"The bird has its nest, and the dog has its den,
but the soul of man has no place to rest."
Hello my name is Jeff Brooks and I am relatively new to your list. Quite a
few people have asked me to explain who I am and how I have arrived at my
understanding of meditation, the absorption states they produce, and the various
charisms that accompany those states. I have posted this rather lengthy history
and description of my contemplative experience for the members of this list
to examine in the hope that it will shed some light on your own experiences, as
well as to answer some basic questions about my personal journey. You will
see that I have had many influences. Please excuse my rather long story.
I should really begin with the proto-contemplative part of my life. That is
my dream world. As a child I had a very rich and lucid dream world that I
enjoyed pretty much everyday. And, therefore it should not be surprising that my
earliest memory is of a lucid dream I had in my crib at about 18 months of age
One of the common themes in my lucid dream-space was annihilation in a flash
of white light. At the time I associated those dreams with the Cold War and
the nuclear threat. When I was an adolescent I began to have what appeared to
be a shift in those lucid dreams, in which I would not notice the passage into
sleep. At that time I began to have either paralysis dreams, engulfment by a
terrifying blackness, or I would find myself falling or whirling madly across
At the time these dreams were very frequent and they worried me. I now
realize that they were proto-out-of-body experiences, but there was no conversation
in my world about out-of-body experiences, so at the time I had no idea
out-of-body experiences were even possible.
At about the age of 20 I began journaling my dream-world which I still do
today. I am certain that this journaling practice contributed to an increasing
awareness of my dream state, and thus being at least a partial cause to my
That same year I happened to visit an old woman who had at one time been a
boarder in my mother's house. Since that year she spent with us, in 1959, she
became my surrogate grandmother. She happened to be health conscious and an
amateur homeopath as well. It was her rather unique lifestyle and subsequent
health, dedication to a spiritual life, and positive outlook that inspired me to
follow in her footsteps.
In conversation with her that year I happened to tell her I thought I was
going crazy because of the frequent "weird" dreams I was having.
After I described some of them to her, she said, "Oh dear. You are just
having out-of-body experiences."
She then explained to me the process of the out-of-body experience, and, as
far fetched as it may sound, she revealed to me that she was a crypto-Coptic
Christian who had been initiated into out-of-body travel in the 30s by an
Egyptian immigrant. She then initiated me also into the same tradition. Over the
next few months she instructed me in out-of-body practices, and in about 3
months I had mastered the experience to the point I could leave my body at will,
and I did so several times a day. I found I could fly any where and any when I
wanted to. That included different planets and solar systems as well.
That same year I attended a Silva Mind Control workshop and a year later I
attended the advanced Silva Mind Control course taught by Jose Silva himself.
For me, Silva Mind Control filled in some of the gaps in the Cotpic out-of-body
work I was doing with Francis. In 1973 I also began a twice a day meditation
practice, that I am sure empowered me to accomplish the mastery I achieved in
out-of-body travel so quickly.
Now that 30 years have past, my daily meditation practice has become Three
one to two hour sessions a day. And, as a product of that practice I have been
experiencing a series of subjective experiences that I have not been able to
find anyone to explain with satisfaction. I have however found a reasonable
correlation in the literature of the Pali canon and various Hindu scriptures.
These subjective experiences have produced regular ecstatic experiences, that
conform to some of the descriptions in these various Yoga and Buddhist
In addition to studying Coptic out-of-body techniques, as well as the mind
penetration techniques of Silva Mind Control, in 1973 I also began a study of
dharma, and I began a daily meditation practice. For the first few years my
practice was primarily in the tradition of Advaita Vedanta.
A year and a half later I was introduced to the practice of Vipassana in a
ten day retreat lead by Robert Hover, who was a student of the Burmese teacher
Sayagi U Ba Khin, and a peer of SN Goenka. I have attended about 15 ten day
meditation retreats, and about 45 three to five day retreats from a number of
excellent teachers in various traditions. Recently I have also attended two 28
day retreats, and I spent 90 days in a Kundalini yoga ashram in 1974.
