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Re: RoamingFrancis' Path to ERE

Posted: Sat Oct 10, 2020 3:57 pm
by RoamingFrancis
Thank you AxelHeyst, I truly am making it up as I go.

Yeah, Goenka was a Vipassana teacher who founded a network of centers; it could be probably be considered a subset of Theravada Buddhism. I don't think the theory is different from much of Western "pop Buddhism," as many prominent Western teachers studied with Goenka at one point, though mainstream Western Buddhism seems to be more influenced by the Mahasi Sayadaw tradition, at least from what I have seen.

So I don't think there is much of a qualitative difference, but I do think there is a quantitative difference when it comes to any sort of meditation practice. The mainstream mindfulness movement oftentimes doesn't go deeper than "meditate for 10 minutes in the morning and be less stressed." A Goenka course, however, involves 10 days of meditating for 11-12 hours per day, with no talking. In such a high dosage, the experience is much more powerful than sitting with an app for 15 minutes.

Does that help?

Re: RoamingFrancis' Path to ERE

Posted: Sat Oct 10, 2020 4:08 pm
by Alphaville
RoamingFrancis wrote:
Sat Oct 10, 2020 3:57 pm
10 days of meditating for 11-12 hours per day, with no talking.
at a zendo i’ve participated in day sits, but never a sesshin, much less anything 10 days in a row (!)

so, 2 things i’m curious about here:

1. how do you deal with your legs? (i sit burmese, half lotus kills my knees)

2. if they do this to new people—how do they deal with the inevitable psychotic breakdowns when they happen? (they happen). you ever seen someone lose it? (i haven’t—just stories from the more experienced members)

Re: RoamingFrancis' Path to ERE

Posted: Sat Oct 10, 2020 4:29 pm
by ertyu
how do people lose it, and what sort of person would? I'm very curious about the goenka meditation that you did. Seconding the request to talk more about what the long meditation experience was like for you. How was the retreat day structured? Afaik most retreats alternate sitting and walking meditation to deal with the legs issue, is that the case here as well? Also, were there 3 meals a day etc?

Re: RoamingFrancis' Path to ERE

Posted: Sat Oct 10, 2020 4:37 pm
by Alphaville
ertyu wrote:
Sat Oct 10, 2020 4:29 pm
how do people lose it, and what sort of person would?
either people with underlying problems, or people reacting poorly to a loss of self, etc? i’ve never experienced it because longest i’ve done is a day sit (in a zendo).

eg see: ... of_sesshin

parallels to bad psychedelic trip i’d assume...

10 days x 12h = ego death march (from my perspective anyway, hence the curiousity. someone must have panicked.)

Re: RoamingFrancis' Path to ERE

Posted: Sun Oct 11, 2020 12:22 am
by RoamingFrancis
I'm going to avoid discussing the details of my own experience, as it's very personal and I'm wary of how much I share about myself on a public forum. If you contact me by PM we may be able to set something up.

1) In regards to your legs, you're basically fucked. Goenka places a strong emphasis on equanimity (upekkha), which is key to his understanding of increasing human happiness. In his model, much of human suffering is caused by what he calls sankharas, which are essentially bad psychological habits of craving for and aversion to external stimuli.

The idea is that when we experience something pleasant, we generate lots of craving and clinging. Then, when that pleasant thing inevitably disappears, we are disappointed and suffer unnecessarily. The pain of a breakup, for example, is largely caused by our own clinging to good things of the past.

Likewise, when we experience something unpleasant, we generate anger, hatred, and ill-will which cloud our judgement and make us suffer more. We can stay pissed off at a coworker for days because of one negative comment.

In the Goenka tradition, body sensations are used as the main meditation object, and throughout the retreat one will come to observe both pleasant, tingly, fuzzy sensations, as well as the unpleasant sensations of aches and pains. In his model, applying equanimity to both sorts of sensations undoes the sankharic programming, and leaves you capable of responding to events in daily life with more centeredness, peace, and clarity.

