Our survival instinct helps us reflexively avoid life-threatening danger - "the dark." Add some 'negativity bias' & 'harm avoidance,' and we end up with a very narrow 'learning zone,' immediately beyond which lurks DANGER - KEEP OUT!
So, instead of being curious & motivated to learn from the vast reality beyond our tiny comfort & learning zones, most of us timidly ignore, discount, dismiss & even ridicule others,' & even our own direct experiences IF these are BEYOND safe, suitable-for-dinner-party, small-talk.
BUT some intentionally 'take a walk on the wild side' not just once, but repeatedly! WHY?
Let's briefly gather a bit of courage & curiosity to just consider more adventurous peoples' experiences, that as a DIRECT RESULT of their COURAGE & CURIOSITY, are OUTSIDE our tiny box of assumptions about what can & must not be 'real'!
"... the most important work you can possibly do is to have a healthy, loving relationship with fear. It simply changes everything." Kristen Ulmer, former world champion extreme skier
"It is often the hardest, most challenging experiences of our lives that crack us open. For some people, these experiences are chosen, or accepted as a consequence of risk-taking. For others – for most of us – they come without warning. Unlikely gifts that rip away our layers of insulation, allowing us glimpses of the mysterious, the ineffable – the infinite realms of human consciousness.”
Maria Coffey. “Explorers of the Infinite. The Secret Spiritual Lives of Extreme Athletes – and What They Reveal About Near-Death Experiences, Psychic Communications, and Touching the Beyond.” Jeremy P. Tarcher / Penguin, 2008. FASCINATING & WELL-WRITTEN
“We must accept our reality as vastly as we possibly can; everything, even the unprecedented, must be possible within it. This in the end is the only kind of courage that is required of us: the courage to find the strangest, most unusual, most inexplicable experiences that can meet us. The fact that in this sense, people have been cowardly, has done infinite harm to life; the experiences that are called ‘apparitions,’ the whole so-called ‘spirit’ have through our daily defensiveness been so entirely pushed out of life that the senses with which we might have been able to grasp them have atrophied.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, “Letters to a Young Poet”
“(Meditation) practice is not a matter of learning more & more and studying more & more … It’s a matter of emptying out, peeling off layer after layer to empty out … We need to start peeling off all our opinions, all our ideas, and all our cleverness and just remain very naked, in the moment, just seeing things as they are, like a small child.” Tenzin Palmo
Maria Coffey. “Explorers of the Infinite." see above for full details
After Amoda Maa experienced numerous major traumas from early childhood on into her 20s, “something started to reveal itself, and that was the abyss. The abyss was experienced as a very barren landscape, like a dark night of the soul where there is no God, there is no life, there is no meaning, there is nothing, it’s devoid. It really is devoid. And yet, my external life at the time was reasonably good – I was teaching a certain method of movement & meditation, and I had a lot of different interactions, it was creative, it was flowing – so it wasn’t to do with the circumstances, it was an inner experience.
It’s in that, that a deeper surrender happened. In some ways, everything had been a surrender, but this was a conscious surrender. (Before,) the surrender had happened through loss & all these different circumstances that kept changing, but this was a different level of surrender. It was met consciously. I consciously surrendered to the desolation of nonexistence. And that’s when something changed. That’s when something changed.
Amoda Maa Talks About Her Life Before Awakening : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4sn-jz-QA0
We instinctively keep trying to escape even those challenging experiences that are positively transformative - such as 'ego death':
Amoda Maa experienced a “dark night of the soul, which had nothing to do with my external circumstances. Nothing bad was happening, in fact there was a lot of peace and joy in my life. But it revealed an existential aloneness, an existential abyss, and this went on for several months. ... I'm a practiced meditator, so I’m familiar with that inner landscape if you like, but I noticed a very subtle movement of mind – the subtle movement of mind that pulled me away from being with that existential abyss. And it was so subtle, that it could easily be overlooked. But in seeing it, I felt and sensed that this was a pattern – the archaic pattern of ego-self that is always moving away or moving towards something, never resting fully in presence, because the present is death to the ego. And again I didn’t know this intellectually. I just felt it. It’s like whole lifetimes of practice, and insight, and searching all came to a moment of realization. And so I kept still in my mind, and it was effortless, but it also caused me to meet such an existential terror of annihilation.
I could easily have just got up and picked a book off the bookshelf. I like to read, and my books were very inspirational at the time. And that was a way of moving away from death – the death of ego-self. Because the book would inspire me, then I feel good. Or it may be as simple as making myself a cup of tea – a very English thing to do. It’s very nourishing, and soothing, and so on. But I just noticed how that was an obstruction to falling into the abyss of emptiness, where there is an end of the self.
And so I just faced it. And in facing it, I didn’t expect anything. I just knew that was the right thing to do. But in doing that … the sensation was of dying. It was a death, of me, as a separate entity. Because as I met the existential abyss, I also felt the terror of aloneness. Not an aloneness of the personhood, but an existential aloneness – that there’s a me here, and a vast universe of existence, the whole of existence that is spread over time & space. The me is a separate me. It’s a tiny, insignificant and also separate me, in this vastness of existence. And as I sort of died into that, it was like a death, and it did remind me of the attempts of suicide, at least on a psychological level. And this time, I surrendered into it, knowing obviously that there was no physical death in it. But it was a profound psychological death. But the amazing thing was that the sensation, the energetic visceral sensation was of merging into the totality of existence, rather than disappearing into the totality of existence – well it was that, but it was also a merging into it, so I became the totality of existence. So I called it merging into God."
Amoda Maa - Falling Open in a World Falling Apart : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAqQ6hrj-iE
“Heaven is this moment.
Hell is longing for this moment to be different.
It's that simple.” Jeff Foster
“Emptiness is two things at once:
the absence of self
and the presence of the Divine.
Thus as self decreases,
the Divine increases.” Bernadette Roberts
“Life uses us and does not care how we feel about it. It lives through us, as us. We object & resist, or concur & are pleased – it makes no difference either way.
Only when we surrender our will, and along with it our notions of identity, can we touch our real life, and enter it, and taste, at least a little more intimately, what it is to be alive. As so many masters said on their awakening: ‘Now I am like a person who drinks water and knows for themself whether it is warm or cold.’”
Henry Shukman https://www.mountaincloud.org/message-from-henry-surrender/
“All that is necessary to awaken to yourself as the radiant emptiness of spirit is to stop seeking something more or better or different, and to turn your attention inward to the awake silence that you are.” Adyashanti