Intro: Silent Meditation Retreat, 2023

How does a lone individual embody and hold that vibration we call “sacred” in a world that more often than not ignores or denies, and even works against, the emergence of that awareness? I am blessed to be in the company of those who are spiritual seekers, conscious of their purpose and the necessity to live generally from the open heart. They help uplift my center of gravity from the roadside ditches. But a world absent of the sacred,* generally mundane and disharmonious, even if at times fun, holds one in mundanity and disharmony. Thus, though the sacred is our true estate, effort is needed.

And toward that end, I embarked on a second significant meditation retreat. Work schedule + finances didn’t align to permit a 10-day Buddhist retreat somewhere in the country like I did last year—see the previous series that begins with “Summary – Meditation Retreat“—so I made a semi-substitute at home. Trish took the pups to her parents, leaving me in the house for five days with silence. And our cats, Frankie and Squash. It was just me ’n the guys.

*The sacred is never for a moment truly absent, of course, only our conscious awareness of it.

My Objectives

  1. Disengage
  2. Be in silence
  3. Be in stillness
  4. Rest
  5. Recover
  6. Reboot
  7. Enter Awareness Without Thought
  8. Make a Grammy-winning triple-platinum record

I told Trish, Austin, and Jim upon returning home after last year’s retreat that I felt I was on course for one or two basic outcomes: burnout or transformation. That is, either my system just fails because my reserves of time, energy, and interior space cannot meet the commitments and demands and some of my more poor lifestyle choices, OR my system gets itself an upgrade, whether an increase or two of energy quanta, less need for sleep, even more resilient nervous system, more efficient mental organization and management of the lifeflow, greater release and surrender, all or some of the above. My meditation had fallen off the past couple months, sacrificed on the altar of busyness, so I wasn’t so much feeling the latter.


I didn’t go as deeply as I had in the mass quantity of meditation at last year’s 10-day retreat. I didn’t quite re-open the gateway, or reach a place of pure awareness without thought; but I did once again stabilize the attention, rediscover inner calm and spaciousness, launch a pranayama practice, spend quality time with my other Ra—Ramana Maharshi—strengthen my faith, reprogram myself slightly, reboot my spiritual practice, and rest. And I took another small step on the long, long road.

Here is a chronicle of my five-day at-home silent meditation retreat that takes a deeper turn at Day Five. It was a unique synthesis of silence, meditation, study and journaling; and my lap becoming a home for our cat, Frankie; and mulch, lots and lots of mulch.

Day 1: Silent Meditation Retreat, 2023

In trying to get every work-related task completed in order to clear the mental space for this experience, I was up till 3am on the computer. (It’s not uncommon for me to be up past midnight after a long day at the pc.) Waking up the next morning and suddenly being in a task-free space with the objective to shift into quietude and steady within-ness was a jarring transition. I had difficulty downshifting from the Go-Go-Go mind that is in a flurry of this task and that. Thus, not feeling so meditational after a late wake-up, I put my attention to mindful, slow cleaning and preparation of the space for sacred work.  

Trish and I live and work together 365 days a year. We are each other’s best friends and almost all of each other’s social circle save for visiting loved ones. We’re seldom separated. This has had some mutual downsides over the years, and it has been an intense pressurized environment at times, including a few marital crises; but like the conditions that make diamonds, it’s had an overwhelmingly net positive effect on our coal-like selves.

We’ve grown considerably together, and we continue to fine-tune our harmony and co-created efficiencies in managing our home, marriage, and shared service to L/L Research. Trish carries more than her weight, and like me, is proactive in meeting and exceeding her responsibilities in ways that keep our dwelling clean, vital, and well-operational. I couldn’t be luckier to be her partner. And, lucky us, we love hanging out together as well. The non-responsibility slices of weekends with Trish are some of my favorite times in life.

Even though we have been away for short periods several time, something about this experience was particularly unusual. I kept getting phantom sensations of Trish being about some activity in the house somewhere, or of one of the dogs being in the room with me or just around the corner. Unlike the non-phantom sensations I am experiencing right now writing one month later as both monsters wolf down their afternoon meal in a food frenzy. You would think we never feed them.

I did receive/subconsciously manufacture a big dose of encouragement on this day: a cluster of four repeating digits on the clock. Ever since repeating digits took on some subjective significance over twenty years ago, they have a tendency to cluster around particular events, like L/L’s gatherings—though they still remain a generally rare phenomenon in batches like this. Today I saw few other times on the clock outside of 1:11, 3:33, 5:55, 11:11, the first one at the start of my first meditation.

It felt like a day of commencement of and transition into the experience. The resting, the recovering, the uncoiling was underway, but I hadn’t yet entered the silence, as our pups, Emma Lou and Cooper so easily do.

Nadi Shodhana

My circadian rhythm unintentionally set to a late-night schedule—I am forever wrestling with it—I used the night to revisit a book I love about pranayama in study and notetaking. And then, just past midnight, I undertook my first serious practice of Nadi Shodhana.

Incredible! I don’t think that I’ve ever made such a profound and palpable shift into calm and almost cellular pleasure without a chemical before. These sorts of practices have not traditionally gotten through my thick head, but this time I was beaming with an inner subtle joy at the sense of ease I felt in my body. I went to sleep in contentedness.


Nadi = “energy channel”

Shodhana = “to cleanse or purify”

The three principal nadis—ida, pingala, shushumna—are the high-voltage wires of the energy system carrying and distributing prana, or life force energy, into and through the chakras and the nadi network.

You’ve seen an echo of this in the Caduceus, a symbol now used to represent modern medicine, with a central staff and two crisscrossing serpents wrapping around it. Ida and Pingala crisscross through the chakras, or power substations that step-down the pranic energy, from red ray up to indigo ray. Sushumna is the central nadi—what I believe is the power supply  of the spirit complex, if not the spirit complex itself.

Through pranayama (or breath control) practices—the most fundamental and universal of which is Nadi Shodhana—the pranic channels are “purified and regulated.” Among the benefits of Nadi Shodhana, it:

  • Vitalizes pranic energies
  • Releases pranic blockages
  • Achieves balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems
  • Restores equilibrium between mind and body
  • Awakens dormant shakti and directs it thru sushumna, leading to deep states of meditation

Simple description: It involves alternating breath through the nostrils in certain patterns. The left hand rests on the leg in nasagra mudra (tip of thumb and index finger forming a circle, remaining four fingers outstretched and facing upward). The index and middle fingers of the right hand rest gently on ajna, or indigo ray—with the thumb over the right nostril when breathing through the left, and the ring + pinky fingers on the left nostril when breathing through the right.

From the book Prana and Pranayama, by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati.

As of a few weeks later, I have been conducting nadhi shodana every day. While only performing the beginner level practice, it is surprising how effective it is in calming, focusing, and regulating the body/mind.

Days 2–3: Silent Meditation Retreat, 2023

I love waking to a day without the phone in arm’s reach! (It will be stashed away for the duration of the experience.) A day wherein my sole commitment—outside of eating and other, you know, office business—is to the discipline of meditation.

