Meditation as a spiritual path
I never thought this would be the right platform for this, but realizing how many friends I have who have meditate casually as well as on longer retreats and with a daily practice, maybe something productive can come of a discussion here.
The meditation tradition I have learned from is well-encapuslated by Culadasa's book The Mind Illuminated. It (and I) sees the spiritual path as a multifaceted journey which includes meditation, the goal of which being the cultivation of skills of focus, acceptance, and insight into several aspects of suffering. These insights ultimately lead to an experience of non-self and what I see as the spiritual path's ultimate goal: increased ability to act with love, clarity, and presence.
I think meditation, and the spiritual path, is one of the most powerful technologies for our civilization to progress forward — if engaged with with strong intent and time.
In the Bay Area, I see a lot of discussion about meditation which follows this model. I also see meditation which either (a) is presented disconnected from a spiritual path, an authentic path of service, or the concept of waking up, (b) is used as a way to reduce stress and be better at work — better produce economic output for our growth-focused corporate world or "chill out" to deal with the impacts of living in it, or (c) is discussed haphazardly, disconnected from rigorous models or a knowledge tradition.
My question is: are the above developments good, neutral or bad? Does the prevalence of "watered-down" forms of meditation mean that those who get interested in the practice are less likely to find the deep traditions, and it's harder to figure out which ones are deep? Or is this a great development, spreading the basic concepts to a more mass audience who can then probe deeper?
My sense, after contemplating this for a few months, is that it's very important for meditation to be framed as part of the deep, powerful, and sometimes-difficult process of diligently working to discovering truth for yourself and waking up. Even if someone meditates for a little bit, they then understand the scope and context of what they are doing and how it fits into a broader spiritual path. I think that disconnecting meditation from this origin and context is doing a student a disservice.
I'd love to hear your thoughts!