Survey of Dharma Treasure/TMI Reddit Community

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This topic contains 7 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Blake Barton Blake Barton 1 month, 3 weeks ago.

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  • #2156

    The contemplative path is notoriously difficult to map. In the words of Proust, “we do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world.” Yet it makes sense that through the ages more seasoned contemplatives have tried to point newer contemplatives in the right direction, sparing them, if possible, of what unnecessary suffering can now be seen in hindsight.

    The Mind Illuminated is Culadasa’s attempt at this, at guiding people more gently toward Awakening, and for many of us it has been an incredibly useful resource, one that we return to again and again. That said, throughout these threads and on Reddit there seems to be a fair amount of uncertainty and confusion and struggle, and I can’t help but think perhaps we could be doing a better job of lighting up the path for each other.

    In the spirit of TMI, which combines Dharma and modern science, I wanted to propose a sort of empirical analysis of our practice in the form of a community-wide survey, where data in respect to attainments, challenges, years of practice, etc can be collated. We now have 1,800 readers of the TMI subreddit, and many contributors to the Dharma Treasure forum. I would think we would have a decent sample to draw upon, which should help us better understand both the practice and the community, their possible strong points and weak points, etc.

    So, I invite others to comment and share their thoughts/objections/concerns about conducting a survey of the sort I described. And if anyone has any recommendations on what survey platform to use, what questions to ask, who to/not to survey, etc, please include those with your comments.

    With thanks.

    • This topic was modified 2 months, 3 weeks ago by Profile photo of Nelson Satoru Nelson Satoru.
    #2175
    Profile photo of Blake Barton
    Blake Barton
    Member

    Hi Nelson,

    I think a survey would be a good idea if it were done properly. There are many practices in TMI, and for teachers it would helpful to know which ones seem to be most effective. I have used a Google Form for surveys in the past, and it worked pretty well. I could also discuss this with Culadasa the next time I meet with him to get his feedback and ideas.

    Blake – Dharma Treasure Teacher

    #2177
    Profile photo of Jevan P
    Jevan P
    Member

    Would love a survey on this. My background is in Psychological Research, let me know if I can help in anyway.

    I would want questions on hours spent meditating and progress through the stages. Of course, previous meditation experience is a huge confounding variable, so we would need to ask about that as well. Also whether people have various psychological conditions such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, bipolar. Outcome measures such as happiness, levels of stress etc.

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 3 weeks ago by Profile photo of Jevan P Jevan P.
    #2181

    Blake, it would great to get Culadasa’s input, as well as the input of other senior teachers like yourself. Perhaps what we can eventually do is come up with a more fleshed out proposal (including proposed survey questions), and then send it through to the Dharma Treasure community leaders to review and potentially endorse. I’m also more than happy to hand the project over to someone else who might be in a better position to design and deliver the survey. I primarily just wanted to get a conversation started about this, though I have some ideas about what might be helpful to know.

    Jevan, thanks, that’s great. I pretty much want to know the same sorts of things. Depending on what Culadasa/Blake say in response to our proposal, I might certainly reach out to get your help with this.

    #2182
    Profile photo of Julian S
    Julian S
    Member

    Seems like a worthwhile idea. I’m not sure if you’re interested in reviewing the extant literature, but i find this article pretty relevant http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0176239

    Not specifically TMI, and clearly more resources poured into it than our community may be able to muster but might give some insights into question format etc.

    The varieties of contemplative experience: A mixed-methods study of meditation-related challenges in Western Buddhists

    Abstract
    Buddhist-derived meditation practices are currently being employed as a popular form of health promotion. While meditation programs draw inspiration from Buddhist textual sources for the benefits of meditation, these sources also acknowledge a wide range of other effects beyond health-related outcomes. The Varieties of Contemplative Experience study investigates meditation-related experiences that are typically underreported, particularly experiences that are described as challenging, difficult, distressing, functionally impairing, and/or requiring additional support. A mixed-methods approach featured qualitative interviews with Western Buddhist meditation practitioners and experts in Theravāda, Zen, and Tibetan traditions. Interview questions probed meditation experiences and influencing factors, including interpretations and management strategies. A follow-up survey provided quantitative assessments of causality, impairment and other demographic and practice-related variables. The content-driven thematic analysis of interviews yielded a taxonomy of 59 meditation-related experiences across 7 domains: cognitive, perceptual, affective, somatic, conative, sense of self, and social. Even in cases where the phenomenology was similar across participants, interpretations of and responses to the experiences differed considerably. The associated valence ranged from very positive to very negative, and the associated level of distress and functional impairment ranged from minimal and transient to severe and enduring. In order to determine what factors may influence the valence, impact, and response to any given experience, the study also identified 26 categories of influencing factors across 4 domains: practitioner-level factors, practice-level factors, relationships, and health behaviors. By identifying a broader range of experiences associated with meditation, along with the factors that contribute to the presence and management of experiences reported as challenging, difficult, distressing or functionally impairing, this study aims to increase our understanding of the effects of contemplative practices and to provide resources for mediators, clinicians, meditation researchers, and meditation teachers.

    #2188
    Profile photo of Blake Barton
    Blake Barton
    Member

    Hello Nelson, Jevan, and Julian,

    I should be meeting with Culadasa tomorrow, so I can discuss with him. I am certainly willing to support and participate in developing this survey, but I don’t feel that I have the time to take the lead. I think a project such as this will need one or two leaders who are really committed to the project.

    Jevan your background sounds great for this project.

    Julian, thanks for sharing the article. I read parts of it and it contains some very good information. I think we would definitely want to include some questions about negative side effects of this practice.

    Thanks,
    Blake

    #2209
    Profile photo of David Starflower
    starflower
    Member

    Regarding motivation I would find it interesting to know how peoples motives changed over time. E.g. from “dealing with my psychological condition X”, via “supercharging my brain” a lot of ideas about meditation are out there. And usually, if you go on a long journey, eventually you find motivations you did not think of in the first place. So maybe a question like “Main motivation during year X for every year of practice”.

    #2221
    Profile photo of Blake Barton
    Blake Barton
    Member

    I spoke with Culadasa about the possibility of a survey, and he thought it was a good idea, but he did not feel that he had time to be involved. Co-authors Matthew and Jeremy were also in the meeting, and had a few concerns. They felt the goals of the survey would need to be very clearly defined. Since people would choose whether or not to participate this could skew the validity of the data.

    If someone wants to take the lead on this project, we would help to support it.

    Thanks,
    Blake – Dharma Treasure Teacher

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