It is difficult to rewire the brain from the time-obsessed, time-crunch mode of too much to do in too little time. Life as we live it has become too much. Too much for me, too much for many. It’s become a protest mantra of late: Too much. (Though I simultaneously can and want to do more.)

But, I am meditating more effectively in this period, spending longer stretches in silence that begin with several rounds of nadi shodhana.

Unlike the Buddhist retreat, true outer silence is more difficult to come by at home, even with Trish and the dogs gone. Various devices around the house like the HVAC, the fridge, the flux capacitor, etc., make noise. There is a lawnmower there, a car driving over here, a Civil War battlefield reenactment there, in my backyard. Wait, why is there a Civil War reenactment in my backyard!? Focus Gary, focus.

Also unlike the Buddhist retreat, I decided to work. I don’t mean work-work. I mean that which I love and don’t get to do enough of: yard work. It is late April and highs in the upper 50s outside, sun shining, birds singing, and a small mountain (5 cu. yards) of undistributed mulch calls to me from the driveway.

I spend much of my life parked in front of a monitor. If I took a picture of myself every day and made a timelapse, you’d just see me growing old staring at a monitor. And routine exercise, while I mostly keep up with it, is uninspiring. I love and need to use my body in some constructive, physical purpose, particularly if it outside, particularly if it beautifies Trisha’s and my home. So I got on my worn-down stained outdoor clothes, grabbed the wheelbarrow and pitchfork (a perfect tool for shoveling out mulch into a wheelbarrow), and went to work. But not in a rush. Not with earbuds in. But with mindfulness and mantra.

In addition to diving into pranayama the previous night, I re-opened Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi. Here is absolute consciousness speaking through the voice of a relative and temporary form known as Ramana Maharshi, or the term of endearment he was also known by, Bhagavan. Much I could say. And even more I cannot say.

Injecting his thought into this contemplative space of silence was a potent catalyst. Deeper springs of understanding, as it were, bubbled up into my awareness, particularly around the eternal, always present nature of the true self, which I’ll explore more later on. So, I began an internal mantra using a phrase extracted from his recorded words.

I spent the afternoons working outdoors by myself, my mind repeating the mantra over and over in steady rhythm. I came much closer to being at one with my work than ever before. (In case she might see me outside, I had texted my neighbor, Sue, in advance to tell her I CAN’T TALK! I let her know that I’d be in a silent retreat and I could waive, but no words. Unless something was on fire.)

And in the process of wheelbarrowing that mulch over the course of the next few days, I trimmed back overgrowth, cut dead limbs on bushes, pulled out dead ground cover, dug up and repositioned old bricks, and feeling very Jim-like, I brought up limestone rocks from the drainage creek that runs behind our yard. (Over the course of years, Jim hauled tens of thousands of pounds of limestone rock from the 100-acre undeveloped property he and Carla used to own an hour away in the countryside. All that limestone is visible today in the structures and footpaths around his and Carla’s home.)

It is a unique thing, this home retreat. More and less challenging in various ways.

In the less challenging: I am not bound to someone else’s schedule, expected to be up at a certain time, to spend multiple hours in meditation in the Dhamma Hall, and be otherwise very much restricted in activity. There are not maniacs letting their metal doors shut hard in the silent dorm room at a silent meditation retreat. Grrr. Plus, I have access to my home staples, like peanut butter, tortilla chips, and Vegannaise.

In the more challenging: The above can also be counterproductive (minus the tortilla chips). Moreover, the home environment is saturated and imbued with busy and distracting cues. Particularly as I look around and see all the things I want/need to do.

BUT, conducting this retreat at home has its major benefits in sort of reprograming the home space as a sanctum to seek the sacred.

Also different from the 10-day retreat: Frankie. In her passing, my sister Noelle left three older cats: one father named Porthos, and his two sons named Frankie and Squash. Trish and I took them in, us caring for them, my mom paying the bills. Porthos, the father, passed away on New Year’s Day this year. He had been the active one who would march into our space and—with total disregard for whatever we might be doing—demand attention, in all his regality. After his passing, Frankie and Squash began to step out of his shadow and come upstairs more often. Frankie, a marshmallow and cream-colored cat, and I became close buds during this retreat. He curled up on my lap spending the whole time purring. I did not find this distracting to my purpose.

From left to right: Frankie, Porthos, & Squash. Frankie got his name because his blue eyes reminded my mom of Frank Sinatra.

Day 4: Silent Meditation Retreat, 2023

This day continued the trajectory of the previous two as I settled in even more with a blend of meditation, outside work, and study.

It took me a few days to wind down, but by Day 3 and then especially Day 4, the mind began to settle. The focus sustained over periods of time. Quietude discovered. It was around Day 4 that my experience at the 10-day retreat last year really began to kick in. It takes time and intentional navigation to slowly merge out of the city grid of traffic and into the slower, quieter countryside lanes.

And as the space opens to views of rolling hills and pasture, it becomes not only possible but quite natural and pleasurable to acclimate to just sitting with no plan or desired activity save for stillness and silence. One can even wean the compulsive reach for the phone such that one returns to some dim memory of a distant lifetime before modernity set in, or maybe even into the echoes of the hunter-gatherer society before it all became… so much. In fact, if the only thing I did with this experience was to fast from my phone, that alone would be worth the effort. [Reminder to self: Set a weekly program of burying the phone at least one day a week.]

I find myself slipping into this solitary life of quietude, all the more enjoyable in our own home. There is another me that exists, different from but sharing the same substrate as the busy/social me. Part of me is a contemplative.

I sat on our back patio. Baby blue clear skies. Perfect sun. High in the upper 50s. Trees budding as spring settles in. I used my tuning process today, the same I do for channeling, but stopped midway at the point where I meet my gatekeeper, Carla. I asked her a few questions, subsequent to which I held a strong meditation even as a neighboring yard was visited by lawnmowers.

Then I finally got out that hanging chair and suspended it underneath our grand and gorgeous mulberry. Sitting cross-legged, I meditated. Observed. Saw two male cardinals courting and pursuing a female. Watched a woodpecker drilling a hole high up in a tall, narrow tree. Noticed a squirrel ten or so feet underneath it, motionless, looking upward toward the bird. Not sure if squirrel was sneaking up on the woodpecker, or what his end game was, but in any event I had a great show when woodpecker chased off squirrel, wings flapping frantically.

Continued spending time with Ramana Maharshi. And talked into the mirror about the false self. Talked also to the Sun, our Logos, outdoors, asking for guidance.

Day 5: Silent Meditation Retreat, 2023

I am now in the fifth day of not knowing what floods into the inbox, text messages, the various communication apps on my phone and desktop and brain. I haven’t read the news to know what other worrisome headline or political circus is afoot. I AM UNPLUGGED. One could get mentally healthy this way.

It hasn’t been all rest, though. The temptation of outside work was great and I went hard yesterday, physically and mentally. Not in a supercharged fashion, but rather just pushing myself too long. I spent the better part of the day in non-stop, though well-paced, work; and in that work I was in mantra, repeating over and over my selected phrase. Which was not, incidentally, “Make America Great Again.”

I’ll wax more introspective and contemplative now with some various threads that came up for me, any of which could be double-clicked to expand into larger worlds in this particular microcosm that is me.

