Unsettled Feeling 3-7-08

I’ve gone for a couple months without meditating since stopping in September after realizing that the search for the state of Nirvana is not worth it. I decided that because from what I’ve seen – nobody is enlightened. I guess my idea of it was that it was something great. It need not be. Alan Watts put it in perspective today on a short mp3 I listened to. The enlightened individual experiences things differently. He/she still chooses how to act after perception takes place. The individual that is enlightened sees things as they are. Without the filters of the mind. Without societal filter, moral filter, emotional filter, attachment filter, memory filter…  Everything is seen as it is – or, as the enlightened sees it. Is that what IS? Not sure. I still don’t have any idea what enlightenment is.

I do have this unsettled feeling that hasn’t gone away for about 2 months. Well, the last two months, but the last 10 years. I feel like, or there is a knowledge inside that makes me believe that, the only way I’m going to feel right is to finish the process. It’s like the natural conclusion to what’s been going on inside for these 10 years. It can’t really be any other way – it’s gotta finish. Is that right? That’s the way I’m feeling again. It went away for a couple months as I decided trying to reach nirvana was pointless. Now, even though I still feel the same way – it’s pointless… I think it will help my mind stop considering the issue. It’s on my mind from the time I wake until I sleep. I catch myself a hundred times throughout the day considering whether to think or experience things directly – without thought.

I know most of you won’t understand that statement. I catch myself in moments of awareness during the day. I find myself questioning whether I should live the moment as everyone else – with thought filtering the experience, or to experience it without the thought – in a meditative state – without mind. Without time. Just experience it in the moment. Kind of like when you’re playing a physical game – soccer, ping pong, something like that. When you’re playing – you’re just playing. Your mind isn’t thinking – it’s in the moment. Well, it’s sort of like that. But, for the last 10 years I can choose any moment I want to experience life like that. I can shut off the mind… or clear it out of the way – so it can’t filter what I’m experiencing.

It’s easiest with watching the breath. That’s how it started. Now it can be anything. I can watch myself in the restroom in complete mindfulness… fully present in the moment. I can pet a dog at the temple like I did today  – without the mind there. I can drive the motorbike in the present moment. Literally I can choose to do it for anything I think. I of course haven’t tried everything. I can’t imagine something I couldn’t do it for.

So, these periods of mindfulness catch me and a decision is presented – stay in regular state or drop off the mind and experience whatever is going on – directly. Without the mind.

Sometimes I ask myself – what is the point of direct experience? Is there any point to that? And no, there doesn’t seem to be… but you know there doesn’t seem to be any point in experiencing the moment WITH mind either. So – what results? Sometimes I go without the mind, sometimes I remain in the same state I was in – with the mind there running everything that is perceived by the senses through all the filters it has.

It’s quite a bizarre state – and yet it’s been like this to some degree over the past 10 years since I first started to sit and watch the breath… the meditation itself so simple. The results? Profound? Who knows. I know a lot has changed. I know I’ve experienced things that very few people have experienced… does it mean anything? Not yet. Means nothing at all – just a different way to experience life.

Is it profound in the sense that it means something good for me or profound for me? I don’t know. Not that I can see. It has thrown me into a state of questioning life as it is – and life in this new state.

Is there any point at all in seeking to experience all of life in that state – without mind, without filters?

No. Not that I can see. From this point – where I am, there is no point at all.

Is there any point at all in seeking to experience all of life in my previous state? Meaning, is there any point in experiencing life with the mind there – like everyone else appears to be doing? If there is, again, I don’t see it. I think there’s no point from where I am presently – from this vantage point – I see no point in either way.

Is there any point stopping your existence then – removing yourself from the game so to speak. Through suicide or some other means…

No, I don’t see that either. No point at all. What’s next – who knows. Anybody’s guess really. Should I seek that, what’s next? No point really either.

So what?

That’s the state of questioning I’ve been stuck in for a while now… What is the point of anything. Not sure. I don’t see a point in any of it.

So, my post from 9-27-07 in this journal told how I couldn’t see a point in enlightenment… in continuing to go toward it. But, is there any point NOT going toward it since it seems like this is where the whole process is taking me? Not sure. Sure of nothing at this point. Just feeling like things aren’t quite right.

Oh, this likely means nothing at all – but since this is a journal more than anything that must make sense to everyone – I wanted to write it down in case later I have the experience again.

I was sitting in this plastic chair in front of the notebook on the table just like this two days ago. I was reading something I had downloaded earlier at the internet cafe. I felt a moment of no-mind… and what felt like energy… flow, power, force… something – whatever I could call it – went up my body from my midsection and toward the head. When it got to the head it felt like the earth shook a bit. It jarred my head, and it kind of snapped my neck straight up gently – but totally on it’s own. I made no voluntary move myself. It came too fast for me to have anticipated what direction the energy would go in order that I told my neck to move. It was VERY odd as I’ve never had this feeling before. Never in my life. I know that. I would have remembered something like it as it was completely out of the realm of ordinary for me.

I don’t know what else to say about it except I closed my eyes and turned off the Alan Watts MP3 that was playing at the time and sat without mind for a couple minutes. The phone went off and it took me a second to realize it was a phone that made that noise and I picked it up. That was it. Nothing special after it happened – but extremely odd.

