The Life Divine – Reading Group, Session #5 [6/28]


Join us for our 5th meeting exploring Integral philosopher, poet, and yogi Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine.


The Life Divine, Chapters 17 - 20 (pps. 162—209)

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:pray: :prayer_beads: Thank you! :sparkling_heart:: :pray:

Please note that I won’t be attending this time. I am going to a Shania Twain concert instead :slight_smile:

I also wanted to share that I have been reading Savitri - the first two cantos so far. This poem is absolutely gorgeous, and in many ways, it seems to embrace the larger ideas of Aurobindo in a much more subtle telling. It is also more contemplative, and takes away the intellectual rationalising. Anyway, I adore this reading, more, I think, the The Life Divine, although I am not about to abandon reading that either. Enjoy yourselves in the session!


And Savitri, musing still, replied to him:
“Speak more to me, speak more, O Satyavan,
Speak of thyself and all thou art within;
I would know thee as if we had ever lived
Together in the chamber of our souls.
Speak till a light shall come into my heart
And my moved mortal mind shall understand
What all the deathless being in me feels.
It knows that thou art he my spirit has sought
Amidst earth’s thronging visages and forms
Across the golden spaces of my life.”
And Satyavan like a replying harp
To the insistent calling of a flute
Answered her questioning and let stream to her
His heart in many-coloured waves of speech:
“O golden princess, perfect Savitri,
More I would tell than failing words can speak,
Of all that thou hast meant to me, unknown,
All that the lightning-flash of love reveals
In one great hour of the unveiling gods.
Even a brief nearness has reshaped my life.
For now I know that all I lived and was
Moved towards this moment of my heart’s rebirth;
I look back on the meaning of myself,
A soul made ready on earth’s soil for thee.
Once were my days like days of other men:
To think and act was all, to enjoy and breathe;
This was the width and height of mortal hope:
Yet there came glimpses of a deeper self
That lives behind Life and makes her act its scene. …
My mind transfigures to a rapturous seer.
A foam-leap travelling from the waves of bliss
Has changed my heart and changed the earth around:
All with thy coming fills. Air, soil and stream
Wear bridal raiment to be fit for thee
And sunlight grows a shadow of thy hue
Because of change within me by thy look.
Come nearer to me from thy car of light
On this green sward disdaining not our soil.
For here are secret spaces made for thee
Whose caves of emerald long to screen thy form.
Wilt thou not make this mortal bliss thy sphere?
Descend, O happiness, with thy moon-gold feet
Enrich earth’s floors upon whose sleep we lie.
O my bright beauty’s princess Savitri,
By my delight and thy own joy compelled
Enter my life, thy chamber and thy shrine.
In the great quietness where spirits meet,
Led by my hushed desire into my woods
Let the dim rustling arches over thee lean;
One with the breath of things eternal live,
Thy heart-beats near to mine, till there shall leap
Enchanted from the fragrance of the flowers
A moment which all murmurs shall recall
And every bird remember in its cry.”

As if inclined before some gracious god
Who has out of his mist of greatness shone
To fill with beauty his adorer’s hours,
She bowed and touched his feet with worshipping hands;
She made her life his world for him to tread
And made her body the room of his delight,
Her beating heart a remembrancer of bliss.
He bent to her and took into his own
Their married yearning joined like folded hopes;
As if a whole rich world suddenly possessed,
Wedded to all he had been, became himself,
An inexhaustible joy made his alone,
He gathered all Savitri into his clasp.
Around her his embrace became the sign
Of a locked closeness through slow intimate years,
A first sweet summary of delight to come,
One brevity intense of all long life.
In a wide moment of two souls that meet
She felt her being flow into him as in waves
A river pours into a mighty sea.
As when a soul is merging into God
To live in Him for ever and know His joy,
Her consciousness grew aware of him alone
And all her separate self was lost in his.
As a starry heaven encircles happy earth,
He shut her into himself in a circle of bliss
And shut the world into himself and her.
A boundless isolation made them one;
He was aware of her enveloping him
And let her penetrate his very soul
As is a world by the world’s spirit filled,
As the mortal wakes into Eternity,
As the finite opens to the Infinite.
Thus were they in each other lost awhile,
Then drawing back from their long ecstasy’s trance
Came into a new self and a new world.

