The Roar of Silence

This shy, bookish teenager, was haunted by a yearning for

he-knew-not-what.

Looking for something  to bridge the imagined divide between everyday life and the Absolute – an indescribable  experience.

Voraciously consumed the book “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahansa Yogananda  and felt strongly that “it”  lie in the direction of the spiritual.

Reading Plato solidified the view of spirituality as the pursuit of the ideal.

Thus the seeker was born, and the game of seeking was afoot.

Nineteen years later, at 37, I had more or less tried everything.

Still hadn’t found “it”.

One day I dropped in on a talk given by a knowledgeable sounding Buddhist teacher. Intrigued, I returned to hear more. Captivated, I pledged lay vows and started daily meditation. Heard about liberation, enlightenment and the concept of emptiness, or  no-self.

No-self.

That was “it”.

That’s what I was looking for !

The Tibetan Buddhist group I practiced with was strangely unfocussed on no-self – the most important element of the Buddha’s teaching .

Seriously, if you cracked that, wouldn’t the rest all fall in line ?

A meditator friend of mine planned a trip to Thailand to practice with a group in Chang Mai for a few weeks and generously allowed me to accompany him.

We traveled to Thailand for 3 silent retreats of about 2 weeks each over the course of the next 3 years.

In Thailand, practice focused on breath, and we frequently discussed impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and no-self with our teacher.

Silence also waited for exploring on this side of the Pacific.

In 2007, I began doing as many silent retreats as I could, some with groups and some on my own, camping in the mountains.

On a week long silent retreat in March of 2010, I read a few lines from the book  ” Nothing Personal ” by Nirmala. In the first 12 pages, Nirmala clearly points out that thoughts are objects known by awareness.

Thoughts cannot have any sensory experience at all.

Somehow, in almost 10 years of meditation and Buddhist practice,
I had missed this very obvious and fundamental point.

What I had believed that I was – a stream of thoughts – couldn’t possibly be so.

At first, the enormity of this fact escaped notice.

Moments later, gazing placidly at the half-moon hanging high in the cloudless sky, a disturbing thought appeared:

If no thought ever had a sensory experience,
then no thought had ever seen anything.”

Ever.

So… what was watching the moon ?

I have never seen it!

No one has ever seen it!

No one has ever seen anything else !

Somehow, this developed into the most frightening contemplation,
fear quickly growing, expanding, building upon itself.

The disturbance spread across consciousness like a hurricane,
cold terror gripped the body, vise-like, heart pounding, thoughts racing wildly.

What to do ? Nowhere to go ! What to do ? What to do !!?

At that moment, the thing to do was to sit with the fear.
Peer directly into it, take it apart, see it’s qualities of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and not-self.

Then look behind the fear – directly at the empty origins of the rouse.

But that’s not what happened.

Instead, I ran like a scared dog.

Ran to every calming technique I ever heard of (and there are many) to restore some equanimity.

Years of practice had failed to bring presence of mind in the face of a sudden, unprecedented panic attack.

Hours later, after it was over, I realized a golden opportunity was lost.

Seeing into the empty nature of the “I” had nearly occurred, and if that had happened, the “I” would have dissolved like a mirage.

Thought had to trigger an immediate diversion to continue its mental dominance a bit longer. Fear was the biggest diversion in the egoic arsenal of distraction.

The impact of the resulting panic felt way too powerful to forget.

A glimpse at the empty nature of the ” I ” left a permanent crack in the edifice of the thought constructed self.

Practice focused on this crack.

The classic Advaita “Who am I ?” / “What am I ?”  technique adapted easily to exploit the weakness that had appeared.

What sees this ? ” burned brightly as an unanswered and potentially unanswerable question.

Inquiry acted as a chisel applied to the edifice of thought
throughout the day, every day.

Every activity provided an opportunity to inquire.

Driving.

Walking.

Waiting.

Red lights.

Supermarket lines.

Dentist office.

“What sees this?” “What hears this ?” ” What feels this ?” ” What ?! “

Sometimes with furious exasperation,
always relentlessly inquiring with a keen interest and burning curiosity.

