A PERSONAL STORY OF AWAKENING
A PERSONAL STORY
Rather than just confronting the total nothingness of
spiritual truth in which the ego is annihilated, we give our
conscious self something to hold onto, a ladder of ascent that
can take us from the world of forms into the formless. This
idea of a spiritual identity is essentially a trick to help the
ego to loosen its hold on the world. The goal is to become
"featureless and formless," to lose every name until only His
name remains....But this process of annihilation takes time.
It is a gradual death. It is said in the Upanishads that if
you want Truth as badly as a drowning man wants air you will
realize it in a split second. But who wants Truth as much
as that? Before we surrender to the bottomless void that is
beyond the mind we have to make the slow ascent that is our
Shunyata in Sanskrit means literally "void" or
"emptiness", that is to say, "space",
the absence of all conceptualized attitudes.
Chapter 8 - A Glimpse of Emptiness
April 4, 2000. Dream: I have left home and I am put in a psychiatric hospital to rest until I know where to go. I am still quite young.
April 7. Dream: I am given four golden eggs. The shells are made of gold - they are six hundred years old. I feel very privileged to have been given them. Since I am too weak to walk into the nearest town in India, I bury them in the earth so they will be safe.
April 20. Dream: I am in a car driving with Peter. He is in the driverís seat and I think we are going to tip over the edge of a road. I try to open the door so I can jump out to save myself, but then I realize we are on someoneís lawn - it is flat and we are safe.
May 15. My self-identity - that of needing others to need me or needing to help others - seems to be disappearing. Without it I feel very disoriented, as if I am in a void. I donít have any idea what the new place will look like. All my relationships are changing. I write to Stuart Sovatsky about this change and he says, "Kundalini keeps maturing the way we "attach" to the world to gain our emotional sustenance - we let go, and then later form another way of connecting to people & events that is more and more fluid, in keeping with the flow of impermanence, and the graces of ever-forgiveness, letting-things-Be, etc."
I take great heart from Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche's
teachings on compassion:
In the Buddhist teachings the symbol for compassion..is
one moon shining in the sky while its image is reflected in one
hundred bowls of water. The moon does not demand, "If you
open to me, I will do you a favor and shine on you." The
moon just shines. The point in not to want to benefit anyone
or make them happy...It is a matter of an open gift, complete
generosity without the relative notions of giving and receiving.
..opening without demand...If you will just "be,"
then life flows around and through you.
I am slowly able to see how, in wanting to help others, I usually want something even when I think my motives are clear. I am beginning to get a glimpse of what the concept of "detachment" feels like.
May 30. The pain in my solar plexus
is severe - there is a
tight band around my stomach area and pain in my spleen and
liver; it feels like a dam is trying to burst open. My headaches
are intense, as if my head may be ripped off my body. Knife-like
pains shoot up from the pelvic floor, and my whole body is
inflamed. The pain in my spine moves up and down as if it can't quite make up its
mind where to go next. I feel flooded with memories from childhood, particularly the time
when I was sixteen years old and I visited my father in a locked ward in a psychiatric hospital.
For most of my life I have lived with a fear of "going mad."
Now I seem to be slipping into a place that is frightening me
and a great amount of rage is coming to the surface.
My next door neighbour is constantly making noise with his
'power' tools and I feel as if I could shoot him. I
have never felt this kind of anger before.
In Daughter of Fire, written by Irina Tweedie
during her training in India
with her Sufi teacher, Bahai Sahib, she says that she, too,
felt as if she could kill someone: The truth was that I became
afraid of myself, of my own reactions.
(When she told her teacher of these feelings he said)..
Sometimes it happens like that. Certain powers are
aroused in the human being, and they bring out all the evils,
like dirty bubbles of foam appearing on the surface of the
water when the mud at the bottom is stirred up. It is not bad.
(And later he said)..It is beyond the power of the human
being to control anger. But after the anger, look at it: from where it came,
why and how it came, and what it did to you.
You might learn many things.
