Empty Habit

That night, my second full day over, I went to bed about 11 p.m. still burdened with feelings of hopelessness. I soon fell asleep and almost immediately had a very disturbing dream. I dreamt that I was standing in the corridor here in this apartment in almost total darkness, and the scary bit was that I could see a man with a hood over his head coming towards me. I froze in fear but he kept coming and then to my shock, he walked right through my skin and into me. What a ghastly, horrible nightmare, knowing that something has entered one’s body; the feeling made me shudder with fear and disgust. I woke up still shuddering and somewhat panicked. I wondered who had entered me, what evil quality had taken possession of me? Most of the next day I thought about this dream; however, in such a situation you would want to do more than just think about it; you would use everything you have to penetrate the meaning, otherwise you would obsess about it – I would. Better to possess a dream than be possessed by it is my thinking, and after all I have plenty of time. By the afternoon I decided to get into it and re-play the events, hoping to get some idea of what it was all about and perhaps find a connection to my mood.

I decide to stand in the hallway in the position that I was in in the dream. I re-entered the experience by imagining the dark figure coming towards me. I see him coming forward and my body feels the reality of the event, responds with streams of energy running up and down my back - horrible. Emotionally, I am back in the dream. In the dark hallway, I let the figure keep coming and slowly, in imagination, let him enter me. The waves of energy increase as I feel his dark, elusive presence. I hold this feeling for a while, but notice that I’m still really in my normal identity; still feel like myself, so he can’t really have occupied my identity. I have a new idea. I try switching to become him - feeling like him might give me his perspective. Taking courage in my hands, I go to the point at the end of the corridor where he came from. Supporting the feeling that I am in a different body, I walk slowly towards the normal me with eyes closed to simulate darkness even more.

Walking, I notice that I feel like I am an old monk shrouded in a black habit with the hood up over my head. A powerful presence fills me as I walk but there is no physical body here; the habit is empty. There is awareness within the habit but it is the awareness of emptiness, which is not “nothing”, it’s a sort of awareness that’s not attached to anything – a cool, neutral, penetrating sort of awareness. In any case, the certainty is that I am an invisible monk. As the monk, I approach and enter my own body and a big thing happens. The exercise that had begun to make a difference really turned into a flesh and blood transformation. At that moment an emptying, a falling happens from my whole body and all my concerns simply drain out: guilt, fear, worry, trying, regret, attacks, emptying, all emptying, unplugged and washed down some drain – gone, relief, utter relief. From a thinking person I’ve become direct reality, there’s no other way to say it – I am what is. There is an impulse almost immediately to open my eyes and turn around. My body tingles as it turns slowly to face the lounge and on out through the window to Marsalforn in bright sunlight. All remains empty, but it is an amazing emptiness that is full of joy. It is a shattering moment with deep intimacy, there is contact with the soft beating heart, with tender flesh and there is the joy and overwhelming love for humanity outside.

The world has transformed. Being empty, I can now penetrate the essence of life and appreciate its dance. I feel in the middle of life’s relationship to itself and at the same time, remain lovingly detached to the ordinary world. The people outside that had depressed me so much, such as the ‘floaters’, or the tirades of regret that I flung at myself, are now gone. The floaters in the bay are still floating, but now I feel only love as I look at them. I am without thought for the future or memory of the past; I’m simply empty and free. The miracle that I longed for and desperately needed has happened. Life has become a gastronomical delight; a light and airy soufflé served up for a beginner’s mind and I’m hungry. Reflecting later, I could see that this monk represents the same emptiness that I felt on arrival here, but I’m living in it rather than suffering from it; possessing it rather than being possessed by it.

To realise the full potential indicated by the excitement at the beginning of my journey to this island, I had to go through the depression and the loss of my normal identity. In the midst of that awful state I got glimpses of awareness that valued the predicament I was in; I knew that I was material being used for a work in creation. Those glimpses also revealed an almost zero state of mind that was creating reality anew. The communication between the artist and the material is a vital one, for it is the material’s place to submit to the momentary act of the artist – the material being, in this case, one’s identity. When your desire to succeed fails, for instance, then through the pain of disappointment you may realise that you are not the creator of your life, and at that moment one can submit by letting go and staying aware of the unknown.

The awareness between these two parts is a moment more astounding than I can speak of, perhaps involving something of how the universe was created in all its form and beingness. The shaman works at this point; she works with the material and the creator, allowing herself to be shaped into different realities. Shapeshifting, indeed, is but the process between the artist and the material. All this made me feel it was time to move; time to get on the road and walk; time to create; time to be unresponsive – the days of reaction have gone.

Buy the Book