Meditation Questions and Answers: Vern Lovic
A short bio – about my experience with meditation – some of the experiences of Jhana or however you choose to call it…
1). Do you feel you lead a contemplative life? (A contemplative life is one that is engaged in a regular religious or spiritual activity, such as prayer or meditation, following some kind of ethical standard, such as the 10 commandments or the Buddhist precepts, and some kind of religious studies, such as the canon and commentaries of ones chosen religion or contemplative tradition.)
I’ve not led a contemplative ‘life’, that much is sure… starting from about age 20 I became interested in various religions and read some about Buddhism, Hinduism, the church of Mormons, etc… I have recently started to practice ‘sitting’ again. I don’t follow any religion or adhere to any tradition but my sitting is similar to Vipassana with a focus on the breath.
2) If so, what? Please describe.
I really do just two things… focus on the breath during sitting meditation and I am mindful during some parts of the day – meaning, I become aware of the present moment during the day sometimes. Sometimes mindfulness is induced by setting an hourly chime on a wristwatch… Sometimes it’s part of a routine – I am routinely mindful of doing the dishes, or some other physical activities… or walking… sometimes the mindfulness comes on its own schedule.
3) How long have you engaged in this activity?
I meditated rather regularly for a period of 10 months about 9 years ago… stopping for 9 years due to a downright fear of what was going on inside… and not having anyone to explain it, attempt to explain it, or relate to it… I was in the USA during that time and Buddhist monks I spoke with there seemed oblivious to what I was describing… it could have been a language issue for some of them, but there were others that spoke English at a high-level that were also bewildered…
4) How frequently do you engage in this activity? Is this contemplative activity a daily practice? If not how often do you engage in contemplative activities?
Back then I meditated almost daily… sometimes 10 minutes, and other times 40 minutes, never more than about 2 hours at a time… usually once per day though sometimes twice… recently I started to sit for 10-20 minutes at a time again.
5) How long is your typical contemplative session?
10 to 40 minutes. Usually 20.
6) What do you do and/or not do, during these contemplative sessions?
I sit in a half-lotus position – not strict. Nearly always on the floor somewhere. My back is pretty straight. My neck is always straight… my head is level – meaning if my eyes were open I would be looking out horizontally.
Sometimes I have a cushion under my butt. Sometimes not. Sometimes I am leaning my lower back against a bed, couch, chair or something else.
I have severe back pain from a soccer injury years ago. Sometimes I sit without leaning against something and experience the pain. I put my hands in my lap, one hand cradles the other, palms up. I don’t pay attention to the thumbs, but usually they are resting with one on top of the other or side by side and touching.
I close my eyes. I watch the mind’s circus for a while… eventually it calms and I’m able to focus on the breath. I watch the full cycle of the breath without taking attention away from it. If a thought interrupts I re-focus on the breath. If there is pain somewhere, itchiness, a tickle, a sting, I will shift attention to that and watch it… until it dies away. I will then re-focus on the breath. That’s it really.
During non-meditative sitting, I am mindful during some periods of time throughout the day.
7) Have you engaged in other spiritual activities? If so, what, when, how often and for how long?
Having grown up Catholic and then turning born-again Christian in my early twenties I have prayed and studied the bible quite a bit.
For a period of about 2 years, prayed and read the bible daily, during my early 20’s (I’m 57 now).
8) Have you ever taken mind-altering drugs, specifically psychedelics, such as LSD, mushrooms, or peyote? If so, what and when? Do you still take them? How often?
No, never had the chance – I thought at one time I’d be open to taking LSD for the experience, but never did… and then, after the meditative experiences started there was no desire to at all after that point.
9) What is the nature of the charismatic phenomena that you experience? (The kinds of experiences we are interested in are non-normal phenomena, such as OOBs, auras, chakras, kundalini, kriyas raptures of various kinds, bliss, ecstasy, Jhana, visions, charismatic ringing, etc.) Please explain how they manifest in your case.
The answer to this question would take many pages of text and I’m not sure it would be worth the effort because it’s all me describing things that can’t really be explained at all in words. I will list some typical experiences that went on after giving a short explanation of how things came about.
