Eva L's Experience
I was attending an open day at a Buddhist center out of curiosity, together with a female friend. About 40 people were attending. The open day involved a whole afternoon of meditative exercises such as moving very slowly and focusing on every little change in what we were experiencing. Towards the end of the afternoon I was feeling progressively more relaxed and open.
Then we did an exercise about 'time'. The first part involved focusing on what we were experiencing 'here and now', how we felt the floor supporting the weight of our body, etc. Then we had to take some kind of event from our past and go back there. I chose a memory from a holiday at a Spanish beach from about two years ago. I was there again, feeling the sand under my bare feet, the sun warming my skin, hearing the sounds of the ocean, breaking on the pebbles, smelling the salty air, seeing the green grass moving in the wind, bordering the path down to the beach.
Then we had to imagine we were there, in the past, and imagine we would be thinking about this event here in the Buddhist center, then in the future.
It sounded hard to do but was surprisingly easy. I imagined I was walking down the sandy path to the beach, while thinking that some time in the future I would attend the open day at this Buddhist center, doing a variety of meditative exercises. Then we were returning to the here and now, the afternoon in the Buddhist center.
Next, we had to imagine an event in the future. I imagined that in about two years time I would have a job at Leiden University (which actually happened, although I could not have predicted this at that time). I saw myself, sitting at a desk, working on data-analysis on the computer. Then we had to imagine we were at that moment in the future, reflecting back on this afternoon in the Buddhist center.
At that moment, two different things happened almost simultaneously:
The first thing was a realization THAT WE DO THIS ALL THE TIME! All the time we are thinking about something in the past or something in the future and we are never there, where we are at the moment here and now.
At the same time I felt as if my awareness had shifted to a point behind my right shoulder, I felt like I was in an extended space of gigantic dimensions, and laughter bubbled up from inside of my belly.... I held back because I didn't want to disturb the meditative silence of all the other visitors, but I felt amazingly joyful and spacious inside while I realized these two other things:
WE ARE NOT OUR THOUGHTS!
IT DOESN'T MATTER IF WE'RE NOT PRESENT HERE AND NOW....
It's nice if you're present in the here and now, but no worries if you're not...
BECAUSE: WE'RE NOT OUR THOUGHTS.... so if your thoughts are elsewhere, you can't help being present anyway, the essence of you is always here, even if your thoughts aren't. All this worrying about the past and the future is just a joke....
The experience made me feel elated. Unfortunately my friend had a kind of opposite experience. While the afternoon had been very relaxing the moment she had to pick some future event she started to worry and got nervous and tense again.
For days afterwards this spacious feeling stayed with me and made me feel happy. Eventually the experience faded away, but it has been a kind of reference for me. WE ARE NOT OUR THOUGHTS.
Was the kind of experience difficult to express in words? Uncertain partly difficult.
the circumstances leading up to the experience were not that difficult to express, the experience itself was kind of difficult because we don't appear to have a shared vocabulary about it
What was your level of consciousness and alertness during the experience? A kind of relaxed feeling of openness, alert and awake, but quite relaxed.
Was the experience dream like in any way? No
Did you experience a separation of your consciousness from your body? No
What emotions did you feel during the experience? Very joyful, a feeling of receiving a new perspective
Did you notice how your 5 senses were working, and if so, how were they different? I felt like a had a kind of expanded vision, and was in a different 'space'
Did you have any sense of altered space or time? Yes Space appeared expanded, a feeling of being in space, looking very far as if I could see distant stars. I don't know about time.
Did you have a sense of knowing, special knowledge, universal order and/or purpose? Yes The realization of 'we are not our thoughts' came as a kind of insight.
Did you reach a boundary or limiting physical structure? No
Did you become aware of future events? Right before the actual experience I imagined myself at a new job location and this has actually happened, even though I could not have known this at the time.
Did you have any changes of attitudes or beliefs following the experience? Uncertain It appears as if the experience has provided a kind of anchor. Although the experience didn't appear to have a direct effect on how I saw things, it appears to be the start of a kind of gentle and steady push into a more spiritual perspective on life.
How has the experience affected your relationships? Daily life? Religious practices? Career choices? not sure, see the answer directly above
Has your life changed specifically as a result of your experience? Uncertain only in a slow, steady and hardly perceptible way, as a kind of gentle push into a more spiritual direction
Have you shared this experience with others? Yes Reactions: interested, some envious.
What emotions did you experience following your experience? Being joyful and a feeling of spaciousness, 'spacey'.
What was the best and worst part of your experience? Best part: the funny discovery that all this worrying about the past and the future is just a joke, that what our thoughts have nothing to do with our timeless essence, and the feeling of expanding, of spaciousness.