Thai Amulet Market

There is a world-wide market for Thai amulet creations of all kinds. Here in Thailand the selling of amulets is a 100+ Billion Baht (30 Million dollar) business per year. Probably far in excess of that.

In my small town we have 13 Thai amulet stores and an amulet market that shows up every now and then – usually on Sundays. Thai people wear the amulets for protection and good health, good luck, natural disasters protection like tsunamis and floods, and some even to bring love into their lives.

I don’t know where this aspect of Buddhism started, or if it’s primarily in Thailand and not that much in Buddha’s birthplace of northern India which is now actually, Nepal. Chinese Thais are big on amulets, and maybe that’s where the whole Thai amulet craze started. I’ve no idea. What I do know is that most Thais are wearing one or own (rent) at least one. Some wear 5 at a time. Some have whole collections of rare amulets that they keep hidden away. For what reason? Again, not sure. Good luck? To give to family as they themselves are ready to pass?

There are some monks that wear amulets. Ajarn Jumnien of Tiger Cave Temple in the south wears 20+ amulets all the times I’ve seen him. People call him the good luck monk because he gives amulets away to people, and is never seen without them. He believes in the spiritual world – and apparently that amulets have power to protect people from certain things.

Amulets are seen for sale locally for 50 THB (about $1.80 USD) up to 20,000 THB ($600+ USD). The more expensive amulets are those that Thais believe to be older or they could also be recent, but with more power. The amount of power depends on the monk that created the amulet, blessed the amulet, or according to what protection similar amulets have provided in the past.

The Jatukam Thai amulets were a Thailand-wide craze for about 3 years when someone wearing one was shot at by a gun that misfired. Twice. That has since died down and there is no new amulet that is fueling the amulet market in Bangkok or Thailand as a whole.

Do Thai amulets work? Do they have magical power? Did the Buddha say anything about this? Or, was it all created by monks that realized they could help people feel safer by creating protection amulets? At some point some capitalists became involved and turned Thai amulet making into a massive business. I have a friend that sells Thai Buddha amulets here. She doesn’t believe they work very much either – but there is that voice inside her, put there by years of observing Thai tradition in the northeast where she was raised, that says – it’s real. Amulets have power. They work.

Personally I don’t believe in the power of amulets from Thailand, or anywhere else, to help to protect me or give me good luck. What do you believe?

Still State of Mind

Published July 6, 2010. Page updated 8 March 2019.

There is still – after a couple years now, I haven’t looked back to see when it was exactly, this underlying state of absolute stillness in the mind when I’m not doing something.

I can work all day on writing articles, books, solving some problem, web development, whatever it is… and then when I stop – when it’s done and I don’t choose to do the next thing – there is just nothing. The mind is there – aware… awake… ready to do something if i asked something of it – but, otherwise it’s just there in an absolutely still state.

It’s not calming to have it happen… it just is. There is no relief in that state, though afterward I can think about it and say – oh, that must be good for the me somehow. It must be stress reducing to let the mind go to that state sometimes. Often even maybe.

But, there is something about being in that state for a long time that isn’t right with my active mind.

I haven’t let it go on much past a couple of minutes.

I’m trying hard now to understand why the resistance of the active thinking mind of now – with going into the thoughtless state for a long time…

1. What is the point? This seems to be a big one… is there any point to sitting there and experiencing that state? It’s nothing new anymore, it’s there every time I stop doing anything with the mind. It’s not a novelty. It just is. And, it’s just that… there’s nothing really pulling me to do it more.

2. There is some idea in my head that by going into this silence for a long time, I’ll come out changed. I saw what happens when the mind first is transformed after experiencing jhanas… and it’s a revolutionary change. My wife and I split because I had completely changed. I wasn’t the person she married – or the person I even knew.

Is that what is on the horizon for me if I go into this silent space often?

Just doesn’t seem to be any real good that can come from it when I have responsibilities to my wife, my daughter.

So that’s how it’s all going here – how about YOU?

🙂

Vern

What is the Point to Your Life?

If you’ve ever asked yourself – ‘What is the point of my life?’ You realize soon that it might just be the most important question you could ever ask yourself.

But few do.

When you answer that question you’re answering what it is that is most important for you to focus your entire life on – for 70 years or so. Is there one focus, or many? What are they?

I wrote a post a while back – 3 years back, in 2007 about “What is the Point of Life?” and it received a lot of attention. Apparently there is a real lack of information or conversation about this topic and some people think it’s important enough to search “point of life” in Google to see what’s out there.

My post talked more about me personally and my experience with meditation – and I think had to be rather boring for most – but still there are almost 150 comments on the article.

I decided to create an ebook about this important subject and am almost ready to publish, “What is the Point of Life?”

Ebook contributions accepted for "What is the Point of Life?" to be published in April
Add your opinion about the point of your life to this ebook - click the book for details.

If you have any interest in sharing with us your personal idea of the whole point of your life – the focus of your life you can do so, and I’ll publish it in the ebook when it’s released in April.

Write a couple sentences, or up to a couple pages – up to you!

Send to: AimforAwesome@@@gmail…com

You’ll receive a credit for your entry – if you want. You can include any info you want including link to your website. You will receive a free copy of the ebook when it’s released.

🙂

Enlightenment Dreams?

A little status update – I’ve not written for a while – nothing really happening. I’m not consciously sitting at all to get anywhere… to get to any state… I occasionally still have a state come where thought stops in the middle of what I’m doing and I’m just sitting here looking at the computer (usually) and in complete peace of mind…. no thought – no want, need, thinking that i need to do something – continue what I was doing… there is no memory of what I was doing a second prior… very different state…

Anyway, so maybe 3 -4 times over the past month or so I’ve noticed that as I sleep – either falling asleep or actually sleeping and dreaming this happens…

I find myself doing something – anything really… and gradually i let go of the thought… and they fade out- leaving me with a oneness – a complete, pure – untainted oneness like I get with meditation at times… but it just comes during this waking moment (during sleep)…

There is more of a totalness to these dream experiences than what happens during real waking hours…

What I mean is – I feel a movement – a change of perception – of reality – where I become everything in front of me, behind me, etc… I become one with it – but actually become it. The body is completely lost – gone – and whatever “i” am – becomes the whole scene in front of me… I blend into that.

Different than what I have while awake – but, quite difficult to explain – like everything that happens – eh?

🙂

Still in Thailand. Still working hard on internet projects… when I stop “doing” – there is nothing. I’m instantly in that state of no thought – no desire – no anything… and it feels – ok – not good, not bad, not happy, not sad, not something cool – just nothng because thought is absent… there is an awareness that things have changed – but thats it… everything is fine…

again – impossible to describe…

anyone want to share anything happening with you – ? feel free…

aimforawesome@gmail.com

Meditation and ADHD – ADD

My mind has slowed down quite a bit from the ADD – ADHD mess it was in the past. I notice when I speak with fast talking people. I can’t keep up – nor do I try.

I notice when I sit at the computer and go half the speed I used to go. My internet connection is significantly slower and maybe that is helping the mind slow down too?

I’m attributing the reduction in ADHD – ADD symptoms mostly to meditation, and more specifically, the results of meditation since I rarely ever do it anymore. The changes have already been made inside the mind and I’m not sure that I could speed back up to the way I was in the USA – or not. Could I still be employed in the USA in this state? That’s a funny question. But, funnier still – I don’t know the answer.

I think I’m running at about 50% of what I used to in terms of speed of understanding and producing things, and multi-tasking.

If you think you or your kids might have ADD – ADHD you should drop by this ADHD kid site and find some articles about it. It’s one of my other sites. I’m quite interested in the topic and will be growing the information there over the next few months.

Recently I wrote a book about meditation being the cure for ADHD. If you’d like it, let me know. I’m revising it at the moment and I need to fix a few more things before letting it go live at Amazon and elsewhere.

🙂 Vern

Short Dream: I’m in the Way

I just remembered this dream last night, though I had it about 2 weeks ago. I thought I wrote a txt file for it – like I usually do for odd dreams but I can’t find it just now. I’ll try to remember. Wait, maybe better to search my email – as I’m sure I wrote it down somewhere….

No, not there… Ok, here goes…

It was a short dream. I was standing up outside. I was leaning back slightly. There was a force holding me up – as the wind would if it were very strong, but there was no wind – just  a force.

It was coming from behind and pushing through… it was as if, if I let go – it would push straight through me and blow the body apart into pieces…

There was little feeling of the body at the time – and the tiniest sense of it – was all that was left of ‘me’. I guess if that got out of the way – this force would explode through me…

Happiness of Another Dimension

I was looking through some of my links and found one to a guest post I did for Life Optimizer a while back on “happiness”.

I wrote about the happiest – most joy filled experience I’ve ever had (well – had them a lot of times). The phenomenal bliss that around Jhana 1.

I think you’ll find it interesting.

I tried hard to describe the experience in words – but of course – words pale in comparison to the real deal.

Happiness of Another Dimension >

Layers of Reality 6-21-09

Today I went to one of my favorite quiet spots. I layed down and watched the mind as it responded to stimuli in the environment – sensed by one of the senses…

To say I watched the mind is not accurate – but I’m at a loss how to explain what happened.

There doesn’t appear to be a watcher unless I want the watcher there. The watcher is that which is aware that I do what I do. It is the ego I guess. It’s the “me” that I think is me. I can make it stay all day as I do work on the computer – building websites, doing everything I need to do to make $ to survive and provide for my family.

Well, when it’s quiet… when I’m not ‘doing’ anything – it isn’t there. Me – isn’t there. But, there is some awareness of what is going on in the mind as the mind registers sounds, sights, pain…

Memory still works too. After I come out of the session where I was just aware of what went on… I can remember the strange experiences too.

There was a strange occurrence today…

The eyes were closed – but the eyeballs behind the eyelids were focused out somewhere – past the nose – straight out. The body was sitting now.

There’s some awareness of a screen or field of vision -even with eyes closed. It’s an area that’s lit up a big – like sitting in a car and looking through a windshield of a car – which would represent the field of vision shape – roughly.

As the mind was aware of itself noticing sounds and things and yet creating no thought or linking to memories to figure out what the sounds were the field of vision shifted… and all turned left. As it did, it revealed a few layers – I didn’t count. I just watched. All the layers rotated left so I was looking at the sides of them – from an angle.

The left most layer which was brightest – yet still very dull in brightness or hue, dropped away and disappeared. Leaving the other layers. But, when it dropped there was a reality shift in the mind. Something changed.

The mind was aware of this state for a while (15 minutes??) and then the eyes opened and looked at the mountain in front of the eyes. The eyes showed the mountain to the mind – and the mind responded – showing colors and shape… and that’s it… no more movement. No naming it – ‘mountain’. No naming the color green or the trees “trees”.

Gradually I came out of it – or rather, came back into it – the ‘me’ came back into it and got down from the stand and walked down the path to return home.

I wish I had photoshop skills to show you what happened visually…

I’ll try to explain again what it resembled…

Picture looking at an 8×10 piece of paper horizontally in landscape mode – right out in front of you. This is the field of view – or the screen of your mind you see when your eyelids are closed but eyes are open behind them.

The paper started rotating left – as if on an axis in the center of the 11″ side. As it rotated I saw there were multiple papers – some inches apart that also rotated the same way… so now there were 2, 3 or more slices of paper turned at an angle so I could see how thin the slices were and that there were more than 2 or 3.

The one on the left fell over flat to the left and then fell beyond view and disappeared. This left the others standing – and they were much darker and less defined than the first slice of paper. They were fuzzy and got fuzzier and darker the more to the right I looked, at the far right seeming to blend in with the dark of my field of vision as it was then – very dark, amorphous.

Hope that helped.

During this meditation (before the strange experience above) I also focused on the hands in the lap for a while… eventually the breath slowed and the hands disappeared… the body disappeared briefly and came back… the hands – forearms stayed gone for some minutes…

ok – that’s enough writing – tired tonight…

What Am I Looking At? 5-31-09

Over the last few months 6? 8? there’s been this constant stillness of mind that is always there. If I stop typing right now – it’s there – instant empty mind. No thoughts. It’s funny… it’s the state that I used to try to reach before with sitting sessions. Now it’s here – what’s to try for from this point forward?
Today is last day of May.

5/31/09

i noticed something over the last few days… my mind is needing some real effort to get started in a different direction.

Between thoughts – between actions and concerted efforts where I’m doing something – there is a break. A revert back to the base of the mind – which, as I’ve said has been like a flatline state of activity – no thought.

So usually I’m seeing this when i’m on the computer… i open a folder and look at the files there and there’s no recognition about what they are…

If I stare at a file on my desktop – it doesn’t make sense – nothing about it makes sense – symbols don’t turn into thoughts which tell me what I’m looking at.

So, I can stare at it for a while… and then I just open it – double click to see what it is… then gradually I’m aware of what it is…

the strange state is continuing… 🙂

vern
If anyone is having or has had a similar experience, please write me… I don’t know anyone personally that has had this. Thanks…  ( AimforAwesome [{ @ ]} gmail. c o m )

Nibbana, Nirvana, or Hypnotic State? 5-23-09

sat 23 may 09

Without writing a book about this… i want to mention it i guess because if at some point nibbana comes despite my not chasing it – there should be a path or a succession of things that happened that others can look at to help them realize they too are on the same path…

i don’t appear to be ready for anything to happen… i swear at the dog outside to shut up… I get frustrated when the computer – a logical device, acts so illogically.

I see myself as if i’m beside – and looking on during these times. I’m watching myself act through it… the body is angry.

Anyway… so, saturday i was shooting dean’s welcome video for his sites. in the palm grove next to wat tum sang phet.

I was looking at the camera ready to start part of the monologue when I had a moment of awakening… of experiencing the moment – but, it was a state unlike any other I’ve had… I’ve not been hypnotized – but maybe this is what hypnotism is like?

