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TOPIC: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model

Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 08 Nov 2012 11:25 #7700

The body stuff is really valuable at all stages, I think, because the body has an animal honesty to it. The body speaks clearly through tension, posture, clenching, relaxation. The mind turns that into complicated stories and excuses and wishes and dislikes.

In terms of engaging practice with real life in a healthy way, I think there's a real value in exploring the attachments and aversions that arise at all stages of practice from the perspective of awakening. This is not the same as dwelling on stories. But, for example, if fear arises, or doubt arises (at any level), explore it. What is the fear? Really? Look more honestly. Is there a deeper fear? Most often underneath it all is a fear of losing control or dying. Just recognize that.

If there are life problems - say a conflict with a colleague - take the practice there. Not "it's just thoughts, not happening to me" but look at the motivations. Are you trying to maintain status? Are you wanting to control the behavior of others? Where are the attachments? What are the aversions? Feel how attachment or aversion feels in the body. Feel the adrenaline, the tension. Notice how the game is played. This develops healthy self-awareness. If a person has done psychotherapy type work or is socially mature, they will need less coaching through this, but many people are very clueless about their own patterns and habits.

And finally, there can be a real aversion to compassion, ethics, love, forgiveness, and so on among meditators drawn to more technical approaches (who seem to tend to be young men with inclinations to geekdom). If there is deep aversion to metta practice, that's worth exploring. What is the aversion based on? What might be lost if one gives up ones defensiveness? What might happen if one offers loving kindness to others? This speaks to attachment to identity: "I'm not some lovey dovey hippie!" for example. That right there is a pile of very interesting attachments and aversions to look at.

Throwing some more spare change in the pile... -Ona
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 08 Nov 2012 11:36 #7701

(Related, I had a student tell me yesterday that she was blown away by the depth of self-awareness that had arisen from meditation practice over the past year. She had done various sorts of therapy in years past, but she thought she had made far more progress with meditation in seeing her own shit, understanding the games she plays, recognizing her reactions to conflict, etc. than therapy ever provided. That said, she's the sort of person who pays attention to social relationships, her own reactions, etc and notices these things. She didn't start meditating with the goal of being able to generate trance states or have amazing powers. She just wanted to feel less anxious.)
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 10 Nov 2012 07:47 #7711

Well this is a bit ironic! I came to dharma forums very opposed to maps and models, now when I come back, having changed my position, everyone else is opposed to maps and models! That's awesome!

I certainly can't disagree with anything that Ona or Chris is saying, though I certainly have a personal academic interest in, and special soft spot in my heart for bizarre concentration states - they certainly aren't the point. The point probably is much more related to mindfulness and metta.

I think this all raises a few questions - like what enlightenment really is, what meditation does and why it works, if certain meditation techniques are better for certain kinds of enlightened qualities than others, what do the "paths" really represent, etc. Any model is only as good as it informs practice. I have to admit, the 20 strata of mind isn't too useful to me, as I have little occasion to visit the higher strata - though 4th jhana is pretty useful.

The way I've defined enlightenment (which has seemed the most neutral) is "persistent changes to the structure of my consciousness" and my best guess is that it involves neurological reconditioning that is promoted through concentration/meditation practices. Once those changes are put in place it becomes a whole lot easier to do the kind of work that Chris and Ona are talking about, and I think that getting those changes for someone you are coaching is priority number 1. Often when people stall out it's because they are weak in either concentration or mindfulness, and the model speaks well to that. By the time people get "second path" I think the model becomes increasingly less useful. In fact, I'd like some other tool to help guide those people.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 10 Nov 2012 09:07 #7713

"I think this all raises a few questions - like what enlightenment really is, what meditation does and why it works, if certain meditation techniques are better for certain kinds of enlightened qualities than others, what do the "paths" really represent, etc. " -- David

David, we've been hashing this stuff out for the past several years :P
Last Edit: 10 Nov 2012 09:08 by Chris Marti.
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The following user(s) said Thank You: David

Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 10 Nov 2012 10:48 #7714

I bet you have. Can anyone summarize for me? Or tell me what threads to read?
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 10 Nov 2012 11:38 #7717

David, I think poking around in the older threads that Tom Otvos ported here from the original location is the best way to find those conversations. This section of Dharma Refugees would be a good place to start:

www.awakenetwork.org/index.php/forum/104-meditation-practice
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 10 Nov 2012 12:53 #7720

You moved old threads over? Woo! I didn't even realize! Zombie thread time!
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 10 Nov 2012 14:49 #7727

I'm throwing a flag on that comment, Ona, because we SAID we moved the almost all the old site's threads to this site when we moved here. Several times :P

The only comments that didn't make it over here were a very few made during a short period when we had requested a second backup from the old site and their technology failed to do it (and then failed completely), so we missed a few comments during the ensuing several days - but not very many.

Oh, ye of little faith....

www.awakenetwork.org/index.php/forum/108...from-the-lefora-site
Last Edit: 10 Nov 2012 16:05 by Chris Marti.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 10 Nov 2012 14:57 #7729

Mind like a sieve...
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 10 Nov 2012 15:59 #7731

Tom spent a lot of personal time and effort on the move from LeFora to here. That's worth a lot, IMHO.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 10 Nov 2012 16:57 #7732

A huge bow to Tom. I apologize for forgetting.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 13 Nov 2012 12:16 #7780

I’ve been out of the message board scene for a couple weeks, so I just now saw that this thread (which was recommended by me) actually happened. Nice!

My opinions about the 20 Strata may differ from some of you. I’m sure some of you read my essay on the 20 Strata at KFDh back in the day. At the time, I was very much on board with it. It made sense to me, and it showed up in my experience of practice.

Things change, though.

One of the issues I have with the model is that it’s based on fabrication. All mental states are influenced/affected by intention and perception to a significant degree (though, I’m not saying that’s ALL they are). By assigning an objective reality to states of meditation by calling them strata, we risk adopting some really shaky metaphysics.

The funny thing about the mind is that it’s really good at settling itself into habits. If we train the mind to shift from one state to another, over and over again, it will happen more and more quickly, with less and less effort. This can make it seem like the mind is climbing literal rungs in a consciousness ladder, but I don’t think that’s what is happening here. In fact, it’s almost a variation of the Great Chain of Being, which is also quite flawed (Wilber has tried to update it, but I still don’t really like it). And that flows nicely into the next criticism…

I think it’s mostly erroneous to tie major attainments to one’s ability to “access” a particular “strata of mind.” The problem lies in the way this process is communicated. If one takes the view that these states are skillfully fabricated, then rather than accessing strata, one is fabricating states. I can’t think of any good model that says a person reaches a higher stage of awakening when they can fabricate a particular type of state.

It’s true that some states arise more or less naturally from the base of another. One can observe the defects (if you will) of a state, intend to drop them, and a new state can arise. One can also simply call up or drop certain jhana factors as their mind gets used to fabricating them. That makes for a powerful mind, but not necessarily an awakened one.

So then, the most dangerous aspect of the 20 Major Strata of Mind model is the way it leads people to believe they’re further along the path then they really are. I was able to access PL jhanas during what I consider my experience of 2nd Path, not 3rd. 3rd Path came a while after, and was not the result of climbing up and down the jhanic arc. Really, it had more to do with dislodging from the arc for long enough to investigate some areas I was leaving out. More details can be shared later, though, so we can stay on topic.

Anyway, I don’t think it’s all bad. It encourages developing concentration and clear-seeing skills to a high degree, which is always an aid to major insights. But, just like the Progress of Insight, one can’t just keep going round and round the same habitual mind track and expect new results. The 20 Strata can be constructively taught (no pun intended) to aid in the development of certain skills. Later, the stack of strata can be used as an object to inquire into, and then dismantled (so to speak).

