This is part of my Meditation Journal (click) which includes dozens of posts.
I’ve done little with meditation this year. I just haven’t felt it. I’ve had things to take care of and I have had to work hard to keep our head above water. I’ve considered a few times this year about doing something more with this site or a new site about meditation. I don’t like the idea of charging for information about how to meditate, but my meditation books have been a steady source of income for 12 years. If I had something to replace the income, I’d gladly make them all free and dedicate more time to this site to help for free.
I’m just not in the right position to be able to do that. Yet. Maybe 2021 will bring this change?
Four days ago I went to a meditation center near our new home. We moved to Ang Thong province in central Thailand. I had to get a job teaching English because I literally had no other option. Money has been a source of stress for all of 2020.
Anyway, so I visited this massive meditation center about 15 km away from our home. It is set in the rice fields and among many lakes. It’s a great location, quite remote, and yet there was traffic from a major highway that is easily heard. 🙁 Not that it would bother me in the least, but beginning meditators must have issues with it. I remember being bothered by a car coming up the street or a dog bark when I was first meditating.
I met with the monk handling meditation for the center, Phra Ruj. He’s Thai. His English was quite good. It’s remarkable really to find a Thai around my age with English that good. As far as I know, he is the only Thai monk, and the rest are from Burma (Myanmar). The meditation is in the tradition of Mahasi Sayadaw.
Someone donated the money for this massive meditation center with what seems to be around 30-40 meditation kutis that look like expensive bungalows. I think I read that no money is required to come and meditate. One must adhere to their meditation rules and probably the 8 precepts.
- I undertake [to observe] the rule of abstinence from taking life.
- I undertake [to observe] the rule of abstinence from taking what is not given.
- I undertake [to observe] the rule of abstinence from unchastity.
- I undertake [to observe] the rule of abstinence from false speech.
- I undertake [to observe] the rule of abstinence from intoxicants which cause a careless frame of mind.
- I undertake [to observe] the rule of abstinence from taking food at the wrong time.
- I undertake [to observe] the rule of abstinence from dancing, music, visiting shows, flowers, make-up, the wearing of ornaments and decorations.
- I undertake [to observe] the rule of abstinence from a tall, high sleeping place.
If you have read much of what I’ve said in this blog, you know I don’t think any of these are a requirement / prerequisite for any sort of meditation. Still, I would of course follow them if I went to their center to meditate.
I talked with Phra Ruj for about twenty minutes. He asked a lot of questions, mainly aimed at figuring out why I wanted to meditate there and what I was looking for in meditation.
I didn’t know what to answer, to be honest. I haven’t meditated much since 2007 I think it is. That intense period reset my mind… my life. I’m still in the same state and I haven’t wanted anything from meditation, or sought it, for a very long time.
What brought me there?
I don’t know. There is some sort of pull that is pulling me in to meditation centers such as this one. I know a guy from France who meditated in this tradition (Sayadaw) in Burma for a few years as a monk. I met him about 12 years ago in Thailand. He was transformed by his time there. He seemed to have experienced absorption and at least a couple of the Jhanas. He was an interesting guy. I’ve since found him on Facebook and wrote him to see what he is up to. He’s working in a meditation center in France at the moment.
Oh! I just realized it was 12:01 am. Happy New Years to all… hoping 2021 has some better stuff in store for the entire world!
So it was nice talking to the monk. He asked about Jhana and I told him about that and some of the abhinnas. It’s funny that I forgot to even mention that my underlying state is a flatline mind state. Maybe next time I go back it will come up.
I’ve yet to meet a Thai monk who had any idea what Jhanas were really like. I usually get looks that mean I must be misinterpreting some state as Jhana or Abhinna. His eyebrows raised a couple of times as I told him some of the experiences. He asked if I meditated now just to get the experiences of Jhana or Abhinna. I admitted I didn’t, and hadn’t for a long time. The states are interesting, but I don’t see a definite benefit of spending time in them any more. They don’t seem to change me in any way. Not any more.