The truth was that I became afraid of myself, of my own reactions. (When she told her teacher of these feelings he said).. Sometimes it happens like that. Certain powers are aroused in the human being, and they bring out all the evils, like dirty bubbles of foam appearing on the surface of the water when the mud at the bottom is stirred up. It is not bad. (And later he said)..It is beyond the power of the human being to control anger. But after the anger, look at it: from where it came, why and how it came, and what it did to you. You might learn many things.
June 3. I look back to the 'me' of a week ago and hardly know who 'she' was - the one who felt she had to save every one. Peter said he wonders if perhaps one has to be worn down physically so that oneís defenses come down and the old person can be let go of. My head spins every time I turn over in bed and lights are flashing all over - inside and outside my head. I feel empty, almost hollow, and everything seems to be flowing through me. I am surprised to find that I donít feel as afraid of "going crazy" as I used to, in fact it may be a relief after holding on so tight for most of my life.
I write all this to Stuart and he says, "While the tunnel is dark, there is always at least a little light in your experiences. The guidance and interpretations of events, bodily sensations, etc., you described in this and all of your previous emails and conversations show me that you receive light even in very dark times. The difficulty of it all is humbling, but you deserve to know, as you have read about in the lives of many mystics, that you are purifying and growing all the time through these difficult and painful experiences. Those in psychiatric wards are struggling and, with good and deep spiritual guidance, they, too, would grow more smoothly and beautifully. The growth is in faith, then in love, and embraces our moments of rage and fear, too."
I ask him about the opening in the solar plexus and the opening of the psychic knots: the granthis. He replies, ".. like giving birth, there are labor pains and the granthis "knots" are opened, like in giving birth to oneself."
June 10. I am talking on the phone with my son when a strange feeling of "blankness" comes over me. It isnít depression or fear or boredom; it is something totally new. I am disoriented and frightened. The word "blank" doesnít sound frightening but the experience is. I can only imagine that this is part of the process of "detachment."
June 16. I drive to my favourite spot by the sea and lay on a huge boulder in the sun for a few hours. As I lay on the rock, my hand caresses a tiny plant in a crevice in the rock and a feeling of peace thrills my being. I feel there is nothing separating us and that this tiny being is teaching me something so important, almost as if it could save my life. The division between me and everything seems to be dissolving. When I get home, I lay down for a rest and when I wake up I am so ill I can hardly stand up. I feel as if something has dynamited through the core of my body, leaving me empty inside. In the past I have had the feeling that my body is disappearing, or that it is dissolving, or that parts of me are falling away, but this is a feeling of being blasted open, leaving nothing recognizable for me to hang on to. I try not to panic.
In her diary Irina Tweedie speaks of this feeling:
June 23, 1966.
There is this feeling of
non-being...this feeling of nothingness..there is NOTHING! Just
that: nothing at all! A void! I cannot explain it better. When
I speak to you, (Bahai Sahib) as I do now, for instance, of
course I know that I am speaking to you. But when I just sit
there in silence, at one moment I notice there is only you Ė
nobody else seems to be here. A frightening experience. I used
to pinch my fingers to see if I am not dreaming...I suffer from
great sudden fear, a sort of panicky feeling..cannot account
for it; it grips me suddenly; it is most disconcerting. Please,
tell me: is this surrender?..Perhaps it is not surrender, or
only partially..(He does not answer except with a loving
June 17. Dream: I am privileged to see a woman reincarnating in front of my eyes; in the first incarnation she is short and in the second she is taller. Then a baby boy reincarnates twice as I watch; the last reincarnation is very quick. Later, I watch a young alcoholic man go through the process of detoxification. It isnít as bad as I thought it would be; it only takes 3 days, and through it all he is ok. I thought it would take longer and be more gruesome.