Savitri Book V, The Book of Love, Canto III, page 40


During Session #5, Jan overheard me talking about the last six chapters of The Life Divine, and noted that I probably hadn’t made my suggestion clear.

I was suggesting - tentatively, cautiously, with some minor trepidation…:>) - that if enough folks feel overwhelmed with the idea of getting through another 800 or so pages by November, we could try something a bit simpler.

Since many in the Integral yoga have considered the last 6 chapters to be almost a work in themselves, we could take just those chapters, and read them at the rate of one per month (and maybe extend till December?)

Just a thought


I second this motion!

So if anybody is interested to try it out, I’ve posted the entire text of the first of the last 6 chapters of the Life Divine. Following that, I added 2 commentaries: A one paragraph summary of the entire chapter from the Aria Nuovo website; and a commentary by Santosh Krinsky of “Sri Aurobindo Studies.”

(It might be worth contemplating the difference between looking at one web page for a month vs approximately 200 pages a month.)

i started reading the last six chapters yesterday. thanks for that suggestion, Don :slight_smile:

I think this suggestion should be made at the live call so we can get a consensus. To try to get an agreement in this forum will probably be very unwieldy. The whole reason I joined this group was to complete this text and then ‘we’ could be a in a better position to work comparatively with several traditions. This may be too much for some of us. We shall see.

We read Gebser and two volumes of Sloterjdiik and that took great patience but we did it. We have completed Erin Manning’s book. For me, to skip to the good part is exactly not what I am interested in, nor do I want to get focused on one persons summary of the book, no matter how enlightened that might be. I liked taking the time to let everyone figure it out in public without the need to obey the need to take a pop quizz and get it over with.

I felt we were just starting to open to the field. It is a very delicate process and I think we should press the pause button before we leap ahead and perhaps interrupt what wants to happen by assuming our short attention spans are not up to the challenge For me, it feel like a short cut. A Reader’s Digest version of Moby Dick.

How do we carry forward our personal feelings and be present to the group-subject? If you are not up for it, Don, then probably best not to start at all. Trust is in very short supply these days and I appreciate that it is easy to disturb it. I am already swimming in a sea of mixed messages and so I want to make myself as transparent as possible. I am sure you have a good intention, Don, and it is also important to chunk more slowly. If we are already pooped out I accept that but I am not ready to let go of the experiment, yet. Some of us worked really hard to get here. I would prefer adagio rather than presto. It’s like baking a cake or sipping a fine wine. What’s the rush?

It has taken two years of work to get to this book and I feel it is too early to give up and do the expedient thing. But if that is the consensus I will think about it and make a decision. I probably will drop out quite frankly. I think the field is asking something of us that I realize has never to my knowledge happened in an online communal space. It may be too much and premature so I accept that if that is the case. If the quality of our attention is not sustainable then I will just turn to my own devices and say bon voyage good people. At any rate, I dont think we should put it up to a quick vote yet. We have only just got started. And I find this text much, much easier than Sloterjdiik!


I agree with @johnnydavis54. It is possible to skip some of the reading and the sessions (as I have done, for other reasons), but I, like Johnny, committed myself to reading this text and seeing it through. I structured my summer reading around this. I’m not ready to let it go. With Sloterdijk, we
all guessed the key text was Volume 3, but we have spent a year and a half on Volumes 1 and 2 and haven’t yet opened Volume 3. The long, slow route is best, for me, too.


I am not you, Don, and nor is anyone else. I memorized Hamlet when I was twelve years old. So I was weird,too. I would appreciate it if you would assume other’s here may be very different from you. But if others want to join you on the fast track I suppose that could be arranged. But those of us who want to do the slower reading may want to continue with a beginner’s mind and be curious about how each of us reads the text in their own way without alpha males barking too much.


I feel like i need to put in some more qualifiers to help connect. I’d love to get the same sense here that I get in our zoom sessions, of connecting to that larger field. I guess what I’m saying, it almost seems like something I’m saying - that I don’t intend to communicate - is being taken as an intention to create sameness, or tell others what to do, or something like that. I don’t know what it is I’m saying that creates that impression - each time that was suggested as what I was doing, I quite intentionally said in whatever way i could, no i don’t mean that at all. That’s why i feel at a loss - having, I thought, addressed your concern, it seems that what i’m saying is still taken that way. So i dont’ know what else to say.