Self-Examinations: The mind continually reaches and grasps with a hundred desires, resulting in overwhelm. And pain at the unfeasibility and the constant reminders of my limitations relative to the strengths of others. It turns to see the wealth of knowledge available that will remain out of reach; and it considers all the information I have absorbed, seemingly, but how little the memory retains.

There are many things I want to do—be with loved ones more, travel, use social media to connect, read (everything), learn a language, make more creative offerings, become a world-class mountaineer, learn to write more skillfully, be a better husband/friend—but supreme among that which has called me from the beginning is self-realization.

There is a master’s course available to me, but to walk it…

It is an effort to work out my own salvation. That is ever the project I am engaged in, underneath the various energy expenditures of the day. It is needed, because of… dissatisfaction, to put it one way; misery, to put it another. Virtually every pursuit ends with fleeting satisfaction or the dissatisfaction of emptiness. A service to a loved one, or to L/L or to anyone, personal or organizational accomplishment, a good time with a friend, along with sexual energy exchange with Trisha—those can leave a satiated afterglow, but by and large the projects for lasting satisfaction and peace come up empty-handed.

This is why (typically only weekend) alcohol and/or nicotine are an issue. The brief momentary relief they offer, and the easy shift in consciousness, foster a greedy, attached reaching. The strong will within me falsely senses, or rather, buys into the lie that this is a way toward peace; this is a way out; or at least: this will bring relief from the chronic discomfort/burden/weariness.

If I get deep enough into it, I’ve discovered that there is also a yearning for oblivion, for the erasure of self. I am fortunate to have programming and guardrails sufficient to keep me well clear of the truly destructive and addictive behaviors and substances in the deep end; I am ever wired for meeting my responsibilities. But what I do engage is is still a deviation from the straight and narrow—a “groping in the moonlight.”

Part of the melancholy that comes up in between the busyness is that no matter all the effort, effort, effort, I still end up being the same wretch that I was before, though often well-hidden from others. And it is that base-layer condition that drives the distracted patterns and the search for escape and relief and self-medication (insofar as I allow myself those reprieves/self-sabotages).

In the complexity and fullness of dynamics within me, I notice a disenchantment with the world, with self, a sense of impurity about it all, and a deep rejection. I wonder if part of the numbness, and the scorched earth I feel at times, particularly when knowingly surrounded in beauty, is that rejection. Was I hurt early on in this life? Live’s past? Did I shut down?

The pain of not meeting a responsibility is among the hardest. In fact, I’ve learned that one of my greatest, soul-deep fears is failing my responsibility to L/L Research or my primary relationship in some way. (1:11) One of my greatest drives and hopes and needs in life is just to accomplish the work before me, to fulfill what I incarnated to do. I intend that not in a grandiose fashion: everyone incarnates to fulfill a program of learning and service. It is perhaps a rather universal if not generic thing to say.

The Reaching Higher: To open that indigo awareness, Ra describes a couple broad-pattern prerequisites when they say that “This One is to be sought, as we have said, by the balanced and self-accepting self, aware both of its apparent distortions and its total perfection.” They then go on to describe the clearing of the chakras so that the kundalini may reach the indigo ray.

Ramana doesn’t quite speak to these prerequisites, though it can be unpacked from his teaching. He speaks principally to that final and third portion of the three-part disciplines of the personality: to become the Creator. He does this through the simple but laser-like focus on the quest of cutting off the ego at its source, which is also the key to the dissolution of the separate self—the dissolution of all illusion, suffering, and misunderstanding.

He repeatedly indicates that by engaging the direct method of self-inquiry, the past conditioning, habituated patterns, attachments/aversions, karmas, etc.—what his native philosophy calls vasanas and samskaras—arise to be worked through and burned away. This is what Ra would refer to as “distortion leavings” and the process whereby distortions “fall away.”


And in this journey, Ramana highlights what I would call the North Star, which is the pinnacle use of the faculty of will, by directing the sight to the quintessential root (or terminus) of the straight and narrow: the end of the illusion of an individual “I” and its illusion of an individual will. So long as one, through self-discipline, continually sets their sight upon the North Star, recalibrating through circumstance after head-turning circumstance, the right experiences will come along to support the fulfillment of that desire. It is a vector, and it is why the Confederation continually counsels the clarifying and purifying of the intention and desire. The vector is a way of being and necessarily requires self-discipline.

When there is time for the preoccupied mind to do so, I like to contemplate the Ra’s description of the Logos, or Second Distortion, or Creative Principle as a literal Focus of intelligent infinity, and the relationship of that with the single-pointedness necessary for contemplative absorption, Samadhi, and the collapse of the subject-object dichotomy (or the end of the trinity of knower, knowing, and known).

In that one-pointedness, fixed upon one thought to the exclusion of all else, the mind gains strength and stops wavering. The subject (the false “I” you think you are) is absorbed into the object until the object vanishes. The self then sinks into Source, un-separated, once again not other-than the Logos. This is not as a new state, but a remembering of the state that always was and will ever be. There is total, pure, present moment awareness. Equanimous in all things. Simple, effortless witnessing. It is the all-seeing eye. Aware of but unattached to/unaffected by the passing images of light and shadow, embracing all phenomena in unbroken, foreverness. The I Am. Absolute consciousness.


I’ve read a whole 400+ page book of Ramana’s teaching. I have returned to my dog-eared pages, and highlighted, asterisked, annotated passages many times over the past maybe 15 years or so. I’m surprised the binding is holding together. But in all those visits, even if spending an hour reading those words, it is the visit of a busy mind in a crowded schedule. I am reading, I am intellectually absorbing, but seldom am I doing the work and following his sole teaching to go within to search for the “I” in the space of agenda-less quiet, and deep stabilized focus.

This time for the first time, I did. I went in search of the “I”. I looked at the phenomena arising in my awareness. A thought. A memory. A sensation. A worry. A story. A cloud of energy. My body. Etc. Each thing could be seen, but where is the “I”? To whom are these things occurring? What keeps saying “I” in the inner and outer monologues of: I feel, and I think, and I want; and This or that happened to me; or I once did, or I will do? Where is the I? There is this sensation and that sensation, but where is the “I”? I feel the body and its subtle tension, but where is the I? Each thing that can be seen and named is not the “I”, but yet there is an awareness of these objects, and this awareness is not seen. What is this awareness?

For the first time I got a glimmer of a glimpse of what Ramana says over and over, and what the Law of One corroborates, and what the perennial philosophy reinforces: There is no I. Ramana specifically encourages the search for the I, because it will lead eventually to the certain understanding of its non-existence; and the true state, which had always been there, just seemingly obscured, will become apparent. It is wild. It is the aroma of liberation wafting from a(n illusory) distant, exotic, and unseen source.

In the work of spirit generally, and a meditation retreat specifically, one is visited by glimpses of the deeper work underway as it brushes up to that subtly sensed liminal threshold. Like wading in warm surface waters to feel a ribbon of cool water flow upward from the depths to move past legs and torso, a reminder of what awaits below.

