Towards skillful construction

An Overview of Global Wayfinding Meditation

Global Wayfinding Meditation is a meditation system created by Mark Lippmann. It has profoundly influenced the way I think about and do meditation. There exists a single guide to it in the form of a book-length webpage accessible at, with the wordy title Meditation from Cold Start to Complete Mastery: a Manual of Global Wayfinding Meditation [hereafter, referred to simply as the Manual. However, note that the a is important in a Manual of Global Wayfinding Meditation – it is meant to be one of many potential introductions to Global Wayfinding. I would refer to it as a Manual if not for the awkward sentences this causes.] I would highly recommend that anyone seriously interested in meditation read the Manual. However, many people (including myself) have bounced off of the Manual, for two main reasons: 1) it is somewhat long (by word count, it is about the same length as Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility), and 2) it is fairly impenetrable (I have found it to be especially impenetrable for those without a technical background and familiarity with philosophy).

I believe that introductions and other on-ramps can substantially ease the process of beginning to experiment with Global Wayfinding Meditation. At the time of this writing, the only introduction to Global Wayfinding Meditation that I am aware of outside of the Manual is Sasha Chapin’s review, available on his Substack. While Sasha’s review is excellent, and I recommend that you read it, I hope to provide a somewhat different introduction, aimed at helping novices orient towards what I think are the core practices of Global Wayfinding Meditation.

For context on the writer, I have been experimenting with Global Wayfinding Meditation for about an hour a day for around 6 months, and was meditating using other systems for around 6 months before that. I’ve read and reread all of scattered across that time, but am not confident that I’ve understood all of it. Though I am calling this an overview, it is probably better understood as a record of my current understanding of Global Wayfinding Meditation, and an attempt to create an introduction that would have accelerated my process of coming to this understanding. I would urge the reader to take this overview lightly, to use it as a toy model that can be built upon or discarded as useful. If you decide to experiment with Global Wayfinding, I highly recommend that you consult the Manual at some point, or even Mark himself (who you can find on twitter, under the handle @meditationstuff).

1. Purpose

The purpose of Global Wayfinding Meditation is to “asymptote”, to reach a state not of perfection, but from which you can smoothly and asymptotically approach perfection. Perfection here looks like, as the Manual memorably puts it, “happiness because you’ve flexibly and exquisitely handled your shit”. This is tightly bound with the Manual’s conception of meditation as “concrete problem solving”, and is contrasted with the more common view of meditation as being about “happiness independent of conditions”, though the Manual does claim that these can eventually start to bleed into each other. [To add a bit more nuance to this view, from the Manual: “it’s more like “solve” and/or dissolve your problems. and “handle all your shit” was sort of a polemic equal and opposite advice for people who wanted happiness independent of conditions, but it’s possibly misleading in isolation.”]

On a surface level, this might seem like a fairly mundane and normal goal. A common objection might be something like “Isn’t everyone already doing this? What makes this more special than ordinary life?” So, to be a bit more concrete (and a bit more provocative): asymptoting in Global Wayfinding Meditation often entails experiencing things more extreme than experienced on any psychedelics, doing this completely naturally, and in some sense locking in these ways of experience for ordinary life. Global Wayfinding Meditation often entails changing your experience of everything, including the deepest things like your sense of self and world. Asymptoting in Global Wayfinding Meditation might also be thought of as “being in the same direction” (quotes to emphasize that this isn’t literal, not a quote from the Manual) as Enlightenment and Awakening. There can be problems with thinking about things in this way, and so the previous three sentences shouldn’t be taken too literally, but they are meant to clarify just how massive the changes can be when using this system, and that the changes that can be brought about by this system are much greater than are commonly associated with ordinary life and mindfulness. [Importantly, the Manual does not claim to be the only system capable of producing such results. It’s approach can be seen as complementary to many other systems.] The reasons as to why people don’t reach this with ordinary life are mainly based on my own speculation, and will be covered in more detail later.

2. Sketch of Global Wayfinding Meditation

If the purpose of Global Wayfinding Meditation resonates with you (or at least piques your interest), a natural next question might be “How do you actually do it?”. My interpretation of Global Wayfinding Meditation breaks the system down into seven parts:

  1. Try to keep doing good.
  2. Try to start doing good.
  3. Try to not start doing bad.
  4. Try to stop doing any bad that you are currently doing.
  5. Think about and evolve your conceptions of good and bad.
  6. Seek out novel data to cover your blind spots.
  7. Reflect on the entire system, including this part.

Doing these seven things can look many different ways, some of which will be covered later, but often it involves sitting, standing, or walking alone in a quiet, safe, place for times ranging between a few minutes and a few hours.

