There’s a statement by Mahatma Ghandi that remains implanted in my mind. He said, “If anyone is to find writings of mine, please use the latter on the same subject.”
For me, this token of wisdom affirms that our ideas and opinions have an infinitely changing nature. What we perceive through the mind has the unlimited capacity to change.
Over a decade ago, I wrote about a mind-altering experience while sitting in meditation:
My interpretation of the experience was being in infinitely big space (like being in outer space). It was completely dark, as the vast night sky with no stars. The silence was so huge that it was beyond anything my imagination could create. The feeling was like having no body, no time, and no words. And so I couldn’t process this, having nothing to compare it to. I didn’t even know where to begin, so I kind of just let it go. I knew it “happened” but I couldn’t relate to any of it through my cognitive mind.
In my memoir, which is presently a work in progress, I wrote about this again and revisit the experience within context.
The Magic Green Carpet
I had already lived 46 years when I met Gail. It was a time of transition for me, and I felt called to do something in my typical way – unexpectedly. One day, the inner voice simply made its choice to be heard, and the body felt compelled to pursue its direction.
Sitting in my office at a desktop computer, I stared at the monitor’s screen jam-packed with the medical notes I had diligently transcribed. All of the words that I had typed became blurred. I removed my earphones, stopped typing, and placed my attention on sitting quietly and listening to a feeling sense that arose out of nowhere. It sounded like my own voice to my thinking mind, but I recognized a quality of deeper resonance than the usual mind chatter.
It said, “You need to study yoga. It’s time to train as a yoga teacher.”
The idea appeared out of nowhere, but I didn’t question it. My mind complied, and I made a silent agreement just like that, Okay, I’ll choose a place to get my yoga certification.
My friend, Inga, often spoke about Ronda – a yoga teacher at Yoga Mountain.
Decision made. I’ll call Yoga Mountain and apply.
The Yoga Mountain dwelling was a residential space that had turned commercial, and it looked pleasant enough, humble and welcoming from the outside. A small glass door entryway led to the reception area where I would be directed to go upstairs to the yoga studio. A narrow spiral staircase led to the studio upstairs. This struck me as wholly symbolic – a mysterious new pathway into the unknown.
At the top of the stairway what appeared to be a closet door led into the yoga studio from the rear. I opened the door, and allowed my eyes to adapt to the dimmed lights.
A woman sitting cross-legged at the front of the room looked up, “Hello, welcome. Please come in and sit down.”
In that instant, from that 15-foot distance across the room, I could feel her immense warmth, kindness and loving presence. I knew I was in the right place.
It perhaps had not even been a full year when my yoga teacher, Gail, instructed, “It’s time for you to teach”. Her belief was, there’s no “right” time when you’re ready to teach yoga. Her method was, throw the student into the water and they’ll learn to swim- to teach what they know – from their heart.
That’s when she chose me to take on a private student. I was a new teacher, very inexperienced, and still studying with Gail for my 200-hour certification. But my foundation was strong with Gail’s guidance, and I grasped the magnitude of the breath and meditation. Though my confidence often wavered, I trusted that I possessed something of value – something I could share with another person.
The only information I was given about Dawn was that she was a 30-something year old mom who wanted private yoga instruction. On the day we met for our first yoga session, it was her timid nature that affirmed for me her reluctance to attend a group yoga class. A fair-skinned, blonde with blue-gray eyes, she was soft-spoken, a gentle soul, and I could clearly sense her fear of not being good enough. She wasn’t ready to try something she didn’t know how to do in a group setting.
As I guided Dawn through the most basic of stretching and strengthening postures, I encouraged her to be less judgmental about the right way and the wrong way. Then I invited her to sit down. The studio had a tight-weaved wall-to-wall carpet, a dark shade of green, which was almost dowdy but strangely soothing. I stacked two folded blankets, placed them down on the carpet, and asked Dawn to sit down. Then I placed my blankets directly across from her, and I sat down. We sat face to face.
I invited Dawn to explore a breath I had studied called 3-part breathing, also known as dirga pranayama, which can be translated as complete, or long or deep breathing from the low belly all the way up to the collar bones. We practiced the breathing together until I sensed the student had reached a deeper relaxation, and I said, “Okay, let’s return to normal breathing, close our eyes, and sit together in silent meditation”.
That’s when it happened …
Within moments of sitting quietly with my own breath, the observer (me) disappeared, and all there was to be experienced and observed was NOTHING.
Time and space completely vanished.
Yet somewhere, like an infinitesimal spec of light, the observer (me) was able to witness this huge, black, ENDLESS space with a silence I had never imagined could exist.
Then I actually MERGED with the dark, silent, space.
That is, until the spec of light that could observe this space reappeared. And that’s when the spec of light spoke.
It said, “You have to teach yoga now.”
On hearing those words, my mind became alert and aware of the physical space my body was occupying.
I wondered, How much time has passed?
I looked at Dawn. Her eyes were still closed. Everything seemed completely intact. But I had no idea how much time had passed, if any at all. I glanced at the clock on the wall – it was almost 10:30 a.m., precisely the right time for our session to conclude.
As astounded as I was over this inexplicable state of consciousness I had just experienced, there remained a calm grounding presence that continued to guide me, and so I resumed my role as teacher and gently directed Dawn to deepen her breath and slowly open her eyes.
I ruminated, “Could she possibly know what just happened? Don’t be ridiculous, that’s impossible. She seems perfectly fine.”
But I knew something immense had occurred. However, I had no understanding what it was or what it meant to me.
I would spend the next decade delving into every aspect of yogic esoteric knowledge to help me process what this experience could possibly mean. I studied the classics, the Vedic and Tantric philosophies, the Sutras, Taoism, Zen Buddhism, the ancient yoga masters, and the new age masters.
At the time of this writing, I persevere in recognition and gratitude that this was a moment of grace. The reality of no-time was given to me, just a glimpse, enough to spark the light of wisdom within me. I was graced to witness the reality of non-duality prior to my conditioned and learned understanding of such an idea. It was a foresight of everything I would come to learn, study, and experience through the mastery of the yogic path.
As I write this now, I am reminded of the unchanging quality of that magic green carpet experience. Simultaneously, I’m reminded how my understanding of it holds the potential for infinite evolution.
As Gandhi wisely advised, “If anyone is to find writings of mine, please use the latter on the same subject.”
Photo credit: Annie Brightstar