The $5 a day Poverty Paleo Diet

I’ve been eating Paleo since 2009, and have even written a book on living a Paleo lifestyle. I’d say the question I get asked the most from friends and readers alike is..”How can I eat a Paleo/Whole Foods/natural diet without breaking the piggy bank?” So I’ve created a Poverty Paleo Diet that ..

  1. Costs around $5 a day
  2. Gives you 2000 calories (you can alter based on gender/size/weight goals). Most diets that are cheaper, like the ones that claim 1.50 a day, give you a measly 900 calories. Those are scams.
  3. Meets all your essential vitamin and nutrient needs.
  4. Contains enough protein to lift like Arnold.
  5. Has a limited amount of ingredients, so you don’t have to a super chef or waste time cooking. This is for the cheap and lazy!

Your Shopping List.

Sweet Potatoes


Spring mix lettuce

Chicken Thighs

Chicken Liver

Canned Tuna/Sardines

Canned/Frozen Pink Salmon


Chia Seeds

EVOO + Vinegar

Pork Chops

Broccoli/Carrots/Cauliflower – Frozen in one bag, or fresh



Sample Meal Plan


3 egg scramble with onions, spinach and salmon. Side of sweet potato


2 oz Spring mix salad with chia seeds, EVOO + vinegar and 1 chicken thigh and couple pieces of chicken liver.



2 Pork Chops

Sweet Potato

1 cup mixed veggies (broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower)

This sample meal plan meets all essential vitamins and nutrients, gives you 158 grams of protein, is super high in Omega 3’s, relatively low in saturated fat, and high in fiber. You can switch up your meats and fishes on different days, add some nuts and berries if you want to spend a couple extra bucks.

Let me know if you have any questions. Also, if you are able to make an even cheaper version, please let us know!

How Badly Do You Want Awakening? The Most Hardcore Thing Culadasa Ever Wrote


There are plenty of good reasons to meditate that have nothing to do with Awakening. These include stress reduction, improved concentration, and an uptick in your overall sense of well-being. To get these results, you don’t have to meditate all that much, even as little as ten minutes a day will get you there.

 But what if you want more? What if you want Awakening? And what if you want to get there as quickly as possible? What does that entail? What sacrifices will you have to make?

John “Culadasa” Yates is a very popular meditation teacher and former neuroscientist, who just happens to looks more than a little like Yoda. He’s generally low-key and agreeable in his demeanor, but this old post of his shows just how hardcore someone should go if they want to maximize their time and reach Awakening.

How To Maintain Practice in One’s Daily Life

Some of my favorite quotes:

“First is your level of dedication and commitment, the priority that you give to practice as compared to the rest of the things that occupy your time and attention. To bring your practice into your life 100% of the time with maximum effectiveness, it has to be the single most important thing in your life.

Be mindful of your motivation. Review it often. Penetrate it deeply. If you find yourself thinking, “I want to experience Awakening”, ask yourself Why? Awakening from what? Awakening to what? What do I really know about how to do this? See what the Buddha and others have to say, then look inside yourself. What is it that you really, really want, and why do you want it. Especially, why do you want that rather than anything else the world has to offer? Whenever there are pressures on your time to do other things, which there always will be, never miss the opportunity to review and ask yourself, “How important to me is this, really? What am I willing to change or sacrifice?”

When others start to describe you as obsessed, then you know you are on the way to 100%. Even 50% is admirable, but don’t cut yourself short. Do you want admiration or Awakening. Go for it!

Richard Hamming had a lot to say about that as well: “The great scientists, when an opportunity opens up, get after it and they pursue it. They drop all other things.” This is absolutely necessary. Do you read the newspaper? Do you watch TV? Do you read fiction? Do you golf? Do you attend movies, sports events, plays, or other entertainments? Do you volunteer your time to organizations for social, political, environmental, charitable, or humane projects? Do you socialize with people who are not involved in the Dharma?

Becoming a full-time Dharma practitioner has a radical effect on a person’s social life. They find they have less and less in common with most of their friends and family, and many of the interests and activities they used to share with those people are no longer important. The relationships they maintain and the time they invest in these relationships becomes more a matter of loving-kindness, compassion, and the practice of fully-conscious, full-minded awareness being applied to the understanding of desire, aversion, delusion and dukha. In other words, the relationships that continue become a part of your practice. You will most likely find that many of your old friendships fade away and are replaced by new ones that are more Dharma related. This can be difficult for some people, and there can be a period of alienation and loneliness before becoming involved in a supportive sangha of fellow practitioners.”

So how about you good folk? Have you made Awakening your top priority? Have you cut off most of the trivial things in your life?

How hard are you really going for it?

If you are going to be meditating for hours a day, you better practice a style you mesh with. Click on this link to my course “Find the Right Style of Meditation for You” and get 50% off.

Study: People Who Exercise Have 40% Better Mental Health

A recent study  published in  The Lancet  with over 1.2 million participants has confirmed my exercise recommendations in The Awakened Ape.  In this post I’ll show the answers to some interesting questions about exercise and mental health.

How do the authors define mental health?

The variable for mental health was the number of days in the last month where you experienced stress, depression or had other emotional problems.

The people who exercised had 40% better mental health. But what does 40% better mental health mean?

People who exercise had 40% less days where they felt stressed, depressed or had other emotional problems.

