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The void: a steppingstone to enlightenment
By Niki Collins-Queen
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Rated "G" by the Author.
When I feel stressed by the drama in my life I think about the void. It’s a peaceful space in the clutter. Before I experienced the void I felt blinded by my own sight, ego and life’s drama and was not able to see the spiritual brilliance of God, the source-substance. God is like a sun ascending through the void to illuminate the universe.
A friend expressed disappointment about an experience during a drumming meditation journeying session with friends. Everyone had fascinating adventures with family, friends, animals or nature. She experienced absolutely “nothing.”
“You may have experienced the “void,” I said excitedly.
I told her I’d had a similar experience during a Breathwork retreat in the 80s. I felt embarrassed telling the group I’d nothing to share.
Stan Grof and Jackie Small the two instructors were enthusiastic. They said I’d experienced the void and explained that in Buddhism “emptiness” or “openness” (sunyata) provides true freedom.
I later read in Grof’s book “Beyond the Brain” that sunyata transcends time and space and is the underlying unity of all existence. Everything appears perfect, there is nothing to see or do and nowhere to go. He said there are many stories about disciples caring for their masters basic physical needs while in the void.
Grof also called sunyata the super cosmic void or universal mind.
I was suddenly proud that I’d experienced the void and wanted to know more.
A book on Buddhism said Sunyata is the ultimate truth as it goes beyond rebirth (samsara) and the escape from rebirth (nirvana). Sunyata is the absence of values in the changing flux of existence and helps us release our attachment to worldly life.
An awareness of “emptiness” leads us to Pure Mind or Consciousness. Sunyata is beyond ordinary knowing and is free from the entanglements of ordinary minds.
Another book on Zen Buddhism further explained that we must awaken to the Pure Mind (the Buddha Nature) obscured by the ordinary mind. By looking within we can awaken to the knowledge that there is no distinction between ourselves and the rest of reality. When we penetrate the depths of our own existence we experience the “emptiness” or “voidness” that is at the heart of everything.
Seng Ts’an, a Chinese teacher, wrote in a seventh-century BC poem:
Pursue the Light, and you will lose its source;
Look inward, and in a flash you will conquer the Apparent and the Void.
For the whirligigs of Apparent and Void all come from mistaken views;
There is no need to seek Truth; only stop having views.
Zen rejects attachment to scriptures, philosophy and even Buddha. It teaches, “There is no ‘goal.’ I am already enlightened. I have been in nirvana. I am already the Buddha! There is no path to follow. I am already at the destination! I was simply confused about what already exists!”
Now, when I feel stressed by the drama in my life I think about the void. It’s a peaceful space in the clutter.
Before I experienced the void I felt blinded by my own sight, ego and life’s drama and was not able to see the spiritual brilliance of God, the source-substance. God is like a sun ascending through the void to illuminate the universe.
When we are in the void we are like an empty vessel. All religions teach that we must become empty to be clear channels for God’s work. In the Christian tradition it’s called, “Not my will by Thy Will Oh Lord.”
When I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir “Eat, Pray, Love” with an eloquent description of entering the void in Chapter 67 I got goose bumps. I had just completed an article about my void journey.
Her book helped me better understand my experience.
Gilbert said she got through the wormhole of the Absolute and suddenly understood the workings of the universe. She left her body, the room, the planet and stepped through time and entered the void. She said the void was a conscious, intelligent God. It was a place of limitless peace and wisdom and it was just as Kabir, the sage, said, “All know the drop merges into the ocean, but few know the ocean merges with the drop.”
Although Gilbert had a feeling of deep love she had no ego, euphoria or excitement. She had no experience of “I” but still had thoughts that were modest, quiet and observatory.
When she thought, “I want to hold onto this experience forever,” she tumbled out of the void.
Gilbert’s book has 108 Chapters. What are the chances of my reading her two pages about the void just after writing about it myself?
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