Stepping Back

...I did the practice of stepping back behind myself and got very still, very alert, with all my senses engaged. Then suddenly my head pierced through the scattered gray clouds of thought that were still in my mind, and my awareness became like the morning sky itself—vast, pristine, and empty.
Everything was stunningly, vibrantly clear.

I say it was as if my head pierced through the clouds, but when I noticed my body, it was as if I didn't have a head. Above my shoulders there was only awareness, openness, a boundless clarity and radiance… And it was streaming with the world around me… The sky itself, the trees and the valley nearby, the mountains in the distance, the occasional crow flying by, a turkey vulture circling lazily overhead, all became one.

It was the strangest experience, and wholly illuminating. That was the first time I saw that everything between my ears was unreal. The stories aren’t real. Thought is unreal.

The pictures and images that pass through the mind are unreal. They are just phantoms, ephemeral flashes, momentary appearances that may have a symbolic or creative value, but have no separate reality in and of themselves.

As I sat there, breathing into the extraordinary feeling and freedom of being "headless," I remembered a book I'd read many years before, by the English mystic Douglas Harding. It was called On Having No Head. In it he describes an experience similar to mine which resulted in him realizing his true nature.

One day he was hiking in the Himalayas and everything in his mind suddenly stopped. He looked down at his legs, passed his gaze upwards to his shirt-front, and found a hole where his head was supposed to be. But the hole wasn't just empty: it was filled with the vastness of the Himalayan panorama all around him. In his words, "I had lost a head and gained a world."

Jim Dreaver
Excerpt from "End Your Story, Begin Your Life"
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