In 2007, I had a period of “intensive meditation” days that lasted around a month. On the 28th day, according to my notes, that was when the flatline-mind came about. I mean, that’s when it became permanent. It is still there (here) today.
For more context, in 1998 I began meditating. I went for about a year. I had no teacher, no real guidelines except I was sitting for 20-minutes a day and focusing on the breath. It was very slow going for weeks, but gradually the thoughts slowed down in frequency and I was able to focus on the breath a bit. Then I was able to focus on the breath as long as I wanted during some sessions.
Then I switched over from focusing on the breath in some sessions to focusing on the light in my mind or the tingling in my hands and feet. Jhana 1 came without me having the slightest idea it had a name. As I let go of each sensation in the mind, I went further through the Jhanas, naturally. Literally, without having any knowledge of what Jhanas were, I was at the 8th Jhana. Changes to my personality during this time were incredible. I was a completely different person.
The 8th Jhana is a curious place to be. If I followed what I had up until that point, I’d have just let go of the last thing that was in my mind. There was some finality to it though. There was some idea that this was the final step and that I would lose all that I ever was – my ego would dissolve like smoke and I’d enter into a new realm. I would literally ‘die’ if I let go of that last little piece… it was as if standing on a precipice… just beyond the black was freedom from suffering, from life, from ego, from me. Not letting go, I could stay in my safe cocoon.
I chose to stay.
Then I decided to get as far away from meditation as possible. I realized I didn’t want to lose me. I told myself I wanted to have friends. I wanted to play beach volleyball and run and bike and swim and travel and drink and work and make crazy amounts of money. I had to repeat this over and over in my head because the mind was not feeling it AT ALL. There was no desire for anything. I had to go by memory of what my life was life before and force myself to just DO IT, even though there was zero craving for that again. I thought – I need to stall this process out – I need to kill it. This is as serious as life or death, I needed to be selfish, drunk, sexually active as I’ve ever been, and I need to care about THINGS again. I bought a new car – Acura GS-R. I bought another car – a Honda Prelude. I bought a kayak. I bought a new Cannondale bike. I bought all sorts of things. I traveled. I found women to date. I started drinking with my friends at bars. I forced myself to try to become – to believe in – the person I was before meditation.
It worked on the outside.
On the inside, the mind didn’t go back to wanting, to enjoying those things. The mind was forever changed already.
I tried speaking with monks at the temple on the east side of Tampa, FL. I tried speaking to the monks at the temple in Carrollwood, Tampa. Nobody understood the states of meditation. Jhanas are apparently, not frequently experienced. Even by monks.
In 2004, I decided to move to Thailand for a year. I knew someone there would understand what I was talking about. Just before I left, I found a monk online that had spent 20 years in Thailand as a Theravada monk at Wat Suan Mokkh in Chaiya. Santikaro. He answered the phone at his place that I think was in Wisconsin or Illinois, I can’t recall. He agreed to listen to my experiences. I talked for about 40 minutes. He asked a lot of questions. He said the experiences in Buddhism are called Jhana. I cried on the phone. It was the answer I was looking for. I had to know I wasn’t out of my mind. lol. It was instant validation that I was on some sort of valid path, though it was my own, it closely paralleled at least what the Buddhists called Jhana.
I arrived in Thailand on November 5, 2004. I’ve been here ever since. I spoke with monks at Wat Pah Nanachat, a mostly foreign-occupied Buddhist temple in Warin Chamrap, Ubon Ratchathani province. I heard more about Jhana. I didn’t know what to do about it. I moved back to Phuket island and thought about it. I moved to Ubon to teach English for a year, see if I could support myself. I met a girl that became my girlfriend immediately. We have been together 14 yrs now.
In 2008 – 2009, this period of intensive meditation started. She remembers it because it was such a strange time for her. She had never seen anyone meditate seriously in her country. You’d think the monks are die-hards, but no. Few meditate. Well, fewer than you’d expect.
The following links take you to diary entries I made during that time. I was writing out handwritten notes that I later copied to one of my early websites. Hope you enjoy these.