Update: recently I wrote a book about 100+ experiences that seem common in meditation. It’s at Amazon. If you can’t afford it, I’ll send it free in PDF format.
After reading a bit on zen meditation and other meditation practices I decided to try it. I did not follow any religion of any sort. I read SN Goenka’s book about Vipassana but I was overwhelmed by the vocabulary used to describe things.
I did not believe religion was necessary in order to meditate and I didn’t want to bring any into it. It’s inevitable I guess as I needed some guidance, but I’ve never committed to memory anything much about any “ism” though my practice seems related to Buddh”ism”.
To this day I don’t know the meaning of various Buddhist vocabulary that seems to describe things that I’ve experienced – or that ‘experienced me’ really. Within the past 2 years, I’ve met with some English-speaking Buddhist monks here in Thailand that have told me that they believe I had Jhana.
I read 2 pamphlets that explained Jhana – it explained 8 levels or steps and signs for them… it appears that I’ve seen them (all). Just knowing that I was not losing my marbles (sanity) was so relieving that I cried great sobs of tears at the news.
To finally have someone tell me that they understood or at least ‘knew of’ these states of being was so incredible that I felt as if time had stopped (again)…
In 1997 I meditated as I mentioned for about 10 months. During that time there were many, many experiences that I wrote of in a computer journal after the sessions… I hadn’t a clue what they meant, only that I was following SN Goenka’s Vipassana meditation book (loosely). I focused on breathing and I was mindful during the day. I ‘attached’ to nothing.
The experiences over that brief time were mind-blowing to say the least… and yet, at the time they happened, they were nothing. There was no attachment to them during the sitting meditative sessions. It was only afterward sometimes that I sat, thoroughly amazed, perplexed, and incompetent to understand what had just happened, why they happened, and how they happened.
At times there was a weak ‘wanting’ to repeat an experience… and usually (not always) the experience did not come… it was only when one was totally non-attached to the idea of the experience coming or not coming – that it came again…
That was true of nearly all the experiences… this non-attachment to getting some experience… to having it repeat… seemed to be crucial to progression to the other experiences… if it was a ‘progression’ at all…
So nearly every day I sat and watched the breath for 20-40 minutes. I watched the mind hijack my attention to the breath repeatedly – thousands… tens of thousands of times maybe? At times I focused on the other stimuli that came up – pain, heat, cold, tension, itchiness, a tickle… and I would just watch it – pay attention to it… and it would fade.
Everything faded when attention was applied… except for some real pains – back pain and on occasion, a foot or leg would fall asleep causing the pins and needles that necessitated a change of position for relief…
When I first sat I would focus just on relaxing a bit – getting comfortable sitting on the hard floor… getting a good position… I’d relax all the muscles not needed to sit straight and then I’d watch the mind… I’d see how many thoughts were being generated and thrown around… sometimes it would calm down a lot after 5 minutes… sometimes it took 20 minutes… sometimes I felt so much tension or some other emotion that I got up and went about doing something else and meditated later that day or the next day.
Meditation was not looked at (is not) as a chore or as a way to “get” somewhere special. It was more like a reward… a nice way to spend a half-hour after a day at work or school or both. While it was enjoyable at times, it was also a chore at times… and yet I didn’t look at it as either one – just something to do.
I wasn’t attached to it or attached to the idea that I needed to do it everyday or for a certain time every day or so many times per week… there were no restrictions or expectations put on it… in that way, I remained non-attached to it…
I began to experience various things – some of which I found mirrored approximately other persons’ experiences here in gwv but mostly they did not.
In a few weeks of sitting – I noticed that attention was developed enough that I could focus with great concentration on the breath. Many breaths – as many as I chose… after fully focusing on 6 or so breaths there developed a substantial ‘power’ feeling around the concentration… a very strong sensation that this concentration on the breath was the ONLY thing in the entire mind.
There was no thought any longer that didn’t relate only to focusing on the breath… there was a direct and full experience of the breath. That is all. There was a profound peace because there was nothing else going on.