So yeah, your legs will fucking hurt like hell, and Goenka is of the opinion that you can work with that pain skillfully in order to make yourself a happier person for the rest of your life.

I do not necessarily agree with this opinion, or even that this is the best intellectual model to be using, but it's the one used in the tradition we're discussing, so it's what I wrote about.

2) Haven't seen anyone else lose it, but I've heard stories. These retreats are extremely challenging on every level: physically, psychologically, emotionally, and more. I recall watching a documentary about these retreats being implemented in prisons—one of the prisoners said, "This is the hardest thing I've ever done, and I've been on death row for 15 years." I felt pretty badass after hearing that! :lol:

I went on a whim, not really knowing what I was getting into. It was extremely difficult, and I suffered a lot, but it ended up being extremely positive for me. I don't recommend doing this to everyone. From what I understand, the assistant teachers are trained to deal with people having psychotic breaks, but I don't know the extent of their training. I would imagine people predisposed to a break are those with deep unaddressed trauma, those not ready for an ego death experience, etc, though I am not a psychologist and cannot say for sure. I have heard stories of trauma being healed, as well as stories of it surfacing and causing a meltdown. I am not a psychologist or a meditation teacher. I had a positive experience despite the difficulties, but I am just a guy on the Internet. Don't take my word as Gospel or do anything stupid. Your mind is powerful; don't abuse it.

Though my experience was a net positive, it's not for everyone. Serious shit has gone done at these centers:

3) Here is a link to the daily schedule, which I believe answers the question about retreat structure:

Goenka doesn't teach any walking meditation, unlike other Vipassana traditions. You can stretch during rest and meal periods, but Goenka is rather notorious for loooong hours of sitting. Meals follow the norm in monastic Theravada traditions, two meals in the morning and afternoon and tea in the evening. New Students (first-timers) are permitted a piece of fruit with evening tea.

4) I just want to make a couple more comments on the Goenka tradition, since I've typed up a shit ton already. Overall, my experience was extremely positive, even though it was fucking hard and painful as hell. I am grateful to the Goenka centers for having taught me emotional tools that I will be using for the rest of my life. I put a huge disclaimer above, but I think its net effect on the world is really good.

I doubt I will be sticking with this tradition long-term, as there is a thread of conservatism and puritanism that runs through the tradition. It's sort of an old-school traditional Vipassana school. IMO Goenka (seems to be overly confident that his technique is THE BEST, and has said some weird things regarding sex and celibacy in other interviews (not featured in the course). Cool if that's your thing, but it's just not my style.

I think the coolest thing about the Goenka centers is the economics of the whole thing. There's a worldwide network of hundreds of centers, all 100% run by donations and volunteers. You are not allowed to give the organization money unless you have completed a ten day course. Literally the whole organization is just fueled by the generosity of meditators, which I think is pretty fucking awesome.

I am personally a big fan of meditation teachers Shinzen Young and Michael Taft. I highly recommend both of their books, The Science of Enlightenment, and The Mindful Geek. Here are a couple links; the second one can get you a PDF of The Mindful Geek.

Re: RoamingFrancis' Path to ERE

Posted: Sun Oct 11, 2020 12:37 am
by RoamingFrancis
Quick Food Update:

Spent another $37.21 on groceries today, and found a couple promising dumpsters. I have failed my $100 challenge, but now am better fed and have a stocked-up pantry. I'm going to spend as much as necessary to keep myself healthy, adapt my strategy as I learn, and evaluate my spending based on a 3 month average.

Some Difficulties

The only bulk bags of grains I have seen are white rice. I want to stick to brown rice, quinoa, etc and haven't been able to find the big bags anywhere. There might be one more immigrant-owned hole-in-the-wall I haven't checked yet...

My pot seems to be giving everything I cook in it a strange flavor. I'm wondering if there's some sort of seasoning coating it or something—though it's not cast iron, so I'm not sure what the deal is.

