Day 2 – Intensive Practice

Meditation Journal

Today began with rain, ended with rain, and as I sit here the next morning – it’s raining. That’s the south of Thailand. It rains more here than Kauai, Hawaii which is saying a lot. At the top of one of Kauai’s mountains it rains more than 300 inches a year. It’s the wettest spot on the face of the earth!

So, apologies for no photos today – and the video I’ve cut out since it would just be the darkness of the backyard. I pulled the audio track and turned it into mp3 so you can hear the frogs croaking a chorus…

I showered in mindfulness, the cold water – which usually I have an aversion to, hit me and was accepted all at once. No aversion came up – though the memory of the aversion did come up. I didn’t feel any emotion toward the cold water – it was just experience as it hit my skin. There was no chill in the body – it just accepted the cold water without emotion. But, the thought – hey, i’m usually averse to this kind of thing did creep into consciousness. It was noted – and I went back to showering. What a great way to get over things not usually ‘liked’.

I did some internet posting – for the Day 1, Intensive Practice blog post you found yesterday. I decided I’d make a specific effort to be mindful of my posture since that must be aggravating my back condition. I try hard to sleep in a way that keeps my spine aligned – but even so, I wake up with pain from it each day lately.

At mid-day I went to one of my favorite hiking spots and walked up the road. It’s an 8km hike (almost 5 miles) and while my ankle was bit sore I thought I’d do it anyway since dull pain tends to go away as I exercise and then afterward there’s only a 50% chance it returns to make it worse. Well, today isn’t worse but I definitely still feel it.

You might get the impression I’m an old man with all these aches and pains… hahah. I’m 42 and I think in reasonably good shape! I’m 5’11” and about 163 lbs. I do some kind of exercise daily – usually a walk up one of the mountains – the stairs or the road with my heavy backpack. I seem to push it though – running up some of the stairs or on the steep inclines of the road – like yesterday. Silly me.

I parked the motorbike and started walking up the hill. I left my backpack at home with my friend and it was nice not to have anything in my hands – but soon I picked up a long stick to ward off ravenous dogs that I might come upon. Dogs are everywhere in Thailand and they don’t always like foreigners. As I walked I balanced the stick in my right hand on one finger (horizontally) and the mind was blank. I maintained that state as long as I could before some thought would come up… I then noted the thought when I realized it – and went back to nothing… Again I maintained that as long as possible – it does take some effort.

Many times thoughts started to germinate… and, once realizing a thought was starting – it stopped. Many little clipped thoughts happened during the walk. A clipped thought is something like this…

I hear my mind voice say something like… “Do you think….” and then I realize it’s going to be a thought, and it stops.

If I’m fast I can see them that quickly. Perhaps it will happen 3 times in 20 seconds and then calm down for some minutes without any thought starting. Sometimes it happens more, sometimes less. There are brief bursts of thoughts that want to come out… to be formed as a whole thought, but, when mindful of it – they stop short of becoming complete, long, drawn out thoughts that lead to full-time thought activity that could take one on a mind journey for minutes at a time before realizing it.

The sooner I recognized the thought and it stopped – the less chance it had of turning into anything at all. If I wasn’t so quick and more of the thought was formed, like, “Do you think there is anyone at the first lookout right now?”

Then – anything could happen. Maybe I keep thinking… “No, probably not – there’s not been anyone else on the whole road so far – and it is raining everywhere – probably there won’t be anyone up there. If there is you can go to the 2nd viewpoint…”

And so on. Once caught in a long thought – a conversation with yourself – it’s more difficult to notice it going on – because now the whole state of the mind has changed – it’s in mind conversation mode and being mindful of a still mind isn’t the predominant state anymore. So, it’s more difficult to realize and get back into that state. It’s not difficult – but, more difficult than if I’m able to catch the thought as it’s beginning to form in the mind.

So – the walk was 2 hours, up and down. It rained a little bit and overall the 2 hours was spent in more mindfulness than yesterday’s trip up the steps with all the tourists and visitors to the temple.

The rest of the day was peppered with brief periods of mindfulness – but maybe I need to get a simple watch that beeps every 10 minutes like I had so long ago. It’s a great mindfulness bell.

I sat for 20 minutes in the evening and found the pain in my back to be very strong. I was anxious about – thinking about the pain and didn’t find a comfortable position. The mind could remain still much of the time – but sitting just wasn’t a good idea at that time so I stopped, went outside and listened to the frogs…

Vern 😛


Various Meditation – Outside, Walking, Mirror

Meditation Outside… Walking Meditation… Mirror Meditation

Sitting in the garage on the jacuzzi pad and towels one couldn’t get focused at all. One could not focus for even 5 breaths on the sensation in the nose. One drank hot coffee again before going in so that one suffered a bit for sure. It was hot again, and the linger of clear varnish from past stained furniture still clung to the ceiling and walls. One’s back ached from the boxing exercise yesterday, and the golf range today. One felt bugs on the body and saw a small spider on the wrist. One then stopped because the bug zapper was going crazy like a machine gun. One thought back to Thich Nhat Hanh’s experiences in which he saw and had many close friends (and strangers) die during the Vietnam and other wars.

One thought that in the way the bugs were killed while I sat–in the same way were men killed indiscriminately, not knowing why, not part of the decision, and not even agreeing to be put into the position to take life and to give their own. One thought that ‘barbarism begins at home’, old Smiths’ lyrics.

