Relationship Spread: Ratna Meets Vajra Energy
This was a relationship spread I read soon after formally ending my turbulent friendship with Daniel M. Ingram. The left side is me, the top left card being my thoughts about Daniel (note the reversed Buddha), and the bottom being my heart, which is the soaring eagle (freedom and higher path ascension).
The reversed Queen of Disks at the bottom is the basis of the relationship, and the court cards are normally actual people. The Queen of Disks is my role as the nurturer, the Helper, on the material plane. The reversal indicates that my being assistant, helper, nurturer of MCTB2 was thwarted. This is not a relationship that is safe or life-enhancing.
Earth colors predominate on my side of the spread. This correlates with Ratna energy in the Five Buddha Families. Ratna is “stuck” energy, ruminating, not moving on. Ratna never solves problems, because it is not the energy of doing. So, in general, this reading is showing that I’m ruminating over the whole story, and that my future conduct is bound up in dilemma and confusion.
Fire predominates on Daniel’s side, in stark contrast to my earthiness. His cards are also upright in contrast to my reversals, so he is clear, at least. His thoughts of me are that I am showing strength and pursuit of a higher calling by walking away from him. In his heart, concerning me, is the Tower, the destructive blow that brings release.
Knight of Wands in the middle of the spread is the advice card. It is warning me to be careful to wait for clarity before taking further action. I have powers that I do not understand yet. This is advising restraint lest my concentrated energy become more destructive than is necessary or helpful.
The outcome card shows a riddle: two wrathful sphinxes separated yet joined by the prospect of future peace (white lamb).
I talk here about this reading: http://lumen-jen.tumblr.com/post/140934437202/this-recording-was-to-document-a-seven-card.
To Daniel on Editorial Conflicts and Personal Boundaries
23 January 2015
I’m going to try to keep my response to you at a very high level. After all, I don’t feel that the frustration energy you have been projecting onto me over the past few days, perhaps not insignificantly after you grappled with your personal narrative, has much, if anything, to do with my perfectly reasonable clarifying queries about your subjhana notation system. In fact, I think it has little or nothing to do with me at all. But I’ll let you sort whether that is true on your own.
Clarifying Your Full Notation System
No one has asked you to “dumb down” your notation system or anything else. You admitted to having been very “loose” instead of consistent with the letters you chose to use for the states and stages. How am I supposed to know whether or not you were similarly loose in oscillating between what appears to be two (three?) different notation systems for two different vipassana stage models—unless I ask?
After running a bit of a focus group of diehard DhO fans of yours, I had from them a handful of questions and concerns that you can certainly choose to flat-out ignore. You can choose to dismiss me, Devin, Eric, and Tom Tom as softcore unmasterful meditation slackers who don’t deserve your hand up or help. That’s fine, and I wish you well in finding and reaching a more worthy audience of practitioners without the grace of an editor to advocate for the community of readers. Without me, you have only your own isolated, calcified judgment, with no feedback or reality testing of your teaching skill, but only replay of your own opinions about how far the reader should have to come up to meet you—even established DhO members such as the ones I just named, even the person who is trying to make all this more teachable.
Reader’s Comprehension as Opposed to Your Personality Projection
On the phone the other night, after all we, mainly I, went through to improve Part I, you lamented that you prefer your flat “laundry list” of little disconnected sections, with the B-movie transitions, to the much more sophisticated layering and nesting of paragraphs within subsections, subsections within sections, sections within chapters, and chapters within parts that I so painstakingly accomplished. People have expressed no less than astonishment to me over how much this “layering” of thought has brought the subtleties of your dharma teaching to the fore of Part I. They’ve stated how much clearer this edition is than the last. This reaction is absolutely of no surprise to me at all.