Conclusion: Silent Meditation Retreat, 2023

A home retreat was helpful in that it somewhat re-programmed the home experience where I spend most of my life and where all the old cues lurk in each window pane and light switch. Though once discovered anywhere, the sacred is discovered everywhere, where better than to look than in one’s own home?

And in this unique laboratory, I’ve never before locked the focus so firmly upon a fixed vision as I did when, thanks to time spent with my other Ra, I took up japa, i.e., mantra. Leaving the retreat, the mantra repeated in the background, into and through the busyness.

Have you ever seen Sanskrit text? The written words of the language are linked together by a horizontal line that runs through each one. In each character there is uniqueness, but whatever the letter and combinations thereof, they are all anchored and held by the line. The japa became that for me, a baseline rhythm to which I would return as the characters changed.

In my many meandering days of seeking the truth over half of life now, I get lost. Not lost-lost. I get forgetful. In the project of seeking my salvation, a thought will come along, a principle, a method, a symbol, a vision, and I think THIS is what I need to hold to; THIS is what I need to focus on. Maybe that idea is faith. Maybe it is will. Maybe it is love. Maybe it is oneness. Maybe it is discipline. Whatever light seems to show the way, inevitably the ocean roar of the day’s rapid-spinning activities demands the self’s attention, and the cycles of pain resume, distraction and self-medication on the edges take root, and off drifts away that thread of light into the oblivion of the forgotten. Again and again.

The mantra creates a rhythm or baseline that brings me back to center, helps me to remember the quest.


Absolute consciousness, the primordial purity, radical Emptiness, the Great Unborn, is forever and always free. And we are that. Yet, from our present standpoint, consciousness is identified with form. It is as if consciousness has caged itself inside of thought constructs and time-based experiences. And the more we relate to phenomena, objects, thoughts, and experiences with attachment and aversion—running toward or away from something—the more stuck we are to these objects; the more consciousness is caged inside of and identified with thought.

Radical & total acceptance, forgiveness, equanimity—these are the energies of freedom. These ways dissolve the adhesive of the habituated, momentum-sustaining, illusion-perpetuating patterns of attachment and aversion, addiction and avoidance.

There is a way.

Summary – Meditation Retreat 2022

Twenty-plus years I’ve been meditating strictly on the faith that by setting my intention to meditate, however seemingly poor the performance or outcome, the gears of the deep mind were turning and churning out self-awareness. At a 10-day meditation retreat, faith became manifest. In the most tangible, empirical sense, I learned that meditation works.

Among the highlights threaded through the ups and the downs, the third eye opened—quite palpably, and to my utter surprise and wonder. Awareness streamed in and expanded. I saw the outer personality with clearer eyes. In that seeing was love.

The attention stabilized to a degree I’ve never experienced. I spent whole hours almost one-pointedly listening to silence. I fell in love with silence. I learned that silence is my teacher. I saw what surrender means, in preview.

I entered awareness without thought. In this awareness was a keen knowing that the thinking mind or the “ego” (the illusory separate self) is generating catalyst, and misery. If that voice disappears, there is no misery.

I received a small, saline drop from the great ocean of truth I have long sought to lose myself in. My life was put on a different, or upgraded, course. And I ate pretty tasty vegan food, though oatmeal by Day 10 was becoming a bit much. Here is that story.

Prelude – Meditation Retreat

What if I can’t make it? What if I literally can’t sit still and be silent for that long? What if an emergency happens back at home or at L/L? What if I lose my mind, or want to quit, or desperately have to go to the bathroom in the middle of a group meditation?

These among other doubts visited me as I fast approached a leap into a great unknown, something for which I had no precedent and could have no preparation. While I did attempt to prepare by holding long meditations at home, it was like trying to train for a mountain hike when you have no high elevation nearby—I could not simulate what it would be like to meditate for ten hours a day over the course of ten days in what Buddhists call “Noble Silence” while turning in my phone and losing all contact with the outside world.

But, the call to undergo the experiment of a 10-day meditation retreat was far stronger and more compelling than the subversive doubts, so the small moments of anxiety never slowed my determination. A meditation retreat had long been a dream of mine, and I found an organization with centers around the world holding vipassana retreats. I landed on a large facility in North Fork, CA called the California Vipassana Center an hour outside of Fresno, nestled in the rural and remote foothills of the Sierra Nevada range.

Not the daily Dhamma Hall where group meditations take place, this is the Pagoda where one is assigned a meditation cell.

In the following account, I will share snippets of thoughts and reflections as they occurred during my 10-day sojourn, diary style, jumping between inner and outer experiences. Bullets with circles will mark the start of a new reflection (some are highlighted for significance), and bolded words anchor the key idea in each section.

Note: If the algorithms delivered you to this journal because you’re trying to determine whether or not to take the leap, I’m not sure I’ll be helpful for your purpose. I blend a unique philosophy into my path; I deviated from the retreat’s instructions; this is less an analysis of the course and more a hodgepodge of my personal experiences; and there are far better accounts of a 10-day at this particular type of retreat center. If you are feeling the call, however, I do encourage you to take the plunge. It was life changing for me.

Day 1 – Meditation Retreat

⦿ One is technically at the 10-day retreat for 12 days: First day is a check-in + orientation, then 10 full days, then a morning check-out. I missed the check-in day. The first of my three flights was delayed, causing me to land in Fresno at 8:30pm—eight hours later than my original destination and a bit too late for my rideshare. I grabbed a hotel and caught a Lyft to the center in the early a.m. the next day (Day 1), where I was greeted by a very friendly Mike who gave me a quick rundown, got me a couple bites to eat, and showed me to my room. Mike also collected a part of my identity, an until-death-do-us-part companion who, wake or sleep, I am hardly ever without: my phone.

⦿ Before struggle and “Can I really do this?” set in, my first couple hours at the center were euphoric, the closest I naturally come to bliss without chemicals or sex. I had no cell phone! Sweet Jesus the consciousness freed up from that alone was wonderful. And the silence! I was at a retreat with ~60 other men in close proximity and I didn’t have to squander a drop of energy in the awkwardness of making intelligible noises from my mouth while striving, and only occasionally succeeding, to avoid being an idiot. And the grounds, so beautiful! My being was a living smile of contentedness and joy. I was concerned not that ten days of silence would be too much, but that it wouldn’t be enough.

Who would expect such joy to persist as a steady state?

⦿ The Dhamma Hall. This is where roughly 120 people gather to meditate for the group sits. A cavernous beautiful interior with a long, carpeted floor space, it is insulated well from exterior sound. Each meditator is assigned a spot in the neatly arranged grid of zabutons (rectangular floor pads) and zafus (buckwheat filled cushions) for the duration of the course. 

Men and women are segregated for the 10 days. There is no interaction and definitely no physical contact permitted. The only time they share any amount of space is in this Dhamma Hall—women on one side, men on the other.

In the following schedule, the Dhamma Hall is where we meet each of the three times it says “Group meditation in the hall” (8:00–9:00 am, 2:30–3:30pm, & 6:00–7:00pm), though we are often in there longer, particularly for the evening sessions where we arrive at 6pm and don’t leave until 9pm.

