Tongue Pressure for Concentration Meditation
I went back to directive meditation yesterday for a while because I just wanted to experience an absolutely mind-blowing state. Nothing wrong with that.
Nondirective meditation has boosted my directive meditation skill enormously. It’s something to do with having to use fewer mental cycles to become concentrated, as a result of having learned to let go more. I recommend trying DM after several weeks of NDM, using any concentration object, to see if your skill level has increased. I suspect everyone will find that theirs has to some degree.
Anyway, one thing I noticed that I do during DM which I don’t think I’ve mentioned in any guides – but which is very important – is what to do with your tongue during meditation. You should press your tongue up into your palate so that the tip curls back slightly (into a backwards roll); this way, the “stalk” or “trunk” of the tongue is the bit actually making contact with and pushing up into the palate, and the tip is somewhat curled backwards.
I have marked with a red circle on the below diagram the spot where you should press your tongue. It is a kind of bony little divot (but don’t worry about getting it perfect – your tongue tends to find where it “wants” to be after some time). I have shown the diagram both with and without the circle:
You should continue pressing the tongue upward into this spot. After a while this becomes automatic and you don’t have to think about it. I believe it’s how you’re actually supposed to close your mouth.
This tongue position has many benefits for posture, including lots and lots of strong, noticeable myofascial release from the nerves in the throat, neck and face. This permanently loosens your limbs and, in fact, all areas of your body, since all myofascial meridians cross at the tongue/throat/jaw complex (hence the actual reason for yawning, which is the release of these “lines”).
This tongue position also creates a very strong upward energy current which your concentration can piggyback on and use to become more focused.
What I have noticed is that, eventually, the tongue settles into a very specific shape which it “wants” to be in, and stays there completely of its own accord during the whole meditation. Try to notice when it does this. It is an autopilot reflex that eventually kicks in, and is very stabilizing for the mind.
For my “meditation object” I actually just used the dark stuff behind my eyes using the “eye rest location” from CMR. This is in fact exactly how I used to meditate in the very early days, when I first started getting jhanas before I knew what they were, and before I got into Buddhism and became sidetracked with breath objects etc. So, this is my “natural” or “instinctive” method.
With the additional energy flow from the tongue, this meditation quickly developed a very strong central “I”-feeling. So, it felt like I was very strongly present in the meditation as a “central doer”.
Now, with my tongue pressed into the roof of my mouth, and my eyes finding where they wanted to be, I simply waited. I did nothing more with my mind. I did not try to stick to any object like glue, and did not “try” to become more concentrated. I also did not try to suppress verbal thoughts or anything like that. It was literally a matter of setting up the tongue and eye positions then just waiting. The nimitta appeared very quickly, connected to the central I-feeling, meaning the stronger that feeling became, the brighter the light also became. Very fast REM began to happen. Soon there was a strong feeling of “letting go”, like some grip of ownership over my body was released, and my mind let go of most of my perception of having a body. The first jhana came on strongly, and progressed classically to third. I did not “do” anything else besides the initial setup. I did not attempt to become more concentrated or do anything special with my mind. I just let it happen, which is what it “wants” to do anyway.
I ended up staying in the third jhana for around four hours. Because I have started experiencing time dilation during meditation (which is awesome and far preferable to the more common time contraction) this felt more like two days. That’s not much of an exaggeration. I would naturally come out of jhana every hour or so. I would check the time and be blown away that only an hour had passed when it felt more like the kind of refreshment a full eight hours of quality sleep would bring. If I closed my eyes and repeated the setup then I would slip back into jhana almost immediately, and climb quickly to third, at which point another hour would pass effortlessly. I was completely conscious, lucid and aware for the entire session.
The third jhana is probably the deepest sense of all-pervading happiness within a human’s reach (in terms of an “acute altered state”). Neurochemically, it is linked to a massive opioid/endorphin release in the brain, having matured from the more dopamine-based first and second jhana (though those states also have a heavy opioid contribution). On this occasion my jhana was laden with visual imagery, mostly revolving around images of my childhood home and deep feelings of safety and love, and the replaying of childhood memories that I am fairly sure never happened. I attribute the prevalence of dreamlike images to my lack of a more solid meditation object in this session. For example, if I use an energy current as my object, the third jhana will tend to feature a persistent tunnel of purple and gold light (this is just my personal experience; yours may vary!). When using the breath as the object, the breath will become extremely loud (a perceptual hallucination or emphasis), like I am breathing through scuba gear, and I could count a million breaths if I wanted to because the object dominates the sense field so much. Since I did not use a specific object in this session, the mind appeared to default to a more dreamlike mode.
I did not enter the equanimous fourth jhana (which is the absence of both good and bad feelings, for a total emotional flatline and acceptance of reality exactly as it is) – but I confess I made no attempt to do so. I figured my mind knew what was best for me and it decided to stay in third for almost the entire four hours. It probably did not want to let go of the happiness, which it must do in order to enter the fourth jhana, and which it often finds quite difficult to do because the happiness is so compelling.
After I came out of all this, I felt totally “full” inside, like I was just completely filled up with good feelings. It was similar to how you feel after your partner looks at you with warm, deep eye contact and sincerely tells you he or she loves you. I also felt absolutely as high as a fucking kite. It was like I could barely think. Words were coming out of my mouth but it seemed like they were on autopilot. I don’t remember much “planning” or thinking words in advance before saying them. I’m fairly sure I was talking verbal diarrhoea for most of the night. A friend came over because we were going up the road to do the pub quiz and he brought me a can of cider. I remember feeling completely wasted after just a few sips. Jhana eradicates the need for substances and makes them feel ten times stronger if they are used.
I had also forgotten to have dinner because jhana does a pretty good job of suppressing appetite. I therefore ordered some food at the pub, which was a burger with a pulled pork topping and onion rings inside. I remember just thinking, “This is so fucking good. It tastes so fucking good.” I had to keep saying it to myself, because I could barely believe how good it was. Jhana boosts taste perception and appreciation for all things a hundredfold. It can be quite an insane state, frankly. It will probably be nothing like what you imagine it to be. All ill-will towards other humans and all existential anxiety had evaporated and walking around the pub was like being in someone else’s dream. I would describe it as “disconnected”, except there’s nothing – No Self – that is disconnected from anything else. So, in fact, it feels very “whole”; there’s just not a whole lot of “Self” in the mix to experience the scene. Again, it’s more like being in a dream than anything else.
The night was on such autopilot, and I was having such an amazing time, that I ended up in some horrendous nightclub at five in the morning, dancing (!). And I don’t dance. And I don’t like nightclubs. But I loved this one. I kept asking myself, in regard to me and my friends being at this club, “Why are we here?” – and the only answer I got back was, “Because we love it.” And that was completely convincing for me at the time and made it even better. “Because we love it.” There was no other analysis required. A state of almost zombie-like happiness.
Now, because this was such a blatantly altered state of awareness to be in, with its own traits of hedonism and impulsivity, I have to ask myself whether it is actually desirable to recreate it, going forward. There are plenty of downsides, not the least of which was staying out drinking till six in the morning. My inclination is therefore towards continuing with nondirective meditation, which tends to induce far more equanimous states as its main “mode”, and to save third jhana antics like the above for birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions and one-offs. I also foresee myself giving up alcohol completely this year, since its downsides are becoming increasingly apparent (though I do not feel the kind of guilt for such compulsions that many people use to berate themselves).
In any case, it’s pretty damn nice to have the choice over which mental states I will experience on any given day. Meditation is, simply put, the single greatest endeavour you can make in your lifetime.