I was staring at the camera… and the world changed. The camera was the center of focus and everything around in the peripheral field of view changed to be a little blurred, and then sparkly… as I realized that i slipped into another state I started to be aware of the sparkly as vibrations… i was watching the vibration of everything – moving at cellular level or – however you wish to say… as if alive… even the dead leaves on the dirt… everything moved… appeared to sparkle like stars…

the background grew a little more bright I think – not dark like a night sky…

there was no thought… no emotion… and just this watching of things as they twinkled…

it was a feeling not too unlike eggata – one pointedness of mind… where the mind gets so focused on an object that the object is the sole focus. This time it was the camera – just for having been in the center of the field of view at that time – possibly.

was the mind just ready at that time to focus…?

was the activity i had done for an hour – talking to the camera about dean’s sites so relaxing and gradually focusing the mind that it was prepared to focus instantly like that?

there was this idea that if i let go – immersed myself in the experience that that would be ‘it’ – that would be the total awakening…

I let go a little and felt another change – my body wasn’t felt and it was moving increasingly toward a 100% experience outside of me – outside the ego… I grabbed back at the ego – at this ego-filled self and found enough that the process stopped expanding and taking me deeper… then i just stayed in a similar state as before and watched it for a little while… finally choosing – as I nearly always did – to end it…  not giving it any special attention to continue on… not grasping at it at all…

in hindsight – this putting it off when it comes… putting off spontaneous jhana states and other states when they come might just be responsible for urging the process on further…

anyway – another cool experience as i look back on it…

The state of the mind now – is same as it has been for a while… i can work when i choose to work. when i have nothing going on – and am not responding to anything – the mind reverts to blankness… no thought… no emotion… no anything.

Always there is this bit of knowledge in my head somewhere that says… if you let it all go – that will be it… nibbana will find you…

And so it feels like I’ve known that for so many years… but now it’s even harder to ignore as I experience states like this one the other day that spontaneously arise… similar to, and yet different from states that occur during jhana and other experiences.

If anyone is having or has had a similar experience, please write me… I don’t know anyone personally that has had this. Thanks…  ( AimforAwesome [{ @ ]} gmail. c o m )

Constant Stillness 5-16-09

Over the last few months there’s been this constant stillness of mind that is always there. If I stop typing right now – it’s there – instant empty mind. No thoughts. It’s funny… it’s the state that I used to try to reach before with sitting sessions. Now it’s here – what’s to try for from this point forward?

Is this Nirvana? I was just going to say – “I don’t think so.” But, really – I’ve no idea. It’s a very different state. I’ve never met anyone in this state. I’ve read of it happening to a few people but it seemed to be a phase… It seems to be very similar to what UG Krishnamurti described and I’ll have to go back and see some of his videos to see if it’s a match for his experience in any way. I think he used to say that he talked and interacted when he did… and when he stopped – that was it. There was nothing there that was coming out. If someone interacted with him – he could interact back. Me too.

I think mine goes a step further though… I can also motivate myself to do things. I can work on websites, write articles, ride the bike, hike a mountain, etc…

When I’m not doing anything – consciously focusing on thinking and doing – it’s gone. It’s back to the no thought state. It matters little how engrossed I was in something before I go back to nothing. It can go back to the nothingness state instantly… without memories replaying or a nagging to get back to the thinking/doing state.

Very strange.

And so – it’s been this way for months… and I’ve sat to ‘meditate’ a few times – and yet – what was there – nothing – same as if i just walk around quietly or drive the motorbike, or whatever. I can react to things that are necessary – that stimulate me – I can respond.

I can consciously DO things – but, it has to be a conscious effort now. Before, my entire life… things came out of the thought circus that was always churning around… now it’s a concerted effort to actually do something or think something – unless there is an activity – a stimulation that demands response on the outside -and then I can respond easily.

Anyway – so that’s the current state of things…

Oh, one more thing.

I read something about the state of perpetual mind or something – and it reminded me of a state I’ve experienced while in Jhana in the past… it was a state where the mind felt as if it permeated the cosmos… it was infinite… boundless space – is how it’s described in Buddhist texts? I think something along those lines…

So, just without thinking I tried to feel the same feeling as what the jhana was like before when I meditated and went through the different levels and reached it…

it was there instantly.

There it was… that feeling that the mind was already everywhere. There was no feeling in my arms, legs… body. It was as if the body was gone at that time.

I stayed like that – sitting here on this chair for a short while – minute or so?

Then went back to what I was doing… giving it a little thought, but not much – I just got back on the computer and continued web development.

If anyone is having or has had a similar experience, please write me… I don’t know anyone personally that has had this. Thanks…  ( AimforAwesome [{ @ ]} gmail. c o m )

Another strange dimensional experience 3-16-08 >

Glowing Head | Strange Dream

This dream occurred on 5-1-2008.

[This page last updated: 8 March 2019]

Yesterday I lay on the floor in my room after having done some exercise outside. It’s hot here in Thailand, some days hover close to 40 degrees Celcius. I think that’s 97 degrees F. Not sure exactly, but it’s warm, I know that!

So I was laying on my back, arms to the side. The mind was in the state for meditating and so I tried to watch the breath for a while – forcing myself to watch the breath. As has been the case lately, it’s a hopeless exercise because I can’t get there to be a ‘me’ or ‘self’ to watch the breath. It’s strangely absent.

I tried about 10 minutes – repeatedly trying and trying. It just wasn’t going to happen.

Instead, I then focused on just relaxing the body and not thinking anything – letting thought stop, mind stop.

A numbness came – the limbs first and then the body was absent. Just felt like there was no body. I was aware of sounds, but nothing of body. Mind was still.

In that state, I drifted off to sleep for a few minutes. I had a short dream. It was very short. Saying it was 5 seconds – is probably exaggerating. It might have been 2 seconds.

The dream was very short – one scene. It was of two hands holding a head that was glowing – though already I forget what colors – I believe orange – but, no matter I think. It was glowing as if on fire… as if a magic fire inside the head. The head was neither man nor woman… it was just a head. It was being handed down by two hands – one on either side of the head. And it was set into my head. It was absorbed into my head.

The feeling as it came into my head was one of thanks – of gratitude that something – someone – something – offered me this gift… whatever it was. There was no idea about what it was – though now, awake – I could think of some. No point really. It was a very unique dream and lasted just seconds. I awoke and remembered it for a few minutes. My head was light. My mind replaying the scene and searching for the feeling inside.

The feeling was just ‘thanks’.

So, that was my strange dream. Today is my 42nd birthday. I’ll sit here in a few minutes, I’m in that thoughtless state…

🙂

Buddhism | The Truth of It

I wrote this on April 23, 2009.

[This text last updated on 8 March 2019]

I’m not Buddhist per se. I’ve never been. I might have thought I was during a time years ago – but that was ignorance about what I was doing. Meditating in the way of Vipassana doesn’t make one Buddhist. Reading Buddhist texts doesn’t make one Buddhist. Learning about Buddhism doesn’t make one Buddhist. Being Buddhist means believing in Buddhism. This is something I’ve not yet done.

I’ve not believed in anything since I gave up on Christianity and the god of the bible. I’ve studied lots of religions – isms… with beliefs that usually required faith of some sort. Faith to me is impossible in any circumstance. I gave it up as I left Christianity. I’ve recognized over the past 20 years since then that faith has no role in my life. One can live by objective reality and what one experiences. No more is needed. I don’t need to believe in a savior outside of myself. There doesn’t need to be some god waiting to make things better in the end. I’m OK with any scenario after I die – or here as I live.

I’ve read a lot about meditation. Not a lot about Buddhism. I’ve skipped that mostly. I’ve not wanted to know someone’s idea of what was necessary to find truth outside of the physical act of meditation. I don’t believe that the Buddha was anyone special. I don’t believe that the teachers that taught the Buddha the levels of Jhana were anyone special. I don’t look up to anyone. I don’t have any heroes. I don’t have any need for affiliation with a certain group, religious or otherwise. I just don’t have those needs like most people do. Why? I don’t know – that’s just ‘me’. Maybe it’s you too?

I meditated for just under a year back around 1997. I sat and watched the breath. The body calmed. The mind calmed. The mind stopped. Thoughts stopped. The world stopped. Jhanas came rather easily from what I’ve been told from monks here in Thailand. Apparently most people have a heck of a time reaching them. They came just naturally for me. I have a theory about ‘why’ that happened.

Briefly, it’s because I didn’t believe anything about Buddhism beforehand. I didn’t try to follow some magic formula. I didn’t follow the rules of Buddhism. I didn’t follow a teacher or a book or anything. I just sat and watched the breath. When it calmed I watched the calm breath. When it felt like it stopped – I watched that. I watched the mind struggle with the idea that the breath stopped. I watched the mind calm back down…

I watched the mind enter Jhana levels. All eight are familiar to me. I’ve been there. I’ve seen the 8th Jhana – I don’t know how deeply I was in it as I have not become a “never returner” and I am not an enlightened person. I still have the silliness of ego and yet I’ve been changed – without a doubt – irreversibly I guess – because I am not the same person.

When I ran from meditation it was from fear. Fear of going too fast. Fear of losing my mind – in a mental health non-productive way so to speak. I was studying for my masters in psychology and the things I experienced during meditation and afterward were very similar to symptoms of someone losing their mind.

I’ve since come to understand that the western view of the mind is quite different from the eastern one. I was told by monks that the experiences were normal and advanced and nothing to be afraid of. Still, even knowing the Jhanas and other experiences that came during concentrated meditation were normal – the ego was disappearing so suddenly and the personality change that accompanied that destroyed a marriage very quickly, and put me on a strange course of life.

So – I ran for 6-7 years or so. Ran away from meditation. I built up the ego again – as much as possible. I didn’t meditate at all for many years. I’ve since restarted to some degree, living here in Thailand and coming to grips with the idiotic things I did with my life after running away from meditation.

And I’ve meditated again here sometimes. Jhanas have come easily and immediately. It seems that when I became quiet and sat – the mind followed very quickly. Currently, I seem to be experiencing a strange state where there is nothing underneath the mind candy of the day when I do decide to be quiet and stop all incoming noise.

What I mean is – if I stop typing now, and I just listen. There is nothing. The mind is active, calm, at peace… There’s nothing flying around in the mind about wants, needs, pain, past, future. It’s just as if the present moment is everything there is. Thoughts are gone.

Occasionally thoughts can come – but, they’re just noted and they go. Sounds – of chickens outside are noted, let go. Cars passing outside, the drapes blowing in the wind, a twinge of neck or back pain – just noted and gone as quickly as they came. Not noted by the conscious – rather, by something else. Or maybe by nothing else? Not sure how that could be since something must experience something of the object before it goes.

I guess it’s kind of like a reflective board. The “me” has become like a mirror… the sound of the chicken comes in the ear, rattles the eardrum, the mind doesn’t move – the sound bounces off the mind and goes back out the ear – reflected and unchanged.

That’s what it seems like. All sensory objects seem to be doing this in this state.

Before this – (before the end of last year) meditation was the best way to get into this state. Now – it’s just the underlying state all the time. If I’m not quiet throughout the entire day then I experience it at night when I’m quiet. There’s nothing to distract – no mind candy like music to bounce around in my head. When it’s quiet – it’s deathly quiet. There’s nothing really.

What a very odd state.

So, getting around to what I wanted to write about today…

This idea of Buddhism as having some truth never really mattered to me. I suspected that it did have some amount of truth in it because immediately my meditation seemed to have changed me. Changed the ego. Changed everything. My entire perspective on life changed after entering Jhanas even for the first time. After the hundredth time or whatever number – there has been a profound change. Buddhism says that meditation is a path to enlightenment. Is that true? I’ve still no idea, but it’s something I’ve started to ask myself.

There is a western monk that has written a couple of things – or talked about a couple of things and others have transcribed his talks… that I’ve become interested in as a resource to help me answer my question about Buddhism having any truth.

The things he says – sometimes hit me right on. It’s like he’s talking about me and what I’ve experienced already. And yet there’s more. I’m not a finished product. I know this – but, I didn’t know why really. I mean, I know why – I ran as fast as I could away from this powerful meditation and the process that was going on.

Only recently I’ve begun to wonder – what is next? What is the point of staying in this present state when it seems so unfinished?

So, I’ve read some of his ideas. His name is Ajahn Brahmavamso.

I’ve cut and pasted a long article (below) he wrote about Deep Insight that was really something amazing to me. It was amazing because it hit home with me. He talks of the Jhanas in a way which I agree with totally. He talks about the states that occur before entering Jhana and then that state that occurs as one leaves the Jhana. He talks about insight being best practiced while in the state upon exit of Jhana.

I was amazed that he knew this much about it. I’ve experienced just what he says to be true of the state upon exit… and it was nice to read about what he felt like after coming out of Jhana – the peace, the serenity that lasts, sometimes for days – is just so other-worldly. It was so nice to read he had experienced that as there are so few people that can write about it – or that do write about it maybe, with authority.

It was great to read that he thought he might be enlightened after coming out of a particularly powerful Jhana session that left him with a changed state that lasted overnight. It really does feel like that – and of course, one asks of the self – am I enlightened – and there’s no answer. How could there be? Who knows what enlightenment is until it’s felt?

So I found this talk extremely interesting for that aspect of it. Then, as I read more I began to understand something about Buddhism that I hadn’t cared to learn about before. All the Pali and Sanskrit words that I never bothered to learn and refused to say… I read about some of them. I thought that maybe the Buddhists have something here.

Ajahn Brahmavamso said that the best way to insight about the truth of the world is that upon exiting the Jhanas one can look at the truth about life… Namely one can look at Impermanence (anicca), Suffering (Dukkha), and Not Self (anatta) while in that state.

He then went on to go further into what it meant to look at each of these and gave some further explanation.

I’d not done any purposeful focus on anything related to these things before – and yet, there was a natural inclination of my mind to focus on these things to some degree after I came out of the Jhana states as I did. I wanted my experience with meditation, with whatever happens to be as pure as possible without being influenced by what I thought should happen or by what others thought should happen.

In this way, all the Jhanas came naturally. I never manipulated the Jhanas by focusing on something in particular or not – the way that he says to do so in the following description of Jhanas. I didn’t want that. To me – the entire idea behind going further with meditation was that one “let’s go”. That is the crucial piece of the puzzle that I held onto throughout my practice. Let it all go. Nothing is worth attaching to that pops into the mind.

I didn’t want to know that meditation teachers thought I should focus on this or that because I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to let the natural process take place however that came about.

So, in this sense – I was successful at what I thought could work. I let go of any teaching other than focusing on the breath until the mind stopped. At that point, I noted things as they came up and let them go. During the day when I wasn’t meditating, I tried to be mindful of the present moment like Thich Nhat Hanh taught. That’s all I did. That was the essence of what I thought I needed to experience.

And, it worked. So far so good.

Now, I find myself in this strange state. There is nothing underneath the acting of the mind and body that takes place every day. When I stop – there is nothing in the mind. It’s empty. It’s a mirror reflecting back out objects as they come and hit the mirror.

What to do with this? Anything?

I was wondering if perhaps I should now use some of what I’ve learned about Buddhism from this teacher and contemplate anicca, Dukkha, and anatta with that quiet state of the mind.

Should I now abandon my tried and true method for going further into the process?

It seems to be rolling along on its own – but, should I now take it and direct it somewhat? Should I purposefully look at these things – to find out the truth about them?

