that’s more and more effective self-modification, from learning, to having better goals and plans, to enlightenment, etc.
Further, there’s this idea that movement is causally upstream of thought? That somewhere, our neck or tongue or eyebrows, or the movement of our neck muscles, affects thinking of even is thinking?
All of this gets closer to a non-annoying or non-frustrating use of the word “embodiment.”
Further related to all this, once one starts working through all those epicycles and virtual machines, belief, whether it feels “mind-y” or “muscular,” one can start playing around with contradiction in a very felt/conscious/bare-metal sort of way, perhaps in a logical/propositional sense, or in a very muscle-y and anticipatory sense, cf Descartes. I’m not saying (really) that that’s the best way to use one’s mind. But there are connections, there, between muscle contention and contradiction in belief/”belief” (or irrealis/counterfactual thought experiments or propositional, logical, theoretical, scientific models).
Ok, so back to that blooming, buzzing confusion. Experience can hurt us! That’s weird. We don’t like to think about that. But, bullies, accidents, health scares, scary movies, looking at a low balance in our bank accounts, someone saying the wrong things to us–experiences like that can fuck us up.
We want to be strong. Sensitive to the world but also in some sense unmoved by the world. Complicated.
Sensing, of course, is intimately tied to doing. And doing is tied to representation. One can think about different self-modification paradigms or techniques based on where the intervention is.
Exposure therapy works on changes through sensing. But there can be subtle teeth-gritting, white-knuckling, avoidance. Things like cognitive behavioral therapy work on representations. I’m just poking at some of the things that licensed mental health professionals tend to reach for. And then of course there’s focusing, IFS, coherence therapy, energy work, reiki, art therapy, sound therapy, meditation, etc.
Anyway, regarding what can go wrong or at least suboptimally, in the representation section we talked about epicycles, virtual machines, eddies, whorls, coils–in the tubes! And we can add to that representational/belief contradiction. And we can say that this produces contention in the muscles (and glands?!) all the way up to through planning and goals. (Or we can say planning and goals are in some sense encoded in the tubes and routing as well as in the muscles.)
The present physical state and process of the system are also its plans and goals. Ah, and the environment!
The state, process, and physical environment of the system are also its plans and goals.
Herbert Simon (he coined the term “bounded rationality” and did many, very important things) gives an example of an ant: Put an ant on a very complex surface, like a rug, and the movements of its legs become very complicated while remaining coherent. The complexity of the behavior is due to both the ant and the environment.
That’s cool, in that, it does hint that a lot of what a person is doing can be offloaded to the environment.
But, don’t we also want to transcend our environments? We are so vulnerable to them. Spending time with family or getting fired from a job or all sorts of things–those are “just” sensory experiences, but they can really, really, really, really mess us up. From babies to now, we are heavily constituted by our experiences, causally determined by them. We are who are were because of a bit of genetics and then 99% parenting and junior high and high school friends. And youtube and amazon. Our hopes and dreams are heartfelt and also sculpted by disney movies (and church, synagogue, mosque…).
In any case, we learn to protect our hopes and dreams, by avoiding situations, by subtle muscle tension, by action in situations (by distracting other people, etc.) Of course, we also accidentally avoid situations where we could learn and grow, realize things aren’t as sad or cruel as we thought, realize that we could have bigger, more beautiful, more quiet, more intimate, more anything goals. And sometimes things are so tangled up that we can’t take advantage of fortuitous local evidence, can’t see it even though it’s right in front of us. Tragic.
Anyway, so we’d like a balance. In some ways we want to be sensorily and environmentally independent or transcendent, to have stable and coherent goals and plans. And in some ways we want to be sensitive, open, to being wrong, to new experiences, to being surprised, to being able to prepare for possible bad things and beautiful and exciting and surprises.
Weirdly, this state of immanence and transcendence; openness and vulnerability yet strong and resilient; sensitivity and irritability (in the technical sense) without overreaction, impulsivity, or clamping down or armoring or avoiding; non-avoidance without force; staring at the sun without muscle tension or getting burned–
this seems to be the state of love.
Rather, love seems to be the answer.
One could boil it down as:
There’s something here that seems stable, settled, certain, able to metabolize anything without being disrupted or stained or corrupted. Incorruptible. Pure. Yet, it is sensitive, responsive, creative, awake, sentient, sapient; not stagnant, not ossified, it learns, it grows, it spontaneously and proactively seeks and acts.
