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Measuring Progress in The World

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Measuring Progress in The World Chris Marti 9/4/08 12:15 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Nathan I S 9/4/08 12:53 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Vincent Horn 9/4/08 3:01 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Martin Mai 9/4/08 8:06 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Frater Geur 9/4/08 9:04 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Jackson Wilshire 9/5/08 9:34 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Chris Marti 9/5/08 12:54 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Chris Marti 9/5/08 2:39 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Florian 9/5/08 11:34 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Chris Marti 9/6/08 5:32 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Florian 9/6/08 6:49 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Hokai Sobol 9/6/08 8:28 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Wet Paint 9/6/08 10:29 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Chris Marti 9/6/08 11:50 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Hokai Sobol 9/6/08 12:49 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Chris Marti 9/7/08 4:00 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Lee G Moore 9/10/08 5:30 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Lee G Moore 9/10/08 5:43 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Wet Paint 9/11/08 3:49 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Chris Marti 9/13/08 5:34 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Hokai Sobol 9/13/08 6:19 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Chris Marti 9/13/08 8:39 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Wet Paint 9/18/08 8:14 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Wet Paint 9/18/08 11:19 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Wet Paint 9/19/08 2:50 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Wet Paint 9/19/08 3:01 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Vincent Horn 9/19/08 4:13 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Vincent Horn 9/19/08 4:21 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Martin Mai 9/19/08 8:43 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Florian 9/19/08 9:03 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World beta wave 9/19/08 9:27 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Vincent Horn 9/19/08 9:35 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Hokai Sobol 9/19/08 11:33 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Chris Marti 9/20/08 5:21 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Chris Marti 9/20/08 5:39 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Wet Paint 9/21/08 9:54 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Wet Paint 9/21/08 9:55 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Wet Paint 9/21/08 9:56 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Vincent Horn 9/22/08 4:28 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Vincent Horn 9/22/08 4:32 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Vincent Horn 9/22/08 4:34 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Hokai Sobol 9/22/08 11:23 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Vincent Horn 9/22/08 12:09 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Hokai Sobol 9/22/08 12:51 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Vincent Horn 9/22/08 1:59 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Daniel M. Ingram 9/22/08 4:05 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Daniel M. Ingram 9/22/08 4:25 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Daniel M. Ingram 9/22/08 4:36 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Daniel M. Ingram 9/22/08 4:52 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Wet Paint 9/22/08 10:52 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Wet Paint 9/22/08 10:53 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Wet Paint 9/22/08 10:55 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Wet Paint 9/23/08 11:10 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Wet Paint 9/25/08 12:11 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World David Charles Greeson 9/26/08 10:15 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World David Charles Greeson 9/26/08 10:24 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World David Charles Greeson 9/26/08 10:28 AM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World Wet Paint 9/26/08 1:06 PM
RE: Measuring Progress in The World David Charles Greeson 9/26/08 4:54 PM
Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/4/08 12:15 PM
Forum: Dharma Overground Discussion Forum

So... I'm curious to hear how others here measure the progress of their practice -- not so much in terms of the maps but rather, how do you measure the effect of your practice on your daily life? Do you? Can you? If we artificially eliminate from this discussion, if possible, the very obvious problems the Dark Night can manifest that might help. I'm asking because I have begun to notice some obvious, seemingly permanent effects of my practice on my personal and professional life. Before I reveal what these effects are I'll volunteer that they manifest most clearly in times of stress and emotional connection to objects - events and people in particular.

Anyone?

(Sorry if I've accidently created a duplicate topic and, if so, please direct me to the original.)

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/4/08 12:53 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
i did, about a year ago, notice a lot of changes, particularly that i was much more content to live a quieter life. I had also noticed that I had a better ability to project my intention into the world, by both mundane and seemingly "acausal" avenues. in the past several months, however, my samadhi has been much weaker and i've had less time to practice and a lot of the more enjoyable "changes" have diminished as well. to get weird it kind of has an astrological vibe to it, if that makes sense, though it's also clear to me that having strong concentration is helpful even when not formally turned on.

i drink less--i'm all for using (some) mind-altering agents for practical and recreational purposes but there's something about entering and leaving states ("taking the stairs instead of the rocket ship") that makes, e.g., booze lose its appeal

i am just about positive i have crossed the A&P multiple times, and can think of suspect events from my youth, so it is hard for me to qualify how the Dark Night would have seeped through since in some ways I don't have much access to "before". About two years or three years or so ago, I was going through lots of intense, dramatic, visionary type stuff and it bled through into my personality in a manic way.

w/r/t to emotional connection, i've noticed that if I'm going through a fight or a lot of sadness etc. I can tune into the background, into the ground as opposed to the figure, and while I'll still feel like shit, there's a recognition that in a way it doesn't matter.

I'd be hard pressed, though, to give specifics--so to sum up, there's a kind of deep-level effect to experience with practice, like waves but, being deep, it doesn't show up acutely but generally. like the way the moon pulls the tides

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/4/08 3:01 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Interesting question. And a tricky one!

I would definitely concur with Nathan that the moment I started a regular meditation practice that my concentration was improved greatly and that had a very big impact on my mental state through most everything, though I know also that this concentration is a largely conditional state. If the conditions changed, it would go away or diminish pretty heavily. That brings up the interesting question of whether or not there are changes that are not based on conditions?

Since getting 3rd path (using Daniel's model) about a year and a half ago there was a massive shift in which it literally felt like something dropped away in the mind. Without making that sound to much like the fetter-model, I will say that since then there has been an ability to see the empty nature of things at the merest reflection. It's as if the fruition that occurs at the end of a cycle, which isn't an experience at all, is permeating all of reality. Though, what's interesting is that intensity of this perception seems to flux and change somewhat it response to the continued unfolding of cycle after cycle. That being said it is always available when reflecting, whether I'm sitting meditating, taking a dump, or having a serious argument with someone. And though it's not at all what I expected, it's been one of the most important shifts in my life. And I suspect arhantship, as Daniel has suggested several times, will make this shift seem pale in comparison, though again I doubt that I could predict how.

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/4/08 8:06 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Wow, thanks Vince for talking so openly about such high attainments! For me this is always a great motivation for my own practice.
Best wishes,
Martin

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/4/08 9:04 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Outwardly: hardly drink at all. Hardly ever eat meat or fish. And these weren't intentional changes - they happened alongside the practice and I noticed them after the fact. Calmer, less stressed. I noticed I had trouble keeping up with my hot yoga exercise classes, went to the doctor and discovered my blood pressure had dropped. This seems to be a long-term change; not entirely beneficial! Suffering less, as well. Far less inclined to reach for painkillers when I have migraines or am ill. However, I have to be careful sometimes, because it's more apparent to me how other people are winding themselves up and making themselves suffer. Sometimes I have to step back from the inclination to wind them up some more, and see if they'll really keep falling into the same old traps. (Morally, then, still some way to go!) Also, plenty of psychic, spooky stuff going on.

