Mailbag: Should you trust my advice?
A few questions
- How spiritually advanced are you? As in, can you get into hard jhanic states frequently? Basically, are you someone whose advice I can take and trust?
- Have drugs impacted your ability to get into deep meditative states?
- Why can’t I use nootropics when I meditate? After all, buddhist monks drink copious amounts of green tea before meditating. I was hoping to use Modafinil to help me meditate. In fact, when I messaged Absolutus from reddit, he told me it is ok to use nootropics to help with meditation. He has tried over a 100+ nootropics and many of them were beneficial to him and changed his life (his words). Also, he stated that good nootropics will help you meditate and that the progress that you gained from meditating while on nootropics will still be there even after you stop taking them (in his experience).
- Can you take nootropics like Modafinil of Adderall and still get the long-term benefits of meditation? Can nootropics lead you to jhana? I read somewhere online where a biomed student used adderall to get him to jhana.
Thanks a lot!
Hi Masoom. I will answer a question at a time.
How spiritually advanced are you? As in, can you get into hard jhanic states frequently?
Not currently. I have all the vipassana ñanas (Stages of Insight) and am at roughly Second Path by my estimation — though I am not taking MCTB path levels, or even the vipassana ñanas, particularly seriously at the moment. Most of these ñanas were attained in what might be considered access concentration or soft first jhana depending who you asked. However, I occasionally attained to the hard jhanas. I demonstrated stable hard jhanas in my iPhone Flashlight Afterimage Kasina post.
Consistency has always been a difficulty for me. I am very much a creature who takes flights of fancy. I was able to repeat the afterimage kasina hard jhanas a few times, then they suddenly “stopped working”. I have no idea why, since I used the same conditions each time. Further to this point however, the real yogis go to great lengths to maintain a very consistent state of body and mind through diet, exercise (e.g. hatha yoga) and regularity in practice (e.g. meditating at the same time every day). I often get asked by readers why they can do concentration meditation well some days and cannot seem to do it at all on other days. My answer is that modern life is generally dizzying and destabilizing. The yogis who really crack the consistency either go on retreat or find some other way to make their body and mind state highly consistent.
I have also been fucking around with a wide variety of drugs over the years and making other bad lifestyle choices, all of which will impact one’s ability to gain consistency in concentration meditation. Despite this, I have often fallen into hard jhanas, usually at times when I was either practising a LOT — or, weirdly, when I was in fact not trying very hard at all, at which point they often seemed to “just happen”. This brings me to a very brief overview of how I “lost” my jhanas (and I am saving the full experience for my forthcoming book, which is all about various sex, drugs and jhana trips).
Over the last eight months or so I had been practising jhana a lot, having read the Absolutus threads on Reddit you mentioned in your email. About two months ago I found that I had a small wave formation in the centre of my vision at all times, clearly perceivable with closed eyes. I found that if I lay back and relaxed and made those little waves my “object”, they would then grow in size and pulse in phase with my breath and whatever emotions passed through my body. I found that after just a few seconds the waves would fill my entire visual field and become a “horizon”, very much like the visualizations on Windows Media Player. I could “ride” these waves infinitely towards the “horizon” (which was an infinite distance away) for as long as I chose, and become completely lost in the experience. I believe this was 6th Jhana – Infinite Consciousness. Sometimes it would become galaxies and other space phenomena. In fact I could slow it down and stabilize it to a starfield with infinite space all around me. I have little doubt this was 5th Jhana – Infinite Space. Words do not do this justice, and recently I made drawings of my experiences in order to check with the pros over at dharmaoverground.org and get their thoughts, but the website has been down for the last couple of days.
Anyway, this experience turned out to be the start of a massive kundalini awakening which I was not prepared for at all. I ended up being “locked” in the hard high jhanas for over 20 hours — i.e. every time I closed my eyes I would smoothly and quickly move into infinite space. Concentration and insight meditation would also merge “by themselves” and I was pulled through all jhanas and all ñanas simultaneously through to Fruition, over and over and over again. It was extremely disconcerting given that to get anything even similar to those experiences in the past required a whole lot of applied effort. As I said, I am saving the terrors of that experience for my new book, but the bottom line is this: somewhere and sometime during that experience I decided that all this was really not the way forward and renounced the whole lot. The next day I took up only Actualism which regrounded me and, after spending several days just doing Actualism (which Daniel Ingram describes nicely here) the wave formation in the middle of my visual field had completely gone and I no longer slipped into jhana “without trying”. The repercussion of this however is that I now struggle even to get soft first jhana and have not had a hard jhana since.
