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Should you meditate, and also, what is even meditation
this is a long post
People ask me sometimes: should I meditate, and, if so, where should I start? This post was intended, in part, to be an answer to the question, and it’s a lot shorter and more entertaining than the one you’re reading. But it doesn’t really contain any practical guidelines, or at least, not explicit ones.
Previously, I felt unqualified to give concrete guidelines. However, I’ve realized that I have much, much more experience than many people who teach meditation in schools and other settings. So I feel alright dispensing some opinions, with the caveat that I do not intend them to be authoritative. Take everything here with a big grain of salt. It is a very personal, partial 101.
I would say that the main weakness of this introduction is that it’s wordy and cerebral, because those are my characteristics. For many, approaches more grounded in myth, metaphor, the physical, sexuality, and emotion will be more helpful and fulfilling.
I’m not going to put “in my opinion” in every sentence. If I sound too sure of myself, just remember that you can spread some “in my opinion”-flavored lard on any part of this you would like to.
The two tracks
There are, essentially, two “tracks” of meditation—two motives and guiding principles of practice.
The first is the performance-enhancing track, which is what most people are familiar with. This is the one where you are attempting to cultivate some trait—serenity, compassion, devotion to God, focus. It’s a perfectly legitimate mode which can be extremely helpful, and even transformative. Many high-performing (and not so high-performing) people I know benefit from this mode.
The logic behind it is fairly simple: for the same amount of time every day, you do some practice that creates the feeling you’d like to inflect the rest of your life with. So, if you want to be more loving, do loving-kindness practice, if you’d like to be more relaxed, do light mantra practice a la Transcendental Meditation, et cetera. My favorite meditation style to recommend to someone who wants to make their mind generally nicer is TWIM.
The second is the deconstructive track. This is where your mind is blasted apart by miraculous experiences that are unlike anything else. What you thought was real suddenly seems unreal, and vice versa.
This is exhilarating, but also disturbing, and it thrusts you into a quest to resolve various questions, like “where does this path go,” “what is the nature of reality,” and “is this all there is.” Sometimes, this path is begun by people who are looking for it, people who have heard rumors about spiritual awakening, and resultantly go digging around. Sometimes, it begins spontaneously. I know someone who had their first moment of awakening getting off a bus on a perfectly ordinary day.
That binary is not quite so simple, however. At a high level of depth, the performance-enhancing track naturally becomes deconstructive. It goes like this: after dedicated practice, your concentration naturally deepens, such that you find yourself glimpsing the stagecraft of consciousness. And, once you see the stagecraft, it tends to begin deconstructing itself.
But the two tracks are still distinct, to some extent, even if they run pretty close to each other sometimes. To use an exercise metaphor: any strength training will develop your cardio, but focusing on cardio is different.
The rest of this post will be about the deconstructive track, which is the one I’ve found myself on.
I don’t know if I can recommend it. It’s complicated. Certainly, it’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. But I also don’t think it’s for everyone, or even 2% of everyone.
There’s a wealth of wisdom in the Zen saying “better not to start, once started, better to finish.” There is an inevitability to the deconstructive path, after a certain amount of time. One day, it starts feeling like a force that’s washing over you, more than something you are choosing. It’s difficult to turn back after that—your unfurling mind demands attention. And it is hard to foresee which day that will be in advance.
It’s consumed thousands of hours of my life, without providing many material benefits. There were many disruptions along the way—periods of moodiness, mental weirdness, and a certain isolation that comes from immersion in a necessarily private obsession.
And many meditators endure more perturbations than I did. I had it relatively easy, especially because I had freelance work for most of the serious period of my practice. If I needed to take a month off to explore my inner landscape, I could arrange that, and this is definitely not true of everyone.
In terms of missed opportunities—what else I could’ve been doing instead, the friendships I could’ve tended, the skills I could’ve developed—the cost was enormous.
Also. Having met many people who are farther along than I am, I can tell you that it doesn’t make you perfect or even special. Tales of enlightened people who don’t have negative emotions are myths. Meditation masters can be prejudiced, angry, insecure, petty, and anything else. Occasionally, you meet meditators who are relentlessly positive. But then you find out that they were somewhat this way before, and the underlying trait has been boosted—advanced deconstructive meditation seems to make you a little more of what you are. It perhaps makes you, reliably, 15% less of an asshole.
