Marvels: Letters from an Elder, Part 13
Letter # 9, October 23rd, 1948
Let us assume, then, that over a period of time, you have been able to establish a point of stillness, some routine or set of words or actions which you can now regard on every level of thinking which is accessible to you as ‘stable’. Onto this you then hold, mentally; with this, you can accomplish the next stage of mastery, which is to allow everything else to ‘float’.
Using our swimming analogy can make this clearer: by asserting the mantra, or prayer, or liturgy or whatever it is you have developed — which we can call your ‘stable point’ — you can progressively permit all the rest of your thinking and feeling self to rise up in the ‘pool’ which surrounds you.
When you are in a pool of water, your body becomes potentially buoyant; gripping onto the side, you can let go of the bottom of the pool with your feet and your legs should lift easily if you permit them to do so. Some people struggle with this, and find it difficult to allow their limbs to simply rise up; in their case, they feel the upper body float, but remain firmly grounded. When meditating, the same thing occurs: individuals can find it hard to disassociate themselves with their surroundings enough to experience the ‘floating’ stage. But the key word to mastering this is ‘disassociation’: just as when floating in a pool of water the feet must lose contact with the ground and rise up, so must the meditating mind lose touch with its surroundings if it is to move anywhere. Gripping the side of the pool, the trainee swimmer can have enough confidence in his own safety to permit this loss of contact; in meditation, the individual must have enough of a firm grip through the stable point to permit everything else to dissolve into instability.
This is a matter of repeated practice. Just as with establishing the stable point, there are no short cuts here. But eventually, with repeated attempts, one can ‘let go’ and ‘float’.
There are often two general reactions when this stage is reached: the individual panics and, like a learning swimmer, seeks out the bottom of the pool hurriedly; or they fall asleep. Here it is perhaps important to point out that the state you regard as ‘sleep’ is precisely that state of disassociation which you are seeking — except that you wish to retain memories of the state afterwards. In sleep, all mortals become disassociated to some degree with the mortal plane; only a few of them, though, remember what happened while they were asleep.
The moment of panic and the moment of slipping into sleep both have the same remedy: practice.
Practice must be undertaken in a calm and resigned manner — frustration is obviously counter-productive. As with swimming (or any activity in which the individual is seeking to train his or her body and mind into a pattern of responses, for that matter), the steps must be done with a view to eventually achieving the result, even when initially they fail to do so.
At some point — later, rather than sooner — you will experience the floating sensation without losing consciousness or panicking. Your mind and spirit will become disassociated from their mortal surroundings while you remain fully alert. What you will first recall seeing or feeling will have something of the quality of a dream: scenes, events, images, moments will become connected in ways which defy mortal logic or sequential thought. Your mortal mind at first will seek to impose logic and order upon what you see: this is the next stage to overcome. You might see, for example, a long-lost relative or acquaintance, walking down an unfamiliar street or conversing with friends from another period of your life. As in a dream, all will seem as though it fits together and has arisen perfectly naturally. If you were sleeping, with your mortal faculties dormant, you would probably not question this state of affairs and the dream would unfold following whatever sequence of actions were inherent in it; but, because you are ‘awake’, you will in all likelihood question the events and connections and doubt the naturalness of what you are witnessing. This will inevitably disturb the flow of your condition and within a short time your feet will have touched the bottom of the pool again.
Again, you must persist until you can exist in this apparently illogical dimension with our protesting it, denying it or seeking to ‘interpret’ it. Be prepared to see old friends chatting with new friends, expect to wander in places which seem familiar but which you have never seen before, and so on. Do not ask ‘Is that really so-and-so who used to be my friend at school?’ or ‘Isn’t this where I used to work? Why does it look so different?’ Leave the questions.
Abandoning your mortal desire to ‘make sense’ of what you’re experiencing is much the same, in swimming terms, as learning to float on your back in the water. Beginning swimmers are occasionally alarmed by how low in the water their bodies must sink before they achieve a stasis and float, and this is mirrored in meditation: you must learn to immerse yourself more fully in the experience than perhaps you might have expected.
Do not expect wonders. Your first few ‘journeys’ in this way will probably achieve nothing much, nor will you return to mortal consciousness much enlightened. You will have learned the art of ‘floating’, that’s all. Stay in the shallow end of the pool until you have reached a point where you no longer have much attention on the act of floating itself — you will gradually become familiar with the oddities and strange illogics of your disassociated state. Tell yourself that what you see, feel, hear and otherwise sense while in this state should be ‘unnatural’ or unexpected, otherwise it is not disassociated at all: too much resemblance to the mortal plane and to your expectations means that your mind is still associating too much with mortal existence.
This level can continue for some time and some people never get beyond it. It brings with it its own rewards: greater peace of mind, a relaxed body, a sense of tranquility, just as floating in a body of water has its own serenity.
But it is just the beginning.