May 2009 Intensive Meditation | Day 28
It’s Friday. I spent about 10 days of being quieter – not talking when I usually would have. Going inside instead of moving the mouth for no good reason. I realized early on in these 10 days that I needed to speak just to be cordial to people I met during the day. So, I spoke when I had to and not when I didn’t have to. ‘Have to’ meaning whether or not someone expected a response from me and wouldn’t understand if I didn’t give one. My friends understand. But, strangers?
[was a photo here]
Large queen ant – really nice colors and it was as long as my thumb is wide.
I found it under my motorcycle seat and put it in my helmet for some pics.
There were a couple of moments of profound stillness while sitting recently. Previously I believed, or, never questioned really – that I needed to sit in a certain posture in order to meditate, focus on the breath, or be still. I’ve experimented with some other positions and found them to be much more comfortable than sitting in a half-lotus on the concrete or tiled floor, as is usually the case in Thailand. There aren’t rugs anywhere here.
As I said in a previous post – I found a flat concrete step that I sat at a few times. Like sitting on a small chair, my feet on the ground and my butt on this raised (14″?) step and lower back supported by a square column behind me. I placed my hands in my lap similar to what I do as I sit in the half-lotus – and it’s a really comfortable position.
Then I found a better position. There is an altar at the highest spot on the mountain at Tiger Cave temple… It has a Buddha, a Ganesh, and a Chinese or Indian saint of some sort – he’s memorialized various places around the temple but I don’t know his name. They are all on a raised platform about 4 feet off the level one stands at. If you walk around to the back there is a small place to sit behind the altar which faces some sheer limestone rock faces and if it’s cloudy it can be shady and a cool breezy place to sit. In the past, I’ve sat in a half-lotus here and been comfortable enough.
However, recently I started just sitting in a normal sitting position, legs hanging off the platform. Dangling off I guess you could say. I rest my back fully flat against the vertical wall and close or open my eyes and watch as the body goes relaxed… then the mind stills. It’s a really nice position. I was able to sit like that without much back pain for an hour and 20 minutes once and a few times around 40 minutes. In the past, I’ve not sat much past 30 minutes.
I still don’t know if there’s any reason to sit longer than 30 minutes. Well, there isn’t. But, if I have the time I allow myself to really relax and recuperate from my trip or trips up the mountain.
I’ve been speaking in Thai quite a bit to the monks and visitors I see during the day. Originally I studied vocabulary words and got the first 1000 words down pretty well. But, for the past 18 months, I’ve not tried to learn new words. I realized I probably should as it’s difficult explaining some things to people with what few words I know. General conversations go fine – but it’d be nice to go a bit deeper, especially when talking with the monks about states of mind and things.
Again I’ve been offered a chance to see the private meditation platform that exists on a small hill (40m vertical elevation) close to the foothills area. Every time I go up the padlock is locked – sometimes from the other side – so I know someone is meditating there and it’s an active spot. Pra Pornpitak offered to take me next time we meet at the bottom of the mountain – the problem is, we’re always at the top when we see each other.
My friend is going away for a couple of days so I’ll have a chance to stay overnight at the top of the mountain. I’m looking forward to that. It’s the quietest place I know of to sit or do walking meditation. Would be nice to go for hours without seeing anyone up there. Sometimes, like this week especially, there’ve been few tourists. Farangs (western tourists) have gone home for the most part and it’s become almost a ghost town in some areas. I like it better like this.
I don’t know if my mind state is the same as it’s been or if I’m just noticing differences more… It’s really still. It’s an effort to bring up thought for most things except those that get me emotional. I have a couple of things I notice that bother me and fire up the emotional fire and those things come up quickly and though I see them for what they are – they continue unabated for a minute, five minutes or so and then finally go away. There doesn’t seem to be anything that has the power to affect me much longer than that. Nothing.
I’ve had some trials and nothing affects my mind for more than 10 minutes. Most things are gone in an instant. An example is driving as I’ve said many times before I think in my journal already. Some Thai people are clueless and that is the reason I see the results of so many accidents each month. I’ll be during the average month I see 5 horrible accidents just after the fact. I see one happen once every two months maybe. During some months – especially rainy months I see 10-15 accidents.
