The Void

The Void

One of the ways people describe spiritual experiences sometimes, even as a quality of awakening, is with  words like the void, the emptiness or boundless space or cosmos.

They may associate this with “source” but this is somewhat mistaken. This open space is just that – space. It is the subtle space created by self-aware consciousness. We could say consciousness is the container of this space or void. Thus the void is not the source.

In other words, the person has come to the space in which the world we experience arises. But they have not actually come to the source of that, just the space created by it. We could say the space of the container is recognized but not the container itself.

At this point, space is still a subtle form of object. We have not yet recognized the subject, the knower of the space. First, we begin to recognize that which is noticing the space. And then, Consciousness wakes up to itself as the local knower, this point value of consciousness experiencing here. This is true Self Realization. We recognize we are the knower of the space.

It’s usually later, from a broader perspective, that we notice the container quality of consciousness.

The edge of this space as consciousness / being is a liveliness we experience as bliss, pure happiness. That’s a key marker for when we step beyond space into the container itself, into pure awareness without content.

As pure consciousness is without object, there is nothing to experience and it may well not be noticed as itself at first. More perhaps as a gap in experiencing. Some may call this deeper gap a void in experience, but this is not the same thing as an experiential void. If it’s being experienced, it is an object, space.

As we transcend all form into pure being, typically through a meditation practice, we cross the threshold. Thus we may notice a wave of bliss on the way in or on the way out. This becomes an early marker for periods of samadhi or pure consciousness.

As this becomes clearer and longer, we may notice periods of just being in silence, and then that the breath stops during such episodes. Clearer still and we notice the lungs shift from “breath” into a fine vibration and the body is deeply settled. Research demonstrates that such periods can go from part of a minute up to half an hour and more. This not only deeply suffuses us in being, it roasts the seeds of karma, greatly reducing our former debt.

Notice a small detail about this, indicating integration. The person is able to sit in deep silence of being without content, yet at the same time they are able to notice the body has stopped breathing. At first, this noticing may pop us right out of the silence. But over time, we are able to notice without disturbing the peace.

Why is this significant? Self Realization is essentially being awake to the Self within while concurrently engaging in activity. It is being in a perpetual samadhi. Thus culturing the physiology to be able to support that is key groundwork. And this is the value of a meditation that brings you into the silence.

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  1. Jean

    Thanks David. This is one of the most detailed descriptions of the void I’ve been reading so far that also match my experience.
    I noticed the waves of silence a couple of years ago. Last year bliss followed the silence. Usually it starts with thoughts disappearing, deep absorption in silence and then bliss emerges out of it.

    1. Hi Jean
      Yours is a very good description of clear transcending or samadhi or turiya, the 4th state.

      The bliss kosha or sheath is between local mind and consciousness so as we drop out of thoughts, we cross the bliss kosha into pure consciousness. In the same way, we cross the bliss body on the way out. We’re slightly more likely to notice on the way out as consciousness has become clarified in itself.

      Why do we come out? The deep rest of silence causes purification to take place which creates activity which draws us back out again. But as we repeat the process, the physiology is cleared enough that consciousness wakes up to itself and we no longer “come out”. The silence is brought forward into activity. Thoughts don’t disturb the silence.

      Consciousness can also be likened to an ocean. The depths are silent but the surface is lively and flows. The liveliness we experience as bliss, the flow (usually later) as love.

  2. Chris Gartner

    Beautiful David! Thank you so much for everything you write… It’s all a great blessing to those going through these various stages! I have had this cessation of breath thing from time to time. I noticed one time that it lasted about a minute long… I didn’t gasp for an inhale after that, there was just a slow, gradual return to normal breathing. In some of these episodes I have also noticed the “fine vibration” you mention as well, it’s quite a peculiar phenomenon! Do you know where these phenomenon fit with Joan Harrigan’s model? thanks!

