I HAVE BEEN RE-READING A wonderful description of dramatic realisation written in the Non-Duality Magazine in interview with Chris Hebard, the founder of the exquisite site, Stillness Speaks. I am not sure when it was written, but Chris was “hit over the head with a 2 x 4” as he puts it, in 2006.
I recorded my own spiritual tsunami which started in 2012 in a journal some months ago, but what interests me is that there are true similarities in the experiences of people to whom God steps in, grabs you by the feet, turns you upside down and leaves you hanging head down, as He says, “Will you listen to me? When are you going to stop seeking? How stupid do you want to look? All the time I am here, watching you. You act out the most extraordinary ignorance, racing in ever-decreasing circles thinking you are somebody. You are not. You are Me and until you see that, you can hang upside down until I am satisfied you have seen your stupidity. For God’s sake, wake up and come back.”
And so He did with Chris and with me, and maybe many others who have not realised what can happen. There are differences between Chris’s account and mine, perhaps that I had always had a spiritual yearning and had experienced spontaneous samadhi many times as a child, and the last time it was as a 23 year-old standing at my desk at Chemical Bank in London in 1979. However, from 23 onwards, I lived dramatically in the turbo-charged lane for 25 years, so let me precis and then describe Chris’s account – I quote:
“The Chris story is a brilliant example of ignorance in its glory: one attempt after another to complete myself through objects of all sorts: career, politics, philosophy, beliefs, drugs, alcohol, women, family travel, luxury …the classic symptoms of greed, lust vanity, the bell weather of lack. […] Extroverted, entrepreneurial, even slightly sociopathic, this certainty (of object gratification) began a slow motion train wreck, culminating in 2006.
I was experiencing a crisis in all areas of my life. I was in litigation with everyone from ex-buisness associates to the US government. I lost a very successful business [ …] and lived in economic fear as one problem seemed to build on top of another. My wife had divorced me leaving with our one year old child. My mother, father uncle and grandmother had all died within one year. Two of my pets died unexpectedly.
A routine surgery for an impacted wisdom tooth went badly resulting in my jaw being broken and wired for 5 months, requiring 5 surgeries and causing the permanent loss of feeling in part of my face. I was facing a huge tax liability and was in danger of losing my home. I was at war with the world and I could not sleep […].
One sleepless night, I experienced why I can call a complete breakdown. during an extreme “dark night of the soul” experience I had a massive, catastrophic collapse which left me spent ad speechless, praying fervently to a God I did not believe in, the only honest prayer there is, “Please help me!”
This collapse was sudden, left me completely empty, with not one ounce of resistance in me, with mo more answers of any sort, in a sort of cathartic and limp state. […] Still sobbing, I poured what was left of me into a wing back chair. In this final despair with absolutely no clue what to do with my next breath, much less the rest of my life, a most peculiar phenomena occurred: sitting in absolute silence, I noticed my thoughts arising in me, but they were no longer “my” thoughts.
Chris realises that it became clear that if he observed these thoughts arising, then who was observing them, if not him? This was a profoundly unsettling awareness which shattered his world. Everything that he had taken for granted in his life came back into question. The only thing that he was certain of was that he was uncertain of everything. He spent over a year locked in his apartment desperately trying to understand what had happened meditating, journalling and reading, leaving his home only to locate authentic teachers, and finally to the home of Francis Lucille. He says:
“This ‘seeing’ disintegrated the fabric of my belief in identity. What became crystal clear was that I understood nothing about what I thought I was, and, thus, knew nothing about anything else either. I had nocluewhat had occurred and was bewildered, At times, I believe I might need psychiatric assistance.”
Yes. Exactly. My physician, who had known me for 20 years, told me not to leave the country and to see psychiatrist. I didn’t, of course, see a psychiatrist. God forbid. I knew enough to avoid any labelling by the institutions. I looked fine and in great shape, and this was the irony. But, I love Chris’s description here of the sensation of emptiness:
“There was also a visceral recognition of boundlessness, “spaceless space” that alternatively was experienced as infinite peace and discomfiture. It was like a vase shattered but still standing in space. There is no way to explain now completely disorientating this experience was on absolutely every level. It changed everything.”
Living in Berlin at that time, I remember realising that something was leaving, and put my hand onto my crown chakra to prevent ‘It” from departing. I became vapour with eyes – moving energetically like an amoeba. I have described it as the last Russian Doll to vanish. Nothing returns at all. It has taken me 5 years to understand that out of the emptiness, I had to re-create a functioning body/mind to live in the world, and today, I am still a little fragile without too much stamina. I forgot how to walk, brush my teeth, and conduct my life except for emergencies which I could handle easily. Any idea to work out at the gym was laughable! Even yoga was out of the question, I needed every ounce of available energy to stay alive. However, I am 60, so I have to start to address my yoga practice, and find me some (warm!) water because I am a powerful swimmer and I find great beauty moving through water, undulating like a fish.
The exploring of the emptiness is constantly revelatory. As Chris says, what never leaves is the spaceless space in which everything arises, and “All of it and none of it truly touches you anymore.” It just is – loving, understanding, accepting, non-labelling. And yes, the difference is that you realise that you no longer live in the now, but you ARE the now.
I agree when he says that the profound energetic shift (about which I have already written in this blog) grounds and stabilises over time. For me, it took and is taking a long time. I accept now I look out with the eyes of God, something that caused me such terror as my illusory identity disintegrated slowly as I watched utterly helplessly, witnessing this death and the vanishing of the witness itself. Life will bring you to your knees, if necessary, to show you this simple fact of the illusory self – the ground zero of all suffering. You then learn to live without a centre, and then starts the greatest exploration of all.
This IS grace in its magnificent glory.