When I soak chickpeas overnight, they are weird-tasting and crunchy when I prepare them. Maybe I didn't let them simmer for long enough? Or didn't salt the water enough? Rate of diffusion has to do with solute concentration and heat if I remember correctly. I would imagine I have to find a way to get it to diffuse more completely... that way salt could break down pectin and other proteins in the chickpeas??? Do chickpeas have pectin? I'm speculating here.

The grocery stores are all far enough away that it's a hassle to get more food. I need to do more actual planning and shit. Also, I still feel lacking in my kitchen supplies. I now have a pot, a knife, and a can opener.


Built myself a janky plunger-bucket-laundry machine and dryline! It's simple, but this feels like my first real DIY project!

Re: RoamingFrancis' Path to ERE

Posted: Sun Oct 11, 2020 5:32 am
by ertyu
Downloaded mindful geek. thx.

Re: RoamingFrancis' Path to ERE

Posted: Sun Oct 11, 2020 8:13 am
by Alphaville
food is more important that money

costco sells large bags of brown rice (lundberg), but brown rice goes rancid quickly, whereas white rice keeps for a very long time (unless it gets bugs, but that’s protein i guess lol). another option for bulk could be your local food co-op but those are usually boutique prices. brown rice might be a western affectation—most of the world eats white rice. brown rice has high arsenic too (except for california, eg lundberg).

seriously i would not sweat the brown rice. not worh the search in my opinion, also tastes boring. ok for some things not as staple. jasmine or basmati are good rices. i favore jasmine due to aroma. medium grain california is a decent all-rounder. if you want more protein, eat protein. if you want more fiber, eat fiber. rice is for starch. satisfice instead of optimize this one.

your pot: plastified crap? cheap teflon? aluminum leaching into acid? no idea. for me it’s worth getting something decent for my food. uncoated stainless steel works well for me in stew pots etc. i have enameled cast iron in my cabin but can be a bit of unnecessary hype—nice, but not essential. i use an instapot these days for practicality ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (pressure cooker does it better)

hard chickpea: either they’re old or you have hard water of or both. old could be a side effect of cheapness prime directive. in any case try 1/4 tsp baking soda in the cooking water per lb of dry beans, which helps with hard water (more even if really hard water). baking soda *must* be in your pantry btw: from making great pancakes to putting out grease fires, an essential chemical.

congrats on the washer!

and i read about that poor girl. goddamn. that article jumps to some wild generalization though. but that schedule is beastly on a beginner: i’m sure i’d punch someone.

Re: RoamingFrancis' Path to ERE

Posted: Fri Oct 16, 2020 6:36 pm
by RoamingFrancis
So how the hell do I figure out my next step?

I have $10,017.81 in savings. I am living rent-free and my only transportation is my bike, so expenses are very low. So far this month I have spent $99.67, my main expense being food. The monthly expense may fluctuate as I get more settled in, but for the sake of argument let’s say I’m spending $200 a month here. This means that I can survive for 50 months, or a little over two years, without having to work again—as long as my living circumstances don’t change. This is a very rough estimate; I will have to observe my spending patterns over a longer period to improve the accuracy.

There are a couple variables to play with now: expenses, work income, and investment income. I’m doing very well in terms of expenses, but would like to get my food spending down a bit further. The most obvious way is to dumpster dive more. I have a friend with a car who is interested. If that fails, I could pick up a bike trailer to haul more food. The next idea is to plant a garden. I'm studying and planning now but I'll have to wait until spring to implement. The last way is to continue learning how to cook, shop efficiently, and find some goddamn coupons.

In terms of work income, I’m a bit torn. I’ve been working at the roof gig for about a month. I’ve only signed one contract, and the client canceled it a couple days afterwards. So I’ve only made $150. Part of this is on me—I am not a huge go-getter about knocking on doors and getting clients, and if I seriously applied myself I think I could increase the work income. The problem is that I don’t really give a shit, and would rather stay home and read. No wonder ERE appeals to me.

