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RE: Ok, how does progressing through the Maps of Insight really work?

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Ok, how does progressing through the Maps of Insight really work?
insight fruition maps
Answer
8/29/10 2:48 PM
Upon my first reading of MCTB, I understood the progress of insight as a set of stages that, when they are reached, you don't backtrack. I think the book even says something like that, like how your mind understands something more, and it can't regress. It also seemed like each stage could last anywhere from minutes to years, magnifying the idea that these are concrete stages that last.

Then I read that each path has a new progression of insight. So you go from 1 through 15 for 1st path, then from 4 to 15 for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.

Then I read that apparently as you progress to different paths, you can experience "previous" stages, like if you're at 1st path, you might have a Fruition from before 1st path, and not on 1st path. What? This is getting confusing.

Then apparently you don't just go through one new 4-15 stage on each path, but you can cycle through each one dozens of times before attaining a new path. Alright.. makes it harder to figure out how to go from one path to the next. And kind of breaks up the idea that these are concrete stages..

Finally I saw people talking about "regressing" back to stages. Like they'll say they reached A&P + got into dark night but then regressed to Mind + Body. What?

The book even says how when you start meditating you might reach 2nd or 3rd stage, but you probably regress to not even having the 1st stage in between meditating, and you keep having to re-attain it. Ahh, what?! This doesn't make any sense now. Do you or do you not progress through the stages? If you regress backwards between meditating, then how do you make progress? Go on a 3 month retreat so you meditate non-stop? What's to stop you from regressing after you leave?

Furthermore with all this possibility of cycling through the same stages repeatedly, there being 4 sets of paths of insight (1 for each path), and the ability to regress... it seems like you can take any set of experiences in your daily life, look at the descriptions of the various stages, some of which are vague enough / happen in daily life anyway (being sick of everything? definitely happens), and go "Ah yes so I went to this stage, then must have regressed later, until I meditated, then got up to that stage..." etc.

Can anyone clear this up? The stages seemed concrete and useful before, but now they seem arbitrary and slippery.

RE: Ok, how does progressing through the Maps of Insight really work?
Answer
8/31/10 3:51 AM as a reply to Beoman Beoman.
Here's how I understand the model. Warning: highly geeky.

First, two more technical terms: "cutting edge", and "center of gravity". The cutting edge is the most advanced nana/jhana you have accessed. The center of gravity is somewhat behind that, where "you" are most of the time. This is where the "early" and "mature" sub-nanas can be understood on the map: "early" a&p, for example, is when you can get there (cutting edge advances into A&P/second Jhana), "mature a&p" is when your center of gravity is squarely in there. this applies to later stages, too; and this is where the nana vs. jhana distinction comes in handy: jhanas are fairly stable, places where the center of gravity can "come to rest". Thus, A&P and Dissolution and Equanimity have "early" and "mature" stages, because they correspond to second, third, and fourth jhana; while the Dark Night has no such resting place, being composed entirely of unstable nanas. (To be really geeky, the third jhana can also be understood to span all of the dark night).

So in each sit, you progress up past mind and body (first jhana) to the territory between center of gravity and cutting edge, dig around there, back and forth, push at the cutting edge, tug at the center of gravity.

Still with me? emoticon

Now, the talk of backsliding is largely about two experiences: the perceived gap between "cutting edge" and "center of gravity", i.e. I could access A&P yesterday but can't today; and the slippery territory between dissolution and equanimity, where the cutting edge might reach equanimity but the center of gravity just won't stick anywhere, giving the the impression of backsliding, swinging on a rope and so on.

Okay, but one day, the center of gravity sticks in early equanimity, cutting edge advances, and one fine day, they both end up in high equanimity, and eventually, the thing pops, stream entry, bingo.

The pattern now shifts: With each sit, you can drop into A&P, second Jhana, directly, progress up to equanimity, and, with sufficient intent and clarity, review the fruition that marked stream entry. Or you could do concentration work, or fuse the insight and concentration sits, or whatever. This is calles "review phase" in the map.

You'll probably also notice how you're going through the cycle during everyday life. Maybe you'll experience fruitions off cushion. Maybe you'll just notice the deeper insight resulting from the fruitions. Whatever.

So that was one pass of the map, one Path of Insight, including the backsliding prior to path moment, and the cycling after. This is also one of the reasons why people occasionally talk about fractals: there is the large pattern, which seems to be composed of smaller versions of itself, peak of a&p, trough of dark night, plateau of equanimity, jump of fruition.

Now this patterns repeats for second path, third path... this is where the nice model seems to break down. After third path, it branches out, looks like a huge self-similar fractal (the other way people talk about fractals), has all kinds of traps and seductions, and in the end, I'm told, the cycle model, while still kind of applicable, is just too primitive and unhelpful, or it has to be taken to another level, or whatever.

Still reading?

Here's my experience so far:

I hit A&P as a kid (including subsequent dark night), and repeatedly again during teen-age and during early adulthood. When I came across MCTB, I was able to gradually see my experience in light of this map, and make good progress up to equanimity. I then got too hung up on the maps, chased strange experiences wanting them to be Formations or the Three Doors, and spent a good year spinning around in the territory between early equanimity and A&P, i.e., the Dark Night. But in the end, and with the help of all the good people here at DhO and sister sites, I entered the stream. Now, I can see how very accurate the map to stream entry is, but also how misleading if mistaken for the real thing.

Thus I appear to talk away from the maps, just like many people before me did after they made it here, and doubtless many after me will, once they get here. But that's just Concerned Parent Talk. Really, don't listen to me, use the maps to your heart's content, and in the end, you'll have learned how they work and what they don't do for you.

