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Questioning The Method
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5/5/20 7:47 AM
Hey everyone,

I've been lurking the forums here for quite a bit after learning about MCTB over on the TMI subreddit. The context of learning about MCTB wasn't the best, but after some digging, I started to notice a couple of points that stood out to me.

I've been practicing TMI for just about 1 year, and it's been great in helping me establish a daily practice of 1 hour/day, with a few days missed. 

However, I've realized that in terms of "progress", I feel like my concentration would reach a peak where I would have perhaps reach acess concentration, and maybe Jhana, and then drop back quite strongly into the lower stages until I mustered up enough motivation to work through the crappy concentration and lost feelings.

At this point, I'm just not sure if my "efforts" are being placed in the right practice (for me), as I feel like the practice leaves me more frustrated than not. And I understand that it's probably a lesson for me to learn.

I feel like when most of my practice is a blur between "trying to concentrate without concentrating too hard that I lose my peripheral awareness", and I end up paying attention to my peripheral awarenes, while my object of medidation gets "lost" although I'm paying attention to my awareness..... and here I am. Lost as ever. 

I started reading MCTB and stopped half-way, as I thought I shouldn't abandon the method that helped me thus far. But now, I'm considering whether I should look into other practices, and whether TMI may just not be the method that gets me to that place and that learning. 

Any advice? 

RE: Questioning The Method
Answer
5/5/20 8:01 AM as a reply to Tawer Daniel.
This is the stuff that's working for me: https://library.dhammasukha.org/uploads/1/2/8/6/12865490/the_path_to_nibbana__d_johnson_f18.pdf

It deemphasizes concentration and absorption, emphasizes relaxing and cultivating the brahmaviharas, starting with metta.

RE: Questioning The Method
Answer
5/5/20 11:11 AM as a reply to Tawer Daniel.
Hi TD,

Here's something that Shargrol (an old poster at DhO) wrote that may help: "A gentler approach is to have the intention to stay on the breath, allow for both success and failure to happen, and when failure eventually happens (which of course it will, that's built into the practice, no big deal) --- then the important part of practice happens: noting what was so seductive to the mind. The important thing isn't to get a A+ in class for staying on the breath, it's to learn about how your own mind works. It's learning directly what seduces the mind, and once we know, we can't be very confused anymore. Over time, with the gentler approach, the mind will follow the intention and stay on the breath and it will be a much more sustainable. It won't require effort because your practice didn't require effort with the gentler approach. The mind can hold breathing in awareness without a big struggle".

Check these couple of entries from him: "A blend of Concentration and Vipassana" and "Concentration and Vipassana aren't so different" at this link

Hope this helps

RE: Questioning The Method
Answer
5/5/20 8:48 AM as a reply to Pepe.
Hi peeps - Thanks for the replies.

Brian - Thanks for this. It's actually perplexing how hard I try to relax, which in itself leads to frustration. I will certainly look into and try those out.

Pepe - I will certainly check those out, and thank you for the help. That's quite insightful, as I find I place so much effort on staying with the breath that I completely miss what captures attention and pulls it away from the breath. I beleive the issue becomes in the striving to strengthen attention on the breath, and as soon as begins to dim, I hurriedly try to get the full sensations back. 

Checking out those links now. Thanks 

RE: Questioning The Method
Answer
5/5/20 8:58 AM as a reply to Pepe.
Pepe:
Hi TD,

Here's something that Shargrol (an old poster at DhO) wrote that may help: "A gentler approach is to have the intention to stay on the breath, allow for both success and failure to happen, and when failure eventually happens (which of course it will, that's built into the practice, no big deal) --- then the important part of practice happens: noting what was so seductive to the mind. The important thing isn't to get a A+ in class for staying on the breath, it's to learn about how your own mind works. It's learning directly what seduces the mind, and once we know, we can't be very confused anymore. Over time, with the gentler approach, the mind will follow the intention and stay on the breath and it will be a much more sustainable. It won't require effort because your practice didn't require effort with the gentler approach. The mind can hold breathing in awareness without a big struggle".