And that might be a good place for us all to be. I am not sure either, Don, about what’s best for the group. I am putting my ear to the ground. In the meantime, I acknowledge that you have read more of Aurobindo than myself and have a way of working him that is great. I love a lot of your ideas and genuinely enjoy your presence. I just feel though ( and I could be wrong) that you have an expert attitude towards Aurobindo that comes out of your direct experience. I want to have my own direct experience of the text, too, unmediated by an expert. The core group who has done previous readings together have initiated this journey, others have joined, and I welcome that those who enter into this zone will probably bring lots of surprises with them. You, Don, are a tornado! I am an expert in other areas and know from experience how hard it can be to become a novice again to deal with another kind of text. I could have indeed misread your intentions as trying to dominate the conversation with what you already have acquired through laborious effort. You have definitely crossed the finish line. I just want to take a leisurely stroll through the whole text and maybe take a few detours. Thanks again for your ongoing participation and I hope you dont get bored by my slower pace. I hope we can find a good pace for each of us.


Is that Shrodinger’s Cat or the crucified cat? I think that the crucified cat was dead, the cruelty that inflicted the harm upon the animal lives on.

As I recall Barfield starts off his book with this poem by Hopkins.

“It was a hard thing to undo this knot.
The rainbow shines, but only in the thought
Of him that looks. Yet not in that alone,
For who makes rainbows by invention?
And many standing round a waterfall
See one bow each, yet not the same to all,
But each a hand’s breadth further than the next.
The sun on falling waters writes the text
Which yet is in the eye or in the thought.
It was a hard thing to undo this knot.”

The rainbow is is indeed a curious kind of relationship among multiple observers as the poem suggests. Are there any differences between a rainbow and a living cat while it is being tortured?

If all is Brahman, does Brahman have any differences?

And can a cat be more than just what we ‘call’ a cat?


The recording of the session was more than I expected. What a difference to the previous 4 get-togethers. What a difference a little reading makes.

The offline discussion is promising as well. I was wondering what discussion would arise, and here it is: administrative instead of contentive. Too fast? Too slow? Either all or a six-chapter intensive course? If we’re all striving toward integral, well, why not “and”: let’s read the last six chapters in a subthread and read the whole text as was originally planned? Who’s up for the “and” not the “or”?

Instead of being behind, I managed to listen to the recording in good order. I was more than pleased. It took a while – but not too long – and not unexpectedly – but the text, I believe, has caught up with its readers. This isn’t a normal text. We’ve all been wrestling a bit with this, but it’s on the table now.

As I have been trying to say, S.A. is describing something that most of us have never experienced, at least not to the extent and intensity that he has. Still, there’s not a one of us (and I can only talk about myself and those I’ve seen show up for the online discussions) who any longer believes that this is “just” a philosophical work. I think we all would admit that there is much more at work here than any of us anticipated going in. Whoever read anything from him before, or even followed @patanswer’s brilliant force-feeding of The Human Cycle … I think it was clear that this current exercise was going to be anything than “just another reading”.

Firstly, I am very much with @Geoffreyjen_Edwards and @johnnydavis54 that the slow reading is what most of us “signed up” for. But, at the same time, I find @Don_Salmon’s offer to focus only on the last six chapters at a slower pace a more than enticing invitation. What speaks against both?

From where I am, I would like to continue with the program as originally planned, even if I can’t make it to the online sessions. I feel comfortable with reading the text, watching the recording, and commenting in the forums. By the same token, I wouldn’t mind focusing in particular on the “summary” that @Don_Salmon’s has suggested. Those involved in the reading can all decide if it’s one or the other or both. One reading program does not preclude the other, especially since there has been encouragement on the platform all along that alternates are possible.

It is clear to me that some of us are just getting used to the synchronous and asynchronous modes this platform offers. But, to my small mind, this is one of those junctures where everyone could benefit.

