I had a pivotal experience many years ago of seeing the gaps between the sounds of the world. I was driving to my home town which I was moving back to. I had been reading Castaneda for sometime, and during the drive I was contemplating, whether I was to going to continue following this path that had recently been opened up to me.
When I was not too far from where I was going, I suddenly had the feeling that I should not go straight back home but should instead turn off. It felt like an omen and I didn’t feel as if I could ignore it. This was partly because I almost didn’t want to reach my destination undecided. I got to a slip road and pulled off and ended up at a place where I parked up to stretch my legs.
I had been practising listening to the gaps between the sounds of a world for a while. And I thought this for some reason this was a good opportunity to try. I sat on the bonnet of my car and listened intently. This was a quiet area near a huge suspension bridge. There was just the sounds of the distant cars on the road behind me and the lapping of the waves on the water near by. There I sat and listened to the world. The more I listened the more I could hear the blank areas between the sounds. These gaps opened up and became incredibly clear. The break in the continuity was obvious. The listening started to blur my perception of the world. The gaps themselves became more defined than the sounds. I started to feel a vibration in my ears; something like a silent alarm being triggered. Then I saw wisps of light begin to appear in the night sky. These formed into eight golden rings of light suspended sequentially in the air in front of me….like enormous rings of smoke.
These shapes seemed like a representation of the gaps I had been experiencing – like some sort of physical manifestation. I was unable to maintain the attention needed for distinguishing the gaps; the scene hung there for a moment then disappeared. I felt a calm and returned to my car to continue on my journey. I was now decided on my course of action.
It is obvious to me now that this is a powerful ‘Not-doing’, the activity Don Juan prescribed to Carlos Castaneda for ‘Stopping the world’. In specific this is the ‘Not-doing’ of ‘listening’. Not-doing is defined as the counter point to things we know well in the world – the ‘Doing’ of the world. In order to ‘Stop the world’ which is to end the description of the world, one must cease ‘Doing’. Stopping the internal dialogue is the means to end this description and the activity of ‘Not-doing’ is the way to achieve it. The most obvious example of ‘Not-doing’ is shadows as compared to the solid objects that creates them, they are that which is unfamiliar to us and unnoticed. Also the twilight is the ‘not-doing’ of the day so to speak. ‘Seeing’ is described as the ‘Not-doing’ of looking, ‘dreaming’ the ‘Not-doing’ of Sleeping and so on…
Quotes from “Journey to Ixtlan”
“The world is the world because you know the doing involved in making it so,” – Don Juan Matus
“Once you know what it is like to stop the world you realize there is a reason for it. You see, one of the arts of the warrior is to collapse the world for a specific reason and then restore it again in order to keep on living.” – Don Juan Matus
When one focuses so intently on the gaps created by the silences between sounds – One is unable to maintain the attention needed to continue with the internal dialogue. The world as such collapses and the description of the world is suspended, enabling the participant to ‘see’ the energetic nature of the world.
Excerpt from “A Separate Reality” by Carlos Castaneda
“(Don Juan said)…that I should focus all my attention on listening to sounds and do my best to find the holes between the sounds… I began to listen and I could distinguish the whistling of birds, the wind rustling the leaves, the buzzing of insects… I was immersed in a strange world of sound, as I had never been in my life… After a moment of attentive listening I thought I understood don Juan’s recommendation to watch for the holes between the sounds. The pattern of noises had spaces in between sounds!… the timing of each sound was a unit in the overall pattern… Thus the spaces or pauses in between sounds were, if I paid attention to them, holes in a structure…
“I shifted my attention from hearing to looking… The silhouette of the hills was arranged in such a way that from the place where I was looking there seemed to be a hole on the side of one of the hills… a space between two hills… It was as if the hole I was looking at was the ‘hole’ in the sound… Then the other sounds began again and their structure of pauses became an extraordinary, almost visual perception. I began seeing the sounds as they created patterns and then all those patterns became superimposed on the environment… I was not looking or hearing as I was accustomed to doing. I was doing something which was entirely different but combined features of both…my attention was focused on the large hole in the hills. I felt I was hearing it and at the same time looking at it.”
Shall I tell you about the time that I died…..
