Letter to Dr. Josipovic – Re: MRI and Meditation

I had this idea today that I would get a brain MRI done here in Thailand. I’d just pay for it and not tell them what I was going to do, but my idea was to go into my brain’s default “flatline” mode and then see what the doctor’s said. Just for curiosity’s sake.

So today I Googled ‘MRI and jhanas.’ I found that Dr. Josipovic did some MRI scans of monks that were meditating. Apparently he was studying the transitions between states.

I wrote him a letter. Not expecting a response, but who knows…

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Greetings Dr. Josipovic,

I read about some of your work where you look at MRI scans of monks who are meditating.

I have a peculiar state of mind that has lasted for the last 5 years or so now. I’ve had jhanas 1-8 and I seem to have gone beyond that, or maybe on a different track all together.

My mind appears to have stopped. Flatlined. This seems to be the resting state of my mind. I can “do” – like typing this email out to you. When I stop doing, there is nothing. There is awareness… pure awareness, but there isn’t thought. Thought has ceased, similar to when jhanas come, there is no thought, but there is jhana – those bizarre experiences that just seem to happen on their own.

This state is different. There is no experience, just awareness.

It’s as if there is no ‘watcher’. No do-er. Nobody there to judge.

In that state the body functions fine, the eyes look around, the ears hear, the lungs breathe, and yet the mind is sort of unlinked. Though the eyes may see many things, seeing something doesn’t lead to naming it and thought forming about what is being viewed. The sense objects don’t lead to anything. They don’t start thought up. The mind is at perfect rest. It doesn’t move.

It’s curious because it isn’t something I have to “do” to reach the state. It’s the default. It’s always there when I stop doing. The state comes whether I’m in a crowd of loud people, in a car, in a restaurant, wherever. I’ve gradually become familiar with it and not as bothered by it as I was at first.

I am contacting you just out of the blue like this because I had this idea to go pay for an MRI here myself in Thailand. I would go into the flat state for the duration of the MRI – and see what they told me about the result. I wouldn’t tell them I was going to do it – just an experiment.

But I thought I would ask you if you’ve ever recorded the experience before. Personally I don’t know anyone that has been in this state, and the Buddhist monks here in Thailand are also at a loss for words.

Best of life to you,

Vern​ Lovic

Is Silence Next?

My mind isn’t ready to do anything. It’s like I’ve been broken.

I have a very hard time creating anything now. I have a very hard time finding a reason to do anything now.

There isn’t any motivation, drive, want, reason, urging, feeling, to do anything.

I’ve tried over and over to find some passion. I’m passionless except for brief bouts of exercise, and that fades away when I’m done, or doing it. The drive for that is very weak during those times, and is only briefly strong enough to get me out the door to do it – and then it fades.

It is getting tiresome to make my mind do something. Maybe that’s it. It is like I’m forcing the mind to do in order to get things done on my websites, with my little business, with life…

When I stop making the mind do – it just sits there in silence. It is completely empty. It doesn’t even enjoy the silence, it cannot enjoy anything. It’s passionless, emotionless, thoughtless, and almost mindless.

There is still something there, but what it is, I couldn’t guess. Something still sees, but there is no interpretation of what is seen. Something hears. Again, no interpretation.

Memory still functions to record these sites, sounds, smells though. Even in the mindless state, memory is working because I can recall it later – there isn’t much to recall, but I recall the sound or sight or smell, but not the experience of it – just the occurrence. I just remember it happened.

The mind obviously wants some long periods of silence. For what – who knows. There isn’t any want that I can be aware of. I just say that the mind wants silence because as it is – the forcing of it to continue to think, to do, is not satisfactory. It’s tiresome. It’s not bringing peace or resolving anything.

Will it resolve the silence and bring back a thinking mind again? Will it dissolve further and I’ll basically sit here in a puddle of my own drool because I can no longer will my mind to work at all after I let it go silent for a long time?

Questions with no answers. I just feel tired of making the mind do.

I feel like it is time for another state.

I don’t know what state that is. I don’t know what I’m moving toward or away from, but I just feel like there must be something else, another step forward or back that can be.

There might be nothing at all… maybe my mind has just broken and there is nothing more that will change about the situation. I’ll either force it to work and get things done and suffer the idea that it’s being worked too hard – or not.

It seems like it might be time for silence for a while…

The Silence is Deafening

The silence in my head when I stop doing, is in a sense, the loudest noise I’ve ever heard. It means something colossal, and yet there is nothing there to tell me what it means. I don’t feel like I’ve reached nirvana. I haven’t done it through the jhanas. I have been in jhana 8, but, I didn’t go the entire distance. I didn’t let go of the final piece.

The process has been going on its own without meditation, I know. But, I don’t think it has gone the entire way. I still get angry at people in traffic that endanger the lives of me and my family. Here in Thailand that is a pretty regular occurrence. I’m over it quickly, but still, it happens automatically as I’ve attached to the idea that we must always be ‘safe’. If I had reached nirvana – I don’t think I would have these emotions. I am not sure, I just think that I’d likely not have them.

Five minutes ago I closed the eyes. There it was. Silence like standing in the middle of Antarctica, or a deep cave. It is a bit disconcerting to stay in that silence for long because I know it isn’t a normal human experience. It isn’t something most people are experiencing, and in truth, I’ve not known anyone to have experienced it. I have read a lot by now about meditative experiences. I’ve read the masters’ accounts of jhana and some monks’ and nuns’ accounts of passing into nirvana. I don’t remember anybody mentioning having a mind that was absolutely still anytime they stopped doing.

I’ll re-read Jiddu’s and UG Krishnamurti’s accounts of “the process” and what it entailed. Maybe there was something about it.

I think I mentioned, the new meditation book is nearly done. I am reviewing it for a final time before I send to three people I know that will review it. I’ll make final adjustments and then let it go on Amazon. If you want a free copy before that happens, just send me email and I’ll send it your way on PDF or whatever other format you require.

Metta,

Vern

What Is It Like When the Mind Stops?

This is something I’ve tried, on occasion, to explain to others. A good effort is about all that can be given… the experience doesn’t lend itself to words. Experiences in which thoughts are not being formed, do not lend themselves to being easily described by words.

I sat for a minute here without thought. I can turn it off anytime I choose I guess. At times it’s less rock-solid than others and thoughts are eventually formed. This time a minute went by and no thoughts began.

The feeling… the difference between an experience of having a mind that is stopped, and one that is creating thoughts is, I think, just the difference of not having any awareness of time passing…

I’ll have to look more closely at that – but, it appears that this is the difference, if I had to put it into one sentence.

In a lucid, thought-filled state, there is always this very clear idea that time is going on… it’s passing. Seconds are ticking by… as an entity – we’re moving through time from this point to that point.

Without thought – with just the pure experience of the brain – sans thought, there is no awareness of time at all.

There is only now. Now lasts continually – it doesn’t go away, but it isn’t seen as lasting when in that state either.

Seems like the more I say, the further I get away from relating to you the best about how it really is in that state. I’ll be quiet now…