The answer to all the questions, all the seeking, all the contradictions, may just be
(There might still be some improperly negated sentences below. Draft. Navigate at own risk.)
(When you realize something is “empty,” you realize for that thing you were mistaking map for territory.)
Consider, the organism experiences
ZERO then A
(The concept ZERO is abstract, and the concept A is abstract. The concept ZERO is itself composed of concepts, and the same is true of A.)
Consider ZERO is instantiated by a concrete particular, this concrete particular, the one that we are referring to here and above, and it is that/this concrete particular to which the concept ZERO is applied. ZERO is only one part of an entire concrete situation, and A is only one part of an entire concrete situation. The same goes for A.
Now, consider the organism experiences
ZERO then B
If the organism ascribed a (provisional) causal relationship between ZERO and A then this is a contradiction of sorts.
For this contradiction to be noticed, ZERO has to be conceptualized as such, A has to be conceptualized as such, and B has to be conceptualized as such. Further, the provisional causal relationship must be ascribed, enabled in part by the temporal relation between ZERO and A. That is, ZERO came before A.
This contradiction of sorts can be resolved in a few ways.
First, it might be recognized that the first ZERO (of ZERO then A) is different in some relevant way from the second ZERO (of ZERO then B). That is, the concrete particulars in the two cases are different. Depending on how defined, one of the ZEROs might not be a ZERO.
We might also consider that ZERO sometimes causes A and sometimes causes B. This may require redefinition of the concept of cause. Can a thing sometimes cause one thing and sometimes cause another thing? It may be that ZERO is a genus with respect to two different (sub)species of ZERO. If so, we might say that ZEROs sometimes cause A and sometimes cause B.
Or, we might say that it’s a ZERO both times, but something is a little different about the ZERO in each case. We might say ZEROs can take on different forms or modes, which are differently causally efficacious.
Or is a thing that we call ZERO, maybe the word “ZERO” can refer to two different abstract things?
Or, is it something besides ZERO that causes A versus B? Or, is it a combination of ZERO and something (or somethings) that causes A versus B, something else in the concrete situation?
Or, something prior to ZERO happened that SOMEHOW, indirectly and/or obliquely led to B versus A.
Or, the causal relation between ZERO and A or B is mediate and something happened between ZERO and A versus B. Perhaps ZERO is necessary but not sufficient. Perhaps those mediate things are themselves necessary and sufficient, or something else.
We might agree that there must be a difference that makes a difference, although only if “ZERO,” “A,” “then,” and “B” make any sense at all.
Consider the individual wants to understand the puzzle.
They might ACTIVELY CONTRIVE for there to be incidences of ZERO-like or ZERO-applicable or ZERO-adjacent concrete particulars, WITH VARIATION (principled or ad hoc), striving to keep ALL ELSE THE SAME, to attempt to answer the question WHY SOMETIMES A, WHY SOMETIMES B, ALL RELEVANT ELSE SEEMINGLY THE SAME, OR THE SAME ENOUGH, OR SUFFICIENTLY OR RELEVANTLY SIMILAR?
It’s ACTIVE CONTRIVANCE (not to mention preconceptual language games) all the way down, for GENERATIVE MODELS if granted INDIRECT REALISM.
For various facets of the above see On the Origin of Objects, Popper, Wittgenstein, Kant, intension [sic], controlled experiments, independent/dependent/control variables, indirect realism, the map-territory relation, reification fallacy, active inference [Friston], AIXI, Gendlin’s Instance of Itself, Zen’s Beginner’s Mind, Rationality and Power, Foucault.
At the moment, I think I’d prefer more “self-ing” in a world where absolutely everything was going to go my way. Fun. But, in a world of sometimes inadequacy and disappointment and tragedy and the macabre and mortality (and confusion and ignorance and especially meta-suffering), this seems good: the psychological dimension of cleanly working through miles and miles and miles and miles of things in the common human stuff space is extraordinary. Easily worth it solely for that.
As I get farther, I wouldn’t be surprised if “I’m” like ‘hell yes this is way better than anything.’ We’ll see. There’s still a bunch of stuff that obviously, obviously, obviously needs doing, metaphorically intermittent, sparse “big spikes” in the “clean landscape” of the above bullets. That landscape still has a bunch of things that likely will clarify and evolve as well. There’s also plenty of psychological stuff, and morality stuff, and compassion stuff, and goal/”goal” stuff and compassion stuff and relationship stuff and money stuff and world stuff, though the relationship to all of that has of course changed.