I usually enjoy the work once I start—I basically walk around town and help people get new roofs for free—but I haven’t seen much money even after a month and am questioning whether it’s worth continuing. Not sure yet. There still is a chance to earn good money if I apply myself more and get some luck with the clients.

With regard to investment income, tonight I’m watching a webinar recording on social justice investing; I’m hoping that will be helpful. It’d be great to start getting some passive income going.


The good news is that, if I wanted to, I could support myself for around two years with no income, as long as I stay in the area! I am drifting further away from the college and career track, recently found someone to mentor me in permaculture, and have been reading a lot about business . Since I now have control of most of my time, plus a cash buffer, I am considering starting a small business related to composting or some other ecological service I could offer. Ideally, I’d be able to leverage that + investments to achieve full FI, perhaps in a shorter timeframe than the college track would allow.

I have been reading some of Paul Wheaton’s stuff about Gert, and how permaculture can be a “fast track” to a lifestyle similar to ERE. Sounds promising; I look forward to learning more.

Re: RoamingFrancis' Path to ERE

Posted: Fri Oct 16, 2020 6:49 pm
by RoamingFrancis
Footnote: now that my living situation has become so eccentric, I feel that returning to college or a "normal job" would be a step backwards from what I want my life to be. It would feel like surrender. I will have to be very creative in figuring out my next steps.

Re: RoamingFrancis' Path to ERE

Posted: Fri Oct 16, 2020 8:12 pm
by RoamingFrancis
If we extend the metaphor of Liebig's Law of the Minimum to my personal ERE scenario, it seems that my main limiting factor at the moment is a more reliable income stream. Ideas:

1) Learn more about investing
2) Look for side hustle and business ideas
3) See if I can take on more responsibilities at the roofing job in exchange for more income.

Number 3 would be the easiest, though one of my takeaways from reading Cashflow Quadrant was not to get addicted to earning income as an employee. It would be better to have multiple diverse income streams.

Re: RoamingFrancis' Path to ERE

Posted: Fri Oct 16, 2020 8:44 pm
by RoamingFrancis
Perhaps I should be more intentional in my studying. I have been dedicating significant time to autodidactic study, but my stack of books includes everything from environmentalism to Czech fiction to Islam to cooking. Maybe I should be temporarily narrowing my interests in order to go deeper.

Re: RoamingFrancis' Path to ERE

Posted: Fri Oct 16, 2020 8:49 pm
by RoamingFrancis
It occurs to me that a Pareto curve may be present in some of my current pursuits. I believe I'm getting smaller returns on effort when it comes to cooking (though I still want to finish Samin Nosrat's book). Food spending is also close but could be better optimized. It doesn't make sense to work longer hours on the door-knocking job, as very few people are home before 4 pm anyways.

I guess side hustles and investing is a feasible next step.

Re: RoamingFrancis' Path to ERE

Posted: Sat Oct 17, 2020 5:24 am
by RooBadley
You are killing it on the frugality skills, great job.

And you've also put in a great effort at this door-knocking job, a solid month of experience. I can tell from your posts that you see the writing on the wall here: Knocking on doors selling 'free' roofing services is a very very hard way to make a few bucks.

You have a five figure net worth, unbelievably great start. If you're interested in eventually starting a business you know you'll need all of that and more.

You are already out there hustling every day, what if you simply identify all the successful green business owners who are already established and start figuring out how they do it? Every single one of them is going to tell you that their biggest headache is FINDING DECENT HELP. If you get a cashflow situation established with one of these business owners, you'll be able to protect your $10,000 nest egg. That would really multiply your options.