That’s the question. The answer is – yes, I’ll do it just for the sake of doing it. If it works – wow. I’ll have learned something. If not – no matter. No point in not trying since I’ve read it already! Ha!

So the point of this journal entry is to tell you that I’m likely going to put this into practice and see what comes of it – if anything. Not attached to the idea that something will or won’t. But, it’s something to do. Ajahn Brahmavamso apparently has gone through these things on his own.

Has he become enlightened? I don’t know him. I’ve not met him. I’d probably not know if I did meet him. I just feel something good about him because he has had very similar experiences to me. That in itself is quite amazing. Maybe there’s more I can learn.

I think there is more truth in Buddhism – in their beliefs, but before this, I wanted to find out entirely on my own. If I use this bit of a cheat to examine impermanence, suffering and it works – then I’ll adopt it into my beliefs. If not – I’ll go about it the same way I was, without guidance, just watching, noting, letting go and being mindful during the day.

Oh, a note – if you do read the transcribed talk below… I DON’T agree with him about the “fermented fish curry” being something not delicious! It’s called, Bla-rah or bla-lah here in Thailand and it’s spicy and quite delicious once you’ve acquired a taste for it. It’s exceptional really, and one of the things I’m not looking forward to not having if I return to the states.   🙂

Have a great day!

Vern

* * *

Deep Insight

Ajahn Brahmavamso

 

This article is a transcription of one of the talks given by Ajahn Brahmavamso during a 9-day meditation retreat in North Perth, April 1999.

 


This morning’s talk is the last of the major talks of this retreat and so it’s nice to talk about those things which really count. In other words, it’s about the practice of deep insight to find out the way of the mind, the way of the world, and also to be able to have such insight which can really change one’s way of looking at things and thereby change one’s life. So this is that deep insight we’re looking at, which is life-changing. And that’s the sort of deep insight which the Buddha was recommending and which forms the heart of this path.

When I talked in the last few days about the Eightfold Path, in some parts of the suttas there’s a Ten-fold Path. They add an extra two factors on the end. Did you know that? This is the hidden two factors of the eightfold path. We only give these secret teachings at the end of a retreat! They’re not really secret at all. The ninth factor is right wisdom, right understanding, samma-nyana, an understanding which is not just view, but which is a real deep seeing. The tenth factor is the perfect release – freedom, samma-vimutti. But it’s nice to add those two factors onto the end of the eightfold path. It’s as if the eightfold path is what you’re doing and the ninth and tenth factors are what happens as a result. By practicing the Eightfold Path you get that insight wisdom, samma-nyana, the clear seeing into reality. Seeing things as they truly are and not as they appear to be, or as we want them to be, but as they truly are. A result of that is the tenth factor – perfect freedom.

Those are two factors which need to be stressed in this eightfold path, or tenfold path, because they show that this eightfold path is what you do to get somewhere. And to get it through insight, through wisdom. But when people use that word “insight” they should really stress the word “in” – actually to see within, to see deep within, to see the source of things. Because so much of what people take to be “insight” is really “ex-sight”, and that’s why it excites you! It’s seeing outside somewhere. And that’s why it sort of stimulates the mind instead of settling it. If it really is true insight it makes you very peaceful and calm. So there’s a difference there and again, the main reason why people don’t get those deep insights is because their mind is not calm enough, not powerful enough to see deeply within themselves. And that’s why traditionally, in Buddhism, to gain that sort of insight we say the Five Hindrances [1] have to be overcome first of all. That’s the whole job of the Eightfold Path, if you like, to overcome the five hindrances, and to get the mind in that sort of state that it’s clear and it’s powerful, and it can discover insight. So the insight is the result of the Eightfold Path – and I’m talking about the big insight now.

And so to overcome those five hindrances that I’ve been talking about, you’ve seen very clearly in the last eight or nine days that there’s something you should know about – the hindrances, their power, and just how sneaky they are sometimes. Just when you think that you’re getting peaceful, sometimes a thought might come up, a desire, a wanting, and that’s a hindrance which stops you getting into deep meditation. Or sometimes a little bit of ill-will towards yourself which manifests as impatience – that’s a form of ill-will. And to see those and hindrances shows you how insidious and difficult are these hindrances to overcome. And to gain insight, all the teachers, all the texts, all say that without abandoning the five hindrances there’s no insight, there’s no wisdom. So that should be one’s preliminary job, to overcome these five hindrances. And the way those five hindrances are overcome is what I’ve been teaching here this week, the Jhanas. Traditionally, they say that where the five hindrances are overcome is called upacara samadhi. They call it “neighborhood concentration”, neighborhood samadhi, where you’re just right next to Jhanas but not fully in them. It’s like the entrance to this hall over here, you have to pass over the entrance, the neighborhood, to come into this room. And also you have to pass over it as you go out. These are upacaras, neighborhoods.

One of the mistakes which people make with understanding insight meditation, is that they think the neighborhood as you go into Jhana is a place where you should do insight. Just stop a bit short of Jhana and try and do insight there. And that is one type of upacara, but that is a very difficult one and very unstable, because you’re not really quite sure whether those five hindrances have been overcome or not. You’re not really sure if you’re in that upacara samadhi where insight can truly happen because those hindrances are extremely sneaky at that stage, they can manifest just so easily. And also if there is a state just before Jhana, because of the way of the mind it’s very unstable, and you can fall back so quickly. And that is why some people misunderstand, or fail to recognise, that there are two upacaras – there is the one on the way in to Jhana and there is the one on the way out of Jhana. In the same way you pass over the threshold of that door on the way in, and also on the way out. And of those two, it’s that upacara samadhi after Jhana which has the qualities of being certain and long-lasting. Having trained yourself in this way, you know what Jhanas are, and you know that state just afterwards is what the texts call the upacara samadhi. And from your experience you will know that state lasts much, much longer, is much more stable, than any upacara samadhi just before you arrive. It’s because when you are experiencing the Jhanas, when you’re right inside them, it’s as if the five hindrances have been completely knocked out and made unconscious. You’ve slugged them, and the longer you stay in that Jhana, the deeper the slug! So much so that when you come out of the Jhanas, they are still knocked out – unconscious, inactive. You’ve beaten them down. And very often if you spend a long time in a Jhana they’re beaten down for a long, long time. And anyone who’s had a very nice meditation, especially a Jhana, will know that the state afterwards, the happiness, the joy, lasts a long time, effortlessly, because you’re full of energy, clarity, power. And that is the state where insight can be found, where insight is made.

You have to be careful, sometimes, of that state after Jhanas, because sometimes the experience is so powerful and so beautiful, and sometimes the hindrances are knocked out for days. Sometimes for days after you get a nice Jhana, you have no desire for things of the world. Even the food on your plate you can take or leave and you don’t really care. And you have no sloth or torpor – you can sit until late in the night, get up early in the morning, you’re just so mindful, perfectly, hour after hour, day after day. There’s no ill-will that can come up: even if a mosquito comes you sort of welcome it – “please come and take some of my blood! Out of compassion for all the other people out there, come on take some!”. You get so much compassion because the mind is so high and full of joy. And sometimes people think that those states are full enlightenment.

You know, I wrote about it in that book “Seeing the Way” [2]. I had a nice meditation one evening and after that I just wasn’t tired at all. When I lay down to sleep I was so mindful that I didn’t really need to sleep. Just laying there on my side watching the breath gave so much happiness, was so peaceful. When I did go off to sleep, it was only for a very short time, and I woke up afterwards and immediately was just so mindful. Not like it was this morning – not “oh, here we go again! What shall we do, where am I?!” – but completely mindful in getting up and going to the hall before three o’clock, before the bell, and sitting meditation there and just going into nice samadhi all morning. It was great. And I thought “at last, this is it, oh great!”. And it’s nice to think you’re enlightened – it’s quite a nice way to start the day!

Some of you who know this story know what happened next… when I went on alms round I was just perfectly mindful, there were no defilements in the mind at all, it was just so clear. Until it came to the meal time. And meals are very good if you’ve got any defilements coming up, especially if it’s the only meal of the day and that’s all you’re going to get. And I was in a monastery in the north-east of Thailand, a very poor monastery away from the cities or towns, and usually we used to get the same meal every day, day after day. It was sticky rice and what they called rotten fish curry. And it was called rotten fish for two reasons – first of all it was fish which was pickled, caught during the rainy season and put in a jar and closed up and left to ferment. So it was like “ripe” fish. And it was also rotten because that was how it tasted! It was really awful stuff – you got sort of used to it but not really used to it. And so you’d have this every day – rotten fish curry with your rice, and that was all you had. But this one day it just happened after I became “enlightened”, somebody made us this pork curry (there was no vegetarian food in those places) as well as the rotten fish curry, and as soon as I saw this I thought “I’m going to have something nice to eat today”. And the abbot (I was second in line), this Thai monk, he took these really big scoops of this pork curry, huge scoops, and put it in his bowl. And I thought that was really greedy, but it didn’t matter because there was plenty left for me. But what he did next was, after taking out two huge scoops for himself (and he didn’t take any of the rotten fish curry – even he didn’t like it!)… he said “well, it’s all the same isn’t it, whatever curry it is, it’s just the four elements” and then he poured all the curries together and mixed them up. And I thought “if you really thought that, then why didn’t you mix them up before you took yours! Now I haven’t got any nice food today”. And I got really angry at this monk, really livid at him, thinking “how can you do this, taking away my nice meal. It’s not every day we get this nice pork curry. And you’re a north-easterner – I’ve come from the West, I’m not used to rotten fish, you should be used to rotten fish. Now you’ve mixed it all up!” And what stopped me from getting more and more angry was the thought “hang on, I’m supposed to be enlightened!” And that really makes you depressed, when you find out that you’re not enlightened after all. That spoiled my whole day!

But that’s what happens sometimes, because for many hours the defilements are just gone, and you’re just so clear and bright and you think “wow, this is it, this is the way it should be”. Perfectly clear and peaceful and light. But it’s not, it’s just samadhi experience. So, be careful sometimes that you don’t come back and say that you’re enlightened because little things like the hindrances will, sooner or later, when they’ve recovered, come up and will play with you again, take you around by the nose.

But the important thing with that upacara samadhi which is after Jhana, that is the time to really get into deep insight, because your mind is powerful. The mind has energy, it has clarity, and the five hindrances aren’t there. This is the time when you can see what you don’t want to see, what you don’t expect to see, because all that wanting and all that expecting has been subdued. And you know it’s been subdued because you’ve gained that Jhana. I think many of you know how expectations and wants are the very barriers which stop you getting those nimittas and entering samadhi. And so by training yourself to subdue those wants and expectations, those desires, they are knocked cold, they disappear, you enter Jhana, and when you come out again they’re still not around. Because there’s no wanting, there’s no expectations, you can see what’s truly there rather than what you see or what you expect to see. That’s where deep insight arises. The expectations are as much a hindrance to Jhanas as they are to insight. That’s why, when insight happens (this is one of the characteristics of it) it’ll always be something which you never expected. Quite different than what you thought it would be. That’s why it’s called an insight – you’re seeing something from a fresh angle, something new, something completely different.

However, there are ways of encouraging those insights to happen, especially after the Jhanas. And the way to encourage them, in the words of the Buddha is to get the Jhanas and then standing on that experience, develop the insights into anicca, Dukkha, anatta. The three characteristics of impermanence, suffering and not-self. “Standing on that experience”, using that experience both as your power source and also as your data to investigate these three areas of reality. And those three areas, again, are impermanence (it’s wider than impermanence – I’ll mention more about anicca), suffering and not-self.

The impermanence, the first thing one can really watch, is the uncertainty of everything. Because one of the meanings of nicca, the opposite to anicca, is something which is certain, which is regular, something you can rely upon. So the opposite means that things which are there will suddenly disappear, unreliable, irregular. And it’s interesting contemplating that word, aniccaunreliable, because how often do we seek for something to rely upon in this world. Some little place of security, something we think is always going to be there for us to come home to, either physically or mentally. Some sort of refuge, inside the mind or inside the world, a place of safety or a thing of security. What anicca is doing is saying that all of “that” is insecure, is insubstantial, is irregular, and you cannot rely upon it. The tendency of the human being is maybe to admit that a lot of the world is unreliable but to seek some sort of secure place, or secure person or secure mind state, which you think is secure and is always going to be there. That’s why some people look for partners in the world, someone you can rely upon, someone who’s always going to be there for you, a soul-mate. But all soul-mates eventually disappear, they go, they too are unreliable, as you find out when you marry one!

But not only that, but people also rely on places and things, the little hide-aways, the nice little houses, the little nests. And even those are unreliable. Eventually they will disappear as well. But we also have the little nests inside of our minds, some little place that we rely upon. But even that, anicca, when it gets in there, reveals that even that is insecure. That’s why anicca, when you see it clearly, is quite frightening. It brings up the feeling of complete insecurity. There’s no place where you can stand. No place where you can sit down. Everything is always changing. And because of the fear which arises when one starts to look at anicca, it means that unless you’ve got the powerful mind-states of Jhanas or post-Jhanas, you’ll never be able to pass through that fear and see through to reality. There’ll always be some part of existence you’ll think is secure, reliable, permanent. And that’s why we aren’t enlightened.

Sometimes we think it’s not very nice to realize insecurity, but it’s wonderful to realize the truth of insecurity for two reasons. One, because when you know you haven’t got a home (in all senses of that word), then you can be like a bird, you can fly everywhere. Every place is a tree where you can rest for a while. You’ll never think that you own that particular tree, that “that’s mine and the other birds should keep out”. You can share. Two, it also means that when you realize that all these things are completely changing, then when they do change, when they do disappear, when things alter, you’re never surprised. You realize that this is actually the truth of things, that their insecurity is actually a freedom. Security is like being in prison, being bonded to something. So after a while, one gets quite a sense of release with insecurity, a sense of being able to fly and being able to go where one wishes rather than being bound down.

And so this is what happens when we look at anicca, it gives us a sense that all this is coming and going, that there’s nothing which is stable, no place that we can rest on. But in particular, the anicca which is going to discover the third aspect of the three characteristics of existence, anatta, that is the anicca which is very difficult to apply. That’s anicca which applies to the one who sees anicca. Sometimes to see the one who’s seeing is just so difficult – it’s like trying to catch an eel, it’s so slithery and slippery. As soon as you catch it it’s slipped away again. Or it’s like a dog trying to catch its tail. The self trying to see the self. And this is why seeing anicca in the doer and the seer is just so hard to do. This is, again, one of the reasons why we can’t do this is because we don’t want to do it, we don’t like to do it, we’d rather not see the insubstantiality of everything. It’s just too frightening, it’s just too challenging, it’s just cutting too deep. So the only way that can actually happen is if after a good meditation, which is just so peaceful, and we’re so happy and joyful, that that happiness and joy overcomes any fear and we can go so deep into insight.

