Often, we look for spiritual experiences in the objective world. We might surround ourselves in the serenity of a Zen garden or go to a temple or church. We might seek solace in the words of a master we admire. We might put on some incense and sit with eyes closed. Of course, all of these are fine but they rely on the senses, which in turn feed the mind. An expansive experience transcends the mind.
The whole issue arises from the sticky nature of the mind. It is constantly claiming experience as its own. We claim everything – we call this mind and body to be who we are. We claim everything that enters awareness as ours. All feelings and emotions are contextualized with us as the central figure. In our minds, we are the center of the universe and the question is always about how things affect us, what things mean to us, and how we might benefit or lose out.
Since the mind needs an object to cling to, what if we take all objects out of the equation altogether? What do we mean by this? Notice the space instead.
This might sound illogical and difficult but in fact space is everywhere. There is more space than there is material stuff. Just look around – the room is mostly empty space, peppered with some furniture. From your room to the atom, and to the cosmos, there is more emptiness than there are things. An atom is 99.9% empty space in conventional terms. So is the cosmos. Actually, there’s a quantum explanation of empty space but we’ll leave that to the physicists. So as we can see, it’s easier to find empty space if we expand our awareness to include it.
See if you can just sit in that empty space. The empty space in a room is easy, but emptiness is everywhere else too. Between your inhalation and exhalation, there is a moment of emptiness. It surrounds every single breath. Between your awake state collapses into sleep, there is an in-between space. Between the sounds of musical chords, or daily noises, there is a fleeting moment of silence. Between the torrent of thoughts, there are brief pauses of the mind, like the instant when you are startled – just then, there is no thought. Watch the sky, between the clouds there is expansive space. Between stars there is space.
Perhaps you are familiar with Ramana Maharshi’s satsangs. He would simply sit, no words… yet so much was transmitted to those who were open enough. Resting in that emptiness provides a still atmosphere where there is nothing for the mind to grasp on to. Here in this stillness perhaps we can become aware of the tingling potential of creation, because form arises from the formless.
Thirty spokes meet in the hub,
but the empty space between them
is the essence of the wheel.
Pots are formed from clay,
but the empty space within it
is the essence of the pot.
Walls with windows and doors
form the house,
but the empty space within it
is the essence of the home.
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