I have had a twice daily meditation practice for almost the whole of the
intervening 30 years. The contemplative traditions that I have practiced have been
primarily Advaita Vedanta and Theravadan Buddhist, in spite of my early
initiation into Egyptian mysticism. I have recently found an excellent complement
to these traditions in Mahamudra and Dzogchen for which I have received the
various transmissions and empowerments at several 10 and 28 day retreats.
The decades of daily meditation practice have produced a series of symptoms,
or charisms, as they are called in Christian mysticism. The symptoms that I
am experiencing in meditation are: within a few minutes of engaging myself in
the observation of the breath, my mind begins to settle to stillness. I
understand this state is called shamata in Buddhism.
This stillness is stable and unmoved by sensory or mental state variations.
I have found this state consistent with the equanimity discussed in the Pali
During my meditation practice, my awareness expands, and my concentration
becomes more focused. A kind of energy builds gently along my spine, as my
meditation deepens. This "energy" seems to correspond to the descriptions I have
read about kundalini.
Soon after the calm is established I bring my awareness to the tactile field.
A series of sensations follow soon after. Typically the sensations I have -
other than full body awareness of the surface of my body and the internal
organ functions, muscles, circulatory system and connective tissue - are primarily
a general full-body vibrator sensation, which is often concentrated in my
hands, chest, throat, forehead and top of the head. With the noteworthy
exception of the phenomena in the hands, I have found these sensations are coincident
with the four upper chakras in the chakra system of the Yogas. And, I have
found the generalized full-body vibratory sensation is consistent with the
concept of an aura, or a "magnetic" field around the body.
These vibratory sensations become the most dominant tactile sensations and
soon overwhelm my physical awareness domain. Once the tactile field is resonant
with "energy" or sensation, I bring my awareness domain to the sense of
hearing. I typically have a light omnidirectional ringing in my ears at all times
as an apparent consequence of my daily practice, but when I am in meditation,
and I bring my awareness to the ringing, it becomes very loud. This ringing
is often sufficiently intense as to be nearly deafening. The sound often goes
through a series of frequency changes from a cicada-like chirping, to ringing,
to a roaring, like rain, or a water fall, or perhaps the ocean at a distance.
I have found that there is often a very gentle bobbing of my head and a
gentle swaying of my torso to accompany the above sensations. The bobbing and
swaying seems purely autonomic, and appears to be an elastic response in the frame
of the body caused by blood pulsing in my legs, torso and neck without the
counter balancing effect of muscles, which have become relaxed due to meditation,
and therefore don't hold the neck and torso in check.
Often shock waves like a deep shiver also run up my spine at intermittent
intervals, at which time my fingers and lips may twitch and my torso becomes very
erect This sudden increase in energy often causes the period of the
oscillations of my torso and neck to become more rapid in the same way a guitar string
oscillates more rapidly if drawn taught. In company with the shock waves is
usually a sensation of intense ecstasy, which culminates in a sense of
luminosity. I have found this has been described as the classic kundalini phenomena in
the yoga literature.
Since I practiced Vipassana meditation in the tradition of Sayagi U Ba Khin,
I was introduced to contemplative practice in various forms of body scanning
in the tactile field. Over the years I have modified my meditation practice as
a consequence of experience, deepening concentration and broadening awareness.
I've found that scanning is no longer necessary for me. I now follow the
full practice set that is described in the Satipatthana Sutta, which supersedes
the classic Vipassana practice regimen.
I have found body scanning, like any other concentration technique, seems to
serve the primary purpose of occupying the mind until it comes to rest. Since
I can settle my mind fairly quickly in calm abiding (shamata), I have found I
can simply observe the tactile field as a totality. Once I'm observing the
whole of the tactile field, then this whole-body vibratory sensation soon emerges.
Once I'm established in calm abiding through observing the tactile field, I
begin to observe the other sense fields simultaneously. I usually add the sense
field of sound next which eventually becomes, as I have said, a ringing. The
ringing is really much more a combination of sounds such as ringing, whirring,
buzzing, chirping, and a rushing sound all at the same time.
I believe the ringing in the ears is to the auditory gate, as the vibrations
are to the tactile gate. I have found through the international dialog that is
taking place on the Jhana Support Group that both of these manifestations are
classic charisms (nimitta) in their respective sense fields.
During these deep absorption states I have found the other senses have their
own manifestations of unique expression, or charisms, as well. Therefore the
charisms appear to manifest in their own unique ways in each sense gate.
