This is part of my Meditation Journal (click) which includes dozens of posts.
I was just thinking that it would be good for me to put down in writing some sort of timeline for the way things have happened for me since starting meditation. Often times people read this journal and don’t understand why I have a girlfriend (wife) and live with her here in Thailand – aren’t I close to enlightenment?
Do I need a girlfriend? Do I need sex? This might clear it up a bit. The experiences started a long time ago. I quit meditating for years and then recently have begun again. Having a girlfriend or not having a girlfriend is neither here nor there. I can have one. I may not have one.
No matter. If tomorrow we go our separate ways, no matter… I’ve had such a wonderful experience knowing her and we’ve had great times… but if she is here – wonderful. If not – it’s not devastating.
Whether I’m close to enlightenment is anyone’s guess. I stopped guessing as I don’t care anymore. Enlightenment, if it’s to be – will probably not be earth shattering. I’ve seen a lot already. I’ve had glimpses of it. It will likely be anticlimactic and won’t matter when it happens.
Anyway – here is a timeline of things as they occurred. Dates are there if I can remember them. It does go in succession earliest events to most recent.
1995 Read some books by Jiddu Krishnamurti, Thich Nhat Hanh, a few Zen books.
1995 December Went to visit wife’s family in Gibson City, Illinois. She’s Thai. Her dad and mother were born and raised in Thailand and emigrated to USA so he could become a surgeon – which he did.
He showed me meditation, introduced me to Forest Meditation ways, sitting meditation, Jack Kornfield books, Buddhadassa Bhikku, Ajahn Chah, and S.N. Goenka’s book about Vipassana Meditation. We meditated a few times and he taught me the basics of Anapanasati.
1996 After reading the Vipassana Meditation book by S.N. Goenka I started to sit regularly for 15-30 minutes on the floor in a half-lotus position.
During 10 months of this, I was able to find various levels of concentration… by focusing on the breath. At times I could concentrate on 100 breaths or whatever number I chose. When I got to that point I changed the meditation to focus on what arose – whatever sensory objects occurred. Sometimes it was breath, sometimes pain, sometimes there was nothing at all – it felt as if I had died or the ego had died completely.
I had many weird experiences during these months – and no teacher. I wasn’t Buddhist. I wasn’t anything. I was a guy that was just trying meditation by himself – along the lines of what the Buddha did. I didn’t have any ideas about becoming enlightened or progressing far down the path toward nirvana… I sat mostly to relax my mind from stressful days working.
I became a bit concerned by the bizarre experiences. They were fantastic and bizarre and I didn’t know – was I becoming mentally unstable – or was this natural? Normal? I looked for answers from monks living in the USA at Thai Buddhist temples (Theravadan monks) and many other resources.
Nothing explained the depth of my experiences. I could find nothing written about the detailed experiences of Jhana and other things that were going on inside me.
Scared I was “losing my mind” – which I was, but in a good way I found out later – I abandoned all meditation practice and ran AWAY from it. I read nothing. I didn’t sit anymore. I practiced no mindfulness.
Immediately the process that used to happen ONLY during meditation sessions began happening at any time I was awake. I’d be walking in the park, driving a car, working, whatever – and I’d slip into a state of pure experience – where the mind was absent. It stopped. There was no naming of anything – just pure experience of things as they were.
The process seemed to be going on by itself. The “Letting go” or running from the process seemed to have started it in earnest – much more intense than it was before. This went on for months – well, years – but for months very often a few times a day down to its present level of once every couple days on average.
1997-2004 No meditation or mindfulness practice. Well, very, very little. I was afraid of it. The process still came sometimes and I didn’t push it away – but I didn’t encourage it – I just ignored it and let it happen and go away. It came and went over the years as it did without any input or reaction from me.
2004. I finally found Santikaro – an ex-Buddhist monk that told me he thought my experiences sounded like Jhana. They were normal experiences. I was amazed that the experiences were normal. I meditated a couple of times to see – could the mind easily stop like before as I sat? It did. It came very easily compared to when I first started to meditate so many years ago.
2004 November I moved to Thailand. I met with some senior monks who told me the experiences were Jhana and that I could continue to practice with them at the temple. I declined. I started meditating a little bit – nothing regular – but if the process came to me – I’d sit and watch what happened, not attaching to it – just watch.
