The Buddha declared that true purity of the heart can only come from a bliss within that lies apart from sensuality and the critical mind — namely, the bliss of the Jhānas. Indeed, the Jhānas are so essential to the Path that nearly all of the descriptions of the Buddha's own enlightenment experience are predicated upon his attainment of the Jhānas. Moreover, the spiritual practitioner's first proof by direct experience that a higher state of consciousness is possible comes with the attainment of the Jhānas. Consequently, experiencing the Jhānas provides a degree of self-confidence in spiritual practice that is unavailable in most mainstream religious traditions.
In our modern world, which is rightly dominated by the scientific method and the individual's well-founded expectation of empirical evidence, the Jhānas are where the “rubber meets the road” on the spiritual path. The Jhānas allow practitioners to verify for themselves through their direct experience that a higher level of consciousness is possible by following the Path. This higher level of consciousness consists of profound tranquility and the epiphany of insight.
Rachael O'Brien has spent the last 17 years investigating the spiritual path. She has studied the mystical traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity, and has trained in Theravadin and Tibetan Buddhist meditative practices. Rachael has been deeply influenced by the teachings of Venerable Bhante Vimalaramsi and the late Venerable Ayya Khema, whom she regards as her spiritual father and mother respectively.
In 2015, Bhante Vimalaramsi invited Rachael to teach the Dhamma. For the past two years, Rachael has led the Gainesville, Florida Tranquil Wisdom Insight Meditation (TWIM) sitting group. Rachael is also currently on the Board of Directors of the Resilience Charter School, where she teaches mindfulness practice to middle and high school students as part of their innovative curriculum. In 2016, Rachael co-taught the first Gainesville TWIM Retreat with Bhante Vimalaramsi and she has continued to lead retreats in Gainesville, Florida. Rachael offers weekly Dhamma talks and instruction in the practice of the Brahmavihāras. This is the practice taught by Bhante Vimalaramsi's formulation of Right Effort, which is known as the Six Rs methodology.