This one is all about that four letter word, “WORK”. In the process we talk a fair bit about the indefatigable Noam Chomsky, Marshall McLuhan, Karma Yoga,  magickal narcissism, and  the pathetic syndrome of living your life waiting for a free ride.

Direct download: tps6.MTP.mp3

Podcast page:  HERE

17 thoughts on “The Philosopher’s Stone: part 6/8- The Myth of the Tipping Point

  1. Maybe I’m just late to come by this idea, but while listening to this podcast I realized that you can combine any listening activity with concentration practice. Place your focus on the sounds, and you’re good to go. Neat! I hope this will be useful for some other latecomers, if any happen to drop by.

    On to the subject of the recording, however: I was actually a little disturbed towards the end. There’s been so much that I’ve failed to work at, failed to do, failed to consistently pay attention to. In so many ways, I’ve been failing to concentrate. Yet… I started out doing this stuff because I was, quite frankly, in a bad place mentally. I felt depressed and helpless. In other words, I started ‘the path’ to remove myself from suffering.

    And then, as I listened to this, I realized that the one thing I’ve been doing consistently over the last few months is to put myself in situations where I’ve felt exposed. To say things that I knew I might be called on (and have been called on: consider for instance our recent exchange about the ego on twitter) for not thinking clearly about. To post blog posts I was dissatisfied with to the point where I couldn’t even bear to read them after I was finished writing. To say things that I’ve come to regret later on… the list goes on.

    As I wrote, I’ve been at this for months. And I can’t help but notice that I’m starting to feel inured to it. To the pleas for help that sometimes come desperately to me as I’m doing something, saying ‘Don’twritethisdon’twritethisdon’twritethis, you’ll embarrass yourself!’. And to that cold feeling that seems to hit me whenever I realize that I may have gotten a response. It’s starting to feel like… bullshit.

    Could it be that my one overarching desire has been resolved? That what I initially started meditating for, starter digging up various techniques for, started doing all these forms of practices for… has been something I’ve worked to fix consistently, behind the back of my own consciousness?

    Is this something people actually do?

    Nowadays (i.e., the last few days), I’ve started to feel a strong desire to stop with this crap. Stop being afraid. Stop being so pessimistic about the future, and start doing what I should have been doing all along: practice the good practice. Work towards the things that I want to accomplish.

    I once wanted to stop feeling hurt. Maybe I finally have.

    Is this really something people do, without knowing it? Undermine sections of their own lives, including such things as assumed purposes, feelings, desires… to stab themselves in the back, so to speak… to get what they really wanted all along; things that require real work, not just the half-arsed pilfering of strong concepts for shallow practice?

    It would seem it is. Or at least it’s something I do. And have done before, come to think of it?

    The idea that our minds are so layered is something I’ve consciously accepted before. The concept of the subconscious, even the superconscious, the idea that we’re often driven to do things for reasons we simply fail to consciously acknowledge.

    These are things I’ve thought about, but never before seen in action so strongly.

    Mind = blown.

    Well, I hope I’m not the only one capable of piecing together what the hell I was just talking about. I certainly won’t begrudge anyone for not keeping track, or for not being sure how to respond…

    Back to my attempts at doing the good work, I suppose. Whether *I* like it or not.

  2. Addendum, in the event that there are skeptical Buddhists reading: I don’t claim to be enlightened or anything. I’m simply saying that I don’t feel bad so easily anymore.

  3. well, i wouldn’t worry about most Buddhists. they mostly either think it’s not possible to actually be enlightened, or that it’s so easy as to be essentially meaningless.

    and yeah, not feeling like an open wound is a good first step, or a good remedial step, at least.

  4. Tee hee. I’m hoping to get somewhere with this, now that the vulnerability step is seemingly dealt with.

    Now, I’d like to start ‘the’ work again. I’m looking to give Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha another shot, but actually doing the practices this time around… but I’m not sure if I should pick up some supplemental material or focus on this one book. In the purpose of achieving enlightenment, that is.

    It’s obviously going to involve work – hard work, if the Dark Night has taught me anything – and persistence, but I would rather not realize that I’ve been missing something essential when I’m well into it, if it can be helped.

    Anything else you’d suggest to bring to the table, or is the book (and the work) alone sufficient in your opinion?