The pervading tone of killing the bugs at home because they are in the way or a bother is not much different in essence from political/religious leaders sending troops to kill men, women and children who are in the way and a bother to the goals of this certain group. Though a fly/mosquito/spider has not all that man has–why should we take their lives for our own convenience? There are many more of them than there are of us! They live for a much shorter time and so life is of even greater importance to them because of its brevity. They are innocently led to slaughter by the bug light that kills indiscriminately not only those who have bitten and offended this body, but also those that were just in the area and were attracted naturally to the ultraviolet light.

Anyways, one got up to look at the bugs that had fried and one saw a junebug that had caused the machine gun noise. An innocent victim that would not have bitten.

While one was standing up one thought to do walking meditation in the garage because the mosquitoes wouldn’t land on one if one moved. One started walking 10 short slow steps from one end of the garage to the other. One concentrated on breathing sensations at the tip of the nose. One found that as one did so, the attention did not fall far from the breath.

Occasionally the attention was grabbed by some object on the floor of the garage or by some feeling in the feet that changed (walking over the extension cord), but for the most part a very concentrated state developed in which one became very calm and fairly concentrated. One did this for perhaps 10-15 minutes back and forth. One began to get a bit dizzy from walking in this almost circular pattern and so sat back down on the jacuzzi cover to continue sitting meditation.

One found concentration to come quickly and almost immediately. One then found that the left side of the nose at the base was extremely itchy! One had never been bothered so much by an itch before! One’s instant reaction was to scratch it, but instead one opened the eyes and looked in the mirror to see if a bug had alighted upon the nose. No bug was seen and so one went about ignoring it.

This had no effect, as the sensation was extremely strong–as far as itching goes. One examined the sensation and found it to be a ticklish feeling and a very strong urging to do something about it. One thought that never before had such a strong urging been ignored by the mind!! One continued to sit with eyes closed and went with the itch instead of resist or ignore it.

One thought to ones self about how some Buddhist texts said that there is no state of being that is more attractive to be in than any other. One tried to come up with how that could be possible. One compared the current state of torture with a state in which there was no sensation or perception and tried to imagine which was better. One could not come up with an answer. This was one of the (first) few attempts to ignore sensations like itching, or pain while meditating, it should get better as one builds up the strength (or lets it go) to endure it. Even now as one writes this the itch is screaming for attention though one will not give it a reaction it so craves. (funny enough, just 25 minutes into this sitting session this one reacted completely on an unconscious level and scratched it one time that it was perceived by the mind without awareness!)

Mirror meditation?

One began a different type of meditation today. One looked into the mirror directly in front of the self and stared into the face of the one looking back. One found that the experience provoked some different experiences. One saw the face change and distort some. One saw the face become as a slide image would look if projected over top of a picture of this body and head without a face. The sides of the face were blurred as if the face itself could be removed and put onto anyone else’s body and head.

The face appeared different in nature than the body. The face appeared as a dreamy, film like quality–while the body appeared just a solid physical mass that was unchanged and generic (not special). As one continued to stare one had thoughts that one didn’t truly know which one was staring at which. One felt the itchiness in the nose and wondered if it was his or this ones. One kept expecting the one looking back to do something unexpected or on his own. As this went on one could see that the body was absolutely still. One could not remember a time when one was so still and not moving to do something for such a long period (10-15 minutes). One felt nothing of the body, nor heard any of the environment–one just watched without judgment or conditioning.

This meditation will be done again at some point.

Mirror Meditation – Looking at Self as Meditating

Meditating on the spa in the garage today in the morning 7:30. There was an instant calmness and emptiness that existed. The mind was not much troubled by anything, nor was it following anything that the eyes saw. It was a nice 20 minutes. As one sat and looked at the body reflected in the mirror the body became a black and white negative image of itself only reflecting back black and white features of the face and body. At times the face and body appeared to fade in and out of visibility. At one point very nearly vanishing altogether. At another time as the eyes focused on the reflection of the garage light on the nose (a very small dot on the tip of the nose), one saw that the features of the face were a bit disjointed. One remembers thinking that everything we see is just a perspective of the world as it is. It is just a fractal vision of the complete surroundings that envelope us everyday. 3D, 2D, are all partial views of this world. There is no seeing through these eyes as things truly are from a world perspective.

Note – this is a fascinating experience that I hope some of you get to try. Not many of you will have mirrors right in front of you as you sit to meditate, but it is worth buying one to try it. It’s rather dumbfounding to sit and watch your head and body disappear. It’s a great exercise for ‘letting go’ of fear and anxiety because if you can sit there and watch your head disappear, and not be fearful – it’s quite something…

Meditation at Suan Mokkh Temple and Thoughts on Reality

Two Theravada Buddhist monks walking to breakfast at Suan Mokkh Buddhist temple (The Garden of Liberation) in Chaiya, Thailand.
Two monks walking to breakfast down a dirt path at Suan Mokkh Buddhist Temple in Chaiya province, Southern Thailand.

I wandered around Suan Mokkh again today. My family was shopping at the Central World mall in Surat Thani, and I felt like driving up to Chaiya. I had my camera gear with me, so it was a good day to go. Sometimes I go just to do walking meditation. Sometimes I go to Suan Mokkh to explore it and see what has changed on the grounds. Other times I go mainly to see about shooting some photos and video. Today was mostly about photos, but I did get a few videos too.

I get a very good feeling when walking around here. The first time I visited was in 2005. I had spoken on the phone with a monk that stayed there for 13 years, and then when the abbot died he returned to the USA and was a monk for another four years before finally disrobing. I’m speaking of Santikaro.