In the same way, and you’ve heard me tell you this before, the only way you can be open to hearing things you don’t want to hear, to criticism for example, is when you’re in a good mood. If you’re in a really good mood and you’re really high, then I can tell you anything which is wrong with you, even personal things, and you don’t mind. That’s why I tell people who are in relationships with husbands and wives, if there’s something very difficult you have to tell your partner, some criticism which you think they might not really take very well, then take them out to dinner, dress up really nicely, take them out to a really nice dinner, give them the very best food, what they really like, and then, when they’re on the last course, when they’re really nice and happy, all soft and smiley, you can tell them anything and they’ll accept it. You can give all sorts of criticism, which is personal or otherwise, and because they’re happy and relaxed, they can listen, they don’t feel challenged. But if you tell them when they’ve just come home from work after a hard day, then “that’s it, I’m calling the lawyers, this is divorce!” This is what happens because when you’re feeling happy and when you’re feeling relaxed, you’re more open to seeing or hearing what you don’t want to hear or see.

In the same way, when you’ve had a good meditation, everything’s nice and peaceful, you’ve got so much happiness, then you’re much more open to seeing those insights which you would normally never allow yourself to contemplate. There’s no-one here. Life is suffering. Everything is impermanent. Those are challenging. Take the suffering of life. This goes completely against the grain. “Life is beautiful. Life is a bowl of cherries. Life is out there for you to enjoy. Go out and experience. If you can’t actually go there, then get a video on it”. There’s so many ways to enjoy yourself in this world – they’ve even got virtual reality now. Soon, you’ll be able to get virtual Jhanas! Just put on this little mask, push a button, and all these beautiful nimittas will come up and lead you into virtual Jhanas! So you don’t have to sit on the floor and waste all these nine or ten days, just do it in half an hour at a virtual reality store. I’m sure that someone will try that one of these days. But that’s not the way it works. We’d like to have it the easy way, but sometimes it takes a lot of giving up and letting go. But actually to see suffering is to see something that, by its very nature, we don’t want to see.

I was talking about perceptions the other day, actually right throughout the retreat. There was a very fascinating experiment done, I think it was at Harvard, to examine the way the mind perceives things, where they flashed images up on the screen. They got a few volunteer students to sit and see what was going on, with a notepad by their side. First of all they flashed these images up so fast that there wasn’t really time to understand them – they were just a flash on the screen. And they asked these students to write down what they perceived. And all they could see was, like, a flash of light – that’s all. Then they increased the exposure on the screen, from one-hundredth of a second to, say, two-hundredths of a second. They still only saw a flash. And they kept on increasing the time of exposure on the screen incrementally until there was a flash there and they could catch something, they could perceive something, then they could write down what it was. And they kept on increasing it until they could see it more clearly and write down what it was. Some very interesting things happened when they kept on increasing the exposure more and more and more. At a very early exposure length, when they thought they understood what was there, they continued writing the same thing, kept on seeing it in exactly the same way. One example was when the actual photograph was a bicycle on the stairs going up to one of the lecture halls. One of the students perceived it as a ship. It’s quite easy to do this because it was only shown very quickly, and perception just grasps something and they said it was a ship. The interesting thing was that as the exposure time was increased, incrementally, he still said it was a ship. And at times, when every person who was exposed at that particular length would say it’s a bicycle on the stairs, they would still see it as a ship. The old perceptions had imprinted themselves on the mind they actually saw that image according to their old views. And it took them a really long exposure on the screen to change their old ideas and say “it’s not really a ship, it’s a bicycle on the steps going to a lecture hall”.

What was interesting there was how, through the perceptions that we have, we form these really strong views, which make us see the whole world to conform to those views, even though they’re completely wrong. That’s why it’s so difficult to catch the illusions of self, the illusions of suffering, the illusions of anicca. We need to have that strong exposure, not just for a second but for long periods of time, to see that we’ve been seeing it in the wrong way. It’s not a ship after all, it’s just a bicycle on the steps. It’s not a self after all, it’s just a process. Life is not such a bowl of cherries, life is a bowl of rotten eggs!

And the other interesting thing about this experiment, is that they found that images which were repulsive, which were abhorrent, took people much longer exposures to see them as they really are. One of the images they showed on the screen was of two copulating dogs. And that took the longest of all the images for them to figure out what it really was. The reason was because they didn’t want to see that – that was repulsive. If it had been an image of, like, a beautiful model, they would have seen that in a few seconds. But they didn’t want to see it and therefore they didn’t want to see it. And that was really fascinating because that was reinforcing what the Buddha’s been saying for, like, twenty five centuries. That with the hindrances operating, we only see what we want to see. We don’t see what’s real. And sometimes the exposure need to be so long and right in front of our face before we truly admit what’s going on in the world.

But with suffering, this is the problem – we don’t want to see suffering, therefore we don’t see it. We live in a fantasy world, that life is happy, that you get married and you’re happy ever after. You get the perfect relationship. I remember one lady kept on telling me, no matter what I said to her about Buddhism, she said “I know he’s out there somewhere – the perfect man for me. It’s just that I have not met him yet. I don’t know where he is, but I know he’s out there somewhere”. And she was in her late forties and she still said stupid things! People live in fantasy land most of the time – not real at all. Or the people that think that if you get the right medicines then you never need to die, and that aging is something that is healable, curable, something which is not necessary. All these ideas, the fantasies which people have, are just not being real.

So when we start looking at the truth of Dukkha, we have to be very courageous to see that. Not just courageous, but we have to be very sneaky as well. And again, this is why we do something like the Jhana meditations, because we feel so happy, so peaceful (like the husband or wife who’s been taken out by their partner to a beautiful dinner), and the feeling’s so rested, so at peace, that we’re actually open to seeing or hearing what we don’t want to hear, what we didn’t want to see. That’s how you sneak up on Dukkha, and you can finally accept it. There’s one particular area of Dukkha which we don’t want to see – at least we think that we’re happy. That’s why when you go home from this retreat, doesn’t matter how much suffering you have on a retreat, when you go home again you say it was really worthwhile, it was really good. Because you’d look like such a fool if you said it was really terrible, full of suffering, that you spent all this money on this. Even on retreats where you have to go through a lot of physical pain, you get conned into saying that it was a lot of pain but that you discovered something wonderful. If you didn’t say that you’d be really embarrassed that you’d been wasting this time.

It’s the same as when you go on holiday. Everyone who goes on holiday, when they come back afterwards and their friends ask “how was it?”, they say they had a wonderful time. Even though you’re lying through your teeth. Even though you had a terrible time. Because it makes you sound so foolish if you say you had a terrible time going through customs, the hotel was rotten, it rained all the time, that you had arguments with the person you went with… you’d feel such a fool! And also it’s just not done, it’s not our custom. Everyone knows that when you come back from a holiday you say you had a really wonderful time. Everyone knows that you write a postcard to your friends saying “having a wonderful time, wish you were here”. No-one says “having a rotten time, wish I was back home!” So sometimes just be careful of the ways that we lie.

We don’t face reality because of our social conditioning. It’s the same as if you go to a funeral. I’ve been giving funeral services for a long time. Even for me, it took many years to get up the courage to tell a joke at a funeral service. You know that I like telling jokes. Because it’s not done to tell jokes at funeral services. You can do it at some other time, any other time, but the one time you’re not meant to tell a joke is when there’s a stiff in the coffin! It’s being disrespectful, isn’t it? But actually when I did get the courage to do it, all the people said “Thank you so much. It made us feel good and the person who died was always telling jokes and they would have really appreciated that one.” I’m sure I could hear the coffin rattling as they were laughing!

But we have these taboos which are incredibly difficult to break. One of those taboos is facing up to that life is suffering. That’s a taboo that people don’t want to recognise. And that’s why you have to creep up on it and find that all this world is all suffering. You know the taboo of looking at a sunset or beautiful flower and, it’s really challenging to say that all flowers, even the most beautiful flower, is suffering. People think you’re just crazy or you’re weird, or you’ve been a monk too long, and you should come back into the real world! It’s a taboo – flowers are beautiful, everyone knows that. The sunset is so wonderful, the mountains, the forests…

To challenge that is very difficult to do. So this is where you do need to have that ability to go against preconceived notions which go so deep inside of you, you wouldn’t believe just how deeply they are embedded in you. And the most deeply embedded notion is not the idea that “life is happiness”, but that “you are”. That’s the deepest notion which is the hardest one to eradicate, the anatta, that “I am”. And that view is just so tricky, so slippery, it’s just like trying to shoot a bird a million miles away through the eye with an arrow. It’s just so tricky to see this self, this “me”. And this is why the Buddha gave, not just the Jhanas to give the mind power, and to be able to see what it doesn’t want to see, but he also gave the four satipatthanas, as a way of not wasting time, to be able to focus on the four areas where the illusion of self really hangs out. Because there’s many places where you might try to look for the illusion of self, but the four main areas are the rupa, your body, vedana, the feelings, citta, the mind which knows, and the mental objects, dhamma, especially the doer, will. Those are the four areas. And so, having heard a teaching like the satipatthana, having practiced the Eightfold Path, when the mind is in Jhanas and it comes out afterwards see if you can remember to employ the satipatthana, especially for one purpose and one purpose only: not to see anicca, but to see anatta, not-self. That is the deepest, most fundamental block which is stopping you from being enlightened, which stops you being free.

One of the ways which I practice myself, and teach other people to practice, is to ask yourself a question. Not “is there a self?”, that’s just too philosophical. But to ask yourself: –“What do I take to be my self? Who do I think I am? Who do I perceive I am? What is this “me” I assume to exist?” When you ask that question, whatever comes up as an answer, challenge it. Am I this body? I look in the mirror each morning and smile “there I am again”. Is that me, this body? Sometimes we’re very sophisticated intellectually and we think “of course I’m not my body”. On the thought level we might say that, but when we get sick or we’re dying we realize that that’s just superficial wisdom. It hasn’t gone deep enough. We are still attached to our body. We still think it’s ours.

The Buddha gave a test to see if you really are attached to these things, whether you think they’re “mine”. This is a story of when he was walking with some monks in the Jeta Grove and he pointed out some twigs and leaves on the ground and he said “Monks, what would happen, how would you feel if some people came along and collected all these twigs and leaves and put them into a big heap, and then set fire to them all? And then once the fire had died down, they took all the ashes and threw them to the four winds until they were completely dispersed. What would your reaction be if they did that?” And the monks said “Nothing, because these things aren’t ours, they don’t belong to us. They’re just sticks and leaves, that’s all”. “Very good”, said the Buddha, “Now monks, what would happen if the lay people took all of you and put you in a heap and set you on fire, until you’re just ashes, and then threw those ashes to the four winds, would you be upset? Would you be really worried?” And according to the texts, I don’t know if they really meant this but they certainly knew the right answer, the monks replied “No, no, we wouldn’t be at all worried!” And the Buddha asked “Why is that monks?” And they said “Because this body isn’t ours, it’s nothing to do with us, it’s not me or mine.”

Now that’s a test to see if you really see this body as a self, whether you’re willing to let it go or not. That’s why, when we say, look at the body in the four satipatthanas, don’t run over that too quickly, don’t just say “I’ve done that one already, I know this body isn’t me or mine, it’s just bones, it’s just flesh, I’ve seen that in the documentaries, I’ve seen that in the photographs.” Be careful, because you’ve been living with this body so closely for so many years, there’s a little sneaky attachment which has gotten in there, and you really think that this is you. And that gets challenged through old-age, sickness and death. And if you tremble at sickness or pain, if you tremble at the thought of old-age or death, you still need to do some more body contemplation.

So, when a big Jhana happens, and then afterwards, say “what do I take myself to be?” Look at this body and see those little attachments, even though they might be stupid, they were something that you could not see because you did not want to see it. And eradicate, completely, the idea that the body is yours or you. It’s just nature, it just belongs to nature, you’ve got nothing much to do with it.

The second thing, about vedana, the sensations, don’t take them too lightly. It’s just as obvious that this isn’t me. Every time you have happiness, or pain, do you automatically think “this is my happiness, this is me feeling it”? If you do, again you haven’t seen the truth of anatta. After Jhanas, look closely at this whole play of vedana, and you see it’s just like the play of light and shadows, cast by the trees and the leaves. Where there’s light there’s no shadow, where there’s shadow there’s no light. As the leaves move in the wind, as the sun goes over, what was light is now shadow and what is shadow is now light. What is pain is now pleasure. What was beauty is now ugliness, what was ugliness is now beauty. This is the play of vedana, it’s no more than that. Seeing that means, if you see it fully through the power of Jhanas, that you’ve done the second satipatthana and you are completely detached. Detached means that there is no-one holding on to the vedana, the pleasure or pain.

Remember, a lot of people think that attachment is all about what’s out there. The cause of attachment is not so much what’s out there, it’s what’s holding on inside. The claw, I call it. It’s a claw inside which keeps on going outside into the world and attaching to particular things. No matter how many times you put things down, you let go, and let go and let go, you’ll never be able to end attaching until you see that claw and cut it off. It’s the claw which needs to be looked at, seen, and eradicated. That’s the only way to stop attaching once and for all. And that claw is the illusion that all these things belong to us, especially vedana. To see that this is just the play of nature. In the same way that a person who understands why there is light and why there is shadow under a tree realizes that it’s nothing to do with them. They leave the light and shadow alone, knowing that if they prefer one or the other then soon it will change. If you prefer suffering or if you prefer happiness, it doesn’t matter, it’ll just change and then go it’ll go back again. Up and down, coming and going, that’s pleasure and pain in life. So after the Jhana, you do the second satipatthana, you investigate this vedana, seeing it as it truly is, not as you want it to be, realizing it’s completely out of your control no matter how wise, skilful or powerful you are. The idea of getting just pleasant vedana and avoiding the unpleasant, you see, is a complete impossibility, it goes against nature, it cannot be done. So you give up, you let go.