Inwardly: Vince's description rang some bells. At my last big fruition something appeared that comes and goes, but hasn't gone away. It's within my awareness, and it's not an idea or a feeling or a thought or anything that - beforehand - I would have expected to find in my mind. It was like looking inside my head and finding a brick! But it felt like something 'arriving' rather than dropping away. And it's most strongly there if I relax into experience, rather than reflect upon it. It's like having something 'not me' inside me. It's like the realisation that me and not-me are situated on the same Moebius strip. If I wanted to dramatise it, I'd say it was like looking God in the face - but my only reason for dramatising is to emphasise how strong and 'other' it feels... I don't feel any compulsion to believe that's literally the case... When it arrived, I thought I was enlightened, but now I can see that I still identify with sensations most of the time - especially thoughts...

Duncan.

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/5/08 9:34 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
I'm not as experienced as some of the others, but I thought I would answer your question as an honest beginner...

The most noticeable change in my life since beginning a vipassana practice is that I am becoming more accepting and aware of unsatisfactory sensations and feelings. I still get caught in pretty strong waves of aversion and doubt, but my ability to open myself up to these experiences -- rather than trying to push them away or distract myself -- is increasing. This has helped me to be more patient with my family and acquaintances, as well as with myself.

I have also had some pretty powerful mini-awakenings as a result of my practice. But, more important than the mini-awakenings (if I can call them that) is keeping my focus on the practice itself, especially during the times when I seem to be anything BUT awakened (which I'm sure is 99.9% of the time). I found that when I was practicing other meditation techniques, I viewed the experiences I had as more of a big deal. Practicing vipassana is helping me to notice the experiences as they arise, and to let go of them as they pass away. I feel much more grounded as a result, while other practices left me swimming around in my head. This could very well be due to the fact that I was lousy at the other techniques. But it doesn't change the fact that I find vipassana very helpful and effective.

To sum it up, through practice I am learning to "love the plateau," as George Leonard puts it in his book titled "Mastery."

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/5/08 12:54 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
"... an ability to see the empty nature of things at the merest reflection."

Beautiful, Vince.

This is, as I perceive it, a kind of reflex -- anger arises and BOOM!, why, that's anger. Things just flow in the ever-changing river that is the world. I think flow is a really descriptive word.

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/5/08 2:39 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
It's like this:

I am instrument, a process, a faculty
From chaos, randomness, waves, undulations and pulses
Come names, ideas, meaning, truth, distortions
A two-edged sword, the instrument of creation and destruction
From nothing springs everything, back to nothing
The object and the verb, I am and I am not
Born, pass away, create and destroy

I'm an endless series of processes that invent the universe as it unfolds

It's just this, over and over and over, in small bits and large chunks

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/5/08 11:34 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Good question, great answers -

The most noticeable change in my daily life is how I'm beginning to see everything in terms of conditions and their consequences (a more general point of view than "cause and effect"), almost always in hindsight. Daily life has changed from "fighting circumstances" to "wading through the porridge of interconnectedness", and I sometimes long for the return of the simple reactive world-view I used to have.

To people around me this shows up as a surprising (maybe tiring) tendency to insist on seeing the other person's point of view, of how it's obvious things came to pass how they did - sometimes I suspect they miss my more terse, cynical moments.

Those really close to me noticed an increased tolerance for, and willingness to discuss subjects I used to bluntly dismiss as wooly thinking: altered mind-states, oracles, psychology, religious subjects - though they quickly find out that my "it's all in your head" attitude hasn't changed much, only the importance I assign to this attitude.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/6/08 5:32 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
This is an extremely intricate and difficult topic, isn't it? How do you separate wishful thinking from real progress? How do you really and truly know which changes you observe in yourself are due to practice and which are due to other factors? How do you really know if what you observe are changes at all? Complicating all of this is mind, which is perfectly content to see patterns where none exist. Practice brings on a heightened sensitivity to tendencies that can then be seen as the result of progress in practice but might just be differences in what gets noticed. Remember when you bought that new car all of a sudden you noticed a lot of that model on the road?

I'm not sure that real progress in practice is all that observable to anyone. I'm not sure it changes the personality at all. Why would it? The idea that any level of enlightenment is marked by big and readily observable behavioral differences is, well, suspect.

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/6/08 6:49 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Hi Chris,

How do I separate wishful thinking from real progess? By comparison, I'd venture. One very down-to-earth "path of progress" I'm on is Judo training. There are players who are more experienced than I am, and those who are newer to the sport. One inegrated part of Judo training is called "randori" (sparring), and sparring with other players will quickly sort out wishful thinking from real progess every time.

While it's hard to think of a useful way to do "morality sparring", there still are standards we can use to measure up our progress: the five precepts being the most obvious one.

Practicing the precepts is intricate and difficult, but also largely a matter of, well, *practice* - just as practicing concentration and insight are. And in all three trainings, having good companions for encouragement and critique is absolutely essential. Just as sparring with a real player is better than practicing solo forms in Martial arts.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/6/08 8:28 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Excellent points, Florian, and we'd better have some criteria to establish real progress "in the world" and off the cushion. Now, generally, the criteria for spiritual, intellectual, ethical, and moral integrity is quite simple - consistent action. Naturally, some feedback from companion and/or teacher is quite beneficial, but one should be able to judge for oneself whether one is living from the ego, or from authenticity, because your world is your mirror. Priorities and goals and motives of these two seats of awareness, ego (i.e. exclusive identification with the separate self-sense, unique and special) and authenticity (i.e. engaging life from the deepest seat of consciousness you have so far discovered), are quite disparate and often opposite. Self-indulgence, procrastination and excuses are the mark of ego, while purpose, courage and diligence are the mark of authenticity. Depending on one's situation and duties in life, it's not so difficult to determine where one faces at any given moment, but mostly this distinction is quite impersonal.

@ Chris: practice should change your personality, not in terms of altering your character traits, but yes in terms of shifting your identification from ego - i.e. self-preservation in avoidance of reality - to authenticity. Changes in noticing are also changes. Specifically in spiritual and contemplative practice, there are no changes to be measured in objective terms, but nonetheless implications of every change should be pursued to their very end and thus become quite noticeable and sometimes shockingly evident.

Drinking less is poor measure, though wholesome. Fat egos thrive on healthy lifestyles, just as they do on the opposite.

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/6/08 10:29 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Author: Dan_K

One subtle change that I have noticed lately is the sense of my character being within the larger picture. “My world” no longer seems exclusive, because it is dependent on what is “outside” of it. There is less movement towards containing the shape of my subjective experience, and as a result I am less poised in a social sense, less concerned about making good conversation, more attuned to background stimulus, and feel a greatly reduced need to validate present experience with stories. There is a draw towards silence and honesty, and a trust in the unfolding of life, even with all the speedbumps. I can blank out, stare off into space, just listen etc. comfortably, but conversely, I am often less engaged in more abstract information. More often than not, TV, personal anecdotes, cultural significance, and other common focal point baffle me. I would say that the loosening of boundaries and ownership is definitely progress, the rest is mostly neutral.