I still use meditation every morning for 30 minutes and the meditation I use is here: Official Concentration Meditation. I make no effort to get into jhana during this session and if strange things happen then that’s fine, but they haven’t really happened since the renunciation. The focus in the meditation I just linked to is no longer on reaching jhana but is instead on just having a reliable “systems reboot” which additionally provides some pleasant emotional flow and better present moment awareness and clarity. So, I am now more interested in cultivating a clear mind for the purposes of living life than I am in being a space cadet, thank you very much. 😉
Have drugs impacted your ability to get into deep meditative states?
Probably negatively on the whole, or introduced either: a) Unreasonable or unconnected expectations about what it is I’m trying to do, b) Crutches, c) “Skipped levels” (in the case of LSD, for example), and other aberrations of practice.
Why can’t I use nootropics when I meditate?
I never said you couldn’t. In fact, I have a whole post about Jhanaic Drugs.
After all, buddhist monks drink copious amounts of green tea before meditating.
I’ve heard that before (from the Absolutus thread, actually), but I don’t know how many monks actually do that. Be careful about blindly repeating facts you read on the internet.
My view is that substances tend to carry with them the danger of perverting the state in some way, or introducing crutches. I would therefore err on the side of trying to achieve what you want without any substances. I don’t want to get into the whole “but food is substances!” side of it; the yogis are quite specific on ideal diets (usually vegetarian for example, but I’ve never tried that). If in doubt, go with what has already been discovered and written down by others for thousands of years.
Ultimately, where you draw your lines regarding substances is up to you. My view, after being probably the biggest junkie in the meditation world, is: do it with no substances or “you” aren’t really doing it.
I was hoping to use Modafinil to help me meditate.
What you are really hoping for is that you pop a pill, the drug lays out your synapses in optimal firing patterns, correct meditation and mental state is somehow “downloaded into you”, then you awake from the meditation with the rest of your life being a piece of cake.
I covered modafinil in the Jhanaic Drugs post I linked to above; there is no enduring skill gained from modafinil, in my experience.
In fact, when I messaged Absolutus from reddit, he told me it is ok to use nootropics to help with meditation. He has tried over a 100+ nootropics and many of them were beneficial to him and changed his life (his words). Also, he stated that good nootropics will help you meditate and that the progress that you gained from meditating while on nootropics will still be there even after you stop taking them (in his experience).
“Nootropic” usually refers to the racetam class of drugs but has come to be applied to many substances over the years. I don’t think it’s a useful term at this stage. We need to know exactly which drugs he uses and believes are useful. I personally took the racetam drugs a lot and found that they made my mind extremely foggy. The message here is that everyone responds to different chemicals in, often, very different ways. You have no idea what drug X will do until you try it, and even then you are likely to make incorrect inferences about what it actually did, after the fact. It is all just extremely slippery.
Personally, I believe in my heart of hearts that no drugs really “do” anything in fundamental terms, but rather allow your consciousness to write itself “permission slips” to experience the states or events it wants. It’s all one big hack.
Can you take nootropics like Modafinil of Adderall and still get the long-term benefits of meditation? Can nootropics lead you to jhana? I read somewhere online where a biomed student used adderall to get him to jhana.
Adderall would fall under the “Dopamine Drugs” section in the Jhanaic Drugs post, so check that out.
I have answered the rest of this question in my responses to the previous question, but I will add one more thought.
Let’s say you take adderall then sit and meditate and have an experience. Are you in jhana, or are you just tripping on adderall? There is no clear-cut distinction between the two. The experiences certainly share elements (and if you really want to get something most resembling hard jhana using drugs, forget adderall — just take LSD and be done with it). Moreover, if you were happy with your “jhana” on adderall, can you get to the same state again without adderall? Is it really a “jhana” if you had to take adderall to get that state? What or who determines whether an experience is “valid” or not, anyway?
At this point we are into territories dealing with consciousness on the fundamental level and, at this level, nothing is clear-cut.
This last point is one reason why I have largely jumped off the jhana/vipassana bandwagon and am now more inclined towards Crowley ideas such as:
“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”
“A man who is doing his True Will has the inertia of the Universe to assist him.”
Basically, are you someone whose advice I can take and trust?
No. In fact, I have now largely lost interest in giving advice at all since my life has been chaotic and I have had trouble at times learning the simplest lessons (let alone applying them). I am hardly a shining example. I will leave it to someone else to give advice.
My philosophy, however, is probably very good. As is my writing generally. Ultimately this is a hobby for me, and one I really enjoy.
I am more interested now in just writing for fun, and readers should see this site as more of my own personal adventure and comedy rather than some source of anything actually helpful. I think most of my old-school readership already figured this out some time ago. 🙂
Till next time!