What is the Point of Nirvana? 9-27-07

Meditation history (7.1Mb) MP3 audio format

9-27-07 Today I climbed the steps at the mountain at Wat Tham Suea again. A Thai boy of 8 years old kept up with me as we sort of raced to the top from steps 300 to 1200. At maybe 30 steps away from the top he was exhausted and had to stop to rest. I stopped a little ahead of him and waited for him to catch up so he could be the “winner”. I stayed at the top for a couple hours, at times sitting… and other times standing and walking around… I decided to climb into the rocks that the monk showed me the other day. (Video link at bottom of page). There were a few too many people at the top of the mountain and I thought I’d try that quiet spot in the rocks.

As I climbed over through the jagged limestone rocks someone called out in Thai, “Tum Mai Dai kup”. I called back, “mai chai, die kup”. (You cannot do that) and I responded, “Not true, I can do this”… To which he didn’t respond. I’m sure he was concerned about my safety as the rock peaks are treacherously sharp.

I reached the place and folded my long-sleeved shirt underneath me. I took off my shirt because I wasn’t visible from the Chedi observation area and it was quite warm in the sun.

I sat about an hour and the mind was very calm. The body, while still “there” felt very relaxed and comfortable. As I sat I realized that some questions were on my mind.

WHY MEDITATE to reach nirvana? What good is it? Is there a point? Is it a good thing?

I decided to study that question in the state I was in… attention and concentration came quickly and I reasoned out an answer within maybe 30 minutes.

There really is no point to any of it. Yeah, surprisingly that’s the conclusion that I came to. There’s much too much to write about it – but, I’ll create a video or at least some audio to explain how I came to that conclusion.

Here are the 3 files that explain all of it… The first is my history of meditation – what happened in the past and what exactly I did. What the jhanas were about, and why I stopped meditating for about 9 years.

Meditation history – (7.1Mb) MP3 audio format – not edited, but maybe should have been a little bit…

This next file is a video I took in mid-September where I was unsure what I’m doing by restarting meditation. I am not sure WHY meditation or reaching nirvana is a good goal. What is the reality of it? I couldn’t reason it out that well here, but I had a lot of questions about “WHY”.

WHY? Video (24Mb)

The file above explains what the thought process was at the top of the mountain as I asked myself “WHY” in the relaxed, concentrated state of mind… and the answers that I reached…

The last file, another MP3 audio file looks at why I believe there’s no point in reaching enlightenment, and what I’ve learned by having jhana come… how the mind and ego have changed…

Enlightenment, no point… Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5

I don’t believe thatmeditating at this point is a good thing for me. For others, it may be… If you meditate and you reach a point where you are relaxing the mind and you are not going into jhana much or at all you may find meditation very relaxing and a positive thing to do and keep up with.

I found it to be a life changing experience. The changes that came over me 9 years ago were devastating to my marriage at the time… they destroyed the ego for a time… They gave me a glimpse into nirvana and what happens when the mind stops thinking and reacting emotionally. I understood what it means to lose the ego… to find equanimity… peace… bliss…

For me, the changes that took place, and that I believe will take place again if I continue to meditate are too radical for me to take lightly. I had to really ask myself – what is the point of this…? I had to ask myself, if you really reach nirvana – WHAT THEN? Nirvana seems a very real possibility in my mind right now, considering all I’ve experienced recently… The process seems to have picked up where it left off.

Nirvana has been said to be a permanent change in the mind… a letting go to the point that there is no longer suffering because the mind doesn’t attach to anything…

That’s why I needed to question – what good is that state?

My answers are in this recording… enjoy… if you have any questions, send to:

aimforawesome@gmail.com and I’ll do my best to answer…

🙂 Vern

Video link (2nd time posted):
Secret meditation spot up Wat Tum Sua mountain – A monk shows me how to get there…
14.7Mb in size >

Test of Meditation 9-23-07

Anapanasati at top of Wat Tum Sua and 5? kids taking my pictures and banging the bells to see if they could get me to move and break the meditation.

Mai pen rai krup… (no matter, no mind)

Today was an interesting test of my meditation practice. I climbed up the stairs again to the top of the mountain at Wat Tum Sua and after the sweat dried up from my body and clothes and my breathing calmed quite a bit I sat in my usual spot at the altar that has some shade and the most wind blowing (usually).

The first 10 minutes were almost silent as people came and went and were quiet for the most part. I could hear talking, but it didn’t bother me at all. I was able to find peace and stillness of body rather quickly and the mind followed… and then…5 or so Thai kids arrived with their father. I could hear them around me and they were talking about getting me to move…

I was in a good state of concentration at the moment and so I just watched with my mind – with attention at what they said and let it go as I heard each word or phrase. They were intent on getting me to react and break the meditation. They took pictures very close to me (of me) and banged on the bells that were at another platform close by to see if they could get me to react or jump or something. It was amusing and yet I couldn’t help some thoughts from surfacing about the impoliteness of Thais when it comes to others.  There really is very little.

Going to this wat in the south of Thailand over the past couple weeks and months I noticed that there is little in the way of outward shows of respect not only among all Thais’ but also for the monks at this wat. It is as if they are laypeople.

The Thais who interact with them don’t worry about having their head higher than the monks, following a step behind… using polite language with krup and ka… they don’t dip their heads when they pass them or go between monks. They don’t wai anyone and very rarely do I see any Thais’ interacting with the monks at all except to treat them as friends like they met in a bar.

