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TOPIC: The Fork in the Road

The Fork in the Road 30 Jul 2018 18:43 #109382

There are folks who meditate to be happy, have less stress, live a "better" life. These folks generally favor concentration practice. There are other people who want to do those same things but they're also motivated to get to the root of their ill-ease, to really dig in and understand their mind.

Why do you think anyone would not want to understand the ultimate source of their dissatisfaction? What causes folks to follow the concentration fork in the road?
Last Edit: 30 Jul 2018 19:03 by Chris Marti.
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The Fork in the Road 30 Jul 2018 18:56 #109385

I favour concentration practice because I am good at concentration practice. But, I also am totally motivated to get at the root of things, so I dispute your premise that I only do it for bliss states. My read on things is that a good vector to getting insight is to do concentration up to equanimity. Yes, you can note from day one, but that can be a rocky road.

But then again, what the hell do I know. Look where I am at!
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The Fork in the Road 30 Jul 2018 19:04 #109386

D'oh!

:ohmy:
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The Fork in the Road 30 Jul 2018 19:06 #109388

Chris Marti wrote:
D'oh!

:ohmy:

Hmm, is that a good "d'oh" or a bad one?
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The Fork in the Road 30 Jul 2018 19:28 #109389

It was for my mischaracterization of your practice, even though I was speaking generally, not specifically about you.
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The Fork in the Road 30 Jul 2018 20:17 #109393

Chris Marti wrote:

Why do you think anyone would not want to understand the ultimate source of their dissatisfaction? What causes folks to follow the concentration fork in the road?

I spent nearly two decades dabbling at, in and around spirituality before exhausting enough "better life" alternatives and finally building up enough enthusiasm to dig deep. I have a ton of wok still to do and I know some phases will be quite challenging, but it currently feels like a sort of fierce grace (to borrow an expression from Ram Dass). I would have gladly settled for a purely calming practice. I wasn't allowed.
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The Fork in the Road 31 Jul 2018 06:39 #109399

In my own model of the mind, most people go through a stage of bubbling up and off gassing that has to occur before insight practice is really possible. The process is fascinating, watching all the psychological shadow stuff becoming exposed in consciousness. There is a lot of relief from just sitting and letting the mind sort through all its baggage, like a over-packed backpacker after hiking 10 miles of the Appalachian Trail taking a zero day and getting rid of all the gear they're needlessly lugging on their back.

Many people stop there because it is "good enough".

Frankly, in my own case, my depression was bad enough that after offgassing I was still pretty unhappy with myself and the world. Yet, I had moments in my life where I could just "be" and that was enough. I called it my "walking in wool socks across a wooden floor" because one experience was exactly that -- so simple but so perfect and I was just happy to be alive for no particular reason. So what was causing all of the unease when things could be so simple and good...?

For years I read both enlightenment porn (you know, flashy stories without discussion of real practice) and psychology, trying to get a handle on what it took to become basically sane...

Ironically, when I read MCTB I put all of the pieces into place, but the first thing I did was get a CD on jhana meditation ---- which completely failed for me. Then I started to do very slow and easy noting which got me in a groove. I did a retreat and had a pretty hard jhana (mind in mindspace plus a little sense of my butt on the cushion and very cool/blissful). Then I did sort of a self retreat where I had the classic mind-moments experience of early A&P. And it grew from there. I wanted to know and understand what others seemed to know.

Looking back, a big part of my motivation after "bubbling up" was spiritual pride and the ongoing depression. So there you go. Maybe the lukewarm concentration/just sitting folks aren't hurting and/or prideful enough, which is fine I think. :)
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The Fork in the Road 31 Jul 2018 07:47 #109403

I wonder how many folks "off-gas", which sounds like a healthy venting and healing process, and how many use meditation to backfill. By backfill I mean bury their psychological stuff deep.
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The Fork in the Road 31 Jul 2018 08:35 #109405

Sure that has to be happening too... the cosmic unanswerable question is whether maybe those people NEED to do that as part of their healing process? Ultimately I don’t know but I do know that regardless it can be good to poke at those folks a little. Many people can delude themselves until someone “outside” says what they have secretly been suspecting.
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The Fork in the Road 31 Jul 2018 17:53 #109411

I think for a lot of people concentration practice is all they know, it equates to meditation, certainly that was true for me in my on-off interest in buddhism over the years, concentration and those crazy zen koans,

I never even heard of insight meditation until I started to meditate seriously as a result of yes, that 'ole black dog again and then followed the usual MCTB thing and found out about insight meditation, Mahasi noting and all that.