Anyway, so the prospect of becoming the victim of one is high in my mind because I’m on a motorbike and most of the accidents involve a motorbike and a car, truck or dump truck. If someone does something stupid to endanger me on the motorbike my temper flares instantly and in that moment I could whack someone on the head with a stick I’m so enraged. Thai people as a culture don’t value life very highly, not their own and not others. It’s fate, it’s karma if death or accident catches up to you. A Thai might, in all seriousness just think of it as outside his/her control. They drive as they wish, some of them, without a thought in their mind about their own driving habits affecting others. I see it on a daily basis.
So, while I don’t value my life so highly – it’s neither here nor there for me, I do value staying out of pain highly. That hasn’t gone away. I still “avoid pain and seek pleasure” like Freud postulated… Death, if it came quick and without a highly painful experience is welcome anytime. It’s not something I think about. Pain is something I think about sometimes. 🙂 But, pain as an experience has changed for me recently too. There is something about pain that is temporary now – it’s not all-consuming. It’s as if I’m able to step back from it… like it’s external to me in a sense. I realized this picking up a hot pot of soup by the metal. It was extremely hot – but I didn’t react – I just continued to put it on the table where I was going. Previously maybe I’d have screamed and dropped it or thrown it on the table. It was kind of taken like, pain is – so, just continue what you were doing. In this case, it didn’t have the power to cause the mind to ripple much at all… much less react.
So, while I’m ready to scream curses at someone for driving like a nut and endangering me, immediately afterward or after a few minutes it’s gone and I’m driving without thought again. Nothing really stays, emotional or not. Nothing has the power to produce much thought on its own. The underlying state is stillness. Emptiness I guess you might say. I seem to be operating on just memory. Another example.
I went to the restroom. I used it. I sprayed off. In Thailand, we spray the bottom of “us” with a dishwasher type spray nozzle. It really cleans one up. I then washed some plates in the back area. I walked toward the front of the apartment and as I passed the room with the towel I grabbed a towel and wiped my backside until dry. I hung the towel and went to the front to put dishes in the spot they usually are.
I realized as I was wiping my butt, that I didn’t think anything – I’m just operating straight from memory. Thought is not part of the general goings-on now. I respond according to what memory tells me I usually do.
As I write this there is very little thought going on. I am writing straight from memory. I’m not actively thinking, playing with ways to say something, or trying to come across in a certain way, style, or with a certain effectiveness… I’m just putting down digitally what is in my memory – almost without thought at all. When I stop typing – there is no thought. I’m aware of other things going on when these fingers stop typing something – cars passing, saws running for construction in the back… birds chirping, the fan going… but there’s no thought about any of it.
Sometimes I put music on – my favorite group of all time must be “The English Beat”. They have complicated music full of beats and changes to the beat. It’s really fun music that I never tire of – even after 20 years of listening to their same 50 songs. In the past, after I’ve listened to great music, it stays in my head. I mind hum it, sing it or find it playing in my head on auto-pilot for hours… maybe at night when I’m sleeping – It is replaying over and over in my mind.
Now? Nothing. When the music stops, it stops. Nothing carrying over – no thought continuing it… it’s just done.
It’s a fascinating state to be in – and yet, while in it – it’s nothing. It’s not fascinating, scary, weird, or fun.
It just is as it is.
I realize though if I were looking at someone else functioning like this – and I was my normal thought-filled self that I would find it very strange that someone was operating like that. I’d wonder if they were OK. If the person was normal…
Here, now, as it is – I don’t ask myself those questions – it just is. Nothing to judge about it. Nothing to compare to except when my memory realizes in a split second that “usually” I have thought running through my mind – pointless thoughts, my voice asking me questions, comparing things – finding the best way to go about something… planning some future event… dissecting some conversation…
When I talk to the monks at the top of the mountain – the most conversation I get all day – sometimes an hour or more… and I stop, they go back down the stairs or need to pray or collect donations from the donation boxes… I’ll go to sit and sometimes I realize – my memory tells me – usually, in the past – this was impossible. Your mind would be ruminating over dozens – hundreds of parts of the conversation to see what you could have said better. Asking yourself, What did he mean by this…? by that?