This is in marked contrast with the respect shown to monks by Thais in the Northeast province of Ubon Ratchathani, Udonthani, Sisaket and others.  There is a reverence… a respect that they don’t give to others that they accord to monks that is nice to see…

At least a little basic respect of someone’s space, privacy, meditative moments would have been appreciated…  but, no matter since the mind reacted very little to the antics of these kids that were at times within reaching distance sticking their Nokia cell phone cameras close to me to get a good photo of the foreign monk (they called me) meditating at the top of the mountain.

The father of some of the kids joked with them, smoked and egged them on to do some of the things they were doing to attempt to disturb me… it was kind of weird that not only was there an utter disregard for my sitting there in an unobtrusive and out of the way part of the altar, but there were unabashed attempts at provoking me to see if they could get me to stop meditating.

This went on for over 30 minutes I’m guessing. So, such was my sitting today…  after they had gone and I stayed another 15 minutes. When I opened my eyes I had a bit of Jhana there – the feeling of lightness of being… of no feeling in the hands, arms and legs… the good feeling inside… bliss or some good feeling…

I noticed a young monk (Phra Gope) climbing the rocks below coming back toward the platform. Apparently he had been somewhere. I asked where (“Bpy Ny?”). He said, “Anapanasati, tee non” (meditating over there) and pointed toward the rocks. I said, “Jing law?” (really) He said “chai” (yes…)  I said, “Ow bpy dooay. Die mai kup?” ( I want to go too, can i?).

I went and got my sport sandals and came back, he led me over the treacherous rocks in his bare feet and showed me this ‘secret’ meditation spot that he found a while back. He had been at the wat for a year and also liked to practice Anapanasati. This was the spot he liked to go.

It was a small spot of mildly sloping rock that was in an incredibly beautiful, secluded setting, nestled among the jagged limestone cliffs that comprised the top of the mountain. It was some effort getting across the rocks even with shoes, but I made it in a bit over 5 minutes I think.  I took a little video of the experience and it’s posted below.

Enjoy… Oh, tomorrow if we both make it, we’re supposed to meet at 2pm for a trip up a mountain next to the one we were at today. Supposedly it’s a good place for meditation and there are no other visitors there, just monks.  I’m excited to see if we might be able to coordinate that trip tomorrow at 2pm. If so, I’ll post video and photos.

Ok – video of top of wat tum sua secret meditation spot 14.7Mb in size >

Enlightenment, Jhana Levels – Comments 9-11-07

I haven’t read many accounts of jhana and how the Buddhists view jhana. What I’ve read up until today seemed to be telling me that jhana was necessary in order to reach enlightenment. While glancing through Buddhadassa Bhikku’s book, “Handbook for Mankind” I learned otherwise. It says explicitly that insight is necessary in order to reach liberation… Insight can be had two ways:

1.) Meditation and jhana states. or,
2.) The natural method of introspection which is what most people use since jhanas seem rather elusive to most people.

For me – jhana came rather easily… not without effort, but within a couple months I was experiencing jhana 1-4 rather often.  A couple months after that I had spent time in all the jhanas.  I knew little of Buddhism and didn’t care to know much about it. I was experimenting with my meditation. I wanted to take the bare minimum physical activities: mindfulness and meditation on the breath and see where it led.  Where it led was in a track that mirrors the levels of jhana that I read today in Bhante Vimalaramsi’s Dhamma talk in 2006 in Joshua Tree, California.

To say I’m surprised is an understatement. My meditation was an experiment really. I wanted to take as little of the religion of Buddhism into my meditation and mindfulness experiment. I wanted to do what the Buddha was said to have done. I wanted to see if religionless meditation and enlightenment was possible.  I was pretty clueless when jhana started coming. I hadn’t read of anyone’s jhana experiences and so I had nothing to compare to. I had asked Theravadin monks in Florida where I lived what they could tell me about these experiences – were they normal or was I losing it?  I didn’t get an answer. They were completely unfamiliar with the states of jhana. Living in Thailand for 3 years now and seeing very few monks practicing meditation at the maybe hundreds of temples I’ve visited, I understand that Thai monks don’t really use meditation much as a tool.

So – as I sat and focused on the breath I started reaching these jhana states… I’ll provide video or audio here shortly – describing the states as best I can. They defy words really, but I’ll give it my best. You won’t have a 5% understanding of what the state was really like, but at least you’ll see 5%!  They are so hard to put into words – impossible really.

In 2004 I went to see the Australian abbot at Wat Pah Nanachat in Warin Chamrap, in the northeast (Isaan or e-sarn) region of Thailand to see what he thought. As I talked to him and he asked me many qualifying questions… he said that it sounded like I was experiencing what all the monks at Wat Pah were trying to reach… levels of jhana…

He gave me a couple pamphlets and invited me to stay at the wat for as long as i wished – but the desire wasn’t there and I left the next morning.  As I read the pamphlets, wow, yes, it seemed that I’d had all of the jhana states as Buddhists believe them to exist.

Today as I read through the vivid description of jhanas by Bhante Vimalaramsi I couldn’t believe that FINALLY I was reading a very similar account of my own jhana experiences. It was really cool to see it after so many years – and knowing, “wow, someone else believes this is how it happens”.  Not only did the levels correspond very well to what happened to me, but some other things he said were RIGHT ON and what I believed from the start about meditation.

