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By Wes Annac, Editor, Openhearted Rebellion
We’ve all thought about what happens after death. The spiritually minded believe death is a gateway to another state of consciousness wherein the spirit is released from the shackles of the body and free from the limitations of the physical world.
Atheists believe this life is all we get. When we die, we cease to exist. This theory can induce existential dread in anyone who believes it or is afraid that it could be true. The thought of no longer existing is a little scary.
We’re not afraid to sleep, which if you exclude dreaming, is an experience of a similar kind of nothingness to what atheists believe awaits after death.
For most people, however, the scariest thought is that one day, they will never again wake up to this flawed but incredible world. Although it would be great to be free from pain and suffering, the thought of experiencing no more sight, taste, hearing, color, or sensation of any kind isn’t exactly comforting.
Is there more to this nothingness than we’re aware of? For centuries, spiritual seekers have tried to find out. The result has been a melting pot of similar yet unique philosophies passed down through the ages.
Many have written about emptiness while attempting to explore it through various meditative and ritualistic practices. As a result, today we have countless sources of information that paint a picture of what we can potentially expect when the body dies.
Most of them agree that the best way to prepare for this inevitability is to get familiar with emptiness now. In doing so, we might discover that there is more to life than all the material things around us to which we’re so attached. We might also feel less stress as we try to survive in an unforgiving world.
Meditation is an effort to experience emptiness in a similar way to when we sleep. Interestingly, those who meditate often will tell you that emptiness is not empty at all. It brims with visuals and sensations we don’t normally see or feel.
Seekers who’ve devoted their lives to meditation, particularly Kundalini meditation, have reported intensely enlightening experiences we could liken to a psychedelic trip. The difference is that rather than receive help from a substance, they earn this state through devotion and consistent meditation.
The possibility of experiencing this organically should indicate that there is more to our existence than we know. Maybe another reality will be waiting for us when this life is complete. Maybe if we can be open to it now, it will not only enrich our life but make the transition we call death easier in the long run.
Many seekers, including spiritual scholar and all-around interesting guy Franklin Merrell-Wolff, have said that in emptiness lives a fullness we haven’t yet experienced:
“This Emptiness is Absolute Fullness but, as such, never can be comprehended from the perspective of egoistic consciousness.” – Franklin Merrell-Wolff (1)
He is basically saying that in the same way we can’t fathom nonexistence, we can’t comprehend the life that exists after death. It’s as if a barrier separates this world from the next, temporarily blinding us from the latter to ensure that we’re firmly grounded here.
Sleep could possibly thin the barrier, giving us access to a nonphysical dimension – the dream state – in which the rules of reality don’t seem to apply. We only remember a fraction of our dreams or of what generally happens while we sleep, and the sleep paralysis phenomenon raises more questions.
After a lot of meditation and contemplation of spiritual literature, Franklin faced the darkness to see for himself what’s there:
“I saw that genuine Recognition is simply a realization of Nothing, but a Nothing that is absolutely substantial and identical with the SELF. This was the final turn of the Key that opened the Door.
“I found myself at once identical with the Voidness, Darkness, and Silence, but realized them as utter, though ineffable, Fullness, in the sense of Substantiality, Light, in the sense of Illumination, and Sound, in the sense of pure Meaning and Value.
“The deepening of consciousness that followed at once is simply inconceivable and quite beyond the possibility of adequate representation.” (2)
Finding life in emptiness helped Franklin understand his place in the Universe:
“The critical stage in the transformation is the realization of the ‘I’ as zero. But, at once, that ‘I’ spreads out into an unlimited thickness. It is as if the ‘I’ became the whole of space.
“The Self is no longer a pole or focal point, but it sweeps outward, everywhere, in a sort of unpolarized consciousness, which is at once self-identity and the objective content of consciousness. It is an unequivocal transcendence of the subject-object relationship.” (3)
If we’re to believe Franklin, then it’s inaccurate to think we’re mere humans in a vast universe that cares nothing about us. We are consciousness, and consciousness is everything. As countless believers and idealists have said, we are the universe experiencing itself – one soul divided into infinite individual forms of life.
According to spiritual teacher Adyashanti, in emptiness we find love:
“In your humanity, there’s the natural expression of joy and love and compassion and caring and total unattachment. Those qualities instantly transmute into humanness when you touch into emptiness. Emptiness becomes love. That’s the human experience of emptiness, that source, that ever-present awakeness.” (4)
Speaking from experience, meditation can make you kinder and more compassionate. It can also give you empathy for people you may otherwise need to keep your distance from. It’s excellent for coping with the negative aspects of life while expanding on all that is good – including love and empathy.
The mindset of an avid meditator is one of peace, understanding, and forgiveness. It might be because they’ve seen the nothingness and discovered they have no reason to be afraid or tense.
If all this is true and the emptiness of death represents an awakening to another reality, then we can breathe a sigh of relief. It means that ultimately, we don’t need anything. With our greatest existential fear eradicated, we’re free to enjoy life knowing it will never really end.
We can look forward to finding out what’s on the other side without rushing to get there. We can live simply and peacefully in this moment, letting go of anxiety by acknowledging that it is rooted in unnecessary existential angst.
We will one day leave this world and happily discover that there is no such thing as death. We’ll find that the nothingness we feared is the spiritual medicine we’ve needed all along.
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- Franklin Merrell-Wolff, Pathways Through to Space. A Personal Record of Transformation in Consciousness. New York: Julian Press, 1973, 12.
- Franklin Merell-Wolff, Philosophy of Consciousness without an Object. Reflections on the Nature of Transcendental Consciousness. New York: Julian Press, 1973, 36-7.
- Ibid., 38-9.
- Adyashanti, “The Only Price,” 2004, downloaded from adyashanti.org, 2004.
About Wes Annac:
I’m a twenty-something writer & blogger with an interest in spirituality, love, awareness, activism, and other crazy stuff. I run Openhearted Rebellion – a blog dedicated to sharing wisdom and encouraging a revolution that begins in the heart.
I also run Canna Words – a blog in which I share some of my research and opinions on cannabis. There, I write about everything from legalization to hemp and the various ways people use the cannabis plant.
I’ve contributed to a few awesome websites that include Waking Times, Wake Up World, Golden Age of Gaia, and The Master Shift. I can be found on Facebook (facebook.com/wesannac, facebook.com/cultureofawareness) and Twitter (twitter.com/Wes_Annac, https://twitter.com/love rebellion)
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- Art as a Spiritual Practice
- Blending Self-Improvement with Zen
- 5 Profound Quotes on Meditation and Enlightenment
- A Time of Transformation
- Take the Good with the Bad
- Sri Ramakrishna Teaches Us About Meditation
- Love Gives Life Meaning
- A Better World: 5 Positive News Stories
- Karma Yoga Podcast – Episode 2: Addiction, Spirituality, and Manipulation
- 8 Cannabis Facts That Defy Common Stereotypes
- 5 Fast Facts about Pesticides in Cannabis
- Cannabinoids Heal the Body
- 5 Things We Can Appreciate About Rastafari
- Vaporizing: A Healthier Way to Use Cannabis
- Hemp: The World’s Most Versatile and Useful Plant
Thanks for reading!