What sees this ?!

So practice continued for almost 16 months…

One morning, like many other mornings, consciousness came awake slowly.

Noticing pressure, texture, light.

Lying in place for a while, turning over, getting up.

Pause.

What just happened ?

Getting up happened.

With no conscious decision to do so.

No thought involved nor required.

No “I”.

Just the body.

Getting up.

On its own.

Whoa!

How could that happen ?

Perhaps something was missed ?

Will look more carefully tomorrow.

Next day, it happened again. And the next day. And the next.

Never again did the “I” ever take credit for getting up in the morning.

The domain of the little “me” shrank by a little bit.

So…if the “me” did not get the body up in the morning, what other activities did it falsely take credit for ?

If the body acted without direction from discursive thought,
what other false claims did the self imagine ?

Walking.

Riding bicycle.

Driving a car.

All those little wheel adjustments to keep the car between the white lines,
done without a single thought.

With each noticing, the self retreated further and further.

The remaining question was “What, if anything, does the self still seem to do? “

The domain of the self shrank severely.

The last bastion of the “I” remained hidden in thoughts alone,
the only place it ever really existed.

One unremembered day, late May or June 2011, came across the blog

COMPLETE HUMANITY.

The author, Elena Nezhinsky, used a technique she described as “direct pointing” to help people see through the illusion of the self.

Utterly fascinated, I wolfed down her posts enthusiastically.

People would chat back and forth with this woman
and then declare that they had seen that there was no self !

Hard to believe, but there it was, one after another.

COMPLETE HUMANITY

linked to another site with similar dialogs,

THE RUTHLESS TRUTH, by Ciaran Healy.

(ed. note – no longer exists)

On July 24th, 2011, sometime before noon, wandered over to check out Ciaran’s site,and started to read the archived dialogs. Ciaran had chatted with someone using direct pointing. Here is the dialog:

CIARAN: the core process revolves around

the intersection

between cause and effect

and life as such

this is where the unenlightened state

actually derives

from interference

between these two things

does that make sense?

i explain it in the blog

GUEST: yes

CIARAN: ok cool

the way to become enlightened

is just to see

exactly how they really fit together

GUEST: my mind is looking for a tool

CIARAN: that’s fine

don’t worry about that

i’ll give you a monkey wrench if you want it

it’s this

look

think about how we layer cause and effect over the full experience of life

in the present moment

what you’ll find

if you focus

and be disciplined with yourself

is that we assume

basically

that ‘we’

are watching a video

that is life

and the video affects ‘us’

right?

GUEST: yep

CIARAN: ok

this is endemic

everyone does it

and that’s because

you don’t need to teach this

cause and effect

is the lens through which

we see the world

so the idea

of this video ‘we’ are watching

that’s having an effect on ‘us’

just kind of arises

right?

GUEST: yes

CIARAN: ok

the thing to realize

and if you can see this

that is you enlightened

is that the video

IS the totality of all things

you

such as you are

exist within the video

there is no audience

there is just the film

and you are

how to put this

within the present moment

an assumption exists

that there is someone experiencing it

that assumption

is part of the present

as all things are,

right?

Had been reading with keen intensity up until the mention of causality and the metaphor of the video.

Right then, something abruptly shifted.

The imagined distance between “outside” and “inside” collided violently and vanished forever as the last bastion of the self collapsed.

“Me” disappeared…and the world turned inside out.

Roaring silence.

Shock.

Awestruck.

Incredulous.

Shouting in the empty house !

Tears.

Laughter.

Freedom !

F R E E D O M !

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About dominic724

A former seeker starts blogging.
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9 Responses to The Roar of Silence

  1. Connie says:

    Thanks for sharing this! There seems to be a very stubborn “me” here that’s fighting to stay in play and won’t just drop away. Seems to be using pain as a final distraction from the truth becoming conscious of itself. Will just have to keep going.

    • dominic724 says:

      Fighting is what the me does best.

      Is the pain overwhelming ? I ask because if it is not, then it provides an excellent meditation object. Pain makes it easy to focus, sharp and clear. Also, no one imagines that pain is ” really them “.

