9781884997273

Collision with the Infinite: A Life Beyond the Personal Self

Segal, Suzanne

ISBN 10: 1884997279 / 1-884997-27-9
ISBN 13: 9781884997273
Publisher: Blue Dove Press
Publication Date: 1996
Binding: Softcover
About this title:
Synopsis:
--She thought she had gone mad, but she was enlightened and didn't know it! Some people spend years in caves trying to experience what suddenly happened to Suzanne Segal. This is the incredible story of a young woman who irrevocably lost all sense of personal self, or an "I".

It is the story of her mind's desperate attempts to come to grips with -- or deny! -- her spiritual condition, a process which took eight years.--

Collision with the Infinite is an extraordinary work. One day over twelve years ago, Suzanne Segal, a young American woman living in Paris, stepped onto a city bus and suddenly and unexpectedly found herself egoless, stripped of any sense of a personal self. Struggling with the terror and confusion produced by that cataclysmic experience, for years she tried to make sense of it, seeking the help of therapist after therapist. Eventually, she turned to spiritual teachers, coming at last to understand that this was the egoless state, the Holy Grail of so many spiritual traditions, that elusive consciousness to which so many aspire.

This book is her story, her own account of what such a terrifying event meant to her when it crashed into her everyday life, and what it means to her now. Her sense of the personal "I" has never returned, and she lives in that heightened spiritual awareness to this day. Stephen Bodian, the former editor of Yoga Journal who wrote the introduction, found her to be "a fearless, joyful being who radiates love and whose spiritual wisdom was equal to that of the masters and sages I most respected."

Unlike so many spiritual accounts, Collision with the Infinite is written in a completely lucid, nonmystical, straightforward manner, instantly understandable to Westerners and filled with luminous clarity. Nowhere in these pages, in fact, do we have the sense of invasive ego or self-promotion, and Ms. Segal presents us with a remarkable glimpse into "the mystery in which all abides," that egolessness which seekers have pursued since spiritual quests began.

She thought she had gone mad, but she was enlightened and didn't know it! Some people spend years in caves trying to experience what suddenly happened to Suzanne Segal. This is the incredible story of a young woman who irrevocably lost all sense of personal self, or an "I".

It is the story of her mind's desperate attempts to come to grips with -- or deny! -- her spiritual condition, a process which took eight years.


Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
FROM CHAPTER FOUR--COLLISION WITH EMPTINESS

It was in the springtime that it happened…. The month was May, and the sun felt warm on my head and face as I stood at the bus stop on the Avenue de la Grande Armee. I was in no hurry and had decided to take a bus instead of the metro in order to enjoy the lovely weather.

Several buses came and went before I finally saw the number 37 approaching down the wide avenue. Six or seven of us were waiting together at the stop, exchanging pleasantries about the weather and comments about the new advertising campaign that had been appearing on all the billboards. As the bus approached, we congregated expectantly near the curb. The bus lumbered to a halt, expelling the acrid odor of exhaust fumes and hot rubber into the warm spring air.

As I took my place in line, I suddenly felt my ears stop up like they do when the pressure changes inside an airplane as it makes its descent. I felt cut off from the scene before me, as if I were enclosed in a bubble, unable to act in any but the most mechanical manner. I lifted my right foot to step up into the bus and collided head-on with an invisible force that entered my awareness like a silently exploding stick of dynamite, blowing the door of my usual consciousness open and off its hinges, splitting me in two. In the gaping space that appeared, what I had previously called "me" was forcefully pushed out of its usual location inside me into a new location that was approximately a foot behind and to the left of my head. "I" was now behind my body looking out at the world without using the body's eyes.

From a non-localized position somewhere behind and to the left, I could see my body in front and very far away. All the body's signals seemed to take a longtime to be picked up in this non-localized place, as if they were light coming from a distant star. Terrified, I looked around, wondering if anyone else had noticed something. All the other passengers were calmly taking their seats, and the bus driver was motioning me to put my yellow ticket into the machine so we could be off.

I shook my head a few times, hoping to rattle my consciousness back into place, but nothing changed. I felt from afar as my fingers fumbled to insert the ticket into the slot and I walked down the aisle to find a seat. I sat down next to an older woman I had been chatting with at the bus stop, and I tried to continue our conversation. My mind had completely ground to a halt in the shock of the abrupt collision with whatever had dislodged my previous reality.

Although my voice continued speaking coherently, I felt completely disconnected from it. The face of the woman next to me seemed far away, and the air between us seemed foggy, as if filled with a thick, luminous soup. She turned to gaze out the window for a moment, then reached up to pull the cord to signal the driver to let her off at the next stop. When she rose, I slid over to her seat by the window and bid her goodbye with a smile. I could feel sweat rolling down my arms and beading up on my face. I was terrified.

The bus arrived at my stop on the rue Lecourbe, and I got off. As I walked the three blocks home, I attempted to pull myself back into one piece by focusing on my body and willing myself back into it where I thought I belonged in order to regain the previously normal sensation of seeing through the body’s eyes, speaking through the body’s mouth, and hearing through the body’s ears. The force of will failed miserably. Instead of experiencing through the physical senses, I was now bobbing behind the body like a buoy on the sea. Cut loose from sensory solidity, separated from and witnessing the body from a vast distance, I moved down the street like a cloud of awareness following a body that seemed simultaneously familiar and foreign. There was an incomprehensible attachment to that body, although it no longer felt like "mine." It continued to send out signals of its sensory perceptions, yet how or where those signals were being received was beyond comprehension.

Incapable of making sense of this state, the mind alternated between racing wildly in an attempt to put "me" back together and shutting down completely, leaving only the empty humming of space reverberating in the ears. The witness was absolutely distinct from the mind, the body, and the emotions, and the position it held, behind and to the left of the head, remained constant. The profound distance between the witness and the mind, body, and emotions seemed to elicit panic in and of itself, due to the sensation of being so tenuously tethered to physical existence. In this witnessing state, physical existence was experienced to be on the verge of dissolution, and it (the physical) responded by summoning an annihilation fear of monumental proportions.

The thought did arise that perhaps this experience of witnessing was the state of Cosmic Consciousness Maharishi had described long before as the first stage of awakened awareness. But the mind instantly discarded this possibility because it seemed impossible that the hell realm I was inhabiting could have anything to do with Cosmic Consciousness.


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