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What path is "worth it"?

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What path is "worth it"?
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6/29/16 7:59 AM
As meditation becomes more and more à la mode and more friends ask me about it, I am thinking a lot about the ethics of suggesting hardcore / practical dharma, dry insight in particular, with the friend's well-being in mind.

So the question is: What path is "worth it", in terms of:

1) General improvement in well-being.

2) Effort that went into getting that well-being in the first place.

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, dry vipassana until Stream Entry, adding jhana practice afterwards.

Of course the answer is going to be "it depends". For me the work is fun even when it sucks, and the amazingness of the mind/reality makes it always worth it. But many people are in it, in the beginning, only to improve quality if life. So let us include only "quality of life" in the equation. 

Also, I will take 'baseline' to mean: no meditation practice or mild mushroomy stuff only. No spontaneous A&P.

My current assessment:

Pre-AP is just a bit annoying while you sit, mostly harmless off cushion. Great place to stop practicing. Equivalent to baseline. 

0.5 path. Friends I have who got A&P but not SE do not seem to be doing well. Many seem to go in and out of the DN with little a lot of emotional involvement in it. Knowing the maps and models gives some kind of help, but they are probably worse off than baseline. Nope.

1st, 2nd Path. Dark stuff starts to be more under control, as in: less getting stuck in it, less sticky. Jhana generally becomes available and easily trainable at this point (this is an assumption). All in all: better than baseline. Worth it? Depends on how much work was needed to get here and how much it sucked. 

3rd/4th path I guess should definitely be worth it from all points of view, even taking into account the work and DNs one invested to get there. 

Do you agree that A&P without SE is probably best avoided? Do you agree with my generalisation about well-being after SE?

Put it otherwise: If a friend of yours wanted to start dry vipassana, would you warn them: "it will mostly sick until point X, and be worth it afterwards"? What would X be for you?

RE: What path is "worth it"?
Answer
6/29/16 8:23 AM as a reply to neko.
IMO, this is what the 8fold path is for.  Meditation is not, and was never enough.  Secularizing morality and concentration is not usually skillful.  It takes more than psychotherapy, life skills, and meditation, all practiced separately.  One needs to have the proper View of how different types of work fit together.  The Right View starts to unburden and loosen things immediately.  

Also, the amount of mileage gotten from the technical path shifts is hugely variable.  It depends on how much garbage one starts out with.  Either way, there will still be years worth of integration work that can not be 'zoomed through' pragmatic-dharma-style.  

RE: What path is "worth it"?
Answer
6/29/16 8:28 AM as a reply to Noah.
I see your point Noah. However, I am sure we agree that MCTB Paths open up certain new options to deal with stuff, while at the same time causing stuff to happen in novel ways. So I think my question still kind of applies in your framework, although with tons of caveat. 

Either way. If a friend tells you that he is using the Headspace app to do mindfulness, do you bring Pragmatic Dharma up? If someone asks about your practices, do you recommend them? If yes, do you give any "warnings"?

RE: What path is "worth it"?
Answer
6/29/16 9:04 AM as a reply to neko.
Neko:
I see your point Noah. However, I am sure we agree that MCTB Paths open up certain new options to deal with stuff, while at the same time causing stuff to happen in novel ways. So I think my question still kind of applies in your framework, although with tons of caveat. 

Heard.
Either way. If a friend tells you that he is using the Headspace app to do mindfulness, do you bring Pragmatic Dharma up? If someone asks about your practices, do you recommend them? If yes, do you give any "warnings"?

If they are unstable, I would tell them not to meditate, but instead to find an intelligent psychotherapist and possibly a good psychiatrist.  I would tell them that psychotherapy breakthroughs have caused just as much release of tension as meditation breakthroughs, for me.  

If they are stable, I would tell them about the possibility of deep practice, including the dry/wet distinction.  I would say that the quickest route is to find a one-on-one teacher, and offer them some options.