My personality began to change… my ego began to dissolve… all wants, needs, desires, wanting to “be” or “get” things of any nature started to die away… some Buddhists and others use the term “disenchantment” and yes, it fits… there began to be a disenchantment with things in life… job, car, new things, old things, doing things, fitness, anything, and everything… in fact, NOTHING stood in the face of this disenchantment with everything… one by one things, ideas, wants, needs, plans, etc… were dropped as meaningless…
There began a feeling of “knowing” motivations of people that I knew and also that were virtually strangers to me… but I thought I sensed their motivations whether ‘good’ or not… whether harmful or not… and the intuition seemed to be spot on…
At times early on there would arise some great overwhelming and staggering feeling of joy or bliss! It was as if it were erupting inside of me and then wanting to blow out of every pore… the face was smiling so exaggeratedly that it was as if it would tear from the strain – and yet there was not pain – just total joy or love… impossible to describe…
At times during times of this intense concentration, I would stop focusing on the breath and focus on nothing at all. I found an empty mind. The mind was devoid of all thought. There was nothing. The mind had stopped. The chaos of thought was completely gone.
It was here that things started getting quite strange…
** Sometimes the body would start to ‘go away’… there would be numbness that started in the extremities usually – hands first or feet first usually… and it would travel around to the other parts of the body… soon the entire body would be numb or absent. There would be no feeling of a physical body at all.
** Sometimes the mind or the feeling of mind or “self” would be absent… it was as if watching the body as a separate thing…
** Sometimes there was a feeling of fatness of the body… the limits of the skin would be growing outward – all parts of the body would be getting ‘fat’ – extremely fat and large and filling up huge amounts of space… and the mind would grow outward too – it was as if there was this growing expansion of body and mind and all that one was made up of – to grotesque proportions…
This growing outward feeling culminated in a sort of duel between opposing forces… when the expansion had happened it eventually ran up against another force -almost like the field of two magnets that are made of the same fields – like two “North” poles of magnets… they are the same and yet repel each other… and this outside force was holding the expansion in check before it exploded and merged with the field outside of it… at times this state just existed there for a while – minutes or more while this tension was felt between the two fields that were opposing in the manner and yet were of the same substance… if that makes any sense…
Occasionally the two fields would merge and suddenly there was a feeling of complete oneness and huge expanses of oneness… and peace… like being in resonance with all that IS… to be aware that everything is the same… and is vast… and perfect… really don’t know how to explain this one… there was a feeling or a knowing… a knowledge of the entire cosmos but more, of EVERYthing and that it is all linked together – it is of the same thing… the same process… substance… stuff…. and knowing that one was not different from that stuff… that one was part of it too – not a separate character with a separate ego that meant something one was IT…
** If the breath was focused on even after great concentration came then there appeared to be a sharpening of the focus… or a refining of the focus… it became SHARP… and so razor-focused that it felt as if the entire head was becoming focused into a point which was coming out of the forehead… or, more correctly like the entire head and then BODY too was becoming focused like a cone… with the point radiating from the head outward but there was such immense concentration and POWER in this state that it was phenomenal… like the entire focus of every portion of the body… every bit of energy from the cells of the body was also engaged in this rapt attention and focus… again, impossible to relate in words… but I’m trying!
** When the thought stopped the breathing had also slowed down quite a bit. I’m not sure there was breath at ALL during some points… the breath became so shallow on occasion that it wasn’t known whether it was actually making any movement in and out of the body. It was as if the body was using so little energy to maintain the state that it didn’t need to breath in an out… it was as if the normal movement of air in the room was enough to come into the nostrils and replenish what had been used in the lungs and some of the used air would be expelled… literally there was NO sensation of breathing sometimes… the first time it happened it caused some fear to arise because who had ever heard of breathing STOPPING unless one was dead or dying? I remember forcing some breath in and out just to see if I could… and of course I could… and then I went back to watching the no-breath, no thought…
The ‘no-breath’ feeling wasn’t really the norm and usually, there was some amount of breathing process that was going on and could be paid attention to…
** Once while meditating I opened the eyes and looked at the rug in front of me for a bit… a picture started to form… it was a picture and a feeling in the mind all at once… it was as if I was seeing the form of a boy and girl… both sexes but not one or the other… and it was a very real feeling – as if I was sensing the presence of this being… and there was a knowledge that it was related to me… to my mom and father and family… and it was strange… very strange… but I didn’t attach to it and closed my eyes and focused on breathing…
The next night I heard my wife cry from the shower “Honey, COME HERE, come here!”
