Becoming everything through nothing

photo: Ansel Adams“… I was twenty. It was a summer spent in Aspen, Colorado, in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. Although my official reason for being there was to study at the international music festival, I did my utmost to escape the practice rooms. In my mind they were prison cells, just as they had always been for as long as I could remember. Eight hours a day locked away, running through scales and études, mindlessly repeating various passages of music wasn’t living – it was the meaningless existence of an assembly-line robot, at least in my mind. And so, instead, in the middle of the Rockies, my refuge quickly became the mountains…

I spent as much time as I could hiking lonely trails, until I found myself at one with nature, away from civilisation, with peaks rising literally a mile above my head. Against the backdrop of such an immense, enveloping mass of rock, I was dwarfed in comparison, reduced to a dimensionless speck on the landscape. It was simultaneously awesome and totally humbling. A feeling of: I am nothing here… And because I was nothing, there was nothing left to fight against. A part of me surrendered, tasting – if only fleetingly, if only still half blind – the fact that I had simultaneously become everything with those same mountains. Nothing-everything: I just stood there, now. At the time I didn’t even really understand what was going on. All I knew was that, in a way, those moments of connection felt like living for the first time.

The feeling was similar to that of being in love: an intensity so great that the heat of the moment totally absorbs you, now. The main difference, though, is that when in love with someone, the passion draws you out of yourself, as you begin to merge with the other person. Sense of self quickly disappears. Here, rather than the focussed energy and intensity of romantic love, the prevailing feeling was one of space, stillness, the state of being wide open. In becoming nothing, I just was. Sense of self remained, but – absorbed in the expanse of those mountains – it was completely empty, a blank slate, free of the usual mental games we play. It was a sense of pure presence I had never experienced before…”

— Growing into Being, Chapter Two

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