Phra Ruj told me that the center was closed because of COVID but that I could stay and meditate there any time during the day. There were just no overnight stays at this time.
The estate is sprawling, with hundreds of meters between buildings. Everything is immaculately kept, even with nobody there.
I’ll likely go back again, maybe just to get a better idea about what the schedule is there so I can share it with people here on one of our meditation retreat pages. I had no idea this place existed before coming to this province. I just saw it on the Google map and thought I’d go check it out.
2021 is here.
I’ve spent very little time in the flat mind state consciously. To be totally honest, over the past 13 years I have spent SO very little time in the state. I guess I am in ‘productivity mode’ and I feel like I’m just passing time in bliss to remain in the flatmind state.
There is so much to do. I’m getting older. 54 now. 55 in 4 months. We’ve nothing saved. We spent it all over the last two years as all of my online projects have slowed down (crashed) and I haven’t been able to revive them or find anything else to replace them. Hence the teaching here in Ang Thong to make a living and begin to save a couple hundred dollars a month to build up some sort of small safety net.
If you’re stressed out by the incredible challenges we all faced this year, know this…
MEDITATION CAN CHANGE YOUR ENTIRE LIFE.
Meditation can change you from the inside. It can rearrange your priorities without you trying. Without you attempting to shape them. Without you trying to follow the 8 precepts or any of hundreds of other rules. You meditate first. Your mind changes. Your desire to follow the 8 precepts (most of them) just occurs naturally. Not with any sort of limiting yourself in when you eat or where you sleep (#8). Meditation has the power to change your entire self. Who you are, is not stable. It is malleable.
This strange process of sitting and focusing on the breath at the nose seems so simple. So innocuous.
It is more powerful than the strongest brain-washing.
It can totally rewrite your brain’s software. Your code. Your “you.”
Is that scary? It can be, sure.
Do you have a family that relies on you to work? There may be times where you have no desire to work. You have no desire for sex. You have no ability to talk to other people because there is nothing to say. You may give up your car, your job, any valuable or goal, ambition that once meant anything to you… you may let go of.
It happens naturally. There is no choice. The choices are made for you. Your mind, once it enters the Jhanas has sufficiently changed for your entire ego to dissolve and turn into something else. You may join a temple and don robes as a monk. You may sit in a cave for ten years. Twenty.
Really, it’s that powerful.
So, 2021 will be better we hope. Please consider whether meditation at a high level is what you REALLY WANT.
There seems to be no going back once the process starts to go on its own. I don’t know if that is only with me or with anyone who gets into Jhana. I have talked to so few people who have ever experienced more than Jhana 1 or 2.
Please be careful with it. Be careful what you wish for. What you work toward.
If you have any questions, please write me at the address found here on the Contact Page.
My best wishes for each and every one of you… that you find what you’re looking for with meditation… with a family… with a career… with personal ambitions and pastimes. The world is about to change remarkably. Be flexible. Learn everything you can about the changes, and craft a better life for you and your loved ones… and help everyone you come in contact with if it’s within your power.
3 thoughts on “2021 A New Year… Meditation and Life”
Hello Vern, glad to hear you are progressing. I’ve been a fan for several years due to your work with snakes. Now you are doing meditation and teaching English. I know the teaching part and I suspect you will do well at that in Thailand because you know the culture and people very well. Living up north will be ok too. I’m living in a cabin in New Brunswick Canada. It’s very simple and fresh. We have bears but no venomous snakes.
I do not understand the labelling of Jhana. I am not sure if I meditate, I just challenge everything, constantly, forever until it unravels and beyond and reveals more again whilst continuing to see seen.
Interesting! Questioning can be part of anyone’s practice. It’s great to do after meditation as your mind may be clearer and see things more clearly. I don’t talk about my questioning process much, but I also questioned everything about my reactions to things so I could better understand where they came from. I think it’s one of the essentials that helps us learn about ourselves. 🙂