I have only just joined but I'm going to leap in, anyway, and we can see what it might be worth.
You say you are in the boon docks
which I take to refer to some location in Australia
, only because of the mention of Ajahn Brahmavamso's web site. I have been practising for something like 45 years and daily wonder if I have just begun: not because meditation itself is difficult or difficult to understand, but because everything is constantly changing and therefore constantly new. To me, the experiences you recount seem almost enviable. Just remember that we cannot step twice into the same river.
From my own perspective, meditation/practise/just sitting ... whatever we call what we do ... is like the half-full bit of the glass. It is the only place we can start. The rest, the half-empty bit, we need to fill with the words of the Buddha, with those words we understand based on our experience and developing wisdom which, as it matures, includes more and more penetration of
and filling with
the words of the Buddha. I'm very Theravada here, although I have read extensively in the Mahayana and Vajrayana; for me, only the words of the Pali canon make sense. That sense, of course, was aided by the writings of many Roshis, Rinpoches, Ajahns, Senseis and conversations with as many teachers as were available, on the Internet, in print or in the flesh!
The two suttas (easily available from ), the anapanasati and satipatthana, explain step-by-step how the Buddha taught the process of meditation from start to jhana. In this regard, I think you will find that Ajahn Brahmavamso's web site as well as his Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond: A Meditator's Handbook
and Bhante Gunaratana's Mindfulness in Plain English
and Beyond Mindfulness
are very helpful ... if you take them just slowly and easily, no fuss, no rush.
Another easily available essay is Ajahn Sona's The Mystery of the Breath Nimitta
Now (and everyone should make sure to have a red flag and grain of salt handy)
, I'd like to share a personal insight
-- I think the words parimukhaṁ satiṁ upaṭṭhapetvā
, found in both the anapanasati and satipatthana suttas, are especially important. "Parimukhaṁ" is often translated, way too literally in my not especially humble opinion, as around the mouth. It is, again, in my opinion, kind of like the expression "in the bag" which does not literally mean you have put something in a bag, but that you have understood or grasped or accomplished or just done something. "Parimukhaṁ" means in front. After all, we can only explain our understanding from the mouth (well, in the Buddha's time when writing was only for unimportant stuff like business transactions). Our understanding and wisdom, then, is parimukhaṁ around the mouth, up front: like "put your money where your mouth is"!!!
The two suttas in reference are about learning to set up our attention, awareness (sati) in front. Remember Bodhidharma staring at the wall? Remember the kasina references in the Vishuddhimagga? Well, in front is a focal point, where the sensory organs of the head, ears, eyes, nose and mouth converge ------ where you'd hold your hand if you were looking at a spot in your palm!
Well, that's my take on it. Learning to have the mindfulness right there, in front (which, really, is in your conscious awareness) is what the suttas are about [in my opinion, don't forget that my opinion is just and only that, opinion]. You start with following the breathing and when the "nimitta" appears, when you notice you have settled, when mind and body, breath and discursive thinking have become calm and tranquil, then it is easier to shift, to let your awareness shift to that obvious place "in front". Settled there, it matures, ripens, lets go, recognizes impermanence, dukkha and the impossibility of a separately existing "self".
Then compassion, equanimity and letting-go arise.
Well! I kind of overdid it. The Buddha said that to teach, one should, among other things, give a gradual discourse and I think I have botched that, big time. But, thereductor, take it little by little. You are where you are and I think, from what you describe, you are on the right track. Just gradually let the half-empty part of the glass fill with the words of the Buddha. Again and again he said he taught dhamma and discipline. Meditation is discipline (in our layman's existence) and dhamma is the fulfillment of that. Very
- and I apologize for playing with too many emoticons.