It might be helpful to reread these seven parts and reflect on them some before continuing this overview. They will be covered in greater detail later, but some preliminary reflection may enrich your experience with the rest of this overview.

3. How Does it Work?

It might be quite unclear, especially upon first encounter, as to how such a relatively simple system could achieve results as dramatic as described above. The answer is that even though the system appears very simple, in practice it contains extraordinary complexity.

The Manual strives to present a system that will work for everyone in every possible situation. However, it also contends that for a system to work for absolutely everybody, it must include literally everything. Since it would be impossible to include literally everything in, well, anything, the Manual opts for a different strategy: provide a system that, when used iteratively, is capable of generating anything that a person might possibly need in the course of their meditative journey. In this way, a person can generate practices of extraordinary complexity and uniqueness by starting with a relatively simple and general system.

Given the importance of this point, I will explain it again: Global Wayfinding Meditation provides a general framework. People can use this framework as a guide and starting point, but they need to fill in the details for themselves and their personal situation. Filling in this framework requires experimentation, learning, and iteration. Points 5, 6, and 7 (“Think about and evolve your conceptions of good and bad”, “Seek out novel data to cover your blind spots”, and “Reflect on the entire system, including this part.”) point to this: you must evolve your conception of the system, and seek out data that helps you in this. Note that while iterating on the system can involve explicit contemplation, it also frequently involves much more intuitive and “bottom-up” processes. So, while “iterating on the framework” can look like sitting down and explicitly thinking about how to change your conception of it, it might also look like releasing tension held in your body, or allowing yourself to feel in new ways, or forgetting about the framework entirely and letting it handle itself.

If you iterate enough, Global Wayfinding Meditation can become essentially anything. However, it is important that anything that it becomes isn’t held too tightly. Each iteration is just another iteration, just as open to change and evolution as every previous iteration. This points to a proof of its validity: explore everything, and eventually you will find the right thing. The main issue here is that you might not have time to explore everything before you die. This is a fairly fundamental problem: it is possible that you won’t ever reach the end. Given the vast number of things that you might foreseeably try in this system, it might even seem unlikely that anyone would ever be able to figure it out and asymptote. However, one of the empirical claims that the Manual makes is that while it is possible for you to iterate without ever finding the right thing, it is actually surprisingly likely for you to find the correct path forward. There is a sort of funneling effect here, where the further along you get, the more the process does itself. It is common for one’s early iteration to be somewhat ineffective, but with time, one becomes more effective as one develops skills that enable them to iterate more efficiently.

This is also one of the things that the name Global Wayfinding points to: global, in the sense that it involves everything in your experience, wayfinding, in that you need to find your own way through it.

4. Isn’t Everyone Already Doing this?

Here I return to the objection “Isn’t everyone already doing this?” and try to provide a more thorough answer. The short answer to this objection is: yes, sort of. From a certain view, we might say that everyone (or at least a very large number of people) is already doing this, but that they don’t seem to have nearly as dramatic results as were described earlier. The longer answer is that most people’s lack of progress and dramatic results mainly seems to come from limits in part 5, 6, and 7 (“Think about and evolve your conceptions of good and bad”, “Seek out novel data to cover your blind spots”, and “Reflect on the entire system, including this part”). Many people settle on conceptions of good and bad somewhat early, and then stop questioning them. They might change some of their ideas about these, but they will often cement lower-level beliefs. Many people also find any potential threats to their worldviews aversive, leading them to actively avoid situations and thoughts that might cause them to question their views. [When I reference “beliefs” and “worldviews”, I mean both object level things and very deep seated things that structure the very being and seeming of the world. The latter category is hard to talk about and point to, because much of it is pre-linguistic and/or pre-conceptual.] Thus they might stop iterating altogether, or only perform “shallow” iteration on their conception of good and bad. There is also the potential that many people who are open to changing their views might just not have found the data that they need. It could be the case that many people just need to read the right book or essay, or to have someone show them a different way of living or ask them the right question, and that would be enough to jump-start their Global Wayfinding.

[I suspect that the previous paragraph might be aversive for some people. Especially earlier on, when I was reading books or articles on meditation, I would often get this tight anxious pressure in my chest. Often, this would grow as I read the text, until it got so overwhelming that it forced me to stop reading. It took me a while to figure out what this was, but eventually, I realized that it was a reaction to my perception that the books and articles were insinuating that “things are not OK the way that they currently are, and you need to do something to change that.” For whatever reason, this was a very aversive thought for me, and was causing the tight anxious pressure. The thing that worked for me to deal with this was to be more aware of details of this experience, and to not try to force myself to read through the feeling, but to take frequent breaks and give myself space to process the feelings that were coming up. If any of this describes something like your experience, feel free to take breaks from reading this.]

