With the other participants, on the 11th day.
We recently had the opportunity to participate in a ten-day silent meditation course in Myanmar. We were over one hundred other yogis from all around the world to meditate for more than ten hours everyday. In this article, I would like to share a special experience I had.
Most of the time, we meditated as a group in a large room, sitting cross-legged, hands on knees and eyes closed. We were taught to mentally scan all parts of the body and to be fully aware of all sensations arising. After several days of practice, the mind had become sharper and we were able to concentrate enough to feel vibrations in the body. Wherever we would focus our attention, be it on the face, the hands or the legs, we could feel a multitude of stinging, crackling, exchange of particles between the body and the environment. And by going deeper into the practice, we could be aware of otherwise unnoticed sensations, such as tingling on a toe or a nostril.
During the 8th day, I noticed that the sensations had become even more peculiar. I was aware of particles circulating outside my body; consciousness left the boundaries of the skin for a few seconds and moved into other particles of the environment. I tried to concentrate deeply to fully experience this and it gave me a strange sensation of being suspended, of feeling zero gravity. My mind wasn’t aware of the body anymore and instead had the experience of becoming a floating particle. Gradually, my consciousness jumped from one particle to another and started circulating smoothly around the physical body. During these moments it was possible to feel an extreme sensation of calm, harmony, happiness and purity. Any notion of time had vanished; there was no past and no future, only present to be experienced.
During such moments of meditation, the sound of the bell announcing the end of the session seemed to jolted me out from a sweet dream. For a second, my eyes were open but consciousness had not fully returned into the mind yet. Then, in a flash, the story came back: “Oh yes, I’m in Yangon attending a ten-day meditation course”.
As we left the room to stretch our legs, I was still feeling intense vibrations in the arms and hands. I wanted to do a test; I approached a tree and touched the trunk, and what a surprise I got. By closing my eyes and staying focused, I was fully aware of the particles of the tree located within a few centimeters of my hand. For a short time, I was somehow in the tree, or more accurately I had the sensation that I had become the particles on the surface of the tree! This experience was incredible and I may have thought I was mad if I had never seen this TED video where someone shares a similar experience.
These sensations of vibrations and movements of particles are constantly going on in and around us. More often than not, we’re not aware of them because the mind hasn’t been trained enough, so in a way, we are only partially experiencing our true consciousness. But we are connected to all the particles of our environment and we can be aware of each of them. This means that with lot of training one can be aware of elements of the cosmos located light-year away from the physical body!
With this experience, I also felt the loss of “I”, the dissolution of the ego. In everyday life, our consciousness lives in the realms of the mind that has us believe that if an “I” exists, then it must be only at the level of the mind. This “I” has a body, arms and legs and we use the verb “to have” to describe the relationship with our limbs. But we can move our consciousness and when we do that, any linguistic expressions concerning the “I” will then become meaningless. Who are we when consciousness is not in the physical body? The traditional definition of “I” is certainly useful for daily practicalities but comes from a limited understanding of our identity. What we usually take for the absolute truth is actually a created, simplified, truth. But we can experience another reality, much broader, natural and pristine, where we are constantly living in harmony with ourselves and our environment.
Remember that understanding these ideas at the intellectual level is interesting, but what really matters is to experience them at the physical level. I highly recommend that you start a regular meditation practice: take a few minutes everyday, where you sit down, close your eyes and focus only on your breath. If you have any questions about meditation, I’ll be happy to help you.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step.” Lao Tzu