RE: What path is "worth it"?
Answer
6/29/16 10:09 AM as a reply to neko.
From AP, all the way up to fourth.

An analogy I have is that before AP, you have your eyes closed.
You get used to live by your other senses (touch, hearing, etc). So there is certainty.
After AP, you can see, but your what you see is dim, black and white and out of focus.

From there on certainty is lost, you don't know if to use your new crippled sense or the other ones you know so well.
From there on, as you move in the paths, what you see becomes brighter, and more in color.
And finally, in fourth, it becomes suddenly in perfect focus.

Now eyesight works perfectly and can be integrated with your other senses.
For me, at least, I have the feeling that until you are done (fourth), you have something amazing, life changing, but that doesn't work "right", that you can't depend on.

Of course, middle paths and fruitions help and do consolidate, but eventually there are glitches.
So, for me, everything in the path is worth it (AP, 1st, 2nd, etc). Even concentration is worth it. Thats because both wisdom and concentration really help with your life, they are really, really amazing things.
But after AP, its really worth to get to fourth.

This is my opinion based on my experience and what I have read about people who have gotten 4th (or at least seem so emoticon)
They fail miserably at describing 4th or 3rd. On the other hand, I wouldn't know where to start if I had to accurately describe what I have gotten from meditation so far emoticon

About AP without SE? My take: worth it. Any advance in wisdom (even DN): worth it.

It's important to note that these days there is a lot more "support" from people and A LOT more information, and more flexibility in people lives (and it's going to keep improving).

In the past I wouldn't be so sure.

Morality is usually underrated (no matter what you say) but even there, concentration and wisdom tend to improve that area (or give the urge to do so).

My 2 cents.

RE: What path is "worth it"?
Answer
6/29/16 10:28 AM as a reply to Ernest Michael Olmos.
I tend to agree. There is nothing inherently negative, wrong, or not-worth-it about any of the stages. It all leads compellingly onward.

That said, I do think meditation practice can be misused and cause a heck of a lot of suffering. That's why friends and teachers are so important. They can help us see the blind spots in our own practice -- and we all have blind spots.

RE: What path is "worth it"?
Answer
6/29/16 2:08 PM as a reply to neko.
Its the level of purification of the energy system that makes it worth it. When its cleared enough to no longer build up pressure in the system the cycling fruition stuff fades and the level of contentment and bliss becomes more and more permanent.
As far as the path model used on the DHO, i dont think its what the Buddha was on about as it doesn't really deliver real freedom. I think he was talking about fetters model.
If a person is satisfied with whatever path then their satisfied.
l would never encourage a person to do dry insight, because in most cases it means releasing kundalini into an energy system that is inadequate with results that vary from difficult to a complete disaster. Premature kundalini awakening has been well documented since dot as a really bad idea, and for good reason.

RE: What path is "worth it"?
Answer
6/29/16 2:48 PM as a reply to Bigbird.
Bigbird:

in most cases it means releasing kundalini into an energy system that is inadequate with results that vary from difficult to a complete disaster. Premature kundalini awakening has been well documented since dot as a really bad idea, and for good reason.

Very well worded.  I have always thought of kundalini awakening and a&p as synonymous.  
Its the level of purification of the energy system that makes it worth it. When its cleared enough to no longer build up pressure in the system the cycling fruition stuff fades and the level of contentment and bliss becomes more and more permanent.

This too.  There are also lots more levels to this purification than what most people are calling '4th path.'  It just so happens that there is this optional end point when everything seems to be synched up at a perceptual/sensory level.  
As far as the path model used on the DHO, i dont think its what the Buddha was on about as it doesn't really deliver real freedom. I think he was talking about fetters model.

Agreed.  The Buddha was definitely including what has been talked about on the DhO, but was clearly delineating much more.  This is why I don't like the oversimplification or broad-brushstroking of morality that sometimes happens.  IMO. there is a very specific way of dealing with the fetters, that interfaces with training the sensory circuits into a nonduality.  It is much more technical than "just be a kind, sane person."