Also, one of the deeper places where a person thinks they exist (and I’ve already mentioned this) is the will. And that’s part of the fourth satipatthana, the doer, the chooser. That’s a very hard thing to see. You can see its results, with all of the controlling, the disturbing, which has been going on for the last nine days, caused by this thing – the doer. But even so, it’s so hard to give this thing up. Even so, that you know that letting go is a way into Jhana, but you can’t somehow achieve that letting go, you can’t do the letting go. And once I describe it that way it’s obvious why you can’t “do” the letting go… you have to allow it to happen. The biggest problem that people have with the Jhanas is that they try and “do” it, they try and control it, they try and will it, they try and steer their vehicle into a Jhana. You’ve got to have your hands completely off the steering wheel. In fact, you’ve got to dismantle the steering wheel before you get into Jhanas. There’s an entry fee to Jhanas, something you have to give up at the door, and that’s “you”. A lot of people would like to go into Jhanas but they’d like to be there at the same time. They want to take the doer in there, to have control. And that’s why they can’t get in. That’s why it takes “something” to get into a Jhana. You see the beautiful Jhana in there but you want to take “you” with you. And you can’t. So after a while, you leave “you” outside and go in and have fun. Then you realize just how “you”, the doer, has been such a burden, such a terrible companion for you, causing all kinds of pain and suffering. That’s what the Buddha called “the house-builder”.

Once you’ve been in a Jhana you’ll never trust this doer so much again. You never trust that within you which is, even now, trying to do something, think something, say something, control something. That doer, to see that is not you, is completely caused, arises and passes away according to natural laws,. If you can see that then you’ve got a very powerful insight. Half, fifty percent, of the illusion of self is then completely gone, and life becomes so much easier. You can flow with things rather than always controlling them, because you haven’t got faith in the doer any more. You can let go.

The last place, which is hard for a person to see, is the consciousness itself, the mind. This mind which a lot of people talk about, which I talk about a lot, to actually see it in its purity is very, very difficult. You see it in Jhanas. What’s important after having a Jhana is having known what the citta is, the mind. What the Buddha talked so much about in the suttas, having seen that then to apply the satipatthana. Reflect on the mind and ask yourself “is this me?” That which knows, that which is hearing this, which feels all the aches and pains in the body, which sees the sights around, which sees the flowers and the sunsets, that which sees and experiences. “Is that what I take to be me?” And look at this whole process of consciousness, the screen on which experience is played out. Like the television simile which I gave yesterday. A television is a screen on which all these images from all these channels are played out. When we’re looking at the images we cannot really be noticing the screen. When it’s just images there, the screen has disappeared. We’re just focusing on the images. When the five senses are playing around, that’s all we see. We cannot see the screen on which all these images are being played out.

In Jhanas, you see the screen, and also you start to see the screen dismantle itself. The screen which we call consciousness begins to disappear. Higher and higher in the Jhanas, more of the screen goes, until in the last of the Jhanas, nirodha – cessation, is the cessation of the screen. Consciousness is now gone. To see the consciousness going is a very powerful experience. According to the suttas, anyone who experiences that state, the cessation of consciousness through these Jhanas (I don’t mean the cessation of consciousness through going to sleep at night!), when you emerge from that state you’re either a non-returner or a fully-enlightened Arahat. There are only those two possibilities. Because having see the cessation of consciousness itself, you will never, ever, it’s impossible, to be able to take that as a self, as a me. You’ve seen that thing, the thing we were talking about yesterday, the claw (that’s a good simile which I should have mentioned yesterday… you know the “thing” in the Addam’s family, the hand, always grabbing onto things? That’s attachment. That thing is attachment), consciousness or the doer, is not you, it cannot be. And the last citadel of the illusion of self is broken into, seen to be empty, and then you know that that which you took to be a self for so long was just an empty process, that’s all.

That insight into anatta is the insight which arises in a stream-winner, entering the stream. It’s the insight which sees that you have taken something to be the self, something to be me or mine for so many years, and you just could not see it before but now you can. That’s what insight is. And again that insight is very beautiful and wonderful, because once you realize that there’s no-one here then the whole idea of nibbana being just a flame going out, never scares you any more. Instead of being something completely stupid and awful, something you’re not really interested in at all… because after all, what’s the point of being enlightened if you’re not there to enjoy it? What’s the point of just snuffing out and going? There’s too many things to do in the world! Too many things to achieve, too many things to experience. But the idea of nibbana as just snuffing out, going out, only makes sense and become attractive, becomes the obvious thing, only when one sees the truth of not-self. There’s no-one here anyway. That which you take to be you is just an illusion. Once you see that then that is the insight, the powerful deep insight, upon which all the subsequent insights which lead to the higher states of enlightenment are based. This is what one should be doing, this is the purpose of Jhanas, the purpose of all those reflections.

To ask yourself, “What do I take to be me? Who do I think I am? What do I perceive, think and view of myself?” in terms of the four satipatthanas. The afterwards you become enlightened. And if you think, those people have had happiness or Jhanas or nimittas during this retreat, if you think that’s happiness, then wait until you get into a nice, powerful, enlightenment insight. That’s much more happiness. So the best is yet to come.

So that’s insight, and what’s actually happening, through the factors of the Eightfold Path you get samma-nyana, the correct deep insights, and samma-vimutti, freedom.

Ajahn Brahmavamso
Perth, April 1999

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 emmigrated 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 basics of Anapanasati.

1996 After reading 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 Igot tot 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 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 it’s present level of once every couple days on average.

1997-2004 No meditation or mindfulness practice. 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 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 breath. When the mind calmed, then stopped I’d watch other sense objects – pain, heat, thought if it popped up, sounds, etc.

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 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 occured 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 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 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?

Meditation Experiences Timeline 4-21-08

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 emmigrated 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 basics of Anapanasati.

1996 After reading 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 tot 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 it’s 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 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 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 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 occured 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 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 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?

No Mind – Perception Shift 4-11-09

I sat the other evening (4/11). It was about 8pm and I had no motivation to do anything else. Not that I couldn’t have found something – but from the inside -there was nothing pushing me to ‘do’ anything. The mind was empty of ‘me’ so I just sat down in the back of the apartment. It was warm, but I wouldn’t be moving so I thought – good enough.

I know I’ve explained this before – but perhaps you haven’t read it before here. I don’t meditate the way I did when I first started to sit and watch the breath. I’m in a different place now. The mind just goes naturally clear without the ‘me’. If I watch the breath – I can watch it for 10-20 breaths in complete awareness, and it’s the same as it was on breath 1. There’s nothing different, there is no point of concentration… there is no jhana that starts from that like it used to in the past.

The absense of thought is already there. It’s always there when I’m quiet now. When I stop the radio, the doing, the few thoughts on the surface of the mind that exist throughout the day… there is a stillness. It’s as if I’m in the moment – without ego and without self – without thought at all.

So, now when I sit – there’s no point to focus on the breath – and forcing my’self’ to do it seems counterproductive because it forces there to be some ‘self’ that does the focusing. Without the intense focus on the breath – there is no self at all. Even when I force myself to focus the ‘self’ comes and goes in very brief fractions of a second. It’s like it’s not able to show up for more than a tiny portion of a second. If you look back at the journal entry for 9/3 – it was happening there too. It has happened on and off for a while, but now it appears to be changed for now anyway.

So it seems like the whole meditation has changed then – what is the point of creating self by focusing on breath?

No point I think – so I don’t bother anymore. I just sit and experience things… sounds mostly. It’s as if the mind is new and is hearing things for the first time – every time. I could hear a chicken squawk and then hear it again 4 seconds later – it isn’t recognized as the same chicken or even as a chicken at all. It’s experienced newly – each time. Same with dogs barking, cars, horns, bells, people talking, music, etc.

Sometimes there might be a pain in the foot or the back or somewhere as I sit. The pain just goes on… it isn’t seen as negative. Not as positive. It’s just a feeling. Eventually it drifts away altogether.

So as I sat… it seemed there was really no point to sitting except that it was a way to continue the thoughtless state – experiencing things as new. I just continued to sit – not thinking anything about it – just observing when the thought arose. Then it went away when I let it go…

After 30 minutes or so there was a change in the state… there began to be an expansion that was felt in the head – in the mind – the perception?  It began to get very loose there – and open, vast. It was like that for a little while. I just experienced it, no thoughts came about it – I just sat.

There was then a movement from what was – into something else. Impossible to describe… It was as if there was a change starting – and moving toward a different state. There was some tension about it – there was some resistance and some energy toward making the change though I did nothing myself to move toward it or away from it. I just experienced it.

Like so many experiences during meditation – it just seemed to move on it’s own. By itself. Sounds strange I know, but there is no ‘doing’ by me. By letting go of every experience, the experiences continue… on their own – on whatever schedule they’re on. In fact, if I tried to push it more – to move it – or help it along – the experience either disappears, stops, or goes into a pause where it doesn’t move anymore – just pauses. If I then let go of whatever I was ‘do’-ing it may continue, or it may just fade away. No telling what will happen really.

So it went on a bit and there was a point where it felt like something was moving inside that was at an angle to the perspective of mind I usually have. How could I explain…?

You know, your normal perception of self – of reality is straight ahead. The “you” is looking straight ahead straight out from your eyes – your face. Your perspective is straight out from your eyes and in this orientation. It’s always felt like that, it never changes. If your head turns to the left – your perspective also moves with it and moves straight out in a line directly in front of your face. I’ve never realized it before because I’ve never known anything different from this perspective except during meditation where I’ve lost all perspective and felt as if I was all that is… (see experience #4 video >

But, it was changing. It was as if the orientation inside was shifting and was at an angle at that point. It was twisting to the left…  if that makes any sense. The head was straight. The body was all, facing straight. Yet, something inside was twisting left and distorting the original perspective to be facing at an angle at times. It made the perspective – the one I, and I assume that everyone has – seem less real then. Is it false? Is our perspective only straight ahead because we attach so strongly to the idea that our eyes, our bodies are the “me”? Wherever we face – that must be where we are focused – where our orientation is…

This became distorted, and less solid. Less tangible than it was before. Less real. Less true.

So I continued to sit for a while as the process played around, distorting my perspective of things. After 10 minutes it quieted down and I came back into regular consciousness and stood up after another 5 minutes.

As usual there is no comprehension of what is going on – as it’s going on. There is no analyzation. There is no emotion about what is happening – it’s just experienced. Only afterward do I, to some degree say to myself – what in the world was that? That was odd. That was different from what I’ve experienced before. I get a bit excited about it then – knowing it was an experience I hadn’t had before. But, during the actual experience – if any emotion comes up – the state disappears or goes into pause – maybe to continue once the emotion is gone, or maybe it just fades away completely. Emotion, attachment to the states – whatever they are – leads to a pause in the state. It might lead to a fading away and loss of it entirely. When the state is actually going on – it’s best to let go of any fascination with it that might pop up.

For me now – there isn’t any fascination with any state that happens, as it happens. None really. This appears to be a ‘good thing’ as the process just comes and goes at will and isn’t affected by anything that I know of.

Does anyone understand this? Has anyone experienced something like this?

Mind Stops… Hiccups Too! 4-9-08

This morning I was anxious to eat breakfast. I had kow pad gai (skinless chicken breast over jasmine rice). It also comes with a baggie of chicken broth with scallions and black pepper. Really delicious and it’s my usual breakfast here 20/30 days each month.

I developed the hiccups. They were strong. I sat through it for a minute thinking they’d go away. This seemed like a strong case of them because they didn’t slow down or stop. I tried an experiment – just let it go – clear the mind… thought stopped and I was just experiencing an empty mind.

The hiccups stopped. I ate my breakfast in comfort!

Strange that the mind would have something to do with hiccups as I’d think it was a physical reaction to something – involuntary. Well, it is involuntary. I guess I thought there was no way we could control them voluntarily. It will take another couple tries to confirm that it wasn’t just good timing and the hiccups would have stopped at that time anyway, but interesting.

Other than that I’ve been experience brief periods without thought that just come and other times when I let everything go and it comes because I did.

I’ve been thinking about the future here. I spend entirely too much time on the computer – and for what reason? Not sure. I make a little money from ads on my web sites and it’s enough to live on. Do I need to do more? I’ve worked really hard for over a year to get to this point. If I worked that hard for another 18 months and had the same output it wouldn’t be worth it to me.

Is now the time to get rid of the computer, get a bike and go explore Thailand by bicycle? That’s one of the ideas floating around in thought right now. What else…?

I was thinking, why not create a place where visitors can come to meditate – where there is no agenda. No schedule. No classes. No anything except we provide a place for them to meditate – many places. Some in the woods, some in caves, etc. Just a place where meditators can come and do as they wish – their own practice. Not everyone wants 10-day Vipassana meditation courses like the ones we have plenty of here in Thailand.

Just some thoughts…

Layers of Reality 3-16-08

Last night an odd experience came to me as the body prepared for sleep. I went into one of the other rooms to see if we had another sheet for the mat I sleep on. I stood in the room for about 2 minutes. Not doing anything. I remembered why I was there, but I just stood doing nothing. There was no thought going on and there wasn’t any urgency about what to do next.

Eventually I walked out of the room and back to the mat. I laid down. The mind was still. No thought. There began to appear a picture in the mind. It was a picture that brought with it at the same time an action on the mind. Hmm, this will be so difficult to describe.

It was as if there were three or more rectangles in front of me. They were overlapping, but not smoothly – they were the same size, not concentric – meaning, they didn’t fit inside each other one smaller than the one next to it… They were the same size. Each rectangle held a picture inside it. The rectangles would go together and seamlessly overlap for a second and then move outward from each other, each holding a part of the picture of reality. When they were all together I knew this is what I, Vern, experience as reality. When they pulled apart from each other I not only saw the change – how reality is put together by these overlapping parts – but, I FELT IT – in my mind… It was as if reality was disintegrating within the mind too.

I think I’d better draw some Photoshop figures and see if that helps explain what was going on because I don’t think you have any idea what I’m saying at this point. Be right back…

The rectangles started out like this… I could see that there were a few of them and that they were the same size and overlapping.

Then they began to move in 3-dimensions- forward and backward – away from each other and then back toward each other – quite random, not in any pattern.

As they did, I could see individual pictures in them – as if the rectangles represented my field of vision. I could see the world in front of me in those pictures.

Then the rectangles moved as they did above and side by side, or left to right away from each other and back toward each other.

As they did this I felt as if the rectangles were actually part of my mind… the make up of my mind. As they moved I felt reality in my mind loosen and then focus as the rectangles came close to overlapping into one rectangle.

Reality felt very contrived. It felt as if it was only held together by the mind piecing it all together. This is the second strong experience related to reality not being what it’s usually accepted as being. The other time was when I was at the top of the mountain and looking at another limestone karst a couple hundred meters away. All the sudden the entire landscape in front of me turned to 2-dimensions. It created interlocking puzzle pieces of the entire scene (my whole field of vision). The pieces started to shake as if they were going to fall apart and break up the scene…

Here is that post with a video of me describing the experience >

Ha! I just watched the video – apparently I forgot to tell about the experience of the mountain turning into 2-dimensions. I just told about how I felt like I was supposed to focus on one spot… Ok, I’ll finish it up there so you can read it. Strange I forgot to put it in there. Ok, finished it.

