Question: After meditating for many years, I began to experience the feeling that who I had felt myself to be, had dissolved. I could no longer identify myself in a specific way. I felt a kind of expansiveness but it was very uncomfortable. I felt myself to be a vast emptiness with no sense of meaning or purpose. At times, I would alternate between feeling very expanded and blissful and then would come contractions of awareness that were very painful. There was a lot of pain and fear during this period. At times I became very discouraged. Could you please comment on this state, give some encouragement regarding these difficulties?
A very important question. Pay your attention. When you say that you began to experience “feeling”, who is this who feels? As long as there are “feelings”, there are thoughts. Thoughts are imaginations and it is the mind which imagines. Here the mind has tried to imagine the Self. You have to experience the Self, not imagine the Self. I repeat, you have got to experience the Self and not imagine. Because of the imagination, there were further feelings of expansiveness and emptiness. Gradually it can give rise to fear. Thoughts occur to the mind, in this process. The mind has got confused. Do not get discouraged. Mind need not get confused.
The existence of the Self is of Supreme Consciousness. When you experience this, you become aware of your real Existence. Then you lose all imaginations and definitions. You are simply aware of your Existence. That is the Supreme Peace, beyond even supreme bliss. You don't feel any definitions about your Existence. You don't have any feelings of the body, of the surroundings. When there are no “feelings”, an awareness of the Self can occur. You will always be able to remain in that Consciousness, which is only Supreme Peace, serene Peace. Don't worry. Wait for that. That's why I told you that you require patience. You have to wait. Allow it to happen. Whatever experience you get other than the Peace is the mind's imagination, illusion. That's why it is called “illusion”, because the mind imagines and hypnotizes itself. The meditation helps you to liberate yourself from this hypnotizing effect.
This becomes possible when you are able to do Tapas, when you are able to concentrate without any thoughts for at least 7-8 hours at a stretch. That is tapas. The Self does not require anything for its existence. The Self is Supreme Peace. Do not feel disheartened. You are going on the right path. Until the mind is able to remain peaceful, effortlessly, have faith and reassure yourself. The Guru is with you and he will protect you always. Go ahead. Do not stop the practice. Just wait and watch as a witness.