June 19. For periods of time over the past few days, I have being sobbing, as is out of a deep sense of loss and grief, but I donít know what it is that I have lost. My body feels as if it is hollowed out and the physical symptoms - intense inflammation in my intestinal track, dizziness, diarrhea, extreme fatigue and sleepiness - are moving and shifting as if parts of me are being scooped up and pulled out of my body with great force. I am comforted by the flowers which keep appearing in my dreams. Carl Jung says they are a symbol of wholeness and are auspicious when they appear in dreams. It seems that my psyche is telling me that this process may mean I am becoming MORE myself, even though it feels at times as if there is nothing left of me. Faith is all that is sustaining me right now for my mind cannot make any sense of what is happening. A week ago my car battery died, although there was no mechanical reason for it to be dead. When electrical problems occur to my car or appliances - and there have been many of them - I know that a big energetic shift is taking place within me.
June 20. The last three days have been gruesome; there is such a sense of emptiness inside. I spoke to the manager next door about the noise he is making; I am very sensitive to sounds, especially high vibrations. He was hostile when I spoke to him, and I felt shaken by his attitude. Later, I realized that he looks and acts a lot like my father. I try to see how I am like this man; I know I must have his energy in me or he would not be upsetting me so much. I hope that whatever is triggering such a strong reaction is being purified. These violent clearings just seem to have to be endured.
June 21. I feel oddly disconnected from my friends and the various problems they are going through. I have always been so interested in what is happening in their lives. I talk about this with Stuart and he tells me that it is a gift to others not to get caught up in the dramas. Bahai Sahib says to Irina Tweedie, " If one is after the Absolute Truth, one cannot be after people. Two souls cannot live in one body...If people come for help, help should be given. But I am not after anyone."
June 23. Dream: I am on a trip with a lot of others; we are all in a long line. There are a lot of monks wearing red robes; the robes show wear and tear but are still beautiful. I realize we have moved on from the last stop and that I have left all my possessions behind: food, clothing, driver's license, Visa card. A man tells me I should not go back; it is dangerous because of the war with Afghanistan, and it would be very costly - about $100,000. I know I must go on with the others. Then I realize I have my bank card and it will allow me to call Peter for help if I need it.
June 24. The feeling of emptiness, and crying and fear, come and go. I have times of great bliss, and then terror. Suzanne Segal, in her book Collision with the Infinite, tells about a time when she entered a new and unknown place in her meditations. She went to her teacher for help and he said, "Donít worry about the fear. It is just the body holding on to the world. You must let go of the world to transcend, but the body becomes afraid because it thinks the world is all there is. You must not listen to the fear of the body - just let go."
In my meditations, sometimes I feel as if I am going down a tunnel and there is no way out except through a door and I am terrified to open it. When I lie down and finally allow myself to open it, the fear escalates for a short period and then miraculously it dissipates and I am flooded with relief. I am reading all I can about this place of emptiness. The Buddhists call it Shunyata, which means Ďnothingness, emptiness, voidness.' Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche says:
Shunyata (emptiness) is not
merely awareness of what we
are and how we are in relation to such and such padding and
unnecessary confusions. One is no longer fascinated by the object nor involved as a
subject. It is freedom from Ďthisí and Ďthatí. What remains is open space...The whole process
(of Shunyata) is that of undoing the ego. We start by learning to deal with neurotic thoughts and emotions. Then false
concepts are removed through the understanding of emptiness, of openness...
Shunyata in Sanskrit means literally "void" or "emptiness", that is
to say, "space", the absence of all conceptualized attitudes...So Shunyata
provides a new atmosphere, a new environment, which will not support clinging or grasping.
July 2. I seem to have to be alone so that I can listen carefully to what my Ďinner knowingí is directing me to do. This morning I woke up frozen with terror. This has been happening every morning for days. I have no idea what the fear is about. I remembered Stuart talking about the adrenaline which is released when the kundalini activates the adrenals, and that awe is very close to fear and anxiety. I rub my hands to warm them, then place them on the adrenals to help with the fear.
