There’s a gradual slope and then a sudden drop, like the continental shelf off the east coast of the United States.We all look forward to that sudden drop but, as the Buddha says, you first have to go through the gradual slope before you get there. Sometimes our approach to meditation is simply hoping for the sudden drop to come, thinking that if we can make ourselves as still and passive as we can in the present moment, that will open a space for grace to drop on us.In other words, we’re waiting for the accident of Awakening to happen, but it doesn't happen that way. You reach the drop by taking the gradual slope.There are a lot of different ideas and teachings that one can pull out of almost any analogy. I like the analogy above for the fact that it describes a distance in reference to a span of time correlated to the path of practice.
I think that it is necessary to look at the idea of what Thanissaro calls "quick fixes." He states that often we are an impatience nation that is looking for a quick result and that the attitude that we take towards the path is that we don't have to take a gradual path, saying the following on page 108:
"Oh, those people didn’t know anything. They had to go through this long, involved process because they didn’t understand the quick and easy way to get things done.”I think that the idea here is wonderful- to advise us about looking toward the gradual path or slope towards a final goal, to which we have set our mind. However, I think that it is not such a good idea to look at things in such a black-and-white fashion. In other words, the idea of the gradual slope does not represent the fact that anything not operating gradually is not the path of practice. In fact, sometimes the path of practice requires a little bit of a quick fix to continue in the gradual method.
Here's an example analogy:
I am hungry, but I want to make sure that I get something good to eat. Therefore, I stop at a gas station and pick up a Clif Bar. It's not the best thing for somebody to eat. However, it will allay my hunger for a little bit and it will get me to a place where I can relax and get some time to make a good meal. This, to me, is a quick fix. However, the quick result that it gives is not something that is negative. It only lasts for a short while, but I only need it to last for a little while.