I came in to see on the floor of the shower a tiny embryo… a very small baby that wasn’t formed at all yet – was just a fingernail tip size of tissue covered in blood and other supportive tissues… my wife had just miscarried in the shower… and it was as if I was in a dream as I remembered the vision and feeling of the night before… and I showed my wife the journal entry about it and we both were quite shocked…
There were many, many other things that happened during these ‘sitting’ periods… but the most bizarre things to happen were after I STOPPED meditation for fear that I was going insane as a result of these traumatic experiences…
After searching out people to talk to about what was going on – and finding NOBODY that could explain anything to me about what was going on I decided quite emphatically to STOP meditating at all from that point on… the experiences were so surreal and powerful that they left me at a complete loss for knowing whether I was sane anymore…
I decided to pile on the ego-building activities of my life before… acquiring things, money, wants, and desires, even though I didn’t WANT them anymore – the fear made me RUN TOWARD them to re-normalize my life… I began to sell real estate, bought a different car… running all the while from these experiences which were SO LIFE CHANGING and peaceful and awesome… but which I did not trust fully… having nobody validate them for me…
It was then when the search for enlightenment or for whatever was causing these bizarre processes to occur during meditation CAME TO ME EVEN WITHOUT MEDITATING.
I would be walking to the car to go to work and suddenly it would come to me – this process or whatever it is… it would touch me and the world would seem as if it was me and I was the world… the feeling of oneness and total mindfulness of the present moment was there – and there was nothing I did to get it… it just came… and it was fascinating… it was as if heaven decided to touch me with a corner of itself.
These experiences have not stopped in 9 years… though, upon first stopping meditating they came on VERY often and powerfully as if they were intent on changing my mind about stopping the meditation…. it really was if the process wanted to have it’s way with me anyway… it was as if by stopping I really didn’t WANT anything… not even enlightenment… and so when I stopped wanting it at all – it CAME.
And it still comes now… and it’s like gravity pulling me to begin sitting again… to begin being mindful again… and recently I decided that I would not interfere with the process anymore… I’ll start sitting sometimes… start becoming mindful sometimes… 🙂
10) When did these phenomena first occur? How frequently do they occur? Do they still occur?
First changes after a few weeks of meditating in 1997. They occurred off and on from that point on and have occurred for the 9 years of not meditating… they just seem to come and go at will – not my will – but when they will… sometimes twice per day… sometimes not for a week. When I initially stopped meditating they were coming daily a few times too many times per day.
11) What do you believe is the cause and/or origin of these phenomena?
I haven’t the slightest idea…. Things happen when the mind stops. That’s all I know. Today at any time it takes just a second to stop all thought, all reaction to anything going on. It’s “on-call” so to speak. I’m not sure what it’s good for, but I have that available to play with. It makes for good conversation. “I’ll bet you can’t stop your mind for 10 seconds”. Nobody I’ve ever asked can do it I could be asking the wrong people!
12) What do you believe stimulates and suppresses the occurrences, frequency and intensity of these phenomena?
I think they are not controlled in ANY way by me… but, if I sit and meditate or if I become mindful during the day there is more of a chance that they will ‘visit’…
13) Do you dream? If so, how often? How much sleep do you receive each day?
I have dreamt VERY little over these 9 years since meditating… approximately once every couple of months… I sleep 5-7 hours per night on average.
14) Have you ever had a dream in which you knew you were dreaming, which is the definition of a lucid dream?
Yes, quite vivid and entertaining but before I started meditating, not after.
15) Have you ever had a hyper-real dream or OOB? If so when and how often?
I don’t know what these are. I have had lucid dreams as mentioned above.
16) Your gender, age and/or date of birth, where are you from, and what religion and ethnic/socioeconomic group would you say represents your family of origin?
Male, 56 years, low/middle class from USA