Getting back to this experience… the rectangles continued for a few minutes or so and so did the feeling that reality was unsteady… it was unstable, it was not real… just an illusion that only appears steady when all layers of it are functioning in unison – like when the rectangles are aligned – I felt a stronger sense that reality was what I’d always known it to be. As the rectangles move apart – accordion like, or from left to right away from each other – it was as if there was no more time – time wasn’t functioning well. Or, a better description was, I was outside of time. I had no sense of time. It was quite odd…

I’d hear chickens and cars passing on the road outside, a voice outside… and there was no timeline to what I was hearing. What came first? The car or the chicken? It was as if time was one piece of the reality puzzle that was getting misaligned as the rectangular pieces moved around in front of me. Time wasn’t felt anymore. It wasn’t tangible at all.

For the next 20-30 minutes (not sure at all) there was an acute awareness of perceived stimuli starting and stopping. Sounds, tastes, pain, touches, etc… I watched as each thing I perceived affected the brain and then stopped. Then the next thing would be noticed, perceived, and stop. And again and again. It was an endless chain of things as the mind perceived something everytime the thing it perceived just before stopped. The mind’s attention went from stimuli to stimuli.

I gradually fell asleep as this was going on.

Unsettled Feeling 3-7-08

I’ve gone for a couple months without meditating since stopping in September after realizing that the search for the state of Nirvana is not worth it. I decided that because from what I’ve seen – nobody is enlightened. I guess my idea of it was that it was something great. It need not be. Alan Watts put it in perspective today on a short mp3 I listened to. The enlightened individual experiences things differently. He/she still chooses how to act after perception takes place. The individual that is enlightened sees things as they are. Without the filters of the mind. Without societal filter, moral filter, emotional filter, attachment filter, memory filter…  Everything is seen as it is – or, as the enlightened sees it. Is that what IS? Not sure. I still don’t have any idea what enlightenment is.

I do have this unsettled feeling that hasn’t gone away for about 2 months. Well, the last two months, but the last 10 years. I feel like, or there is a knowledge inside that makes me believe that, the only way I’m going to feel right is to finish the process. It’s like the natural conclusion to what’s been going on inside for these 10 years. It can’t really be any other way – it’s gotta finish. Is that right? That’s the way I’m feeling again. It went away for a couple months as I decided trying to reach nirvana was pointless. Now, even though I still feel the same way – it’s pointless… I think it will help my mind stop considering the issue. It’s on my mind from the time I wake until I sleep. I catch myself a hundred times throughout the day considering whether to think or experience things directly – without thought.

I know most of you won’t understand that statement. I catch myself in moments of awareness during the day. I find myself questioning whether I should live the moment as everyone else – with thought filtering the experience, or to experience it without the thought – in a meditative state – without mind. Without time. Just experience it in the moment. Kind of like when you’re playing a physical game – soccer, ping pong, something like that. When you’re playing – you’re just playing. Your mind isn’t thinking – it’s in the moment. Well, it’s sort of like that. But, for the last 10 years I can choose any moment I want to experience life like that. I can shut off the mind… or clear it out of the way – so it can’t filter what I’m experiencing.

It’s easiest with watching the breath. That’s how it started. Now it can be anything. I can watch myself in the restroom in complete mindfulness… fully present in the moment. I can pet a dog at the temple like I did today  – without the mind there. I can drive the motorbike in the present moment. Literally I can choose to do it for anything I think. I of course haven’t tried everything. I can’t imagine something I couldn’t do it for.

So, these periods of mindfulness catch me and a decision is presented – stay in regular state or drop off the mind and experience whatever is going on – directly. Without the mind.

Sometimes I ask myself – what is the point of direct experience? Is there any point to that? And no, there doesn’t seem to be… but you know there doesn’t seem to be any point in experiencing the moment WITH mind either. So – what results? Sometimes I go without the mind, sometimes I remain in the same state I was in – with the mind there running everything that is perceived by the senses through all the filters it has.

It’s quite a bizarre state – and yet it’s been like this to some degree over the past 10 years since I first started to sit and watch the breath… the meditation itself so simple. The results? Profound? Who knows. I know a lot has changed. I know I’ve experienced things that very few people have experienced… does it mean anything? Not yet. Means nothing at all – just a different way to experience life.

Is it profound in the sense that it means something good for me or profound for me? I don’t know. Not that I can see. It has thrown me into a state of questioning life as it is – and life in this new state.

Is there any point at all in seeking to experience all of life in that state – without mind, without filters?

No. Not that I can see. From this point – where I am, there is no point at all.

Is there any point at all in seeking to experience all of life in my previous state? Meaning, is there any point in experiencing life with the mind there – like everyone else appears to be doing? If there is, again, I don’t see it. I think there’s no point from where I am presently – from this vantage point – I see no point in either way.

Is there any point stopping your existence then – removing yourself from the game so to speak. Through suicide or some other means…

No, I don’t see that either. No point at all. What’s next – who knows. Anybody’s guess really. Should I seek that, what’s next? No point really either.

So what?

That’s the state of questioning I’ve been stuck in for a while now… What is the point of anything. Not sure. I don’t see a point in any of it.

So, my post from 9-27-07 in this journal told how I couldn’t see a point in enlightenment… in continuing to go toward it. But, is there any point NOT going toward it since it seems like this is where the whole process is taking me? Not sure. Sure of nothing at this point. Just feeling like things aren’t quite right.

Oh, this likely means nothing at all – but since this is a journal more than anything that must make sense to everyone – I wanted to write it down in case later I have the experience again.

I was sitting in this plastic chair in front of the notebook on the table just like this two days ago. I was reading something I had downloaded earlier at the internet cafe. I felt a moment of no-mind… and what felt like energy… flow, power, force… something – whatever I could call it – went up my body from my midsection and toward the head. When it got to the head it felt like the earth shook a bit. It jarred my head, and it kind of snapped my neck straight up gently – but totally on it’s own. I made no voluntary move myself. It came too fast for me to have anticipated what direction the energy would go in order that I told my neck to move. It was VERY odd as I’ve never had this feeling before. Never in my life. I know that. I would have remembered something like it as it was completely out of the realm of ordinary for me.

I don’t know what else to say about it except I closed my eyes and turned off the Alan Watts MP3 that was playing at the time and sat without mind for a couple minutes. The phone went off and it took me a second to realize it was a phone that made that noise and I picked it up. That was it. Nothing special after it happened – but extremely odd.

What is the Point of Nirvana? 9-27-07

Meditation history (7.1Mb) MP3 audio format

9-27-07 Today I climbed the steps at the mountain at Wat Tham Suea again. A Thai boy of 8 years old kept up with me as we sort of raced to the top from steps 300 to 1200. At maybe 30 steps away from the top he was exhausted and had to stop to rest. I stopped a little ahead of him and waited for him to catch up so he could be the “winner”. I stayed at the top for a couple hours, at times sitting… and other times standing and walking around… I decided to climb into the rocks that the monk showed me the other day. (Video link at bottom of page). There were a few too many people at the top of the mountain and I thought I’d try that quiet spot in the rocks.

As I climbed over through the jagged limestone rocks someone called out in Thai, “Tum Mai Dai kup”. I called back, “mai chai, die kup”. (You cannot do that) and I responded, “Not true, I can do this”… To which he didn’t respond. I’m sure he was concerned about my safety as the rock peaks are treacherously sharp.

I reached the place and folded my long-sleeved shirt underneath me. I took off my shirt because I wasn’t visible from the Chedi observation area and it was quite warm in the sun.

I sat about an hour and the mind was very calm. The body, while still “there” felt very relaxed and comfortable. As I sat I realized that some questions were on my mind.

WHY MEDITATE to reach nirvana? What good is it? Is there a point? Is it a good thing?

I decided to study that question in the state I was in… attention and concentration came quickly and I reasoned out an answer within maybe 30 minutes.

There really is no point to any of it. Yeah, surprisingly that’s the conclusion that I came to. There’s much too much to write about it – but, I’ll create a video or at least some audio to explain how I came to that conclusion.

Here are the 3 files that explain all of it… The first is my history of meditation – what happened in the past and what exactly I did. What the jhanas were about, and why I stopped meditating for about 9 years.

Meditation history – (7.1Mb) MP3 audio format – not edited, but maybe should have been a little bit…

This next file is a video I took in mid-September where I was unsure what I’m doing by restarting meditation. I am not sure WHY meditation or reaching nirvana is a good goal. What is the reality of it? I couldn’t reason it out that well here, but I had a lot of questions about “WHY”.

WHY? Video (24Mb)

The file above explains what the thought process was at the top of the mountain as I asked myself “WHY” in the relaxed, concentrated state of mind… and the answers that I reached…

The last file, another MP3 audio file looks at why I believe there’s no point in reaching enlightenment, and what I’ve learned by having jhana come… how the mind and ego have changed…

Enlightenment, no point… Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5

I don’t believe thatmeditating at this point is a good thing for me. For others, it may be… If you meditate and you reach a point where you are relaxing the mind and you are not going into jhana much or at all you may find meditation very relaxing and a positive thing to do and keep up with.

I found it to be a life changing experience. The changes that came over me 9 years ago were devastating to my marriage at the time… they destroyed the ego for a time… They gave me a glimpse into nirvana and what happens when the mind stops thinking and reacting emotionally. I understood what it means to lose the ego… to find equanimity… peace… bliss…

For me, the changes that took place, and that I believe will take place again if I continue to meditate are too radical for me to take lightly. I had to really ask myself – what is the point of this…? I had to ask myself, if you really reach nirvana – WHAT THEN? Nirvana seems a very real possibility in my mind right now, considering all I’ve experienced recently… The process seems to have picked up where it left off.

Nirvana has been said to be a permanent change in the mind… a letting go to the point that there is no longer suffering because the mind doesn’t attach to anything…

That’s why I needed to question – what good is that state?

My answers are in this recording… enjoy… if you have any questions, send to:

aimforawesome@gmail.com and I’ll do my best to answer…

🙂 Vern

Video link (2nd time posted):
Secret meditation spot up Wat Tum Sua mountain – A monk shows me how to get there…
14.7Mb in size >

Test of Meditation 9-23-07

Anapanasati at top of Wat Tum Sua and 5? kids taking my pictures and banging the bells to see if they could get me to move and break the meditation.

Mai pen rai krup… (no matter, no mind)

Today was an interesting test of my meditation practice. I climbed up the stairs again to the top of the mountain at Wat Tum Sua and after the sweat dried up from my body and clothes and my breathing calmed quite a bit I sat in my usual spot at the altar that has some shade and the most wind blowing (usually).

The first 10 minutes were almost silent as people came and went and were quiet for the most part. I could hear talking, but it didn’t bother me at all. I was able to find peace and stillness of body rather quickly and the mind followed… and then…5 or so Thai kids arrived with their father. I could hear them around me and they were talking about getting me to move…

I was in a good state of concentration at the moment and so I just watched with my mind – with attention at what they said and let it go as I heard each word or phrase. They were intent on getting me to react and break the meditation. They took pictures very close to me (of me) and banged on the bells that were at another platform close by to see if they could get me to react or jump or something. It was amusing and yet I couldn’t help some thoughts from surfacing about the impoliteness of Thais when it comes to others.  There really is very little.

Going to this wat in the south of Thailand over the past couple weeks and months I noticed that there is little in the way of outward shows of respect not only among all Thais’ but also for the monks at this wat. It is as if they are laypeople.

The Thais who interact with them don’t worry about having their head higher than the monks, following a step behind… using polite language with krup and ka… they don’t dip their heads when they pass them or go between monks. They don’t wai anyone and very rarely do I see any Thais’ interacting with the monks at all except to treat them as friends like they met in a bar.

This is in marked contrast with the respect shown to monks by Thais in the Northeast province of Ubon Ratchathani, Udonthani, Sisaket and others.  There is a reverence… a respect that they don’t give to others that they accord to monks that is nice to see…

At least a little basic respect of someone’s space, privacy, meditative moments would have been appreciated…  but, no matter since the mind reacted very little to the antics of these kids that were at times within reaching distance sticking their Nokia cell phone cameras close to me to get a good photo of the foreign monk (they called me) meditating at the top of the mountain.

The father of some of the kids joked with them, smoked and egged them on to do some of the things they were doing to attempt to disturb me… it was kind of weird that not only was there an utter disregard for my sitting there in an unobtrusive and out of the way part of the altar, but there were unabashed attempts at provoking me to see if they could get me to stop meditating.

This went on for over 30 minutes I’m guessing. So, such was my sitting today…  after they had gone and I stayed another 15 minutes. When I opened my eyes I had a bit of Jhana there – the feeling of lightness of being… of no feeling in the hands, arms and legs… the good feeling inside… bliss or some good feeling…

I noticed a young monk (Phra Gope) climbing the rocks below coming back toward the platform. Apparently he had been somewhere. I asked where (“Bpy Ny?”). He said, “Anapanasati, tee non” (meditating over there) and pointed toward the rocks. I said, “Jing law?” (really) He said “chai” (yes…)  I said, “Ow bpy dooay. Die mai kup?” ( I want to go too, can i?).

I went and got my sport sandals and came back, he led me over the treacherous rocks in his bare feet and showed me this ‘secret’ meditation spot that he found a while back. He had been at the wat for a year and also liked to practice Anapanasati. This was the spot he liked to go.

It was a small spot of mildly sloping rock that was in an incredibly beautiful, secluded setting, nestled among the jagged limestone cliffs that comprised the top of the mountain. It was some effort getting across the rocks even with shoes, but I made it in a bit over 5 minutes I think.  I took a little video of the experience and it’s posted below.

Enjoy… Oh, tomorrow if we both make it, we’re supposed to meet at 2pm for a trip up a mountain next to the one we were at today. Supposedly it’s a good place for meditation and there are no other visitors there, just monks.  I’m excited to see if we might be able to coordinate that trip tomorrow at 2pm. If so, I’ll post video and photos.

Ok – video of top of wat tum sua secret meditation spot 14.7Mb in size >

Enlightenment, Jhana Levels – Comments 9-11-07

I haven’t read many accounts of jhana and how the Buddhists view jhana. What I’ve read up until today seemed to be telling me that jhana was necessary in order to reach enlightenment. While glancing through Buddhadassa Bhikku’s book, “Handbook for Mankind” I learned otherwise. It says explicitly that insight is necessary in order to reach liberation… Insight can be had two ways:

1.) Meditation and jhana states. or,
2.) The natural method of introspection which is what most people use since jhanas seem rather elusive to most people.