  5. @Sindre; I realise you’re not asking for general opinions, but you might want to give Shinzen Young’s work a look, although the difference in terminology between his work and Ingrams might be initially confusing. I’ve found his “Focus on Change” strategy to be incredibly useful.

    It’s worth being able to discuss any technique you use with someone who’s done it before interactively too (preferably face to face), if you’re lucky enough to be in a position to do so. It was a good long time before I was able to get my head around just what Shinzen meant by “Noting”, even though it’s written plainly in clear sight.

  6. @Sindre: Simple mindfulness of breathing and the jhanas that come with that, along with mindful observation of phenomena (either just sitting and letting phenomena do their thing or taking turns observing the three characteristics) will take you far, if not all the way. Of course, morality shouldn’t be overlooked, but that’s pretty simple, too. Don’t be an asshole and use what you learn to enrich your own and other people’s experience.

    I suspect any instructions beyond these merely serve to point you back to these very basic instructions in case you lose the plot.

  7. @Ceri and JF

    While I was asking Zac, I really don’t mind others dropping notes as well. Thank you both.


    Yeah, I haven’t found any experienced practitioners that live nearby, which is something that has been a bit of a bother. Maybe I haven’t looked hard enough, but there doesn’t really appear to be any established meditation group here in my hometown. And I certainly don’t feel capable of running one just yet. Therefore, I suspect I’ll simply have to be open about my practice, and hope for a stroke of luck.

  8. @Sindre Well, even if you can establish a relationship with someone via email or over the phone, that’s valuable. Alan Chapman and Kenneth Folk both charge, but will do diary review and make valuable suggestions.

  9. @Sindre I was going to say the exact same thing Ceri said, so yeah, what Ceri said. 🙂 (I’ve only experienced 3-4 months with a teacher over email though but so far it’s been great for my practice).

  10. Zac, this is wonderful. In the same punch-at-the-stomach way of parts of the augoeides series. I’ve been searching frantically for the tipping point on most things I care about, and the result is that I only developed skills I don’t really care (ex: poetry) because I was actually doing it, because it was easy to do it step by step, because I wasn’t lusty for results!
    But I’ve been learning. I actually went through a “tipping point” when I left gothicism/nihilism in a specific life-changing resolution. Then I spent years trying to make other tipping points happen, to solve everything I (just) decided in this change that were worth solving. During this proccess, obviously, I noticed that things came with small changes, many hard won battles, and that I needed to go on and be active in life if I wanted to feel intimate with it. I went from the Big Leap mythos to the realization of a myriad little small jumps over the detail cracks of life. But there’s still so much to be improved, and so many fields where I’m still waiting passively (and convincing myself I’m doing something with my time). You summed up beautifully and concisely something life is still trying to teach me, year after year. Thank you!

  11. I recently crossed a tipping point myself, so there is something to be said for that. However it is ultimately the years and years of work and incremental change that makes the most difference in life, I think. That’s why stuff like advaita vedanta or genpo roshi’s big mind process would be kind of sad, even if they did work ( which I’m not sure they do) , because they rob you of the chance to really sit in the flames and build character, and no matter how enlightened you get, you always have to build character.

  12. @Sindre – I think at some point in this quest it is remarkably useful to pick one practice and just do that, over and over, every day. For me it was (finally, after much muddling around with various kinds of meditation) the daily invocation of my Holy Guardian Angel, followed by 10-20-30 minutes of sitting. Do that (whatever one practice you choose) for several months, and it gives space for things to begin to really develop on their own. During that time I stopped reading and trying every other thing that I came across and just stuck with that one practice. Eventually I hit some peak experiences, got in touch with a teacher, and switched to noting practice for a while, as that was what was needed then. (I also couldn’t find a teacher where I live, and the ones that were within an hour or so didn’t really appeal to me, so I work with Alan Chapman via email/phone – highly recommended).

    To get things really going I think you have to settle on just one simple thing for a good while and give it time to develop. At least that’s my 2 cents. 🙂

  13. @ Ona

    Hey, thanks for the tip. I actually did that once (and it didn’t go too well). But I think I can blame my attitude for that, rather than the quality of the advice . I’m getting back to doing it again now – and it’s already proving fruitful.

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