The discussion turned back to me again…
When we first experience inner silence, such as in meditation or similar, it can seem like an emptiness or nothing. This is because, instead of looking out and seeing objects, we are turning in and looking at ourselves. We are looking at the subject which is without form.
This is often not very clear at first though. It’s just relative silence with random thoughts arising. More like a blank space. But as we clear the physiology and culture the experience, the silence becomes more clear. The emptiness may be found to have a sense of being full, of containing all potential, intelligence, creativity. It may be recognized to some degree as our true nature and hence the Self. It can have a sense of pure existence or being. And a sense of being boundless eternity. Many words can be used.
All of these are subjective words to describe a relative subjective experience of a boundless silence. There is only one.
In that sense there are not “types” of silence but our subjective experience of the silence certainly changes and deepens over time. And that continues long past enlightenment.
Non-duality itself refers to 2 things. First – that reality is non-dual. In other words, there is one reality though it may be experienced many ways. The other is the experience of ourselves as non-dual, as a stage of development also known as Unity.
When someone experiences the inner non-dual reality, they can begin to get a bit of a sense of it. But true non-duality is lived. It is not just an inner experience but is inclusive of ALL experience. In the non-dual state or stage, the outer world is also inner – we are the container of all experience. There is no subject or object – they have been united. There is just experiencing taking place. I’ve talked about other aspects of this prior.
Actually, we’re talking about 2 different things here, though they are often confused.
The emotional emptiness people seek to fill with food or entertainment (outside of themselves) is one thing. People can thus have a fear of emptiness in general.
And there is the deeper subjective experience of being empty when there is no content in experience, when the mind is quiet, etc. This is chit-akasha or the space of consciousness. It doesn’t have emotional content either, although some people may have a fearful reaction to this deeper experience, much as they might have a fear of open spaces. They also may find the experience blissful as the lively “edge” of space is blissful. Or they may notice a vast expansion as it is infinite space.
This is the emptiness I was referring to and the one generally meant by non-dualists.
(on the theme of emptiness, about fear of emptiness at bedtime when 10 years old.)
Your experience of 10 years old is not uncommon, although not everyone will remember it.
In such an experience, it’s important to recognize 3 aspects. There is the experience itself, there is our response to the experience, and there is, in the case of spiritual experiences, often purification as well. If we don’t recognize these differences, we muddy what is arising with what is leaving.
There can be a couple of reasons for the fear response, depending on the emptiness we’re approaching. When we are trying to repress our emotions, preparing to sleep can be a difficult time. Emotions are inclined to begin to arise again for resolution when we’re settled. Similarly, if we feel empty inside, it can be scary. Another reason we tend to look outside of ourselves for fulfilment.
But also, the silence is a place where the ego can be seen through. At that young age, it’s still not fully developed. It is not ready to be seen through and can thus be fearful of settling into a place where it might be. Ego will keep things agitated and distracted to avoid this.
The first is the far more common but the second is not as rare as we might think. Who we are is always right there, under the noise of the mind and emotions.
I’ve also noticed that somewhere between 8 and 12, our “backstory” from the past kicks in and we begin to interpret life less innocently. Often, there is a difficult experience in there that is seen in this light. This confirms the story which for most runs unexamined for the rest of our life. Another big subject…
(on witnessing dreams and sleep)
You describe witnessing sleep well. When the experience first arises, we can tend to get involved in the dreams or manipulate them, etc. For me, it was realizing it was a natural process and just letting them go.
They often tell you on retreats to “be on the bed” at night, partly because of this. Awakeness can continue throughout deep sleep. It shows in the brain EEG’s – Alpha waves overlaid on the Delta of sleep. For me, at first I was hyper-alert, watching the body fall asleep and turn into a kind of lump. But the mind was still watching so had not actually gone to sleep yet. Similar to playing with dreams, it wasn’t natural sleep. So again, I let it go.
Some people can find it scary if they discover they can’t move and don’t realize it’s because the body has gone to sleep but the mind hasn’t yet.
When we witness sleep, we are in samadhi or meditation all night. So it can be very energizing but also very purifying. We can get a little spacey or other effects.
Witnessing can come and go. From a Kundalini Vidya perspective, it arises when the shakti rises above the throat chakra. But it’s still unsettled so will come and go. If it pierces the final cap and reaches the 6th chakra and Makara, then the kundalini becomes stable and thus the witness becomes continuous.