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/6/08 11:50 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
"... practice should change your personality, not in terms of altering your character traits, but yes in terms of shifting your identification from ego - i.e. self-preservation in avoidance of reality - to authenticity.

Hokai, I meant personality in terms of observable character traits -- observable by others in your life. Most of the changes I notice are observable to me but not necessarily to others. They are changes in noticing, changes in perception (you call this avoidance of reality vs authenticity, I believe.)

This is hard also because we tend to use terms imprecisely, isn't it?

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/6/08 12:49 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
@ Chris: Yes, but we quickly get on the same page, no?:-)) I get what you're saying, and I agree that changes in noticing are not observable by others, but then I also insist that one should follow through on what gets noticed, and that we'll regularly produce some noticeable changes. Not necessarily of behavioral nature in the gross sense, but definitely noticeable, at least to someone who's gone through that sort of change. Yet, this will not happen of its own accord. There are plenty examples where awakening remains concealed in one's awareness. But that's an incomplete awakening. Our intention, therefore, should be that awakening shines through our actions and that the very way we live becomes an expression of our deepest truth. This I call authenticity.

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/7/08 4:00 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Agreed, Hokai!

Anyone else notice that their desire to live a completely and honestly has expanded? For me this first become obvious in my desire to take full responsibility for my own actions and for my own reactions to stimuli. Speaking truth to power is another noticable effect of this.

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/10/08 5:30 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
My experience is as someone who has not attained stream entry but I suspect I have crossed the Dark Night into the early stages of equanimity a few times and spent several weeks hanging out in early to mid Equanimity over 2 retreats.

I can see many of the themes expressed here in my experience. The personality shifts I see generally revolve around holding my sense of self more lightly, taking myself less seriously and not buying into to all my judgments and concepts about what life is and what my experience means. I still have the judgments and concepts, but I get less identified and have much less entrenchment and investment of identity. Also, having an intuitive understanding that "there is no silver bullet" vastly reduces my daily suffering. I still find myself falling into the trap, but I see through it much more often.

Overall my level of suffering has been dialed way down. It's quite clear and tangible in how I experience the world.

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/10/08 5:43 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Now moving from subjective to more objective sort of...

I saw a therapist for 6 months and stopped just as I started to take up meditation. One year of practice and 7 weeks of retreat later I started up again with the same therapist. After several sessions I asked him what differences he saw as I guessed he would be an ideal objective observer.

His perception is that I am more energetic and dynamic in my expression. I am more open and accessible. I am notably less edgy and conflictive. Overall I seem much more in harmony with myself and my surroundings.

My father has mentioned several times that he sees substantial change. As someone who has known me quite well all of my life, he was quite surprised how quickly my personality began to shift. I was much more available. Much less withdrawn. More caring patient and compassionate.He also says he hears a peace and ease in my voice he's never heard. He senses a much deeper sense of self-acceptance.

-Lee

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/11/08 3:49 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Author: SongMt

one of the newer changes i have noticed is a shift in motivation. being "good", or perhaps generous, was always coupled with a motivation. take, for example, forgiveness. Forgiveness, as in the 18 bodhisattva vows, is an important skill to attain. As a child forgiving someone was just what we were supposed to do when someone apologized. It was never 100% there though, and i couldnt even see that until recently. i would "forgive", but it had a sense of either resentment, or reservation. now i have noticed a great internal shift where the forgiveness is much more honest, complete, and open to allow the karma of an event arise, and pass away.

very good question, thanks cmarti.

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/13/08 5:34 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
I'll try this again -- I notice an distinct and seemingly permanent shift in how "I" react to stimuli. First, there is an implicit recognition that anything perceived is part of the "flow" of experience. This is not our typical sense of the passing of time, but rather a sense of the arising and passing of objects in perception and the process behind their appearance and disappearance. These things are all empty. Second, there is a clear element of choice that arises from the emptiness. Where previously there would be unthinking reaction there is now more often choice. Third, this sense of freedom/choice is accompanied by the desire to perceive, to deal with and to live with the truth. Fourth, the desire to live with the truth leads to a more dynamic presence and a more courageous partnership with my environment and, this is key, the other human beings within that. Relationships are not about what "I" want or what they want, but about what's true and real.

Make sense?

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/13/08 6:19 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
@ Chris: care to clarify the use of quotation marks in "I"?

Also, "these things are all empty"? Empty of what? Please qualify.

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/13/08 8:39 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Sure, Hokai. Here's a real world example:

While in a well-attended meeting we are discussing an important project I'm managing. The project comes under some amount of criticism from a co-worker. This gets perceived as a personal challenge - it seems to be aimed directly at me. Of course, I take ownership of the project being the person "in charge" of it. Anger and being very much on the defensive are the resulting feelings. But the sense of me that results is conditional. It's not what anyone else in the room experiences. It's created. The same applies to my perception of the other person (an object) who made the comments that upset me. This perception is dependent on the conditions in my environment. Neither of these objects, the "I" perception and the perception pf the "other person" or even the anger and defensiveness, last very long. They are impermanent. They lack the reactive sense of essence that they generate and that I would have implied when describing them in years past. Back then these feelings and perceptions would have had a firmer, tangible sense of permanence associated with them that could be used to describe the environment I found myself in. Now these things are perceived as part of the perceptive process and not decriptive of... well, much outside of the process that invokes them. Both kinds of perception are occuring almost unison - if that makes any sense at all.

So I used the two terms in a similar way to describe what is going on as I now experience it. In years past I would not have perceived these events in quite this way and was unable to distinguish between the reactionary process and the awareness involved in perceiving the personalizing of the event, either in regard to my self-sense, my emotions or my sense of the other person.

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/18/08 8:14 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Author: buffduff

Joining in late, but that's better than not at all, right?

What a great question. It's difficult to measure since the benefits seem to evolve as my practice deepens. Also, I've done a lot of personal development/therapy kinds of work in addition to practicing vipassana, as well as having many ecstatic experiences through dance. This tends to confuse the purity of the results.

That said, on my first 10-day vipassana course, I was struck by how much less "real" my internal dialogue was. I can't say exactly how this affected things, but it did seem to lead to more freedom from reactive patterns.

I've found vipassana as taught by S.N. Goenka especially helpful for relaxing and de-stressing, as I can now feel subtle sensation anywhere in the body at any time. It has also done so many strange and subtle things for my nervous system that it's difficult to describe how I'm different than I was. In the past 6 months, a huge ball of tension in my forehead has morphed and changed and mostly dissolved in difficult to describe ways. It seems to help me be less stressed at work, and who knows what else.

