Letting Go of the Void
MEDITATION QUESTION FROM AUDREY:
I had only been meditating for a short while before I entered “the void”.
I was meditating in my back yard one night and I guess you could say that I stumbled into it. 😉 I didn’t have a moment of “ah ha” nor did I “scramble”. It felt like an endless hole (hence the “void” lol). My body felt like it didn’t exist. I felt like I didn’t exist.
After I finished meditating, I felt a tremendous peace within myself. Not only with myself, but with life in general. But, what I didn’t realize until months afterwards, was that I was disconnected with everything. I still went about my daily routines like normal, but I knew that nothing really mattered. If I lost my job, it didn’t matter for example. I was in a completely contented place within myself, but only because of that truth. After months of not meditating, I eventually “went back to normal” I guess you could say.
I began researching what I had experienced and came across people talking about “the void” experience during meditation. That’s the only reason I have a name for my experience. I didn’t like it. As much as I enjoyed the peace, I didn’t like the feeling of being disconnected from my reality. I guess my questions are…
How many people experience this form of “the void”?
Is it normal?
P.S. To try to explain better how I felt I will add that I felt fully connected to the universe, therefore I felt fully disconnected to this reality or time or the world (however you want to see it) because I knew how little it all really matters in the whole scheme of things. I’m not sure if that makes any sense or not, but it’s the best way I can describe it.
The short answer to your question is, in any sustained meditation practice, especially if practiced on silent retreat, the experience of ‘void’ is inevitable as the mind develops an affinity with stillness. But having said that, some people experience it, others never experience it. As my first teacher, Acharn Thawee once said: ‘Some people are ready, some are not.’
But I cannot comment on your experience, because, well, it’s an experience that’s all your own – and it sounds like it was indeed a wonderful experience.
And your reaction of not liking the effect of it is understandable – the effect of causing you to become unconcerned about your job and the life you are involved in can be quite frightening, when we live in a competitive word that depends on us being VERY concerned with such things to survive.
My only comment at this point would be, as interesting as your experience sounds, try not to think about it too much, or speculate, or place value on it – in other words, let it go. Because if you put this experience on a pedestal: remembering it, savoring it, and expecting it to happen again, you will interfere with the naked and unconditioned mentality you need to meditate – to be still.
So whatever happens in meditation, let it go. Always move on. Never look back.
Because unfortunately, our capacity to hold onto expectations is a habit we have that interferes with our awareness of ‘now’. Expectations are largely connected to our sophisticated memory – as such, when we experience something wonderful and we remember it, our memory can be so vivid we want more.
And in meditation, as I said, this expectation becomes a hindrance, because it interferes with what we’re doing – which is, be aware of what is happening now … and now … and now …
The only other comment I would make concerns the word ‘void’.
‘The void’ is a very misunderstood term, implying a state of nothingness, unconsciousness – and all too many people who have fallen asleep in meditation, and come out of it thinking that’s the void.
But its not and nothing can be further from the truth.
The void is not a lack of consciousness – so much as a state of awareness so clear, brilliant, unconditioned and un-dualistic, that we lack the language to describe it.
It happens when the attention has finally let go of everything it usually obsesses over – that we assume as ‘common reality’ – of thoughts, reactions, emotions, good, bad, pleasant, unpleasant, form, non-form, right, wrong, up, down … and so on.
With the attention happily still and uninvolved, we become unconditionally aware. And this awareness, as clear and brilliant and knowing as it is, has no language nor does it remember or anticipate – it simply is.
Hence all the clichés that arise from meditation – of ‘be here now’ and ‘beingness’ and others. All these clichés describe the void, because indeed, it is a ‘being here now and nowhere else’ experience. But with all its nihilistic connotations, ‘void’ is often mistakenly assumed to be ‘nothing’. But as I’ve described, it’s not nothing at all – in fact, it’s much more than we currently know – it’s everything.
So, to conclude, in meditation I always emphasize the doing of it. Just do it.
Don’t think about it, or wonder about what’s happening, or speculate. Just do the business of meditating each day and meditation will take you to extraordinary places – some pleasant, some unpleasant. But whether pleasant or unpleasant, treat them all the same – like a traveler on an endless adventure. Every new experience is simply another bend in the path. Just keep letting go and moving on.
And where are you going?
Well, basically, you’re headed toward a reconciliation with pure awareness.
Which is why everything we do in meditation has to do with training the attention to be still – this meddlesome, reactive, thought-generating aspect of mind which usually received most of our mental energy needs to be trained to calm down and be still. Only then does the mind re-allocate its energy to its other aspect – the awareness.
And the void will happen.
Thanks for the question Audrey.
‘BEING STILL – MEDITATION THAT MAKES SENSE’, Roger’s new book, is available now.
(The audiobook includes all the exercises, as well as ebooks of Being Still, to fit any device.)