One of the things he said was that in order to progress in meditation and in jhana is to just note every experience and let it go. Everything must be let go. There’s nothing else to do during the states except watch, note, and let them go like every other piece of mind-candy that appears.  Other Buddhists seem to teach that certain ideas need to be focused on while in jhana.  I don’t think so – because I didn’t, and it appears that I’ve seen all of the 8 jhanas… It was just nice to see someone else collaborate my belief. Better still that he’s a well-respected Buddhist monk.

Well, I could write about this all night. I’m sure I’ll get some audio up here and comment directly on the statements he made and make my own comments sometime.


Reaction, Ego, Emotions Return 9-7-07

Reaction, ego, emotionality all return with a vengeance!  It seems that the last 5 days were filled with the mind being on edge. Most times were calm, yet, when a difficulty presented itself the mind reacted fast and very negatively. I think I’ve sworn more in the past couple days than during all my time in Thailand combined.

I have this idea that the mind noticed that it was slipping away… the ego was dissolving. Disenchantment with things was starting to take place again (1st time: 1999).

The mind revolted – it didn’t want to go away again. Meditation sessions were filled with a noisy and chatty mind – untamable most times – or only for minutes at a time. I could not just stop the thoughts like I used to – and have a mind that was without thought and reactions…  Very strange. Anyway, see the video if you want, there’s more to it than that.

Reaction, ego, emotionality video 9-7-07 >

No Me to Focus on Breathing 9-3-07

I was at Wat Tum Sua again today (Buddhist temple in southern Thailand). The weather was nice, cool and windy. No rain. There were very few people at the top. When I first got to the top and took off my shoes to go up onto the platform, there was a young monk sitting in some shade in the corner. I recognized him as one I’d seen at the top before. He was meditating. I have honestly not seen even 1 monk meditating in Thailand at a wat before except at Wat Pah Nanachat and Suan Mokkh.

I looked out at the mountains and he came over to me and offered me a soy milk box which I took with thanks. I spoke to him in Thai and he was extremely shy to speak, but wanted to speak it seemed. He was from Suratthani area and had been at the Wat Thamsuea for about a year. He was 21 years old.

Anyway, so I went to sit and meditate and found a place on the ground. I sat for maybe an hour and had varying degrees of concentration and mindlessness (vernlessness) as there was no vern to watch the breath. I had to focus on the breath to bring a vern back into the picture.  Odd to read this, I know, but, that is the experience. There is nothing there to watch the breath… no “me” so to speak. If I wasn’t trying to force something to be there to watch the breath – there is just nothingness. I am aware of things around… the air, the sounds, etc. If I open my eyes – I can see without a problem… and yet, still – there is no center point for where “i” am. It’s like no “me”.

Anyway, the video might explain better… I filmed as I walked down the steps, showing me at first – then showing the steps.

Walking down steps at Wat Thamsuea video > (.wmv about 4MB)

Update 6-15-09:

Still much the same. If I sit to meditate the mind is quiet already. There’s no sense following the breath because the mind is still. The body relaxes easily… now what is the point of meditation when I have this level of peace from the start?

I’d rather not ask Buddhists or consult books as I like to see how things play out on their own… probably the jhanas wouldn’t have come at all if I’d gone looking. Better just to see what happens…

3 Dimensions Turn Into 2 Dimensions 9-2-07

I meditated at the top of the temple again today and it was just so relaxing… the weather was great, cloudy and a cool wind blowing. I sat for 30 minutes or so… and at times there were periods of no thought, no mind… no body really. Nothing. No memory, thought, nothing… but that experience was sprinkled with a realization of the body returning sometimes. The eyes were mostly closed, but at times they opened. So I stood up and walked around the structure, looking at the mountains on one side and the plains on the other… I became aware of a feeling that the eyes should focus on one spot – opened, and concentrate all focus there. This was not a conscious feeling, nor a voice. I’ve experienced something like this before, yet this was different. The video might explain better.  While focusing on one spot on the side of the mountain I had an experience unlike any before…

I’ve had 2 dimensional experiences before but this one was different in it’s scale.

3 dimensions change to 2 dimensions video

Update: I forgot to continue the experience after I put the video link above. I have attention deficit disorder and sometimes that happens. Ok, here is the rest of what happened…

I focused on a point on the side of a mountain – a  limestone karst here in Krabi, Thailand that was just a random spot on the mountain where my eyes naturally went directly in front of me and lower than I was vertically. There was no thought in the mind. The scene in front of me began to change. There was some strangeness going on with the visual aspect of the mountain. Incredibly, though at the time my mind was not moved by it – just watched, the entire scene in front me – my whole field of vision turned from 3 dimensions to 2 dimensions. It started with the mountain which quickly turned into a 2-D image. I looked around at everything within my field of view – it was all the same, just 2-dimensions. I continued to look at the scene. It was if my field of view was now a painting. Nothing was moving – the trees were too far away to see move if they were. There was nothing in front of me because I was standing on a Buddhist altar type structure at the far north side. There was nothing but some sharp rocks below me, beyond that a huge valley, and the mountain in front of me.

So as I watched the scene the mountain began to get lines running through it. I realized the mountain was turning into a jigsaw puzzle. It made pieces of a puzzle that could all be fit together and form the scene. I continued to watch.

The pieces of the puzzle started shaking – I could see white behind the pieces as they shook hard like they were going to fall down into a big heap. What was beyond the 2-D scene – ? What was the white area? It was strange and I cut the scene off before it could go further. It’s funny to say it, but on this day I had kind of had enough of these experiences. I’d already decided that enlightenment wasn’t a worthwhile goal. It wasn’t something to be sought after. If it was going to happen right now at this moment, I didn’t care. But I didn’t let it happen either. So, I guess I cared enough to stop it?