Sometimes I’d sit and focus on the breath. When the mind calmed, then stopped I’d watch other sense objects – pain, heat, thought if it popped up, sounds, etc.
2005 I visited Wat Pah Nanachat and spoke with the abbot of the temple who told me the experiences I had sounded like Jhana – and why don’t I stay at Wat Pah as long as I like?
2007 I was living near a temple in Krabi Thailand that had a long flight of stairs to walk up. So, I’d walk up for exercise a couple of times a week. Then daily. Sometimes I’d meditate at the top. I began having some intense experiences, one of which was a period of over 6 hours of no thought – no ego – no emotion – no drives – no ambition – no anything… It occurred at the top of the mountain – and lasted the whole day and evening. I’ve detailed it here on the journal somewhere.
Recently (2008) when I’ve sat to meditate I notice that there is no ‘watcher’ to watch the breath at all. To watch the breath – to focus on it requires something that isn’t inside anymore. It’s gone for some reason. There is none of the usual thing that watches breath when there is silence.
When there’s silence now – when I let the mind stop – and just watch – there is nothing watching. There is just silence – the most profound silence. Stillness.
It’s as if I’m in that state – where there is no time, no wanting, no being, no happiness or unhappiness – no dichotomy. Nothing is running through the mind filter – it’s just pure. Nothing is changed by the mind – just experienced as it comes up and goes away… rising and falling of different objects are noticed…
That can go on as long as I let it – but usually, I just sit 30 minutes or so and then get up and do whatever I felt like doing.
That’s the state I’m in now. While the mind is working – doing things during the day – it is active and does them. When I stop mind candy coming in – music, computer, doing something – there is an absolute stillness of the mind immediately. It’s quite odd!
I’ve been thinking to get a bicycle and roam around to temples here during the day and sit when I felt like it and be mindful of the stillness the rest of the time. I’d like to keep a journal of some sort – but usually when I get in any kind of regular practice the desire to keep a journal of any sort disappears quickly. There’s just no motivation in that state to be recording anything – to be doing anything – what is it worth?
What is the purpose? Now I can see the purpose – to share it – but, in that state – when it’s so silent and any doing – is not worth it – it’s impossible to contradict it and record something consistently.
I went for months without writing in my journal after about 5 months of meditation because the urge to record disappeared. I think the same would happen this time.
So – as it is today I’ll use the restroom and eat my bananas, drink my instant coffee and walk up the temple steps. That’s what’s planned. If it happens – great. If not – no matter.
Not sure if there will be any decision to go mobile and live at the temples for a while, guess we’ll see what happens. There’s no feeling that I need to. Yet no feeling that I need to continue in this way – working on the internet and going about life in the way I have for the past year either. Sometimes I think that this might be a good chance to let it all go for a few months and see what occurs. Sometimes I think – no matter, can do that anywhere.
Sometimes I think – and sometimes I don’t.
What if I was just quiet for an entire day? 2-weeks? 10 months?
8 thoughts on “Meditation Experiences Timeline 4-21-08”
So you were able to have these odd occurrences after only 10-12 months of mediating for 30 minutes a day?
Would you say that you’re at peace and content all of the time now?
Thank you for your time.
I was talking to a friend recently and he asked a lot of questions about what happened before I meditated… well, I was a long distance bicyclist… Apparently I was meditating on the bike for years and didn’t really know it… just freeing the mind of all thought – and feeling the legs churn… feeling the energy… focusing on breathing. I also did a year or so of some highly introspective examination of my mind… I was studying in psychology – and I started to analyze everything about me – why was I like this or that… I recorded all my dreams on cassette and played them back and analyzed them. I looked at my emotions and tried to figure out where they came from. All this was before I ever meditated – and it probably helped to prepare me to sit and have jhana come so easily.
I don’t think I’m enlightened… but not sure what would be like. I’m not content and at peace all the time no. But, I can be within a couple seconds if I choose to. 99% of the time I don’t want for anything and don’t need anything ‘extra’ whatever that might be.
thanks for writing…
I also have a checkored and non-traditional experience of meditation and was just wondering if you ever experienced what I would call the ‘ocean of golden light’? Would be interested to know what your thoughts would be on this.
Thanks for an interesting read.