      This post might help: http://wp.me/p1QwdP-74

      Kind regards – d

      • Connie says:

        Actually it is overwhelming most of the time, Dominic. It makes me feel doomed. I can see my belief that it will never go away, that I won’t ever exist free of pain, for whatever reason – that’s just the way it is. Any guidance on how I can begin to change this belief about the pain?

      • dominic724 says:

        Yes, mostly not from here.
        1)There are no beliefs which are true. They may have some truth, but the very fact that it is a belief means it is a placeholder, a substitute for a fact, which the mind conjures to cover a blank space that reveals its inadequacy. Belief: I know the future. Is it true ? Have you looked at The Work by Byron Katie ? http://www.thework.com/thework-4questions.php
        2)The belief will fall away once there is seeing that the pain is not constant, not permanent, that it varies and is subject to change just like everything else. So when the pain is less than overwhelming, notice that. Look into it. The fact that this is even possible indicates that the pain changes, and whatever changes has an end.
        Shinzen Young has a very good book on changing the relationship with pain, called ” Break Through Pain “. If you can’t pick it up, I will send you my copy. Please let me know. Here is a synopsis of the book: http://www.shinzen.org/Articles/artPain.pdf
        3)The other important thing to do is more of an undoing: laugh. Anything that throws us into the right brain space reduces pain and enhances well-being. Laughter does that and much more. Just attended Yogic Laughter training this weekend. There is a growing body of evidence, from Norman Cousins and Patch Adams down through various contemporary studies, that indicate that laughter increases endorphins, decreases pain, increases well-being, increases blood flow, etc. etc.etc. It’s all quite amazing. The Medical Doctor who invented Laughter Yoga is Dr. Madan Kataria in 1995. If you can laugh at something, especially a painful or negative condition, then it feels less upsetting. This is a system of excersises for laughing, disengaged from humor. Laughing as an excercise can last long enough for people to receive positive results.
        http://www.google.com/search?q=laughter+yoga+you+tube&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a#pq=laughter+medical+benefits&hl=en&gs_nf=1&cp=30&gs_id=4p&xhr=t&q=laughter+medical+benefits+pain&pf=p&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US%3Aofficial&sclient=psy-ab&pbx=1&oq=laughter+medical+benefits+pain&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&gs_sm=&gs_upl=&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.,cf.osb&fp=232dd482f38522b3&biw=1252&bih=579
        These approaches are complementary and are bound to help. Shinzen was a teacher from years back and I know of someone who lived with chronic pain for years and used the pain as a focus for meditation with Shinzen’s style of practice and her quality of life improved dramatically. She now leads meditation workshops on mindfulness meditation in Tucson AZ. Her name is Terry McGee.

  2. Connie says:

    Thanks for this information, D. I just ordered a copy of Break Through Pain.

    • dominic724 says:

      Whenever someone asks me the pain question, this is what I tell them. In my very limited experience, it worked for me. Shinzen developed this from his experience of physical pain from sitting many hours without moving in a Zen monastery in Japan, where movement – even the slightest – was prohibited.

      The pdf hits the highlights. The copy I have came with a cd with a guided meditation on it.

      The Work by Byron Katie is free and a great life skill for exploding beliefs of all kinds. I still use it, and it helps clear the mind of flotsam.

      Yogic laughter may not be for everyone. Preliminary evidence supports improvement in mood and in one study, reduction in pain. There are other ways to laugh more, and drop out of the left brain paradigm of control and forecast.

      Whatever works. I’d love to hear how it unfolds.

  3. John Ptacek says:

    Your story is WAY cooler than mine. Not sure I even have one. But here we are seeing eye to eye. Just marvelous.

    • dominic724 says:

      The way I’d say it, you are more cleanly, clearly and simply awake. Bravo ! Here, the path was messy, and this was the highly edited and quadruple-abridged version !

      Some of the stories are pretty far out. It’s fun to read them.

      Yes, awareness recognizing itself ? There is, in my humble experience, often joy in that.

      d

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