I stopped it by turning around and the scene though at first two dimensional turned back to 3-D and I was without thought for a time.

That was about it… I walked back down the steps in silence, went to eat my usual fried rice at my usual restaurant, and went about the rest of my night…

Comments on No Thought State of Yesterday 8-31-07

8-31-07 Comments on the process from yesterday.  I added a lot more here that I forgot to say during yesterday’s video. I don’t think I described the physical feeling very well yesterday, at least I wasn’t satisfied that I did. I went over more of what it felt like and what was going on during it.

This state lasted all the way up until I went to sleep about 9:30 pm. That was about 6 hours. I’m not sure that even when I meditated in 1998 and had a similar state that it lasted this strongly and long. Very interesting state… no thought… no emotion… no desire… no satisfaction or attachment to anything – so no dissatisfaction…  Yet, I was able to have conversation at dinner with my friend. Memory still worked and was used in place of reaction and emotions. I remembered how I reacted emotionally to certain things – but there was no emotional reaction at all. Much more in the video.

comments on the state video

No Thoughts. No “Me”. 8-30-07

Over 6 hours of no thought… no reaction. No emotion. No extra work being done by the mind. A state of high awareness and being precisely in the moment – but without naming things – without judging… without using much of the mind that used to be automatic.

Filmed at top of Wat Tum Sua mountain top temple before the thoughtless state occurred (next entry).  Wat tum sua scenery and some comments on meditation This is a small sized video display because it’s 12 minutes long and if it was a bigger size it would be a 47 MB download which most people wouldn’t bother with because too large. I think. If you want a larger one where you can SEE the scenery, ask me and I’ll whip it up. I saved the project it would just take another 15 minutes to convert it and get it together. It would take me about 4 hours to upload it with a good internet connection so it won’t be a quick process – but could do it at some point.

Climbed up to Wat Tum Sua and attempted to sit. It didn’t go well the first time so I just shot some video and photos for a while. There was a storm and from that vantage it was interesting to see different spots around the area getting rained on, others dry and sunny. There was no lightening – so my fears of a repeat of the lightening experience up there were few (see www.aimforawesome.com for my lightening experience article).  I went down a level and sat in a dry spot on a piece of concrete about 12 inches high at the base of a pillar. It was comfortable. The body was very relaxed and at peace. Soon the mind followed.

I then had a very strong experience of the state that lasted about an hour there. Instead of attach to it and sit there for hours after about an hour I opened my eyes and stood up and felt the state in that new posture… the state stayed for many hours – I was conscious of every one of the 1,237 steps down the mountain and during the motorbike ride home… more about it on the video.

the thoughtless state video

Update: 6-15-09

It was probably this event that triggered something. After this happened I wasn’t quite the same. I was still having thoughts – though they were less frequent. The mind seemed to find peace – equanimity and non-dualistic experience easily and without effort. There were many periods over the next 1 year when I noticed that the mind was quiet and without thought.

Now – june 15,09 I’ve been in a weird thoughtless state for a number of months.

Meditating in Loud, Distracting Environments 8-28-09

In this video, I went over what I’ve been doing over the past few days with meditation. I’ve been experimenting trying to purposefully meditate in places that were noisy to see – is it still possible to do so.

I started this because I noticed that sometimes recently when I was in a loud environment it wasn’t affecting my concentration or mind – thoughts – at all. The mind was able to calm and quiet very quickly and wasn’t affected if noises started…

last couple days video – this one may download for you as you click, if you have an APPLE computer. Windows should play it (.wmv file).

Fatness Feeling and No Mind Center 8-25-09

Fatness and no mind center…  I climbed up to the Buddhist shrine at the top of the hill at Wat Tum Sua here in Krabi yesterday and I sat around 5:30pm. There were a group of monks and a woman in white- like a nun that helps out at the temple. Thais say, “magee”. The group was quite talkative and was in the one spot that I thought I had the least chance of tourists coming by and so after 20 minutes of looking at the incredible view I just sat down right there to meditate. The monk group stayed and talked for a while and left after 20-30 minutes.

As they were still there my mind was able to get very calm, and the body was near totally relaxed. Breathing came easily and when they did leave the “fatness” feeling came VERY strongly for about 30 minutes. I then had the mind’s point of reference shift -or disappear so that I could not tell where the “i” was – or where “me” was… so to speak. I let that go on for a bit and then I opened my eyes… and, well, it’s all in the video. I recorded this video at some caves in Krabi that I was scouting for meditation places. I think they’ll do fine. I’ll sit there in some days ahead. Need bug spray first, the mosquitos are ravenous.

Watch the video – you’ll see the cave, some scenery, and some people riding an elephant at the trekking place next to the cave.

Fatness Video (.wmv) about 4MB

Note – I call the fatness feeling – the feeling where the body feels as if it’s growing outwardly in all directions. At times the mind feels the same – to be expanding and growing to fill the room, the cosmos…  The fatness feeling happens when the body has gone completely numb. I feel it in my head or my hands or chest first… I describe it better in the video.

No Mind 8-23-07

A feeling of no mind came today.