Another thing that I will note here is that, if you squint a little bit, you can see these seven parts happening in all dramatic shifts that people experience. Whenever someone “turns their life around” or otherwise has a major change in way of life, it seems that it is caused by some novel data (e.g. talking with a particular person, having a mystical experience, or suddenly seeing things in a different way), or perhaps reflection on their way of living (i.e. reflection on the entire system), or some major shift in their conception of what is good and bad. All of the previous shifts can be caused by them diligently trying to do good, trying to not start doing bad, and trying to stop doing bad that they are already doing. Here I will note again that Global Wayfinding Meditation is meant to be a general system. It is not just supposed to be a system that describes mystical experiences or meditation, but all changes of mind, heart, soul, body, etc. that are a part of life.

5. Notes on the Seven Parts

In this section, I will try to clarify some of the subtleties that might not have come through in the preceding discussion of the seven parts.

  1. Try to keep doing good.
  2. Try to start doing good.
  3. Try to not start doing bad.
  4. Try to stop doing any bad that you are currently doing.

The “try” is extremely important in these four parts. While forcing yourself to do any of these four parts can be useful sometimes, it is often harmful in the long run. The concept of “right effort” is very important here. Over time, the trying should become effortless. However, that doesn’t mean that it should always be effortless, especially maybe when one is starting out. It can be very useful to be aware of the extent to which you are trying, and how the effort exerted in trying is either good, bad, or a mix of both. Many people find that the right level of effort in trying is much less than they expect. A surprisingly good heuristic can be to try “with a feather and then even less”.

Note also that good and bad can apply to things that are extremely mundane, subtle, or “supramundane”. Good and bad can apply to the type of food you eat and the amount of sleep you get, or the exact way that pre-linguistic mental constructs subtly influence your thought patterns, or the way that you relate to fundamental things like purpose, existence, non-existence, etc.

  1. Think about and evolve your conception of good and bad.

Thinking about and evolving your conception of good and bad doesn’t have to be a linguistic process. This can look like feeling, preconceptual figuring, just giving yourself space without actively trying to figure or change, etc. The important thing is that your conception of good and bad probably aren’t perfect, and thus likely need to evolve and change over time. Remember that this can take many different forms, and that one will likely benefit from trying to do this in many different ways.

{Update 2022-09-02: When I use the word “think”, I am trying to point to not just internal monologue and language, but all aspects of experience, which can include things like emotions, feelings, models of the world, structural features of apparent reality, bodily awareness, and even more. While evolving your conceptions of good and bad might involve having different linguistic thoughts, it can also involve evolving very “low level” aspects of your experience that are difficult or even impossible to articulate in writing. Given the fact that “thinking” can involve much more than what is expressible through language, reading this overview, the Manual, or any other text is not necessarily sufficient for fully understand Global Wayfinding.

One might imagine that Global Wayfinding is like dance, and how hard it would be to learn dance purely through text, without any practical experience. From this perspective, one might think of the Manual as an attempt at “instructions for how to teach yourself to dance”, rather than “instructions on how to dance and what it is like to dance”. Note that I say this as someone who has semi-recently learned to dance, and who’s experience of learning how to dance was dominated by untangling things that prevented me from enjoying dancing, and by “getting in touch with an innate capacity for rhythmic movement”. Though I now know what it feels like to “have an innate capacity for rhythmic movement”, I don’t think I could have fully understood this concept/experience before I started enjoying dance. Very similar ideas apply to meditation.

See also this Twitter thread for more context on thinking and interpretation of the Manual.}

  1. Seek out novel data to cover your blind spots.

All experience is data. Sometimes people need extremely specific data to get unstuck. This extremely specific data can be of the form “hearing specific words from a specific person, with a specific intonation, in a specific context, when you are feeling a specific way”. People can often hear the same thing over and over again, but then one day have it finally click. What is often happening here is that some subtle thing in the background, such as the intonation, the context, how much sleep they got, if they were ready to hear the thing, or who was saying it, changed, and that this thing that changed was an essential part of the data that they needed.

Novel data can come from books, imagination, talking with people, community, journaling, researching, just living life, etc. Oftentimes people will have a source that they are biased towards, such as books, social media, or a specific community. This isn’t necessarily bad, but often types of sources have blind spots, so it can be very useful to branch out and seek out sources of data and experience that one wouldn’t ordinarily seek out.