July 3. I am so afraid I will disappear or be annihilated. In searching for help, I come upon this sentence in the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharashi, "...one is always in samadhi (superconscious state) but one does not know it. To know it, all one has to do is remove the obstacles." This thought helps to calm me. I can see that what is disappearing is the part of me that is used to grasping and holding on to things, concepts, and people. When this part suddenly seemed to drop away, I was scared because I couldn't find anything inside that felt familiar. Maybe if I stop looking for "myself" then the fear will go.
This is the first time in years I am afraid of being alone; usually I delight in being by myself. All day I lie huddled under my covers in bed with the blinds drawn. I call my friend, Mary Ann, and ask her to come and stay with me. When she arrives, she tells me my eyes look dead - I tell I have gone underground. I tell her about the time I went into a terrible place of blackness and terror after coming off the anti-anxiety drug, Ativan, and how I searched for a place where I could be contained. After weeks of feeling close to "madness," I went to New Hampshire to stay at Burch House, a Therapeutic Community based on the philosophy of the Scottish psychiatrist, R.D. Laing. I needed a place where I would be allowed to go through whatever was happening to me without interference or judgement. I tell Mary Ann about Pam, one of the other residents, who had been in a psychotic state for several years. She seemed to get great delight out of scaring me, which wasnít hard to do for at this point I was afraid of everything. She looked wild, having pulled out all of her eyebrows and eyelashes, and would run into any room I was in at unexpected moments, especially late at night. She delighted in plugging the sink, toilet, and bathtub in the bathroom just above my bedroom and would turn on the taps full blast, thoroughly flooding my room. Finally, after weeks of trying to avoid her, I found the courage to stand up to her and the fear of "going mad" subsided.
However, now the fear is back and whatever I didnít deal with during that time seems to be coming to the surface. I ask Mary Ann to watch the movie Rosetta with me. I have been afraid to watch the ending by myself. The movie tells the story of Rosetta, a sixteen-year-old girl who struggles so hard to get through life. She fights everyone and everything just to stay alive. She wants so much to be normal, but has no idea of what that means. She is angry at her mother for drinking and tries to get her into a treatment program, but it is a losing battle. There is a young man who wants to be friends with her but she keeps ignoring him, even though he is very kind to her. At the end of the movie, Rosetta seems to be planning to kill herself. The young man who wants to be her friend arrives but she ignores him as she struggles with a huge canister of gas. Finally, in exhaustion, she falls to the ground, sobbing. The final scene shows her friendís hand, slowly and gently, reach out to touch her shoulder.
When Peter comes home, I tell him "I" donít exist. He doesnít seem to think this is strange; I donít understand why he isnít more frightened. When we go to bed, the terror builds and finally, in desperation, and because I have no other choice, I let go. I see myself falling over a cliff, rolling over and over, smashing against the rocks. Surprisingly, I am not afraid as I watch myself bang against the mountain side. I am curled in a ball, like a boulder. There is no fear or pain - only that this is necessary and that I am being tempered. As I watch myself falling, I realize that everything I have been afraid would happen to me has already happened, and a great sense of peace flows through me. This vision reminds me of these lines of a poem I wrote about my mom after she died.
A Love Poem
I hold your head in my hand
July 4. I call Stuart on the phone to ask him about the great purging that has been happening in my body. He says that there has been a purification of the intestines..it is the toxins coming to the surface, and it can be very painful. He assures me that others have had similar problems. He talks of the mind purifying. Then he tells me that his teacher used the phrase "the intolerable awakening" when speaking about this process. When I talk about disappearing, he tells me that we leave one body, i.e. the physical, and stay in the subtle or causal body while the work is going on. He says I am clearing old karmic patterns. He assures me that what is happening is natural and ultimately good. It is the letting go of attachments and not to worry about how it will be in the future - to stay in the present - that future thinking takes energy from the present moment.
July 12. I need to be outdoors and silent; this is where the healing is coming from at the moment. Irina Tweedieís teacher said, The earth is never impure..the earth purifies everything..the changing seasons..the earth is always pure. I am in love with everything..sky..trees..sea..tiniest of flowers..everything is luminous.