As I walk the paths and hear the roosters and hens, the amazing bird calls, I feel like I’m home. This happens in two other temples as well – both in the Isaan region (northeast) – Wat Pah Nanachat, and Wat Nong Pah Pong. These are both Ajahn Chah temples. Wat Pah Nanachat is filled with foreigners and has a foreign monk as abbot. I think it’s Ajahn Kevali at the moment.

Wat Nong Pah Pong has a Thai abbot, though I don’t know who is performing those duties today.

All three temples were created around the forest tradition. There are many trees and much of the grounds are left as they naturally would be. Maybe because Suan Mokkh caters to Thais only, it has a more traditional feel. There aren’t any overdone meditation halls. There aren’t any fantastically modern buildings like Wat Pah has. Wat Pah has a fake aspect about it that I don’t like as much. Wat Nong and Suan Mokkh are less gaudy, less well manicured, maybe have less paved paths, less went into creating amazing looking structures. I don’t know, it’s a feeling. That said, I still love to visit all three of the places.

I arrived before 7 a.m. I advise you too as well if you’re planning a visit. The light is beautiful up until around 9 a.m. The mosquitoes during the dry season that we’re still in, were not so out of control. I walked around and shot some video and photos and then went back outside the gate to get some pad cee-yu, it’s a thick noodle dish with moo (pork) and the noodles are sweet and peppery. I added some prik nam pla and it was quite filling at 10 a.m.

Men's dormitory - second floor - shows sleeping arrangements at Buddhist temple, Wat Suan Mokkh, in Southern Thailand's province of Chaiya.
Second floor of men’s dormitory where you can stay for as long as you want. I’ve known people to stay almost a year here. There is no formal meditation practice or schedule, you just meditate, study, practice, on your own. Good for self-guided people.


I walked back inside the Wat Suan Mokkh temple grounds and found myself at the building where the being is handing out eyeballs. This is painted on the wall outside. Inside are some great paintings, I’ll add some to this post. I have taken photos of 95% of the paintings inside. I need to create a website of that.

A spirit is giving eyeballs out to followers on the wall of a painted building at Chaiya's Suan Mokkh Buddhist temple in Southern Thailand.
Eyeball Building at Suan Mokkh



Art room painting at Suan Mokkh Buddhist temple in Chaiya, Thailand by Emanuel Shermann.
One of the paintings by Emanuel Shermann at the Eyeball Building on grounds of Suan Mokkh temple.


After that I walked outside, the sun was blazing. It was around noon and it usually this time that am close to the little library which is in the bottom of the large boat building. I was happy to see it was open, so I removed my shoes and stepped inside. It was the neatest I had ever seen it. That was a surprise. See image.

I love to look through the books and pamphlets that are stored here. There are some amazingly obscure pieces that are fun to look through. Today I found something exceptional by a monk that is part of a group of temples in Surat, Nakhon, and Chaiya. I didn’t take down the name or take photos of the pamphlet. It was a Thai monk apparently, but this pamphlet was in perfect English. It was very well edited – perfect really.

The monk was talking about samatha and vipassana. Vipassana as insight and samatha as jhana and other states of concentration. I enjoyed reading it as I sat on the concrete bench which supported my lower back. As I sat in meditation position holding the pamphlet, it was a lot like meditation. The eyes closed and the flat mind came instantly and without fanfare. There were very few sounds this day. Odd because in Thailand at a busy temple there are always sounds going on – people doing something, dogs barking. There were some roosters and hens, some birds. It was nice just sitting. Before I knew it I’d sat 40 minutes. I opened my eyes and read some more, contemplating asking the Buddhist nun at the desk if I could take it with me and return it in three weeks when I come back. I decided I’d just find it again on next trip back.

Colorful rooster at Suan Mokkh Buddhist temple in Southern Thailand in the province of Chaiya, in the South of Thailand.
Chickens and roosters cover the grounds at Suan Mokkh Temple.


As I walked around the temple grounds then I noticed something about the big camera I was holding – it’s a big one – a large DSLR and big lens. The contraption weighs nearly five-pounds. I thought it was silly how humans must use this very complex machine worth thousands of dollars to just capture a tiny moment in time that isn’t really captured well at all.

A picture speaks a thousand words? I don’t know. I think if I spoke 1,000 words it would mean more than any image I took. I prefer to create things in my mind about what I hear… with a photo, it’s kind of there for you to embellish on. Doesn’t work so well. I love to read books where my imagination can really build it all up in my mind too. Maybe you’re like that?

This poster of Buddhadasa Bhikku, a Buddhist monk and abbot, is on the top floor of the art building at Suan Mokkh Temple in Southern Thailand's province of Chaiya.

I thought about what is actually created in the heavy machine. It’s something that weighs nothing. It’s zeros and ones, bytes and bits. There isn’t anything tangible to what the camera creates. That’s funny. We spend so much on this very tangible machine that can create something intangible for us to view on the computer or other screen.

Then I thought about what we do when we’re not shooting photos. Our mind, this brilliant (?) machine in our heads remembers details about scenes we think are important. I still remember when the mother of my son drove off with him for the last time. I still remember when my first wife left in a cab in New York City and was waving out the back window with so much urgency. Little did I know that I’d never see her again… But apparently, she knew.

Our minds are constantly, unendingly creating these intangible images of places and people, memories of sounds, the feeling we had when we were with someone that meant a lot to us. The mind is not so good at what it does, but it’s all we have. So, we take what we can get. Some of the memories in our heads are terribly important to us. Some we would kill for. Meaning, if someone said they were going to take the memories out of your head of your child as he or she, or they grew up, you might be so enraged you would kill to keep them. Funny that, right? As incomplete, as intangible, as outright wrong as many of our memories are – we might kill for them they mean so much. Some of our memories mean the world to us – don’t they?