The What, When and How Often of Exercise

What is the best type of exercise for your mental health?

Popular sports is #1 and cycling is #2. In The Awakened Ape I said that playing sports is the most natural form of exercise as it mimics the reasons why our ancestors exercised. They hunted and gathered with a common goal and as part of a team.

And cycling is just awesome. Also, the balance required for biking activates areas of the brain that is similar to a mild meditative state.

How long should one exercise for?

The above chart shows the number of bad mental health days per month on the vertical axis, while  the time in minutes exercising is on the horizontal axis. The lower the line, the better your mental health.

The sweet spot for exercise is 45 minutes. People gain the most mental health benefit for exercising for this duration unless you are playing popular sports, where 100 minutes is the best or cycling which reaches its peak at 45 minutes and stays there even if you bike for up to 3 hours. Recreational activity just keeps getting better the longer you do it.

How many days a week should you exercise?

The authors claim that 3-5 days per week is the sweet spot. Less than 3 days a week and you aren’t doing enough, and more than 5 days a week and you might be burning yourself out.  5 days a week seems to be the perfect amount for all but water sports.

This coincides with hunter-gatherer data as well, they didn’t exercise everyday but took a few days off a week to relax and recuperate. Too much exercise can actually raise your cortisol level and exercising everyday appears to be as bad for your mental health as not exercising at all.

How does exercising compare to other variables when it comes to mental health?

Huge effect.  40% fewer bad mental health days is a giant reduction. Compare that to living in poverty (17% more days of bad mental health compared to people making more than 50k per year). It’s much better to live in poverty and exercise than to make a lot of money but not exercise. So if you are choosing between putting in that overtime work or joining a rec league, you now know what to do.


Meditation For People Who Swear They Can’t Meditate

New Course: Meditation For People Who Swear They Can’t Meditate

Coupon for 50% off.

You know meditation is good for you. Hell, all of your friends can’t stop raving about it. Even your favorite celebrities have a 20-minute-a-day meditation habit. So you tried it. You sat down and expected all your troubles to vanish into the ether as you floated on a cloud of bliss. Who knows, you might even be reborn as the next Dalai Lama!

But that’s not what happened, right? Instead of having this peaceful mind, you noticed your mind was more distracted than ever! Within seconds you lost track of your breath and began to think:

“Why am I thinking so much, what’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just clear my mind?”

“I don’t have time for this, I have better things to do, like check Instagram.”

“Ugh, I’m just one of those people who can’t meditate.”

Don’t worry, these doubts are common. They come from common misconceptions about what meditation is. Here’s a popular one: The goal of meditation is to clear your mind.

Nope, trying to clear you mind directly is impossible. Instead, any reduction in thoughts, any zen-like calmness that occurs, is a side-effect of doing what you are supposed to be doing — focusing on the breath.

This course is about clearing up these misconceptions and other obstacles that keep you from developing a meditation practice and reaping the rewards of a calm, balanced, and focused mind.

In this course you will learn:

*Proper Posture

*How to make meditation a habit that you will look forward to, and not a chore

*How to do mindfulness of breathing

*How to do walking meditation

… and much more..

Link to Course and Free Preview

Find The Right Style of Meditation For You

I have created an online guided meditation course called “Find the Right Style of Meditation For You”.     Click on the link to try three free guided meditations.

Not everyone has the same favorite food. Not everyone enjoys the same workout program or has the same taste in music. Why should meditation be any different?

Test out a variety of meditation techniques to find your favorite.

If you are new to meditation, you might be overwhelmed by the marketplace of different meditation techniques. Should you be practicing mindfulness of breathing? Should you have your very own mantra? What on earth do those Zen masters mean when they say “Just sit”?

Or maybe you have been meditating for quite some time but haven’t found the success you hoped for. You may be thinking that the style of meditation you have been practicing doesn’t actually work, and that there is a better technique out there.

So what should you do?

The truth is, there is no right answer as to the best way to meditate. Just like there is no right answer as to what the best sport to play is. It depends on the person. If you are seven feet tall, you are better suited for basketball than gymnastics. The same principle applies in meditation.

The key to success in meditation is to find the right technique for you.

To help you out I have created an online course. This course contains ten guided meditations culled from a variety of traditions for you to sample. Among the techniques you will learn are:

  • Metta, or Loving-Kindness Meditation
  • Walking Meditation
  • Mindfulness of Breathing
  • Body Scanning
  • Fire Kasina

And many more…

By finding the right style of meditation for you, your practice will become fun, easy and you will make rapid progress in improving your concentration and decreasing stress.

As an added bonus, here is a coupon to take the course at 50% off. This means, the course will be super cheap. Only $9.99.  There is only a limited number of coupons available, so don’t miss out.

Average NBA Player Victor Oladipo Goes Paleo, Becomes an All-Star

This past summer Victor Oladipo was traded from the OKC Thunder to the Indiana Pacers along with Domantas Sabonis for the Pacers All-Star forward Paul George. The entire world thought this was a horrible,  lopsided trade. NBA writers were proclaiming that Sam Presti, the general manager of the Thunder, had pulled off a coup.

And who could blame them? Paul George was clearly one of the best 15 players in the NBA. Meanwhile, Victor Oladipo had throughout his first four years in the NBA, a very average career.  His numbers last season included a PER of 13.6 (NBA average is 15.0) and  a WS/48 of 0.85 (League average of 0.1).

