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Hello there. I am hoping that someone will be able to comment helpfully on something that has plagued me for very many years. When I was a young man, I started practising meditation, as directed by a very competent and experienced teacher. It was not long before, while I was in a state of deep sleep, a kind of mental earthquake occurred. In the small hours of the morning, there was a kind of muffled explosion in my brain, and I “saw” what can only be described as a “grain of dust”. Physically, the next day, it felt as if someone had delivered a mighty PUNCH to my abdomen. This seemed to have upset my stomach, as, from that time on, there were pockets of “wind” — flatulence — in the stomach, which, before this, had never given any trouble. My teacher said that I had experienced the “Clear Light” and that he understood that it would come as a tremendous shock to me. Certainly, I was ill-prepared (mentally and, as I see, spiritually or morally) for what happened. As far as my understanding went at that time, the goal of Buddhism was a kind of annihilation — a disappearance, at the end of earthly life — if one had proved to be worthy enough — into the “Void”), and, because of what had happened, and because of how I understood the teaching, this prospect caused a great deal of fear and dread. I knew that I was very, very far from being a saint. Yet, something “supernatural” had happened, and it could not be ignored. I was under the impression that, despite my personal failings, I had, by some fluke, been “brought forward in the queue (i.e. in the line of candidates) for Nirvana” and was at the end of the long cycle of re-births. Some may see my understanding, at the time, as being hilarious. However, to me, my situation felt unbearable and terrifying because this was what I understood. (My teacher taught by his presence, and not via words or intellectual understanding, so, mostly, one was left to “learn” by reading.) The very expression, “the Void” terrified me, as I imagined it to be something like empty space, where, after they died, arahats etc. stayed forever and ever. This was because, in years gone by, I had read that Buddhism was a world and-life-denying religion — a kind of nihilism. I had gone into Buddhism because I could no longer bear the unhappiness that the loss of my old religion (Christian belief) had caused. After this “mental earthquake” (which, I now believe, was a kind of “Kensho” experience), a kind of mental breakdown occurred (together with anomalous phenomena, which went with a kind of awakening), and, even when this passed, I suffered from bouts of anxiety. It is a long story, but I will not elaborate. Eventually, things seemed to settle down, and there were many, many occasions of awaking of a kind, supernormal knowledge, and quite miraculous happenings and insights into things (which, if related, would not be believed by most readers). Since then, it has been realised that these insights and “miraculous” perceptions and events were not a result of any spiritual maturity on my part (very far from it), but were what one might see as “emanations” from my teacher, simply on the basis of my association with him and others like him. These “gifts” were not given deliberately by the teacher — they just happened. Though I did not know it at that time, this was a most privileged period in my life. Time passed, circumstances changed, and I lost touch with the teacher. For the most part (but not altogether), the “happenings” ceased also, and life became a humdrum, rather depressing round of work etc. — just as it had been before I met the teacher. There have been rare occasions when, despite my undeserving qualities, things have happened that were (from an ordinary point of view) quite miraculous. When these things have happened, I have wondered whether I was being visited, invisibly, by a more advanced being (my old teacher, perhaps), and being blessed. After all, he had made it quite plain that he was able to do just that (i.e. make invisible visits — I kid you not). I suppose he was referring to a kind of Astral Travelling.
One thing that has stayed with me though, for all the years after that “Satori”-kind of experience, is a burning spot in the middle spine and in the stomach (sometimes, it seems to be in the first-mentioned place, and sometimes in the second. Though it affects the stomach, it radiates from a spot in the spinal nerves, located at about the middle distance down the spine). More than anything else, it is very much like heartburn, and can be quite severe at times. I still practice meditation (watching the rise and fall of the abdomen) and sometimes, when I don’t sleep well, I practice this while lying in bed. Sometimes, the practice, while lying down, can carry on for hours.
Recently, I retired to bed with what seemed to be an insoluble personal problem on my mind. I lay for hours, wrestling with this problem, which was linked with other parties. To lie there, unable to see a way out, was rather like being in hell. I started to watch the rise and fall of the abdomen, and kept this up, despite wandering thoughts, coming back to it when I realised that attention had wandered. Hours passed and, eventually, daylight started to creep into the bedroom. Still, I had not slept.
The next thing that I knew, I was waking from a short, deep sleep. In that sleep, my consciousness had “plunged down” (this is the only way that it can be described) from being concentrated “in my head” (because of worried thoughts) to the same nerve centre, down in the spine. (This had happened years before, on more than one occasion.) On waking, it felt as if “I” was surfacing, after diving into deep, deep water, which water was black. Instantly, and without any thinking, I realised that the problem that I had been wrestling with had totally dissolved. There was no problem left, for an insight, given from that “dark centre”, had dissolved it totally! (With intellect alone, I should never have seen that solution in a hundred years!) Further, from the nerve-centre radiated feelings of healing. Very soon after this, I fell asleep again, and, in a vivid dream, I was trying to find someone that I knew could help me in a certain matter. I asked different people where this person could be found, but they refused to tell me. Finally, someone told me that, in this locality (it was a village strange to me), people believed that, if something needed to be known, one would be led to it “by telepathy”. Surely, this must have been a reference to the insight that had arrived out of the blackness?
I could go on. Many times, rather wonderful events have occurred. Then, when they faded away and became mere memories, things seem to return to the humdrum course of events that I call my life.
However, there is one constant factor, and this is that the “nerve centre”, down in the spine, does not always radiate peace or healing. Mostly, it radiates burning pain. Yet, there are occasional days when this does not happen, and my body feels normal.
I recall reading (somewhere in the Buddhist sutras, but I forget where) that Buddha said that a meditator would need to put up with "pricking pains, ?? pains", before he found the way through. That's all that I remember. My experience seems to show that he was telling the truth. However, no matter what I do or how I practice, this almost-permanent pain remains.
Does anyone have any knowledge of how this discomfort can be alleviated, or what could be done to "get through" it? Many years ago, I mentioned this problem to a fellow-meditator, describing it as severe heartburn. He must have known something about it, because he replied, “Joe (not my real name), it isn’t heartburn.” Yet, I did not have wit to ask him what he meant! Perhaps he could have shed light on the matter, and helped me in some way. However, this opportunity was missed.
I am hoping that someone in this forum will be able to do that. If private correspondence were necessary, I should be very willing to engage in that.
With thanks in hopeful anticipation,