In the progression of my daily sit I eventually observe all of the senses at
once. Simultaneously observing the manifestations of charisms in all of the
sense fields becomes something like witnessing a symphony of pleasant sensations
in all 7 senses.
I recently examined a translation of the Samadhanga Sutta, a chapter of the
Pali cannon that describes the absorption states (jhanas). I found it too
poetic to receive adequate direction from, but it describes how the aspirant
becomes progressively more soaked, or saturated in ecstasy in each of 8 successive
absorption states (jhanas/samadhis/dhyanas). In interpreting this sutta, it
seems that ecstasy (jhana) is the manifestation of charisms, or the Pali term
'nimitta', in its various unique forms in the sense fields. My conclusion is, I
have experienced all of the absorption states (jhanas/samadhis/dhyanas). And,
since equanimity is the underlying and dominant condition of my 'mind,' and
equanimity is the telltale factor for determining the fourth and highest material
absorption (jhana), it appears that I have arrived at and sustain the fourth
jhana on a daily basis.
From examining various chapters of the Pali canon, it seems that the
trajectory toward enlightenment is to go through these ecstatic absorption states
(jhanas) on one's way to the subjective experiences the Buddha described as
"unification of consciousness." These states are typified by the lucid subjective
experience of merging with infinite time, space, consciousness and non-dualism
(neither this nor that), which are called the arupa jhanas, or non-material
The descriptions of spiritual ecstasy and enlightenment in the Pali canon
seem to indicate the absorption states are altered states of consciousness
through which we must pass to arrive at nibbana. Nibbana (nirvana in Sanskrit) is
an annihilation, or cessation, of the self in the infinite. I have found when I
just go with the surges of energy (kundalini) and other manifestations
(nimitta), then I pass through the various unification and cessation stages, which
occur to me at random intervals, but many times each year.
To go deeper into equanimity I have found relinquishing grasping is
essential. I have found that grasping clearly hinders the progression of the absorption
states, so relinquishing grasping is central to my practice at this time.
In fact I have found that a grasping "event" immediately precedes a mind
event, or ripple of disturbance on the otherwise quiet flow of my awareness
(equanimity). Consequently, my mindfulness practice for many years now has been
primarily focused on observing the rising and falling of grasping and aversion in
response to the senses. In this way I have endeavored to relinquish any hold
or obstruction on the senses.
During the deepening of my meditation I notice a progression of increasing
concentration and corresponding expanding awareness, which often causes a bit of
a shift in my focus and my breathing at discrete moments. I have found if I
flow spontaneously with these shifts, then the various absorption states
These shifts in focus and breathing seem to precede the surges up my spine,
which can be of sufficient force as to give me the sensation as though I'm
going to be lifted off the zaffu. It does seem at times, that if the energy rising
up my spine got anymore intense, my brain would pop out of the top of my
head. It can be a bit disconcerting at times, but that is when I have found it is
best to practice non-grasping to even the body.
As this energy surges up my spine I undergo this series of shifts in focus,
which eventually concludes in a wall of light that impinges on my psyche to the
point of overwhelming my identity. At that moment it seems even identity must
be relinquished as well (anatta). It seems that the trajectory is to get to a
place where one doesn't cling to anything, not even to identity. It is this
experience that seems to be what the historic Buddha called cessation (nibbana).
I have been meditating 3 to 4 hours a day for several years now. Every time I
sit I enjoy some part or all of the above described sensations. I have found
that when I begin and end each day with these pleasant sensations my days and
nights are filled with charisms (nimitta), as well as pleasant thoughts and
Everyday I fill each moment with mindful observation of these sensations, and
I attentively avoid grasping and aversion. Consequently equanimity pervades
or permeates my waking and sleep state. In fact from the moment I first become
aware of this body, until the moment that sleep overcomes this body, I am
filled with more happiness and contentment than I can recall ever having. And I am
always filled with the sweetest sensation of love, as though I have a new
romance, but there is no object to my love.
This practice and these sensations have even pervaded my sleep state, because
I no longer seem to go unconscious when I rest at night, As I rest the body
at night I observe mindfuly the progression of my repose, which is a succession
of deepening relaxation, and lengthening or slowing breath, until there is a
flash of blackness and a timelessness in which I lose awareness of the body.