And that’s all part of the problem.

We hold onto memories, to feelings, to ‘facts’ in our heads. We hold onto beliefs. We like to believe in something good. We like to know that we are aware of what is bad. We use intangibles floating around in our grey matter to make the major decisions of our lives.

Concrete relief art on outside of a building at Suan Mokkh temple in Chaiya, Thailand.
On the outside of the Eyeball Buildng at Suan Mokkh.

So I thought about that as I walked. It was a nice walk… and yet I realized again there wasn’t any of the amazing feelings about the place based on what I was seeing. The many green hues on trees and plant of every sort, were not anything special. The eyes looked at them, the mind was there with them, and yet there wasn’t any grasping to hold onto a scene as it was passed through.

If I think back now at what was amazing about the day, there really was no amazing except spontaneously meditating there on the bench in the library. It’s really probably the most ideal place on the entire temple grounds. There is even a fan there beside you as you sit, in case it becomes too hot. It does get quite hot in summer! We’re almost there, another month and the temperatures will start hitting 38-40C, and higher. That’s over 100F, and extremely humid.

As I try to think if anything else stands out, I can’t pinpoint anything. I remember the rooster that jumped up onto a branch, and then a higher branch as I reached for my camera.

I remember a dog barking as I got near one of the remote meditation halls. That dog is usually there for some reason. The foreign monk from Poland that stayed there previously has gone to Koh Phangan, but this dog is still here for the next owner of the kuti (kootee, hut) nearby.

I remember monks chanting before they ate their breakfast.

I remember the monk from Nakhon Si Thammarat that asked if I had been a monk before. I recently shaved my head with the #1 clipper attachment, and it’s about 1/16th of an inch short. I prefer it in the heat. I prefer it most times. Hair brings with it too much.

I remember finding a jumpy little fly on the ground at my feet before I sat down in the library. It could have flown away, but instead it just jumped around there by my feet, so I took a photo.

Large painting of the Buddhist Wheel of Becoming at a building located on the grounds of the famous Buddhist temple, Wat Suan Mokkh in Chaiya, Thailand.
This is a place where monks study and eat breakfast. The huge poster is the Buddhist “Wheel of Becoming.”


The nun (magee) saw me taking the photo and brought over another beetle she’d just collected in her dustpan as she swept the place. I remember looking at the image on the screen after I shot the photo and realizing how inadequate that three thousand dollar piece of electronics was to capture the simple essence and subtle colors and reflections of that little beetle.

So anyway, that was my day. Six years ago or so, I would have said this was such an amazing day. It was so peaceful, so nice to be able to walk around for six hours on my own and shoot photos, read pamphlets by monks, and sit in a quiet place with cool wind blowing through the window behind me.

Today I see it as neither good nor bad, just a way to spend time. Just a way to see a little bit how the mind works and how other people live life.

If you’re in Thailand, why not skip a day of shopping and visit Wat Suan Mokkh in Chaiya? It is south of Hua Hin… south of Bangkok… North of Surat Thani province.



Mountain Climb, Flat Mind, and a Question

Bamboo overhanging a road at Wat Nong Pah Pong Buddhist temple in Warin Chamrap, Ubon Ratchathani Province of Thailand.
One of my favorite places in the world – Wat Nong Pah Pong in Warin Chamrap, Ubon Ratchathani province, Thailand.

I haven’t written here in a while. My foot felt OK today so I climbed the steps to the top of the mountain shrine at this Buddhist temple near our home. I felt great, so I did it again. At the top the second time, I sat by myself in an out of the way spot for a while and looked out at the expanse of mountains – layer upon layer of limestone karst formation. The sun was setting and there was some radiance through the clouds.

As I sat and stared at a spot on the closest mountain  – about 300 meters away or so – I let the mind go flat. I was looking at some video I did years ago and it appears that this flat-mind state has been here for about six years or so now. Wow, that’s a long time. It doesn’t seem that long maybe because I don’t let it go flat on purpose and watch what happens. Not much anyway. I did do it today at the top though, as I stared at the mountain across and below from where I sat balanced on a couple rocks that were balanced on each other.

As usual, the mind went blank instantly. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s like an instant fourth jhana. The mind is completely without thought, and yet it isn’t jhana because I can have my eyes open and look around. I can hear dogs and motorbikes, and the occasional plane fly by. The airport is very close to there. Thoughts are as silent as in fourth jhana.

As I sat staring, I felt the heart slow down, I was wearing my heart rate monitor. Sitting at home typing this I just finished uploading the data online. Usually when I stop climbing the mountain I’m at 170 beats per minute and 47 breaths per minute. It slows gradually to around 90 bpm and 20 breaths per minute. I noticed that as I sat, it went down to 68 bpm for my heart and 14 breaths.

Anyway, it was just a natural relaxation of the body and though there was no thought about it, the mind is active and watches things happen. It doesn’t say what is happening with thought or nailing it to a memory. When the dogs barked or someone dinged one of the many bells hanging at the top of the temple, the mind heard these sounds and didn’t respond at all, but memory is still working during this flatline mind state. I remember now – faintly – the various sounds and what happened next.

What happened then was I brought the mind out of flatline and I thought about something some monks had said I might do when my mind was like this. They said you might start to ask yourself who you are. What was the me, where was the “I”, etc.

I’ve sat in the flatline, or flat-mind state many times over the six years… and it’s a nice state of absolute relaxed mind and body, but honestly, I couldn’t see what good or bad it was doing other than the obvious relaxation benefits, so that’s what I use it for.