  1. Reflect on the entire system, including this part.

One will probably need to change the way they conceive of and relate to Global Wayfinding Meditation over time. They might need to evolve their conceptions of the different parts, or the relationship between the different parts, or their relationship to the entire system, or their relationship to specific parts, and so on. One might blend the parts together, or reword the parts, or create one’s own breakdown with a different combination of parts, or rewrite the entire system, or just forget about the entire thing, or anything else. Not necessarily everything needs to change about the system and one’s conception to it, but everything might need to change.

For example, at the beginning, you might relate to all of the parts by contemplating them explicitly with your internal monologue. Over time, you might shift your relationship to them and start to map them to specific (subtle) mental or (subtle) bodily motions, or to pre-linguistic/sub-linguistic happenings in your mind. Doing the parts might become less of an internal dialog or explicit figuring, and involve more subtle phenomena. Note that this isn’t the only way that it might change, and that you don’t necessarily need to have an explicit map from what you do to an explicit system, and that it is definitely not necessary to keep the seven part model proposed in this overview.

5.1: Subtlety

Of note with all of the seven parts is that they can be extremely subtle. The difference between right effort and wrong effort can be extremely small. Extremely subtle misconceptions about good and bad become important in the long run. Especially near the beginning, it can be easy to overlook this subtlety, and to not realize just how much is happening in each moment of experience.

For example, in a conversation you might become somewhat frustrated about something, and sigh before trying to change the topic. In this sigh, you might be using the releasing of the tension in your diaphragm as a method of releasing tension that you were carrying as part of the frustration. This might take the form of a sort of physical “pushing down” that you use to force the frustrating thing from your awareness. While this method of releasing tension from frustration might be somewhat effective, it might not fully release the actual tension of the frustration, leaving the residual tension to continue bothering you even after you change the topic. In this way, even though the sigh is good and useful in many ways, there is a subtle badness to it, that is very fleeting and potentially difficult to catch while happening. Mental movements and events often happen very quickly, often from 10 to 40 times per second, so it can be difficult, especially at first, to see exactly what is happening at the finest grain level of detail. This is the level of detail that you must eventually strive for in your personal experience.

As a beginner, there are two basic questions that helped me orient towards some of my misconceptions, and begin to explore some of this subtlety:

These questions are not meant to be accusatory, but are meant to direct one’s attention toward the ways in which feasibility is often related to good and bad, and towards figuring out the exact right level of effort: high enough to avoid inaction, and low enough to avoid building up subtle aversions or resistances in the long run. Note that these questions are meant to be taken lightly, and that it is OK (and likely advisable) to completely drop and forget them if they generate resistance, inner conflict, self-loathing, forcing, etc.

Another thing that I have found useful in orienting towards this subtlety is a koan, that goes: “What is this?”. I have found that it can be very useful to ask myself this question, and when I think that I have an answer, to ask it again, and again, and again. [Note: one can try to “ask this question” without using language!] The answer to this question might be words, feelings, body sensations, barely-perceptible shifts in one’s experience, openings and releases of tension, yet more uncertainty, or any number of other experiences. All of these can be valuable answers. Especially at the beginning, it can be very useful to assume that there is always more that is going on than one is currently aware of, and to incline your awareness towards types of answers that you aren’t familiar with.

6. What Are the Specifics?

Hopefully, by this point, Global Wayfinding Meditation should make sense at a high level of abstraction. A natural next question is “What does this look like at a lower level of abstraction? What should I actually do?”. This was one of the more frustrating things for me when I was first trying to get into the Manual. There was all of this high level description that was exciting and enticing, but I didn’t know how to actually do anything with it. A big reason for this is the generality of the system. Any time you start getting specific, you get less pertinent to some people. Different people need to approach meditation from different directions, and will have different things that they need to do. As soon as you start prescribing any finite number of concrete approaches, you alienate those who would best be served by something different.

Even though this is the case, I will try to provide some relatively concrete recommendations for practices and approaches that have been useful to me an those that I know. While I hope that these suggestions might be useful for some people, I suspect that they will not be useful, and might even be hurtful, for others. As another writer who I have benefited from put it: “I will assert that anyone who writes puts their neurotic stuff in there even if they try to hide it”. A number of these suggestions are quite cerebral. (As is this review in general.) Being able to engage in Global Wayfinding with my intellect was very useful to me, but is not necessary or even beneficial for everyone.

In light of this, I encourage the reader to approach the following recommendations with an attitude of experimentation. If they don’t work for you, or feel icky or otherwise aversive, discard them and try something else! [Note: trying something else might involve forgetting about this entire thing, and just living the rest of your life!] This is just my understanding, and these are a minuscule fraction of the variety of things that you could do.