But Oladipo was determined to reboot boot his career. He hired personnel trainer David Alexander of DBC Fitness, who informed Victor that his nutrition was lacking. Oladipo had been eating a high-carbohydrate diet with lots of processed food.  Alexander told Victor that “If it didn’t come from earth, you can’t eat it. If it didn’t swim, crawl, run, or grow, you can’t eat it.” So Victor cut out flour, gluten,  and refined sugars.

The results came quick. Here are the before and after photos. After only 3 weeks! These aren’t Photoshopped!

The on-court results have been just as impressive. Victor has an RPM of 5.41, that ranks 4th in the entire league behind only Steph Curry, James Harden, and Jimmy Butler.  And now after only a few months of being that laughable joke of “One of the worst trades ever”, Oladipo is outplaying the player he was traded for, and is slated to make his first ever All-Star appearance.

How Pleasurable Can Life Be? The Enigmatic Writings of Omega Point

A few years ago, a poster with the handle “Omega Point” started showing up on meditation forums.  No one knew who he was in real life, but he claimed to be a physicist and an advanced practitioner in Tantric Buddhism, including heat yoga and sexual practices.

He’d often start a post saying things like he just got back from a year – long retreat and had much work to get to, so would only have a brief moment to write his (actually he wouldn’t say “I”, but referred to himself as “this mind” )thoughts and then drop a treatise of text, that was at the same time brilliant , erudite, and inscrutable.

Sentences such as the following were par for the course

“One needs to become absorbed in the chest area heat with non-conceptuality and/or altruism if/when any of the blisses are causing outward emissions, both regular ejaculate and prostate fluid itself..”

He would talk about having such powerful orgasms that it would cause cessations (a state where consciousness shuts off).

“Other phenomena of the many include an energetic orgasm built from the mingling of the blisses (even if not great blisses). Generally from a point behind the testicles, upwards a great orgasmic swooning that upon reaching the head, will cause varying blissful emptinesses. Often becoming extinguished by the gaiety into the emptinesses including the cessation of perception”

He talked about creating blissful pleasure paradises from illusion, that one should have such control over their consciousness that one could look at a cow and turn it into a dog within one’s own mind, of having to be careful while doing certain practices lest you kill yourself changing the flow of your hormonal system.

But it wasn’t all about tantric practices, he once wrote an entire book-length essay on the complete path from beginning to mastering dzogchen (In Tibetan Buddhism, dzogchen is known as  the Great Perfection, and is considered the pinnacle of the Buddhist path).  He would randomly break into a historicity of the early Buddhist texts and their formulations, setting the stage for his criticisms of the famous Burmese Mahasi noting method of meditation.

He lamented the weak shamatha (concentration) of modern practitioners.

“To this mind, it appears that in many instances both a degenerated samatha and an overemphasis on vipassana persists in modern practice. For example, there is a tendency to reinterpret the qualities of jhana in some cases totally leaving out listed qualities and having a “good enough” attitude; an over-willingness to bend the descriptions of the qualities in favor of one’s experience, to exaggerate aspects of one’s experiences of samatha/jhana to fit the listed qualities, even if they are but an extremely weak shadow or imitation of the actual quality in question; and thus to iterate, an overall tendency for complacence, a settling for a weak and generally unstable samatha that one self-soothes oneself, in quite a deceptive and gullible fashion, into thinking that it instead is a strong samatha or at least qualifyingly enough. However, instead it might be considered that the lengths of mastery described in the texts, that of unshakable stability and of such penetrating concentrative absorption that if sitting by a muddy road and having a large assembly of merchant carts and animals loudly stomp and roll by, splashing mud at one, and that one doesn’t notice such a circus in the slightest, is not merely an exaggeration, but an accurate representation of what expected mastery entails; “

He also criticized the pragmatic dharma movement, saying we don’t practice nearly enough, that we engage in behaviors detrimental to meditation a mere hour after meditating and the we had very low bars for our attainments. The guy was hardcore..

” In the beginning one should use all of one’s free time for practice, every minute needs to be utilized to its fullest…It is essential to be able to let go of everything, including subtle identifications and concepts of humanity, being human, and social niceties etc. Maintaining awareness and guarding against unawareness must take priority over all else, including the destruction of one’s reputation, disappointing others, and ‘ruining everything’. “

So how advanced was this guy?

Someone once asked if anyone had gotten rid of all negative states of mind and then listed every negative state you could think of from worry, to apprehension to butterflies in the stomach, to disquietude and pain. Here was Omega Point’s response.

To make clear for those who require the most explicit, my direct experience of the “knowledge of destruction” bestows the destruction of above termed experiences at their root. Further, my direct knowledge and experience of the immediately following “knowledge of non-arising” bestows a certainty as to the future persistence of non-arising of the above termed experiences. Beyond merely ending I-making, as recently mentioned, there is no reification of property, sexual territory or social contracts or relationships and no false views or unpleasantness related to death of family etc. The advanced practices have lead this mind to the special extinction via bliss and the resulting perpetual union of liberation and bliss. Further, increasing modification and domestication of bodily pain and fatigue, hot & cold, and even the subtle signs related to effort into bliss or cessation.

What I think he was claiming here, was that even beyond eliminating all negative mental traits, even in the case of a death of a family member, he could even turn even pain/hot/cold/fatigue into bliss.