In other words, better to consider this training as one of cultivating states, rather than accessing planes of existence.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 13 Nov 2012 13:55 #7788

Jackson Wilshire wrote:
I

One of the issues I have with the model is that it’s based on fabrication. All mental states are influenced/affected by intention and perception to a significant degree (though, I’m not saying that’s ALL they are). By assigning an objective reality to states of meditation by calling them strata, we risk adopting some really shaky metaphysics.

The funny thing about the mind is that it’s really good at settling itself into habits. If we train the mind to shift from one state to another, over and over again, it will happen more and more quickly, with less and less effort. This can make it seem like the mind is climbing literal rungs in a consciousness ladder, but I don’t think that’s what is happening here. In fact, it’s almost a variation of the Great Chain of Being, which is also quite flawed (Wilber has tried to update it, but I still don’t really like it). And that flows nicely into the next criticism…

I think it’s mostly erroneous to tie major attainments to one’s ability to “access” a particular “strata of mind.” The problem lies in the way this process is communicated. If one takes the view that these states are skillfully fabricated, then rather than accessing strata, one is fabricating states. I can’t think of any good model that says a person reaches a higher stage of awakening when they can fabricate a particular type of state... One can also simply call up or drop certain jhana factors as their mind gets used to fabricating them. That makes for a powerful mind, but not necessarily an awakened one...

...In other words, better to consider this training as one of cultivating states, rather than accessing planes of existence.

These were almost exactly the criticisms I had of all maps before Kenneth taught this model to me. What convinced me was that I reported the details of the model back to him without knowing them - for instance I didn't even know the PL states existed, yet I was able to describe them to him very precisely, and even able to describe some "minor strata" not explicitly mentioned in the model. This convinced me (and mind you, I was not easily convinced on this point!) that there was a degree of objectivity to the model. I suppose that there might be some way that there was unconscious transfer of information - that I experienced them that way because Kenneth expected me to - but it was certainly a surprise to my conscious mind! For instance, I've seen people enchant sigils that other people created and have them work, when the enchanters had no idea what it was for - but the level of detail that I was able to convey not having any understanding that nanas and jhanas relate to each other at all is pretty remarkable.

Nevertheless, I do agree about most of what you've said including the designation of "states" rather than strata, nor do I have any belief that these comprise even a fraction of the possible states (having experienced quite a few more personally) - just think these may be fundamental in some respect (at least the 1st four jhanas anyway...)

I do think that the model does an adequate job of depicting the difference between concentration and insight while drawing an interrelationship between the two... but yeah - mastery of a state does not equal insight.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 13 Nov 2012 14:12 #7790

David wrote:
These were almost exactly the criticisms I had of all maps before Kenneth taught this model to me. What convinced me was that I reported the details of the model back to him without knowing them - for instance I didn't even know the PL states existed, yet I was able to describe them to him very precisely, and even able to describe some "minor strata" not explicitly mentioned in the model. This convinced me (and mind you, I was not easily convinced on this point!) that there was a degree of objectivity to the model. I suppose that there might be some way that there was unconscious transfer of information - that I experienced them that way because Kenneth expected me to - but it was certainly a surprise to my conscious mind! For instance, I've seen people enchant sigils that other people created and have them work, when the enchanters had no idea what it was for - but the level of detail that I was able to convey not having any understanding that nanas and jhanas relate to each other at all is pretty remarkable.

Nevertheless, I do agree about most of what you've said including the designation of "states" rather than strata, nor do I have any belief that these comprise even a fraction of the possible states (having experienced quite a few more personally) - just think these may be fundamental in some respect (at least the 1st four jhanas anyway...)

I do think that the model does an adequate job of depicting the difference between concentration and insight while drawing an interrelationship between the two... but yeah - mastery of a state does not equal insight.
Thanks for this. Yah, I agree that there's a degree of objectivity in the model. To say otherwise would be to fall too far in the direction of a subjectivity bias. To better summarize my view, I think there's a degree of objectivity to what we might refer to as "mind." All things which are dependently originated will be more likely to behave in some ways more than others. The mind accesses/cultivates states. Some are easier to cultivate than others, and there are some states that are easier to build off of other states, which can turn into a nice track of 20 Strata.

