Illuminatus and the Laser Pointer

Since Absolutus wrote his concentration meditation Q&As on Reddit (I, II) it seems like I’ve been besieged by nineteen-year-old know-nothings asking me the quickest way to reach jhana, despite Absolutus writing out a perfectly good method several dozen times in those threads.

Raised on Facebook in a feminized socialist society where thinking is not mandatory, these guys have usually put in two ten-minute sessions — doing their interpretation of what the word “concentration” means rather than paying attention to the guides — have become distracted by their first thought and ruminated on it for a bit, then decided the meditation “doesn’t work” or they’re “not doing it right” and sought out other people to pester online. In other words, they click “Like” on concentration meditation then are surprised when nothing happens.

This reminds me of the parable of Illuminatus and the Laser Pointer…


You see, about a year and a half ago, I took on a small group of trainees, and we would do real-life concentration meditation sits here at my house. I remember there was this one kid called Mark, about 19 or 20 years old, who kept complaining: “I can’t keep my attention on my breath — I keep thinking too much!”

I took a marker pen and drew a large black dot on the side of my house, then handed Mark a laser pointer. “Keep shining this laser exactly on that dot”, I told him, then walked off. I came back five minutes later and he was still doing it. I slapped his hand so that the laser moved from the dot on the wall.

“What are you doing?” he said.

“Keep shining the laser on the dot”, I replied. He did so. I slapped his hand again and he begrudgingly returned the laser to the dot.

I then started slapping his hand dozens of times in quick succession and he — now pissed-off, yet determined — kept the laser on the dot, returning it after every movement.

I then ran up and shoved him so hard he flew onto the floor and dropped the laser pointer.

“What the fuck?!” he shouted.

“Shine the laser on the dot,” I said. He crawled and picked up the laser pointer and, lying on the floor, continued to shine it on the dot.

I then ran over and started kicking him in the legs. When he whimpered, I told him to shine the laser on the dot, and he did. Then I started kicking him in the back, and when he cried out, I told him to shine the laser on the dot, which he did.

Finally, I started booting him in the ribs so hard it made a sound like chopping meat. Whilst doing this I screamed at him, “You are worthless. You are nothing!” Looking down, Mark, now in the fetal position, a gurgling sound coming from his mouth, had in his hand the laser pointer and he was shining it on the dot.

After wiping the blood from around his mouth and ears, I picked him up and told him to go and do concentration meditation, keeping his attention on his breath always. He went and practised and got jhana that day.


None of that actually happened. The point is, learning concentration meditation comes as a result of the constant application of will, applied over long periods of time, through often painful distractions. Those distractions are not cues to leave the meditation but are the very substance of the training. They are the weights you add to the barbell.

Until you have practised a method for at least two months, in a minimum of 30-minute sessions every day, you are in no position to make any claims about the effectiveness of the method nor can you ask questions about your practice until you actually have something to ask.

The other point is that if you bring me complaints without paying your dues I will kick you half to death.

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10 Responses

  1. Pat says:

    Dammit, as I was reading that I was thinking “I hope this actually happened.”

  2. Aldous says:

    I recall a similar tale in ‘The Shobogenzo’, concerning the Zen master Dogen and a young student, entitled ‘Dogen finally loses his shit’.

  3. Aldous says:

    Mark of course went on to exist solely online and changed his name to ‘Psyseducer’.

  4. Pat says:

    On a more serious note, I have been practicing jhana since August of 2014 and it still takes me around an hour to get into a solid jhana state, but it is absolutely worth it. Now in hindsight, I wish I started practicing jhana for sessions this long a while back (I started sitting for that long and getting solid jhana states somewhat consistently in September 2015) and I would recommend anyone new to jhana to do the same before giving up on it.

  5. sevens! says:

    I really wish that happened. Your fake story really tickles my desire to become a cult leader.

  6. hwinds says:

    When im practicing concentration meditation, I can very quickly get to the point where i feel a strong “pull” towards something, but my mind always snaps back to its previous straight. It’s difficult to explain, like im stunned out od my concentration. Usually I involuntarily open my eyes and my whole body moves with it. What am I doing to cause this?

    • Illuminatus says:

      When you feel that happening you should try to relax “around” the pull sensation to allow it to happen. Any time you feel you are about to be overwhelmed you should try to relax around that sensation. They are almost always signs you are about to move to the next level.

      • hwinds says:

        I put what you said into practice today and by releasing that tension I was finally able to hold the breath in my mind on its own without thought, even though that state wasnt stable for me. I got the visual flowing sensation but at that point my internal commentary started going off. I brought myself there a bunch of times and that seems to be my plateau for today.

        Thanks to you and your basic mindfulness, I’ve discovered that on my most simple level I’m very body-oriented on the mind/body
        spectrum but my overlays and conditioning are all analytical, probably because my teachers realized i was left brain intelligent early on.

        Is there anything i can do “in the field” to reengage my right brain? So far im having good results with just focusing on my peripheral vision

        • Illuminatus says:

          “I put what you said into practice today and by releasing that tension I was finally able to hold the breath in my mind on its own without thought, even though that state wasnt stable for me. I got the visual flowing sensation but at that point my internal commentary started going off. I brought myself there a bunch of times and that seems to be my plateau for today.”

          That’s good. Now, when the verbal thoughts start up, try and relax those. So, keep breath in centre of awareness, and relax your mind AROUND the breath. (Same with any object, for anyone else using kasinas etc.) You can relax thoughts; just try it.

          “Thanks to you and your basic mindfulness, I’ve discovered that on my most simple level I’m very body-oriented on the mind/body
          spectrum but my overlays and conditioning are all analytical, probably because my teachers realized i was left brain intelligent early on.

          Is there anything i can do “in the field” to reengage my right brain? So far im having good results with just focusing on my peripheral vision”

          Yes. You can drop into the body. However, that will engage all your conditioning, so it will likely be painful. You have to be able to generate pleasure states first before trying to re-engineer your conditioning, so you should just keep trying for jhana first. The pleasure states in jhana come mostly from the left brain, and they are required to balance out the pain of accessing the right brain’s conditioning (and that is why jhana is used as a support for insight meditation).

          You are doing well; just keep going. And forget trying to change responses “in the field” till you have jhana. The mood-lift from jhana will begin to change in-field responses noticeably anyway.

          If I could go back and teach myself anything 15 years ago it would be to learn pleasure states before trying any other kind of “editing”.

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