Awhile back, I wrote about reading an except from the book Collision with the Infinite by Suzanne Segal. Until now, the book hasn’t been available to read but I used the excerpt as an example of a more challenging waking process and the difficulty of an incomplete or tightly held conceptual model.
A friend of mine recently sent me a copy. The author repeatedly emphasizes there is no person there, but the story is a deeply personal journey out of her mind. (laughs)
For me it was also interesting as I knew a few of the players (renamed) and because she had a similar background. But her journey was not typical.
She originally studied a Vedantic approach to awakening where self becomes Self and one steps into bliss and fullness. But her actual experience was more typical of Zen and Buddhist descriptions – she first stepped into emptiness and no-self.
From my perspective, I see these as possible stepping stones to Self and fullness. One must lose the me to gain the cosmic. But if this is not understood, she exemplifies how mind can fight it.
Suzanne experienced a sudden shift while standing at a bus stop. One that included not just ego death but some crumbling of the deeper identity. For her, the bottom suddenly fell out. Her identity ceased.
In her youth, she described inheriting deep sorrow and fear from her mother. In her response to the end of a me, this manifested as a deep resistance to allowing the “emptiness”. As this empty space was now permanent and dominant in her awareness, she found herself in a constant battle of mind trying to understand and control, resulting in profound fear.
Quite possibly, the grip of fear of her core identity had become conscious as well. Without any context, that too would be something else to resist. In effect, this would be fighting fear with fear, fire with fire.
She was liberated but refused to accept it, so she received no benefits. (although she did acknowledge that her life continued along fine on the surface) It’s a bit like Genpo Roshi talking about as his Fall from Grace, only without an accepted liberation. Adyashanti speaks about the return of the mind after a honeymoon, but she had no honeymoon – until later. It’s also akin to being stuck in the BBQ. A caricature of the possible difficult spots during waking.
This is not to say Suzanne did anything wrong. She did have a very profound and sudden switch that did not meet her expectations of it. And she had a remarkably strong and resilient mind.
Because of the strength of her fear, the bliss was not seen for over a decade. And because it didn’t match her understanding, she refused to accept early messages that she was liberated. Over the years, she went to some dozen therapists who all pathologized her experience (made it wrong), even the more aware ones. It did not match their concepts either. She herself went on to get a PhD in Freudian therapy, something she saw as seriously flawed. All a good example of how the mind finds resources to support it’s story about what’s wrong. As long as the mind is able to keep some toehold, it will make even paradise a hell.
What was also notable was that she was pregnant when she woke up. Thus her daughter experienced not only her no-self but fear dominated the majority of her pregnancy. But unlike the relationship Suzanne had with her mother, her daughter responded only to the first, stepping into the world a very happy, flexible child who recognized her sense of me was just a story.
Eventually, she gave up trying enough and began to seek more spiritual teachers. Still in disbelief, she got quite a few confirmations before she finally began to accept it. Then she connected to the bliss. And then had her Unity switch.
Later in the book she reflects back on her former understanding of higher states of consciousness and how she came to understand the teaching anew. However, she concludes God Consciousness was the switch from witness to no-self. This is actually a deepening of the Self Realization process. Without an unfolding of divinity, it is not GC. From what I’ve read, it doesn’t sound like she had God Realization during her life. As I’ve noted before, it’s not uncommon for mind-centric westerners to have Unity before GC.
I don’t write about her story as a good example of awakening. It sits too far to one side of the varieties of experience. But in it’s extremeness, it does vividly illustrate aspects of the process that for most people are more subtle. The journey out of the mind’s prominence and into the depths of being. The end of fear. The dawning of peace, freedom, and bliss into who she found she was after all.
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