I was talking with a Daniel Ingram recently, and he articulated a way of carving up the world of meditators. He broke them into three groups: people who the wide end of the funnel, the middle, and the narrow end.
At the wide end, you have the newbies.
- These people are in it because they’ve got some non-meditation goal and they heard that meditation might be a good way to achieve it. Maybe they want to reduce their stress and anxiety. Maybe they want to perform better at work. Maybe they want to be more creative.
- They haven’t experienced any of the ‘special’ experiences that come about through meditation. Things like dissolution, bhanga, arising & passing.
- They probably meditate for 10 or 15 minutes a day and think that’s pretty good for their needs.
In the middle, you have the people who have tasted something more, and are exploring what’s possible.
- They know from first-hand experience (and probably from their readings and received teachings) that there’s some crazy shit that’s possible here. They want to explore it. They probably don’t know exactly what they’re after because they don’t have a good understanding of all the things that are possible.
- These people tend to go on retreats and read geeky Buddhist stuff. If they don’t meditate for an hour or more a day, they at least recognize that they should if they want to make progress.
At the narrow end, you have the people who are going for enlightenment. They know what it is, they know how much work will be involved, and they’re going for it.
- These people are deep. They’ve been at it for a while and are quite skilled as practitioners. Furthermore they have studied the landscape and the ‘maps’ of the paths to enlightenment, and they know what path they’re taking.
- They’re probably working with a very focused teacher or center that’s specifically aiming to push people on to enlightenment.
- They’re prepared to spend an enormous amount of time and energy pursuing the goal. Either that means a consistent daily practice of at least 1 hour for ~5 years, or 3–6 months of retreat living with 24/7 intensive practice.
The ‘funnel’ metaphor is apt because, as with a typical product engagement funnel, you have many more people in the casual end than you do in the middle and at the extreme end.