So, I guess the mind has the potential to access this track of states, perhaps more readily than others. But I don't think this means that these Strata are floating around out there, waiting to be accessed. I think they come into being/becoming when the appropriate conditions arise. They are not other than the process of state cultivation itself, even if that seems to be the track the mind is inclined to follow when a certain meditative activity is practiced.

That's my opinion, anyway. Of course I could be wrong.

I guess I don't see it as being much different from waking, dreaming, or deep sleep. These states happen when the conditions for them occur, and go away when the conditions cease. I don't know that this means the mind is stratified into these states, so much as it plays a part in their becoming.

Thoughts?
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 14 Nov 2012 09:00 #7806

Jackson Wilshire wrote:

Thanks for this. Yah, I agree that there's a degree of objectivity in the model. To say otherwise would be to fall too far in the direction of a subjectivity bias. To better summarize my view, I think there's a degree of objectivity to what we might refer to as "mind." All things which are dependently originated will be more likely to behave in some ways more than others. The mind accesses/cultivates states. Some are easier to cultivate than others, and there are some states that are easier to build off of other states, which can turn into a nice track of 20 Strata.

So, I guess the mind has the potential to access this track of states, perhaps more readily than others. But I don't think this means that these Strata are floating around out there, waiting to be accessed. I think they come into being/becoming when the appropriate conditions arise. They are not other than the process of state cultivation itself, even if that seems to be the track the mind is inclined to follow when a certain meditative activity is practiced.

That's my opinion, anyway. Of course I could be wrong.

I guess I don't see it as being much different from waking, dreaming, or deep sleep. These states happen when the conditions for them occur, and go away when the conditions cease. I don't know that this means the mind is stratified into these states, so much as it plays a part in their becoming.

I think this is a very sophisticated view, and much more in line with my previous experience prior to being instructed in the model by Kenneth. It raises the question of what "mind" is, and what comprises the conditions for states. I also think that these statements are perhaps more true for the formless realms (J5-J8) than it is for J1-J4 which refer primarily to depths of absorption - J4 seems to be an absolute limit to how deeply one can become absorbed in any object as it is primarily non-dual - and itclearly serves as a platform for J5-8. I'm not sure what the PL states represent though there seems to be something "energetic" involved and seem to only be able to be accessed when the Witness dissolves. As a magician, when I think about states, I always think "what is the use for this state?" and I have to say, can't find any real use for the formless realms... there might be some beings in the PL states according to traditional models and they could be utilized for some heavy blessings type work... Also raises the question if the lower concentration states might be used as platforms for other states - my guess is yes.

Also I'm not entirely sure whether I want to call the nana experiences "states" given their transitional character. Also how do you explain the fact that the nanas are experienced differently from the point of view of samatha (focus on concentration object) than they are from Vipassana (focus on peripheral field of experience)? [from the samatha point of view, the nanas are experienced as mini-bardos or partitions, while from the mindfulness point of view the nanas as experienced as existential challenges - and the first four jhanas are nanas of major importance]. This difference really gives the feel of the metaphor of three blind scientists describing an elephant... It also raises the question of what these "fruitions" are - clearly not a state.

(As a sidenote - "begging the question" refers to a circular argument, while in this context "raising the question" is used correctly - a pet peeve from my philosophy undergrad days. This comment isn't directed towards Jackson or anyone in particular - just something I've seen around this message board a bit).
Last Edit: 14 Nov 2012 10:00 by David.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 14 Nov 2012 10:13 #7813

This is my take -- I believe that the complexity of the human mind and our inability (at least for now) to communicate directly and very specifically about this state or that state of mind makes these discussions almost useless except that they might entertain us and/or contribute to our innate desire to define and classify things that pretty well defy definition and classification.

:evil:
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 14 Nov 2012 10:40 #7816

Chris Marti wrote:
This is my take -- I believe that the complexity of the human mind and our inability (at least for now) to communicate directly and very specifically about this state or that state of mind makes these discussions almost useless except that they might entertain us and/or contribute to our innate desire to define and classify things that pretty well defy definition and classification.

