The experience of samādhi can be clarifying or deluding. If we can keep our perspective we enter into a more spacious, unified experience of life. Samādhi becomes a space that our experience of ourselves can open into. Our experience of thought or feeling is no longer confined to the body.
If, however, we grasp at the space in some way we can get lost. We can simply become spaced out. We can be indulging in the sense of space to the point we lose our mindfulness.
A deeper illusion is that we take the space to be something. When the mind enters space it goes bright. This brightness can seem substantial, when it is actually empty. This is a much bigger mistake than it may seem. It can be very difficult to see anything wrong in our experience, it is so pleasant we fall in love with it. Yet if we thus see samādhi as something arising rather than something ceasing this points us in completely the wrong direction. We will see samādhi as something we generate rather than the result of letting go. We will not be able to open to the experience but instead be grasping and closing down the very space we are looking for.
If samādhi arises more strongly we experience brightness arising in a particular pattern. This varies from one person to another. What we are seeing is the result of the hindrances lessening or ceasing. The different experiences of samādhi represent the slowing down or stopping of the hindrances – or ultimately their complete reversal.
If, for example our experience of the hindrances is like a darkness rising up through the body then when this slows down then we will experience the opposite, a light coming down to us from above. We might mistake this to mean that we are opening to an energy from above, from heaven, and we end up looking in the wrong place for the source of this brightness, we are led away from it.
When the hindrances cease we will experience a stable brightness. This we could mistake to be our eternal soul (I describe this illusion in the poem and picture series ‘Rain from heaven’).
When the hindrances are reversed, brightness rises from below in the place of the darkness and we have truly overcome the hindrances and turned the mind over. We are filled with a light where there is no sense of self. We are free of the illusions that get us stuck. This experience arises out of insight or Knowing. So there is both clarity as to the external world and as to the empty nature of the mind. We realise there is no need to be anything and the Knowing mind is free. We have glimpsed the ultimate.
I offer this for your reflection,
at the lathe or the spinney
work makes the unknown
the half conscious, our own
yet we know not
we know only form and function
within a soft humility
or a nagging compunction
yet beyond the urge
truth may emerge
and blow the heart wide open
there is winter through the window
the sky is grey-blue over the silent snow
and the dawn is as endless as the night
together a little whimsy
would lift the melancholy
into a fuller heart
but afraid of the cold and the dark
the dragging dark
they break into a positive stride
and step straight over
the sweetest of pathos
“I can teach you to be real
if you are willing to feel.”