I sat for 30 minutes last night before I slept. Before I meditated I was in a state of ‘no mind’ or no thoughts before sitting down for some time – an hour or so. I decided to sit and just have no thoughts. I didn’t record a video… nothing to talk about. I just sat and had no thoughts. I had awareness of things going on around me. At times some thoughts started to germinate, but when I realized a thought was forming I switched back to no thought mode.

I’ve had this ability for some time now since meditating back in 1998 – i can just switch thoughts off and focus on the present for a few seconds or a few minutes. I’ve not done it longer than 20 minutes, but i’ve not tried to go longer.

Update: 6/15/09 – I’m in a continued state of no mind or… rather no thought for the last few months now.. 6? 8? Not counting – would need to go back and look at journal. I can do things – I can work on computer and talk to people, exercise, etc… but, when I stop the mind goes blank. You know how if you stop doing something your mind is still running and thinking thoughts? Mine isn’t. A strange state – is this what it will be forever?

Fatness Feeling Video 8-21-07

Fatness: A feeling as if the body increases in size, it’s borders growing. First there is a recap of yesterday’s “unlinked” feeling that maybe describes it better (for viewers) than yesterday’s audio/video.

This state has been happening since I was a child. I remember quite often being in bed and having this feeling start. It was a feeling that my hands then chest, face, head and my entire body was growing – like swelling. There was no pain  but there was a tingling feeling.

I’d never been able to reproduce the feeling on my own until I started to get into the jhana states. When I first got that state during meditation it was totally unbelievable to me that THIS was the state that was coming to me since I was a child… really weird to finally figure it out.

Fatness audio (mp3)

Fatness video (.wmv)

Mind Clutter 8-19-07

Mind Clutter:

I sat and the mind was constantly nagged with light thoughts that grabbed the attention for seconds at a time. I sat about 20 minutes then stood up and did some walking meditation.  This usually works well to do some walking meditation and then sit again. Not at all sure why that is… The mind seems to calm down more easily doing this.

For the next hour I was mindful of everything I was doing, and was in the present moment, not thinking about the past or future.  Sometimes if the mind won’t calm after 15 or so minutes I just practice mindfulness throughout the day.

No sense sitting for very long with thoughts flying around chaos-like.

My Experience with Meditating

Here is something I posted in a meditation group a while back. Interesting to read it again.

I just stumbled upon this group and it seems to be a good place to share some of my experience during vipassana.

Quick history… I am 39, an American living in Thailand in the Northeast in a city called Ubon Ratchathani. There is a Wat here filled with many English speaking monks and that is kind of the “why” I ended up here in this city.

I grew up Catholic – not by choice, and by 16 years old I had already questioned the hippocracy of it and was moving into my own search for truth (I thought there was a truth then…). I read the bible completely through and every day for a while… I prayed in earnest and never felt fulfilled… ‘faith’ just never could give me anything to grasp onto…

Fast forward to when I was 25 years old and in Miami, FL at Florida International Univ. I took an elective “World Religions” class and found the Jewish teacher to be incredibly knowledgeable about Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and the rest of it… I started to expand my search to include experience in many types of these other groups. I attended different get-togethers and studied a bit of what they believed and why they believed it…

Then I started reading about Buddhism… it resonated the closest to what I thought was the truth… but again, it was an “ism” that I soon discarded… I went a few years without much of a religion… finished school in Tampa, FL at Univ. of South Florida and found some eastern philosophy books in Barnes & Noble… I started consuming them… then books on Buddhism…

In my 5 years of psychology studies, I came to believe that “truth” for me was only what I experienced. It was not what strangers told me in a book or on television, on the radio, on records/cassettes/CDs… It was not what close friends that I trusted told me either… Direct experience was the only truth that I could ever know. I decided that meditation seemed like something I might find some truth in… I found SN Goenka’s book on Vipassana and decided to sit and watch the mind for a bit and see what was going on in there.

I meditated by sitting in a half-lotus position, with liberties taken to get more comfortable (like a pillow under my butt at times, or if my back was in severe pain like it was for the first couple months I would lean against the futon cushion or couch which gave some support.

I meditated mostly in my spare bedroom for a period of ~ 10 months while living in Temple Terrace, FL.

At the risk of sounding trivial and incomplete, I will list some experiences here.

Please understand that the experience is only memory now (this was 9 years ago). And, while I believe my memory is very good and the experience seems like it was yesterday, any description of what the experience was is not really what it was… It couldn’t possibly be. It is so beyond impossible to put the experience to paper or into bits. I share this because it would be enjoyable to read comments or hear of similar experiences.

As i watched the mind i saw photos and heard voices. These were thoughts. This was brain activity that goes on almost every minute of every day of our lives unless we decide to watch it and see what occurs. While watching thoughts i also looked at pain and irritation… my back hurt, spiders crawled on me, mosquitoes bit me regularly when I was in the garage at night… Moths would land on me, sweat would run down my chest and tickle or it would get into my eyes. My feet or legs or neck or? There always seemed to be something that was hurting or irritating during the first few weeks of practice. Oh, the itchiness was unbearable sometimes after the mosquitoes or red ants bit.

I used little technique that the books taught except for a few principles. I was also reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s books on peace and mindfulness during these 10 months so I used some short sentences while focusing on breathing to help calm the mind and relax the body. Some of them I took straight from the book, others I just made up as they seemed more suited to me. One of them went something like… “breathing in I focus on my breath at the nose…breathing out… relax”.