I can hear your skeptical brain churning. I know mine is. What else do we know about this guy? Unfortunately, not much other then what he told us about his life.

At the age of 11 or 12, he found a book on meditation that claimed it could help one develop psychic powers. This of course, is pretty fascinating to a 12 year old and he began meditating between 30 minutes and four hours a day. Obviously, the psychic power  thing was nonsense, but the meditation practice brought him great joy and exhilaration as well as social benefits and spent his teenage years:

” rather devoid of all but pretty slight arisings (brief and very uncommon uneasiness, nervousness, anxiousness etc; a great much less than what could be observed of others) & felt nearly all social situations were in the palm of my hand (low self-grasping lead to extremely fluid social dynamics; ‘people were easy’). 

To clarify, a ‘young love’ break up of a few years surely had the capacity to influence negatively, as I had rooted a pretty deep attachment and suffered a few weeks before moving on (including the standard sexual territory evolutionary programs males are ‘blessed’ with).

In college he delved into, you guessed it, psychedelics. During one trip, after taking a radical amount of some substance, he saw a wrathful deity, that grew large and consumed his entire vision. The encounter left an indelible mark on him.  

A few years later he became interested in studying Buddhism and meditation, and the relationship between the states he had experienced on psychedelics. It was then that he first saw a Buddhist drawing of a wrathful deity,  similar to the one he saw while on drugs. How to explain the coincidence? He supposed that the deity was some Jungian archetype buried deep in the unconscious human mind. This led him to take his practice more seriously and he travel to Asia to meet and receive instructions from yogis, monks, and hermits. He also searched out and intensely studied rare texts and exotic traditions. He claims that mastering these practices not only leads to the end of all kinds of unpleasant feelings, but that one “can also experience various orders of the supreme all-encompassing primordial orgasm if wished.”

His scholarly essay, “The Art of Nakedness” outlines the path of meditation needed to get there, although it’s not an easy read for those without a strong background in Buddhist philosophy and terminology.

So where is Omega Point now? Who is this guy and how can we verify if his claims are true? Unfortunately, solving this mystery will have to wait, as over a year ago he left for a long retreat, leaving us with this note of advice…

Tomorrow I will leave to visit a spiritual friend for 4-5 days who herself is back from retreat for a month. After which I will resume long retreat.

My central message to fellow practitioners, sincerely from the bottom of my heart, is to stress the importance of retreat. The dharma cannot be rewritten to accommodate one’s great attachment to modern daily life. The only way forward to great realization is to rewrite one’s daily life to accommodate the great dharma.

This stock of fleeting moments we call life can be easily wasted. We should recognize the mistake of conflating the wisdom of working within our circumstances with actions predicated on our great attachment to modern daily life.

This great attachment, with all its sweet sounding rationalizations, is nothing more than a mara. A mara intent on making this blessed life unsuitable for the great dharma, and so transforming it into an obstacle like that of the devas. If you truly seek the flower of Dzogchen this life, then now is the only time to totally abandon this obstacle.

-May all sentient beings be free from suffering, and may all practitioners of Great Compassion be unobstructed on their journey to dharmic omniscience.


Tips For Getting Into the First Pleasure Jhana

I just did a 17 day retreat at Bhavana Society in West Virginia, working mostly on the pleasure jhanas. Whether you are a dedicated meditation practioner with enough concentration to reach jhana (and that means a lot!) or simply curious about jhana, you might find these following tips useful.


Pleasure Jhana: An advanced state of meditation where one becomes completely absorbed in the object of meditation. There are 8 levels of jhana, but in this post we will focus only on the first one. In the first pleasure jhana, one becomes so absorbed in pleasure, that pleasure takes up the entire mental bandwith of experience.

Access Concentration: A state of meditation where you have sufficient concentration to access the first jhana.

Recognizing when you are ready:

My concentration on the breath at the nostrils gets very good, no subtle distractions and I’m fully concentrated on the breath. The sensations of the in and out flow of the breath get finer and finer until the breath disappears altogether and is replaced, usually, by intense electrical pulses. Like dit-a-dit-a-dit-dit..just popping off around where my nostrils would be. Now this might not happen to you, you might not feel anything at all (in that case make sure you aren’t in dullness!) or still have feelings of the breath, but they’ll be so sharp as to be painful, or have some other weird thing going on.

I also start experiencing illumination phenomenon. It is as if you looked a bright LED light on the ceiling and then closed your eyes. And it begins to blanket your vision (in the suttas they describe it like being covered by a white blanket). When I can maintain this state for 5-10 minutes I know I am in access concentration.

The goal now is to focus on a feeling of pleasure somewhere in the body. If at this point I’m not already smiling, I will intentionally smile to generate a pleasant feeling. If smiling isn’t sufficient, I will do a bit of metta practice.  I imagine people with down syndrome filled with joy. When I am no longer able to generate this image, meaning when I try to visualize a person with down syndrome leaping into the air with joy,  my brain won’t produce the image. Instead, all of my attention remains focused on the feeling of electrical pulses pounding around my nostrils. Now I am I ready for jhana.

I start focusing on the pleasure. The pleasurable sensation will usually be around my mouth where I am smiling, or down in my hands. As I focus on the pleasure it begins to grow in waves. Now, this is very important, do not try and make it grow. Do no think “hey I’m getting jhana”, do not even have desire to reach jhana. All of that will kill it. Instead just focus on the pleasure. Just that.