    1. Thanks, Chris.
      Exactly – well described. Extended periods of breath stoppages are more likely on a long retreat or some such when we have a chance to be very rested. Harder when we’re in the midst of life. But really, they’re just more obvious illustrations of deep and very conscious samadhi. We often have shorter, foggier ones that would only be noticed if we’re hooked up to measuring machines. This is why they suggest we not judge our meditations by our subjective experience of them.

      This is all about samadhi which is central to Yoga and is well known in India. There have been many studies confirming the breath-stoppage phenomena back into the 70s.

      It is not something that ends with awakening but actually deepens and fills out. However, subjectively we’re no longer “going beyond” as we now stay in pure consciousness while coming out into activity. Then meditation is settling out of the world instead.

      Further, being able to stay in samadhi while having an intention is the basis of Samyama.

      On Harrigan, I don’t know exactly as I’ve not tried their practices. But from her book, I believe they try to control the breath. I don’t subscribe to this approach as a general practice but can see it may have value in specific circumstances, such as if there is a kundalini issue.

  3. Chris Gartner

    Thanks so much for your reply David.
    I have a reasonable understanding of yoga tradition, so I appreciate what you wrote about Samyama… Your reply to Jean regarding Turiya was very helpful too. For me this “spontaneous Kumbhaka” among a host of other phenomenon, including – witnessing sleep, effortless silence, bliss, intense mudras, glossolalia etc. have all come since a rather intense, and ongoing Kundalini rising started… I greatly appreciate that you have written that Kundalini is not causal, that helped clear up some confusion for me… Out of curiosity, do you know if these kind of phenomenon show up pre, or post CC, GC, UC etc.? thanks!

    1. Jean

      Thanks for the reply David and Chris. Yes these things come and go on its own. I am just a curious witness 🙂
      The kundalini actually presented itself to me in a dream as a snake coming out of a cave. From then on the purification intensified. I can feel the up and down movements of the energy. The energy seems a lot more stable now and the big up and down swings are smoothed out.

      1. Hi Jean
        Yes, it gets smoother as the blocks are removed. It’s interesting how it can be presented sometimes – as a symbolic dream that isn’t really a dream, for example. But it’s still less about the form then what we learn from it.

  4. Hi Chris
    Spontaneous asana is another one. I’ve seen people do asana they could never do normally.

    All of them can show up before CC and at any point thereafter. They can be symptoms of good progress but may just indicate a quiet period before more purification is cut loose. While they can be very interesting, we don’t want to give any passing experience too much weight. Maharishi used to say “something good is happening.”

    Also worth noting that breath stoppage (samadhi) is common during sleep once witnessing is established. I participated in a sleep study once and told them they’d see this. They were fine with it until they saw the results. It was more prevalent than I expected too. But I had to reassure them it was good thing with no symptoms of problems. 🙂

    To me the whole thing is a falling away of personal control so any practices that culture control are going to get in the way of this.

  5. Chris

    Thanks David.
    That’s interesting about the sleep study, must have freaked them out quite a bit!
    That’s a great line: “something good is happening”… Yes there was a period of interest in these things as they were, and continue to be very pronounced, but I learned to just accept them as “scenery along the way” as someone put it.
    “The falling away of personal control” certainly nails it for me! I guess that’s what this stuff has taught me. As I clearly don’t “do” any of it, I feel it has somehow revealed to me the view/experience of not being “the doer” of anything at all… I believe you call that flow right?

    1. Well – i wouldn’t say freaked but concerned. I suspect it was something they’d heard about but not seen before. They wanted more study but I wasn’t interested in more disturbed sleep.

      Excellent. The funny thing about personal control falling away is that nothing is actually ever lost. We just lose the illusion of personal control and grow into our larger nature which is vastly more potent. Kind of like thinking we’re the wave then discovering we’re the ocean. Then the planet, then the galaxy, then the universe, then creation, and so on…

      Not exactly – flow is the movement of consciousness. This and the real doership becomes clear as perception refines. Although that evolves too… 🙂

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