Check these couple of entries from him: "A blend of Concentration and Vipassana" and "Concentration and Vipassana aren't so different" at this link

Hope this helps

hi Tawer,

I don't have anything to add to what Pepe said, which strikes me as right on. Shargrol's method is extraordinarily balanced and paced, and there is certainly no doubt about the results; you could do a lot worse than those instructions for technique and attitude and mindset. I like Pepe emphasizing that the failure in practice is built in, and in a way the whole dynamic is actually premised on that inevitable failure of one technique after another for getting out of the truth of the three characteristics, transience, suffering, and not-self. It is in seeing those three characteristics in everything that arises that we begin, or at least after we recover a bit from the horror of it all. lol

Welcome to our humble sangha, my friend. We're gl;ad to have you aboard.

with metta, tim

RE: Questioning The Method
Answer
5/5/20 9:10 AM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
Hey Tim,

Thanks for the warm welcome. I just read Shargol's entries, and they make absolute sense. There are times when I'm completely immersed in the "efforting", and that's when the suffering is at 100. Other times, I'm able to note it, smile, and get back to the breath, and be completely okay with the fact that the sensations aren't super strong... and like clockwork, the sensations become stronger.

I'm probably making a mountain out of a molehill, and maybe this was the catalyst for me to finally join a sangha and get help with my practice.

I really loved reading MCTB, since it delves into so much more detail about the difficult terrain in meditation, but I didn't want to progress too deep into the maps, as it might just confuse me further while practicing. I only mention that since you mentioned the Three Characetistics, and I'm wondering if TMI is really the best method to get there.

I know Daniel said somewhere that he had a few points of contention with the TMI method, but was holding off on the commentary as a result of the disagreements he had with Culadasa, but I would love to hear those to see if any of them resonate. I know that all methods lead to the same place, eventually, but I'm not sure if some are more conducive to forcefull efforting in certain personalities. 

RE: Questioning The Method
Answer
5/5/20 12:35 PM as a reply to Tawer Daniel.
Some of Daniel's comments: 
My issues with TMI are many and complex ... As TMI puts both jhana and insight criteria all together into one linear map, lacks the concept of the vipassana jhanas that help bridge that gap, it is like trying to compress a complex, multidimensional space into an idealized line, a line of relative safety through that complex territory that is considered optimal by the author, yet is not one that everyone sticks to in practice. Clearly, the problems are numerous, and it makes nuanced discussions that discuss the wide range of the actual meditative terrain we find in real living practitioners difficult if we are limited to those ten numbered stages.

Imagine that one had a map of Florida that only showed the interstates. While one could do a lot of driving and get around on those interstates, it still would be limited if one wanted to get off the main roads or if one somehow found one’s self off of the interstate. The TMI map is like this. I like interstate driving myself most of the time, as it is often fast and easy, but not everyone who practices can stay in those narrow safe zones of practice as idealized in TMI.


... If one said that a map of Florida that only had the interstates was mapping a fundamentally distinct process than one that included the side-streets and minor highways, as well as beaches, forests, swamps, etc. would that ring oddly to your ear? It does to mine. Just sayin’. When one puts the POI together with the vipassana jhanas together with the samatha jhanas and has a sense of how one might move across and around that territory, one has a much broader, more nuanced, more complex map of what really occurs in real practitioners. Still, some people like smaller boxes, narrower paths, simpler frameworks, and find that satisfying, and who am I to say that they shouldn’t enjoy those if they work for them?

... I totally agree that TMI offers some extremely solid foundational tech, handles the hindrances and establishing a practice very well, does a great job with early to mid-level samatha instruction, has great and useful diagrams, gives useful emphasis on the differences between central attention and peripheral awareness, does a great job with intentions and resolutions, and, if taken in the spirit that he presents it in places, is applicable to a wide range of objects, techniques, and schools of practice. This is why I recommend TMI in my book and often recommend it to people for those exact reasons.


You'll find plenty of his commentaries in this thread: The Mind Illuminated (TMI) Mind Map

RE: Questioning The Method
Answer
5/5/20 1:14 PM as a reply to Pepe.
Thanks Pepe - That's exactly what I was referring to, and I had actually went through the entire post a few times, and there was a lot of solid material in there.

See I find that Danie's comment is spot on, as I find myself lost in what seems to be a vast array of possible "locations" on the map, and I'm just not sure where to go from there.

Example... If I find myself in a subtle form of dullness, I'm not sure how much "effort" to exert to get out of the dullness, or whether I should even attempt to, since there are a few distractions in the background... Then I'll start judging the quality of my awareness, only to realize my object has not become the judgement, and now I really press the gas on the effort to get back to the breath... and start to spin my wheels....

I'm wondering if this is indeed normal, and whether I need to develop equanimity to it, or whether that's even possible where I'm currently at.