RE: What path is "worth it"?
Answer
6/29/16 3:00 PM as a reply to Noah.
Noah:
IMO, this is what the 8fold path is for.  Meditation is not, and was never enough.  Secularizing morality and concentration is not usually skillful.  It takes more than psychotherapy, life skills, and meditation, all practiced separately.  One needs to have the proper View of how different types of work fit together.  The Right View starts to unburden and loosen things immediately.  

Also, the amount of mileage gotten from the technical path shifts is hugely variable.  It depends on how much garbage one starts out with.  Either way, there will still be years worth of integration work that can not be 'zoomed through' pragmatic-dharma-style.  

This.

I also don't think Vipassana is for everyone. I believe that the "wet" paths might be better for people with anxiety, for example. There are countless paths for countless practitioners. There is a reason for that. Narrowing focus to only Theravada practices is foolish, in my opinion. My path of Dzogchen (and now Zen) was perfect for me, but won't be for others. Hopefully a good teacher has a variety of skillful methods, and can help choose the best ones for their student.

In terms of worth it:

I agree that pre-A&P is a great place to hang. People with regular practice are generally opened up and better able to process problems in their lives and understand their feelings, with the new space in their minds. 

After A&P is tough, but if you have a tradition and teacher, and are driven to seek as most are afterward, the work can be seen to be beneficial.

Post Stream Entry is wonderful. I don't know how anyone could feel like it isn't worth the effort. Once you settle into being able to accept things as they are and let go of ambition (if you choose to do this or practice this) there is little to do but watch as things improve with your continued 

RE: What path is "worth it"?
Answer
6/29/16 3:25 PM as a reply to Stirling Campbell.
Stirling Campbell:

Post Stream Entry is wonderful. I don't know how anyone could feel like it isn't worth the effort. 

My case is a little bit special. I had spontaneous A&Ps since I was a little child and it kind of sucked. I got SE on my own around 1995, without really knowing what I was doing. I had no idea what all I had gone through was or meant. All the potential benefits from SE I was not at all able to put to good use.

That's until 2013/2014, when a friend explained to me how it all had to do with meditation and gave me MCTB. I had to complete another whole cycle of insight (a very fast one at that point: weeks) to finally be able to integrate what I already had. Everything was downhill from that point on, really. But if you count this second complete cycle as second path (I sometimes call it "second stream entry" emoticon), you could say that, for me, it mostly sucked until 2nd.

Hence my question. I basically want to know how it was for people who had a more standard progression, to better understand the ethics of getting people on the path.

I am happy to hear that everyone is more positive than I am about this all emoticon 

RE: What path is "worth it"?
Answer
6/29/16 4:09 PM as a reply to neko.
neko:
Stirling Campbell:

Post Stream Entry is wonderful. I don't know how anyone could feel like it isn't worth the effort. 

My case is a little bit special. I had spontaneous A&Ps since I was a little child and it kind of sucked. I got SE on my own around 1995, without really knowing what I was doing. I had no idea what all I had gone through was or meant. All the potential benefits from SE I was not at all able to put to good use.

That's until 2013/2014, when a friend explained to me how it all had to do with meditation and gave me MCTB. I had to complete another whole cycle of insight (a very fast one at that point: weeks) to finally be able to integrate what I already had. Everything was downhill from that point on, really. But if you count this second complete cycle as second path (I sometimes call it "second stream entry" emoticon), you could say that, for me, it mostly sucked until 2nd.

Hence my question. I basically want to know how it was for people who had a more standard progression, to better understand the ethics of getting people on the path.