However, from the inside perspective, I have no regrets. The subjective benefits are awesome. Not “awesome” in the sense of a mildly positive Canadian-coded adjective, but “awesome” like seeing a snowy mountain emerging from clouds. I feel alive now in some important way that I didn’t before. There is a peace and beauty that has become the bedrock of my experience. While this has become quite normal, if 25 year old Sasha could pop into 35 year old Sasha’s mind, he’d probably be shocked at the quietude and clarity.
I think that words like “enlightenment” are silly, and I certainly wouldn’t self-apply them. To me, that terminology is a vain attempt to wrest a prize from the unending mystery. Nothing and nobody is “done,” or perfected. Everything is ongoing, and my current mental condition, as solid as it feels, might disappear tomorrow, or might deepen far beyond what I can currently imagine. (I quite like this video about the E-word.)
What I can say is that, for now, the most central, pressing question of my practice has been resolved. I’m onto much more important questions, like “how can I be a better husband,” or “what is the correct amount of video game to play,” which are also matters that require intentional contemplation, at least for me.
Also, my personal suffering has been massively reduced. Rumors you’ve heard about “the end of suffering” are exaggerated, but you really can cut it down to a surprising extent.
So, should you do something similar? I don’t know. Do you feel that you must?
There have been a few practical benefits beyond the normal mental improvements you can expect from meditation. One in particular, I’ve come to rely on, but I’ll mention that at the bottom, because it’s not the important part.
Before that, I will try to describe the logic of the deconstructive track.
Finding the glitch
It turns out that the human mind is capable of two very different ways of seeing. Most people, for the vast majority of their lives, only see the default way.
In the default way, perception is essentially goal-oriented. There is some set of tasks to accomplish, and your experience is organized around those tasks. Like: you have to write a report, so your awareness contracts around the relevant data you’re recording. Or: you have to explain your actions, so you experience your life as a story. Or: you have to bond with your fellow people, so you experience your shared cultural norms as primary truths.
There is rest and relaxation. But it ultimately exists in relation to striving. Enough rest and you’ll want to find a goal. On a long enough beach vacation, you will eventually become annoyed by the quality of the margaritas, come up with a list of other islands to visit, et cetera.
There’s nothing wrong with this mode of perception! Human beings are purpose-oriented creatures on a deep level, no matter what some hippies will tell you. But the default mode, while helpful for solving problems, can be claustrophobic and stressful, and it limits the scope of what you notice. There is a strong bias towards only, or mostly, seeing things that are relevant to your goals and identity. This tends to make your personal problems seem very important.
It especially seems claustrophobic when you experience the alternative, which is this other thing. Lately, I’ve taken to simply calling it The Other Thing.
It’s a fundamentally different character of experience, in which the critical quality of the problem-oriented mode is suspended. You have the intuitive sense that everything is perfect and unfolding as it should be, and that there is no separation between oneself and this unfurling universe. Problems are problems, and suffering is tragic, but they’re all eddies in the current, not reflections of something fundamentally incorrect. The experience is saying yes, deeply, to everything, all the joy and suffering.
This is accompanied, often, with a sensual feeling of largeness and brightness—expanded peripheral vision, shocking colors, a vividness of taste and touch and smell, a more fulsome perception of space. For a few people, it’s experienced as dismayingly disorienting, but most people find it overwhelmingly pleasant and provocative.
But, also, all of these descriptions somewhat miss the point. The state feels like, in some ways, a vacation from concept, from abstraction. Therefore, any description of it obscures its essential nature—we’re playing with pointer language for something ungraspable.
Glimpses of this are experienced by almost everyone, and such glimpses are an important part of normal peak experiences, or flow states. Think of total absorption in play or sport, or really intimate sex, or being alone in an awe-inspiring natural setting. However, these glimpses are like touching a surface, that, in reality, is a portal. You can get all the way through, onto the other side—often, through meditation. And the other side is comprehensive in a way the brief glimpses aren’t.
Many different schools of meditation can get you there, from contemplative prayer, to visualizing deities, to IFS, to [embodied something something], to realizing you have no head. I wrote about my favorite resources here, and in my personal experience, self-inquiry, described in that post, was the most powerful tool.
The moment of popping over often feels like a glitch. By turning perception on itself—say, by becoming aware that the sensations associated with your identity are merely transient phenomena, hovering in some more fundamental awareness—your mind glimpses the “stitches” in its construction of reality, goes haywire, and pops out of the usual way, into The Other Way. (Thank you to River Kenna for giving me this vocabulary, in this excellent tweet.)
