Flashes of insight

I’m back! It’s been a while since I last wrote on here, but a lot has happened in that time. However, rather than go over what has been happening over recent months, I want to write about something that happened today.

I was at the Buddhist centre, meditating. The session was being led by the centre’s volunteer manager (our Lama is on retreat for the year), and before we meditated she encouraged us to “be aware of our own awareness.” I acted on this advice, realising that I was present and aware of being present – and then I realised that there was no “I” or “me” there to be aware. The awareness was there, but there was no “me” at tye root of it, no fixed entity.

Now as a Buddhist who does plenty of reading, of course I was aware of the idea of emptiness and not-self. However, as I have just discovered, there is a big difference between knowing it in theory and actually experiencing that insight for yourself! I just wish I could describe the experience properly, but of course I can’t. It is something that just has to be experienced directly.

I was talking to Pauliina, the centre manager, after the session, and I mentioned this. I told her that in some ways it is quite scary to see emptiness properly for the first time. She  agreed, and said that it’s disconcerting because you realise there’s nothing there to cling to for support.

That made me think of when I was learning to swim (at the age of 26 – I was a late developer in that regard). The first time I left the safety of the shallow end of the pool and went to the deep end, I felt a sudden feeling of panic when I let go of the side, because there was no floor beneath my feet. Of course, the security of the floor was illusory, since by that point I was a good enough swimmer not to need it. The water supported me well enough without me having to rely on the illusory security provided by being in shallow water and knowing that if I put my feet down, the floor would be there.

Maybe that’s what this will be like when I get used to it. Hopefully I’ll see that I didn’t really need that sense of self to anchor me, any more than I needed the floor of the swimming pool once I had learned to swim.

I may have been a Buddhist for a couple of years now, but in many ways I’m still very much a beginner. I’m still constantly learning new things. Or at least, learning is taking place. Who is doing the learning? That’s a different matter!


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