Today I thought I’d do something different. I asked myself as I stared at the mountain – what is me, where is me? Then after a few minutes I revised the question – or, it revised itself. I thought I’d go into flatline mind and then keep the idea in my head. Then I would watch what part is able to notice the sound, the sights through my eyes. I wanted to see – was there a me attached to that awareness. I wanted to find out more about that very simple awareness – or consciousness I guess maybe it is.

So I went into the empty mind and sat staring at the mountain. A bell dinged. There was an awareness of the ding – the ring that lasts for ten seconds or so… and yet there was nothing of a ‘me’ in the process. The body kept sitting and the eyes kept staring. A dog barked a few times. Awareness was right on it – and no thought was developing – and yet there was this very light awareness of a question.

Is there any me in this awareness of sound, or, what exactly is noticing the sound?

There was no answer. There was no me, no i. I forced an i to come back and asked – what was the mind like? How could I describe the mind when there was the sound?

The answer came back in the form of an image. Two images. The mind was like a mirror or a flat reflective lake that vibrated with the sounds – and yet didn’t interfere with the sound at all. The sound continued, it vibrated the mind, and yet that was it. No thought. No me at all in that.

So I played with that a bit. When sound came, I tried to see – is the mind like a mirror or a lake that is vibrated with the sound, and that’s it? Also, when I moved the eyes to see something new, what was there of  me that was knowing it or experiencing it?

I don’t know. I couldn’t see a me in that. The mind appeared to be capable of vibrating on its own – with or without a vern in there.

I wondered, is the mind just like hive mind or a universal mind? Is every mind in every person linked to the ultimate – to the one mind – and that is it?

I wondered… what is vern then? What is this personality that comes out during the day and all periods of non flatline mind states?

Seems like vern is just the mishmash of thought that the mind can put together from memory. Seems like vern reacts, and knows itself by the way others react to vern. When someone climbing the steps says, “Wow, how many times did you climb today?” I say twice. They are surprised. The vern inside is a bit surprised they are surprised because at this stage it doesn’t feel like such an amazing effort. I’ve climbed over 1,400 times before, often doing two, three or four times up and down. Still, the question and response from other people provokes the mind in this head to react in a way. To remember what was said. To respond to what was said. Over time, over a lifetime really, there starts to exist this rather tangible idea of the self.

When I am Vern and I’m looking at what Vern is – I don’t know. It doesn’t look like anything is there. There’s nothing tangible I can nail down. It’s just memory acting really. That’s it. Memory responding. It’s funny to look at that happen and think – that’s all vern is made up of.

When memory responds in a a relatively constant way about different things, in different situations, the mind starts to believe that’s how it should respond. That’s where Vern is born. The memory in the mind just knows – this is what this character named Vern does and would do – and that’s how it goes.

It’s a very odd situation, the whole thing.

So, yep, that’s about it. I sat maybe twenty-thirty minutes and looked at these things today.

It’s interesting on some level. I don’t know if it’s interesting enough to continue doing on any regular basis, but I have been going through a really nutty crisis over the last few years – well, about six years. It’s as if I don’t have any passion about anything to do with work any longer. I have many websites and books started, but I have no passion toward any of the subjects anymore. It’s like I try for a bit, a day, two days, even up to five days – and then there isn’t any passion for it at all any more. It isn’t disenchantment, it’s more like – Vern just cannot get excited about any of the topics any more.

I like few things now… I love my daughter. I like extreme exercise a lot. I like photography sometimes.

I don’t know, that’s about it.

So, maybe I should just keep looking at questions while in the flat-mind state. Maybe there is something to be gained there, because in six years I have pretty much ignored it and I’ve gone nowhere with any other passions, any work pursuit.

It’s almost like there is nothing to do except keep going along the path here… looking at the mind and trying to go deeper, further, in the process.

Not sure at all. Been not sure for years now…


vern, or that collection of memories that represents itself as vern !


Pre-Jhana Levels – Experience

I found this post on an old backup CD-ROM I have. I had posted to some meditation group about some of the odd experiences I was having while meditating. Pretty fun to read now.


Hi all.

I’ve lurked here for quite a while because I haven’t had much to offer.

I think I do now though…

I’ve been practicing mindfulness of breathing sporadically for the past few months. By sporadic I mean once every 2 – 30 days–pretty sporadically in other words, right? Anyway. I learned mindfulness of breathing from my fiance’s father who is from Thailand and who is Buddhist. I’ve been reading up on much of Thich Nhat Hanh’s stuff as well as various zen books and even J. Krishnamurti’s philosophy and diary. I tell you all of this because I have yet to come across anything in my reading that is very similar to what I’ve felt when I “meditate” lately. Here it is…

About 7-8 minutes into my mindfulness of breathing meditation I notice that the environment gets very quiet for a second or two (or who knows how long it truly is, but from my perception it is a second) and I notice that I have amazing concentration on my breath coming out and entering my nose and body. This awareness fades in and out during the rest of the meditation and can be brought back with a simple thought to pay attention to it.

After this I notice a numb feeling in my hands and finger tips which travels up my forearms and biceps and triceps to encompass my shoulders, chest, back and lower torso and finally my legs from my thighs downward to finally my feet. When the numbness is moving down past my chest I start to feel a “fatness” starting in the center of my chest which spreads outwardly toward my arms/hands and downward to my lower torso and legs and eventually feet.

When my whole body has been numbed I no longer am aware of my body and it’s physical bounds, but I am more aware of my mind which I “feel” has moved itself from the head and is now encompassing my whole body–not just stuck in the head.