:evil:

Bear with me, Chris... B) This discussion is creating some insights for me that I think may be useful, but I want to see what Jackson has to say before I share. Plus, they're half-baked right now.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 14 Nov 2012 10:41 #7817

David wrote:
Also I'm not entirely sure whether I want to call the nana experiences "states" given their transitional character. Also how do you explain the fact that the nanas are experienced differently from the point of view of samatha (focus on concentration object) than they are from Vipassana (focus on peripheral field of experience)? [from the samatha point of view, the nanas are experienced as mini-bardos or partitions, while from the mindfulness point of view the nanas as experienced as existential challenges - and the first four jhanas are nanas of major importance]. This difference really gives the feel of the metaphor of three blind scientists describing an elephant... It also raises the question of what these "fruitions" are - clearly not a state.
Okay, now that’s something I forgot to consider. For those of us who do not think jhana requires full absorption (which is still controversial in some circles), it seems that the jhanas and ñanas run in near parallel up through (at least) 4th jhana. This fact to me is more reliable than the notion of 20 major strata. (Perhaps the reason I don’t like the strata metaphor is that it calls to mind a stack of shelves or steps, going from low to high. This is arbitrary, though, given the fact that some of the ñanas seem like regressions, at least in terms of certain mental factors. But I digress…) In my experience, if I focus solely on samatha, I can move from 1st through 4th jhana, shift to the 11th nana, and wait for fruition. This makes it possible to bypass the less pleasant ñanas. I wasn’t able to do this before 3rd Path, but that doesn’t mean someone couldn’t start out this way. However, people seem to make swifter progress if they decide to dive into the Progress of Insight stages instead of waiting to cultivate beautiful jhana states.

So, I’m with you on this one. There are a few possibilities for what is actually occurring. The first is that there really is some kind of consciousness territory, which can be travelled in different ways. This idea makes good use of the “path” metaphor. Another possibility is that there are simply multiple ways of bringing the mind to the 4th jhana/11th nana mode, which is the appropriate launching pad for fruition (which I agree is not a state; though, some disagree; we can discuss this later), or for cultivating samatha states that are more subtle (formless or PL, etc.). It may not necessarily be the same “territory” or “strata,” but just another way to get the mind into the desired condition.

I’m sure there are other possibilities as well.
David wrote:
(As a sidenote - "begging the question" refers to a circular argument, while in this context "raising the question" is used correctly - a pet peeve from my philosophy undergrad days. This comment isn't directed towards Jackson or anyone in particular - just something I've seen around this message board a bit).
Yes, you are correct, sir. Thanks for providing the clarification.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 14 Nov 2012 10:50 #7819

Chris Marti wrote:
This is my take -- I believe that the complexity of the human mind and our inability (at least for now) to communicate directly and very specifically about this state or that state of mind makes these discussions almost useless except that they might entertain us and/or contribute to our innate desire to define and classify things that pretty well defy definition and classification.

:evil:
Good point. I think the reason I spend so much time discussing these topics is because I hate seeing people become confused by bad models or other misconceptions. I’m not setting out to create maps models, so much as I’m trying to dismantle the assumptions of some of the ones that are more common – many of which are less reliable, and less valid, than they could be, IMHO.

I’m particularly interested in reducing confusion and suffering surrounding erroneous Dharma Diagnostics, if you will. I prefer a more down to earth, sensible approach; which, though it may seem counterintuitive, sometimes require sophisticated and laborious arguments.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 14 Nov 2012 12:47 #7825

Yes, I know. My problem is that I have for several years now become rudely intolerant of commentary that requires a lot of words. I don't know why this is. Most of you like long posts, and I know that and I actually feel quite bad about my shortcoming in this regard. I will work on it.
Last Edit: 14 Nov 2012 12:48 by Chris Marti.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 14 Nov 2012 12:50 #7826

Jackson Wilshire wrote:
I think the reason I spend so much time discussing these topics is because I hate seeing people become confused by bad models or other misconceptions. I’m not setting out to create maps models, so much as I’m trying to dismantle the assumptions of some of the ones that are more common – many of which are less reliable, and less valid, than they could be, IMHO.