Lots of dimensions to tease out. Hard to express. The “this just is” dimension, the “deterministic causal mechanism” dimension, neurophysiology, sensorimotor planning, the no “good/bad/evil and yet” dimension, relatives and absolutes. I’m sure all this for me will change over time, likely dramatically.
Ok, back to netflix, human interaction, money, mission, and more meditation.
I wrote this a few weeks ago, but, when I read it over, it felt very gross and superficial and “origin myth”-y and also a little chilling-effect-“he’s different than everyone else”-ish I mean is this satisfying/useful/interesting/thought-stopping/encouraging/discouraging/cringe?
And then I got feedback from the question-asker and they were more interested in just concrete, first-principles arguments for why my thing worked. So heh. (I want to do that but not yet.)
Anyway, something above kinda slightly redeems the content below, maybe. And I hate to write stuff and not publish it, no matter how messy or problematic (all things being equal). Or am I just countercountercountersignaling? idk
So/anyway, here it is.
NO GODS NO MASTERS NO GURUS
[…] 2:31 AM
question for you: you figure that (correct me if i’m wrong) your protocol can/will/may/might get people far along the path more quickly/thoroughly/harmlessly than other protocols/techniques/traditions. why, if people have been meditating for millenia, is it that some guy like you can come along and make something better than anything [that you know of] that is already out there?
[don’t mean for this q to be aggressive or anything. feel free to question the framing as well] (edited)
Mark 6:49 AM
can I poast the below as a blog post, with your comment up top? any other q’s?
This will be an incomplete answer. There will be historical and sociological reasons.
And people have been innovating since way before the Buddha. The Buddha was an innovator. Mahayana and Vajrayana are innovations. I know the Hindu esoteric traditions less well (and might already be not even wrong) but I assume there’s been innovation, there, too. Theravada had an explosion of innovation in the past one hundred years. The pragmatic dharma scene (and other meditation scenes and the magick scenes [eep]) are actively experimenting.
And people do take very simple instructions and go all the way, and I think there are probably some pretty effective teachers. And/but then I think more people get some small benefits or get stuck or hurt from simple instructions or teachers.
Also, it sure doesn’t look like it, but there’s still some chance my current system will “only work for one person, Mark.” If so, on to version 734,000.56. I’ve already encountered one system that seemed like it was working for some people for several thousand hours but then basically permanently broke people without outside intervention to pull them out [would have to clarify “permanently broke” more but still].
So far, so good, though, modulo keeping an eye on all sorts of simmering issues with the current material and maybe a few wrong turns as people are accumulating hours and hours of practice. Some people, I think, have gotten at least a little bit hurt, so far, maybe one or two more people solidly more than a little, and the jury is still out on long-run net value and quality of life and impact on the whole human project.
There’s still lots to do—better on-ramps, more accessible language, better prose, more testing and tweaking, better theory, more empirical tweaking, more rigor, more crosstalk with philosophy and neuroscience…
I think some of it has been “right place, right time.”
I was not part of the earliest internet, but I was in the first wave of a people that had access to Amazon books, google book search, and worldcat. I was on university campuses for over a decade and eventually had access to literature navigation tools like Scopus, web of science, and so on. I had access to *excellent* academic libraries that maybe had a weird amount of phenomenology and eastern stuff.
I ended up doing electrical and computer engineering, so boolean algebra was in my blood, and I was doing complex boolean queries as soon as I was in front of search boxes.
I had always had a strong “that’s bullshit” reflex. A strong “I’ll figure it out for myself” reflex. A strong “how does this *really* work” reflex.
My dad claims that we were talking a walk, when I was three or five or something, and then looking at a tree. And my dad says, “look how beautiful this tree is; what are you thinking, mark?” And I said, “I’m trying to figure out what makes it grow.” etc etc etc etc etc etc etc
My dad also says that I stated I said I wanted to be, and I quote, a “magician-scientist,” at some early age. Seems legit. etc etc etc etc etc etc etc
So my dad started doing qigong when I was in highschool. And then I started doing qigong. And then I found “energy work.”
I had an early experience where I did exactly what the author instructed and then I immediately had an experience unlike any I had ever had before.
