Sahmad began the secret instructions, “Close your eye and pay close attention so that you can precisely remember these directions. They are complicated but essential, and any deviation could prove disastrous. And remember; opening the centers should be done every time you begin your inner work.
"Start with a slow inhalation up the back and imagine it as a white ball of light, ending a few inches above the crown of your head. As you exhale, imagine the ball of white light above your head showering sparks all around you, bathing your whole body in white light. On the next inhalation, draw one-third of the inhalation into your forehead just above and between your eyes, and at the same time let the ball of light that is above your head descend down through your brain into this forehead area, both lighting and opening it. Draw the second one-third of the inhalation into your throat below your Adams apple, and again at the same time let the ball of light that is in your forehead descend down into this throat area, both lighting and opening it, Swallowing helps locate this center. Draw the final one-third of the inhalation into your heart, letting the ball of light descend down from your throat into your heart, both lighting and opening it at the same time. Hold the breath in your heart for ten seconds, while visualizing the white ball of light expanding to first, envelope your body, and then envelope the entire universe, encompassing all things.
"The fourth step begins with releasing the breath that you are holding at your heart, but only release a third of it. Drop this partial, one-third exhalation, and the ball of light from your heart, into your solar plexus just above the naval. Now fill your solar plexus with an in breath and white light by inhaling the one-third breath completely. For step five, exhale completely, letting it all out, dropping the breath and the white light from your solar plexus to the pubic area. This might be felt as a tingling in the sex organs. Now, fill that area with white light by inhaling fully.
"For step six, exhale completely, dropping your breath and the white light to the base of your spine near the coccyx area. Fill this area with a complete inhalation of white light and an exhalation as the area bathes in that light. Step seven brings your next inhalation and the light up your spine, stopping at an area just above the top or crown of your head. Fill this area with volumes of white light as you fully exhale; reaffirming your intention to open yourself completely to your spiritual essence.
"This completes the exercise, and at this point you would return to your normal inner work of concentrating on the feeling of the breath in your nose, or in your solar plexus, or perhaps concentrating on your circle of light. After your regular inner work has ended, however, you must always remember to close the centers that have been opened. I cannot stress this too strongly.
"To close the centers, visualize each one closing as if you are blowing out a candle. Always start with the base of the spine, then the area just below the naval, followed by: the solar plexus, the heart, the throat, the forehead, and always end at the crown. But instead of closing the crown, leave it open. This is the one exception to closing your centers - the crown always stays open and illuminated by white light.
"It is quite normal to feel strange sensations and see various colors; maybe visions, as you focus on the different centers. Be certain that no attempt is made to create these sensations, just do the work, observe what happens, and let it go, similar to releasing your thoughts during the inner work. "
Sahmad repeated the complex instructions one more time through his interpreter to be certain that I understood, stressing complete adherence. He then said one more thing before dismissing me, “You are in a position to find the key in this lifetime if you strive wholeheartedly. Be advised that there are beings, unknown to you, that are helping. "
With those final words of advice, he signaled me to return to my room, and turned toward the window.
My practice improved considerably after I began opening my centers, so much so, that I was eventually able to attain the Fourth Great Material Calm of Equanimity and Mindfulness!
This took place while I was sitting in the hall with the other robed men during a particularly rigorous thirty days of training. During this one special month of the year, all of the key seekers would sit together, night and day, in a rigorous effort to further their practice. It was toward the end of one of these intensive periods that it happened.
I felt a powerful merging of three components - the one doing the inner work, the inner work itself, and the breath in my solar plexus - and yet I felt aloof from all three, as if they were no longer distinct. I even relinquished the feeling of bliss, which this advanced Calm could clearly discern as being dangerous - too close to attachment and clinging. All that I felt was equanimity and intense mindfulness, heightening the mystical nature of this remarkable Fourth Calm. There was joy, and a notion of existence, and yet I felt as if I was totally dissolving into the Source, with no mental thoughts or stimulations whatsoever, a detachment from all things, a wonderful silencing of all activity, yet there was something tremendous going on at another almost imperceptible level to be remembered . . . but not understood.