And at the time that MCTB approach seemed a little bit mad to me. I mean I'd just been through hell so why would I start to tear my mind apart with the dark night or want to "stand on the ragged edge of reality"?

And the concentration approach offers lots of little goodies, a space to tune out from the stress and all that stuff, a little bit of bliss if you're lucky and some nifty techniques for 'dealing' with those uncomfortable feelings.
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The Fork in the Road 01 Aug 2018 22:58 #109437

Hate to do this, but I’m going to refer you to my blog, where I put everything out there. Short answer: nothing else worked, and after reading MCTB, I thought, I’ll do that.
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The Fork in the Road 09 Aug 2018 07:15 #109531

I got into occult concentration practices in my early teens and was able to get into pretty altered and pleasant states, but it didn't scratch that itch and it wasn't enough to keep me practicing. Had I learned of insight practice then, it would have saved me a decade of pain.

I also wonder how many people use concentration just to bury their psychological stuff. But then, perhaps some people just need that for healing and some people have such deep wounds that it can take a very long time. Who am I to judge?

I do think there are good reasons for starting beginners off with concentration, at least some of them. For one, serious practice requires a daily lifelong commitment and so if it's pleasant the habit will more easily become entrenched in the beginning. They'll be more likely to stick with it when things get rough if it's just something they DO every day, like brushing their teeth. And being able to access a healthy form of pleasure is a useful self-regulatory/coping skill. For practitioners with a history of suicide attempt/ideation, it seems safer to start with concentration--or at least this was my rationale helping a friend learn this past year. Collector of lost souls that I am, he was acutely suicidal when we met a few years back and I'm not keen on scraping him off the pavement again. He's quite naturally going in a more vipassana direction already without any prodding from me, which is what I'd hoped.
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The Fork in the Road 09 Aug 2018 15:11 #109533

Hello Shargrol,

This is off-topic for the thread, but your post had me wondered about something. If you don't mind sharing, did your depression that you mention go away completely at some point in your path? If so, at what point: first path? second path? etc.

Thanks

Ben
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The Fork in the Road 09 Aug 2018 15:44 #109534

No definitely not >COMPLETELY<, I don't want to make that claim because I still get down some days, but nothing even remotely close to clinical depression anymore. Basically "feeling down" is seen as information about the world and my place in it, something to pay attention to and adjust in response to ---- rather than the self-defeating cycle of feeling inadequate and getting depressed and feeling inadequate because I'm depressed and feeling depressed because i'm depressed, etc.

Just to be flip about it and speak very loosely. 1st definitely helped (easier access to letting go/relief), I would say maybe after 2nd path moment was a striking change for me (wow, I don't think that way much anymore), I was pretty unsinkable during 3rd path (going through real worldly crap and not being destroyed by it, so really putting it to the test), and 4th was just sort of icing on the cake.

Hope that helps in some way.
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The Fork in the Road 09 Aug 2018 15:58 #109535

...and I should say that getting to 1st path involved a lot of introspection about my various social and psychological resistances/habits/fixations etc. So in a real sense, it was essentially therapy (with me non-verbally investigating how does that make you feel when you think that? and what else? and what else?) --- so it was an integral part of the work I was doing as I sat. That said, it does seem like there was a quantum jump of progress correlated with the paths.
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The Fork in the Road 11 Aug 2018 07:47 #109545

To add to what shargrol said (please pardon the further thread derailment):

Depression is a beastly thing. I've lost close friends and family to suicide, addiction, alcoholism, and sheer insanity and depression played a prominent role in all of that. I went through my own black periods in my teens and early 20s. Getting past that was for me as shargrol describes--in the beginning, there had to be a painful self-examination, a sort of nonverbal investigative therapy. I had to do enough introspection to see just how warped my cognition was in order to start letting go of dysfunctional patterns and get to a place of basic sanity. Then practice sort of took off.

Which is not to say that meditation has or ever will completely cure me of all neurotic tendencies, but the difference is by now so stark that it's gotten hard to relate to that old self or even remember what it was like without some effort. People who haven't seen me in a long time barely recognize me. The self-loathing and bitterness is so far removed from my current life that it almost seems abstract, though it certainly felt very real at the time.
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