Here we answer some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) about meditation. You can submit a new question anytime here.
What is the most amazing, frightening, and profound experience you have ever had during meditation?
I just wrote about 101 of my meditation experiences in a new book I’ll add to the bottom of this post (cover pic).
The most AMAZING?
This comes from the 63rd experience listed. In short, once I attained complete concentration on the breath, I had an experience where the focus of that concentration was so intense that it felt as if it was morphing my forehead into the shape of a cone.
Then it wasn’t just my forehead that was changing, but it was my entire body and being that was being shaped into this cone – with a laser-sharp focus. It was certainly the most bizarre. I think it was the most frightening experience as well, but I’ll choose another for the next section!
The most FRIGHTENING?
The 23rd experience listed in the book is Breathing Stops.
At some point I noticed that my breath had just naturally become very shallow and slow. I was still breathing, so it was just an interesting experience.
This happened often after the first time, and I thought little of it. I noticed that my concentration on the breath was easier at that point.
Then I realized my breath was so shallow and slow that maybe it wasn’t really THERE anymore. I couldn’t feel breath at nose, or in the chest. I couldn’t feel my diaphragm moving, or chest rising and falling.
I got scared and breathed in forcefully a couple of times. Ahhh, better.
Then it happened again. And again.
I kept letting it go on a little bit longer each time before I took some forced breaths to make sure I didn’t pass out. It was scary because I thought, this isn’t SUPPOSED to happen. Lol. I didn’t know what was or wasn’t supposed to happen, but it was very odd to me.
Eventually, I let it go on for a minute, two minutes, three minutes, five minutes, and more. I didn’t pass out.
To this day I’m not sure what is going on. It felt as if I was sort of dead during some of these experiences, so it has the potential to be quite scary to some people. Today, it doesn’t bother me at all – it’s just a natural part of meditation.
The most PROFOUND?
The MOST profound experience I had involved one of the Abhinnas. It was one of two of the most profound experiences in my entire life.
To sum it up as short as I can’
Meditating one night on floor in spare bedroom. Perfectly calm mind and body. A fourth Jhana type feeling, but I was able to open my eyes and stare at the floor. I saw blurriness. It changed in texture and pattern. It rose off the floor. It hovered 6-12 inches off the floor. I felt an intense love and caring for it.
I also knew somehow that this was of my same family line – my mother, father, grandparents’ there was some lineage that we shared somehow. It made no sense that this blurry cloud could mean that to me, right???!
In a few minutes it went away. I wrote in journal about it.
Next night. Wife showering across the house. She yells VERN COME HERE. I think spider in the restroom. I get up slowly, walk slowly. She SCREAMS LOUDLY VERN COME HERE QUICK!!!!!!
I run and bust open the door, expecting a bat in the bathroom in the bathroom, or snake or something.
She’s standing against one side of shower. Blood all over shower. Small mass of tissue on shower floor. Blood all over and being rinsed by falling water.
She said it just came out of her. She had spontaneously aborted.
We had a baby. We had no clue.
And then it hit me’ (god I have such chills right now remembering this)’ It hit me that I saw the soul of that baby somehow in my meditation. We were both freaked out for years, I’m still a bit weirded out by it!
I found out only 8 years later what Abhinnas are. One of the Abhinnas is the ability to see souls passing and arising. Apparently, I was seeing our little baby passing. Chills all over my body right now.
Meditation is the most powerful activity I know of. I would have never dreamed that I’d experience the things that I did during my simple practice.
Overall, a very positive experience and I recommend that if you want to learn to relax your mind and body and be in control of your emotions FAR better, you might try it. 😛
What is one of your most incredible meditation experiences?
I think all of the Jhana levels were incredible. The first Jhana was the most mind-blowing because it was emotional as well as a mental experience.
The 5th through 8th Jhanas were mindblowing in a different way. More profound, I would say.
I’ll tell you about one of my other incredible experiences though.
This one is the 38th experience listed in my book about the bizarre meditation experiences that are possible.
38 – BODY PARTS REARRANGE
I was doing mirror meditation. Sitting with eyes open much of the time, sometimes closed. When open I noticed that sometimes my body would fade. Sometimes I could see through myself a bit. That was interesting for sure. Later I learned that this is a natural process that happens in the mind when the mind is still and deprived of stimulation.
So, that’s interesting, right? Sometimes I disappeared in the mirror and I could still see behind me in the garage.
The experiences always seemed to ramp up a bit. Maybe the mind really wants to get our attention back from focusing on the breath and gives us a real good one?
I was doing mirror meditation and I stared at me for a while, then closed the eyes. When I reopened them I was dumbfounded. My various body parts were rearranged in the mirror. I mean GREATLY distorted.
My head was down around where my knee should be. Knees were up at shoulders. Left food was up around the right side of where my head should be. And so on. It was a serious shocker, but by that point in my meditation practice I had seen all sorts of odd things. Nothing like this yet, but I took it in stride!
Did you ever have a scary meditation experience?
Yes, I’ve had some. I’ll go through and see how many out of the 101 experiences I wrote about in my book were scary.
I found 9 experiences out of 101 that I would consider scary at the time. Keep in mind that some more of the experiences, if they had happened within the first few weeks of my practice, would have been scary to me.
With time passing and bizarre experiences adding up one after another, one is less affected by them.
I hope that helps! If you’re curious about what other sorts of meditation experiences you might have, my book is filled with them.
