I've recently posted about my experience in astral projection. I have posted it because it was fun to write/relive and because relaying images often feels a more straight-forward practice than relaying emotional content, or any kind of process of mental alchemy which does not involve images. For a long while I did not wish to write about the experience in this post, for I felt I could not do it justice by using mere words. That is until the thought of how I should go about it suddenly came to me.
Let me start with how that day began, now almost 4 years ago, and why it was amazing.
From the moment I woke up and in all moments during the day, I had a strong sense that "today something remarkable will happen". I of course cannot relay how this emotion felt, but I can portray it (perhaps in vain) by using thought-symbols: It was a sense of intense expectancy. Like being on top of a roller-coaster before the inevitable downward rush.
I recall little of what I did until the point until I ventured outside. I suppose I ate and read.
I remember the southern slant of the sun and the golden rays cutting between the trees, for I had resolved to meditate on top of my favorite hill for no particular reason, save that I felt like it. Which always seemed reason enough.
Since childhood the hill had, for some reason utterly baffling to me, endowed me with mystic significance, despite the fact that there appears nothing remarkable about it.
As I got to the top, I sat upon the cold soil covered by soft grass.
The cityscape and its sounds rushed by below me, but that soon became a presence that was not bothersome or comforting. It simply was.
I sat there for more than four hours, until I suddenly felt as though a piercing but invisible light had shoot out through the center of my cranium. A light going both outwards and inwards.
There was a kind of, "Aha! Yes. YES! YES, OF COURSE!" moment and then intense laughter directed at my pathetic imbecility. I laughed at my own expense as though laughing at a child, not necessarily because he is stupid, but because he is so hopeless in his ignorance that you find endless humor in his innocent predicament.
With this came a stupendous feeling of bursting. The child, that child-like Self, expanded into all directions simultaneously, going as far as things can go.
It felt as though it went into all places at once and into every thing and everyone and right into my bloody bones and outward again until it became a continuous motion that never began and will never end. It kept happening and I knew in that moment it will continue to happen, because that is how things are.
There was a deep understanding of the truth of Itness. Things were, and "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well." Everything was just as it should be and must be and that all I have labeled as myself is actually inseparable from everything else.
This had so far been a concept for me. Something I felt was true yet didn't actually feel on the level of Being Everything And All Things All At Once.
Up until that point the concept remained a kind of hidden symphony just below the threshold of my combined perceptions.
In that instant it became impossible for me to separate what was Me and what was Not Me, or even that there was any space between Me and Not Me. The truth of this felt so profoundly real and incredible that everything was made nonrigid. Everything had a vibrancy to it, a fluidity so full of life and pulsing with such inner being that the thought of, "This is how everyone should see things all the time," became a constancy. There was nothing necessarily different about how I saw things, it was my subjective understanding of the things I saw that perceptibly shifted.
The realization of the Self is, in essence, the realization -- or the knowing -- of everything and its implicit nature. It is like accessing the main valve of existence and realizing it was always open, and that you had always been the manifested and the manifesting tool.
This does not involve a kind of high attitude towards knowing this, but a profoundly humble one. You are not suddenly thinking, "I know everything about everything." This does not involve that kind of understanding. This is not an understanding of the functionality of things, but of their Nature, their Is-ness.
Understanding the Self means the understanding of Everything, because the self is everything, or understanding that you do not need to understand everything, and still understand it, and yet not understand it at all. You are not there to understand. You are there to Be. This may seem so convoluted and paradoxical that it must feel rather confusing to read. Yet there is no real involvement or deep thinking or an understanding on the level of Mind. Rather, Self-Realization is the realization that all things are the Self and that the Self is all things. The barrier of duality melts away, that is to say one realizes it existed for a reason that is immediately clear and profoundly logical, but also amazingly simple in its inherent Justness, or Is-ness. Understanding its simplicity has no meaning because there is nothing to understand. It is. And that is all that the Self will ever need or has ever needed to understand. A Self that both Is and is an Illusion.
At that point, this fact that the barrier existed solely so it can be taken away becomes the right understanding. But also that it simply was, and by Now knowing that it is there, somehow changes it from being there into not being. Your mere awareness of it changes its Is-ness.
The realization that one is all and that the Self is everything and that everything is a fragment of the Self, comes with a sense of intense Presence.
You are not in the moment. You are the moment, manifesting in physical form through a myriad of infinite mirrors turned upon one another with each beholding each and enjoying the looking and seeing, laughing.
And the more you look, the deeper and more subtle those Understandings become. The more you understand, the more you realize you don't need to understand and that you understand nothing. The more you comprehend, the more you realize that comprehension, true comprehension, is the realization that all things are a fragment of the Self. And that each of those fragments, just like within your own Self, is an infinite mirror reflecting infinitely into Itself.
In those mirrors you may find aspects of your own Self, and indeed this is what most humans look for in others, that aspect which is most like the Self that they are, or want to be. That which is the most undesirable in one's Self is almost always that which is the most undesirable upon looking at another Self. In other words, you do not like in others what you do not like most in yourself.
A Zen master, Gensha, described this understanding quite well:
"If you understand, things are such as they are; If you do not understand, things are such as they are-"
There is another sensation which comes after, although using the word "after" does not feel apt, perhaps "at the same time" would be more accurate. After the inevitable realization of the endless Self, You become a Non-Self, a thing in the void that is the void, has been the void and will return to the void because it has never truly left it, but has been given a Self so it can function within the void and give it form; a form so that the void may know itself.