Mature writers are those who have mastered the layering of thoughts. Their sentences will involve more subordination than and-linked coordinated sentences; their structures will have more than one flat layer of fragmented sections merely pretending to be effective “chapters.” Layering of thought aids comprehension and retention. Low-brow chattiness for the sake of preserving your “voice,” which is to say, your personality, in no way aids in comprehension or retention. I saw this book a year ago as a diamond in the rough, and I vowed to reach out to you and make it shine, for the benefit of all beings, even some of the slackers, which you’ve made clear below that you think I, Devin, Eric, and Tom Tom are.
I know full well that you are a master of meditation and a master of the practice of medicine. But hear and register this: I’m am many, many times more the masterful writer than you are. If you were in one of the many freshman writers in one my college classes, you would be put through your paces to a degree that would shock you, let me tell you. I love your personality, even with all its grandiosity, outbursts of punitive harshness, double standards, and goofy quirks. However, hear this, too: You need to get the fuck out of your own way. You need to step aside a bit in this book so that the dharma you have to teach can shine through without all these obfuscating Daniel-personality filters. You say you are interested in quashing projection and the cult of personality. I challenge you to prove it by dealing somehow with your vey obtrusive feelings of possessiveness over this book. It isn’t you or yours, after all, is it? Or is it?
Sequencing of Chapters and Parts
Another thing you said on the phone to me, quite vehemently, was that you don’t feel chapters need to approximate the same length. Nor do you feel, I guess, that a part consisting of only one chapter is at all ridiculous, though it is. When I cite to you the conventions that compose this cultural construct called “books,” editorial style, and writing, your defense is, “I don’t feel particularly bound by convention.” I don’t know how to advise, reach, or help an author who clings to such emphatically unhelpful rejection of the reader’s needs in the name, again, of projecting his own personality through his material. Writing is convention itself. It is the least spontaneous and least “emotionally honest” thing on earth, if it is at all effective.
Why write in paragraphs? Why not get a butcher roll of paper and spew one long undifferentiated column of “personality” down the middle? Why not doodle all over it, too? Wouldn’t that feel “fun” and liberating to you? Maybe. Would it help the greatest number of sentient beings to awaken? I highly doubt it, as few are going to slog through the results of such a self-indulgent authorial undertaking.
Now, when I tell you that, ideally, chapters should approximate the same length, be bundled, layered, and thematized, I’m giving you my best advice, based on my 10 years mastering narratology and rhetoric at the PhD level, and my subsequent 15 years as a rapidly promoted, multi-award-winning senior editor. I’m not just making this shit up, believe it or not. By this point in a relationship with an author, I’m no longer having to throw the book at him and convince him that there is some industry and learned standard for what I’m recommending. By this point, he clearly sees the value in what I’ve done, has developed some basic trust in my intelligence, sensitivity, and camaraderie, and doesn’t use our working relationship and my vulnerabilities as a projection ground for his own insecurities and contradictions.
You stated to me the other night, in a sudden fluster, that you want “Shadow and Light” (“Light and Shadow”?) back where it was—this after I asked you twice whether you were okay with running the experiment of bundling it with the path models. Then, during that call, you took issue with my leaving the path models out of a part calling itself “Mastery of Practice.” Daniel, everything can be “Mastery of Practice.” Shall be put all the chapters into one gigantic part and call it “Mastery”? No, of course not. After all, the title of the book is “Mastering,” so that umbrella is already open and functioning to cover the whole book. The terms we are separating, however artificially, are “practice” and “theory.”
Again, dividing and naming chapters and parts is artificial. We simply need to give the reader a psychological break every 100 pages or so to integrate what has been covered. This is just the verified cognitive-behavioral constraints of book reading, comprehension, and retention.
So, thinking about all those models, mainly ones you trounce, I reasoned that the ranty tone of “Shadows and Light” and the ranty tone of those rejected path models are tonally connected and therefore belong together. Moreover, it seems to me, in terms of content, that there is a connection, isn’t there, between the idealized models and the hyper-psychologized mode of what passes under the name of contemporary Buddhism? I have a very intense gut feeling that these separate pieces would inform each other beautifully and profitably if they were bundled together under one overarching part title, whatever that title may be. Whether that resulting part should be Part II or Part III remains to be seen and decided, but in writing you do the bundling and thematizing first, and then the sequencing next. Intros and finalizing titles are last. Why you are suddenly so nervous about everything I don’t know, but all this seemed occasioned by the Quest work.
You protested to me over the phone that no one can master practice without the path models and that, therefore, the “Mastery of Practice” part must include the path models. I still don’t understand what you mean, except that I guess everything in the world potentially informs “practice.” Maybe the whole book should be a single “part.” Still, you have made it clear to me and to Devin that there is no such thing as “a path-appropriate way of practicing” (your very words). So the path models are part of the culture and theory of attainment, not direct practice. This may not be true in some absolute sense, but the differentiation seems more than adequate to support a book part division.
Now, you have been what appears to me to be very inconsistent on this point of paths’ informing practice specifics. In the Hurricane Ranch talks, there is this:
KENNETH: “So would you say that each path has its own logic of getting the thing done”?
DANIEL: “Yes. Absolutely.”
So which is it, Daniel? Is counting paths important to tweaking practice, or is it not? You just posted out to the DhO the thread “4th and the Whole Thing,” which apparently was sent out only to those who think they have gotten or are about to get 4th. And you bristle that “Everyone forgets my Simple model.” When I reply, “Well, you yourself question us and post in terms of the Revised Four-Path model.” Your response to that is what? “I do that only because that is how everyone talks out on the DhO.” Please, come on! Don’t give me that. You are the leader and teacher here. Have you ever posted under the auspices of the Simple model? Even once? If the Simple model is your priority model, then declare it so everywhere and be consistent in promoting it instead of confusing by spending most of the time supporting the Revised Four-Path model.
If the Revised Four-Path model is good only for assessing first and fourth paths, then maybe you need to have the guts to revise again down to a Two-Path model. At the very least, you need to explain to us middle-path people just what the deal really is. When should we consult/ignore which model?
All the frigging models have problems, all of them, including that Simple one. That’s my opinion. None of them match the wide variance in what apparently happens across advanced practitioners. How in the world is any of them helping my practice?
So these path models—to my mind and from what you wrote to me personally—they are theory, not practice. They belong in a Culture and Theory part of the book.
The other night on the phone you uttered something that hurt my feelings, on top of the litany of challenges you hurled, albeit quite belatedly, at all the work I’ve done on Part I. You said,
“Well, you can do what you want when you write your own book.”
Considering that I’ve donated considerable effort and time away from my family, my own meditation practice, my sleep, my paid work, my exercise needs, my healing during illness, and all manner of relaxation and recreation for a book that bears your name and not my own, and which furthers my personal agendas and status in no way, that sort of hurtful remark is overly defensive, is meant emphatically only to sting me, and is therefore morally unskillful.
I was very ill for more than a week. You twice pressed me to Skype for 2.5 hours while I was sick in order to go through some exercise that you seemed to feel would help with the memoir but that I didn’t get a sense helped at all. Now, okay. I granted you this long chat, though it ran over something else I had told you I had planned to do with my husband that night at 9 p.m., and even though I was sick as a dog and not able to mentally process things well. Do you know how you characterized this Skype session to me when you pressed me for it? You said this would be “fun” for me, as if you were granting me a special favor in granting me an audience.
Your lecturing me—ever—on my proper motivations, insisting that I do this work “for the community” and not even a little bit for you, presumes that you are morally superior to me and entitled to lecture me on and constrain my generous actions in terms of motivations precisely in line with your own motivations. And what are your motivations in thus lecturing me? Clearly, it is so you will owe me not a thing, no gratitude, or even heartfelt personal acknowledgment. So our Skype sessions aren’t to help you, but to dispense me a little “fun” because I get to converse with you about you!
You do owe me basic courtesy, if not gratitude, Daniel. You owe it to me to stop hurting my feelings and treating me callously. You should at the very least have me write a signed editor’s preface to the book so there is that acknowledgment of all that I’ve put into this. You and I should stop pretending that I’ve done nothing for “you,” when I have done plenty for you, including continuing to think of you as my friend when you have hurt my feelings deeply more than once and ignored much of what I’ve wanted to talk about from time to time, ignoring questions asked several times, rather passive-aggressively. You enforce status all the time. Think about it.
So these are my boundaries, since I assume you aren’t the only one who gets to set and enjoy boundaries, as presumptuous as that might be of me. If we can clear this cyclical shit up and out and move on again with the work before us, very good and I’m willing. If you think I’m spoiling your precious lifework and you prefer to put it out there “as is,” without benefit of someone advocating for your potential readers at all, on the basis that you alone know what is best on every single axes of intellectual development, then that is your decision, with all its attendant risks, and I wish you well.
Exchange with Daniel Ingram about Reobservation
I’m so sorry for my current volatility and the frustration aimed specifically at you. I realized last night that Reobservation is kicking my ass. Not that I regret standing up for future women on your site, and not that I think there isn’t unnecessary and unhelpful nuttiness on that forum (extending to moderation, leadership, boundaries) – but valid issues with which I’d normally be more patient are indeed being magnified and amplified through very old frustrations, very old interpersonal scripts of my own, and I feel like I’m banging my head against a wall and want to torch everything.
Last Dark Night, before stream entry, I had none of this; I had clear Fear, Misery, and Disgust, but no discernible frustration/Reobservation. This time it is reversed. The people at AN are cradling me, in a way, including Nick and Florian, so I’m thankful that I have that space and people who know what to say, so that I don’t bleed through at work and elsewhere.
May you enjoy your Buddhist Geeks time and dance party.
No worries. Part of the trick is definitely learning to roll with this in yourself and others. Given a large enough community of practitioners, it is basically guaranteed that multiple will simultaneously be in the Dark Night and having a hard time and basically nobody can really control the bleed-through and so these things are going to happen, sometimes often, unfortunately.
Soon enough you will see nearly all your dharma friends go through something like this, often multiple times, and, if they storm off in a huff, the trick is to just be there if and when they come back and realize that you also likely did it multiple times also, and this is okay, and we all move on.
There is a really steep learning curve to this stuff and it takes everybody time to get a handle on it. It gets easier for most as the cycles go on, but you never know when one will come along and kick your ass again. Remember when I said I went through about 27 of these ass-kicking cycles in about 6 years? All I mean by that is that I totally get the feeling and how compelling the issues can be and how hard it can be to get a grip on it, as the same thing has happened to me many, many times.
I am glad you are getting support: so good to have a community in which there are supportive people.
BG should be a blast. Thanks for the well-wishes and sharing the insights,
Thanks and, well, it helps to know where one is, that it is a stage. And it is interesting from a certain perspective to see clearly and feel viscerally for the first time the dots of parental abandonment and current idealization/perfectionism/codependency connected. Seeing the idealization includes seeing fantasies about my spiritual attainments and what they “mean” as fantasies, and that does include ways that, not really knowing you as a person, I have projected those fantasies onto you, made you into a symbol of what I want, and then projected disappointment as well onto “you.” So, yes, I’ve read the new Reobservation section, get it, and I’ll sit with it and just roll through it, and not let myself get caught up in
the psych shows too much, and not self-indulge in guilt, either, as I do trust you when you say you’ve been through it . . . many times.
Projecting ideals of perfection onto people in teacher roles is also totally normal, and reacting when they don’t meet those ideals is also totally normal. We all did and do this also. I am a guy with a few very specific skillsets that are unusually well-developed and the rest is pretty ordinary. Same thing turned out to be true for all of my teachers.
Stock and standard stuff to get used to and learn to see clearly.
Good to have insights into those things. Good to be seeing the issues clearly so wisdom can be brought to those patterns.