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My Experience Thus Far With The Nature Method

I am going to try to shorten this.  I will edit it in this thread in the coming days.  

Here is a link to Buddhadasa (my teacher's teacher) explaining what the Nature Method is:

I’d like to attempt to summarize my experiences working with what I’ve learned from my current teacher.  These are all either my direct experiences, or interpretations of instructions I’ve received, rather than a representation of how things might be traditionally practiced.  I actually don’t know what traditional “Nature Method” practice is since I haven’t been a monastic, I can only assume.  I will try to write things that I have not written elsewhen, and in a way that may be helpful or inspiring to others.  

My teacher has told me that the supramundane dhamma is like a seamless cloth.  I find it helpful to compare this to a good organizational culture in business: one in which the mission is wholly integrated.  If you examined different departments, processes, events, etc. in this company, you would be able to induce the mission from any of them.  In this same way, a supramundane dhamma system has a core attitude, flavor or approach which affects the way one approaches conduct, time management, emotional regulation, attitudes, meditation, etc.  Because it affects so many different areas, it is what David Chapman would call "A Path" (as opposed to a social group, toolbox, worldview, etc.).  

The flavor of the Nature Method is realism, ease and joy.  There are lots of other phrasings that could also point to this core.  The strategy which arises from this “mission” is to create one’s own cache of joy that is resilient in the face of life’s ills.  This is done by working with the breath.  This allows the yogi to make realistic improvements to their life without panicking, and to perform deeper levels of investigation.  The joy helps deal with side effects of the dukkha nanas as well.  

The joy provides some space for clarity to arise.  It also leads to light-heartedness and humor.  This combination allows the insight into one’s being as a series of patterns alongside the possibility of re-ordering these patterns to create more joy.  The mind naturally wants to feel a lot of joy, but the process of getting to this point is artificial or fabricated, not natural.  One's realism provides insight into the re-patterning that is necessary and the amount of effort required to do it.

The quality of this effort is persistence: a pattern is corrected every single time it arises.  This could be up to 30 times a day.  If repeated every day for months, and maybe years, the habit can be completely rewired to its opposite,  One realizes that life will get progressively easier with new skills, which is a cause for optimism.  Another way to characterize this effort is that adapts to life circumstances, rather than trying to control or gain mastery over them.  

That being said, this general procedure applies to changing all thoughts, emotions and behaviors to make life less stressful and more joyful.  Despite the emphasis on manipulation being expressed, the ultimate goal is to awaken the mind's self-altruistic tendency.  It likes feeling good and wants to do so.  When it learns how to feel good in a way that is aligned with reality and thus more sustainable, it eventually becomes completely in-house habituated.  Thus all the behaviors, mental modes, and perceptual insights become second nature.  

Another part of the hyper-realistic approach is to not have “magical thinking,” which means assuming that change in one area will automatically affect all the others.  The natural method assumes that repeated, direct influence on the cause of stress is the quickest way to lower it.  This applies to the idea that a specific form of sitting meditation will lead to a sensory non-event which will ripple out to all other areas of life.  Instead, it assumes that the 10 Fetter model is based on one’s mastery in all the levels that a given fetter might arise in.  Each fetter has to do with perceptual non-duality AND repatterning thoughts, emotions, behaviors, etc.  The fetter model assumes that there are thresholds of reduction in suffering which are possible, even if complete deletion of them is not.  

I assume that the nature method produces results that are equivalent to “organized training” such as the Mahasi method, i.e. completing cycles of insight and the personalized, positive side effects they produce.  I also assume that the 10 fetter model is actually a study of what happens when one accumulates enough of those personalized, positive side effects, AND they synergize with the ‘skills’ (new habits) one has gained on all the other, more gross levels.  Also, I would guess that gaining skills/habits to reduce suffering on gross levels would help one cycle through the nanas more quickly on the subtle level.  Beyond that, it is hard to guess how the differing Buddhist approaches compare and contrast with regards to the vertical axis of development.  

Here are a couple disjointed add-ons.  Spreading joy to others increases it, thus learning new behaviors of friendliness and generosity is a selfish effort.  Everything needs to be balanced, thus one needs to be completely self-accepting before learning new skills (or else they punish themselves with criticism).  They later need detachment to counter stickiness surrounding success, and after that, they need generosity and gratitude to counter pride.  Also, in general, optimism and appreciation is a useful tool.  A useful simile is that craving is like a bottomless pit inside all of us, and the most logical reaction is to smile at it, or to build a cathedral around it.  Finally, it can be helpful to think of various types of craving as animalistic-survival-mechanisms, which can be tamed by creating new chemicals in the brain and body with the breath.  

RE: My Experience Thus Far With The Nature Method
10/27/16 10:46 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Thanks for this, Noah!
I resonate with the notion of synergy arising between the different facets of the path.
It seems obvious to me that, for instance, the three trainings each point to a holistic human nature from different angles.

While it makes sense to model them separately, because they include different linear results arising from different methods and which often are deployed at different times (of the day, i.e., insight methods during sitting and morality during interactions and daily activity perhaps), it also makes sense to model them holistically in order to make explicit that they all point to a coherant human experience in which perceptual insight or lack thereof, the ethical significance of various impulses and actions, and the stability or instability of mind all very clearly interact, dovetail, and indeed give rise to synergies both helpful and unhelpful-- and these synergies aren't necessarily predicted by a linear map of separate and seperable trainings.

In terms of concrete, holistic shifts in one's baseline way of being in general, which make one's actual life and interactions more effortlessly wholesome as opposed to mere perceptual shifts, the synergies seem much more significant in my experience than simply altering the way that perception is understood or debugging dualistic perceptual paradigms.  

This also seems to connect to the issue of practice motivation. When insight disease, as the obsessive fascination with the trasnformation of perceptual dynamics, is itself seen to be a sticky identification and hence gets debunked itself, why practice? Though the obvious answer is something like 'to improve one's relative conditions and functioning and that may even include further perceptual refinements' it can take a while between debunking inisght disease and engaging in further cultivation to really 'get' the simplicity of the value in further cultivation for cultivation's sake, because (in my experience) I reified the sense that 'things are as they are' which arose in the wake of seeing insight disease as a dualistic identification and hence made a little ideology for myself out of the feeling of being done (with insight disease). ;)  

RE: My Experience Thus Far With The Nature Method
10/27/16 11:17 AM as a reply to . Jake ..
Thanks Jake, couldn't have said it better myself!  (May have a better response later emoticon )

RE: My Experience Thus Far With The Nature Method
10/29/16 5:30 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Agreed. Well said Jake!