Donner Lake - The Void
Glenn WillardFebruary 21st 2016
Donner Lake, just west of Truckee, CA. is extremely deep. It fills a partially hidden valley with its languid enigmatic water. With a depth of six hundred feet, it hides its mysteries. The water is very clear and inviting, I have fished, swam, and boated on it. Swimming is by far the most exhilarating. On a weekday morning when most people were at work I dove from its northern bank and swam out away from shore. The bottom dropped away very quickly. At a depth of around 20 feet I saw crawfish on the sandy bottom. The visibility was extremely good. I swam straight down and watched the crays dart away. Returning to the surface for air, I decided to swim farther out. When swimming, it does not matter if the waters depth is just over your head or hundreds of feet – either case is dangerous if your feet cannot reach the bottom. I was a very good swimmer and it did not concern me. Even though I was still reasonably close to shore the water was very deep. I wanted to see how deep. I hyperventilated for a few moments before up ending and diving straight down. Down through the thermal layers, feeling the water grow colder the deeper I went. Visibility seemed like hundreds of feet. Down I went into the depths. Darker and darker the water became as I descended. Nothing but blackness below me. All around me was stillness and silence. On all sides the clear blue water revealed nothingness. I was suspended in weightless nothingness, and suddenly I was lost. This was a space I had not been in before. A new experience, never even dreamed of. I was completely lost and disorientated. I was in a world without air and didn’t know where air was. I panicked. Instinctively I fought my way to the surface and breathed a sigh of relief. Not just relief for having air, but for being once again in a familiar reality. The sight of blue sky, and mountains. The sound of wind in the trees, the calling of birds, even the traffic on the road was reassuring that I was once again in normal reality.
Water is another dimension. When you are total in it with no points of reference, something happens that is inexplicable. I was not prepared for it. My base reaction was for survival. But there is something compelling about the depths. If you are not prepared to surround yourself in silence with no visual points of reference, no sound, no gravity, something happens to the mind. It is used to the constant stimulation of environment. Thinking back on the memory, my panicked state of mind was not so much lack of air as lack of environmental stimulation. I was alone without reference to anything. This is now a state I strive to achieve in my meditations. A state of no reference – nada, nothing, the void, a state of timelessness and unending space. Even words trying to describe it give it boundaries but there are none. The one word that comes close is Zen.
Are we afraid of the void? Do we fear not having distractions? Is emptiness something to be avoided, because of its uncertainty, its unpredictability? How can we overcome this unfounded anxiety? Why don’t we push ourselves forward, beyond it?
This is a goal that is essential to the understanding of self. To get clarity we must experience being clear, without the distractions of environment – even if it is a natural environment such as being out in nature. It is liken to the art of listening. When we are listening – we put our thoughts on hold. There is an unbounded anticipation of no anticipation. (If that makes sense.) We put analyzing, justifying, evaluating on hold. Nothing captures the mind. It is at rest. This is an unnatural state for the mind. As it constantly wants something to deal with, a problem to solve. When we can hold an empty mind, it allows for a higher form of thought to come in. Some say it is channeling. Others say we are tapping into our own higher consciousness. It is exploring new areas of the brain, allowing for new neurological pathways to form., literally an expansion of consciousness, opening to new ideas and the release of old ones.
Which ideas do we hold on to? Our beliefs. We hold on to the ideas we believe. What if we could let those go? Sometimes beliefs become so rigid. It does not allow new ones to come in.
I once met a man in Sedona, AZ. , that called himself Silver Wolf. He made a very poignant statement that I never forgot. “Beliefs should be like bridges – when we cross them they should be let go of.” A bridge that we carry with us can be a barrier to the next new idea. Hold beliefs lightly so they may be let go of when needed.
Too many people hold on to too many beliefs. They have made their world comfortable by holding on to beliefs of others. They no longer have to think for themselves because someone else has done their thinking for them. Their world is set. It makes sense to them. No changes are needed. They have the world figured out. Therefore they are resistant to change. Change is scary and dangerous. Why venture into new territory when we feel safe and comfortable, even when the sense of safety is an illusion.
Gaining clarity of mind is a way of seeing through the illusion of self limitations we put on ourselves to keep us in a safe zone – to keep us in the box. The box is safe – why venture out? Shattering illusions is scary. Stay in the box – stay in the boat – don’t venture out. Don’t go into the depths. There is freedom in the depths of self. But, few want that freedom because it entails responsibility.