When you pop over for the first time, the experience is usually time-limited. Occasionally not—some people, like Byron Katie, for reasons unknown, just go there and stay there. But if you’re not one of those arguably lucky people, you pop back within a few seconds, or a few hours, or, sometimes, a few months. It’s as if the default way is a strong habit, so strong that breaking it violates your basic programming, and the basic programming greedily assumes its place in the hierarchy as soon as it can.
From then, the basic question implied is, “what was that thing, how do I get it back, and how do I stay there.” You can either answer that question, or spend the rest of your life occasionally wondering, in some small way, what is over in that direction.
The latter option is a reasonable way to live. For many people, there are better things to do! It is fine to have the transcendent be an occasional part of your life, instead of a major theme.
Based on a casual survey of the population, it seems like the longer you go on the deconstructive track, the more inevitable it becomes. Conversely, turning back after some initial provocative experiences is something I’ve seen accomplished by adults who now seem happy and capable. For example, my wife has had some intense glimpses of the Other Thing, and may investigate it later, but is prioritizing service to others right now.
How do you get back
I realize, now, that there is a very simple question that could have guided my search the whole time.
“What is stopping me from surrendering fully and open-heartedly to my entire existence, in this moment?”
It is my experience that The Other Thing isn’t some special construction produced with effort, like a cabin you build. Instead, it’s what happens when you are fully at peace with the facts of life and death, yourself and your place in the universe, your significance and insignificance. It’s a state of surrender. This does not mean passivity—it is nonjudgmental unity with the motion of things. You can live a functional life from this state of unity, and accomplish normal tasks, like writing interminable blogs.
Hence, my favorite meditation instruction ever, from Loch Kelly: “what is here when there is no problem to solve?”
So, just surrender fully to your existence!
Except: that is a complex process. What’s stopping you from embracing your life could be any number of a million different things. Everyone has a different combination of strategies for hiding from reality.
Perhaps it is using constant mental churning to hide the threat of nonexistence. Perhaps it is some large issue in your relationships that you’re avoiding. Perhaps it is even the desire to be an enlightened person—that particular one was a big problem for me, at a certain moment. For a lot of people in this society, the first block is self-hatred, since it entails a rigid self-conception that limits perception. Suppressed emotion is another big one.
You have to let go of these many layers of constriction, one after the other. Often, this letting go requires the adoption of different practices at different times. Meditators often drift through traditions, for the simple reason that the average person’s head contains heterogeneous clusters of difficulty. Complicated.
Oh, and, it gets worse! At first, you won’t even know what surrender means or feels like. If you try to “surrender,” it will, in all probability, look like some artificial, strained attempt at Buddha-like equanimity. It’s sort of like trying to execute the instruction “stand up straight”—what you get is usually wonky.
Which is okay! That’s a necessary part of the game. Full surrender requires deep relaxation on a level of your being that is hard to see until you squint at yourself with some persistence. The best I can describe it is: “the calming of the deep elemental scared animal part of you that rejects existence and the possibility of death by constantly getting lost in notions of what else should be the case.”
By the way. Many meditators, especially cerebral male meditators, primarily see this as a technical, thinky task, like decoding an encrypted message. I did for ten years. That is a dissociation strategy, to avoid embracing emotions that are hard to own up to—suppressed pain, terrible loneliness, stifled love. Unfortunately, the embrace of difficult emotions is, I now suspect, the most crucial component of the enterprise.
I am aware that this is all a little vague, without immediate action items directed at you in particular. That is intentional. The fight of ending the fight with oneself is inherently nebulous and personal. It requires coming to terms with your most intimate particularities, and nobody else can fully guide you in there. It’s a place only you can touch.
But other people can help, in spite of this! Your journey won’t be the same as anyone else’s, but many of the general contours will probably be similar to the experiences of others who have gone down this road. This is why there are teachers and texts and traditions.
Some of those teachers come bearing maps that lay out a bunch of stages of meditative progress. I think they are basically all very flawed, and create more problems than they solve. I’ve met maybe a dozen people who have been thrown into a kind of low-grade mental illness by maps like the Progress of Insight, which tell you what you’re supposed to feel along the way, which creates the obvious compulsion to live up to the map, rather than remaining sensitively open to the territory.