This “fatness” that I spoke of is the thing I’ve really not encountered through reading or through talking to others who meditate. By “fatness” I mean that my physical body, though numb, feels as if it wants to expand in all directions! I feel physically fat! It’s the weirdest feeling–I wish I could explain it better to you. At this time I feel as if my mind is extremely powerful and capable of changing the body to any shape that it chooses. I don’t actually have any “conscious” input / desires / wants while I am in this state, it’s like the mind just naturally wants to expand and stretch the limits of the body!

By far the most “odd” things is that when I am in this state I have this very strong “push” from the powerful mind that is seeking to push the body into different shapes! I am not lying in any form here, I told you it was different! I felt as if the mind really wanted to flatten the body out into a sort of cubic cylinder (like the shape of a 2’x2’x 5′ board.

Even stranger though, was that at one end of the shape (which I was actually becoming in my mind) I felt as if that which was my head was becoming even more elongated and stretching into a point (have you all seen Terminator 2 when the policeman’s finger turned into the liquid metal and stretched out? Sort of like that). I think that the force was trying to stretch to this point because it represented an extreme focusing of power and concentration in this point form. I don’t know how to say this well, but this force inside my body was all moving toward this concentrated point and I felt that the force was incredibly powerful as it was moving toward this shape.

During this time I can sporadically be aware of sounds in my house, like the dog snoring (very clearly) lucidly. I can just acknowledge the outside sound and then focus with extreme clarity back on the breathing and the experience going on with this force. Sound disappears.

The last two times I’ve meditated this same thing has happened to me. I am afraid to let it go further because I am fearful that I will reach nirvana or something and forsake all of my present responsibilities that I now have! I want to share with someone who may have a similar experience, or who has an equally unique experience before I go further.

I know that some will doubt my authenticity because of my lack of devotion to religiously meditating and trying to attain some sort of enlightenment, but I have noticed that I have some extreme concentration capabilities that were part of me ever since I was in grade school. I remember the teacher asking once in 4th grade if everyone in the class would sit and just try to think of nothing for the next 30 seconds. We all tried and I was the only one who stated that I could do it! She then went on to ask me to try it for one minute. I did try and succeeded. I don’t think she believed me then either–but I knew it was true about me, though it meant little then.

I did not think about the concept of “nothing” or the word, or not thinking of nothing, etc. I just totally blanked my mind for this period, like I do so much now when I am trying to “think”. I have had some experience concentrating on breathing when I did triathlons in Pennsylvania and Miami for two years, though nothing formal before about last October.

I would love to hear from anyone regarding this experience, or if you have any experiences you’d like to share, I would like to hear them.


Vern L

The Feeling of “Me”

Alan Watts, one of my favorite speakers, has said that the feeling of ourselves, the feeling of the tangible self inside is nothing more than the muscular tension about the abdomen or chest area. I wanted to share with you what I feel the tangible me to be, because I agree with Alan, and yet to me there is some more to it.

As I’ve said here before, I seem to have 2 states of being for the past few years. One state is “doing” and one is “nothingness.” When I’m doing, I can accomplish things. When I’m nothingness, there are no thoughts or feelings, nothing literally, to do or be. It’s like a flatline state of the mind. I can see, I can smell, I can touch, I can taste… but the stimuli from the senses don’t mean anything in that state. The mind isn’t engaged to make sense of them. It’s like a pure state.

I’ll look at the feeling of me from each state of mind. Here is what I feel of me in the “doing state”.

While doing, like while I’m typing this note, if I take brief moments to ask myself where the me is, I can say that the me appears to be in a few different areas. I have layers of awareness of the levels of me that are all adding up together to give me the appearance of a separate me.

As I write, the primary feeling is that the me is on the screen and making the letters appear in words, sentences, and paragraphs. When I write, there is no real perception of me that is greater than this one. It is as if my being is right there on the screen and coming out of nowhere. I don’t see a connection between me thinking up what to say and it being put on the screen, it just arrives on the screen in a nice format. Me is whatever is spilling out on the computer screen. If I choose to pull the focus away from that, I can look at the fingers with my mind, as they jump around across the keys. I type somewhere around 80 words per minute on average so my fingers are pretty active. If I look at them as they dance around, I don’t have any feeling of me in them. They just seem to be going on their own and I don’t feel like there is me inside them. They just appear to be a tool to express the me, but I don’t feel any me going into them or giving them any input so they can make words appear on the screen.

Hope this is making sense. It is very difficult to put this into words, having never done so before.

Then, if I pull the focus closer to the main part of my body, I don’t feel any real me until I get to my head. In my chest is no feeling of me. There is no discernible muscular tension as I type. As I do other things, I’ve been aware of a feeling of tension in my chest that seems like it can be identified with me, at least until I look at it intensely.

As I look into my mind and search for me, I seem to find something there. I can only describe it as a tension of the mind. Of course there are no muscles in the brain, but there is some sort of tension or pressure in the mind that feels like the center point of me. This feeling, this pressure, is there in varying amounts as I’m doing something. The feeling of me is probably strongest when I’m driving here in Thailand, with my four year old daughter in the back seat, and someone cuts off our car or does something else that is very dangerous and that could harm us. There is a tension inside the mind at that time that is palpable as it ever gets. The ego roars, and the fight or flight response is there, very strong. It may be something physical, adrenaline, that causes the feeling, I am not sure. But I don’t think there is another example I can give in which the feeling of me is so strong. So, it is there in the case of anger, fear, danger, and maybe it is the presence of adrenaline or something else being released by the pituitary gland or some other gland that causes it.