⦿ Group sits have begun. Holy shit. One long, confined, slow-ticking hour. This is having the feel of a marathon—a race so long that the end can neither be seen nor reached more quickly by an (ultimately unsustainable) increase in speed. Instead, the realization grows that one is in it for the long haul; and just like a marathon or reading this journal, it becomes a situation of endurance: of placing one foot in front of the other with a focus not on the destination, but the present experience.

And in the spirit of the marathon, in those beginning days’ sessions the men stream silently out of the Dhamma Hall looking like they’ve run a long race as they lean forward, hands on knees, and find various ways to contort their bodies in stretches.

⦿ The day is so silent; the schedule so empty save for meditation; the social interaction and stimulating/distracting activity for the mind so non-existent—this starves the mind of its usual diet.

I am experiencing agitation. I am coming up against the same hard walls and twisted knots of energy within that might as well be boulders in their immovability. I’ve been here before, internally; I’ve tried to relax these knots, to move or circumvent these boulders. It never works. In this day’s meditations I begin to fluctuate between a sense of progress/traction/hope and futility bordering on despair.

⦿ Me: A core emptiness, numbness, dissatisfaction, brokenness, non-wholeness, aridity, cut-off’ness, isolation, loss of community, outside of warmth, non-presence—a knot of pain. These are the various facets of that which I lump under the umbrella term “pain,” or “existential pain,” on the rare occurrence I attempt to communicate this longstanding situation with regard to my existence to another person.

It could be expounded on for pages but basically summarized in the above words. I am facing it here. Again. This is the same pain I try to medicate (with weekend alcohol and occasional, time-limited bouts with nicotine). The same pain I try to solve again and again and again. I don’t know if it was with me in childhood, perhaps unconsciously, but it’s definitely been loud and present during the past ~24 years of adulthood in the more consciously lived portion of my journey.

⦿ Somehow, Trisha and I got a bad batch of laundry detergent from Costco that leaves a particular brand of funk, not unlike stinky feet. To my (non) delight, I discovered that the sheets I brought with me for my dorm room were washed with this detergent. I need to keep the window open to my room. I learn to fragrance the room with hot tea in my thermos.

Day 2 – Meditation Retreat

⦿ In agitation, emotional/physical pain, and sense of futility, I am tempted, but only ever so slightly, to quit. I remind myself that breakthroughs, achievements, and rare outcomes flow from difficult work, from those who overcome the barriers—not through imposition of force or control of the self, but through determined and focused use of will and faith that persists through challenges.

⦿ My mind creates such misery.

⦿ Rivulets of hope spring up in the trenches of pain.

⦿ I miss Trisha. When I could focus the mind no longer, I made it to the end of the 6pm sit by bringing to memory Trish, and our two pups, Emma Lou and Cooper. How blessed I am to share home with these three.

⦿ The absence of the phone reminds me of stories I’ve heard about the ghost limbs of amputees. I keep thinking that it’s there. Damn you, Reddit.

⦿ My back is killing me. I had never quite mastered how to sit upright well using cushions or meditation benches; and a lifetime of poor posture – both standing and sitting – does not support hours upon hours of sitting upright on the floor.

Fortunately, we can still shift positions during these initial days, so I make an adjustment here and there during the hour-long blocks. And in between the blocks, I try every combination of cushion or bench I can conceive of, in all contortions of butt cheeks and leg bones, including using a meditation bench that ate up half of my checked-in bag to bring with me.

In these early days, most meditators are relatively still, but hearing significant shifts of position as people try to dissipate the pain of sitting for so long is also not uncommon.

⦿ And loud breathers! The hall is so silent that some loud breathers around me are not jelling with my agitated mind. But, we’re also meditating with face masks on due to the world still being somewhat in pandemic conditions. (Masks will become optional by Day 4.)

⦿ I would estimate that roughly 25% of our time in group sits was spent receiving instruction and/or “dhamma talks” from the organization’s late founder and the course’s conductor, S.N. Goenka. Each group sit begins and ends with Goenka’s audio instructions and/or chanting played over the hall’s many speakers; and each day nears its conclusion with 1.25hrs of a dhamma talk from a 1991 recorded video of the same man.

⦿ The first three days we are focused exclusively on anapana meditation. The only thing we are doing is bringing our attention to the triangular area of our nose, nostrils, and the area just above the upper lip. We are instructed to observe, observe, observe the breath. Never to control or manipulate it, just to watch it in its natural state. Is it rapid? Is it shallow? Is it agitated? Etc. By repeated and eventually sustained observation of the breath, the mind, we are told, will be made sharper, more sensitive, and more able to be with the present experience. We will do this for three entire days as prep for the actual technique of vipassana, to which we will be introduced on Day 4.

Day 3 – Meditation Retreat

⦿  I alternate between never again and this is amazing. I woke today feeling optimistic and good. I vowed internally to avoid judgment of self and others, and I articulated “may all beings be happy.” I am given courage by Goenka’s indication that the mind may react with resistance to this regimen and create agitation.

⦿ Something is steel inside of me. Did I, on a deeper level, want to be this stuck without answer or clarity?

I very strongly want to help others find their own way out of pain, but I am of little use to anyone stuck, trapped, and confused as I am in my own. Intellectually I know that these are the words of an illusory self with whom I am presently identified, but this is my reality nonetheless—seemingly unchangeable, unyielding to inquiry and healing.

⦿ I chase satisfaction in my daily life, fumbling blindly for liberation and salvation, or even relief, but seldom do I ever feel completely whole, completely satisfied and well, completely present and harmonious. Even in a night of weekend drinks, while it can be casual and a genuinely good time (Trish and I in particular have such a fun, connecting time together with a couple drinks), and while it need not have much connection with the overall, larger spiritual journey, I can clearly see how the mind reaches and grasps for that shift in consciousness as if it will offer a doorway out. It is a false salvation.

⦿ I think I narrowed down the source of these energetic knots or tangles within me, as I perceive them. They seem to be concentrated in the heart and sacral centers (the green and orange rays). I’m getting a visual of something akin to a lodged kidney stone in my pranic pipelines.

⦿ Otherwise… there is little that is new for me to observe in this stuckness. I have mapped this out so well. I have been staring at this state of bondage forever.

Do I pay it too much attention in the normal flow of my life? No, I don’t think so. I have forgotten it many times. I have been lulled into a (incomplete or untrue?) sense of wholeness, rightness, satisfaction only for the pain to return, often crushing and scattering my hope, my dreams, and my momentary sense of inner security. It seems to oscillate between active and dormant, but it’s always there. Even in happy and ostensibly stress-free times, like adventures with Trish, it’s always there, lurking.

⦿ Rather difficult, this experience. The total lack of stimulus and social engagement, the sitting with your thoughts forever, the backpain… seven more whole days of this feels like a very long time. And what if I make it through this with nothing to show for it? Among my various salvation projects over the years, this is the most committed and intensive, and if I reach the other side in the same exact state I entered this… the despair may be great… I may have little hope of remedy if this fails.