Maybe… it is impossible to put into words the experiences – so that you understand what I’m talking about… at least impossible for me. Are you talking about a sort of nimitta that grows and envelops your whole being and bathes you in a peaceful, happy light?
I have had those experiences – if it’s what you mean. Starts out as a small feel good feeling. If I smile a little – it goes from there and launches into an ecstatic feeling of happiness until you burst type feeling…
Thanks for writing John – always good to get comments here…
I’ve been trying to read about the jhanas to make sense of meditation experiences that happened years ago. The nimitta/sign appeared after I thought I had fallen asleep during meditation but the sight of it made me aware/start thinking again.
The light shot towards me as well as did a sound that grew louder. An indescribable orgasmic feeling shot through me and then I found myself floating around in a blissful, golden orange light. My awareness would fade eventually so I have no memory of ‘exitting.’
From what I’ve read I think this was one of the jhanas. Any thoughts?
I think so too – at least part of jhana… jhana usually lasts a while if you’re in it real solidly – at least from my experience but there can be glimpses that dont stay long too. this sounds like you’re on the right track anyway!
You said it happened years ago – are you still meditating? What are your experiences today?
The experiences lasted for more than a half hour each approximately if I were to guess although its hard to tell since I couldnt check my watch. I had been meditating on and off for 15 years when it culminated in those experiences. They happened about eight years ago. I stopped meditating because of some really bad experiences in the aftermath. Ive read up on kundalini awakenings as well and I think I woke the kundalini prematurely or something because I got myself into a bit of a mess – strange stuff. Ive only recently recovered enough to try and think about meditating regularly again. The trouble is that as soon as I meditate now, I am aiming for those experiences – the reason I had them in the first place, I think, is because I didn’t know anything at all them. I was only trying to let go, relax and focus on my breaths. They say in the books that one should find a teacher or guru. I dont dare seriously meditating again the way I did without one. How did you find your teacher/guru?
Sorry I couldn’t get back quicker – so many things going on here – websites hacked, wife’s father died, and had to do a Malaysia visa run so I can stay in Thailand another year.
Your experience sounds eerily similar to mine. I also stopped meditating after getting into the higher jhanas. Without a teacher, it’s a scary place. I hadn’t the slightest idea what was happening. On one hand – it felt as if there was nothing to fear.
On the other hand – I lost my wife, job, and everything I had… and who I once was… Vern died in 1999. I was like a flat-line at the time, no personality, no wants, no needs beyond basic food and water. No need to talk, do, or be anything…
So, quite a strange time. I stopped meditating and went as hard as I could (very weakly) back into the fray and tried to ignore everything I had been through – fearing the worst. I thought maybe it was possible I was losing my mind… and in a way, that is exactly what happened! hahah – and in a good way – I lost thought… I lost all the things that were unimportant in life.
Anyway – I found a monk in Illinois – Santikaro. He spent many years ~20, as a monk in Thailand at Wat Suan Mokkh in Chaiya, with Buddhadasa Bhikku.
He told me I experienced Jhanas – and what they were. WOW. So it was a good thing, not bad… that felt good. I cried on the phone like a kid – in relief…
I went to Thailand, met some more monks that understood what jhanas were -and they were so impressed. Impressed with what I wondered because I just did simple sitting and focusing on the breath like SN Goenka taught. Never sat a retreat, nothing. Still haven’t. Just dont see any need for it at all.
So – here in Thailand I meditated a bit more… had more jhana… and then reached a place where there was no more want to even find out where jhana led. No care anymore… it’s like disillusionment with the whole thing.
There is no more question about – what is enlightenment, it just doesn’t matter what it is. Doesn’t matter if i can get there or not. Doesn’t matter if I got there already and turned my back on it – or this is it. No clue, and no need to find out…
So, no teacher… never had one. The teacher was the SN Goenka book – minus all the fluff… I wrote a meditation book at amazon… 22 day meditation course by vern lovic… you can find it there – that’s what i did.
There is an excellent monk in your area – the UK – if I could remember his name… Vimalaramsi? I think that’s it. Maybe he’s in USA now, and is from UK. He had an excellent write-up about the jhanas that was exactly what I experienced – he is the real deal… and I enjoyed some things he wrote.
Anyway – thanks for writing and best of life and luck to you…