I'd love to believe that my practice has made me more kind, because I value kindness very highly, but I'm not sure I have much evidence for that!

Another benefit that probably came from practicing vipassana is much less attachment to pleasure and aversion to pain. I no longer believe that any amount of pleasure will be ultimately satisfying (although recently I tend to crave a certain body-distortion experience I call "seeing God"). This has had profound implications on how I live my life in every way.

Perhaps it's difficult to say exactly what results come from practice because progress on the path affects everything at the fundamental level.

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/18/08 11:19 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Author: Dan_K

cmarti,
Your descriptions resonate with my experience. Although I have not yet had stream-entry, there is an increasing vantage point in my perception wherein the sense of self and other is clearly superimposed, as an imaginary overlay. I would describe it like bubbles floating in an otherwise seamless flow. It's amazing that these bubbles are able to be maintained, especially since we are (supposedly) trying to 'pop' them!

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/19/08 2:50 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Author: AlanChapman

Sorry for the late response - I've been away.

I think this is a very important aspect of enlightenment that can easily be overlooked when we become a little too focussed on the goal. Although it is true that enlightenment and the process of insight are not limited or defined by behaviour, it is most certainly true that behaviour is modified, to varying degrees with each individual, by enlightenment. However, I would strongly argue that the new or emerging behaviours are not necessarily shared by everyone.

In Crowley’s magical tradition of Thelema (Greek for ‘Will’) there is the idea of True Will, often considered as the natural ‘orbit’ of an individual, must like an atom or star/planet has a natural course. This is usually misunderstood as each person having an inborn suitability for a specific vocation, and many ‘thelemites’ spend their time trying to work out what job they should be applying for. There is also the command to ‘Do what thou wilt’, which is often misunderstood to mean ‘do what you want’, and Thelema is often considered without morality.

However, I believe that the True Will is really a mode of engaging with the world that can only be experienced through the process of enlightenment. It’s not about a vocation or figuring out what you should do; it’s about ‘letting go’ or stepping back from sensations (a crude way of describing the development of insight) that leads to what I believe is synonymous with Hokai’s ‘authentic’ action. You gradually begin to act as you ‘should’. For me, enlightenment is a road to honest action, but only in accordance with your essential nature – not in accordance with any set of rules such as not drinking or going vegetarian. Considered in this light, enlightenment is not limited or defined by any idea of happiness, but it certainly leads there.

My measure for progress in the world then is my increasing fulfilment.

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/19/08 3:01 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Author: AlanChapman

I just wanted to add that by fulfilment I don't simply mean in an emotional sense, but in a sense that can be measured in very real world terms. I'm currently wealthier, happier, and more in love than I have ever been, and I put it all down to the process of enlightenment!

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/19/08 4:13 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Hmmm, this is really interesting. I'm reflecting on a conversation I had with Dharma Dan yesterday, in which he warned me (fairly strongly) that any ideals I had about enlightenment and what it would bring me, would have to be completely crushed in order to attain arhantship. In this way 3rd path, is really the dark night of the full cycle of awakening, and it's in this phase that the subtle ideals are squashed out of one (that or they become a new obstacle to final enlightenment). In that sense, I think what he was saying very much contradicts the very spirit of this entire discussion, which has been to focus on how the practice of meditation (and presumably insight practice) has positively impacted our lives.

With regards to insight, I really do think Daniel's "Models of enlightenment" remain the most clear, and usefully deconstructive way of separating out what "enlightenment" is versus our ideals about it. It does seem that enlightenment itself doesn't do anything, though I would partially agree with Alan and others that there are certain things that change along the way (some simply by improving concentration and having a more subtle awareness of sensations), but that really these changes aren't all that special. In all honestly I've received more benefits from other psychological practices, in terms of their impact on my life, then I have from years of intensive meditation. Also, having spent much of that time in the dark night, which was progress, I'd say that I wasn't happier, wealthier, etc. as a result of being in that state perpetually. I was darker, more cynical, and less happy.

Anyway, just figured I'd throw out a devil's advocate type of post and see where it goes.

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9/19/08 4:21 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Oh, and before anybody responds with a grand integrative narrative (hehe), I would just challenge us all to look at this from a more personal, practice perspective (as I have been doing lately) and ask, what are the ideals that I equate with the dissolution of the centerpoint, of the realization of non-duality? Are these ideals accurate or are they the very places that, in terms of insight, I have yet to see clearly? What would it mean to drop these ideals, what would happen then?

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9/19/08 8:43 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Quite a hammer of a question, Vince! I don´t have to say much because I´m still inexperienced compared to many members but what came to my mind immediately after reading Vince´s post is that it might be dangerous to tackle ideals about meditation before the insight that leads to the dissolution of the ideal has arisen. I mean that beginners need a few of them to stay motivated and practice which then leads to insights that may discard wrong ideals. So it might just happen on its own anyway as soon as enough insight is achieved and I think accelerating the process isn´t possible. But maybe this is just another ideal I have to get rid of...emoticon
Interesting topic! Best wishes,
Martin

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9/19/08 9:03 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Vince,
what a great post. To be honest, when writing my first reply, I didn't realize the expectation was to describe *positive* changes for measuring progress.

Anyway, I do have one ideal about enlightenment, which is that the dark night stuff should lift (at least a little bit).

Cheers,
Florian

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9/19/08 9:27 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Vince, thanks for saying this.

I'm often struck by how some practioners turn into rather acerbic characters after a few years/decade of becoming teachers... and after reading "Mastering..." I suspected that the 3rd/12th! path is the reason. I don't know if it correct, but these folks seem to act very similar to 1st path dark night yogis... except for the most important thing. I guess that if experientially they are suffering less and noticing it more, from an outside viewpoint they look similar. Maybe 3rd path is toned down, but that almost makes it more unsettling. So close but yet so far.

Anyway, my reply to "progress in the world" is close to a weightlifting analogy: I can lift more, but I have to lift more to get a good workout, and I'm just as tired after a workout as I ever was as a beginner. But something about it seems like a healthy thing to do. Can't stop or I will fall apart, can't push much harder or I'll injure myself.

I've had a very close friend say that they've noticed a positive improvement (less reactivity and deeper perspective) in me due to my practice. But here's the kicker: but not enough to take up the same practice! emoticon

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9/19/08 9:35 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Hey Florian,

Yeah, you're right. The expectation wasn't to describe positive changes, but rather was a question about how we measure progress from our meditation in the world. I think that became a discussion about positive changes, probably because progress is often equated with positive (for me as well!)

That is in fact what I'm trying to challenge here, and not to dissuade people from getting enlightened, or out of the dark night, but rather to have a better chance at making it all the way. I think that's as important for begineers as it is novices as it is folks who've made some progress. Right view, as Hokai often points out, is such a vital dimension of the path. I'm realizing that more and more, and am psyched that there is a community of practitioners who are bright and committed enough to ask these tough questions...