At the root of all kinds of dukkha is craving, or attachment. We go through life grasping at or clinging to what we think will gratify us and avoiding what we dislike. The second noble truth tells us that this very grasping, or clinging, or avoidance is the source of dukkha. We are like drowning people who reach for something floating by to save us, then discover that what we’ve latched onto provides only momentary relief, or temporary satisfaction. What we desire is never enough and never lasts. –


Day 4 – Meditation Retreat


⦿ I love sharing meals in silence with so many people. The chairs have something akin to small tennis balls underneath each leg to mute their movement. Each sits with their meal in quiet. Practically no eye contact and no exchanges; we are together not in words but shared purpose and silence.

The kitchen is sporting Kirkland’s swag: the same Valencia peanut butter we have at home. And Earth Balance! If they only had Vegannaise, they would hit the culinary trifecta.

⦿ 10 normal earth days in your life is no metric for the experience of total silence and days of meditation at a retreat. One cannot hit fast forward on this experience. We ride atop a tortoise. 6 days + 1 long evening remaining. I wonder what a 30-day retreat would be like. Later-me thinks that I would love to do a 30-day

⦿ The energy within constricts. The mind becomes agitated. A reciprocal loop. I seek release, relief, distraction in my normal run of things, but this is not a normal situation, and such outlets are unavailable to me. I’ve never been able to track down the source of this. Is this internalized tension from a childhood where voices raised in anger and conflict were so common? I don’t know. I call the pain existential because I can locate no biographical source, no particular incident or period or relationship which might serve as a causal factor.

⦿ Through these days of anapana meditation, I realized how I have inadvertently been attempting to control or manipulate the breath while observing it. Unless something more profound emerges, I think that learning to untangle control from observation could be one of my most helpful insights.

⦿ Back jack. Holy baby Jesus!! After three days of struggling on the floor, I finally relented and was one of several people who used one of the facility’s back jacks. Wow, it has saved my life. Placing it on my zabuton, I propped up my knees with two cushions underneath each as I sat cross-legged, my back held upright by the chair. (I was told at the end of the course by the fellow behind me that he had visions of me meditating as if I was in a race car.)

I would spend most of the next 6 days meditating in this. The sole downside I discovered was a potential increase in drowsiness at times, otherwise I was freed up from frequent focus on my back to bring my attention more firmly upon the breath.

(Around Day 8 or so I will begin to master sitting upright without the back jack on this sort of thingy. At home now, I have 1hr+ meditations with no support on this, but with less hair.)

⦿ It is not for me a simple matter of collecting and holding attention, this business of meditation. I frequently can’t seem to raise and gather the necessary energy for stabilizing an equanimous witnessing in detached distance. The awareness itself is subsumed, stolen, undercut by the blockages within me. There is an inner fog. Attempts to concentrate become diffused. The awareness seems pulled and stuck within deeper blockages, particularly around R2 and R4.

⦿ I accept the perfection of this, intellectually at least; but if I, if the Creator, don’t resolve or heal this situation, then my patterns will resume at home, including the self-sabotaging type of finding chemical escape (not through hard drugs but the still plenty disruptive of weekend alcohol and the even worse devil, nicotine).

⦿ The men’s area of the center includes several narrow walking paths connecting the various living/eating/meditation areas, the kind that activate my heart. Hard-packed, light brown earth, sometimes mixed with light grey small pebble gravels, they move up and down the rolling hillside through a landscape that reminds me of a Mediterranean setting. Pale green spring grass; purple lilacs and yellow tulips; gray stones and boulders, some quite large, often colored with variations of brown-and-green moss and lichen; giant pine trees (sequoias?); pale green bushes; and a tree new to me and marvelous in its appearance and design: the manzanita tree.

The shrubs-come-Manzanita-trees are covered in a brownish-red, hardened, resin-like casing. I would later learn from a US National Forest firefighter in attendance at the retreat that the seeming “resin” is actually the living tree that grows around a dead sort of skeleton. The following are not from the California Vipassana Center, but give an idea nevertheless.

⦿ Then there is a single hill that rises from the landscape like a vision from a dissolving dream. I don’t have words for this hill. On the outer level, it was alive with a grassland mystique, fitted with outcroppings of large stones, various trees, and enough open space between the trees and stones to invite Spirit in.

A small path leads up to its top. Following the group meditation on the morning of Day 4, instead of going directly to my room for continued meditation, I walked alone to the Vision Hill, as it became known to me. At the top, a small valley of sorts spread out in front of me with rising hills and plateaus surrounding, baby blue skies, distinct white clouds just over the ridge line, and a panoply of green covering the earth with various textures and hues of tree and grass. When the sun shines through the equinox air on the pastel greens, it looks like a new Earth.

I talked to the Creator here in prayer, seeking self-understanding and salvation.

⦿ Everyone has been so authentically kind here, from Mike who greeted me and offered a breakfast, to Eric the course manager, to Craig the main assistant teacher who emanates compassion, to the men who, in silence, share this special space and time in harmony.


⦿ I learned the actual vipassana technique. It consists of using the attention and focus we’ve been cultivating the past few days to perform body scans, essentially. Starting at the top of our head, we are given detailed, slow instructions for scanning each and every portion of our physical bodies at the surface level, primarily, one portion at a time. With equanimity—I repeat—with equanimity we are to register/become aware of any sensation that comes to our attention in that particular area, whether it be a gross-level sensation (pressure on the skin, temperature, the feeling of the clothing, etc.) or something more subtle, like an energetic sensation.

We are to become sensitive to all sensation and just observe it with equanimity, neither craving pleasant sensation nor having aversion to unpleasant sensation; just observing each sensation objectively, without reaction. This instruction toward equanimity will be repeated several thousand times, helping to install a rather missing piece in my own practice.

If taken to its fulfillment, this practice is said to yield the result of seeing the atoms of the body blinking in and out of existence.

⦿ Impermanence is a key understanding and teaching of Buddhism. All observable phenomena shares a common characteristic: impermanence. Everything, including the lifetime, arises and falls away. Thus, to react in craving or aversion, clinging and attachment, is bondage.

⦿ It is this practice which helps one to push through and dissolve pain that may arise during the sitting. And in fact, adhitthana, a Pali word meaning “strong determination,” began today. We are asked to hold the same posture throughout the hour-long meditation with no movement whatsoever. IF we find it absolutely necessary to move, we are encouraged to keep it to a minimum and to move slowly and quietly.

It produced a profound transformation in the quality of silence in the room. Where before a periodic shifting on the cushion could be heard (especially pronounced given the sound of buckwheat-filled cushions being moved), now everyone was virtually motionless. For an hour.

Silence was never 100% pure for the entire span. Tiny disruptions every few minutes in the form of a cough, a sneeze, or a gurgling stomach….

⦿ This afternoon, a gurgling stomach somewhere in the room was so loud and cartoonishly contorted in its sounds… it initiated a “call and reply” as other stomachs swooned in gurgling response… I had to bite my lip. Hard. Trish would have lost it if she were here (and been gurgling in reply, as she has a very musical stomach). I think that it was the cabbage at lunch.

⦿ Funny, all these guys, likely so colorful and talkative at home, each with a different voice, but here they speak and share only a single voice, that of silence. And often look like somber zombies.