For me – jhana came rather easily… not without effort, but within a couple months I was experiencing jhana 1-4 rather often.  A couple months after that I had spent time in all the jhanas.  I knew little of Buddhism and didn’t care to know much about it. I was experimenting with my meditation. I wanted to take the bare minimum physical activities: mindfulness and meditation on the breath and see where it led.  Where it led was in a track that mirrors the levels of jhana that I read today in Bhante Vimalaramsi’s Dhamma talk in 2006 in Joshua Tree, California.

To say I’m surprised is an understatement. My meditation was an experiment really. I wanted to take as little of the religion of Buddhism into my meditation and mindfulness experiment. I wanted to do what the Buddha was said to have done. I wanted to see if religionless meditation and enlightenment was possible.  I was pretty clueless when jhana started coming. I hadn’t read of anyone’s jhana experiences and so I had nothing to compare to. I had asked Theravadin monks in Florida where I lived what they could tell me about these experiences – were they normal or was I losing it?  I didn’t get an answer. They were completely unfamiliar with the states of jhana. Living in Thailand for 3 years now and seeing very few monks practicing meditation at the maybe hundreds of temples I’ve visited, I understand that Thai monks don’t really use meditation much as a tool.

So – as I sat and focused on the breath I started reaching these jhana states… I’ll provide video or audio here shortly – describing the states as best I can. They defy words really, but I’ll give it my best. You won’t have a 5% understanding of what the state was really like, but at least you’ll see 5%!  They are so hard to put into words – impossible really.

In 2004 I went to see the Australian abbot at Wat Pah Nanachat in Warin Chamrap, in the northeast (Isaan or e-sarn) region of Thailand to see what he thought. As I talked to him and he asked me many qualifying questions… he said that it sounded like I was experiencing what all the monks at Wat Pah were trying to reach… levels of jhana…

He gave me a couple pamphlets and invited me to stay at the wat for as long as i wished – but the desire wasn’t there and I left the next morning.  As I read the pamphlets, wow, yes, it seemed that I’d had all of the jhana states as Buddhists believe them to exist.

Today as I read through the vivid description of jhanas by Bhante Vimalaramsi I couldn’t believe that FINALLY I was reading a very similar account of my own jhana experiences. It was really cool to see it after so many years – and knowing, “wow, someone else believes this is how it happens”.  Not only did the levels correspond very well to what happened to me, but some other things he said were RIGHT ON and what I believed from the start about meditation.

One of the things he said was that in order to progress in meditation and in jhana is to just note every experience and let it go. Everything must be let go. There’s nothing else to do during the states except watch, note, and let them go like every other piece of mind-candy that appears.  Other Buddhists seem to teach that certain ideas need to be focused on while in jhana.  I don’t think so – because I didn’t, and it appears that I’ve seen all of the 8 jhanas… It was just nice to see someone else collaborate my belief. Better still that he’s a well-respected Buddhist monk.

Well, I could write about this all night. I’m sure I’ll get some audio up here and comment directly on the statements he made and make my own comments sometime.

🙂

Reaction, Ego, Emotions Return 9-7-07

Reaction, ego, emotionality all return with a vengeance!  It seems that the last 5 days were filled with the mind being on edge. Most times were calm, yet, when a difficulty presented itself the mind reacted fast and very negatively. I think I’ve sworn more in the past couple days than during all my time in Thailand combined.

I have this idea that the mind noticed that it was slipping away… the ego was dissolving. Disenchantment with things was starting to take place again (1st time: 1999).

The mind revolted – it didn’t want to go away again. Meditation sessions were filled with a noisy and chatty mind – untamable most times – or only for minutes at a time. I could not just stop the thoughts like I used to – and have a mind that was without thought and reactions…  Very strange. Anyway, see the video if you want, there’s more to it than that.

Reaction, ego, emotionality video 9-7-07 >

No Me to Focus on Breathing 9-3-07

I was at Wat Tum Sua again today (Buddhist temple in southern Thailand). The weather was nice, cool and windy. No rain. There were very few people at the top. When I first got to the top and took off my shoes to go up onto the platform, there was a young monk sitting in some shade in the corner. I recognized him as one I’d seen at the top before. He was meditating. I have honestly not seen even 1 monk meditating in Thailand at a wat before except at Wat Pah Nanachat and Suan Mokkh.

I looked out at the mountains and he came over to me and offered me a soy milk box which I took with thanks. I spoke to him in Thai and he was extremely shy to speak, but wanted to speak it seemed. He was from Suratthani area and had been at the Wat Thamsuea for about a year. He was 21 years old.

Anyway, so I went to sit and meditate and found a place on the ground. I sat for maybe an hour and had varying degrees of concentration and mindlessness (vernlessness) as there was no vern to watch the breath. I had to focus on the breath to bring a vern back into the picture.  Odd to read this, I know, but, that is the experience. There is nothing there to watch the breath… no “me” so to speak. If I wasn’t trying to force something to be there to watch the breath – there is just nothingness. I am aware of things around… the air, the sounds, etc. If I open my eyes – I can see without a problem… and yet, still – there is no center point for where “i” am. It’s like no “me”.

Anyway, the video might explain better… I filmed as I walked down the steps, showing me at first – then showing the steps.

Walking down steps at Wat Thamsuea video > (.wmv about 4MB)

Update 6-15-09:

Still much the same. If I sit to meditate the mind is quiet already. There’s no sense following the breath because the mind is still. The body relaxes easily… now what is the point of meditation when I have this level of peace from the start?

I’d rather not ask Buddhists or consult books as I like to see how things play out on their own… probably the jhanas wouldn’t have come at all if I’d gone looking. Better just to see what happens…

3 Dimensions Turn Into 2 Dimensions 9-2-07

I meditated at the top of the temple again today and it was just so relaxing… the weather was great, cloudy and a cool wind blowing. I sat for 30 minutes or so… and at times there were periods of no thought, no mind… no body really. Nothing. No memory, thought, nothing… but that experience was sprinkled with a realization of the body returning sometimes. The eyes were mostly closed, but at times they opened. So I stood up and walked around the structure, looking at the mountains on one side and the plains on the other… I became aware of a feeling that the eyes should focus on one spot – opened, and concentrate all focus there. This was not a conscious feeling, nor a voice. I’ve experienced something like this before, yet this was different. The video might explain better.  While focusing on one spot on the side of the mountain I had an experience unlike any before…

I’ve had 2 dimensional experiences before but this one was different in it’s scale.

3 dimensions change to 2 dimensions video

Update: I forgot to continue the experience after I put the video link above. I have attention deficit disorder and sometimes that happens. Ok, here is the rest of what happened…

I focused on a point on the side of a mountain – a  limestone karst here in Krabi, Thailand that was just a random spot on the mountain where my eyes naturally went directly in front of me and lower than I was vertically. There was no thought in the mind. The scene in front of me began to change. There was some strangeness going on with the visual aspect of the mountain. Incredibly, though at the time my mind was not moved by it – just watched, the entire scene in front me – my whole field of vision turned from 3 dimensions to 2 dimensions. It started with the mountain which quickly turned into a 2-D image. I looked around at everything within my field of view – it was all the same, just 2-dimensions. I continued to look at the scene. It was if my field of view was now a painting. Nothing was moving – the trees were too far away to see move if they were. There was nothing in front of me because I was standing on a Buddhist altar type structure at the far north side. There was nothing but some sharp rocks below me, beyond that a huge valley, and the mountain in front of me.

So as I watched the scene the mountain began to get lines running through it. I realized the mountain was turning into a jigsaw puzzle. It made pieces of a puzzle that could all be fit together and form the scene. I continued to watch.

The pieces of the puzzle started shaking – I could see white behind the pieces as they shook hard like they were going to fall down into a big heap. What was beyond the 2-D scene – ? What was the white area? It was strange and I cut the scene off before it could go further. It’s funny to say it, but on this day I had kind of had enough of these experiences. I’d already decided that enlightenment wasn’t a worthwhile goal. It wasn’t something to be sought after. If it was going to happen right now at this moment, I didn’t care. But I didn’t let it happen either. So, I guess I cared enough to stop it?

I stopped it by turning around and the scene though at first two dimensional turned back to 3-D and I was without thought for a time.

That was about it… I walked back down the steps in silence, went to eat my usual fried rice at my usual restaurant, and went about the rest of my night…

Comments on No Thought State of Yesterday 8-31-07

8-31-07 Comments on the process from yesterday.  I added a lot more here that I forgot to say during yesterday’s video. I don’t think I described the physical feeling very well yesterday, at least I wasn’t satisfied that I did. I went over more of what it felt like and what was going on during it.

This state lasted all the way up until I went to sleep about 9:30 pm. That was about 6 hours. I’m not sure that even when I meditated in 1998 and had a similar state that it lasted this strongly and long. Very interesting state… no thought… no emotion… no desire… no satisfaction or attachment to anything – so no dissatisfaction…  Yet, I was able to have conversation at dinner with my friend. Memory still worked and was used in place of reaction and emotions. I remembered how I reacted emotionally to certain things – but there was no emotional reaction at all. Much more in the video.

comments on the state video

No Thoughts. No “Me”. 8-30-07

Over 6 hours of no thought… no reaction. No emotion. No extra work being done by the mind. A state of high awareness and being precisely in the moment – but without naming things – without judging… without using much of the mind that used to be automatic.

Filmed at top of Wat Tum Sua mountain top temple before the thoughtless state occurred (next entry).  Wat tum sua scenery and some comments on meditation This is a small sized video display because it’s 12 minutes long and if it was a bigger size it would be a 47 MB download which most people wouldn’t bother with because too large. I think. If you want a larger one where you can SEE the scenery, ask me and I’ll whip it up. I saved the project it would just take another 15 minutes to convert it and get it together. It would take me about 4 hours to upload it with a good internet connection so it won’t be a quick process – but could do it at some point.

Climbed up to Wat Tum Sua and attempted to sit. It didn’t go well the first time so I just shot some video and photos for a while. There was a storm and from that vantage it was interesting to see different spots around the area getting rained on, others dry and sunny. There was no lightening – so my fears of a repeat of the lightening experience up there were few (see www.aimforawesome.com for my lightening experience article).  I went down a level and sat in a dry spot on a piece of concrete about 12 inches high at the base of a pillar. It was comfortable. The body was very relaxed and at peace. Soon the mind followed.

I then had a very strong experience of the state that lasted about an hour there. Instead of attach to it and sit there for hours after about an hour I opened my eyes and stood up and felt the state in that new posture… the state stayed for many hours – I was conscious of every one of the 1,237 steps down the mountain and during the motorbike ride home… more about it on the video.

the thoughtless state video

Update: 6-15-09

It was probably this event that triggered something. After this happened I wasn’t quite the same. I was still having thoughts – though they were less frequent. The mind seemed to find peace – equanimity and non-dualistic experience easily and without effort. There were many periods over the next 1 year when I noticed that the mind was quiet and without thought.

Now – june 15,09 I’ve been in a weird thoughtless state for a number of months.

Meditating in Loud, Distracting Environments 8-28-09

In this video, I went over what I’ve been doing over the past few days with meditation. I’ve been experimenting trying to purposefully meditate in places that were noisy to see – is it still possible to do so.

I started this because I noticed that sometimes recently when I was in a loud environment it wasn’t affecting my concentration or mind – thoughts – at all. The mind was able to calm and quiet very quickly and wasn’t affected if noises started…

last couple days video – this one may download for you as you click, if you have an APPLE computer. Windows should play it (.wmv file).

Fatness Feeling and No Mind Center 8-25-09

Fatness and no mind center…  I climbed up to the Buddhist shrine at the top of the hill at Wat Tum Sua here in Krabi yesterday and I sat around 5:30pm. There were a group of monks and a woman in white- like a nun that helps out at the temple. Thais say, “magee”. The group was quite talkative and was in the one spot that I thought I had the least chance of tourists coming by and so after 20 minutes of looking at the incredible view I just sat down right there to meditate. The monk group stayed and talked for a while and left after 20-30 minutes.

As they were still there my mind was able to get very calm, and the body was near totally relaxed. Breathing came easily and when they did leave the “fatness” feeling came VERY strongly for about 30 minutes. I then had the mind’s point of reference shift -or disappear so that I could not tell where the “i” was – or where “me” was… so to speak. I let that go on for a bit and then I opened my eyes… and, well, it’s all in the video. I recorded this video at some caves in Krabi that I was scouting for meditation places. I think they’ll do fine. I’ll sit there in some days ahead. Need bug spray first, the mosquitos are ravenous.

Watch the video – you’ll see the cave, some scenery, and some people riding an elephant at the trekking place next to the cave.

Fatness Video (.wmv) about 4MB

Note – I call the fatness feeling – the feeling where the body feels as if it’s growing outwardly in all directions. At times the mind feels the same – to be expanding and growing to fill the room, the cosmos…  The fatness feeling happens when the body has gone completely numb. I feel it in my head or my hands or chest first… I describe it better in the video.

No Mind 8-23-07

A feeling of no mind came today.

I sat for 30 minutes last night before I slept. Before I meditated I was in a state of ‘no mind’ or no thoughts before sitting down for some time – an hour or so. I decided to sit and just have no thoughts. I didn’t record a video… nothing to talk about. I just sat and had no thoughts. I had awareness of things going on around me. At times some thoughts started to germinate, but when I realized a thought was forming I switched back to no thought mode.

I’ve had this ability for some time now since meditating back in 1998 – i can just switch thoughts off and focus on the present for a few seconds or a few minutes. I’ve not done it longer than 20 minutes, but i’ve not tried to go longer.

Update: 6/15/09 – I’m in a continued state of no mind or… rather no thought for the last few months now.. 6? 8? Not counting – would need to go back and look at journal. I can do things – I can work on computer and talk to people, exercise, etc… but, when I stop the mind goes blank. You know how if you stop doing something your mind is still running and thinking thoughts? Mine isn’t. A strange state – is this what it will be forever?

Fatness Feeling Video 8-21-07

Fatness: A feeling as if the body increases in size, it’s borders growing. First there is a recap of yesterday’s “unlinked” feeling that maybe describes it better (for viewers) than yesterday’s audio/video.

This state has been happening since I was a child. I remember quite often being in bed and having this feeling start. It was a feeling that my hands then chest, face, head and my entire body was growing – like swelling. There was no pain  but there was a tingling feeling.

I’d never been able to reproduce the feeling on my own until I started to get into the jhana states. When I first got that state during meditation it was totally unbelievable to me that THIS was the state that was coming to me since I was a child… really weird to finally figure it out.

Fatness audio (mp3)

Fatness video (.wmv)


Unlinked Mind 8-20-07

Thought stopped and mind unlinked. Could not understand simple objects. This video and audio is kind of funny as I filmed while it was happening. I am quite out of normal functioning. It almost appears to be like signs of an impending stroke – but, I couldn’t have been more relaxed prior to this event.