Again, the last recording told me that something has to give somewhere. It has become quite clear, I think, that S.A. is not presenting an argument. It is also clear to me that he is not speculating. I’m more convinced than ever that he is “merely” describing what he “saw”/experienced. What that was was of a nature that infuses his words with an impact that we just don’t find among most writers, period. That which he is tapping into – by all of us – is deeper than most of us would like to admit. And it may be deeper than most of us would like it to be. So what? We have the opportunity and the possibility (technically and otherwise) to pursue the text in an obviously more multilayered way that would have been possible previously.

It’s worth thinking about.


I’m still reflecting on the idea of the Supermind torturing the cat, which sounds to me like the standard objection to the Christian God in Heaven, “He” is up there, created us (and the cat) and if he allows the cat to be tortured, he must be evil.”

So my first thought was how Sri Aurobindo emphasized again and again – with several chapters in “Essays on the Gita,” and several chapters in “Synthesis of Yoga,” on equanimity. He states clearly he is not talking about the resignation of the saint, nor the dry equality of the Stoic. This is where it goes into areas which are so profoundly at odds with our modern (and postmodern – or hypermodern, if you will) sensibility. This equanimity he is talking about (I guess I must add, IMHO/not-seeking-consensus/non-alpha-male/jus-sayin….) something that is the foundation of the Kosmos.

My experience has been, even with an infinitesimal glimpse of this equanimity of which all things are made, one’s perceptions - of oneself, cats, flowers, computers, words, German philosophers, sex, grape juice, 45th presidents, the rings of Saturn, Looney Tunes, etc - utterly and fundamentally changes.

So here is a journal account from a disciple of his, Kapali Sastry, who was a student of Ramana Maharshi for a number of years and later became a disciple of Sri Aurobindo. I suspect it was written initially in Hindi – the translation is odd at points (for example, when he has Sri Aurobindo saying one should “think of the Silence” again and again, I don’t think he meant “think about it” but rather, shift attention from the surface to the depths where the Silence is already present – and “depths” is not geographic; it’s not somewhere else since the Silence is all-pervading, the Silence of Being which is the very substance of the cat; but you know, well, words!).

So here’s Sastry’s transcription – first, his own words, then Sri Aurobindo’s (by the way, Sri Aurobindo’s words in the Life Divine excerpt below are an excellent counter to Sastry’s paraphrase of Sri Aurobindo, recorded in a journal at least a day after he heard Sri Aurobindo speak - I suspect the account is colored by Sastry’s own ascetic tendencies)

(Sastry speaking): The first object of sadhana should be to rise above the normal conditions of restlessness in the being, movements of thought-activity and vital impulsions which hold you their prisoner, and to attain to a certain aloofness and calm. Calm is a condition in which the consciousness is at rest, free from disturbance, whatever be the movements on the surface. This calm can indeed be attained by the rigorous method of the traditional yoga of Patanjali — an incessant suppression of all thought- movements. But the method Sri Aurobindo gives is simpler and more natural. Here it is:

There is a Silence behind every movement
Be open to it. Instead of attempting to get hold of the Silence, be open to it and let it get hold of you.

(transcription of Sri Aurobindo’s “pointing out instructions” continues) There is a background for everything. Every movement moves upon something. And that something is a Silence which upholds everything. It is not only a general background but it is there supporting and containing every individual movement. Conceive mentally, at first, of this Silence at the back of everything, including your own mental activity. All the thoughts and mental movements come and go against a base that is ever stable. That is Silence. Suspend for a moment your thought-activity and you will become conscious of the presence of this Silence. This Silence is at the back of your head, your word, your very being. Think of this Silence again and again and try to become aware of it. By a steady digging in of this idea in your consciousness, this fact will become a reality to you — not merely for the mind but for the rest of the being also. Into this Silence you must learn to relax yourself. You cannot get it by force, what you may get by concentration does not usually last beyond the spell of that concentration. Instead of trying to get at it, simply relax, call and let yourself lie in the folds of the Silence. That will slowly come over you and claim you.

This is the first condition for an effective beginning in sadhana. There should be this calm. But know it that in its true nature it is not a mental calm which is perceived in between two thoughts or experienced when there is a suspension of thought-activity or a reduction of their momentum. It is a spiritual calm which is not dependent upon any outer circumstances and which grows into deeper and deeper intensities as one grows into the higher or deeper states of consciousness. The highest Calm is totally different from the calm conceived by the mind.

