This blog was written by Jennifer Billig, Santa Fe.
In my experience, it felt like my ability to access emptiness, or what Amoda calls ‘presence,’ was dependent on my level of physical energy. When I slept well and felt vigorous, it felt mostly easy to make contact with this vast, bright nothingness. If I slept poorly or overextended myself to the point of feeling stressed out, it felt much harder or even impossible, to touch it.
Recalling my confusion about similar ‘spiritual’ matters in my past, I was suspicious of this dynamic and my perception of it. Was it really true or was I misinterpreting my seemingly objective experience? Did one really need physical energy to connect with the immeasurable expanse, as Chogyam Trungpa called it? If so, why did so many people seem to only meet it at the end of their lives, when they lie sick and dying – almost fully physically depleted?
I asked Amoda about this dynamic at a recent day-long meeting. She reminded me, and the others in the room, that presence is not something we need to reach for or to connect with. It is always there and is what we are. Our challenge is to see that whatever is happening in the moment, is also it.
Immediately, even as she finished her response to my question, the insight came. I saw that I had created a game out of my formal meditation training. I believed that I had to reach out to ‘connect’ with emptiness using some kind of technique. Admittedly, this may have been necessary when I first began to meditate, but now, it had become a hinderance.
I also saw that I found it more difficult to experience presence when I felt depleted, not because I was physically tired, but because I had so much emotional resistance to feeling that way. I really did not like feeling so worn out, and saw that in fact, there was also a lot of fear wrapped up in it. If I was tired, I may not be able to do what others expected of me or what I expected of me. If I was tired, maybe I was actually ill, and to really go down the rat hole: What if I was chronically ill, and would have to quit working, traveling and be housebound?! And on and on and on – all in mere seconds, as my thoughts took off, mostly without much awareness of them, but stirring up fear in my mind and body nonetheless.
Thus, my game was to try to go around the exhaustion in my daily life by forging ahead no matter what, and inwardly, by trying to employ some technique to ‘connect’ with space, instead of relaxing into whatever was happening. In both cases, my game required: so. much. effort. No wonder I was tired!
As soon as I saw what I was doing, I was thankfully able to drop it. I found that as I opened to my feeling of tiredness, emptiness was also there. Upon further exploration, I found the same was true when I felt anger, irritation or any other emotion that I habitually labeled as undesirable.
It was a key insight. One that had probably reached my ears before, but that I was unable to hear. This time it went in, penetrating body, heart and mind.
- Jennifer Billig