I hope that was helpful in some way.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: Ok, how does progressing through the Maps of Insight really work?
Answer
8/31/10 10:39 AM as a reply to Florian.
Thanks for the reply! That actually does help a lot.

So to clarify something further... when people say they are "stuck in the dark night for 3 years", does that mean that their "center of gravity" is in one of the dark night stages? And even though they don't necessarily meditate, it affects their lives that that's where their center of gravity is, but if they sat down to meditate, they'd "enter" that stage quickly enough? And in general, when someone says they're "at" Equanimity, they mean that's where their center of gravity is?

Another question is.. how do you go from stream entry to second path? I thought before that you'd just have to complete the cycle to continue through each path, but apparently, completing the cycle just gets you to stream entry. I suppose I don't have to worry about this now, but I am curious.

I can definitely see how it can be misleading, as I've definitely spent some effort trying to figure out where I am, where my experiences fit in, etc. I suppose I should just note those things and continue practicing eh? =P.

RE: Ok, how does progressing through the Maps of Insight really work?
Answer
9/1/10 2:03 PM as a reply to Beoman Beoman.
So to clarify something further... when people say they are "stuck in the dark night for 3 years", does that mean that their "center of gravity" is in one of the dark night stages? And even though they don't necessarily meditate, it affects their lives that that's where their center of gravity is, but if they sat down to meditate, they'd "enter" that stage quickly enough?


Sort of, yes. The dark night is slippery territory; maybe picture it like a trough: you roll over the peak of A&P and down into the trough, and you need to have enough momentum to make it up the other side, until you do, you'll sort of roll up either side, can't really go back, can't go forward. If you stop generating momentum (i.e. stop practicing) you certainly won't get out.

One point I've seen debated is whether it's possible to recede back past A&P, since after a long time without practice (after crossing A&P) it looks as though the process starts at step 1, and a&p has to be re-attained. This reflects my experience, the re-attaining bit at least, so it seems that wherever the "cutting edge" got stuck (i.e. dark night) is also an important factor coloring your experience. I don't know, the model only takes you so far. Maybe the neo-shamanistic model of bits of your soul breaking off and getting lost is more helpful there conceptually: a part of you stays in the dark night once you get there, you can never take it back, only pick it up on the way through. A&P is an irreversible event.

And in general, when someone says they're "at" Equanimity, they mean that's where their center of gravity is?


Yep. Again, you might start noticing little cycles out of meditation, too - trying to complete but unable to, only going as far as the big cycle has taken you. At least, I thought I did. Again, explore your own experience, not the map (but take the map along! It's really helpful.). The map is not the territory.

Another question is.. how do you go from stream entry to second path? I thought before that you'd just have to complete the cycle to continue through each path, but apparently, completing the cycle just gets you to stream entry. I suppose I don't have to worry about this now, but I am curious.


Traditionally, it's said that at one point, reviewing the stream-entry cycle and fruition gets old, and a new cycle starts of its own. I've also seen it mentioned that formal resolve can start the next big cycle, formally renouncing the old fruition, that sort of thing. Finally, and that's my experience, if A&P was a point of no return, Stream Entry is more so, as the Dharma Pull is so much stronger. Conveyor belt imagery is commonly used to illustrate this.

Hey, come and see for yourself. Give yourself permission, think of the Buddha calling the earth as witness, if you like. Also, don't be afraid of riding your dark emotions - they have a lot of oomph. Your reserves of concentration and mindfulness and clarity are larger than you suspect.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: Ok, how does progressing through the Maps of Insight really work?
Answer
9/1/10 9:04 PM as a reply to Florian.
Wow! Just wanted to say: Great question, Beoman. That was an issue that I didn't know I didn't know, if you follow me! (So thank you for asking a question that needed to be asked.)
Florian: Thanks for the clarification, and your ability to clarify things in general. Your voice at this discussion forum is very valuable, and as an occasional lurker, I thought I'd express my gratitude for the level-headed commentary you provide.
Keep up the good work, friends.
Gabriel

RE: Ok, how does progressing through the Maps of Insight really work?
Answer
9/2/10 1:21 AM as a reply to Florian.
Hi Florian,

I'm sure this has been gone over before, but back a few months as I found myself in the dark night I would occasionally fall into this nostalgic feeling state. It was similar to the feeling I would get as a kid when my mom was shutting down her preschool and all the hustle and bustle was over. Or, as a kid, when someone was reading that "Goodnight Moon" book to me before I went to sleep. It was very distinct, but hard to describe. A sort of quiet sense of peace and finality. Like a moon reflecting over a clear still lake. Would this be the entrance to equinimity? I would characterize this as my "cutting-edge." Feel free to tell me if I'm way off on this, as I stopped regularly practicing a few months ago, and am just starting again.

-Thomas

RE: Ok, how does progressing through the Maps of Insight really work?
Answer
9/4/10 11:59 AM as a reply to Tom Tom.
Hi Tomas, lately I've been looking into understanding equanimity alot, as it is the entrance point for stream entry.

Daniel Johnson Posts "Stuck" in Equanimity? Seemed helpful for noticing some of the finer & general points of recognising the nature of equanimity. Which may be helpful cause he goes through the chapter on Equanimity In MCTB and picks out relevant points and compares them carefully to what he has experienced.

RE: Ok, how does progressing through the Maps of Insight really work?
Answer
1/5/11 10:20 PM as a reply to Florian.
Hi Florian,

I just wanted to chime in and add my thanks for your responses. You've provided useful answers to some lingering questions I've had for quite some time.

Thanks!
Patrick