I am happy to hear that everyone is more positive than I am about this all emoticon 
That's pretty extraordinary! Glad the path found YOU in the end. emoticon

Speaking for myself, my SE came during what I would call a DN period, and my then teacher had died, and I wasn't even really practicing for a bit there. Something "strange" happened to me - I really didn't know what it was - but I immediatley/accidentally found a new teacher a few days later who was cautiously able to help me figure it out. It isn't necessarily pleasant to walk around without knowing what is happening or how to proceed, I understand.

This place was also helpful months later, as I worked my way out of that initial shock and back into practice. I seem to remember you posted on some of my early threads, which I am most grateful for.

RE: What path is "worth it"?
Answer
6/29/16 4:18 PM as a reply to neko.
+ 1000 for Noah's response.

Just yesterday, I was writing a note reflecting on this to a dear friend.  My conclusion was that meditation on its own, without a commitment to a solid moral compass (or righting your moral compass and really doing the work on this front), won't get you very far.   I'd say it's nearly pointless to start practicing just "pure" meditation...

RE: What path is "worth it"?
Answer
6/30/16 1:54 AM as a reply to td o ditty.
@td:  I love the image of a compass (perhaps minus the prefix 'moral,' although I get your meaning).  The compass is established through Right View (which really is to have no views), open investigation (without ever coming to a decision), and the Brahma Viharas (or just Mudita).  It really adds the meat and potatoes to the stew of insight.  Yipee!

RE: What path is "worth it"?
Answer
6/30/16 1:57 AM as a reply to Stirling Campbell.
Stirling:
Speaking for myself, my SE came during what I would call a DN period, and my then teacher had died, and I wasn't even really practicing for a bit there.

I'm sorry you lost a teacher.  I know the feeling of lacking one, and of lacking a general direction in practice.  It has been a source of great depression for me in the past.
Something "strange" happened to me - I really didn't know what it was - but I immediatley/accidentally found a new teacher a few days later who was cautiously able to help me figure it out.

Cool.  I felt like finding my current teacher was also sort of a synchronicity.  Good vibes, man emoticon

RE: What path is "worth it"?
Answer
6/30/16 9:30 AM as a reply to neko.
It's important to note that sometimes life sucks, even for people that don't meditate emoticon.
If you don't meditate, a lot of that "suckiness" is repressed as you keep focusing on the past or the future or avoiding.

It's easier to keep habits and relationships and function in the world when you avoid your problems, but that doesn't mean that they don't hurt or don't exist.
And duality is a big problem.

So while meditation does bring complications (and the handling of them can be bad), life without that complications isn't that great.

Many people have problems with meditation, but many people have problems with life too emoticon.

Whatever you do can bring problems or go wrong (work, family, responsabilities, hobbies, etc).

The thing is, a lot of the suffering in people that don't meditate is hidden (or even in people that meditate, they come as layers), so it may seem that it doesn't exist, but it does and it hurts.

You only realize how much it hurted when it's gone, but that doesn't mean that it hurted less before.......
The suffering that tackles meditation is avoided at a very deep subconscious level.

About friends, supports, teachers, having your trip together, of course those things help, but they help with life too. They are not exclusive to meditation.

Maybe I'm extremely positive.
Maybe as I keep moving in the path I became more sensitive at body language, face expressions, that reveal what others feel at deeper levels. And when I interact with people that don't meditate, even if they seem happy, I can feel their suffering.

RE: What path is "worth it"?
Answer
6/30/16 10:21 AM as a reply to Ernest Michael Olmos.
Ernest Michael Olmos:
You only realize how much it hurted when it's gone, but that doesn't mean that it hurted less before.......


Well said.

RE: What path is "worth it"?
Answer
6/30/16 12:41 PM as a reply to Ernest Michael Olmos.
Ernest:

The thing is, a lot of the suffering in people that don't meditate is hidden (or even in people that meditate, they come as layers), so it may seem that it doesn't exist, but it does and it hurts.

Agreed, but it still made me think of this...





I don't know about y'all, but I meditate because I have to.  If I could wake up with skillful suppressive mechanisms tomorrow, I probably would.