This was quite an achievement, and after the episode I felt compelled to escape from the material world and go on to the next stage; the Four Immaterial Great Calms. The urge was irresistible. Notwithstanding untiring efforts, however, I could not attain the immaterial calms and was hitting a stone wall.
I had been following Sahmad's instructions, opening each center before practice and closing them afterward, and heeded his warning never to stay concentrated on one particular connection. One day, however, I thought to myself that I am actually quite advanced in my practice, and that I have had quite a few months of solitude up here in the mountain. Surely, there could be no risk by opening just one of the connections to the Source, and if I succeeded, perhaps I'll be able to attain the Immaterial Calms!"
The small, still voice in my heart warned me to talk to Sahmad before attempting such a thing, but my logic intervened, convincing me that I could easily control my opening of just one center, and that no damage would be done. And besides; Sahmad indicated that I displayed a good sense of intuition when I decided to change my concentration point from my nose to my solar plexus during the cobra incident. Therefore, my judgment in this matter should be good as well.
Again, deceived by my logical mind, I believed that I had a license to experiment with one of the connections, so I worked feverishly for many months on the area directly between my eyes. This was in direct opposition to Sahmad's warnings, but I was confident that this pathway through the forehead, which enhances unlimited vision, would help me attain the Immaterial Calms. I never went to the trouble of closing the center, either; I just left it open.
One day I was sitting with the other robed men in the hall. We were still involved in the intensive months of day and night practice, and I was working relentlessly on my forehead center. Suddenly, large blocks of time began disappearing from my awareness. An hour would go by as quickly as two heartbeats! I didn't know whether this was regular sleep, or the key seeker sleep that a John had mentioned, but whatever it was, it was intriguing. And somewhat amusing. Until unexpectedly that afternoon in the hall, everything changed.
It began with a bizarre sensation, that of a lightening bolt streaking down through the top of my head! Actually, I thought that someone hit me from behind with a heavy board. Then the words came - words so powerful that I had never heard anything like them before, or since - and they indelibly etched themselves forever in my mind: “You are now completely healed. " Immediately after this, my ears began ringing, and the upper part of my body became very warm, almost feverish. I also became extremely amused, for some unknown reason, barely able to control the urge to laugh out loud. Actually, I thought I would have to leave the hall.
Then, unbelievably, I saw waves of energy visibly flow from the top of my head down through my body and out the bottoms of my feet, spreading throughout the hall and into each of the silent robed men sitting with me. How silly they all looked! I could barely keep from laughing, watching all of them sit there practicing their inner work with such seriousness and concerned faces, and how ridiculous those powerful words, which blasted from inside my head, sounded: “You are now completely healed" because at the time, I was in excellent health, the prime of my life! What was there to heal?
As I gazed about the hall, wondering why in the world these robed men were so serious, I suddenly realized for a brief moment that everything was just a dance! It was so funny! The urge to laugh became uncontrollable, as if I was back at the castle with my father scolding me for giggling at our enormous dinner table; the more he frowned, the more I giggled. I finally had to leave the hall before my laughter erupted and disturbed everyone, but when I went to my room and tried to sleep, the giggling abruptly stopped.
It was an unimaginable, terror-filled night. My mind ran wild with uncontrolled, random scenes in vivid colors, several flashing every heartbeat, while the top half of my body was on fire, and the bottom half was cold as ice. My heart was pounding and fluttering so severely that it would actually stop beating for long periods of time, producing a feeling of intense fear and impending death.
In the middle of the night, it became unbearable, and I stumbled out into the hallway, passing out. Luckily, two robed men found me lying beside the young lad's door and carried me to Sahmad's room.
E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, http://www.SouthwestFloridaInsightCenter.com His twenty-eight years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers. Visit http://www.AYearToEnlightenment.com