Eventually dreams arise and move one from the next throughout the night.
These dreams by the way are as lucid as the waking reality. Eventually around 4
AM each morning I become aware of the body again. I sit to meditate for an
hour or two before my son awakes and I begin my day.
The pervasion of my awareness into my sleep domain has also produced a kind
of shattering of my sense of reality, as well as producing a lack of dependence
on a linear time/space domain. My dreams are often so lucid as to be
indistinguishable from what we call "waking reality." Consequently, even though I
"awake" every morning to this "reality, I frequently "awaken" to other seamlessly
real and equally engaging realities. But these "realities" are not in this
space/time domain. The consequence is that I cannot with conviction state that
this reality is any more real than the other realities that I encounter. I
believe this is the realization of much of the material within Advaita Vedanta and
Mahamudra, in which the very nature of the subject-object reality is called
It is a bit disconcerting not knowing to which reality I can "rely" on, or to
which I will find myself in the next moment. This lack of reliance on a
time/space domain has produced a lack of dependence on external references. Thus a
great ambivalence toward the objects of the senses has arisen in me. As a
consequence I seem to have no ambition for anything in life. I have no interest
in a career. I do not care for a relationship, or to acquiring progeny. I have
no interest in acquiring anything, such as land or a home. I have no thought
toward acquiring wealth, or a retirement. I do not even care if I get sick, or
how long I live. Death could come in the next moment, and it would mean
nothing to me. And, interestingly enough, I have no fear of the dark.
Another interesting property of my life, is I can't seem to gain my balance.
I often feel ever so slightly off balance. I believe this "vertigo" is related
to the heightened awareness I have developed for my senses. One of the most
over looked senses is our sense of balance, which comes from sensors in the
inner ear. It is this sense of balance though that is critical to our species
method of bipedal locomotion. I believe the sense of euphoria one experiences
during the ecstasies is a charism characteristic of a heightened awareness the
sense of balance. It is this, perhaps overly acute, awareness of the sense of
balance that keeps me feeling slightly off balance, almost as though I am drunk.
I am 50 years old and a single parent of two children. My spiritual practice
has been something that I have arranged in the quiet times after the children
and spouse have gone off to sleep. The spouse left long ago. My oldest has
already graduated from college, and my youngest is 6 months from leaving home for
college. Once he has left home I plan to dedicate the whole of my energies to
my spiritual practice, the furthering of the dharma, and the teaching of
I am now wanting to spend all of my time in meditation, so I seek retreat
opportunities wherever I can find them. I spend all of my vacation time at
meditation retreats, which amounts to about 60 days of retreat time each year. My
only interest in life is maintaining these subjective experiences, and directing
others in their practice.
I originally sent this description of my subjective experiences out as a
letter to every dharma teacher, Bhikkhu and lama I could find an address for. I
received only a few replies. From Shinzen Young of the Vipassana Support
Institute I found out the Pali name for these experiences is 'Jhana'. From Leigh
Brasington I found out Satipatthana is the practice tradition within Theravadan
Buddhism that supports these experiences. From Bhante Gunaratana of the
Bhavana Society I acquired an excellent list of suttas that support the
experience. And, from Joseph Goldstein of Insight Meditation Society (IMS) I learned
that it is common for their students attending the IMS three month intensive
retreat to have vertigo problems.
But, since I have found almost no one who can speak on these subjects
authoritatively I have started a Yahoo group to support people who have these
experiences. It is a peer-level group, because I have found quite a few people, like
myself, have had some or all of these same experiences. And, among the
personal records on the Jhana Support Group I have found there is an authentic
commonality in our subjective experiences to warrant some generalizations. The
Jhana Support Group forum has attracted over 180 people in a peer level
community of contemplatives who support each other in their meditation practices.
Therefore if you are having any of the above symptoms (charisms) in your practice
and you would like to have validation and direction, then do subscribe today.
Jhana Support Group
A support group for ecstatic contemplatives
Please excuse my rather long story. I can only hope that I have been of even
a small help to a few of you. My only wish is to benefit all beings with
every thought, word, action and resource.
May you begin each day and end each day with bliss, and may your days and
nights be filled with joy.