05 October 2008

The Void?

I'm basing this title on the notion of "The Void" in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time. For those not familiar with it, the idea is to "light" a small flame in the mind and use it to burn away superfluous thought and emotion, leaving only pure awareness behind. It's an idea I've played with off an on since starting to read the series, but yesterday I think I finally experienced it, or something similar enough to it that I feel the name fits.

It wasn't a completely new experience. It was a feeling of being awake and aware, and fully here. I've had this several times before, but I had no idea how to get there on my own. I would be in that state or I wouldn't. If I wasn't there, I didn't know how to get there. If I was there, I wanted to hold onto the state of mind but didn't know how. Yesterday, I found myself in that state, and found I could put myself in and out of it nearly at will. To explain how, I'm going to have to talk about chakras:

They are usually presented as literal energy centers in the body. I will say that I feel a concentration of energy in those centers, but what I can't say is whether I would feel that if I hadn't been exposed to the idea of chakras. I do know that I have always experienced physical sensations in the heart chakra (center of the chest) in connection with strong emotions: cold and blue for sadness; a raw lump of flesh when I was mourning my grandmother, etc. Whether that's something physical or a mere mental artifact ... *shrugs* I find them useful as a way of taking stock of myself each day.

The picture is a classical representation of where these centers are supposed to be. It's been part of my breathing-meditation for the past 648 days to mentally visit each center and "open" it: imagine the color for it flaring around it in a disc of light. I started this practice after reading Your Aura and Your Chakras. It's written in a down to earth style that, while credulous, can easily be read as a useful series of visualizations. I wrote about it once before on my nearly defunct blog. The interesting thing was that the author adds an eighth chakra, which she refers to as the "golden sun". We often use that visualization in taiji exercises: a source of golden yang energy about a foot above the head.

My general practice is to start with the root chakra (at the bottom of the diagram, red) and work my way up to the crown chakra (violet, just above the head). Then I started adding in the "golden sun" chakra, above that. Then I would work my way back down, "closing" each chakra back into a single "gem". Then, one day, just out of curiosity, I mentally explored the region even further above the golden sun, and found myself thinking of it as the moon or the void. It seemed... black and empty, but empty in the sense of pure potentiality. It somehow felt like it was everywhere and everything at once. I immediately associated it with Jordan's Void, but it didn't seem particularly useful at the time I first encountered it. Still, it seemed to be a ninth chakra, so I played around with it on days when I had time for it.

Then yesterday in taiji, I found myself bringing my mind into that empty ninth wheel, and something clicked inside me. I sat up straighter. I looked around me and every detail seemed crystal clear. It was like flipping a switch and finding myself in that state of clarity and wakefulness that before had simply come and gone without any intervention on my part. I brought my mind down out of the void, and the world around me faded. Colors weren't as bright; my focus went fuzzy. I brought it back up into the void and was back in that state of clear wakefulness. I didn't know if this would last, if I would maintain the ability to move in and out of that state, but it's lasted one day at least. I can still put myself into that mental state. It's...fascinating. It's also easier to get things done. It's like... when I sink back down, there are conflicting impulses, multiple wave-functions of myself fighting to coexist. In the Void, those pulses unite into One.

It would be interesting to know if a brainscan would be able to detect the difference between those states, and what that difference might be.

Disclaimers: I'm not making any metaphysical claims for this state of mind. I'm just describing my experience with it. And if anyone feels like trying the meditation I've outlined, don't be disappointed if you don't get results right away, or don't get the same results I did. Meditation is a very subjective thing. Visualizations that one person finds incredibly helpful may do nothing for the next. The flame/void visualization never did much for me, but I still think that this Void is very similar in nature to the one Jordan described.

I should probably mention that in Hindu thought, as you go up the chakras, you are getting closer to the point of origin. Climbing up out of the body's gravity well, as it were. After meditating on the chakras, I can see where they got this idea. The experience feels somewhat like climbing out of the body. Thinking of it that way, though, seems likely to lead to trouble, imo. I prefer to think of it simply as visualizations that lead the mind into a particular state. It's equally important to know how to get out of that state: for this method, that is simply to climb back down the ladder, closing the chakras on the way.


Steven said...

It sounds like a powerful experience. Thanks for sharing it.

Qalmlea said...

I'm glad someone found it of interest. I'm always a bit hesitant about posting stuff like this.