Some traditions mark witnessing as a symptom or side-effect of Cosmic Consciousness/ Self Realization but some do reach makara without awakening in the crown. This is more common if the witness begins before the body has fully matured around 25 yrs old. Without the mature endocrine system, its difficult for the body to sustain the changes. (there are other styles of awakening through other chakras – another large subject)
This is a normal part of awakening. That’s why it’s called that. We become awake inside 24/7. We may at first try to manipulate the experience but then let it go. Then we get used to it and it becomes normal. Such experiences are most common when we’re very rested such as on a retreat. Less rested and a little less clear, its more like a simple continuity. The body and mind sleep but we continue. Forever.
But you are right to not place importance on this or that experience. You don’t want to fall into the trap of trying to get an experience back. Some can be signposts of progress but that’s all. Time will tell.
btw – I would not think of witnessing dreams and sleep as an “ability”, It is an effect of awakening and settles into a background continuum.
It is normal and natural. But this is not something you want before the physiology is ready. Awakening means being in meditative samadhi 24/7, during all activity, dreams, and sleep. If you have not done the groundwork, this means purifying like crazy and much more to integrate. Let it arise naturally when the time comes.
I should also note that not everyone experiences silence as “emptiness”. Pure silence is empty of content – but when clarity increases, it is found to be rich with potential. A lively profundity. This is described as Fullness.
Part of the process (stages) is seen as recognizing the inner silence is full, the outer world is full, then the 2 together are one wholeness (non-dual), which in turn leads to the sense of Totality.
There are certainly a number of teachers out there who stay with emptiness. From an Ayurvedic perspective, this suggests developed Atman but not yet so much sattva. But it can also be driven by the terminology of their tradition or a Yogic path that emphasizes renunciation.
I’d suggest though that the real richness of the process is in the fullness. The world itself arises from fullness, not emptiness. How can something come from nothing? 😉
Bliss is one of many ways we experience the lively profundity or fullness.
It may sound paradoxical that something empty of content would be experienced as full. But in fact, it is experienced as more full than anything ever experienced in the world.
“the fear of the death of the ego.” – yes, we can say it that way. The ego itself knows it is a false figure, raised to leading status when we lost connection with our source. As such it does not wish to be seen for what it is as it knows it will then be lost. As it arose with separation from source, it tends to see it’s loss as oblivion. That comes back to the fear of emptiness we discussed prior. It also relates to our fear of death. For most people, this is quite unconscious.
For some, the ego protects itself even more vociferously than the body does. But for someone who has had many experiences of their source and perhaps has even come to have a sense of its continuity, the drama of the ego loses its grip. Ego’s fear of its own loss is not taken so seriously. And the drama is much more conscious.
How we can escape this quandary may remain unknown but the process is recognized.
This is even more true if there has been witnessing of sleep. Then we can recognize that the ego goes away every night. It sleeps in deep sleep when the mind sleeps. In that sense it “dies” every night and nothing is ever lost.
Awakening is much the same. Some people may experience a sense of ego death or loss. Others simply experience the ego falling away in dominance (and thus control). Or the “I” expanding to be infinite. Same thing.
An analogy we can use: A dog is a pack animal. It expects there to be an alpha male in the group. If there isn’t an obvious leader, a dog may feel it has to take that role and try to “manage” the pack. Thus you see dogs behaving badly, not knowing how to be in a human world. The ego is much the same way as the dog who feels insecure at being leaderless. It takes on a role it was not designed for and behaves badly. But if it is confident in a higher power, it more easily lets go of control.
Yes, the backstory that has carried forward for us through many lifetimes is related. It brings a tone or background theme to our story about who I am and how the world is. Safe/unsafe, recognized/ignored, success/failure – many of the main themes have been running for a long time. As they become more conscious with the resolution of some of our emotional (energetic) baggage, we begin to resolve the core story.
This is our epic odyssey, the hero’s journey we’ve been on that we may not even recognize. As Shakespeare observed:
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,”
(As You Like It, Act II Scene VII)
or the earlier play:
“I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano;
A stage where every man must play a part,
And mine a sad one.”
(The Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene I)
Yes, much of our culture is driven by fear. Fear of God, of loss, of failure, of change…
It is a little paradoxical though as many people do first experience the fullness of self-aware consciousness/ chit-akasha/ silent presence as an emptiness or void. And superficially it is. But only superficially.