⦿ Here’s where I deviated from the course. I continued to give the vipassana technique of scanning for bodily sensations my earnest best, but I was receiving little value from the practice. For me, the holy grail of meditation practice is a sustained and effortless single-pointed awareness. Cultivating that was what I came here to do, so I mostly resumed the anapana practice of bringing my attention to rest on my nose. This deviation would be heresy to the faithful, but it is this that would soon begin opening the gateway. I have no regret. In fact…


⦿ THE SPIRIT CHANNEL OPENED! Naturally, through meditation. MEDITATION!

Though I don’t think I’ve ever said or thought the words “spirit channel” before, this was the statement declared to my brain following a profound turning point in the 10-day journey. In the evening meditations, the attention became stable. I didn’t have to prop it up or struggle to hold it. Nor was the attention a fragment of the available energy. It had become more whole.

Thoughts still came. Mind still wandered. But there was an underlying stability. The breath slowed. The body eased. Space opened. There was a tremendous pressure in the center(?) of the brain. Clarity arose.

Just yesterday I had experienced my first dose of tranquility. I had let the body breathe itself, so to speak, with effortless witnessing in the exercise of my key insight thus far: observation without attachment or aversion. Then the prayer on the hillside.

⦿ I want more (says me in a totally non-craving way). I’m glad and grateful for six more days! It is so… amazing to be able to collect the focus upon a single point and not have it scattered to the daily winds.

⦿ Laying in bed tonight, a crisp, cool burst of air moved distinctly across my face in a room that had no moving air. Window was closed, ventilation not operating. I believe I was thinking of Trish?

Day 5 – Meditation Retreat

⦿ Approximately 120 virtually motionless people together in a room so silent for a glorious hour that were a pin to drop, it could be heard, but not be disruptive to your process. You are so focused in the abidance of internal silence. You are not distracted and consumed by the noise of your thoughts. You are alert. The air is crystal clear.

It is transcendent. It is different than just meditating alone in a silent empty room—there is a certain texture and strength or frequency to the silence.

⦿ Underneath the gross is the subtle. Underneath that, subtler still, under that… The mind becomes more sensitive to the subtle, but in its usual operation it is not sufficiently sensitized or itself subtle. That casts 80.10 into a whole new light. And speaking of…

I am caffeinated this morning. While it seems to have its short-term benefits in creating alertness, or a somewhat artificially induced version thereof, it is also akin to driving a high-speed car through the countryside. You miss and thus cannot enjoy the subtle: the leaf falling, the butterfly traveling, the faint bird song or the shimmer of light through the tree branches.

 ⦿ What a strange and silent intimacy. Hardly any awkwardness and little stress when you don’t have to form words for others. You are there, together, in beingness, each trying not to be preoccupied with their own thoughts. I kinda love these guys. So peaceful. Human beings could probably solve many problems and learn to live together in resounding harmony if they just STFU more often.

⦿ Wish that we had gotten that second plane ticket to get Trish to Yosemite National Park, where I am headed to integrate this experience before returning to the hubbub of life.

⦿ Today not a linear progression from the heights of last night. Feeling some numbness return. I wonder if it is not “numb,” per se, but the mind is just insufficiently sensitive, operating at a level too gross to sense the subtle.

⦿ One co-meditator was sweeping our dorm with a broom today. Nice.


⦿ Two core truths:

  1. I create misery
  2. I don’t know how to stop

Buddhism says that freedom from clinging, craving, aversion, and attachment is the way.

⦿ This practice of equanimity can be likened to a doctor diagnosing a patient. “Does it hurt here? What about here?” The doctor doesn’t make a drama or personal story about the pain. She examines it with detachment, as phenomena.

⦿ *No caffeine tomorrow.* Five days remain. I must try.

Day 6 – Meditation Retreat

⦿ I love waking in the morning and NOT checking the phone.

⦿ I can see that I was built to serve L/L Research—I work very hard and rock it out, operationally speaking, thanks as well to an amazing team—but I also feel underqualified. Someone in my position freer from their own misery and confusion is needed; someone able to communicate that in a clarifying vision that shines a light upon the way for others. I have a very good grasp of the Law of One philosophy, but what of embodying KYAYBC? (Know Yourself, Accept Yourself, Become the Creator)

⦿ Goenka stresses bringing awareness to body sensations equanimously. Ra says, “the various functions of the body need understanding and control with detachment.” I need to blend Buddhism with the Law of One.

⦿ It’s another shower day (for me)! And speaking of, I think that this was the first day of being greeted by the B.O. of another. It reminded me of a mountain town in western North Carolina…

⦿ Everyone here is working out their own salvation. They could be on a beach sunbathing and swimming in waters saline and alcoholic, but they are giving a portion of their lives to seek peace and transformation here, to be better for this world. I so admire each.

⦿ REMEMBER: Thoughts are of the past and future. Breath is of the present. Body is present. Thought is forgetfulness. I am understanding more the value of becoming aware of and sensitive to the minute sensations of body. It is a portal to Now, to What Is, to the unconscious as it reveals itself insofar as one has become an equanimous observer.

A nighttime view of the pagoda


⦿ The cell! The grounds contain a large Burmese-style pagoda (see picture above) that contains over 100 individual meditation “cells” inside; essentially a tiny room the size of a closet consisting of a floor, ceiling, four walls, and a door, with a meditation cushion. Here one can meditate in darkness and near total silence by themselves. “Old students”—those who had completed a 10-day course in the past, of which there were many, some of them on their 6th time or more—were assigned a cell on day two. “New students”, like myself, were assigned a cell on day 6. Prior to signing up for the course, I had no idea these existed. Experiencing one was like Christmas day.

⦿ Almost 2hrs unbroken my first time! I think I’m finding my way. The awareness that one can access… it doesn’t necessarily, or at least not immediately, seem to change or reconfigure the personality. Instead it bathes that personality in all-seeing, all-embracing awareness, revealing what… let’s say… a construct the outer personality is, while also holding its myriad imperfections in an unconditionally loving embrace.

For a time, I could see the quirks, neuroses, conditioned behavior, and other unique facets of my personality as all… okay. Whatever cultural standard the self is meeting or not meeting, everything is loved just as it is.

⦿ I made a drawing of two elements. On the left is a circle with the caption “Me” above it. Inside the circle: thoughts, sensations, past/future, choices, memories, identity. On the right, an eye looking unblinkingly at that circle with the caption “Awareness” and “Equanimous Observation”

⦿ By using the vipassana technique, says Goenka, with equanimous awareness—not reacting and creating new sankharas—the old sankharas (roughly: our past conditioning and tendencies) bubble up to the surface and release. They are exposed “layer by layer.” This has some accordance with the way that Tolle describes attention as an alchemical mechanism for transmuting unconsciousness into consciousness, darkness into light.

Equanimity produces a purification of the mind.

⦿ Where in the Dhamma Hall I am on the backjack, in the cell I am sitting upright on a meditation bench with no back support. There are significant intertwining ribbons of tension and contraction that cause compression on the chest and breathing. I didn’t try to “solve” or change, just witnessed without deviation of the attention. No impositions of past or future, just now.