6.1: Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy can be tremendously valuable to people starting with Global Wayfinding. Good psychotherapy can help you with all seven parts of Global Wayfinding. Psychotherapy can be done by yourself, or with a professional psychotherapist.

Types of psychotherapy that I have either had good experience with, or heard good things about, are:

If you are familiar Gendlin’s Focusing, you might consider looking into Mark’s previous work, titled Folding, available here. Folding is a sort of extension of Focusing. However, do note that Folding is officially deprecated as a solitary practice. It is still considered a preliminary/auxiliary practice, though, and as such may be useful for starting out.

There are two large limitations of psychotherapy that I am aware of. The first is that it can be too intellectual, and insufficiently involve the body. The second is that psychotherapy can be too inflexible, and get stuck and stop progressing if one doesn’t evolve the underlying framework and practices (both of these are reasons for Folding’s deprecation as a solitary practice). For an example of how you might evolve the underlying framework: in Internal Family Systems you might only relate to parts by talking with them. This might be useful at first, but eventually stop being useful, because you need to communicate with parts pre-linguistically. You might also find that the “parts” model stops working well at some point, and that parts don’t cleanly divide into discrete things, or that there are dynamics at play that aren’t acknowledged by IFS. All of these things can bottleneck or stall progress.

6.2: Philosophy

Philosophy can help you evolve your conceptions of good and bad, can provide novel data, and can help you evolve your conception of Global Wayfinding Meditation. The big limitation of philosophy is that it relies very heavily on language, while it is often just as important to also engage with emotions and the body. It can also have problems with akrasia (generally not being able to abide by an ethical system that you philosophically agree with) in parts 1 through 4. Thus, while philosophy can be very useful, it is often most useful when combined with practices that include things besides the intellect.

For those who don’t have much experience with philosophy, or don’t have time to read dozens of books, I would generally recommend only David Chapman’s

For those who do have experience with philosophy, or are very interested in it, or want to potentially read dozens of books, I also recommend Chapman’s work, in addition to whatever philosophy most interests you. All of it can be pertinent to Global Wayfinding, especially if you try to bring some meta-awareness your experience with philosophy and try to integrate your philosophical understanding into your way of life.

6.3: Science

For many, becoming a specialist in science is an inefficient way to make progress in Global Wayfinding. However, if one is already a specialist, training to become one, or has a strong avocational interest in science, it can be very useful to leverage this domain knowledge as a starting point for Global Wayfinding. Personally, I have found it very useful to reflect on the limits of science and to interrogate my relationship to science, using questions such as the following:

Note that the preceding questions can “cut too deep”, or “go too deep too fast”. I approached these questions very obliquely, over months to years, starting significantly before I had even heard of Global Wayfinding. As far as I can tell, engaging with them was an important part of “setting the table” for Global Wayfinding, but this is also probably related to my individual need/preference for substantive intellectual engagement with things.

Further, for specialists, specialists-in-training, or those with a strong avocational interest in science, I would recommend reading about the history and philosophy of science. I have personally found engaging with the philosophy of science very useful, and am somewhat surprised by how few people involved in science have spent time thinking about or considering the underpinnings of science. Recommendations for history and philosophy of science include:

Note that everything said above might apply to other knowledge domains that are particularly important to you, such as literary theory, engineering, math, history, politics, and economics. While Global Wayfinding can “dissolve” many of the problems and frames held by these various fields, it seems to me that if some knowledge domain is very important to you or an important part of how you make sense of the world, it can be fruitful to engage with it either in preparation for or as a part of Global Wayfinding.

6.4: Spiritual Systems

Spiritual systems can be extremely useful for pretty much all parts of Global Wayfinding Meditation. Their biggest limits are usually in parts 5, 6, and 7, in that they can have some pretty big blind spots (e.g. incomplete metaphysics, inaccurate descriptions of natural phenomena, etc.), and they can have problems with orthodoxy and evolving their conceptions of good and bad. Generally I have found mystical traditions to be the most relevant and useful, however, you should be able to use just about any system, so long as you don’t hold it too tightly, seek out data to cover your blind spots, and allow your understanding to evolve.

6.5: Journaling

Journaling can be very useful for gaining greater understanding of oneself. It can also be very useful in gaining a greater understanding of one’s relationship with language. One might consider doing different types of journaling, such as:

One may find that what one thinks, feels, or believes may subtly or overtly change while journaling. This can be frustrating or confusing, as one might feel that they have finally gotten what they feel down on paper, but then find a little while later that it doesn’t seem exactly right. This is totally fine, and can be useful to note or investigate.

