A group of people meeting each other for the first time sit in a room in a circle. They are asked not to speak but just to look around.
As they look out at each other and their environment, all of them start to whisper descriptions of their circle mates inside their heads, some complimentary, some not. Meanwhile, they smile and long to talk with words which will help them to learn about these new people. Most of us are taught that words help us to learn about the world.
But thoughts and words are a sheer reaction to the outside world. Therefore, the individual True Nature of each person in the circle is not present. They are effectively each a constellation of words and thoughts and skin.
They are looking but only at the waves not the ocean, only at the clouds not the blue sky, only at the fingers pointing at the Moon not the Moon itself. They do not know the world directly because of the thick filters.
Then, they are told to close their eyes lightly.
They are reluctant. In unfamiliar territory. They become sleepy so ingrained are they that oblivious sleep comes when the immediate environment is curtained out. They are asked to resist becoming sleepy by not closing their eyes tightly, but keeping a sliver of light open and looking at the tips of their noses.
Once they have settled, then the words and thoughts are still there, but now they are combining the memories of the people in the circle with them. Words and thoughts plus memories now smother the actual experience of these people.
The faint presence of silence and being unable to speak becomes gradually uncomfortable. A little tension creeps into the body and breathing becomes shallower. A little anger, a little fear. Questions arise. Indignant questions. Questions are words in a particular arrangement which demand a reaction from someone else. Again, the direct experience of the people in the circle is blocked out.
Soon frustration comes that no-one is answering. They are losing patience. They realize that their necks are braced so that their heads are facing forwards, that they are primed to look out, and yet, some strange thing is echoing behind them, in a place they cannot see. An unknown place which they have no words to learn about it with or memories to hold on to.
They fidget nervously. They search frantically for a noun to cling on to. Even a verb would do.
They are asked to listen to the sounds in the immediate environment without trying to label or analyze them. Sound just for sound’s sake. This relaxes them because sound has nothing to do with them. It is alien. Undesirable because it is independent of words.
Then they are asked to listen to the sounds outside the room, again without labelling or analyzing. Some of them are nodding off by now.
No words. No diverse shapes, colors and textures to distract them. They are becoming sad. Their inner is dark, unfamiliar, nothing to do with them. They cannot make sense of it or learn from it. Just darkness and alien sound.
Then, as the final instruction, they are asked to deepen their breath.
They become excited as the end of this unpleasant and unnecessary experience comes into view. The prospect is bright with its vibrant jungles of words and pictures, with heaps of knowledge already acquired and infinite amounts still to come. They breathe half-heartedly because they are eager to stop and get back to the enchanted jungles.
They are asked to allow their breath to deepen and to watch it as it drops lower in their body.
They give a little more attention to the task to get approval, but always they are aware of the welcome end of this scary experience.
Then suddenly, as they take another peep at the darkness inside, they catch sight of something moving. There are bubbles and a creature swimming. They try to know this presence with words…………
They are once more reminded not to try to label or analyze but just to receive anything they may feel or see or hear.
Now, addicted to images, they are impatient to know who or what this presence is. The questions roll in like breakers on a beach but they are forced to imagine their answers, to speculate. And so, everything else has disappeared from their minds – the circle mates and even memories of them, the scary darkness inside them, the strange attention to their breath, their dead thoughts….. all because of something they have seen.
Their drowsiness has disappeared, but now they are convinced that they are the victims of a cheap brainwashing trick, convinced that the instructor has planted something in their brains or they have inhaled some hallucinogenic substance which has caused them to see this ghost in the dark abyss!
Soon they are instructed to gently open their eyes but to keep them from encountering any other eyes in the room. Now the questions are loud and aggressive but silent. Who or what was this strange presence inside them and who let it in there?
In time, they are told to open their eyes fully and look around the room. And to smile. They long to talk but are asked to refrain from words until instructed. Asked to look once more at their circle mates resisting labelling or analyzing.
Finally, they are told that they may speak to each other which they enjoy so much, talking frankly about how creepy this experience was and how it taught them nothing. They compare notes about the terrifying darkness and the blue creature.
Then parting the chatter with silence, a tall man looks over at the instructor with a knowing in his eye, and asks,
“Well, come on. Aren’t you going to tell us who you planted inside us? And how you did it?”
The instructor says that it was nothing to do with him.
“But who or what was that?”
The instructor says he cannot possibly comment but that it was probably their True Nature. They have never seen it before because they never look inside at the universe only out into the dream of the world.
Images courtesy of Linden Thorp and Mariko Kinoshita.