Jhana is a state of not wanting. If you want it to happen, it won’t. Eventually, if you just focus on the pleasure and nothing else, the pleasure will fill your entire body, and your conscious experience becomes totally absorbed in this pleasure. Other thoughts, sounds, and feelings rarely intrude. It’s just pleasure. You have reached the first jhana.

If you have never experienced jhana before, this will be most joyous experience of your life.  You will be saturated with joy and happiness. In fact, it’s almost too intense, like a “I did way too many drugs and I better go lie down” kind of intense. But don’t worry, jhana practice is perfectly safe. Still, the first jhana has a very strong bodily feeling. It feels like you are trembling. It’s kind of overwhelming, to the point where eventually you have enough of it and want to move on to the later more peaceful jhanas.

How do you know it’s jhana and not simply joy? In jhana you are not in control and you can’t do anything. It’s a bit like being in a trance. If you tried to think a thought, the first word or two might come up and then the jhana would shut it down. Any intention that comes up, gets shot down. You are consumed in the pleasure. You are just along for the ride. Generally, the only thoughts that you can think and stick are related to the current experience of jhana, such “Now I want to move on to second jhana” or “It’s time to get out of this.”  When you do get out of it, you will kind of pop out and back into reality.

Lastly, don’t do the jhanas late at night. The jhanas, especially when you first start doing them, are so intense in the body that energy remnants will keep you up most of the night. During the retreat their was no way I was falling asleep within 4 hours of doing a jhana. Although this does get better over time and with more practice your body gets a bit more accustomed to it.

A Case Study on How to Reach Enlightenment

The following story is from a man named Franko, who details his journey to Stream-Entry (The first of four stages of enlightenment in Theravada Buddhism).


SE = Stream-Entry

MTCB =  Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, a classic book in the field of hardcore meditation written by Daniel Ingram.

A&P = The Arising and Passing Away, a stage of meditation  where strong rapture,energy or even hallucinations can occur.  The ingestion of psychedelic drugs often brings about the A & P as well.

DN = the  Dark Night, the period after the Arising and Passing away where after having seen the wonderous rapture of the A & P, one falls into an existential angst and dissatisfaction with normal life.

Arhat = A person who has mastered the fourth and final stage of enlightenment in Theravada Buddhism.

Noting= A meditation technique popularized by the famous Burmese master Mahasi Sayadaw.  One notes every moment of experience. Ex: ..”Thinking, thinking, feeling,feeling, anger, itching, lifting, hearing”.

Fruition = A significant moment in meditation where the mind becomes so equanimous that the subconscious mind projects nothing into conscious experience. From a subjective standpoint consciousness turns off and then reboots like a computer. This experience has profound effects on the meditator’s mind.

Enter Franko:

Hello my dear brothers and sisters in Dharma.

I would like to  humbly share with you the story of my spiritual search which eventually and fortunately culminated in stream entry this spring at Wat Rampoeng, in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

All my life I’ve been a passionate lover of all things extreme, and as soon as my legal age allowed I’ve jumped head first into skydiving, bungee jumping, kite surfing, snowboarding, skiing, motorcycles, intrepid world travelling, and anything else you might imagine that gets the good old adrenaline flowing. You can guess then how excited and euphoric I was when I first stumbled upon Foods of Gods, a.k.a. psychedelics! That was a truly a changing point in my life, akin to falling into Alladin’s cave of insight, euphoria, bliss and otherworldly pleasures that were until then unimaginable to me. I soon proceeded to ingest vast quantities of any psychedelic that I could get my hands on(and I could get my hands on a lot of them), and took as much as possible in a single session. Usually If I wasn’t at some point thinking “omg I took too much”, then I knew I didn’t take enough. As it usually goes with high-dose psychedelic experiences, you break the fabric of time-space, tear down your reality and you cross the A&P many times over with no hope of ever coming back the same person. And we all know that after the A&P the dark night follows as day follows night, in all its suckyness, crappiness, existential angst tinged with good old misery and fundamental dissatisfaction with all worldly things. What initially seemed like Alladin’s cave now turned out to be Pandora’s Box instead.

At this time my interest in meditation grew rapidly, and soon I did a Goenka retreat, and then another. Although very valuable and inspiring, I soon realized that 10 days is not nearly enough for serious progress, as the course ends just exactly when my concentration and insight actually start working.

Along  with my newfound interest in meditation, I’ve started reading truckloads of non-dual literature day and night, mostly Advaita, Buddhism, and assorted mysticism. After a while I’ve learned to separate the wheat from the chaff, so I focused on techniques that were more scientific, repeatable and pragmatic, with main emphasis on Theravada, and then I stumbled across MCBT. Some Daniel dude claiming Arhatship on the cover was something completely different, I though who does this deluded and preposterous ignorant think he is? Arhat? Yeah right. But I always had a thing for iconoclasts and straight-up raging lunatics, so I decided to give MCTB a try and only then I realized I’ve struck gold!

At that point in my life I felt like being lost in a dark forest and then coming across very kind, warm and fuzzy teachers like Dalai Lama and Thitch nhat Hahn speaking about the good stuff, compassion etc, feeling nice and glowy for a while but then realizing I’m still lost. And then comes this Dan Ingram, a neurotic attack-on-the-senses kind of guy and actually shows me the map and the way out of the forest, complete with a lamp and a small survival kit! Whoah. Thank you would be a huge understatement for saving anyone from a dark night territory like that.

