I think there’s at least few pieces that cause this:
Say a person’s “functionality” is a nonlinear combination of four basis dimensions, that all max out at “5.” So, say, Functionality(5,5,5,5) = 1000. That is, 1000 is the max functionality a person can have. But, the since the function is nonlinear, we have
F(5,5,5,5) = 1000
F(5,5,5,4) = 750
F(4,5,5,4) = 500
F(3,3,3,3) = 120
F(1,3,2,1) = 50
F(1,2,2,1) = 15
F(any=0) = 0
Meditation progress is multidimensionally nonmonotonic; in other words, lots of things can break, so, at least one thing is broken all of the time, for a while.
A person with broken stuff is engaging with the world less. They see some basis vectors going up, and others going down. They double down on meditation—under some conditions, this is the right thing to do; see below.
The next thing is that mind change is counterintuitively slow. There’s a very combinatorial optimization, NP-complete thing going on. 10,000 hours of meditation is a good estimate for “how long it takes to get out of most of the nonmonotonicity” in (1).
If someone is meditating for an hour a day, that’s 20 years. If someone is meditating “full time plus,” that’s two or three years. Timelines account for a lot of “where did they go.” Most people aren’t meditating “full time plus,” so we could be talking at least five years, if not ten.
But, most meditation systems are pretty bad, they don’t have things like a “meta protocol,” that helps people systematically refine (and meta refine) what they’re doing, so they’re not doing stereotyped button mashing and/or going in circles. (True circles are rare, but things can get really oblique from a direct path.)
So, there is a saying for a reason: “Better not to start; if you start, better to finish.”
Lots of people people accidentally start, and some people correctly choose to bite the bullet, for their life situation and what they want to fix/do/change/etc.
And/but/indeed, most people don’t know how to finish, and/or they don’t know what they’re getting into.
But, that’s changing…
By the way, meditation is an epistemic method and indirectly discloses specific domain knowledge:
There’s a similar discussion at the end of this older blog post: