No matter what you are doing, sometimes it is easy to get mired in the details. I experienced this in a very real way when I was practicing architecture. I would get all caught up in one little detail and lose my sense of the big picture. Once I stepped back to see the whole, I was able to see clearly. TMI, with all of its stages and instructions, is also a place where one can get lost or bogged down in the details and lose an awareness of the whole.
I have been showing my students the above simplified version of the overall map of TMI in an effort to help people navigate what seems to be a very scripted experience. But as you have probably already noticed, the experience of this map is different for everyone.
Take a look at the above map:
PINK: From stages 1-6 you are developing skills (good form). Stage 7 is a refining period. Then in Stages 8-10, you are effortlessly applying the cultivated skills.
GREEN: Stage 1 is establishing your practice (according to Culadasa and others, this is THE most difficult stage). In stages 2-6, you are practicing mental exercises. Stage 7 is a refinement period. In Stages 8-10, you are using the conscious power cultivated in stages 2-6 to explore vipassana practices.
BLUE: This is where it gets really interesting because the stages of samatha are a result of the practices in PINK and GREEN. You can’t get them, they emerge naturally as a result of your efforts in cultivating skills and doing mental exercises. So, as a result of work in stages 1-6, powerful mindfulness and stability of attention emerge. As a result of refinement in stage 7 and vipassana in stages 8-10, joy, tranquility and equanimity emerge naturally.
All the while, as you are moving up the stages, the mind is unifying….what a relief :) The result of all of your efforts will be an abiding state of equanimity…it has become a trait.
The magic of TMI is that it is an infrastructure like the street grid of a city. There are many ways to get from point A to point B. And, if you get lost along the way, you can re-navigate yourself easily to get back onto the path.
In my next post, I will discuss that the path is not linear.