If there's a better way for someone like myself, who thinks alot and needs more nuanced and detailed maps, until I can finally be equanimous with my mind and go to those deeper places, would the MCTB method be the way? 

I know this is a lot, I apologize, but I've been mulling this over for a while 

RE: Questioning The Method
Answer
5/5/20 4:08 PM as a reply to Tawer Daniel.
Tawer Daniel:


If there's a better way for someone like myself, who thinks alot and needs more nuanced and detailed maps, until I can finally be equanimous with my mind and go to those deeper places, would the MCTB method be the way? 



I will offer my view but please note we are not all same and some perosnalities might prefer this and some not. Also some people like me are more dense and other less so, as we can see accross all the different practices they seem to work for one and not the other emoticon 
If you are noticing getting lost in some narrative about practice and some scenario spinning then I suggest a practice that will be more effective at keeping your feet to the fire like my favorite Noting Aloud body sensations/mind states/feeling tone and do that as Ingram suggests, 1-10 sensatins per second for the duration of the practice without any laps in mindfulness. In the start 1 sensation per second is a very possible. And keep at it.
Try this and see how it goes. I find this also kicks up the concentartion really well. It aslo immediatelly discoveres the hindrances and throws them back into the loop and get quckly exchanged by another sensation usually not having anything to do wwith the hindrance.
Kenneth Folk has a good few video demostrations about how to do this and what to note and how to label objects.

Practicing this way you really have not much chance to slide into some daydreaming narrative and scenrio spinning or guilt tripping as you are labeling all these and they vanish with the noting of it. Also a very good insight right of the bat.

Might not suit you though but here it is and you see if you like it. I love it! But then again Im a dense personality emoticon 


May you find the right way!

RE: Questioning The Method
Answer
5/6/20 11:42 AM as a reply to Tawer Daniel.
 
 Some advance meditators say that it's possible to balance TMI and MCTB approaches, so it would be wise to try a mixed approach as you have already invested time in TMI.

My personal posture is to stick for the while to MCTB (and its variants), following what many say in DhO: you don't need deep concentration skills to reach Stream Entry (just 'good enough') and instead wait for post-SE (when conditions for concentration are much better) to get back to TMI. Probably then it wouldn't be a pure TMI method, but it's not my goal either. 

Regarding dullness (and overall MCTB approach), please check the sheets in the The Seven Factors of Awakening - Daniel Ingram's Framework thread. 

Regarding an alternative approach to MCTB, I found Shinzen Young's model very comprehensive (check Five Ways to Know Yourself and What is Mindfulness) but my experience with his e-sangha at Facebook (Shinheads) is that it lacks advance yogis and that the top members there are actually teachers of other methods (with varying level of expertise) that are fishing in Shinzen's pond for free... 

Hope this helps!

RE: Questioning The Method
Answer
5/7/20 10:38 AM as a reply to Pepe.
Pepe:
Hi TD,

Here's something that Shargrol (an old poster at DhO) wrote that may help: "A gentler approach is to have the intention to stay on the breath, allow for both success and failure to happen, and when failure eventually happens (which of course it will, that's built into the practice, no big deal) --- then the important part of practice happens: noting what was so seductive to the mind. The important thing isn't to get a A+ in class for staying on the breath, it's to learn about how your own mind works. It's learning directly what seduces the mind, and once we know, we can't be very confused anymore. Over time, with the gentler approach, the mind will follow the intention and stay on the breath and it will be a much more sustainable. It won't require effort because your practice didn't require effort with the gentler approach. The mind can hold breathing in awareness without a big struggle".

Check these couple of entries from him: "A blend of Concentration and Vipassana" and "Concentration and Vipassana aren't so different" at this link

Hope this helps
I would also add here, Daniel's chapter on 'Concentration vs. Insight' I've read it about 5 times now.  Maybe it's been expanded in MCTB2?  

But yeah, concentration and insight are pretty intertwined.  A lot of the times when I think I'm doing concentration practice I wonder if I'm actually noting or investigating, or vice versa.

RE: Questioning The Method
Answer
5/7/20 11:39 AM as a reply to John W.
... Shargrol (an old poster at DhO)...

emoticon


RE: Questioning The Method
Answer
5/7/20 12:51 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
... Shargrol (an old poster at DhO)...

emoticon


Well, I have been shaving a lot less due to COVID work-at-home and the stubble is mostly gray these days... emoticon