Like An Upended Bowl of Stars
You’ve probably heard the expression “drawing a blank” when referring to small lapses in memory and even experienced it yourself when failing to retrieve a person’s name or some other artifact from your memory.
It’s an isolated sensation and seems as if the information you’re seeking in its last known location has been replaced with an empty box. It’s simply not there. Now, take this sensation and enlarge the box to encompass everything you know about yourself and your place in the world.
Recently, I experienced something I can’t explain, at least, not with a common view of what it means to be alive and aware of one’s self or presence in the world. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to convey my experience. It was a spontaneous, amnesia-like event unlike anything else I’ve known to date. I had just retired to bed and was preparing for sleep though I assure you I was still very much in a wakeful and sober state.
For what seemed like a short span of time, though I can’t be sure, I was taken over by an altered state of consciousness in which I could find no point of reference within my mind for being or existing in the usual way most of us think of ourselves. What I mean to say is, I couldn’t remember or somehow, I’d slipped the noose of the biographical bits of data, facts and illusions which tell me exactly who I am or, at least, who I think I am. Instead of the usual reflections of myself within my mind, my sense of being felt untethered to anything we consider a real or concrete point of reference.
For this span of time, it was as if I was scattered across vast plains of emptiness like an upended bowl of stars spilling onto a galaxy of velvet.
All the familiar contexts and reference points which pin us down and tie us off to a particular place in this fold of space and time were gone, vanished into nothingness. I was, as we say, drawing a blank. I could not remember anything about myself.
I had become the blank space between the sweep of the second hand, the silence in the notes, the resting point between inhale and exhale, the lull between on and off.
I wasn’t frightened, I felt liberated. Until I became aware of a tiny seed of anxiety growing in the furthest reaches of my awareness. A vague feeling of clutching and grasping began to take hold. It must have been my ego unwilling to forget itself as fear of dissolution grew. I observed the fear as it tugged at the edges of my being, like a child at her mother’s skirt, threatening to turn into panic.
I gave in. I turned back toward me. Or, perhaps, I was ejected from the belly of the whale for having temporarily lost my nerve and desire to know the truth of what and who I really am.
I’ve never quite gotten the hang of stillness meditation, I’ve tried it but, I just can’t sit still for it. I’m an undisciplined transcendental train wreck. Those who meditate with frequent dedication describe something like this spacious opening and light or being suspended in absolute peace and and a sense of knowing.
This experience was not like that. I didn’t have to work for it at all. It just happened.
When I was a kid I’d play the “freeze frame” game. My brain and eyes would lock up into a sort of blank emptiness and I’d comply by staring off into space like a zombie. There would be no running dialog in my head about what I was looking at because I really wasn’t seeing anything at that point. I’ve noticed my three year old granddaughter doing this and it’s a bit unnerving when you’re on the outside looking in. However, I remember being aware I was still in there, inside my mind, aware of me, the world and the game I was playing. I felt confident I had the power to blink it away whenever I was ready. This is as close as I’ve been to realizing the constant presence of the Observer and it’s not surprising it happens easily when we are children.
But this wasn’t that.
I’d like to offer some conclusion or tidy wrap-up which would explain my experience but, I simply can’t. There doesn’t seem to be one explanation over the many possibilities I could contrive for myself, though I’m quite certain any explanation would be well founded in the mysteries of the unknown.
Whatever it was I experienced, it’s most astounding and curious I’ve been able to retain the memory of not remembering who I was for a bit of time.
Perhaps, in the end, the Universe saw fit to bestow a brief bit of respite from the tiresome charade of being me.
S Lynn Knight 2016