And now back to the Life Divine, page 237 in “The Double Soul in Man.” It can seem as if he is explaining a theory, or trying to convince us of something. In my reading (IMHO, etc etc etc) he might be said to be giving his own unique style of “pointing out instructions” (for folks who don’t know the term, the Tibetan Buddhists, particularly the Nyingma sect, have a practice of directing a new student’s attention to the ever-present all-pervading nondual awareness of Rigpa – the Omnipresent Reality of Sri Aurobindo).

“The subliminal soul responds to the rasa , or essence in experience, of these things which the surface desire-soul rejects by distaste and refusal or ignores by neutral unacceptance…The subliminal soul is conscious inwardly of the rasa of things and has an equal delight in all contacts; it is conscious also of the values and standards of the surface desire-soul and receives on its own surface corresponding touches of pleasure, pain and indifference, but takes an equal delight in all. In other words, our real soul within takes joy of all its experiences, gathers from them strength, pleasure and knowledge, grows by them in its store and its plenty. It is this real soul in us which compels the shrinking desire-mind to bear and even to seek and find a pleasure in what is painful to it, to reject what is pleasant to it, to modify or even reverse its values, to equalise things in indifference or to equalise them in joy, the joy of the variety of existence. And this it does because it is impelled by the universal to develop itself by all kinds of experience so as to grow in Nature. Otherwise, if we lived only by the surface desire-soul, we could no more change or advance than the plant or stone in whose immobility or in whose routine of existence, because life is not superficially conscious, the secret soul of things has as yet no instrument by which it can rescue the life out of the fixed and narrow gamut into which it is born. The desire-soul left to itself would circle in the same grooves for ever.”


Dream 7.1.
I am watching a glob of stuff turn into something that looks like American flags. I watch the display and am aware that someone is tuning into the features of this dream landscape. I am aware of the tuning into a field…and I hear a voice, a female voice, discuss the ego, as I see a flash of light illuminating what looks like a path…’.I’ am aware of several voices going on at once and also aware of a background humming …

I am in a group and the man who is leading the group approaches me. He takes me to the edge of a river. I feel his influence is gentle but he is also strong. I say to the flowing river, which has a serene quality ," This is another Daddy exercise. I hated my father and the day I heard he was dead was the best day of my life for then I knew he could no longer harm anyone." I felt the rage and a calmness with the rage at the same time. Then I awoke in bed and felt someone hit me in the face. I felt that I had received a blow from beyond the grave from the fury of the fathers. I am very sensitive to the demonic male pathological forces operating on the planet. At the edge of the physical and what I would call the transphysical. I relaxed and went back to sleep.
A meta-comment. I am not talking about a tortured cat, Don, I am talking about myself. My father, a military man, tortured me, mentally, emotionally, physically and psychically. He also tortured an animal in my presence, to teach me obedience. He told me " I gave you life and I can take it away whenever I want.". He still continues to do so from beyond the grave. I am getting better at attuning to the silence in the midst of war and I have many allies. From a safe place it may be easy to maintain silence. It is not so easy where I live. I am not an avatar nor do I consider being one that important. I am just me, myself, making a living arrangement with diverse energies in flux.

Aurobindo is giving straight forward advice, it seems to me, without an elaborate technique and I appreciate it. How we work with these subtle energies will be unique to circumstances that we are each of us compelled to deal with. I am sure Aurobindo knew this territory well.

It does seem that Sri Aurobindo had to evolve as all of us do with what life conditions bring to us.

It is said that good men have bad dreams-


I really like this, Ed:

" It has become quite clear, I think, that S.A. is not presenting an argument. It is also clear to me that he is not speculating. I’m more convinced than ever that he is “merely” describing what he “saw”/experienced. What that was was of a nature that infuses his words with an impact that we just don’t find among most writers, period. That which he is tapping into – by all of us – is deeper than most of us would like to admit. And it may be deeper than most of us would like it to be."

Ed, do you have any specific references in the text we’re reading that illustrate what you’re saying here?

Heh, heh, heh … if it were only that easy.