There were “results” or experiences, that came rather quickly. Just a week and the mind and body were able to settle into a state of relaxation in which thoughts would cease for brief periods. It was during these relaxed states that the breath became gradually shallow and very slow… the hands would start to tingle – not at all like when a body part is “falling asleep”, but a faster and less pronounced tingle… and they would start to go numb… this numbness would sometimes start at the feet at the same time and would progress up the legs and up the arms.

When I didn’t respond or attach to the feeling (cling) it would envelop the whole body and soon there felt as if there was no body. The body was gone, there was only mind… and mind was sometimes gone too. There were periods of realizing – “hmm, the body is gone… this is great… or, this is scary” and yet most thought about it was done after meditating… During the meditation at all times I kept one idea… that nothing is to be grasped, clung to, sought after… and for the most part that is what I did…

If a mosquito landed on me during one of these states, the mind watched it – the eyes were closed, it didn’t matter what kind of bug it was… the mind watched the skin get pierced and later felt the itch and watched the itch until it no longer was itch. Every sensation arose and gradually left.

There began a feeling of non-attachment to everything. Wife, job, car, house, making $, a website, any “thing” became nothing worth obtaining. Whereas in the past I was very driven and bent on the accomplishment of every sort before meditating it all dissolved very quickly. So too did the desire to do anything that furthered ‘non-truth’ or something unwholesome so to speak…

Many small experiences were had during this time, that I’ll not write about… After the numbness and peace came it was a week or so before I could count 10 breaths in total awareness and without thought (other than counting to 10). At times these states of concentration would last just 10, at other times I could’ve counted to 1000 or 10,000 if I had chosen… but, I think that when you get to somewhere around 10 and you feel the state of concentration – then just throw away the ‘technique’ of counting to 10 and instead, feel the concentration directly. The counting to 10 is a tool to get you quiet enough… discard it once you’re there…

So the mind would go without thought for a period of time… maybe 1 minute… maybe 40 minutes or a bit more at its peak… I never meditated more than maybe 1 1/2 – 2 hours at a time. The usual time was about 40 minutes.

At times, during the concentrated state the body and mind would seem to grow to fill the room… actually there was no room, no walls were sensed, no boundaries or limits… but the mind and body would just grow… there seemed to be no limits of skin anymore… no physical limits… and the concentration seemed to expand as well. Keep in mind, this is a very vague explanation of the feeling, it can’t be put into words but I’m trying…

I went through the state of ecstasy where I felt so ecstatic I thought I would burst with love and joy. It happened a couple of times at a feverish pitch and then was felt lightly afterward in subsequent sessions. It was a feeling that not only was during meditation but during ‘waking life’ – walking around during the day – it was there in small or large doses…

There was also this feeling of balance… the monks here at the Wat called it ‘equanimity’. So that’s as good a word as any. The feeling was there during meditation and waking hours. It was a ‘knowing’ or a solid feeling that felt as if everything was as it should be or that there is nothing to value as better or worse or by using any other words as a dichotomy.

Sometimes while meditating the breath became so slow and shallow and the mind was completely devoid of thought that it felt as if the body had died. After all, it was numb, there was no feeling of body. No feeling of mind since it wasn’t active.

At times there was no detection of breath coming in and out, like it had just stopped and that the ambient air in the room was enough to sustain the body in that state.

Other times it felt as if the concentration, the “mind” for lack of better word was pressing up against some unseen force… it was as if the mind was a magnetic force of one polarity and that it was surrounded by some other force of the same polarity but they were not able to reach each other – they were repelled, and yet were drawn together like gravity… there was a distinct idea that the ego would be lost when these two forces blended together… and many times meditation was stopped at that point for fear of not knowing what was going on. I “knew” that enlightenment was just beyond that point.

I knew that once the forces blended – and they would if I didn’t grasp to the idea of becoming enlightened… once they blended that would be the end of Vern (my name). It was very, very scary. I wasn’t ready yet.

I remember reading books about what was happening during these odd states, and yet none of the books were detailing what “I” was experiencing. There were many similar experiences in the books but my experiences seemed different and didn’t follow the “order” or progression that the Buddhists talked about…

It was during this time – about 9 months into Vipassana that I sought out Buddhist monks at the Wats in the Tampa, Florida area to ask them to explain what was going on with me and am I doing this “correctly”… I met only one monk that spoke English to any degree and he was either not very knowledgeable about the states of Jhana or he could not explain to me… he seemed more interested in finding out about American culture.

I read more books. I asked anyone I could that had meditated. Later I looked on the internet. I could not find a concrete answer to – “Am I going to go insane if I continue?””What good is Nirvana for anyone anyway?” – I knew that for me the question was becoming crystal clear…

I would experience total bliss – I had felt it while meditating and then I began to have experiences during my day in which bliss would come upon me and there was nothing I could do but experience it… it just CAME and no matter what I was doing there was this feeling of ultra-awareness and truth… It was a total state change and would occur whenever it wanted… it just happened. After I stopped meditating the “otherness” as Jiddu Krishnamurti sometimes called it – just came and I feared that it was on a course of it’s own and would complete it’s way with me despite my stopping meditating. For days at a time I would walk around in complete equanimity – unable to “want” something, unable to “desire to “be” something”… it was quite unnerving after it went away and I thought about what it meant.

