I had an interesting experience yesterday. It began by sitting down and staring at the pointy end of a long stick (not a euphemism) - this is the way in which my therapist and I begin brainspotting, a therapeutical method we’ve been using for about the last 15 months.
Almost immediately as I fixed my gaze, I saw a meadow, bright sunlit grass, undulating gently to the edge. I know this meadow well. I can feel it inside me now, in the centre of my being, a radiant meadow of warmth and light, expanding and contracting, gently pulsing. I saw the meadow and below it I saw the ocean, waves breaking onto rocks, foaming white as they leapt, a perfect and perfectly correct admixture of liveliness and calm.
Things happened. My fingers tingled, my soles too. I felt blood flowing through me, life itself, twisting and winding and dancing inside me.
Then came the stillness. It came quietly. A darkness, a dark space, that somehow also carried light. I noticed it first in my mind. You know how there’s almost always something going on in your head? An incessant low-grade chatter, thoughts of this and that, random memories arising and instantly giving way to another, oh I better remember to get some milk, shit, did I reply to that email, I wonder if one day a boy will be born who can swim faster than a shark … all that stuff. Gone.
Something below the surface had gone too, something whose prior existence I only noticed through its sudden absence. My mind was not just quiet at the surface level, it had also quietened below the level of consciousness. I could feel the absence of a huge amount of normal turmoil and turbulence. Maybe I can put it this way - usually, when I am calm, the calmness is like being in the eye of a storm. I am calm, but I am still surrounded by a storm. This felt like the storm had disappeared and been replaced by quiet.
The stillness grew. It wasn’t just in my mind, I could see. It was everywhere. It was inside me, it was outside me. It was at the physical centre of my being and it was around my body. I sat there, still, watching the pointy end of the stick, and the stillness grew and grew and grew.
Now I saw that everything was in the stillness. My therapist, the stick, my parents, the sun, the meadow, the ocean, Annika, the chestnut trees in the park … everything. My worries, my fears, my joys, the daily likes and dislikes, the striving, the resistance … everything. It was all there in the stillness, and the stillness was so vast that all the other things assumed what seemed to me then their proper size.
To be clear, nothing had disappeared. Everything that had been there before I noticed the stillness was there after I noticed the stillness. But the emotional effect of these things, their weight, the way in which they appeared - this changed completely.
From time to time, I would tell my therapist what I was seeing and feeling. In order to do this, it is necessary - or at least convenient - to use the personal pronoun “I”. At some point, this “I” began to confuse me. It didn’t make much sense. I couldn’t grasp it, somehow. What was it referring to? I don’t know. It wasn’t thought, it wasn’t a series of arguments against the existence of the “I”. It was rather an experience, an experience of confusion, of a sort of puzzlement, of bewilderment … it was as though someone had used the technique of defamiliarization on me, and made the familiar suddenly seem very strange.
The stillness remained. My confusion became part of the stillness. Everything was in there. And everything danced … the word may suggest something strenuous, but that would be a false suggestion. It was not a strenuous dance. It was the dance of an autumn leaf lifted off the ground, swirling and dancing, joined by other leaves, joined by the grass, by everything there was, everything twisting and winding and turning in the vast eternal stillness.
It felt wonderful. A quiet kind of wonderful, a wonderful that I could trust.
It felt so wonderful that my mind suddenly woke up and it said: how can I keep hold of this? How can I stay in this state?
Because everything was so quiet and still, I could see each little movement of my mind. And when my mind said this, it immediately began to think, plot, plan. The stillness began to dissolve a little.
But in the stillness, there was love, there was love for this little mind of mine, twisting and turning, scared of good things ending, wanting, always wanting, controlling … this poor little mind. So much effort, so much emotion!
And then my mind was in the stillness too, the grasping, the desiring, the pain and the longing … it too belonged in the stillness.
Alles ist gut wie es ist, said the stillness.
Everything is good as it is.