Over the almost 2 yrs since this happened I’ve had a couple of these experiences. I’m sure it’s not a stroke coming on because I feel great…

Unlinked audio (mp3)

Unlinked video (.mpg)

Mind Clutter 8-19-07

Mind Clutter:

I sat and the mind was constantly nagged with light thoughts that grabbed the attention for seconds at a time. I sat about 20 minutes then stood up and did some walking meditation.  This usually works well to do some walking meditation and then sit again. Not at all sure why that is… The mind seems to calm down more easily doing this.

For the next hour I was mindful of everything I was doing, and was in the present moment, not thinking about the past or future.  Sometimes if the mind won’t calm after 15 or so minutes I just practice mindfulness throughout the day.

No sense sitting for very long with thoughts flying around chaos-like.

My Experience with Meditating

Here is something I posted in a meditation group a while back. Interesting to read it again.

I just stumbled upon this group and it seems to be a good place to share some of my experience during vipassana.

Quick history… I am 39, an American living in Thailand in the Northeast in a city called Ubon Ratchathani. There is a Wat here filled with many English speaking monks and that is kind of the “why” I ended up here in this city.

I grew up Catholic – not by choice, and by 16 years old I had already questioned the hippocracy of it and was moving into my own search for truth (I thought there was a truth then…). I read the bible completely through and every day for a while… I prayed in earnest and never felt fulfilled… ‘faith’ just never could give me anything to grasp onto…

Fast forward to when I was 25 years old and in Miami, FL at Florida International Univ. I took an elective “World Religions” class and found the Jewish teacher to be incredibly knowledgeable about Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and the rest of it… I started to expand my search to include experience in many types of these other groups. I attended different get-togethers and studied a bit of what they believed and why they believed it…

Then I started reading about Buddhism… it resonated the closest to what I thought was the truth… but again, it was an “ism” that I soon discarded… I went a few years without much of a religion… finished school in Tampa, FL at Univ. of South Florida and found some eastern philosophy books in Barnes & Noble… I started consuming them… then books on Buddhism…

In my 5 years of psychology studies, I came to believe that “truth” for me was only what I experienced. It was not what strangers told me in a book or on television, on the radio, on records/cassettes/CDs… It was not what close friends that I trusted told me either… Direct experience was the only truth that I could ever know. I decided that meditation seemed like something I might find some truth in… I found SN Goenka’s book on Vipassana and decided to sit and watch the mind for a bit and see what was going on in there.

I meditated by sitting in a half-lotus position, with liberties taken to get more comfortable (like a pillow under my butt at times, or if my back was in severe pain like it was for the first couple months I would lean against the futon cushion or couch which gave some support.

I meditated mostly in my spare bedroom for a period of ~ 10 months while living in Temple Terrace, FL.

At the risk of sounding trivial and incomplete, I will list some experiences here.

Please understand that the experience is only memory now (this was 9 years ago). And, while I believe my memory is very good and the experience seems like it was yesterday, any description of what the experience was is not really what it was… It couldn’t possibly be. It is so beyond impossible to put the experience to paper or into bits. I share this because it would be enjoyable to read comments or hear of similar experiences.

As i watched the mind i saw photos and heard voices. These were thoughts. This was brain activity that goes on almost every minute of every day of our lives unless we decide to watch it and see what occurs. While watching thoughts i also looked at pain and irritation… my back hurt, spiders crawled on me, mosquitoes bit me regularly when I was in the garage at night… Moths would land on me, sweat would run down my chest and tickle or it would get into my eyes. My feet or legs or neck or? There always seemed to be something that was hurting or irritating during the first few weeks of practice. Oh, the itchiness was unbearable sometimes after the mosquitoes or red ants bit.

I used little technique that the books taught except for a few principles. I was also reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s books on peace and mindfulness during these 10 months so I used some short sentences while focusing on breathing to help calm the mind and relax the body. Some of them I took straight from the book, others I just made up as they seemed more suited to me. One of them went something like… “breathing in I focus on my breath at the nose…breathing out… relax”.

There were “results” or experiences, that came rather quickly. Just a week and the mind and body were able to settle into a state of relaxation in which thoughts would cease for brief periods. It was during these relaxed states that the breath became gradually shallow and very slow… the hands would start to tingle – not at all like when a body part is “falling asleep”, but a faster and less pronounced tingle… and they would start to go numb… this numbness would sometimes start at the feet at the same time and would progress up the legs and up the arms.

When I didn’t respond or attach to the feeling (cling) it would envelop the whole body and soon there felt as if there was no body. The body was gone, there was only mind… and mind was sometimes gone too. There were periods of realizing – “hmm, the body is gone… this is great… or, this is scary” and yet most thought about it was done after meditating… During the meditation at all times I kept one idea… that nothing is to be grasped, clung to, sought after… and for the most part that is what I did…

If a mosquito landed on me during one of these states, the mind watched it – the eyes were closed, it didn’t matter what kind of bug it was… the mind watched the skin get pierced and later felt the itch and watched the itch until it no longer was itch. Every sensation arose and gradually left.

There began a feeling of non-attachment to everything. Wife, job, car, house, making $, a website, any “thing” became nothing worth obtaining. Whereas in the past I was very driven and bent on the accomplishment of every sort before meditating it all dissolved very quickly. So too did the desire to do anything that furthered ‘non-truth’ or something unwholesome so to speak…

Many small experiences were had during this time, that I’ll not write about… After the numbness and peace came it was a week or so before I could count 10 breaths in total awareness and without thought (other than counting to 10). At times these states of concentration would last just 10, at other times I could’ve counted to 1000 or 10,000 if I had chosen… but, I think that when you get to somewhere around 10 and you feel the state of concentration – then just throw away the ‘technique’ of counting to 10 and instead, feel the concentration directly. The counting to 10 is a tool to get you quiet enough… discard it once you’re there…

So the mind would go without thought for a period of time… maybe 1 minute… maybe 40 minutes or a bit more at its peak… I never meditated more than maybe 1 1/2 – 2 hours at a time. The usual time was about 40 minutes.

At times, during the concentrated state the body and mind would seem to grow to fill the room… actually there was no room, no walls were sensed, no boundaries or limits… but the mind and body would just grow… there seemed to be no limits of skin anymore… no physical limits… and the concentration seemed to expand as well. Keep in mind, this is a very vague explanation of the feeling, it can’t be put into words but I’m trying…

I went through the state of ecstasy where I felt so ecstatic I thought I would burst with love and joy. It happened a couple of times at a feverish pitch and then was felt lightly afterward in subsequent sessions. It was a feeling that not only was during meditation but during ‘waking life’ – walking around during the day – it was there in small or large doses…

There was also this feeling of balance… the monks here at the Wat called it ‘equanimity’. So that’s as good a word as any. The feeling was there during meditation and waking hours. It was a ‘knowing’ or a solid feeling that felt as if everything was as it should be or that there is nothing to value as better or worse or by using any other words as a dichotomy.

Sometimes while meditating the breath became so slow and shallow and the mind was completely devoid of thought that it felt as if the body had died. After all, it was numb, there was no feeling of body. No feeling of mind since it wasn’t active.

At times there was no detection of breath coming in and out, like it had just stopped and that the ambient air in the room was enough to sustain the body in that state.

Other times it felt as if the concentration, the “mind” for lack of better word was pressing up against some unseen force… it was as if the mind was a magnetic force of one polarity and that it was surrounded by some other force of the same polarity but they were not able to reach each other – they were repelled, and yet were drawn together like gravity… there was a distinct idea that the ego would be lost when these two forces blended together… and many times meditation was stopped at that point for fear of not knowing what was going on. I “knew” that enlightenment was just beyond that point.

I knew that once the forces blended – and they would if I didn’t grasp to the idea of becoming enlightened… once they blended that would be the end of Vern (my name). It was very, very scary. I wasn’t ready yet.

I remember reading books about what was happening during these odd states, and yet none of the books were detailing what “I” was experiencing. There were many similar experiences in the books but my experiences seemed different and didn’t follow the “order” or progression that the Buddhists talked about…

It was during this time – about 9 months into Vipassana that I sought out Buddhist monks at the Wats in the Tampa, Florida area to ask them to explain what was going on with me and am I doing this “correctly”… I met only one monk that spoke English to any degree and he was either not very knowledgeable about the states of Jhana or he could not explain to me… he seemed more interested in finding out about American culture.

I read more books. I asked anyone I could that had meditated. Later I looked on the internet. I could not find a concrete answer to – “Am I going to go insane if I continue?””What good is Nirvana for anyone anyway?” – I knew that for me the question was becoming crystal clear…

I would experience total bliss – I had felt it while meditating and then I began to have experiences during my day in which bliss would come upon me and there was nothing I could do but experience it… it just CAME and no matter what I was doing there was this feeling of ultra-awareness and truth… It was a total state change and would occur whenever it wanted… it just happened. After I stopped meditating the “otherness” as Jiddu Krishnamurti sometimes called it – just came and I feared that it was on a course of it’s own and would complete it’s way with me despite my stopping meditating. For days at a time I would walk around in complete equanimity – unable to “want” something, unable to “desire to “be” something”… it was quite unnerving after it went away and I thought about what it meant.

It meant the destruction of the me… it meant that relationships that I had would be severed, not on my part- but because friends, family couldn’t begin to grasp it. They didn’t know how to interact with the new “vern”. Which was really more like the absence of the old vern since he was no saint before. Somewhere during the time I was meditating my wife and I dissolved our marriage. I could no longer relate to her… to selfishness, to greed, to gossip. I could not have the normal interchanges that we used to have.

Imagine the person that you married going away. The body is there. The mind is there. The memories are there. But, the new vern wouldn’t pull out the memories that were incongruent with the new vern. So, while the memories were there locked into the mind – they were not needed much. There was very little recall of anything in the past because the focus – the whole focus was on present. There weren’t thoughts about past or future. It just didn’t happen. Nearly every moment from maybe the 6th month to the 10th was spent in mindfulness of the moment, nowhere else.

I had stopped my job activities, I was a real estate salesperson and luckily had some money saved because there was no desire to perform work that wasn’t congruent with what I was feeling. There was no motivation for ANYTHING. I stopped exercising. I stopped talking with friends. Family and friends would call on the phone and I’d give them responses that were totally uncharacteristic for the old vern. They were afraid, especially since I’d already lost my wife and they knew I wasn’t working.

When I stopped meditating about the 10th month as I said before, the process was going on its own. No meditation was necessary… It would just ‘visit’ whenever it felt like it. A couple times per day was common for the first few months of stopping. Then it slowed to once/day, then couple times per week… where it stayed for a couple years… then (and now) it is not often that it occurs – once per couple months on average now. However, what has remained is this knowledge of what is there. It is always there. It is waiting there and it’s the most comforting feeling. It also has a pulling effect… like gravity. It is always pulling me toward it, to finish the process I suppose.

It has been 9 years since I meditated regularly (there were maybe 15 instances of sitting for 30 minutes in 9 years).

In order to STOP the process… I decided the only way to interrupt it was to fight it by acting as if the ego was back and purposefully going against the feeling in every way possible. After all, it was running on its own and I was very afraid that it would never cease. I began real estate and pursuit of money and debauchery that was excess even for the old vern.

Last year while still living in the United States there was a sudden increase in the ‘gravity’ or pulling and it felt like I had to continue the process. It was undeniable. The ‘otherness’ came back more frequently. The gravity was stronger. MUCH stronger. I began to look on the internet again for clues of what the whole thing meant. I wasn’t convinced that I was in the enlightenment process… but I was convinced that whatever was taking place inside me was very very powerful.

It had already changed who I was as a person. There was already much less ego present – a 1/10th?

I searched for a day and found someone on a web site in Thailand… “Santikaro” he was called. He was an American that had found his way to Thailand about 20 years before to study Buddhism. There was his picture on the site with Buddhadassa Bhikkhu – one monk that I did read some of before and enjoyed his perspective. So I emailed him. No response. I called the number that was listed for some organization in Illinois, hoping to reach someone that could tell me his phone number.

Well, HE PICKED UP THE PHONE. I was so excited to finally speak to a person that could maybe help… I explained what happened to me for over an hour – he listened. When I was done he asked some questions… apparently, there are false experiences that might not be ‘real’ – whatever that means, I’m not sure… but, he seemed to be genuinely interested in what I said because he and I talked for nearly 2 hours that afternoon. My main questions were – 1. What was I experiencing? 2. Is there any desire to complete obligations in society – like making car payments, driving, working, etc.

While failing to give a direct answer, he did tell me that it appeared that I had experienced the Jhanas – perhaps all 8 of them. About the obligations – he said that the personality remains somewhat after enlightenment… memories remain, sense of humor might remain… however, a total loss of the ego would result and I would become a very different person to those that know me. I asked him if it is realistic to think that an enlightened person could live outside of a Wat in Tampa, Florida – without the support of monks and other believers… and he wasn’t sure… he too had pondered that question…

And so – at the close of our call he asked that I write him email to give contact details and that he would recommend a Wat in Thailand to visit if I found myself there…

I wrote. He wrote. He gave me the name of a Wat here in Thailand called, Wat Pa Nanachat. There are many English speaking western monks here and I had the opportunity to speak to 2 of them. The first had the duty of speaking to all the visitors. He was the guest monk. He was from California originally and had been at the Wat for over 2 years. I told him some of what I experienced and his face beamed… he wasn’t sure what to say… he said that the monks there at Wat Pa were all trying to reach these states of mind and that I had found them…. he encouraged me to stay and complete the journey at the Wat… Hmm. There it was, two monks that said the same thing. I decided I must speak to the abbot. He was an Australian guy, shaved head and eyebrows. Everyone had the most sincere respect for him there and even here in Ubon Ratchathani, he is well known and revered…

so I spoke with him and told him what I experienced… and he was smiling maybe the whole time I told him… and it was like he knew when I sat down that there was something going on in me… and he too said, you were likely in the jhanas… and he went on to ask questions to try to clarify what levels of jhana I had gone through – and it appeared that I had been through 8 of them… and he too was very encouraging about staying at Wat Pa for as long as I needed… and that I was very welcome to stay as long as I wanted…

I stayed overnight… it was a full moon weekend so we had to stay up all night, listening to chanting, dharma talks… and meditating. My back hurt tremendously and I decided in the morning about 5 am. that I would go digest what I had learned and return if I wanted to continue meditating… and so – I found this city and have been here teaching English for a few months.

(update – I’ve been in Thailand for over 14 years… and have meditated off and on during this time)