In any way, soon after reading and then re-reading MCTB I’ve realized that embarking on a spiritual quest and undergoing rigorous and grueling intensive vipassana meditation retreats for as long as necessary is the only way out of the miserably devastating dark night, so embark on the Pan Asian meditation trip I did.

During my flight to Asia I’ve wisely engaged in reading a particularly hardcore dharma book by Bodhidharma, along the lines of “vast emptiness – nothing holy”, which as you can imagine plunged me ever deeper into the abyss of the dark night and reobservation stage. Word of advice – don’t read bodhidarma book if darknighting, unless you’re a masochist – then please go ahead.

First stop then was MBMC in Penang, Malaysia as recommended by Daniel in his book – my first crash course on mahasi noting technique. MBMC is actually amazingly good place to practice, the food is incredibly good and plentiful (almost to a point of sensory pleasures kind of hindrance), the instructions I received from Venerable Sayadaw Pannathami during the 21 day retreat were very compassionate, useful and valuable, and the meditators, mostly women, were serious and dedicated to the practice, so excellent environment all in all. My practice improved, and soon I felt dark night lifting with equanimity prevailing my waking hours, and the light at the end of the tunnel started to shine, however dimly.

However, the retreat ended, the sayadaw left and I was on my own again, back on the chase. The wise Sayadaw estimated my situation very accurately, so on a couple of last interviews he mentioned “go to Burma” hinting I can and should get this over with on a longer retreat. And me being a wise student, I listened to my teacher and to Burma I went.

Next stop Burma. I’ve been to Burma already and I knew what to expect, so straight from the airport I went to panditarama forest refuge with strong determination to meditate as if my life depended on it. Because it did. Once there, I realized I was in heaven. The forest refuge is every serious meditators wet dream. A huge forest sprinkled with little wooden huts-kutis, with nothing but crickets, birds chirping and hardcore dharma to boot.  The place is incredibly conducive to meditation, the food is tasty, and the other meditators were all serious practitioners, no jokers, whiners, socializers and other retreat pests that we all know. No wonder my practice started reaching orbital heights, and soon after few days I’ve found myself in wonderful equanimity, sitting for 2+ hours straight, sometimes running into incredible bliss, raptures, smiling like a chesire cat from the sheer unbounded joy and happiness. I’ve found meditators Vallhalla at last!

Alas, nothing is permanent. One morning a strange and impossibly loud Burmese folk musical assault started coming from the nearby village. I thought it would stop, but it didn’t stop the whole day, and the following night, and then tomorrow the same thing. The meditation hall was shaking with vibration, and there was no sign of this horrible 200Db Burmese music noise stopping any time soon. Even my high quality silicone earplugs were completely useless here, the noise was literally skull-penetrating. Later in the evening, the village chiefs, likely encouraged by alcohol, would take over the microphone and literally scream and wail for hours on end. And as the noise torture reached an all time high my concentration crashed and burned, I plunged back into the dark night. By the 2nd day of this 24 hour noise torture incredible irritation arose, and I realized that I have to get out of here asap and find a quiet place to meditate, somewhere, anywhere. Sleepless, reluctant and again darknightishly depressive I’ve packed my bags and left this incredibly noisy hellhole that just until couple of days ago I thought was heaven on earth. Later after googling I found out that this is the norm in Burma, blaring super-loud music everywhere and anywhere is just a Burmese way of being, this is a way they celebrate festivals, birth of a baby or just a good old happy Tuesdays. Quickly and most desperately I went to Thai embassy in (again very noisy) Yangon, got myself a visa and hurriedly left Burma, never to look back.

After landing in Chiang Mai, the desperate search for a monastery continued, but fortunately I was at the right place. After reading favorable reviews on Wat Rampoeng here and on the web, the next day I crossed my fingers, called them and fortunately the next group was starting tomorrow so I jumped at this and soon I was in Wat Rampoeng, hoping that there I could finally meditate in peace.

After registration the course started with a couple of hours of group demo practice of mindful prostration, sitting and walking meditation, after which it was every person for him or herself. The schedule is 4 am wake up call, then 1hr walking meditation, followed by 1hr sitting and so on until the end of the day, with breakfast and lunch breaks, and the daily interview with the instructor. There is also a lot of bowing to do– 3 times to the Buddha image, and then 3 times to the teacher at the start of the interview and the same at the end of the interview. A bit peculiar but not a big deal, one gets used to it in a day or two.

The temple grounds are beautiful and most importantly silent, again very much conducive to serious and dedicated practice. One can meditate everywhere on the temple grounds, in a meditation hall/library or in your own little apartment. There are fortunately no dorms, and the private apartment accommodation is spacious, clean and very suitable for meditation, so for the next month I almost didn’t leave my apartment except for food and daily interviews. I cannot describe the peace, contentment and happiness when I finally started to seriously practice again, but this time with no added Burmese discofolk music background. What happiness, what bliss!

The technique is an adapted mahasi style with added touching points all over the body to focus upon after the out breath. E.g. note rising, note falling, note the sitting posture of the body and then note the touch point 1 which is left side of your lower back. Then again rising, falling, sitting, touching pt 2., etc. Every day you get assigned a new touching point, of which there are 24 or 26, can’t remember exactly, they cover all parts of the body, and you incorporate them into your practice. Walking meditation starts with 1 step – noting left and noting right step, then in the next days progresses to 2 step – note lifting and stepping, then to 3 step, lifting, moving stepping, then 4 step, heel up, lifting, moving, stepping, then 5 step, heel up, lifting, moving lowering, stepping, and finally 6 step heel-up, lifting, moving, lowering, touching the ground, and stepping.