This is much like Quantum Physics. They began by describing the level of quantum fluctuations that give rise to all sub-atomic particles as the “vacuum state”. Now they call it the Unified Field. The holy grail is the one formulae to describe them all.
The experience of silence may also bring up our most repressed feelings, leading us to a fear of silence, of being alone, of not being always distracted. (fear of bedtime too) Inner life can be a personal horror for some. But ironically, the fear of it can grow larger than the original fear we’re trying to avoid.
A closely related subject is the fear of death itself. Many feel religion is a way to create beliefs that cover our fear of the unavoidable void of death. But ironically, death is only a void if we get stuck in the transition. And that mainly happens because we fear the process and resist it. Or are too caught in our story in some way. In other words, lousy expectations. A conscious death on the other hand can be a great relief. A chapter change in the story of our life.
I spoke about the definitions of ego prior. Ego as Ahamkara, the individuating principle, that aspect of consciousness that is aware of itself at every point. And ego as identification with who we are as that apparent individual point.
The top of that second form is our mind’s concepts of a “me”. So it’s not vs the mind, it is an effect of the mind’s identification with its experiences of being a person. Various self-concepts result. In one way or another, the centre of that falls out with the initial awakening into CC or Self Realization.
Typically, there is some further winding down necessary through just experiencing life and recognizing things anew from the new perspective of Self.
There are also more subtle aspects of the “me” construct that fall away in later stages. I’m working on an article about the advanced stages of that now. The Vedic term is Lesha Avidya or the faint remains of ignorance. It has a key role in non-dual stages.
The 3 gunas can be thought of as setting the overall tone of experience. When tamas (inertia, blue) is dominant, the world covers the subtle and only the surface seems real. This also creates the inclination to identify with form, and thus the ego. Identifying with myself as this body is the most overt. Shopping malls are the result. (laughs)
Rajas (fire, red) is said to burn inertia. When Rajas is dominant, world seems illusory. At this stage, we’re more inclined to identify with our thoughts, desires, and emotions. This is also where many spiritual seekers are. They’ve found the world less than satisfactory and are seeking more.
Sattva is purity or clarity. And golden. When sattva becomes more dominant, we have a much better chance of seeing through those identifications. We have the clarity to follow the process to its conclusion.
So the gunas affect the style of our ego we could say. But note that this is a broad generalization. Each of us has areas of life where there is more inertia, other areas where it is clear, and areas where we’re shifting. You can tell by how life flows or doesn’t in that area. It’s an organic, always changing process.
Also note, the gunas never stand alone. They are always blended and seeking balance.
(the colours I mention are how they are perceived on the celestial level. They are not the same as the colours on the physical or astral. On that level, all 3 gunas flow. Tamas grounds the creative impulse of sattva which is energized by rajas. They are the mechanics of the virtual fluctuations of quantum physics and can be directly perceived.)
It’s also worth noting that karma means action or energy. As such, we can relate unresolved, blocked energy with tamas, action underway with rajas and the fruits of action with sattva. While you can’t push this idea far, it gives a sense of why resolving your emotional baggage is so beneficial. It is converting tamas into sattva.
btw – when people describe golden auras or pictures of old show golden halos – that’s sattva. The correct form is a glow around the head, not a ring above it. (there is also a ring but that’s something else and it’s not above the head)
Similarly, some people will describe experiences of the world bathed in gold, like everything exists in a sea of ever-creating lively life. Sattva.
This is known as celestial perception and results from refinement of our senses through a mechanism known as soma or amrita. And that is a consequence of samadhi.
This gold should not be confused with seeing yellow in an astral aura. This is 3 levels more subtle. (physical, astral/emotional, mental, causal, celestial/bliss per the kosha model)
Similarly, a starburst or cross originating in the head is makara, properly centred in the lower forehead. And the cross some Christians make across their chest marks another one that delineates sub-chakras that light up post-awakening. This is also directly related to the ancient Fleur-de-lis symbol used in France and Quebec. That’s the energy arising from the heart to the 3 sub-chakras across the high chest. So yes, properly worn on the chest.
Come to think of it, the old cross with a second smaller upper bar might be explained by the above, though I don’t know its history to verify.
And this also suggests several reasons why the Refined versions of the stages are quite a bit richer. Full, not empty – per yesterdays discussion.