Jeff Warren details his difficult, exhausting experiences at a meditation retreat, which spurred him to ask a Buddhist teacher to describe "the stages of contemplative development":
When he finally answered he said he had noticed 3 flavors. The first flavor, he said, is bitter — the bitterness of effort, of beginning to recognize the depth of the contraction and the alienation and the subsequent struggle to address it. If you are sincere, he said, then you are rewarded with a second flavor: a sweetness. The sweetness of surrender, of opening. A new tenderness. This is what most spiritual practitioners crave, and it is delicious when we find it.
But ultimately, even this doesn’t last. The final flavor, he said, is bittersweet. It is marked by a recognition that both effort and surrender are ways of re-tracing the basic illusion, the first that there is a self that need to get somewhere, the second that there is some “other” to surrender to. True devotion, he said, is not having faith in something or someone. It is a vehicle of questioning, and in that questioning our consolations are impossible to sustain.