My story begins 20 years ago when due to difficulties I was experiencing (to put it mildly), I was sectioned and taken into mental hospital. I had been living in Manchester in the early 90’s but moved back to my hometown where I was hospitalized. I was in a bad way.I remember sitting in a chair of the hospital smoking room – they had just put me on new medication that was having adverse effects. I felt as if being, ‘chemically tortured’; the medical term is ‘Oculogyric crisis’. The medical staff had all gone off duty for the night so I was unable to speak to a doctor. I thought I was going into a catatonic state. Reality seemed to be slipping away from me. But I managed to get out of the chair and made it to the nurses station. A kind nurse took pity on me and gave me a drug which calmed me immediately. I now felt quite stoned.At this point I went and sat on my bed in the dormitory. For some reason, I decided to practice ‘the not doing of shadows’ which Castaneda describes in ‘A Separate Reality’. I had read the book two years earlier. The idea that Don Juan proposes to Castaneda is that shadows act like the glue that keeps the world together. By gazing into the shadows, it is possible to see the world from an entirely different view-point, that being the world of ‘not-doing’.
Don Juan is quoted as saying: “To not-do what you know how to do is the key to power. In the case of looking at a tree or bush, what you know how to do is to focus immediately on the foliage. The shadows of the leaves or the spaces in between the leaves are never your concern. Start focusing on the shadows of the leaves on one single branch and then eventually work your way to the whole tree, and don’t let your eyes go back to the leaves, because the first deliberate step to storing personal power is to allow the body to not-do. The body likes things like this. You can stop the world using this technique. Once you have succeeded, you must work as if nothing has happened to you and don’t mention or even be concerned with any of the events you have experienced.”
I was in a precarious position. This ordeal had been forced upon me by supposedly well-intentioned people, responsible for my care. I felt abandoned. I knew I had nothing else to lose. So I fixed my gaze on a spot within the shadows. I was gazing for only a moment then to my utter amazement, I saw the shadows start to morph together into a shape – The shadows seemed to come alive. The darkness itself started to gather together and began to form the shape of a humanoid figure about a foot tall. The ‘little man’ constructed of darkness, then started to amble his way out of shadows and toward me. This was the most terrifying experience of my life, and yet the most exhilarating. Suddenly to my right what seemed like a portal opened up at least two feet from the floor. It was literally a hole in the fabric of space/time. A luminous cat leapt through the hole, ran across the floor and jump again through another portal which opened up not too far from the humanoid figure. This seemed to dispel the whole scene.
Some time later, I forget the time scale. I went into the smoking room where other patients were smoking dope. They offered me some but I refused. However a nurse came in the room smelt the smoke and I was accused of taking drugs. For the purposes of testing my system, I was place into a padded cell with a bucket to piss in and nothing else. I was in this room for 24 hours and then for no apparent reason I was moved to a closed down wing of the hospital in isolation.
I remember walking around the empty wing of the hospital, feeling “why is this happening to me?” Eventually I went to the room I was given and lay on the bed. Curled up foetal like and in a desperate state, I lay on the bed with the intention of trying to get to sleep. I felt as if I was in a nether-world, somewhere between living and dying. I could not go to sleep and yet could not stay awake in this condition. I went beyond hope and despair at that point. So I decided to ‘give up’ – “Surrender to the void” is what I remembered hearing. The words seemed to arise from somewhere deep within myself and yet from far away.
I lost consciousness… I had the sensation of seeing myself rising off the bed and through the ceiling ~ The next moment I was rising through earth, into another world.I first tried to establish where I was. I looked down at my feet and in utter amazement I was a luminous green. I looked to my left saw ferns.
These were not ordinary ferns; just as if they had been allowed to overgrow, they were the size of small trees. I followed the foliage with my gaze upwards. Until I saw trees like giant Redwoods, I was immediately taken by their size. I followed them up with my line of vision. I had no longer a sense of self.I looked up higher and higher into the trees. These trees were thousands of feet tall, trees the size of a mountains.
Eventually I got to where the foliage started and saw a glimmer of light. I gazed into the light coming through the branches. And I started to rise up …eventually after what seemed like an eternity ~ I was beyond the tree line… My vision opened up I could see the vast expanse of sky….
Wooooooooooaaaw…..was the scream I let out; so loud it might have been heard in the hospital… And I was filled with joy!
I find it hard to describe, but this light was brighter than a thousand suns, and yet did not damage my eye.I ascended into the light as I screamed…
As suddenly as I had departed I was back in my hospital bed actually witnessing myself falling into the empty space of the bed through the ceiling. I had been away…
I woke up, “I have seen God!” I said. But I sat up and corrected myself quite definitely, “no I’m sure I haven’t”. I was confused
I remember little after this apart from the sense of peace that it gave me. I was moved back to the normal wing of the hospital the next day and carried on as if nothing had happened.
“Dreamers can gaze in order to do dreaming and then they can look for their dreams in their gazing. For example you can gaze at the shadows of rocks and then, in your dreaming , you might find out that those shadows have light. You can then, while gazing, look for the light in the shadows until you find it. Gazing and dreaming go together.” Don Juan Matus