This doesn’t mean they’re completely useless. Occasionally, these maps capture interesting commonalities in meditative experience. For example, the Progress of Insight captures the fact that people who have explosive moments of piercing insight are then sometimes thrust into a period of dark confusion. So I’m not saying “don’t read maps,” I’m just saying “hold them lightly, like you might hold a symbol or metaphor.”1
Except… there’s one really simple five-stage map by Vince and Emily Horn that more or less completely accords with my experience, and the experience of many people I’ve encountered on the path. These excellent videos cover it—if you’re even slightly curious, you really should watch them. But if you’re strapped for time, this is my gloss, not authorized or endorsed by Vince.
You get your first thorough experience of The Other Thing.
Through practice, you become able to summon it on command, and you try to glimpse it with increasing frequency, and vigorously try to install it in your whole life.
You realize that this strain to find the awakened state is absurd, because it was there all along, in every moment. It’s part of the nature of reality. And yet, you had to work to see this. It’s like how, before you learned to look at Magic Eye puzzles, the image was always there, but to you, it was invisible.
You start coming down from the high, quickly or slowly, realizing that you are still trapped in a normal life, frustratingly enough.
All of this crazy shit integrates into the rest of your life with all its normal difficulties, which will expose and continue the changes in you, large and small.
Perhaps this map works, in part, because it’s simple. The meditation-heavy part is just three stages: see the thing, look for it everywhere, realize it was there the whole time. Those categories are broad enough to capture lots of different particularities.
But also, your experience might fall completely off this map. And there are many things you can get from practice that are not on it—like a deeper connection to your body, more compassion for others, a greater appreciation for the sensate world, weird pleasurable trance states, meditating in lucid dreams2, and so on.
I will also note that Vince has been one of the most helpful teachers for me, personally. I’ve never had a formal teacher for any stretch of time, instead having leaned on occasional meetings with serious meditators I encountered on Twitter and elsewhere, Vince being one of them.
How long do these five stages take?
As long as they take. It’s different for different people, and there is a large distribution. The median answer seems to be something like mine: “about twelve years of taking it seriously, on and off.” But some people get it instantly, and some people take many decades.
Some teachers talk about a required amount of formal retreat practice. I can personally attest that this isn’t strictly necessary, since I’ve never been on a formal meditation retreat. Instead, I’ve done informal retreat practice: I’ve spent, cumulatively, many months of my life largely isolated, spending most of my time meditating, or just walking for hours alone at night, examining the details of phenomena.
This isn’t out of any disdain for formal retreats. It’s just that my basic mode of practice was always “practice gently with regularity, until encountering a seemingly important mental edge, and then practice really hard for a little while.” None of my mental edges cropped up at the same time as a meditation retreat I could attend.
One of my best such informal retreats was a twenty-hour car ride, and I’ve heard multiple people report similar experiences! It’s such a common pattern that my friend Kati, who also broke through an important barrier while driving, refers to us collectively as “the driving lineage.”
You can do this thing fast or slow.
Very fast practice looks like: a bunch of meditation retreats in a row, containing a bunch of destabilizing and revealing experiences, which you surf as best you can, trying to implode your default mind while not going completely insane. This is more failure-prone, but also more exciting for thrill-seekers, and can be good for blasting through really heavy blockage.
Very slow practice looks like: after an initial mystical experience, your life slowly and naturally raises challenges that, cumulatively, require you to fully open to the substance of your being. This is safer and more grounded, but less satisfying for people who have a deep hunger to get right to it.
Not many people go at one speed the whole time. My route was somewhere in the middle, and I’m quite happy with that choice.
A final note on this: progress can be distressingly non-linear! As previously mentioned, I spent about ten years, on and off, with a grindy, cerebral practice that didn’t accomplish much. Then, after the emotional work described in this post, the thing started piloting itself. It became like a boulder rolling down a hill.
Some tips for the curious
I have some general tips that I suspect could apply to many people on the path, or thinking about heading this way.
Here is my most important tip about safety.
This is a hobby that can actually drive you insane, as described eloquently in this post. The easiest way to not go insane is to have some checks on your behavior. Like: a stable live-in romantic relationship, or a work context that is supportive, or a teacher who has a high-touch relationship with you. These can prevent you from making yourself too crazy.