Can you share a meditation experience of yours in detail to encourage others to try meditation?
Here’s one from the 64th experience in the book.
64 – The First Jhana
When your focus on the breath is rock solid you may experience either a visual or bodily nimitta (sign) that you can focus on instead of the breath. You can then focus entirely on the image or physical feeling and go into it with your mind’ with your whole being. You just let go and move further into the focus on the object.
If you smile a little bit, it helps you relax. A bit of happiness grows inside the mind, and it feels nice.
At some point, all of your senses shut off and you no longer hear or feel anything. Noises may occur but your mind isn’t aware of them. There is no response at all.
Some claim that monks in Jhana states can be picked up and put in the back of a pickup truck and taken somewhere and put back down and they are not aware of what happened when they come out of their meditation.
I’m not sure if there’s any truth to those claims, I never put it to the test. I just know that I never remembered anything from the senses occurring during Jhana – no sound, pain, feeling of the body, etc.
As you go into the nimitta in your mind or the feeling in your body, the good feeling grows. It’s a mild feel-good feeling at first. It feels nice because you weren’t experiencing anything good or bad just before this as you focused completely on the breath, and it’s nice to feel happy inside.
The feeling grows steadily, slowly. Then it grows some more. It keeps growing. It may grow to the point where overwhelming bliss is filling your mind with happiness. It increases so much it spills over and it can astound you with how much happiness there is inside your head when minutes ago there was nothing of the sort.
Welcome to the first Jhana.
The first Jhana is different from the others. There is a very strong emotional component to it. Buddhists break it down into two different kinds of feeling or energy present during the first Jhana – piti and sukkha.
Piti is akin to enthusiasm, and some call it rapture. Sukkha is like joy, or bliss. Both combine to form the ecstatic experience of the first Jhana.
It’s unfortunate in a way that the first Jhana is so emotionally charged because this is what brings people to a state of clinging at it – wanting to repeat it so badly, and that is as we’ve learned, exactly the way to prevent it from coming back.
This was one experience that was so intense that after it came strongly the first time I would feel strong anticipation as I felt it coming on again. This delayed the build-up of the Jhana for a few sessions until I told myself over and over that the state didn’t matter. I let it go and told myself that I didn’t care if it came or not.
Then it returned, and another blissful experience occurred. It can last tens of minutes. I’ve never had it last an hour, and probably not even forty minutes.
Eventually, the peak feelings fade, and one reaches a nice place where neither mental force is too strong. Within a short time – minutes or hours – you may drop out of the Jhana or you may find yourself in the second Jhana if you were able to let the experience of the first Jhana go completely.
How does meditation help?
Can it be used to calm me, relax my mind, and can it be used to eliminate phobias, bad memories, regret, shame, guilt?
Great question! I can only answer from my own perspective and from what I’ve seen in my students over the years.
Just to qualify, I’m talking about meditation on the breath at the nose. It can probably be generalized to include meditation on any sense object (sensation noticed by the human senses).
Meditation can help over time with helping a person to become calmer and less emotionally reactive. One of the reasons we sometimes have a hard time relating to other people is that we have an issue with what another person says that is in conflict with our own beliefs. We can have a problem with how they say it. We can have a problem with how many times they say it or how much they insist that what they’re saying is true! All of these things can push our buttons.
A simple meditation practice can help to diffuse our reactions initially. A harsh reaction about something can, with weeks or months be replaced with a milder reaction. Over some more time, it may diminish to a weak reaction. Then no reaction. Then a productive reaction. It has been fascinating to watch this happen in myself over time. It isn’t something you have to aim for, it just naturally occurs as a result of your continued meditation practice.
In the second part of your question, you asked some tough ones!
Can meditation help with:
- bad memories
- problems in your life you are trying to fix
I think phobias are probably best handled with some behavioral therapy techniques rather than meditation. Google how to best resolve whatever phobias you have and put the plan into action and see how far you get. You may eliminate your phobia entirely on your own, or you may realize you need professional help from a behavior therapist to give you a plan. Either way, most phobias can be cured or diminished, so there’s hope!
Bad memories, regrets, shame, guilt, and problems in your life you’re trying to fix are all mental constructs that can get in the way of us fully enjoying life. Meditation can help these in a general way, but I think nothing beats attacking them head-on with a competent therapist who can help give you a plan of action that fits you.
Meditation can surface all of these things as you sit and focus on the breath. When we’re quiet, the mind bubbles problems up to the surface. Most of us never sit quietly alone. When we do so in our meditation practice, the mind is free to bring up things that are unresolved.
The mind does this so we can look at the issue and think about it. Think about how little power it has now – probably months or years later.
You may feel sad and cry in meditation because of some things that have happened in the past, or that you fear coming up in the future. That’s usually a benefit of meditation because it gives you a safe place to take a good look at the issue and time to think rationally about it.
Meditation is a sort of natural cleansing process for the mind to bubble up problems to have them dealt with so they affect you less. If over time, the problem surfaces again and again and doesn’t slowly fade away in importance, again I might suggest finding a competent therapist to help.
Some issues meditation can resolve, and others should be faced with the help of a counselor.
I was a mental health counselor for years, so I think that’s the best place to start, however, you may start with friends and family members who could also give you some advice to get over the issues you’re facing. Then later, try a counselor. 😛
I hope that helps you a bit!
I’m not a practicing therapist any longer, but if you want to write to ask anything you can find me at the contact link here.