Re: RoamingFrancis' Path to ERE

Posted: Sat Oct 17, 2020 9:43 am
by RoamingFrancis
Thank you for the encouragement. As of right now, my low spending less skill-based than it is "I live in an unused attic and have no car" based :)

The roofing gig is a bit hard to analyze. My main teacher figure there works it full time and is able to support a family and go on lavish vacations fairly frequently. Because it's commission-based (I receive $150 per contract plus 7% of the money approved by the insurance company), there's no linear correlation between effort and income. So far I've had three clients who were really interested, but their mother died or they had to finish refinancing their house first or something else came up. So the $150 I made could easily have been several thousand dollars if circumstances were slightly different.

By the way—I'm not hustling every day XD. I oftentimes think to myself, "Fuck it, I'm going to read a book today instead of going to work," and so I do. I suppose I'm already semi-retired in a way.

I don't regret taking the roofing gig, as it's forced me to really level up my communication skills, get me comfortable doing business with strangers, and given me an insider perspective into the whole insurance system, but it seems I've reached a plateau where I'm not learning much anymore. I'll work another week or so to see if I get lucky with some contracts before moving on. Maybe I can ask to shift my role in the company to something where I will be more reliably compensated or where I can continue learning.

I should mention though—I feel 100% comfortable selling this shit, because for the vast majority of homeowners it's a really good fucking deal.

Sidenote: The investing webinar wasn't that helpful. The presenter basically read through a list of options for socially aware/regenerative investment and banking options, but didn't talk much about strategy or anything.

Re: RoamingFrancis' Path to ERE

Posted: Sat Oct 17, 2020 9:54 am
by Alphaville
oh, you’re selling insurance, that’s your gig? that’s getting paid to learn. selling is a massively important skill (that i don’t have). good for you. there will be a payoff, whether in this job or somewhere else, but yeah.

Re: RoamingFrancis' Path to ERE

Posted: Sat Oct 17, 2020 8:07 pm
by RoamingFrancis
Selling public adjuster services, not insurance. Basically we work the system so that the insurance company releases funds to the client.

Re: RoamingFrancis' Path to ERE

Posted: Sat Oct 17, 2020 8:40 pm
by Alphaville
even better when it’s something you believe in. learning to sell is a great education.

Re: RoamingFrancis' Path to ERE

Posted: Sun Oct 18, 2020 10:45 pm
by RoamingFrancis
Attended an online permaculture conference this weekend. I'm hooked! I've also found someone not too far away that would be willing to teach me more in-depth.

I'm really grateful for my situation—I have two years worth of expenses, and plenty of free time to figure out lowering costs, making income in fun ways, investments, etc. I am excited and optimistic for the future.

Re: RoamingFrancis' Path to ERE

Posted: Mon Oct 19, 2020 11:51 am
by RoamingFrancis
I need better systems for showering, laundry, and working out.

Currently, I go to the gym to shower and work out. The shower at my place doesn't work particularly well; it emits a trickle of water. Hence why I've started using the gym one. The simple answer is to find a way to maintain hygiene while using less resources. Find a swimming hole? This may be hard, as my region gets pretty damn cold. Maybe I could be a badass and learn the Wim Hof stuff to do it anyways? I can also use a bucket and a rag... I should also check out what indigenous people in my bioregion did to adapt for the winter.

Working out is all right. I usually lift weights and do yoga. Part of the reason I'd like to cut down on gym dependency is that I have access through a family plan, and don't know how long that will be around for. I like lifting, and particularly like having the increased strength and bulk that doesn't come as easily through yoga, but lifting takes a long ass time and I don't want to have to pay when the family subscription ends. I've heard Tim Ferriss' 4 Hour Body offers some good ideas, and I will check out some bodyweight exercises. Really, I need to designate a part of the property specifically for exercise as a psychological trick to get myself to do it.

Laundry's all right; I currently do it with a DIY plunger + bucket machine I made. Main problem is that the bucket has a small capacity. This can be solved with a larger bucket, or by owning fewer, more durable clothes that require less washing. I own relatively few clothes—I don't know the exact inventory off the top of my head—but I believe this area could be further optimized.