MCTB terminology question: clarity, precision, speed, consistency, ...

Mark L, modified 12 Years ago at 11/22/09 4:42 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 11/22/09 11:14 AM

MCTB terminology question: clarity, precision, speed, consistency, ...

Posts: 90 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
(I'm asking this question to sharpen up my practice, not to debate vocabulary and theory.)

On page 188 of the online pdf version of MCTB and pages 199-200 of the print version, Daniel writes:

Each stage is marked by very specific increases in our perceptual abilities. The basic areas we can improve in are clarity, precision, speed, consistency, inclusiveness and acceptance. It is these improvements in our perceptual abilities that are the hallmarks of each stage and the gold standard by which they are defined and known.

These basic areas struck me as potentially empowering distinctions to use while on the cushion (during noting). For example, during a particular meditation session, I might want to emphasize, say, clarity. Another time, acceptance. Another time I might just go for speed. I feel like breaking things down like this (not super rigidly but definitely keeping a few in mind each session) might balance things out and speed up development.

I have two questions. First, is this a potentially pragmatic approach? After some experimenting, it seems so, but I wanted to check in. (I wonder because Daniel doesn't explicitly elaborate further, excepting a few of them, though these basic areas are implicitly throughout the book.) Maybe it's best to stick with just the explicit technical terms, including ones not mentioned here.

(When I say experimenting, I mean things like vastly slowing down--and kind of missing all sorts of sensation at the edges--to really soak in an experience that I'm clearly resisting, giving it some gentle time for seconds or minutes, and then speeding back up again. Or, I expand my awareness to take in as much as I can for a few beats, even though I lose lots of detail, and then release to something more reasonable. Or, I push speed to the limit even though things are being resisted and not fully experienced and I can barely tell what/where the sensation was as it flashes by and then I'm on to the next one. Or, I drill down into the vibrations of a particular sensation at the expense of acceptance [it feels like it's under a microscope, not well-integrated] and inclusiveness.)

Second, if making distinctions between these areas while on the cushion *is* pragmatic, could someone give his/her take on the definitions of these basic areas? I know there's some overlap, and I know some of these are actual technical terms, as mentioned above. I'm going to take a stab at it to get feedback. [Daniel, if you're not to busy, I'd love to hear you elaborate]:

[Also, if these can be replaced by technical terms in english, sanskrit, or pali, do it!]

1. clarity -- I would summarize this as "what" and "where". Are you experiencing internal imagery, internal talk, emotion, external sensation, etc., etc.? I.e., which ones, exactly when? Where in or outside your body? Is it a sensation/experience that doesn't have a name? Fine, which one of *those*? If you're experiencing something intense, can you break it down into all the pieces: internal talk, interpretive/reflecting imagery/traces, the actual physical sensations in your body, etc., etc., etc., and can you experience all of those separately? If it's something diffuse in your body, can you really pinpoint the location, the edges, and how they're moving or not?

2. precision -- I would summarize this as "when," with some overlap with clarity. Can you nail the arising, evolving/vibrating, and passing aspects of a sensation as they happen in real time? If it's always after the fact, are you getting closer to real time? If it was after the fact, how do you know? I.e., what are you experiencing *right now*. (overlap with mindfulness?)

3. speed -- (overlap with precision and inclusiveness and consistency) How quickly can you move from object to object? Can you see the vibrations that make up a particular object? (overlap with seeing impermanence?)

4. consistency -- Can you start on a dime? Can you nail your targets over and over again or do you have lucky streaks and misses? (overlap with mindfulness?)

5. inclusiveness -- (overlap with acceptance) How much of your total phenomenological field can you take as an object without too much degradation of the other basic areas?

6. acceptance -- is there a flexible allowing and releasing quality to your awareness? Or are you grasping or resisting? Are you consciously or subliminally avoiding things in or at the edges of your awareness? (overlap with seeing fundamental suffering and equanimity?)

Edit: Tiny change to make this slightly easier to understand.
Daniel M Ingram, modified 12 Years ago at 11/24/09 1:59 AM
Created 12 Years ago at 11/24/09 1:59 AM

RE: MCTB terminology question: clarity, precision, speed, consistency, ...

Posts: 3232 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Your analysis of the terms is spot on. Do you really need help? ;)

Each stage has its thing, and they are progressive, for instance, in Mind and Body we begin to clearly see thoughts at thoughts, physical sensations as physical sensations, in Cause and Effect the relationship between them becomes more clear, in Three Characteristics we become more precise about exactly where and when they are, in A&P we get fast with a whole lot of precision and consistency but not much inclusiveness, in the Dark Night we get more consistent and inclusive, thought it doesn't feel like that, but a non-stop swarm of bees in hour head we can't get away from is definitely more inclusive and consistent than spacing out in the lower stages, and then in Equanimity we get even more inclusive and better at acceptance.
There are lots of little sub-parts to this, but that is the general pattern.


Mark L, modified 12 Years ago at 11/27/09 7:46 AM
Created 12 Years ago at 11/27/09 7:46 AM

RE: MCTB terminology question: clarity, precision, speed, consistency, ...

Posts: 90 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
>> There are lots of little sub-parts to this, but that is the general pattern.

Very helpful.

>> Your analysis of the terms is spot on. Do you really need help? ;)

I was concerned that, even if my words were grounded in actual, pragmatic experience, there might still be a simpler, more... parsimonious, more "canonical" way to say everything. It's hard enough to feel connected to a community when practicing alone as it is, and even harder if one's personal jargon deviates too far from the fold. emoticon

I feel like it's important to rip everything apart, check it out, and speak the truth from one's own experience. The next step, I feel, is then to see if what's *already* been said, by other people, can be used to say what you mean, even if you couldn't see it before because you didn't have the referents yet. Then you connect your experience (or not) to the the body of work that's already out there, and it helps in communicating with other people, contextualizing one's experience, and gives clues for where to go next.

But, here I go again, stating the obvious and preaching to the choir. emoticon Thanks again.