But the mind is perfectly still now – none of that. I can have the most engaging conversation with someone – a monk or someone from Poland, Czech Republic or wherever… and go sit with a blank mind 3 minutes later and not have to calm the mind – it’s calm like a cup of mercury. Nothing much can make it vibrate to produce thought…
I remember that this is strange. But right now – as I experience it – not strange at all. Just is. It’s fine. It’s normal. ‘Tamada’ Thais’ say. Normal operating procedure… or, ‘usually’.
There is still some thought… it can come up. I can force it up. I can question in my head – or ask questions of myself and answer them. But, the impetus to ask them doesn’t arise often at all. I think the most common impetus or invitation to start thought comes from asking myself – now what?
Once I’ve chosen something to do whether it’s shower, write a journal entry, clean the motorbike, go to the store, get some exercise, or something else… thought will probably be absent during that activity… and then the question might come up – what next? Or maybe, I just operate on memory from there – If I go to exercise then memory tells me after I exercise I shower… so I might return to the apt. to shower. I might then feel hungry. I’ll go to eat. I might need to pick up my friend after work – I’ll go do that. Then, I can just follow what she ‘needs’ to do… I don’t need to ask myself anymore. I’m following her plan – and that’s just as good as any plan.
So – this is what I’m experiencing lately…
Just now I looked around the room to see if memory was jogged for anything I should do today. I saw the VCD’s – movies on cd-rom that we rented from the store I need to return today. I don’t have any cash so I’ll withdraw 500 thb to use for food, gas, and oil change for the motorbike…
So, I’ll do those things. I will also outline some chapters of a book I’m writing at some point today. My friend comes home late tonight – 9:30 pm so I’ll go to the temple from 4 until 9:00 perhaps, bringing some rambutan to snack on while I’m there. Maybe I’ll write the book on the mountain when it’s quiet. Probably will feel the state of mind that is conducive to sitting … maybe not sit – just stand open-eyed and experience things in the field of view without naming them… without thinking about them – just looking and seeing…
I’ve just produced a lot of thought to guide me during the day… It doesn’t hurt to produce thought now – it is difficult though. Usually thought just pops up as a result of things that are bothering us, things we notice, things we question, things we like or dislike, things that we feel a need to do…
Without any of that – how to produce thought? That’s what I mean – strange – it’s hard to get it to come…
Ok then – bye for now… Maybe more photos coming. I remembered I haven’t shown any for a while here, though I’ve taken some.
Update 27 Feb 2019
I just found this ‘draft’ in my WordPress dashboard. I found a lot of them. This is the first day of the flat-mind experience I think. I mean, there had been minutes and hours of it at times before, but this is when it became permanent. Unfortunately, I didn’t copy over the exact date of it happening to this new draft. These posts were published on one of my other websites previously. I’ll have to see if I have the info somewhere else. This was sometime in 2008 or 2009. Probably 2009.
It’s funny because for the last few years I’ve asked myself a few times – what happened to bring this on, and I couldn’t think of anything. I had completely forgotten about this series of days I called “Intensive Meditation.” you can read all that I wrote during that time here.
I just asked my wife if she remembers that time, and she does. She said I was in a different state of mind with all the meditating. Funny… I haven’t remembered for years, but now that I read these posts I wrote back then, it comes back to me.
So, yeah, there was some preliminary ‘event’ that brought on this process. Or, the process was coming on anyway, and it compelled me to meditate often over this time period.
Photo of newborn gecko.
A baby gecko just minutes old after hatching from egg.
It could already run and climb walls. HOW did it know how?
Buddha at top of Tum Sua mountain.
Some sharp clouds the other day.
A Ganesh – Indians hold this symbol in high esteem…
so do Thai Buddhists (Theravada)
Lotus ready to bloom…
A meditation spot I use that’s hidden
(top layer of brick has a flat spot).
It’s cool and shady before 4 pm.
A dog at the top of the mountain.
He jumps all over me until I give him his box of milk.
He devours it.
Nou has been cooking at home on the weekends
now since she has 2 days off a week.
This new job is good for her. For us.
Group of statues at the base of a Boddhi tree.
Tum Sua from the top looking down. The chedi is still under
construction. Maybe another 6 months?
Not sure you can see the chedi and Buddha at the top of the mountain.
It’s 270m vertical – about 810 feet. It seems much higher as you walk it
in Thailand’s heat and humidity. Bring water for the trip up. There’s
usually cold water at the top for free.