RE: What path is "worth it"?
Answer
6/30/16 1:38 PM as a reply to Noah.
Noah:

I don't know about y'all, but I meditate because I have to.  If I could wake up with skillful suppressive mechanisms tomorrow, I probably would.

lol, I hear you. Same here.

RE: What path is "worth it"?
Answer
6/30/16 1:39 PM as a reply to Noah.
Ignorance is bliss: Nice!!!

I was just talking to a friend about it.

Supression takes effort, and effort...well, you notice when you are doing effort, so now you have to supress noticing effort. So, you are doing double effort.

I guess that the amount of resources in the mind that it takes is staggering (based on how you feel after a path).

The bottom line is, it shows. It's not like in the matrix where you don't know you are there.
It's a constant, tiring, useless internal fight with conflicting information.

Your whole body, whatever you do or say, reflect it.
It shows specially in the eyes, in the expression of the face and in the movement of the body.

I'm just a newbie in this, but even for me it's not that difficult to feel the suffering of duality, from time to time.

By the way I'm posting and the fact that I can see flickering at will, I'm in the middle of a strong AP.
It feels really, really good. At least for me, worth it.

RE: What path is "worth it"?
Answer
7/3/16 12:10 AM as a reply to neko.
Nice discussion. Many balanced, reasonable points of view here.

I agree with "it depends".

I agree this stuff is not for everyone.

Certainly jhana and wet approaches are better for those with more anxiety.

I disagree that the higher paths, such as 3rd, are necessarily much bettter than the lower paths in terms of quality of life: I have seen it go many ways.

Speaking just for myself, this has been very, very worth it, but I do wish I had more information available in my early dharma life.

RE: What path is "worth it"?
Answer
7/3/16 4:03 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel:
I disagree that the higher paths, such as 3rd, are necessarily much bettter than the lower paths in terms of quality of life: I have seen it go many ways.

Thanks for chiming in, Daniel!  As someone still working towards your definition of 3rd path (as I currently understand it), I appreciate this comment.  As far as I can tell, quality of life is best improved in each area, directly (rather than relying on some future realization).  Beyond that, perceptual and sensory shifts are best left to the judge emoticon (whomever that may be).  
Speaking just for myself, this has been very, very worth it, but I do wish I had more information available in my early dharma life.

Thank you for making this information available!  Much Mudita to you, sir.  Happy happy joy joy.

RE: What path is "worth it"?
Answer
7/3/16 6:37 AM as a reply to Noah.
3rd path can be a bit of a "dark night" of the overall 4 paths for some people. They see emptiness quite clearly but they don't see "this is it". It can lead to all sorts of forms of spirituality that really are just compensating mechanisms for the lacking they feel. There can also be the return of a nasty kind of fundalmentalism at this stage, one that is informed by all the insights but which still pits this against that, us against them, samsara vs nirvana, non-dual vs dual. Other people move quickly through 3rd and can see/realize that emptiness itself must be empty -- which means this is it. But often that realization is avoided because it feels like losing the sense of spirituality which was obtained through practice.

All of the obsessions and fixations in the 4 paths are more easily seen by others sometimes. That's why I said it's good to have peers that can help you see what we are missing or over-solidifying.  

RE: What path is "worth it"?
Answer
7/3/16 7:30 AM as a reply to shargrol.
@Noah: I use "moral compass" I suppose to mean "sila compass."   The more I train, the more I trained over the years, the more I started to see just how important it is to have generosity practices and sila online.  Any particular reason you oppose the word "moral" here?   

100% agree on Brahma Viharas.  I see them as not just a pathway to tranquility and insight, but also a way to get one's compass aligned and figuring out which way is true north.  On generosity, I see the practice of the BV as activating generosity --- if you think about it, whenever you practice them you are "giving away" good things to folks...just like when you give physical objects like food or money in charity. Pretty neat!