At the time, I thought the author’s *theory* was bullshit, but, I resolved to collect all the books where the author said “If you do this, then you will experience this.” And then I would try them all out and go from there. So, I used this approach to hillclimb in the resource space. This caused me to incorrectly discard a lot of value but also kept me moving upwards on a real gradient for a long time.
In the beginning of college, I was playing with astral projection and out of body experiences. I thought it probably wasn’t “real” but wouldn’t it be cool if it was.
I started engineering classes, where we talked about “energy.” But this “energy” wasn’t the same “energy” as in the “energy work” books. wtf was going on?
I started reading about the brain and nervous system.
Separately, Ken Wilber’s books blew my mind and protected me a little bit from modernity.
From Ken Wilber I understood that both psychology and spirituality were important, but I was super-frustrated about how to unify them.
All the people on a particular internet forum who were succeeding at astral projection were meditators. (I had been trying to figure out what they all had in common.) So, from that, and from reading Ken Wilber, I picked up meditation. And then I was like, oh, this is independently really important.
I kept collecting all the things and trying all the things.
All this time, I had been interested in curriculum design, pedagogy, and clear instruction. And so all the meditation resources were driving me insane with their lack of clarity and poor organization. Early on, I did think it wouldn’t be too hard to do better. I was both right and wrong.
As I picked apart meditation, I had to get into eastern and western phenomenology, as I got more and more technical.
As my engineering (and physics) classes progressed, I got more into neuroscience. [Somewhere in there I had a couple textbook astral projection/out-of-body experiences, which were nevertheless underwhelming, and that, plus the neuroscience, including lucid dreaming type stuff, made me get bored with this line of inquiry.]
I’ve read hundreds of meditation/phenomenology/science/philosophy books and skimmed thousands of research papers.
Years later, I eventually ended up doing a PhD that involved analyzing EEG. So that was a little bit of training in rigor and tons of thinking about the brain, as well as being adjacent to lots of neuroscience. Neuroscience needs another two hundred years, but still.
More recently, I had a series of very mixed experiences, but these unlocked all of philosophy besides just phenomenology. And I’m grateful for some of those experiences because also I had been trying to find the underlying principles of Focusing, Internal Family Systems Therapy, and Coherence Therapy, and this was greatly accelerated, too. So, all of this greatly boosted the methodological and theoretical side of the whole enterprise, and I appropriated and modified a bunch of concrete pieces as well from a lot of smart people.
And now there wasn’t just the Dharma Overground but also r/streamentry, and real value to draw on was continually being surfaced by these online communities. And contemporary teachers over the past ten years have been getting better and better web presences with more and more easily accessible value. I solidly drew from all of this.
Up until recently, I was really disillusioned with meditation. I was doing everything but. But then, while trying crazier and crazier stuff, more and more intensely, I had a series of canonical experiences and realized I had stream-entered and was now (a few years later) cycling according to the progress of insight. Thank you for your writing, Daniel Ingram. (Also, cycling became undetectable as I kept upgrading my methods.) So, I stopped everything else I was doing and went all-in on meditation.
More recently, I met someone who had kind of surveyed the entire contemporary meditation landscape. I was less up-to-date because I had been doing other things for several years. And they put me in touch with a bunch of pieces that further accelerated things as well as provided very stimulating and helpful interaction around my material.
Then, to get a more full picture, there’s a question of why I did this and not something else. Why wasn’t I idk serving my country and/or planet earth, making babies, relationshipping (even more), or being a traveling robot salesman? Why was I sitting in a dark room alone for thousands of hours. (I mean I did teaching, research, and software, and may yet again, at least transiently, but still. I’ve also done lots of friendshipping and intimate relationshipping, but I could have done more and plan to do more, and etc.)—
I want to go more into the psychology of “why this and not that,” eventually, but, at least for me, suffice it to say, for now, that sometimes one is either so broken, so hurt, or both, plus has enough straight-ish, white, male, nonbroken-home, education, earning-power, support-network, safety-net, entitled-attitude privilege, plus has enough starter puzzle pieces, plus has enough of an inability to learn from other people directly, that one has “no choice” but to “try to figure it all out.”
General content warning! Something for everybody! This isn’t like my usual posts, and some people will find this triggering, hilarious, morbid, cathartic, all of the above…
Everything comes apart, separates, deconstructs, deconvolves; you get underneath everything, while everything remains nevertheless nonarbitrarily globally unified. Changes are nondestructive; the system separates out and preserves the good stuff; and it can roll back changes, though, at least initially, it sometimes has to take the long way around. The system advances (increments) along this “enlightenment dimension,” step-by-step, nonarbitrarily, only at each stepwise point when various safety and goodness criteria are perfectly fulfilled. There is a dimension of effortlessness that grows.