Occasionally, your practice will take you to difficult places, and you will be a little surly, or distant, or confused—remember that this is you, not the outside world. While meditation can reveal that elements of your life are built on false perceptions of yourself, the short term perceptual fluctuations shouldn’t lead you to make abrupt decisions, like, say, suddenly abandoning your partner. Cause as little drama as you can.
If you don’t have any of those helpful guardrails, err on the side of caution. Remember that you are embracing what is, not tearing your mind to shreds. A fundamentally friendly attitude towards your current hangups will go a long way.
If you have strange mental events short of psychosis—like, I don’t know, convulsing, experiencing unbearably high energy levels, or having racing thoughts—it can be extremely helpful to do things that are quite literally grounding, like lying on the ground, or eating a heavy meal, or watching boring television.
And here is my most important tip about progress.
At some point, during your practice, you will stumble upon a viable passageway to The Thing, some mental motion that brings you to a place of intense relief and tranquility. Often, this will present as a brief, pleasantly confusing experience—a wider-than-usual gap between thoughts, a moment where time seems irrelevant, a slight change in the quality of your vision. Sometimes, it’ll come out of an idiosyncratic, spontaneous modification of the practice you’ve been taught, maybe from a micro-practice that doesn’t even feel like meditation.
The natural reaction to this might be, “well, that was cool, but I’d better do the practice the way this book said, instead.” Try to resist this reaction, and instead, sink in, explore the passageway that has just been revealed.
There is a subtle difference between “doing the instructions” and “doing the thing,” and, in the case of meditation, “the thing” is a mental motion that is indescribable. Instructions just try to put you in the zip code where you’re likely to figure out the right direction—meditation teaching is often a game of broken telephone. Once you find the motion, do that motion, until it’s no longer useful. (It’s also not just one mental motion, you will develop a set of mental motions as you proceed, different ones for different times.)
I have some other general tips as well. Some of them will sound stupid. That is okay with me.
>Initially, try a bunch of practices, and pursue the one that feels easiest and most interesting, regardless of what anyone says about which practice is “what the Buddha taught” or “the fastest route to enlightenment.”
>Working with the Enneagram was excellent supplemental work for me, as it clarified some habitual patterns of grasping inherent to my personality. I’d recommend this book. Generally, you will know that an Enneagram type applies to you if reading about it in detail makes you feel uncomfortably exposed.
>Mostly, seek relief: look for an approach that allows you to gently address your suffering in the moment.
>But occasionally, if you are avoiding a bunch of pain, staring that pain directly in the face is the way to continue.
>Be honest with yourself about what your mind is actually like and what your real thoughts are. To the extent possible, do not shrink from your perversity, your pettiness, your idiosyncrasy. This is a necessary part of embracing reality.
>Similarly: just keep noticing what your life is like. The present moment is all you can ever examine, and all you need to.
>Simply listening to what you say to people, and what you say to yourself, is powerful and revealing practice.
>Narrative, memory, and thought are part of the present moment, no more illusory than anything else. Don’t try to strangle your mind. The stream of thought will quiet if you let it, there’s no need to make it happen, and anyway, you can’t.
>There is no real separation between meditation, therapeutic experiences, and being more honest in your relationships, it’s all just releasing mental constriction. They cycle into each other. If recurrent thought patterns come up and get in your way, don’t be afraid of examining the content: where do those thoughts come from? If you were trained to hate yourself, who did that? Can you find the memory of your training, and start relating to it differently? Can you forgive those who have wronged you, including yourself?
>Play with different narratives about the path, and why you’re doing it. Perhaps you are a warrior journeying to the heart of consciousness. On the other hand, perhaps meditation is a silly pastime, Zesty Timewasting. Both serious and absurd frames can be useful, depending on where you’re at.
>You will notice ways in which you are being an asshole, and this will give you the freedom to be slightly less of an asshole, and I would recommend taking advantage of it.
>Being in a tranquil natural setting for some period of time can be intensely productive. I credit a lot of my progress to the fact that I lived in Joshua Tree for four months. It’s a setting where contemplative activity is essentially the default, where looking at the milky way and thinking about your place in the universe in absolute silence is just another evening.
>Attempt, when your mind is stable, to reduce the gap between you and the practice. This in particular will make no sense if you’re not currently meditating, but it might suddenly make a lot of sense one day.