Any time one takes a sentence or two, even a paragraph, as is, it looks like an isolated piece of text, within the larger corpus of the whole work, of course, and it immediately starts “looking like” an argument, a thesis, an assertion, or whatever. In the course of reading I am often overwhelmed by the sense that he is writing from a place, not a position, and it is a “place” that most of us have at one time sensed but have rarely been … at least for any length of time. What prompted me to write what I did is more the overall impression, the feeling, if you will, of what is coming at me from the text. It’s not the style, per sé; it’s not the content or flow of the thoughts; rather, it is an intuition of authenticity that infuses every word on the page. It’s rather odd, I’ll admit, and exceedingly hard to pin down, precisely because it is more a feeling than a knowing, if you know what I mean.

I’ll try to hone my reading awareness so that I may find a passage or several that generate the attunement I feel myself resonating with.


Just catching up after my reunion weekend, which was really wonderful, beautiful, and even, perhaps, eventful, and won’t be able to reply to everything specifically. However, to give my take on the ‘administrative’ discussion, I am basically with Ed and feel that people should read at the pace that they feel best serves their own experience.

In my view, Infinite Conversations is neither a grad program, nor an ashram—though it has elements of each—but a zone of potentialties (in the process of becoming actualities) generated by diverse ways of reading and writing, while still being in community. I would support a slower reading program, focusing on a more limited part of the text, if such wants to emerge. However, I also remain committed to reading the entire Life Divine, and feel comfortable with the currrent pace, even though I can’t comprehend (and we can’t discuss) every detail of the chapters we are reading weekly.

Aurobindo’s writings (including the various letters and other teachings that Don has been bringing to our attention) are so rich that it will take years, in any case, to appreciate their vast multidimensional poetic richness. At present, I feel most catalyzed by the discipline of reading and preparing for our discussions every week—and I’m also especially insterested in the ‘field effect’ of such readings within the larger context of our collective intellectual explorations and creative work.

Aurobindo is not the be all end all for me, but an important source within a larger culture-cultivating and consciousness-realizing project. I want to learn all I can, but I am also holding a space for dialogue and mutual influence amongst the many different ‘places’ we are all coming from (and going to).

So that said, I welcome other learning approaches and reading strategies to emerge, but I would just encourage those to stay with the conversation with each other at some level, since that’s where I believe some real magic can occur.

Regarding the cat: not to beat a dead cat. But if this world is an expression of Supermind in-the-making—i.e., if Supermind is precisely not some transcendental Other we could use to displace the blame for the evil in the world—then it would follow, I think, that WE indeed (as Supermind; or Supermind as us) are the ones who are torturing the cat.

I say this partly to be provocative, but also out of an intuition that even while it’s important to realize the utter loving conscious calm that wouldn’t dream of harming an innocent life—which we can call ‘Supermind’—we still must take responsibility for everything which apparently isn’t that.

What does ‘responsibility’ mean within a nondual, evolutionary-involutionary understanding? This is an open inquiry for me. How could Supermind transform the world as it apparently is, if it is not the world as it is? I am very interested in learning more about the ‘revolutionary’ aspects of Aurobindo’s overall project in this regard.


Hi Marco - I like the integration of everyone reading at their own pace and the group continuing along with the already existing program.

I think your question about the cat is a perfect pointer back to the text: “In a certain sense, matter is something non-existent.” (pg. 248) That includes, I would imagine, the “matter” of the cat.

If he is simply giving a traditional advaitin illusionist view, I don’t imagine any of us would go along with it. But clearly (several chapters ahead, he’s about to spend over 100 very dense pages arguing against that view, in a way that at least convinced the American mystic Franklin Merrell-Wolff that Aurobindo had definitively taken apart Shankara’s view).

So Ed, in terms of text, I think the chapters on Matter provide a treasure trove of material to revive the cat. In terms of personal experience, profoundly re-cognizing one’s relationship to physical pain is, i think, very much related to those chapters. I worked for an hour once on the most excruciating toothache I ever experienced. I had some medication for it but I decided to simply “be with it” instead. It took about 15 minutes for the consciousness to stabilize, but at that point, the “pain” changed to simply intensities of energy. After about a half hour, it changed to intense pleasure. And the quality of the sensation was directly proportional to the quality of attention.

along with this, the experiment radically transformed my sense of what “matter” is.