The feeling of me is flitty. I can be typing here and feel the me in the screen, and then stop for a second to think about what to write next, and the feeling of me may disappear altogether. I may find myself unable to put thoughts together to continue writing. This happens as I write books a lot. It is like the mind wants to slip back into nothingness and flatline at the first opportunity. Other times I can concentrate for hours on end to write a book and the doing doesn’t seem to cease, it just continues on as I need it to.

Likewise, after someone does something dangerous in a car around us while driving, the feeling of me can go from full on, down to nothing within seconds. It may happen this way as I realize that the car that just swerved into my lane, was avoiding crashing into a car in front of it. Or, it may be that I realize in my mind that people are fallible and that driving is a scary thing to many people. They are doing the best they can. This has been going on since meditation fifteen years ago – this quick reset back to a low emotion state, low ego state, low fear and anger state when some realization has taken place about the reality of life.

When I’m running I feel the me in the lungs and chest mostly. The legs feel like tools, an extension of me, but I don’t feel me in them. I don’t feel me in the head usually, only the chest. The upper part of the chest and the top of the neck where the air is coming in strongly through my open mouth.

We don’t have hot water in our home in Thailand. When I shower, I pull water from a large tub and splash it over me with a scooper. When I do this, the water is quite cold during January to March or April. Still, I don’t feel me as the water hits as long as I’m not ‘doing’ something with my mind that is paying attention to the water, the cold of it. If I am anticipating the cold water, it may affect me. Maybe 95% of the time I’m not thinking about it and I just walk in and start splashing it over me. I know the feeling is different, from memory of what it used to be before I had this ability to separate a me from the body.

When I have a headache or some other pain in the body I’ve noticed that for years I can disassociate myself from the pain when I look closely at it. As I study the pain, I come to the idea that the thing in pain is not ‘me’. It isn’t my self. When I look at it this way, it doesn’t have anywhere near the ability to affect my mind. My mind doesn’t feel it as much. I don’t feel it as much because I don’t feel it as me. Like the cold water splashing my arms, legs, chest and back, none of those are me and so none of them affect me.

When I am doing and I look inside the mind to figure out – where is, what is me? I usually feel some tension in the head that I call me, but then it quickly disappears as I let that go too, and return to the flatline state.

Even while doing some things, I can return to the mindless, flatline state. While typing here – I cannot. It just doesn’t work. I don’t know why, but I’ve tried it before. The mind has to be running, doing, working, in order to make this happen.

While running, I can briefly go into the flatline state. I’ll experiment next run and see how long it can last, but I think previously when I’ve experimented with it, I could go for a few minutes before the me came back into the picture.

OK, so that is something about the feeling of me when I’m “doing.”

What about when I’m in the empty, flatline state?

The feeling of me when I’m in the flatline state is absent. It just isn’t there at all. It isn’t in the hands, feet, legs, chest, head, or anywhere. It is literally like Vern is dead. Dead meaning not there at all. Like all that made up Vern, the thoughts, emotion, voice in the head, tension in the head and chest, all of that has ceased. Vern is completely gone.

It isn’t a bad feeling. It isn’t a good feeling. As I type this and think of the couple minutes I had earlier today in this flatline state, it seems to be a nice state. It is a state without worries, fear, wants, needs, emotions, expectations, responsibility, there is nothing of this sort of thing realized at all in the state. So, outside of the state I can look at it and say it’s a ‘good’ state, one that seems to have some value, at least for relaxation of the body and mind.

Is it the natural state? Is it the state the mind wants to incline toward, and yet cannot in most people? I don’t know. I can’t say at all. Is there something about it that makes it better than the doing state? I don’t know. Though it has been some years since this occurred in me, I am still kind of puzzled by the whole thing. It is a state in which nothing seems to be taking place except the body is there, surviving, doing what it does without needing a me to tell the heart to beat, the blood to pump, the hormones to be disbursed, etc.

Sometimes I wonder how long one could survive in that state. The doing state appears to be necessary for things like going to get food and going to the restroom. Though, those tasks could also be done in the flatline state. I wonder if they would just pop-up as one gets hungry enough that the body must have food, or die.

Anyway, I think I’m going on further than I intended.

The feeling of me changes depending whether I’m in the doing or the empty state. It changes depending what I am doing – sports, writing, eating, reading, etc. The feeling of me is primarily in my head – the pressure there, when it is present at all.

Have a nice January…




Is 2014 the Year I Meditate Again?


This past year, 2013, has been rather torturous.

I’ve never felt more lost. I don’t know what to focus on to make a living. I have many things I’m competent at, and nothing I am an expert at. I usually don’t include meditation when I think about what I could be doing with my time, with my effort, to help solidify the future for my family – my wife and daughter.

And yet, one by one, the options of what I can do are disappearing.

Over my entire life I’ve asked myself the question – “What can you do better than anyone?”

I figure that is what I should be focusing on. Why waste time with anything else. And yet still, I can’t seem to focus on the thing(s) I am very good at. The things I’m expert at.

I can do photography pretty well. I guess I’m an expert. I’m competent, I’m fully knowledgable about most topics in the field of photography. I know the technical bits, I know the design, the art of photography. I know what it takes to make great images. I very rarely am inspired to go do so. I just don’t care about it that much. Hardly at all really. There are brief moments when I’m inspired, but it passes quickly.

I can shoot video well enough to get a lot of views on Youtube. Being in Thailand helps. There are lots of strange subjects to shoot videos about. I have 18,000,000 views at my Youtube channel. I could focus on that in 2014. I get inspired in brief spurts to do so – and then it goes away, like everything else.