It meant the destruction of the me… it meant that relationships that I had would be severed, not on my part- but because friends, family couldn’t begin to grasp it. They didn’t know how to interact with the new “vern”. Which was really more like the absence of the old vern since he was no saint before. Somewhere during the time I was meditating my wife and I dissolved our marriage. I could no longer relate to her… to selfishness, to greed, to gossip. I could not have the normal interchanges that we used to have.

Imagine the person that you married going away. The body is there. The mind is there. The memories are there. But, the new vern wouldn’t pull out the memories that were incongruent with the new vern. So, while the memories were there locked into the mind – they were not needed much. There was very little recall of anything in the past because the focus – the whole focus was on present. There weren’t thoughts about past or future. It just didn’t happen. Nearly every moment from maybe the 6th month to the 10th was spent in mindfulness of the moment, nowhere else.

I had stopped my job activities, I was a real estate salesperson and luckily had some money saved because there was no desire to perform work that wasn’t congruent with what I was feeling. There was no motivation for ANYTHING. I stopped exercising. I stopped talking with friends. Family and friends would call on the phone and I’d give them responses that were totally uncharacteristic for the old vern. They were afraid, especially since I’d already lost my wife and they knew I wasn’t working.

When I stopped meditating about the 10th month as I said before, the process was going on its own. No meditation was necessary… It would just ‘visit’ whenever it felt like it. A couple times per day was common for the first few months of stopping. Then it slowed to once/day, then couple times per week… where it stayed for a couple years… then (and now) it is not often that it occurs – once per couple months on average now. However, what has remained is this knowledge of what is there. It is always there. It is waiting there and it’s the most comforting feeling. It also has a pulling effect… like gravity. It is always pulling me toward it, to finish the process I suppose.

It has been 9 years since I meditated regularly (there were maybe 15 instances of sitting for 30 minutes in 9 years).

In order to STOP the process… I decided the only way to interrupt it was to fight it by acting as if the ego was back and purposefully going against the feeling in every way possible. After all, it was running on its own and I was very afraid that it would never cease. I began real estate and pursuit of money and debauchery that was excess even for the old vern.

Last year while still living in the United States there was a sudden increase in the ‘gravity’ or pulling and it felt like I had to continue the process. It was undeniable. The ‘otherness’ came back more frequently. The gravity was stronger. MUCH stronger. I began to look on the internet again for clues of what the whole thing meant. I wasn’t convinced that I was in the enlightenment process… but I was convinced that whatever was taking place inside me was very very powerful.

It had already changed who I was as a person. There was already much less ego present – a 1/10th?

I searched for a day and found someone on a web site in Thailand… “Santikaro” he was called. He was an American that had found his way to Thailand about 20 years before to study Buddhism. There was his picture on the site with Buddhadassa Bhikkhu – one monk that I did read some of before and enjoyed his perspective. So I emailed him. No response. I called the number that was listed for some organization in Illinois, hoping to reach someone that could tell me his phone number.

Well, HE PICKED UP THE PHONE. I was so excited to finally speak to a person that could maybe help… I explained what happened to me for over an hour – he listened. When I was done he asked some questions… apparently, there are false experiences that might not be ‘real’ – whatever that means, I’m not sure… but, he seemed to be genuinely interested in what I said because he and I talked for nearly 2 hours that afternoon. My main questions were – 1. What was I experiencing? 2. Is there any desire to complete obligations in society – like making car payments, driving, working, etc.

While failing to give a direct answer, he did tell me that it appeared that I had experienced the Jhanas – perhaps all 8 of them. About the obligations – he said that the personality remains somewhat after enlightenment… memories remain, sense of humor might remain… however, a total loss of the ego would result and I would become a very different person to those that know me. I asked him if it is realistic to think that an enlightened person could live outside of a Wat in Tampa, Florida – without the support of monks and other believers… and he wasn’t sure… he too had pondered that question…

And so – at the close of our call he asked that I write him email to give contact details and that he would recommend a Wat in Thailand to visit if I found myself there…

I wrote. He wrote. He gave me the name of a Wat here in Thailand called, Wat Pa Nanachat. There are many English speaking western monks here and I had the opportunity to speak to 2 of them. The first had the duty of speaking to all the visitors. He was the guest monk. He was from California originally and had been at the Wat for over 2 years. I told him some of what I experienced and his face beamed… he wasn’t sure what to say… he said that the monks there at Wat Pa were all trying to reach these states of mind and that I had found them…. he encouraged me to stay and complete the journey at the Wat… Hmm. There it was, two monks that said the same thing. I decided I must speak to the abbot. He was an Australian guy, shaved head and eyebrows. Everyone had the most sincere respect for him there and even here in Ubon Ratchathani, he is well known and revered…

so I spoke with him and told him what I experienced… and he was smiling maybe the whole time I told him… and it was like he knew when I sat down that there was something going on in me… and he too said, you were likely in the jhanas… and he went on to ask questions to try to clarify what levels of jhana I had gone through – and it appeared that I had been through 8 of them… and he too was very encouraging about staying at Wat Pa for as long as I needed… and that I was very welcome to stay as long as I wanted…

I stayed overnight… it was a full moon weekend so we had to stay up all night, listening to chanting, dharma talks… and meditating. My back hurt tremendously and I decided in the morning about 5 am. that I would go digest what I had learned and return if I wanted to continue meditating… and so – I found this city and have been here teaching English for a few months.

(update – I’ve been in Thailand for over 14 years… and have meditated off and on during this time)