Perhaps we'll soon have some more arhants here in the group, who can share their own perspective on what changes after the knot of perception has been untied. I'm sure Daniel has a particular angle on it, that isn't universally true, but it's hard to tell...

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9/19/08 11:33 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Good points, Vince. Real progress inevitably brings about negation and cessation of what was theretofore experienced as so basic and implicit that one wasn't actually aware of it, much less willing to suspect it as perhaps contingent or even just seemingly real. And the images we conjure of the ultimate, the "ideals" we believe in and strive for, are a special category of "contingent". Somewhat of a disillusionment, or disenchantment, or at some point a disappointment. Awakening is, in this sense, a process of unlearning, and seeing for the first time again and again.

While we're at it, life may be generous and gentle, or not. Sometimes a small trick, or a year of doing something that actually helps one sort out the personal story from this whole buddha-stuff, can make the whole difference. At other times, it's just a test to make sure what we're made of. Proper guidance is therefore very convenient.

Also, let us not forget that dark night hits ugly inasmuch as one resists the wisdom it has to teach. In spite of that, and because of that, one needs a container, a discipline, a routine of straightening out and getting one's act together. View, meditation, and action, are not just phases on the path (as introduction, immersion, and integration), but somehow - if thoroughly enacted - already stark expressions of that which one's after. In short, it's much better not to objectify awakening. We are the wakening itself, and trying to separate who from what doesn't work very well. Finally, keeping naive ideals to believe in just because you believe you still need them won't do any good. Instead, why not rely on reality, merrily discarding what you find to be unreal as an old pair of socks.

And yet, making "positive change" also makes sense, though it's a different game, with a different set of rules.

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9/20/08 5:21 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Beautiful comments! Thank you everyone.

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9/20/08 5:39 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Fascinating -- I didn't think I meant "progress" to be interpreted in any particular maner when I started this topic, but maybe that's revisionist history. What happened is what happened ;-)

I know I objectify what I'm doing. This is part of wanting. Part of the idea that what I'm engaged in will be, indeed, a positive thing, and thing that brings me happiness and peace and all that. Misguided, yes, but seriously human! I'm still learning to stop pretending I have the power to change things, to stop letting wishing take the place of just being aware.

Maybe Daniel will appear and contribute, especially in regard to Vince's comments....

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9/21/08 9:54 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Author: AlanChapman

Vince: ‘I'm reflecting on a conversation I had with Dharma Dan yesterday, in which he warned me (fairly strongly) that any ideals I had about enlightenment and what it would bring me, would have to be completely crushed in order to attain arhantship.’

This is very interesting Vince, because this seems to fly in the face of all of my experience with enlightenment so far. For instance, just after my first fruition I was still sat around waiting for my first fruition to occur because I had very silly ideas about what fruition involved. The same has been true for 3rd path (2nd path was a bit of a ‘non-path’ for me, although again that was a surprise) – 3rd path happened when I wasn’t expecting it and it was very different from what I thought it would be like.

So far enlightenment has been a learning curve based on experience. I’m intrigued as to why 4th path would be any different. It seems a little contradictory to believe enlightenment is not defined or limited by ideas (as my experience shows), but then to say 4th path cannot be achieved without discarding certain ideas or expectations.

(cont.)

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9/21/08 9:55 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Author: AlanChapman

Vince: ‘It does seem that enlightenment itself doesn't do anything, though I would partially agree with Alan and others that there are certain things that change along the way (some simply by improving concentration and having a more subtle awareness of sensations), but that really these changes aren't all that special. In all honestly I've received more benefits from other psychological practices, in terms of their impact on my life, then I have from years of intensive meditation. Also, having spent much of that time in the dark night, which was progress, I'd say that I wasn't happier, wealthier, etc. as a result of being in that state perpetually. I was darker, more cynical, and less happy.’

I’m thinking more outside of the direct results of meditation or the insight cycle. For me, any psychological practices I’ve taken up, or any activities I’ve found myself doing, have ‘presented’ themselves at the appropriate times, which I see as a fruit (not part of the process itself a la stages) of enlightenment. Granted however, I wonder how much of what I am describing here is due to the method I’ve used, which is magick, as opposed to straight up vipassana. I’m still of the opinion that Buddhism is nowhere near as dry and straight up as ‘do meditation, cycle through stages’, and so I still consider the deep features of my experience to be applicable to any genuine tradition.

(cont.)

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9/21/08 9:56 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Author: AlanChapman

Vince: ‘I would just challenge us all to look at this from a more personal, practice perspective (as I have been doing lately) and ask, what are the ideals that I equate with the dissolution of the centerpoint, of the realization of non-duality? Are these ideals accurate or are they the very places that, in terms of insight, I have yet to see clearly? What would it mean to drop these ideals, what would happen then?’

This again is very interesting, because what I now think about enlightenment or 4th path has been heavily affected by my experience with 3rd path. The best I have is some kind of vague idea of sensations not ‘touching’ me, but I don’t even know what that means. I also don’t expect 4th path to make me rich (ha!) etc, I just expect what I experience now in terms of real life success to continue as it is (after all, it doesn’t actually involve my doing).

However, after saying all that, I had a peculiar experience last night where I entered a rather miserable dark night, only to find upon reflection that it had exactly the same ‘qualities’ (perhaps more correctly ‘effects’) as a fruition. It occurred to me that 3rd path seems to be about ironing out any creases in perception between you and emptiness (this experience was different however to simply experiencing emptiness arising in real time – it seemed to be specifically about certain sensations and my relationship to them).

I can see then that perhaps actively seeking out specific relationships with certain sensations in order to ‘see through’ them would certainly help attain 4th path.

There’s much to think about here!

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9/22/08 4:28 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Hi Alan,

Great points and counter-points. I probably don’t have time to respond to everything, but I’ll give it my best shot.

“It seems a little contradictory to believe enlightenment is not defined or limited by ideas (as my experience shows), but then to say 4th path cannot be achieved without discarding certain ideas or expectations.”

I guess to be more precise, and I’m thinking that Daniel could speak for his own views much better then I could, what I heard him saying wasn’t so much that ideas had to be discarded (though he did kind of say that) but rather that there are subtle expectations regarding enlightenment and subtle ways in which the anagami wants to get into a super-state of emptiness (not touched by any phenomena) or voidness, when in fact the shift to arhantship is about letting go the desire to get into some sort of super space and seeing things just as they are. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.

The very desire to get from form to emptiness is itself a dualistic conundrum. My understanding is arhantship resolves the relationship between the two poles in a complete way, though it isn’t resolved by trying to get to the side of emptiness! That is what I heard Daniel saying, and I take his warnings very seriously, as he’s the only one I’ve been able to speak with openly about these matters, who seems to have already been through this territory.