Again, everything comes apart, separates, deconstructs, deconvolves; you get underneath everything, while everything remains nevertheless nonarbitrarily globally unified.
You find a way to make it safe to look and then you look.
You find a better thing to replace the less good thing and then you do so.
You find the good thing and keep its patterned essence while then letting it and everything around it flow.
With diversions, nonmonotonicities, potential rough patches, unified-normal-human-doing-their-skillful-meta-best-to-have-a-good-exciting-interesting-fun-intimate-safe-life is the attractor state at the bottom of the gravity well.
[For everything below this point, read to the bottom for a big disclaimer.]
As a thing to recommend to people for relatively breezy reading, I’m still really liking two of Greg Goode’s books:
The Direct Path: A User Guide
After Awareness: The End of the Path
(I’ve only read about 30% of each of these books, though, just FYI. I like the parts that I dipped into. A lot.)
They have their issues, but he’s the only (relatively widely accessible?) author/teacher that I’ve encountered where it’s really obvious [to me] that he’s gone all the way or is almost there and well on his way. This is sort of only on the “deconvolution” dimension, though, still. Not necessarily the “winning at life” dimension, though they do converge in the limit. So if one then the other.
Tentatively, Shinzen Young seems uneven in places but is maybe generally much farther along than the average “A-list”(????) teacher? With him and Goode, I’m still not super happy with their pedagogy (understatement), but at least they have coherent, unified, and complete pedagogic systems.
And, the Zen tradition (the parts that I’ve encountered) seem to have all sorts of beginner and mid-range issues, but I tentatively think that when/if students reach escape velocity they’re more likely to go all the way and not get stuck. Maybe. Zen is very not immune to, say, sex scandals, but that could potentially reflect selection bias rather than an issue with method or community. Zen is not a monolith, of course.
I’m mentioning these teachers and traditions to connect up the space a bit more. But, I have not done a careful or remotely comprehensive survey of the landscape and I have not had an in depth conversation with literally any meditation teacher or even any student of a discrete tradition at all, ever. I have brief interactions and dip in and out of conversations and books at my peril. (This may change.)
So these impressions are super impoverished and sketchy, and I recommend keeping an open mind and doing due diligence when you choose techniques and who to associate with.
I’m not done-done-done… but, here’s another stab at a concise description of enlightenment in words. I could be wrong about so many things or be emphasizing the wrong things! I still have a bunch to do, maybe a lifetime of stuff to do, depending on how the pie is definitionally sliced!
Before that, I want to acknowledge that people have been working to “take the mysticism” out of “enlightenment” for decades or for forever, because it even being a frame makes it easier for bad actors or well-meaning but imperfect people to acquire harmful influence and resources. And a person can lose decades of well-being or a lifetime’s worth to a bad actor.
So, as per usual, it’s so easy for a person to be wrong about themselves. “Enlightenment” is a nonmonotonic, NP-complete, zeno’s paradox kind of thing. It’s a limit case with potentially massive nonmonotonicities.
If someone is being a charismatic asshole, they might be exhausted and doing their best, but generally one should assume that they are not playing n-dimensional chess but in fact are acting from blindspots, limitations, and inadequacies. If something feels wrong, then something (likely many, many things) is/are wrong, somewhere. Some of that will be you and some of that will be them. It might be best to stay far away.
All that being said, here’s yet another description:
I expect people under forty-ish years old who go after the above with current tech are probably looking at a rough, zeno’s-paradox-feeling ride between, I don’t know, 5000-15000 hours, but most likely on the near side of 10,000.
Also, when things settle down it’s pretty “metaphysically normal feeling” from the inside. Like, still pretty much what you’d expect if you were a physical brain and a body on a spinning molten rock hurtling through space in a lawful universe, as a far-from-equilibrium eating and pooping entropy whirlpool, or something. Same-but-different-but-same as pre-“enlightenment,” albeit with lots of craziness in between.
All provisional!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I won’t be surprised if in a few hours, days, weeks, I’ll be like no *this* is concisely the thing.
“radically embodied” is still super-annoying shorthand, I know. it might just as hard to explicate that as to explicate “enlightenment.” So maybe I’m just passing the buck around. We’ll see.