While journaling can be very useful, and a great practice for many people, I think that it can prove fairly limited in the long run, as one will probably need to work with “the direct machinery of thought” and “raw experience” (quotes to emphasize that one shouldn’t take these concepts to literally, they are not quotes from the Manual) in addition to words.

6.6: Mindfulness

Being more mindful, learning how one’s mind works, understanding what one is feeling, being more aware of one’s body, etc. are useful for all parts of Global Wayfinding. However, there are two main limitations of mindfulness: The first limitation is that mindfulness can include hidden “frames” for practice (i.e. implicit answers to the question of why you are mindful). These frames might be things like “you are mindful to be more calm”, or “you are mindful to not have strong emotions”. These hidden frames can cause problems, as what might be good or bad for you (in the sense of parts 1 through 4) might actually be to not be calm or to let yourself feel things. The second limitation is related to the first, and is that it is easy to form habits of being mindful in a specific way. For example, one might learn to “construct a watcher” which is mindful of physical sensations in their body, but is not aware of the physical sensations that are part of the construction of the watcher, such as subtle tension in the eyes or in the neck. One might feel that one is being mindful of everything, while leaving out subtle details of their experience. This can cause problems in the long run, and for this reason, it is can be very helpful to practice meta-mindfulness: mindfulness of how one is mindful, and how this mindfulness impacts them. This is one of the things that parts 5, 6, and 7 point to (“Think about and evolve your conceptions of good and bad”, “Seek out novel data to cover your blind spots”, and “Reflect on the entire system, including this part”).

Personally, I practiced mindfulness, specifically using Shinzen Young’s See Hear Feel system, before starting to experiment with Global Wayfinding, and feel like it was generally useful. You can find a PDF describing Shinzen’s See Hear Feel system in detail here. I have found that this system was particularly useful as a beginner because it is relatively approachable and explicit, but also gives a good amount of room to modify and experiment with its core practices. See Hear Feel might not take you “all the way”, but I found it a very useful and powerful place to start, especially when combined with reflection on the system and how it is working.

6.7: Somatic Practices

Somatic practices are practices focused on the experience of your body, such as Hatha Yoga or Goenka-style Body Scanning. I am generally less familiar with these practices, but I have heard good things about them from others. Again, while these practices can be useful on their own, it can be very helpful to have some way of reflecting on these practices, and considering how they are working, what they are doing, how they are impacting you, and if they have any limitations.

6.8: Preliminary/Auxiliary Practices

The Manual contains a very large number of preliminary/auxiliary practices, an introduction to which can be found here. I’ve found them very useful, and highly recommend them. According to the manual, they won’t take you all the way, but they can introduce you to many of the different things that your mind can do, and get you more familiar with skills useful in Global Wayfinding. The Manual contains a section on one way that you can use these practices here. A summary of this is: do one of the preliminary/auxiliary practices for 5-30 minutes, followed by 2-15 minutes of reflection of some sort on what the preliminary/auxiliary practice was like, and how it worked. The preliminary/auxiliary practices can be a very good place to dip your toes into the Manual if you are struggling to gain traction with it.

Note that you can consider any of the practices outlined above as a type of preliminary/auxiliary practice, and can thus use them in similar ways to how the Manual describes the use of preliminary/auxiliary practices.

If you are very new to meditation and don’t necessarily have much experience, or are looking for an introduction to the Manual, I might also recommend starting with these. Just note that if they are too confusing or abstract for you to make sense of, that is fine, and you might consider returning to them after working with a practice that feels better for you. (Note: “a practice that feels better for you” could include no-practice, and just living life for a while without thinking about any of this!)

If you have experimented with a few of the above practices, and are interested in dipping your toes into more of the main practices of Global Wayfinding, I would recommend trying to do the practice outlined in guided on-ramp for main practice p2 (this section is also referenced below). When first trying this practice, you will probably want to do it while in a quiet, safe, place, while standing, sitting, or laying down, and with your eyes either open or closed. When starting out, it is probably a good idea to pick the posture that comes most naturally to you, and experiment with other postures later. The manual contains a section with more on meditation posture, which can be found here.

6.9: A Common Mistake for Those Just Starting Out

(By “Those Just Starting Out”, I mean me. I’m probably on my third round of “figuring it out” and “finally fixing this”.)

Personally, I have found it very tempting to try and directly reach the end of Global Wayfinding. Doing this can be quite frustrating, as progress is often very smooth, and it can be easy to lose track of whether anything is actually “working” or changing. [The smoothness of Global Wayfinding is a feature, not a bug. See this section for more details.] Besides being frustrating, trying to go directly for a given thing is often error prone, as one likely has an incomplete understanding of the thing that they are aiming for. I have found that often, the most direct path, in the sense of going straight from point A to point B, is impossible, as there are unforeseen obstacles and constraints that prevent such a path, and that often, the most direct path, in the sense of the path that will get you there the most efficiently, is very meandering, and requires many unforeseen detours. In my experience, thinking about the far reaches has mostly not been that useful, and the seemingly mundane here and now has been by far the most important.