That being said, I agree that to say that one must discard certain ideas or expectations would go against the impersonal nature of the process itself, and probably doesn’t completely hold up to reality testing.

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9/22/08 4:32 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
“For me, any psychological practices I’ve taken up, or any activities I’ve found myself doing, have ‘presented’ themselves at the appropriate times, which I see as a fruit (not part of the process itself a la stages) of enlightenment.”

This is an interesting point, but the challenge comes in when you take a look at the models of enlightenment. What you’re describing here sounds like some sort of synchronicity model of enlightenment. I’m not disputing that you’ve experienced some degree of synchronicity, but just that there are plenty of people who experience synchronicity, benefits from psychological practices, etc. without making progress on the insight front, and plenty of folks who make progress on the insight front who don’t have receive the benefits that you’re describing. From that perspective, I would argue that they’re two different things, though as you say, they’re often presented together on the spiritual path. The danger seems to be in conflating them, and then discussing the benefits of enlightenment in ways that don’t have to do with the diminishment of duality in some direct way, but rather with increased personal happiness, increased synchronicity, etc. as if those are universal features. To me, those are all related to personal karma, skills, and to one’s training in ethics and mastery in the world, not enlightenment per say.

I think perhaps we’re speaking about two different things (but getting our words mixed up), one being enlightenment (the diminishment of duality) and the other being awakening (the process of getting enlightened and working to perfect other aspects of the path). I think we would both agree that awakening is important, and includes all kinds of odd areas, but that it’s important to distinguish it from enlightenment.

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9/22/08 4:34 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
“is some kind of vague idea of sensations not ‘touching’ me” & “3rd path seems to be about ironing out any creases in perception between you and emptiness”

It’s hard to tell exactly what you mean here, but this could be, exactly the thing that Daniel was warning me about, when he spoke about the anagami wanting to get into a state of pure emptiness. This “vague idea” that you’re discussing may be the exact place that you (and I) need to turn out attention and investigation, though it seems like you’re investigation is going well. It’ll be interesting to see when some other folks feel pretty confident that they have gotten 4th path, and we can all compare notes…

“I also don’t expect 4th path to make me rich (ha!) etc, I just expect what I experience now in terms of real life success to continue as it is (after all, it doesn’t actually involve my doing).”

Well, I’m sure you know as well as I do that certain things are unpredictable in life (enlightened or not). Economics, global politics, the unpredictability of health issues, etc. all are outside our sphere of influence. Though it’s likely that building up momentum in a particular area of life will yield results, we can’t completely bank on that, can we?

Again, these were all great points, all very thought-provoking. It's great to be able to have to this discussion in a public forum. I look forward to yours and others replies. emoticon

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9/22/08 11:23 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Vince, can you please say more on distinguishing enlightenment from awakening. I've never come across this distinction, not by this name, that is. By what you say, my impression is the words should be used the opposite way. Anyway, say more.

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9/22/08 12:09 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Yeah, using the 3 trainings model, enlightenment would be the perfection of the training in insight. Awakening on the other hand, or perhaps I should say the path toward Buddha Hood, would be the movement toward perfection in all three trainings. And since morality (and concentration perhaps too?) and not perfectible this is the ongoing process (without a final destination) of waking up in every area of life. That is basically how I mean them.

Another way of putting it, and you're quite familiar with this model, is Ken Wilber's distinction between vertical and horizontal enlightenment. I don't need to get into that, but it's essentially the same idea. emoticon

Do you typically use those words in an opposite fashion?

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9/22/08 12:51 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Yes, I would if I'd really have to (I said that only based on how you defined the two), but that doesn't matter. The thing is I'd do everything I can to not distinguish the two in this manner, since they're regularly used as synonyms, and also because it's much safer to speak of vertical and horizontal dimensions of either enlightenment or awakening, than to speak of "enlightenment" and "awakening" as two distinct notions. But I get what you're saying.

Another point of possible dispute concerns perfectibility of insight. I wouldn't question the point where self-sense is seen for what it is and isn't once and forever, but I would argue that from that point on the three trainings cannot be conceived as separate. Therefore wisdom also continues to grow and evolve, at least in the explicit, manifest, pragmatic domain. One important aspect is discriminative awareness, and another is accomplishing awareness, and both have to deal with change, and these days change must imply a developing and unfolding process. Also, because one can never stop learning and knowing and doing, in an evolving universe this essentially means one's never done with developing fuller expressions of one's awakened state.

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9/22/08 1:59 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Hey Hokai,

"I wouldn't question the point where self-sense is seen for what it is and isn't once and forever, but I would argue that from that point on the three trainings cannot be conceived as separate."

Good point. So there needs to be a further distinction between the dissolution of the centerpoint (arhantship) and then some sort of continued integration/relationship between wisdom (and perhaps even some sort of post-enlightenment deepening) and the two other trainings. Again, very good points...

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9/22/08 4:05 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Hey, sorry I have been away on vacation during this very important conversation.

Here's just a few points:
I found that stream entry helped a whole lot, and while I continued to have Dark Night stuff to deal with on subsequent cycles, it was nowhere near as debilitating in real-life terms than the times I went through it before stream entry and I was substantially more able to get my real-life trip together, though some of those that followed were still of real consequence.
As to arahatship helping Dark Night stuff, it really made a big difference, though cycles continue, which is interesting, though the perception of them is righted and thus the deep questing that began with the A&P is now resolved, and this also really helps from a real-world functioning point of view.
As to ideals: the trick is that the Three Characteristics are the key, however phrased, listed, termed or described. It is tempting for people at all stages to buy certain ideals, subtly imitate or notice things through that filter, and then fail to really investigate the true nature of the sensations that make up those ideals. Thus, the trick is to do that bare sensate investigation again and again of ideals and everything else. Ideals will arise: this is natural, but seeing their true nature takes work, and the more subtle the ideals get, the harder this can be. The emptiness/form thing is a bugaboo at anagamihood, and the trick for me was just relentless investigation of the sensations that made up all of my attempts to resolve the apparent emptiness/form gap, which got more and more subtle and seductive at towards the end, making it more difficult at times. Dark Nights help here. Learning to carefully investigate all categories of sensations: dreams, realities, ideals, aspirations, dogmas, "emptiness", "form", "luminosity", "enlightenment", suffering, space, etc., however they manifest, is where the rubber meets the road.

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9/22/08 4:25 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Other things:

Given a choice, I would put in one vote for using awakening and enlightenment interchangeably and then speaking in terms of mastering various trainings. Morality training thus encompasses everything that is not meditation, and includes all relative wisdom, knowledge, skillful action, thought, speech and livelihood, as well as psychology, philosophy, and all other endeavors. It also includes the real-world integration of whatever insights we attain. It is an endless undertaking, as it is so vast a body of skills and information that one couldn't possibly master it. Concentration training is the temporary meditation states, blissful, equanimous, formless, visionary, etc. with the powers as a subheading. Insight training is simply that which results from seeing the true nature of phenomena, attaining the stages of insight and paths or whatever you want to call them, and thus making permanent rightings of something in the bare perception of phenomena relating to subject/object issues.