I am able to keep the spine straight with constant, unwavering awareness. When the attention waivers, the spine immediately almost imperceptibly slouches until there is pain. I suspect that my lifetime of poor posture isn’t so much a musculature or physiological situation, but rather an outgrowth of energetic blockage and unconsciousness.

⦿ This is how I (re)enter reality. This is how I submit myself to the Creator – an awareness inherently and infinitely intelligent.

Day 7 – Meditation Retreat

⦿ Wow, four days left. Some sorrow in doubt about how deeply rooted my conditioning is. I don’t know that the time spent in silence here can inoculate me against the coming onslaught of busyness. Which is not to say that busyness is to be resisted or reacted to negatively, just that it will rip me away from this practice.

⦿ Dance of the silent bodies. Funny how relatively coordinated we roughly 60 men are in mindful awareness of each other’s movement and space as we stream through various doorways and environments through and around each other.

⦿ During meditation, I received repeated images of clenched teeth. I’ve been holding a lot of tension in my jaw the past couple/few years, which has caused the constant tinnitus, and I’m seeing that it’s connected to a tension I hold in my abdomen, presumably around R2.

⦿ Ra describes perfect balance in the following way:

The catalyst of experience works in order for the learn/teachings of this density to occur. However, if there is seen in the being a response, even if it is simply observed, the entity is still using the catalyst for learn/teaching. The end result is that the catalyst is no longer needed. Thus this density is no longer needed. This is not indifference or objectivity but a finely tuned compassion and love which sees all things as love. This seeing elicits no response due to catalytic reactions. Thus the entity is now able to become co-Creator of experiential occurrences. This is the truer balance.


I believe that the equanimity that we are cultivating here is quite synonymous to this understanding of balance.


⦿ The Assistant Teachers—space holders and emcees for the event—are available for brief “interviews” from the students. I scheduled one such today. Whether through lack of knowledge or institutional limitations, the Assistant Teacher seems literally only able to talk about and reinforce the technique. I think it is an intuitional restriction. One critique I have of the course is that we listen to hours upon hours of the late Goenka, but hear next to nothing of the living and present teachers. I would really enjoy receiving some of their wisdom. They’ve qualified themselves for the position. They presumably have years of meditation behind them.

⦿ Tired today. Little progress, seemingly, in meditation. Beset by the same misery-manufacturing mind. And when feeling “low vibration,” I become susceptible to painful replays of malice received in recent years.

⦿ Throughout the journey of meditation, even long before coming here, I have grasped for some sort of stable platform upon which to climb onto and stand atop in order to witness the arising and falling phenomenon. I have been in search of some master key, some core healing. This may open the way.

⦿ In my cell in the pagoda today, I looked to the silence, the literal, actual experience of silence as the ONLY method and portal for healing. I have sought inner healing for years, and the silence, oddly enough, was the one place I haven’t really gone.

So today, I placed my trust in the silence. And I did so in a strong way during the night’s group sit in the experience described above. I learned that:


Not in a figurative, poetic, or abstract way. Literally, there is truth, intelligence, and beingness where the thoughts end, where there is no “sound,” no object, no activity, no quality but eternal stillness and silent presence.


⦿ I had a breakthrough meditation at 6pm group sit in the dhamma hall. A big pressure in the 3rd eye again. I kept focusing, and focusing, and focusing. Fear came. What if I go crazy and lose myself in the group? What if I can’t control behavior or speech, and I break the silence? I recalled and exercised Ra’s insight:

This energy [of the north pole of the magnetic system] is brought into being by the humble and trusting acceptance of this energy through meditation and contemplation of the self and of the Creator.

Consequently, I listened not to the fear but, exercising humility and trust, I let go; I leaped; I continued the practice. And something… manifested. Light emerged and sunk slowly and warmly into my heart, where it stayed. A sort of power filled me as I rested and abided in focused, surrendered silence. It restored, cleansed, and strengthened me to a degree. It was a spa for the soul.

⦿ In 52.7, Ra says “There is great danger in the use of the will as the personality becomes stronger, for it may be used even subconsciously in ways reducing the polarity of the entity.” I likened this to a “hijacking” (as explored in-depth in the Kundalini entry in the section “Metaphysical Principles of Magnetism” in A Concept Guide). Maybe what does the hijacking is the “ego,” the false or illusory self. When this ego is opaque to eternity within, and when it comes into contact with the power available in silence, the power of the beyond, then the illusory self and its chatterbox mind may find cause to think that it is special, and write its story accordingly.

⦿ The thinking mind must die, in a sense. It must literally submit to that which is superior. It is humbling, because the thinking mind—as has never been clearer to me—wants to comment and reflect upon everything, to “know” everything,” to control and manipulate in the (wrongheaded) belief that it is directing the show.

The ego is a very powerful elephant and cannot be brought under control by anyone less than a lion, who is no other than the Guru* in this instance; whose very look makes the elephant tremble and die. We will know in due course that our glory lies where we cease to exist.   The ego submits only when it recognizes the Higher Power. Such recognition is surrender or submission, or self-control. Otherwise the ego remains stuck up like the image carved on a tower, making a pretense by its strained look and posture that it is supporting the tower on its shoulders. The ego cannot exist without the Power but thinks that it acts of its own accord.

– Ramana Maharshi

*The guru can be, but is not necessarily an external source in this teaching.

⦿ The pressure and enhanced awareness continued as I returned to my room and lay in bed. I let it work on me again. I had a small epiphany that I’ve been here before, with Spirit, particularly with psychedelics in my earlier years. Getting here naturally, however, is infinitely superior. It doesn’t have the fireworks, but it is also without the  instability, the randomness, and the overstimulated exhaustion of the chemically-induced experience.

⦿ Equanimity—neither grasping for the pleasant nor avoiding the unpleasant—is the way to trust the silence. The Power in silence will energize the many habit-patterns of the mind and all of its limitations. You cannot logic your way through it; nor can you try to control and manipulate, as you lack understanding.

As the various conditioned patterns of the mind rise up to try to run the show, equanimity releases both control and the need to understand. Why crave, reject, attach, or react to that which is impermanent? Which is what the mind is—impermanent. Greet it all the same with equanimity.

In that non-reaction is an essential trust.

⦿ When I took the leap this evening (mentioned above) and trusted the energy, it opened the third eye and continued to in-stream the intelligent energy for some time as I lay in my bed. I reached a point of fatigue. I spoke with it, as it were, and implored it to subside for the time being as I needed to rest.

⦿ REMEMBER: The unconsciousness will try to pull you down, so to speak. More technically, it will offer you catalyst for becoming conscious. But from a functional standpoint, it will seem to resist the light of awareness. It will stir up noise and drama and stories to generate negativity, to think endlessly, to steal the attention in the sleight of hand that gets the self to identify with the habit-patterns. *It will return.*

⦿ Each night we are greeted with a 1.25hr video of Goenka’s “dhamma talks.” (Dhamma being the body of teaching and the way of the Buddha, or Buddhahood, the remembrance of our essential Buddhic natures.) I love hearing the everyday stories of the Buddha. Makes it so accessible, relatable, and removed from the realm of myth. Also appreciate about Buddhism this notion of impurities in the mind combined with the ability to purify the mind.

⦿ One week completed!