7. But Is It Meditation?

Hopefully, you now have a more concrete understanding of how you might start experimenting with Global Wayfinding Meditation. However, I suspect that some (especially those who already have some meditation experience) may object, thinking something along the lines of “Science, psychotherapy, philosophy, etc. seem interesting, but the technique is called Global Wayfinding Meditation, and, so far, it doesn’t seem very meditation-like”.

There are two main answers to this. The first is that it is meditation, just conceived of very broadly. One of the fundamental claims of the Manual is that everything is, in a sense, the “same playing field”. Since there are no total boundaries between anything in experience, anything can potentially be meditation.

The second answer to this is that, for many people, Global Wayfinding can start to look more like meditation over time. The section introduction; getting over the hump; text interpretation contains what I think is a great explanation of this:

The main practices might initially seem not like meditation. But, they do asymptote at something that superficially looks like noting practice and shamatha without support. But, this is approached in a bottom up way, as opposed to a top-down way.

Don’t worry if this quote doesn’t make total sense to you. While it can be helpful to have heard of or know about techniques like shamatha without support, noting, etc., the most important part of the quote is that “this is approached in a bottom up way, as opposed to a top-down way.” Global Wayfinding Meditation doesn’t require knowing any specific techniques, and in general the Manual is quite skeptical about explicit meditation instructions, since they can lead you to ‘try to “do the instructions” instead of “do the thing.”’

If these answers don’t totally satisfy you, or you are still curious about how Global Wayfinding differs from ‘standard’ meditation, the Manual actually contains a section with the same name as this one, but it might not be particularly comprehensible to you unless you have some experience with meditation theory and/or the Pragmatic Dharma (The Mind Illuminated, Daniel Ingram, etc.). If you are familiar with techniques such as noting, you might also find the section a bare-bones, bottom-up, noting-esque practice (without labeling) useful for getting a sense of what Global Wayfinding can start to look like.

8. Approaching and Interpreting the Manual

As you start to experiment with Global Wayfinding, it can be useful to engage with the Manual. However, as mentioned earlier, it can be pretty difficult to engage with, especially at the start. There is a quote from the Manual (originating from a collaborator) that summarizes the core of this difficulty:

this document and [the reader’s] interpretation are two ends of the most difficult telephone game devised, and there’s no way it was written correctly or interpreted correctly on the first n tries

This comes from the section introduction; getting over the hump; text interpretation, which is highly recommended for those trying to wrap their heads around the Manual. In my experience, engaging with the Manual is a process of iterative bootstrapping: you build partial understandings, which can then be used to gain more full (but still incomplete) understandings, which can be used to gain yet more complete understandings, etc. Getting through the first iteration, to the point where you have a partial understanding that you can build upon, is the most difficult step, in my experience.

That is the impetus for the creation of this overview: I hope that this will help ease the first iteration, easing the formation of a partial understanding of Global Wayfinding Meditation. Do note, however, that partial understanding often involves misunderstanding. You may have to throw away large parts of any models you gain from this overview as you gain understanding and familiarity with Global Wayfinding. Keep this in mind, and try not to hold onto any particular understanding of it too tightly.

In the rest of this section I will try to explain the general structure of the Manual, explain how my breakdown maps to the Manual, give some potential limitations of the Manual, and give some commentary on how to engage with it.

The Manual is a monolithic book-length webpage accessible at From a theoretical perspective, I think of the Manual as being comprised of several main parts:

These main parts are scattered across the webpage, which is broken into various sections, subsections, sub-subsections, etc. If you want to read the document from the top, you can do that. I found this somewhat challenging and confusing as a beginner though, so I would recommend instead reading the following sections (ordered by recommendation level):

I would also probably read through the sections linked below, possibly before finishing the partial guided tour. Another general note on approaching the Manual is that it is very common to read only a few sections at a time, skipping around based on what piques one’s interest.

In terms of mapping my breakdown of Global Wayfinding Meditation to the Manual, roughly, parts 1 through 4 of my breakdown (“Try to keep doing good”, “Try to start doing good”, “Try to not start doing bad”, and “Try to stop doing any bad that you are currently doing”) map to “main practice p2” in the Manual. A guided on-ramp for p2 can be found here, and the full practice can be found here.

