From Chapter 1

from It Enters

…  About a month later, with a sensation so strong that I grabbed at my neck, a tiny tube inside the back of my head suddenly went “zip.” And it instantly became silent.

Even after my skin had shifted into quiet, I had never noticed any particular sensations inside my neck.  But the moment that bundle of nerves, or whatever it was, zipped itself into silence, I knew that in that area too there had always been faint pins and needles, some understated white noise.  I realized it had always been there only when it disappeared.

The cleansing of that little tube had an interesting effect.  In some way I can’t quite describe, I was able to shift my awareness from looking at the spaciousness to standing within it.  And when I did, I suddenly found myself in some strange and dizzying spaciousness, where my sense of myself now extended noticeably.  It, or I, was bottomless and utterly devoid of movement.

With the part of me that could stand outside, I could assign it a place (left side, rear of neck) and a size (perhaps a sixteenth inch by an inch and a half).  From within it, it was placeless, directionless, without any obvious boundaries.

Two or three days later during an afternoon meditation, again without warning, a second tiny tube—just to the right of the first—unzipped itself into silence.  Again there had always been some pins and needles sensation in that tiny space, and again it instantly and totally vanished.

The only difference between this and the first tube was that when this one disappeared into silence, it seemed to merge utterly with the first.   Or perhaps it would be better to say that the first tiny strand now widened to include the second.  Wider though it was from the outside, when I shifted my attention to be within it, there was no change in the spaciousness whatsoever.

Except that it may have become just a little easier to shift my attention to be within it, the openness itself was no different.  Standing inside this oddly silent breadth, I still felt a little dizzy, as if I couldn’t find my bearings or sense a bottom. It was as if the back of my head contained a wormhole to the infinite.

But only a wormhole.  Surreal though it sounds, the rest of me still felt the same.  My mind was still full of thoughts.  I still worried at dinner that Judith didn’t smile at me brightly enough.  I still heard snatches of Crosby, Stills and Nash tunes.  Yet now at the same time a new and strangely dizzying strand of silence, endlessness.

With that second unzipping the pattern seemed to have set itself.  After two or three days, another strand just to the right would zluuuup itself down.  The bottomlessness would become a little wider (from the outside) and from within become just a little easier to place my attention to be from within it.  A few days after that, another tube.

Silence almost disappears upon arrival.  The sense of a separate tube or nerve bundle was so quickly absorbed into the expanding width that, except when it was unzipping itself, the next tubule simply disappeared as a distinct zone.  Like a raindrop disappearing into the ocean, each tube merged indistinguishably with the widening emptiness.

Every few days another strand would zip off and again merge into the whole.  Over weeks a third, then a half, then most of the back of my skull became silent bottomless.

And different.  I lived a strangely dual life during those weeks.  I continued to think, meditate, hear snatches of Beatles tunes, be taken with how great some girl had looked, write letters.

But now amidst the noise and chatter, there was something new, open and strangely magnetic.  It didn’t say anything.  It didn’t give me courage or issue commands.  It didn’t make my mind still, as I thought enlightenment would.  Yet despite its understated simplicity, I couldn’t but be terribly aware of it.  Something new was here, something spacious, barely sensible and of a nature unlike anything else in my life.  And weirdly without end.

The descending plane on my skin had been horizontal.  The split here  was vertical: silence on the left, activity on the right.  In fact it made me a little dizzy.  Silence had a lightness to it in comparison to the thinking part, as if it weighed nothing.  Going down the stairs I actually tended to list.

This all made even less sense than the changes in my skin, which had made little.  Bundles of brain-stem neurons, or whatever they were, unzipping themselves?  Into nothingness?  And one after another in a slow, nearly mechanical order?  The forces that were bringing this about and the systematic widening of this strange whatever-it-wasn’t were well beyond anything I could understand at 25.  Or at 60 for that matter.

I wish I could say that I was doing something to make these tubes unzloop themselves.  But from my side all I was doing was sitting in my hotel room and going through my meditation, pranayama and yoga rounds.  The couple of years of regular TM, self reflection, retreats, hanging around Maharishi, and committing to be in that room for so many months had no doubt set the stage.  Yet lots of very sincere folk in other hotel rooms had done all this and more, and, from the reports then and later, few were undergoing anything quite like this.  There’s probably some combination of grace and effort involved in these things.  But all I knew was that I wasn’t making this happen.

I didn’t tell anyone about any of this at the time, or for many years.  It was all just too … too… weird!   This was not some ultimate peace.  I hadn’t suddenly become some happy or more compassionate camper.  From what I could tell, except for this new half-head of silence, I hadn’t changed a whit.  No, all this was just too confusing, too embarrassingly strange to want to talk about it!

For awhile I actually thought that I was having a stroke.  I kept checking in the mirror for facial droop.  Or maybe it was something psychological.  Probably though, I thought, this must have been another meditative blip, I told myself, some “release of stress,” which is what we said to each other about meditative experiences when we didn’t know what else to say. For except for the quieter skin and whatever slight level of calm that had brought, I just couldn’t sense any effects. Mostly these tubes were just odd.

But as I’m thinking back to those days, I’m looking out the bay window at a wintery scene, watching a flock of birds float by, legs dangling awkwardly beneath, the orange beam of the sunrise pointing straight up behind them. Watching them, I am entirely unaware of the quality of my neck or head.

But I am aware how settled I feel as I watch them, how focused and welcoming I am of this moment. It makes me wonder if just a little of the focus I feel doesn’t have something to do with that cleansing of 35 years ago and whether without it I would be just that much more distracted for reasons I could never know. I cannot be sure what of today connects to a shift that began back then. But I am settled with the snowfall and the sunrise and the birds and grateful for the ability to welcome them on this crystalline winter’s morn.

Yeah, I thought, just just another meditation quirk, soon to be forgotten. But on, January 4, 1972, at about 4 in the afternoon, the last little tube on the far right side of my neck zipped itself into extinction.  And I’ve never forgotten. …