It is the same for everything.

Meditation has been a blessing and a curse.

On the one hand, it has calmed my mind. ADD/ADHD are pretty much a thing of the past. They very rarely affect me at all anymore. I can say that after decades of it affecting me horribly, I now have peace of mind. I have my mind back. In a way that is good. I can focus on projects for hours, days, weeks at a time when I’m motivated to do so.

I’m just not motivated to complete any big project like a book, a movie script, a website focused on some topic. I find that I just don’t have the motivation to do it. There is very little I care about any longer.

What I do care about, doesn’t seem to be areas of focus that will lead to me making a living from them.

My family. I don’t know how to monetize my family.

Trail running. I love it. I do it every chance I get – couple times a week. I wish I could live in the western USA and run many of the races there. I just can’t get any sort of major income source to allow me to do that. I fear getting a job and working for someone else because I’ve spoiled myself working on my own for the last 7 years.

Who can give me a job that compares favorably with that?

Meditation. Jhana. Abhinna. I’ve already written two books on meditating. One is doing OK, the other has sold about 5 books in total. It’s funny, the book I put the most thought into, the most time into, the most that I could possibly fit into a book – is the one that sold 5 copies. It’s ludicrous, but goes to show you how publishing books works online. It either works, or it doesn’t. I have 26 books published online. I am not excited at all about publishing any more.

When I really look myself square in the face and ask – “What is the one thing you are expert at that few other people can do as well?”

The answer is meditation. The answer is – reach jhana. The answer is – experience abhinna.

At least I have in the past.

Whether past success is indicative of future success is anyone’s guess, but I just don’t care much about that topic either. It’s so nebulous. I can’t really see it clearly to define it as a meaningful topic to delve into. The experiences were phenomenal, sure. What if I were able to have abhinna experiences again? What then?

I don’t know. I don’t see any point in them. My experiences before weren’t so general that I could fascinate people with them. They were personal and involved knowledge about my family mostly. They were not that strong that I could call them up at will. They came when they wanted.

What I have left as a result of meditation years ago, is that this mind has stopped when I am not prodding it to do something. There is a profound silence when I’m not doing anything.

There is a non-attachment to nearly everything except the few things I mentioned… my family, and exercise really. I can’t think of anything else that means anything to me.

Disenchantment has hit full-on.

Anyway, so gradually it appears that disenchantment is taking away everything that could have been a possibility to focus on. If I could focus on my family or exercise, and make a living, make a career out of that, I would do it. I don’t see how that could possibly happen. So I sit here and I’m empty.

I can’t come up with anything else.

Meditation, jhana, abhinna – these could maybe be the answer. Still, I’m not motivated in the least to do anything with them. I’m not able to see a way they could provide a job focus for me. A career. Something that would give my family more stability.

And so it goes…

2014… I do hope something profound happens. I’m not expecting it to come from inside me. Seems like it has to come from outside me.

Best of luck and life to you and yours – and I hope your new year is the best of years!!!




Meditation State – I Am the Noise

Note – This is an old journal article I wrote in 1998 or so. I don’t have the date written down on the journal entry.

Sitting in the blue room at home. Meditated for a half hour. The back hurts again today. One needs to meditate consistently in order to build up the back muscle tolerance.

One felt relaxed today. Inclined towards sleep. One did reach state of good concentration – yet the back and the outside noises kept one here. At one point while listening to some noise outside the house one realized that we are the noise. In this case it was an airplane. I was the airplane during that state of mind. It never came to one as such before today. One could never understand logically how this could be yet one has read of the concept so much. As one sat, the knowledge that one is the same as the noise attenuated to was truthful and unquestioned. An instant knowing as if it had been there all along. An unquestioned knowing – yet in the logical waking state EVERYTHING is questioned by this one. In this state there was no need for questions – it just was. It was no less true because the questioning process had been left out. Rather it was more true and more believable.

The mind then sought to logically explain what had occurred. This mind thought that one felt like he was one with the plane because the sound of the plane was nothing more than his own eardrums and body parts making the sound. Every sound that we hear is merely our own eardrum vibrating because the air has been moved (we suppose) by some object producing its own noise or rhythm. There is nothing we hear that doesn’t go thru the air that surrounds us. If there is no air, there is no sound – and hence, no “I”. Seriously, if we could take this a step further and say that in a vacuum there is no sound, and therefore there is no “I” as far as the sense of sound goes. If we could also find a place in which there was no smell then we could end the “I” state from that perspective as well. If then we shut out all of the light so that our eyes could not register anything around us that is separate from the “I” then we could stop vision as a justifier of the “I”.

If then, we were to immerse the self in a liquid that would counteract our body weight. We could float naked with no movement whatsoever and no sense of touch to separate us from that which surrounds us. The sense of taste would be negated by the lack of any smells. Perhaps some care would be taken to lessen the chance of some flatulence coming from the stomach. In this state, could we say that we exist or that there is an “I”???

We could go to these great pains to induce this sort of state, or, we could meditate and reach it effortlessly–really without trying.

One has noticed that often times throughout the day one will be in moments of awareness of the present moment. It happened today while painting the kitchen ceiling with texture paint. It was like a zen or meditative experience.

The moment was enjoyed, no matter what it consisted of. There was no thought about what was going on, just experience through the eyes, sense of touch, smell – whatever – and it wasn’t judged or changed by the mind.

It happened at the Indian Restaurant yesterday. One ate the entire meal in awareness. It was truly the most gratifying meal one has ever eaten!!