With this set of definitions, one can separate out development on various axes and sub-axes, most of which I will claim occur relatively independent of teach other, though certainly there can be overlap, e.g. training in mindfulness can help all of these, as can other things we practice. Bare insight practice can lead to concentration attainments arising as well as insight into causality, concentration training can sometimes lead to both psychological and fundamental insights, and the connections go on and on. I definitely have noticed that my insight practice along the way had all sorts of effects on my daily life, both good and bad. However, progress on one front doesn't necessarily correlate with progress on others, and here is where people usually get into trouble in these discussions.

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9/22/08 4:36 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Practical Advice:

If you are one of the chronic Dark Nighters here: get stream entry. It really helps. Go on long retreats, meaning 2-4 months, if you can possibly find the time without doing things like ruining your ordinary life, credit, career and important commitments. Just investigate the Three Characteristics of every single thing, space, subject, object, whatever, second after second with sufficient consistency and then inclusiveness to get it full 360 in all spacial axes and through the center. Practicing long enough in that sort of territory tends to do it.

If you are past stream entry but not yet an anagami: keep cycling and begin to feel the apparent tension between the fact that Fruitions occur and yet during the experience of most sensations things are largely the same as pre-stream entry. Thus, look at their luminosity, their own manifestation/awareness where they are, on its own, the centerlessness of perception, and do this again and again until you get anagamihood. The Three Characteristics are still key.

For those anagamis, meaning those for whom emptiness/luminosity/centerless means something tangible and obvious in real-time as a baseline of perception who yet have not finished the thing up: keep looking at the subtle sensations that make up the center, emptiness, luminosity, space, perception, awareness, investigation, with particular attention to not avoiding pain and the tension that subtly lurks in the last false knot-process of dualistic illusion-making. Do this again and again until you are so sick of the cycles that your mind sees something just after a Fruition that untangles the knot and the last apparent duality of emptiness and form. The Three Characteristics are still key, but pay attention to how reality re-assembles itself after each Fruition, as there is something important to be learned from what happens and noticing that each of these processes are themselves empty, transient, etc.

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9/22/08 4:52 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Last, when measuring progress in the world, realize that it is not a linear thing. I was a bit of a basket case in terms of real-world function when I got stream entry, and I do not advocate becoming that way, as it was not essential to progress and caused lingering difficulties. My real-world function, kindness, human relationships, vocational status, psychological and physical health, and many other factors have had their highs and lows, as those who have lived with me and been my friends during this long process know all too well. While I am obviously a great advocate of insight practices, it is with reluctant respect for the difficulties of this practice and what it can do to people, and as Vince so rightly points out, I am way more of a deconstructionist than I am anything else, as I think it helps people be honest and stay at the level of bare, ordinary experience that keeps things down to earth and realistic. We are only human, after all.

I am so happy that these conversations are happening anywhere at all, as this level of discussion is so rare in the world. It is a truly beautiful thing, and thanks to all of you for helping to make this place great.

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9/22/08 10:52 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Author: AlanChapman

This is all fantastic stuff! Thanks for the advice Daniel – I can’t tell you how invaluable it is to have someone who’s already gone through this territory.

Being somewhat of a magick nut and spending most of my time concentrating on the goal of enlightenment, I sometimes forget the practical value of considering the process in terms of the three trainings (a lack of a similar framework is just another failing of occultism…).

As such, my comments on ‘true will’ can be considered the equivalent of morality training; but in this case, I’m arguing for not just a connection between wisdom and morality training (as has already be discussed), but wisdom and morality being two sides of the same coin – one necessarily coming with the other. This doesn’t mean they can be measured in terms of the other; and I would even argue that morality training can’t really be measured at all beyond comparing your present with your past, which is no certain indication. As I’m more or less making all of this up as I go along (well, what I mean is I’m attempting to understand Thelema based on direct personal experience, and there doesn’t appear to be anyone that has done this before – the occult scene is a whole lot worse than the Buddhist scene), I may very well be overstating the case, misinterpreting my tradition or assigning universality to experiences peculiar to myself.

Apologies for sounding out what is arguably a highly esoteric and unfamiliar viewpoint, but where else in whole wide world could I find a ‘community of the adequate’ to discuss this stuff with?

(cont.)

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9/22/08 10:53 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Author: AlanChapman

Vince: ‘…this could be, exactly the thing that Daniel was warning me about, when he spoke about the anagami wanting to get into a state of pure emptiness. This “vague idea” that you’re discussing may be the exact place that you (and I) need to turn out attention and investigation…’

This is very challenging – I like it! Perhaps I’ve been getting a little complacent. With 3rd path (for me at least) I’ve got this very sure feeling that it’s only a matter of time, that it will sort itself out, that progress is easy, and so on. Although I don’t actually have any real strong desire for enlightenment (and by that I don’t mean I don’t want it, just that I’m not chasing it), I do have a conception of arahatship founded on past experience that is most certainly 100% inaccurate. This certainly deserves my attention!

Vince: ‘Well, I’m sure you know as well as I do that certain things are unpredictable in life (enlightened or not). Economics, global politics, the unpredictability of health issues, etc. all are outside our sphere of influence. Though it’s likely that building up momentum in a particular area of life will yield results, we can’t completely bank on that, can we?’

I think I’ve definitely failed to communicate what I actually mean by this true will lark. In fact, I think I’ve been a little misleading with all my talk of success in various areas of life. By letting reality take care of itself (again this is crude language and something I need to work on) – which doesn’t mean you are no longer involved in life, as you well know being an anagami – you get the sense that everything occurs as it should. Life becomes easy is a very specific sense, but this doesn’t mean there is no hardship, disease, pain, disappointment, etc. Rather, your relationship to this stuff has changed. Crikey – and now I’m describing straight up insight results!

(cont.)

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9/22/08 10:55 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Author: AlanChapman

Let’s try a different tack: I think Ken Wilber once said that enlightenment means you suffer less but hurt more; and I believe the obverse is true when it comes to success and happiness. Could it be that we desire less and yet enjoy life more? That would account for my perception that I’m happier and more successful due to enlightenment, when perhaps to an outsider I have no right to be so smug.

This is a great conversation - I'd just like to echo Daniel's remarks that the DhO is a truly wonderful place!