I’m particularly interested in reducing confusion and suffering surrounding erroneous Dharma Diagnostics, if you will. I prefer a more down to earth, sensible approach; which, though it may seem counterintuitive, sometimes require sophisticated and laborious arguments.

This interests me, and you said more clearly what I haven't been able to articulate, which is the answer to the question "so who cares if people are really into dharma diagnostics or extreme mapping?" The answer is because it often induces an enormous level of suffering that is not necessary.

I've seen people do similar levels of fussing over details of experience, comparing their current experience to idealized outcomes, and clinging to literalist interpretation of allegorical teachings in other traditions, too. It's not just a Buddhist thing, nor a Theravada thing, nor a pragmatic dharma thing.

I like trying to dig out the underlying motivation and confusion - what is being pursued? What is being sought? What is dissatisfying?
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 14 Nov 2012 13:01 #7827

Chris Marti wrote:
Yes, I know. My problem is that I have for several years now become rudely intolerant of commentary that requires a lot of words. I don't know why this is. Most of you like long posts, and I know that and I actually feel quite bad about my shortcoming in this regard. I will work on it.
I hope you know my intent was not to have you feel bad, Chris! I, for one, enjoy your ability and propensity to be succinct. It keeps things sane around here.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 14 Nov 2012 13:08 #7828

Chris Marti wrote:
Yes, I know. My problem is that I have for several years now become rudely intolerant of commentary that requires a lot of words. I don't know why this is. Most of you like long posts, and I know that and I actually feel quite bad about my shortcoming in this regard. I will work on it.

For me the pleasure of it is that it's conversation for its own sake - chit chat about stuff we find amusing, interesting, strange or curious. For me, at least, chattering about stuff is the point of visiting a forum, much as I might if I got together with you all over lunch. If I wanted one line pat answers to every musing, i wouldn't bother...
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 14 Nov 2012 13:17 #7829

Ona Kiser wrote:
This interests me, and you said more clearly what I haven't been able to articulate, which is the answer to the question "so who cares if people are really into dharma diagnostics or extreme mapping?" The answer is because it often induces an enormous level of suffering that is not necessary.

I've seen people do similar levels of fussing over details of experience, comparing their current experience to idealized outcomes, and clinging to literalist interpretation of allegorical teachings in other traditions, too. It's not just a Buddhist thing, nor a Theravada thing, nor a pragmatic dharma thing.
True. It's definitely not just a Buddhist thing, or even an Eastern Spirituality thing. It's something humans do; not all, but many.
Ona Kiser wrote:
I like trying to dig out the underlying motivation and confusion - what is being pursued? What is being sought? What is dissatisfying?
I like doing that, too. The point of this type of inquiry, for me, is to discover sticking points.

This may be off-topic, but, perhaps one of the greatest sticking points of all is a lack of confidence. I think it's true that "competence leads to confidence," and I guess this is why so many teachers simply say, "KEEP PRACTICING!" If we keep our basic practice schemas simple enough, perhaps one can actually stick with it long enough to become competent. So often these days, maps are redrawn before anyone can really master the territory. No wonder people seek and seek and seek and seek. They don't know how to stop, maybe because no one has shown them how, or that's it's even possible.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 14 Nov 2012 13:22 #7830

Jackson Wilshire wrote:
... perhaps one of the greatest sticking points of all is a lack of confidence. I think it's true that "competence leads to confidence," and I guess this is why so many teachers simply say, "KEEP PRACTICING!" If we keep our basic practice schemas simple enough, perhaps one can actually stick with it long enough to become competent. So often these days, maps are redrawn before anyone can really master the territory. No wonder people seek and seek and seek and seek. They don't know how to stop, maybe because no one has shown them how, or that's it's even possible.

This is why I think that constantly looking at the *relationship to the practice itself* is one of the most revealing things and makes an excellent practice. All the doubt, grasping, etc. is highlighted in that relationship. At least it seems so to me.
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