>Some people will tell you to avoid including sexuality in the meditation process. This is bad advice from renunciative traditions. Sexuality ought to be included in the embrace of life, whether it’s sexual thoughts, or the nature of your sexuality, or the feeling of your gender. (I suspect that part of what causes guru sex scandals is sexuality being thrust into the shadows, and then sneaking back in.) As well, trying to fully, openly experience sexual energy, while alone or with a partner, is a powerful practice.
>If you feel like listening to my preferences, the teachers, living and dead, who have been most helpful to me are, in no particular order: Michael Taft, Rob Burbea, Loch Kelly, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Pema Chödrön, Ken McLeod, Dan Brown, Connirae Andreas, Bhante Vimalaramsi, Roma Hammel, Richard Rohr, Adyashanti, Carolyn Elliott, Vince Horn, and Douglas Harding. Also, I found the first few chapters of this book to be exceptionally powerful—thanks for the tip, Jake! (It should go without saying that nobody listed here necessarily endorses this document.)
But what about these performance enhancements?
I didn’t experience a lot of practical benefits on the deconstructive path, beyond the normal meditation stuff—decreased body tension, increased well-being, increased compassion, and so on.
However, there is one thing that surprised me, which is my newfound mental flexibility. I don’t hear many people talk about this, and I don’t know why, because it’s really interesting.
Deconstructive meditation, specifically, makes you realize that your mind is fundamentally changeable, composed of transient phenomena. All mental states are just assemblages of whirling particles, pixels briefly flickering on a screen. Nothing is “at the heart of it,” no one sensation is crucial. Your opinions, your beliefs, narratives about your identity—all furniture. Once you really see this on a deep level, like install it as a fundamental axiom, I think you hold everything more lightly.
Last year, I presented a proposal for starting a non-profit organization to a friend who is expert in such matters. I’d put a lot of effort and heart into it. She tore it to shreds, savaged it without reservation, because it was incompetently written and ill-conceived. I listened without defensiveness, and then rethought the proposal from the ground up with her help, and thanked her for her conscientiousness and honesty. I didn’t feel bad at all, except that I was slightly worried that this was an insufficiently productive use of her time.
Later I heard that she’d reported this to a few other people in glowing tones, as a laudable example of unusual humility and curiosity. But it didn’t seem weird to me. Why would I take the criticism personally? There were some stupid things in my head, as fleeting as passing sparrows, and she replaced them with some other, less stupid things. No big deal.
But then, I remembered that when I was 25, the slightest criticism of my writing afflicted me with horrible psychic wounds. Surely, my work was the essence of me, and therefore, a rejection of it was a rejection of my core being! Now I see that there’s no way for someone to reject my core being, because there’s not really such a thing. I’m a fluid, and occasionally, my sloshing is objected to by another fluid. I can take it.
Right now, I’m wearing many hats. I’m writing blogs like this, some blogs for commercial clients, coaching people on writing, coaching other people on their emotions, and learning how to be a CEO of a new product company I’m starting, and none of this seems contradictory. I can just put one thing down, and pick another one up, without wondering what it all means—everything is caught up in the same flow. The only hard part is keeping my calendar straight. I’m eager to see how far this plasticity can go, how I can serve others fluidly while mutating in unexpected ways.
This might seem mundane. And, it is. But the mundane feels pretty wonderful from where I stand today. Endless wonder found in mundane things: maybe that’s the best advertisement for spending twelve years on this diversion.
There is no neat ending to this spaghetti monster text. If, after reading it, you have questions, please shoot me an email. I am always up for responding to email about this particular subject. My progress in meditation doesn’t seem like something I’m responsible for. It seems more like grace, like a combination of conspiring circumstances which I didn’t arrange, which allowed an inexplicable force to flow through me. So, I consider it merely my duty to help anyone who thinks I can help. I hope that I, too, can be a conspiring circumstance on someone else’s path.
Photo credit goes to Daido Moriyama.
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There is an interesting nuance here. Maps of meditative progress often come out of a specific tradition. And it seems like the maps are more accurate (although, in my opinion, still extremely flawed) in the specific case of people who practice that tradition. So, for example, maps from vipassana teachers capture features of what happens when you practice their forms of vipassana, not so much meditation writ large.
I thought that “dream yoga” and lucid dreaming were all pretty silly. And then one night this past year, I had one of the most remarkable meditation sessions of my life, in a dream, floating above a patch of iridescent cabbage in a ruin, for what seemed like forever. Though I haven’t worked to make this reproducible, I get it now.