Part 5 of my breakdown (“Think about and evolve your conceptions of good and bad”) maps to the meta protocol, found here. Part 7 of my breakdown (“Reflect on the entire system, including this part”) maps to the meta meta protocol, found here.

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7 of my breakdown all map relatively straightforwardly to defined parts of the document. Part 6 of my breakdown (“Seek out novel data to cover your blind spots”) involves the most interpretation, and, in my reading, covers the entire rest of the Manual, including all non-p2 main practices. As I see it, the vast majority of the Manual is about providing novel data that can help cover your blind spots and power iteration of the seven parts. This is the reason that so much of the Manual covers things that might seem somewhat tangential to the practice itself, such as musings on neuroscience, sleep, food, cults, culture, analogies and models of meditation, etc. The purpose of these is to get you to think about things that might be very helpful in ways that you haven’t thought about them before.

However, this is also the source of my biggest critique of the Manual: I don’t think that the data it provides is necessarily helpful, usable, or ideal for a large number of people. Part of this is pretty unavoidable: a majority of the world doesn’t speak English, and the document is written in English. This brings me to a point which qualifies my critique, which is that I think that it is fundamentally impossible for any written document, no matter how long or thorough, to provide all of the data needed for all people.

However, part of my critique also has to do with more specific things, such as the hyperanalytical style of the prose, which seems to benefit from some sort of technical background and experience with analytic philosophy. Personally, I find the prose riveting, and have found the Manual very engaging after my first few attempts to read it. However, I also know those who haven’t been able to engage with the Manual, and have found it either incomprehensible or aversive.

Difficulty with prose seems to be especially common for those with some sort of math trauma. [By “math trauma” I am referring to a type of trauma frequently associated with math, and originating from dysfunctional schooling. Though this seems to express itself most commonly with math, I suspect it has to do with a general alienation from one’s innate reasoning abilities, caused by schooling’s disciplinary and reward systems getting entangled with people’s self esteem. I am somewhat unsure if this is associated with math because of the exceptionally poor quality of standard math education, or whether it just expresses itself in math because math is the most sensitive subject to alienation from one’s innate reasoning abilities.] People with math trauma often freeze or have their minds go blank whenever they are put in situations that looks too much like being asked to solve a problem that they don’t know how to, an experience which the Manual can replicate in some people. I have great empathy for people who experience the world like this, and think that they might need to work through their trauma before they can fruitfully engage with the Manual itself. Fortunately, it is surprisingly doable (though still difficult) to heal this trauma, and highly recommended, as it can make the rest of your life more open and less governed by fear.

[There is another interpretation of the rest of the Manual, which is that it contains data that was useful to Mark et al. in their process of Wayfinding. The above critique doesn’t apply in this context, because in this context the intent of the document isn’t necessarily to furnish all of the needed data for all people, but to catalog particularly helpful data for a specific group of people.]

I hope that this doesn’t discourage you from trying to read the Manual, or make you think that Global Wayfinding Meditation requires a particular taste in prose style. By bringing this up I hope to make it clear that Global Wayfinding Meditation can be useful even if you have difficulty with the prose. If the Manual is not a helpful, usable, or ideal source of data for you, seek out data elsewhere, whether that is from conversations, podcasts, long walks through nature, spiritual communities, or anything else. Ultimately you are the best arbiter of what data will be of benefit to you, though again, it is often useful to seek data from sources that you might not ordinarily use, in order to increase your chances of covering your blind spots.

9. Risks

The last thing that I will cover are risks. As you might guess, given the intensity of experiences possible with Global Wayfinding Meditation, it can be somewhat risky. Changing your mind about anything is a sort of DIY brain surgery, with all of the risks that that entails. The Manual has a few very scary sections on these risks. I’m generally less wary of these risks than Mark is, given the fact that life is inherently risky. I’ve also had very few adverse side effects from meditation, but I’m also much less experienced than Mark is. However, I do think that it is important to be somewhat mindful about this. Form is very important for preventing injury in the gym. If you throw around weights with little regard for form, safety, or your body’s feedback signals, you might find yourself with a nasty injury. The same goes with the mind. Nagging feelings that something isn’t quite right are important, even if they are small.

One of my favorite points from the Manual, referenced in numerous places, is that “If something feels wrong, something is wrong, somewhere.” Subtle is significant, and it is very important to attend to your bodymind’s feedback signals as you engage with any self transformational practices, including Global Wayfinding Meditation.

10. Conclusion

That pretty much does it for my overview and interpretation of Global Wayfinding Meditation. I hope that the ideas contained herein, in Sasha’s review, and in the Manual can be of use to you along your journey.