Now that functioning is no longer needed as you become That Which Looks.
Suddenly there is a perception of the wholeness and interconnectedness of everything in it, because all is in fact it, the whole. Again, there is no duality in this, you are still just what you are in your conscious self: a Human with a sense of separateness from other things and other vibrational forms. There are no more thoughts of "I am this or I am another That," but both, many, all.
[The terminology used, like Self, Non-Self, is simply an expression to try an relay some points in thought-symbols, as it cannot be done any other way by using language.]
Somehow there is a sense that a great eye has opened, an eye of the world which sees with a deeper understanding and has no Self because it is all things simultaneously; with each thing being as much It as the next.
A perception wobbles through your head at that point. One that has always been there, and to which merely the degree the Ego-Self wished to give it attention varied. It is the realization of your own Death.
All things eventually fade and die. This is the Isness of things.
Because of this state of Non-Self, you immediately perceive, without any thought behind it that would involve any active thinking, that you will die, but you will not be dead.
This may sound strange, but it is the right understanding. Because nothing that exists cannot not exist.
There is a quote by Aldous Huxley which describes this quite well. "Man proposes, God disposes."
It is, unfortunately, the nature of the Ego-Self to find this quite threatening. Because to the mind which only comprehends (which remains the only thing the Egoic mind really does), but doesn't understand, expressions such as "Destruction is a form of creation." mean not so much. You may nod at the saying, but may not truly understand it.
In this state of Non-Self, there is nothing to destroy, and all things which are and will inevitably be destroyed, will simply undergo a form of transmutation. A forming into something else which will be infinitely more than the sum of its parts and again infinitely more than the sum of the parts out of which it was transmuted.
In essence, the Non-Self has already experienced the transmutation from she Self into Not-Self, and has, because of this, died. It regards this process as the nature of such-ness. Such is the nature of things. Or such is the nature of Being. It is just so. Simply elegant and elegantly simple.
In an instant of understanding, the Non-Self realizes how the Ego-Self has been the driving force which thrived to comprehend and complicate that which has always been inherently simplistic.
Like before, as duality melts away, it does so in a sense of realization that all the selves are intertwined. The Ego-Self, True-Self, Pain-Self, Non-Self, they all exist in one space. They are all an undivided whole and this realization of their infinitely complex connection becomes the reality of everything you are and in turn everything that reality is.
In the state of Non-Self, these other Selves are prominent in your Being. You know which is which and they cease to be a process below the concussions happening of your mind.
They become a laughing matter and it all suddenly becomes a play. A play to which you have REM-slept through and so heard the actors and had them influence your dreams, while they performed on stage. Now you have awakened to their acting behind the curtain of your dreams and can actually see the actors, and they become just that, actors with no influence unless you play along.
After a while of this intense presence, and if you are in fact not as ready as you thought, something not so great may happen.
The Ego-Body comes to life and triggers the Pain-Body. It sort of says, "Hey, dude, something is going on that is not that great for me, help me out."
Because of years of conditioning and pattern-creation in the mind, these two can be very powerful. Indeed they can overpower even such presence, as the Ego slowly but surely begins to sense that it is losing control over the Body and Mind. Controlling these two aspects of the Self has so far (save for glimpses in between) been what the Ego has done all its life. It is a controlling mechanism. It is the accumulation of all the subconscious thoughts and reaction impulses it perceived as necessary for the organism to survive. When this function ceases to have a meaning to exist, its very being becomes threatened, and kicks the mind into action. The mind is the tool of the Ego, while the Not-Self's tool is No-Mind. As a result, the mind begins to throb and vibrate as the Ego wishes to claim control. It shows its real face and shouts and screams like a little, angry child that it is.
Doing this, the Ego-Self creates its main weapon. Fear.
Aldous Huxley described the "aftermath" of this process masterfully in his book, The Doors of Perception, wherein he details his Mescaline experience which I have to say follows a lot of the same triggers in a slightly different manner.
"This, I suddenly felt, was going too far. Too far, even though the going was into intenser beauty, deeper significance. The fear, as I analyze it in retrospect, was of being overwhelmed, of disintegrating under a pressure of reality greater than a mind, accustomed to living most of the time in a cosy world of symbols, could possibly bear. —Anything rather than the burning brightness of unmitigated Reality—anything!"
This eventually settled down into a state of Presence again, a blissful satisfaction in knowing things are just as they are and that they exist Now and will forever be Now.
I since believe that this whole thing was nothing special, because to most of us, a mystical experience or a spiritual experience always seems to suggest something lofty and unattainable by the everyday mind. This is not true. These insights happen to us all the time, but to the untrained mind they are much shorter and for the most part, not as intense, and usually interpreted in different ways. Perhaps simply as "being happy and alert - energized". We all have moments when we are suddenly deeply aware of our own self, mostly just our bodies or how it feels. The want to change for the better usually comes, but is usually also suppressed by the Egoic mind which would rather have things as they are, familiar, while cultivating mindfulness requires changes even to the minute things in life.
Recognizing these events becomes the key and a great practice of Mindfulness, just don't get carried away in trying to analyze what they mean ;).
When they occur, be that. When they happen, be it. And when they do happen, do not let your mind fool you into taking it as a kind of accomplishment. Do not think of them as "okay, I've done it, time to move on". Because if you will notice, this is actually a trick of the mind to pull you out of the now and into some projected future. Stay there, Now, because there is nothing else.