Ok, I rescind my claim that the three marks are merely pedagogical. [This is a claim I’ve made on private fora.] I have recently acquired what I believe are the “true apparent referents” of at least two of them. I think the language used to describe them is fine (no-self, impermanence).
Hasty toy model: If one imagines the mind as a landscape that can be gathered and ungathered into different conceptual configurations, some better than others, some “closer to the metal” than others, some deeper than others. Then the “true” three marks are quite deep. (Deeper means that, all things being equal, one will likely pass through more, rather than less, conceptual stages before reaching the deeper ones.) And, once you “gather” properly, you potentially “see through” that gathering, transcend it, on the way to pure awareness, or whatever.
I’ve taken, on net, a “breadth-first” transformation path, sort of shaving off large swaths of territory before descending a micrometer to shave off more. My path has been very “psychological.”
I now believe what Ingram did is pin-point, depth-first searches, over and over again. Each pin-point contact with a “tiny patch” of one of the three marks produced a cessation or fruition-like experiences. So, he sort of hardcore “reified” the three marks and went hunting.
People who go depth-first seem more likely to describe extreme “integration hardship” post punctate enlightenment-ish experiences. And they also do a syncretic collection of practices besides meditation, before and after they’ve felt like they’ve “finished.”
People who go breadth-first seem to not get very far or to lead gentle ok lives or to get really far after like thirty-plus years.
I could imagine some combination of breadth-first and depth-first being ideal. (These are abstractions, of course.) While my overall approach has been more breadth-first, I did a bunch of depth-first-ish things closer to the beginning. This mirrors the route of extreme dry insight to stack up supramundane insights, followed by much more concentration-style practices.
I think depth-first is going to tend to be problematic because of “improper-” or “over-reification,” smashing headfirst into inessential or dangerous parts of the state space as well as potentially terrible integration experiences.
And breadth-first is going to tend to problematic because of scattered “getting nowhere” or, worse, getting potentially lost in bad places for a very, very long time.
I like my approach because it introduces wayfinding concepts that are more general and more abstract than the three marks (or other dogmatic approaches), allowing for idiosyncratic and personalized wayfinding without sacrificing “sharpness.” Relatively speaking.
(Having just now encountered what I believe to be the “true three marks referents,” do I rescind my claim of being done, for some flavor of done? [I don not claim to be “done-done.”] Or do I wish I had been more trusting of the scriptures or, say, Ingram’s material? Not really. It would have been such a narrow journey, harrowing in different ways than my own. I’m not left cobbling to together many, many syncretic practices and frameworks to supplement “hardcore noting with provisional ontological commitments,” in order to continue making progress. Re, “done,” I’m hitting the three marks because there’s seemingly just not much left to do. It’s been by incidental process of elimination. And, afaict, my life wouldn’t have been better if I’d punched through sooner. Emptiness was most excellent, but these aren’t changing things too much. Maybe they are usually tangled together with a bunch of other stuff that makes contact with them much more intense/profound/freeing/positive. Not sure.)
While I don’t think they’re “merely pedagogical” anymore, they don’t seem different in kind to the many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many mezo and almost-as-deep apparent referents that I’ve already come across.
Whether it’s psychological, supramundane, therapy, meditation, anything–it’s the same playing field. It’s all mind. Ken Wilber had a thing where one needs to get through X% of their shadow stuff in order to do the enlightenment thing, and, so, even though some people claim enlightenment is orthogonal to psychology, he disagreed. This take of his seems completely accurate in my experience. And, so, say, getting through 100% of one’s shadow, as it were, plus other technical debt, is equivalent to full enlightenment. But, completely running out of “three marks-ness” to process, being all done with the three marks, is just another waypoint on the path, and seemingly a somewhat flexible one as how much of that processing one does earlier or later. (I’m *not* saying “fully processing the three marks” is how, say, Ingram thinks of it. It’s a bit of a straw.)
So, again, all the cycles, the fruitions, the entering through through doors corresponding to particular marks, this seems to be an artifact of a particular wayfinding strategy, and one of the better ones, along several dimensions. And/but, as far as I can tell, fruitions, cycling, etc., aren’t necessary. Maybe a few are are sort of “incidentally necessary,” but in some sense “emergent” and not reflective of something perfectly essential to progress. This is sort getting into “vague hairsplitting” so I’ll stop here.