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9/23/08 11:10 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Author: Dan_K

When I hear “true will” I think of a unitive agreement between indivual will (hopes and dreams etc.) and the actual unfolding of the universe, meaning a resonance between microcosm and macrocosm where all things, even tragic, are becoming acceptable as part of a greater picture. The other aspect of this is that there is a powerful “universal” momentum behind the individual’s actions due to this allignment. This concept can be expressed magically, as is popular in the east, where miracles simply happen around the spiritual masters and their devotees, or I think it can be expressed more down to earth, or just symbolically. Personally, I grown accustomed to thinking about the macrocosm, to the best of my abilities, as a better measure than the microcosm, and this helps as a perspective shift as well as a magical current between my desires and the actual unfolding. Of course, I cannot say that this is objective, and I wonder if such a concept appears in Buddhism, or in the experiences of the practicioners on the DhO. Thoughts?

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9/25/08 12:11 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Author: AlanChapman

I certainly agree with your description here. But how do you engage with the true will?
Is the true will for you an intellectual exercise in changing perspective? Do you experience those benefits you describe as a result of this exercise?

I'm still wrestling with the idea that experience of the true will is directly related to the process of enlightenment, and that there is no other means of discovering the will (I like to consider it a 'letting go' as opposed to an active exercise) outside of a dedicated insight practice.

It could be that true will is simply a result enjoyed by those that use the HGA as a means to enlightenment, which would make the HGA practice both a morality and insight training rolled into one.

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9/26/08 10:15 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
It's interesting that Alan asks whether True Will is an intellectual exercise in changing perspective - understanding True Will may be, but not merely an intellectual exercise.

Music forms an interesting basis for comparison, because when being performed, it is a truly non-dual experience - one participates in and enjoys the music as much as plays it, and often there is at least mild ego dissolution.

Kenny Werner (an accomplished jazz pianist and most likely Buddhist) published a book called "Effortless Mastery" in which he describes how some of the major obstacles for a musician are attachment to sounding good in various forms. He discusses techniques for opening up to an ego transcending limitless ecstasy during performance and practice - channeling this into the music as it were. If the musician can tap into this source, not only is his music instantly transformed to at least a degree, but also his music transforms over time. Ironically, by tapping into this transpersonal source of inspiration, the musician invariably finds his own (personal) voice. This process of finding your own voice musically is similar to the process of finding your True Will, which as Dan_K intuits correctly is a process of finding how your own particular mission harmonizes with the One and All.

How can that work? This is a reflection of something I've encountered that Robert Campbell's work: http://www.cosmic-mindreach.com/index.html known as the center-periphery dilemma and is an expression of how the Universal relates to to all Particulars. Note that it is not a true duality but rather involves a shift in perspective, rather like one of these ambiguous figures: http://www.psy.ritsumei.ac.jp/~akitaoka/tagi2e.html

A friend of mine recently told me that he had an insight during meditation that conveyed that "reality is a song I'm singing to myself." The next post will offer an expansion:

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/26/08 10:24 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
When you sing a song to yourself, in a way you are in the groove of your own song, enraptured by the tune you are creating - participating in the music - jamming. Flow states describe this a bit. Werner would say that you are actually channeling the music from a Universal Oneness or Source.

Imagine that you are conducting a symphony orchestra to yourself. You look out over the orchestra - and the field of musicians extends to the periphery of your vision. The musicians are the best you've ever seen - no sheet music is in front of them, they await your smallest gesture. To your back is the audience. - it's just as easy as singing a song - it all flows, and you have only to gesture at any particular musician for him to play exactly what you want - and you are jamming, improvising the most beautiful music that you have ever heard. Now you walk forward to the rear of your orchestra, still conducting, you reach the wall, and you turn around to face the audience.

There is no audience. You see that you are one of innumerable conductors who are all conducting their own symphony - and some of your musicians are shared with other conducters(?!). All of them are playing the best music they have (or anyone has) ever heard. Where the audience should be is something indescribable - a single Source for all the music (the Llano? -the Song of Songs?) - it is conducting all the conductors, including you (or they are channeling it?) - and is creating (comprised of?) a Grand Symphony from the combined music of all the conductor's symphonies in perfect and absolute harmony... That's reality.

And that's why you can sing this song to yourself, and still get run over by a truck - it's all got to work together.

By definition your True Will must be in harmony with the Universal Will (or it is not your True Will).

I've got some other ideas as relate to this thread, for later,,,

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/26/08 10:28 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Hopefully you all caught the perceptual shift in the metaphor I offered above... It may look different from different perspectives but it's still the same Grand Symphony.

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/26/08 1:06 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Author: Dan_K

Alan

It might be that the HGA encompasses all three trainings, as concentration is necessary in order to contact her, she leads across the Abyss to the supernal wisdom as the absolute, yet she manifests as the compassionate aspect of the relative.

I have been doing an on/off invocation of the HGA with a mild degree of sucessful contact. The truth is, when I learned about the nondual trainings I thought that HGA practice was reinforcing the separate self, but I have now changed my mind, thanks in part to your website expressing the marriage of Therevada and Magick, and content with insight. So, what I am describing is not exclusively intellectual. The HGA shows the aspirant directly that the true ‘object’ of his desire is not material or ego-bound.

For those unfamiliar with this HGA business, this link: http://www.thelemapedia.org/index.php/Holy_Guardian_Angel is a quick intro, and ‘Liber Samekh’ by Aleister Crowley is the most popular invokation (plus Alan and Duncan's website has great info)

After thinking about this, I realize that the Buddhist concept of interdependence, or co-emergence, is describing what I would ultimately call a transmutation of desire toward the macroscopic, i.e. True Will.

RE: Measuring Progress in The World
Answer
9/26/08 4:54 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
The HGA is a way of formulating a higher, trans-rational unity homologous with, and resonant with Cosmic Unity.

The whole question of measuring one's progress in the World encompasses yet another center-periphery relationship - attaining enlightenment vs. living an enlightened life. Neither is too much good without the other.

The three trainings are reflective of three disciplines across many traditions - and even of contemporary management theory. Like a company, we must balance concerns of our commitments, potential (our quest for insight), and performance (meeting our own needs while meetiing the needs of the community we are a part of).

The metaphor of the symphony begs the question of when are we, and when are we not engaging our True Will. Like the musician, we engage it when we surrender to it - we are "Jammin." This is why congruence signals in NLP or as described by Dave Lee are so powerful - they allow us to sense on the level of formations harmony of our intent with higher order concerns.

But when are we not engaging with the "True Will"? Here we are not "in the groove", making errors because of our inability to surrender to the Flow, playing over other musicians... The Silmarillion's first chapter has a beautiful creation story that relates to this analogy and relates well to the nature of evil, as a conductor, Morgoth, decides to sing his own song over the greater harmony. This discord is incorporated back into the Grand Symphony and resolved at a Universal level - and this is what happens in our World as well.

Evil is by nature involutionary - with individuals acting in their own interest at the expense of the greater whole of which they form a part - rather like cancer does - though at some grand level it all comes out in the wash.

This vision would assert that the LHP practitioner can never be in line with their True Will. Rambling now