As the days flew, my concentration grew exponentially and I have reached the heights of equanimity again. Oh my happiness!

What also helped is that after a while I just accepted the fact that I was a meditation basket-case and it will take me many months to reach SE. fine. Making peace with that just ended my endless frustration about almost everyone else seeming to get SE easy (some even on 10 day goenka retreats!) while I was still struggling in DN for what seemed like ages, and meditating to no avail. Very well, let it be. I am a vipassana dumb-arse and not ashamed to admit it. Lets carry on now, note, note, note.

Another very helpful thing was being strictly silent, introverted and keeping to myself almost pathologically. Unlike mahasi centers, Wat Rampoeng is unfortunately not a strictly silent retreat center, so in every batch of new meditators there will inevitably be a couple of loudmouth socializers who just seem unable to keep their mouth shut. I have found that even the smallest, most innocent chit-chat can reverbate in your head for hours, and is thus deadly for mindfulness. Therefore it is best to keep to yourself, not even establishing eye contact with anyone, especially the loudmouths, sit away from the crowds and groups that inevitably form in the dining hall, keep the silicone earplugs in your ears at all times (an international sign for keep away, I don’t want to talk to you), and basically just focus on noting the hell out of your every day sensate experience at all times. No worries, after the retreat you will have all the time in the world to go to bars, socialize, chit chat about the finer points of dharma, geopolitics, technology and the future of the human race, but leave that for until after the retreat. The best thing on the retreat is to be at the retreat and note like crazy every waking second. It’s totally worth it.

Due to all this soon I was again sitting for hours on end with very good concentration, noting every second, practicing diligently from the time I woke up, until bedtime, noting every second of my waking experience, trying to catch every little mundane event, until now completely overlooked. It soon paid off, and my concentration grew more and more, along with equanimity and weird energetic phenomena started happening. The trigger points in my back started vibrating wildly every time I would focus my concentration on the touching points on my upper back. New trigger points on my left upper back also got activated, vibrating wildly and causing pain and discomfort, sometimes even feeling like I have a bunch of tense and strongly vibrating spaghetti in my trigger point infested back.

As the concentration deepened, weird and bizarre unconscious material started coming up, early childhood memories long ago forgotten, strange feelings, visions and emotions emanating from the deepest layers of unconscious started surfacing. I also started again hearing very loud pitching noises in my left ear, same as I had in A&P phase when I started embarking on a spiritual path. Couple of days before stream entry I had an unusually long and loud pitching sound session in my left ear again, this one lasting for more than a minute and being all in all very unusual. I knew something big is going down. After 20ish days of my retreat, having implemented all the touching points and 6step walking meditation, the instructor just looked at me and said – time for strong determination. for the next 3 days no sleeping – meditation for 24 hours straight, no leaving your room except for the daily interview, food will be delivered to your doorstep. I was also handed a leaf of paper with the instructions for the following 24 hours. I was to begin the first day with a mindful prostration, then wishing and chanting metta for all sentient beings in pali and then firmly resolve:

“may the gross perceptions of the three characteristics of phenomena cease, and may more subtle characteristics of these realizations be attained within 24 hours”

I’ve heard about the resolutions and setting intentions like this before, but being a sceptic I dismissed them as new-agey kind of fairytale, because it can’t possibly be that easy. Yet I obediently followed the instructions, resolved to attain stream entry in the next 24 hours, and the first day of strong determination began. I’ve stocked up on coffee and very strong green tea offered to me by a very helpful and angelic older lady in charge of the foreign students, and successfully meditated through the first night, thinking it wasn’t that bad, and even feeling a little pride for my successful all-night meditation vigil. I continued meditating throughout the morning, concentration got decidedly stronger, with me entering ever more bizarre and interesting head-spaces, had breakfast after which I had a sudden and very strong attack of re-observation, meaningless, lust and bunch of other accumulated stuff, akin to Buddha being attacked by Mara on the night of his enlightenment. It was pretty nasty, so had to lay down for a while, then just kept noting throughout it all, and after it subsided I reluctantly got back to practice. “Let’s just get this 3 day determination over with” I thought to myself and just kept practicing amidst all these weird states of mind when suddenly my whole body involuntarily kind of nodded/jolted in the direction of my right knee. This was a bit disconcerting as I never before had any kind of involuntary shaking, jolting or movement of this type. I forgot all about it, and then around noon similar thing happened, the body nodding away involuntarily, then a moment of no-experience, sort of like falling unconscious, accompanied by a loud banging noise, like doors being shut. Boom!

