Meditating in the Gap of Nothingness
The Buddha taught about your four best friends, that is how the body changes physiology when you sit, stand, walk/move and every time you are lying down. Modern Western neuroscience now supports this statement of 2500+ years ago. Thich Nhat Hanh added the importance of your breath, walking meditation, and half-smile; these realities also change your physiology. Jon Kabbat-Zinn added the importance of simply being present this moment, and making everything your teacher. The initial subtle changes are in anatomy and nervous tissue, then the brain takes over and the mind-body follows. So you have some very natural “best friends” to assist you in dealing with everyday challenges and suffering.
I have used regularly all of the above in my own practice. I have been especially fascinated with the power of the breath. The multitude of breathing techniques, and the ability to control my own arousal and calming with attention to changes in breath. In my years of practice I have found the quiet gap between breaths and thoughts – between all rising and falling perceptions of conscious awareness – too be especially helpful. There is phenomena and there is the gap. As you rest in the utter silence of this special time and place, you are nearer to death than at any other time in your awakened states. There is nothing there, no movement, no breath, no life. All that exists in that quick moment is emptiness and vast boundless nothingness. Below I have noted the steps for meditating in your gap. Hope you will do this often.
- Sit in a comfortable meditation posture or do this while lying down on your back.
- Begin with a few soothing deep, long, slow breaths. Continue!
- Now bring full attention to your breathing – its feel, its motion, its sensation.
- Just concentrate a bit on the moving breath in and out, deep and slow.
- Now with gentle attention notice the subtle reality of the gap between your in and out as well as you out and in breaths. The gap is in the middle way between the arising and falling of breath.
- You may also notice that when meditating you have thoughts; it helps to pay attention to the gap between thoughts rather than the content of thoughts. Just focus on the gaps.
- You may also notice that there is a gap between the arising and falling away of emotional awareness.
- For some finding the gap just before your ego-mind begins to evaluate an experience can be a real discovery.
- For some it would be helpful if you allowed the gap just before you speak harshly. Are the gap not the words.
- Now practice! No matter what the content is before or after the gap, ignore it all and focus only on the gap itself.
- No matter what comes into consciousness, just let it all go and stay with focused attention on the gap and its internal self-experience.
- Perhaps your gap has a color, or some depth, or some other characteristics that makes it more interesting. Just feel your attention there without judgment or evaluation of any kind. Just BE the gap!
- For some the gap is far away; great space and distance separates you from being in it. You just see it.
- If your gap is far away in the distance, does it appear as a distant and very large valley? What do you see?
- If your gap is close to you in space and time, are you silently being in it or moving into it?
- Is there silence or sound? If there is sound, what kind of things do you hear?
- Do you feel safe in the gap, or does it produce other feelings?
- Go as deep into the gap – your personal gap – as you feel comfortable with. Notice!
- Can you find peace, quiet, solitude, perhaps even self-love there? Try it again!
- Continue your practice until you decide to stop or meditation time is over.
For more information refer to Bodian, S. (2017). Beyond Mindfulness: The Direct Approach to Peace, Happiness, and Love. Oakland, CA: Non-Duality Press/New Harbinger Publications, pp. 5-19.
Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont and the Home of The Monkton Sangha
Author of Mindful Happiness