WTF. All of a sudden, peace almost impossible to describe flooded over my whole being, I couldn’t help but to smile and asked could that be it? It can’t possibly be it! Too good to be true! Whatever this is, it’s awesome! I hope it sticks and doesn’t leave. Then I realized I can voluntarily stop the flow of my thoughts on demand. Look ma, look what I can do! No thoughts! This must be it! I was exhilarated and out of my mind with happiness, contentment, peace, joy. Never felt this good in my whole life! This is it, yesss! I tried to continue my meditation, just in case I am deluding myself, but couldn’t find the motivation. Why meditate, what’s the point? Just being with my breath, doing nothing, felt amazingly blissful and perfect. No more chasing, nothing to attain, nowhere to go, nothing to do. I finally got it. In a couple of hours I’ve reported to my instructor what happened, he gave me a long inquiring look and then gave me the instruction  leaflet for the next day of meditation, along with a rosary type of thing for keeping track of the “nodding off”, or arising and ceasing phenomena as they call it.

For the day two, before meditation I was to resolve

during X minutes of my meditation session may the phenomena of arising and ceasing appear as often as possible

then I was to meditate, and using the rosary keep count and write down the number of times I have nodded off, and experienced the phenomena of arising and ceasing during each meditation session, with each session lasting progressively shorter amount of time.

As I have just entered the stream, my mind was amazingly and exceedingly strong, so much so that in my first session after SE the mind stayed one-pointed and glued to the meditation object with no interfering thoughts and distractions whatsoever. The only few thoughts that appeared occasionally were “wow” or “this cannot be possible”. For a short while after SE, I had the concentration of a meditation master, and I still cannot believe to this day that that such a thing was possible. Just wow.

The third day of strong determination was intended for practicing fruitions, whereby I was instructed to perform the mindful prostration as usual, then practice 6-step walking meditation for an hour, after which I would resolve:

“May I find bliss. May all sentient beings find bliss. If any sentient beings have thoughts of revenge on me I forgive them. If I have thoughts of revenge on any sentient beings may they forgive me”.

Then resolve:

“Within this hour may I experience the fruit of meditative attainment (phalasamapatti) for 5 minutes”

Progressively increasing the duration of fruitions each following session, until reaching an hour. My first few attempts at fruitions were wobbly at best, but once concentrated enough, suddenly I felt as if in an elevator heading in an unknown, undefined direction, with reality slowly and gracefully fading out in a most spectacular and blissful fashion, and then a complete release, a fade out of existence. Wow, what a blessing, what a privilege to experience this kind of true relief from suffering. Nibbanic bliss at last! My euphoria was impossible to contain, and because of all this excitement, I couldn’t muster up enough concentration to consistently repeat or significantly lengthen the fruition experience. Spontaneous fruitions would appear throughout the day though, when I kind of dozed off after a meal or practice, quite normal as this was a 3rd day with almost no sleep. Sometimes I would just collapse while meditating and wake up in the middle of the night not knowing what happened, who or where I am, what’s happening, but then I would diligently continue the practice once I remembered where I am and what am I to do.

After the 3 day strong determination was over, I just chilled out blissfully for a day or two, meditating and enjoying the amazing beauty of the monastery, the trees, flowers and the whole wonder of this existence we are in.
Stream entry is truly and completely worth it.

After that I decided to stick around for another 10 day retreat to do a proper review, with each day resolving to experience a particular stage of insight. This was a great chance to familiarize myself more intimately with each nana and the specific feel each one has to it. I am still amazed at the fact that firmly resolving to enter a particular nana or some kind of meditative state oftentimes really works, as if by magic.

After the retreat was over, I proceeded to travel around Thailand and enjoy the full extent of my stream entry honeymoon, which lasted for a couple of months and was such a relief from the previous years of angst and misery. During this period I almost completely lost the urge and desire to meditate, to read dharma/nondual books, but just chilled out and enjoyed the moment, as is, whatever it is. Also the desire and urge for psychedelics was significantly attenuated as stream entry is that good.

The mind now is much more stable, lot less negativity, reactivity and much more resistant to negative states of mind which no longer stick much, and if they do are quickly seen through and so they leave on their own accord. In a way I have effectively “teflonized” my mind, so my “stuff” sticks less, and I am very happy that this is just a first stage, with much more progress and good stuff ahead of me!

Interest in the affairs, passions and ambitions of this world has also dropped significantly, as I realize that oftentimes just Being is perfectly spontaneously complete and sufficient in and of itself.
Some days I just take peaceful walks in the forest all day long, just admiring the trees, autumn colors, and leaves falling to the ground. Nowhere to go, nothing to do. This is it, right now, this moment. It’s that simple.

Now the honeymoon period is over, the amount of leftover suffering in me is starting to contrast and stand out against the peaceful background of SE, so I see more work ahead of me. Stream entry brought a huge relief from DN and fundamental suffering, now I am a much more chilled out and life is much better, yet there is still more work to be done, I am definitely not off the ride.

Nowadays I am focusing on improving my concentration and soft Jhanas, reading books again, and planning for my next Pan Asian retreat in a month or so, hopefully starting in Lumbini or MBMC again.

I will satisfy with nothing less than 2nd path.
Now I know how this works, there is no doubt about the technique and the teachings anymore, and I am aiming for the stars.

I have all of you to thank for my progress, especially Dan for his book that has saved me and I believe many others from debilitating DN by expounding a clear, pragmatic path with attainable goals. And I am immensely grateful for that, and looking forward to MCTB2 for even more wisdom.

In conclusion, my Pan Asian meditation adventure was by far the best, most useful and sane thing that I ever did in my life, and to anyone still in doubt, long retreats and breaking through to SE I cannot recommend strongly enough!

The taste of dharma truly excels all the other tastes, May all beings well and reach liberation in this lifetime!

With metta,