Some people keep changing partners because they quickly get dissatisfied with them. Others keep changing their jobs. Some overeat. Some feel the compulsion to visit different countries all the time.

Some people crave new experiences. Some are addicted to changing their appearance. Some have the need to try out different foods on a regular basis, rearrange their furniture, or to have an ever wider social circle.

Though the manifestations are different, all of them point to the fact that there’s inner emptiness that requires to be filled with different sorts of things (depending on a personality through which this is done).

This happens because the person has never gotten in touch with something that’s deeper than the surface personality. This deeper place is called differently in various religions and philosophies, and I personally call it “the void”, because of the reasons I will describe below.

The void state explained

Buddhists call it in a negative way, such as “emptiness” (Sunyata), “non-being”, “voidness”. I also see this place or state in terms of the lack of that which is. Others, however, call it “god” or “fullness”, for example. Eckhart Tolle calls it “spaciousness”.

All of that describes the very same inner state, but because the experience is so unknown, so subtle and so other-worldly, that the words that each individual or religion chooses to describe it can vary widely and sometimes may appear as total opposites.

This inner spaciousness is related to the energy vortex about which I’ve written here. That’s why I call both of these experiences “the void”; if you dwell in that state long enough, eventually it becomes an energy vortex.

It’s a place of stillness, emptiness, spaciousness that you become aware of when you stay present. When you stay mindful long enough, this space becomes all-consuming, attempting to take you into itself and that’s what the energy vortex experience is about.

What happens when you touch the void at least once

But even without you fully giving into this state you can experience countless benefits if you only happen to touch it. This experience, even if you had it once, will make you somewhat detached from the world and perceiving the phenomena from your inner core rather than being totally lost in things that happen outside of you.

In Buddhism this void is also described as “asankhata”, the “unconditioned element”, which is an excellent way to describe it.

Once you touch the unconditioned element even once, you become, according to Buddhism, a “stream entrant”. You can see the end goal – nirvana (being free from the influence of conditioned elements) and your births are limited to seven (among humans or divine beings only – animal births are not possible from that stage). (Source, source)

Here is how stream entrants are described in the Buddhism article on Wikipedia:

They have had their first glimpse of the unconditioned element, the asankhata,[15] in which they see the goal, in the moment of the fruition of their path (magga-phala).

Whereas the stream-entrant has seen nibbāna and, thus has verified confidence in it, the arahant[16] can drink fully of its waters, so to speak, to use a simile from the Kosambi Sutta (SN 12.68) — of a “well”, encountered along a desert road. [17] 

The sotapanna “may state this about himself: ‘Hell is ended; animal wombs are ended; the state of the hungry shades is ended; states of deprivation, destitution, the bad bourns are ended! I am a stream-winner, steadfast, never again destined for states of woe, headed for self-awakening!'”.[18]

However, the remaining three paths, namely: once-return (sakadāgāmin), non-return (anāgāmin), and sainthood (arahatta) become ‘destined’ (sammatta niyāma) for the stream-entrant.

Their enlightenment as a disciple (ariya-sāvaka) becomes inevitable within seven lives transmigrating among gods and humans;[19][20] if they are diligent (appamattaappamāda) in the practice of the Teacher’s (satthāra) message, they may fully awaken within their present life. They have very little future suffering to undergo.[21]

The early Buddhist texts (e.g. the Ratana Sutta) say that a stream-entrant will no longer be born in the animal womb, or hell realms; nor as a hungry ghost. The pathways to unfortunate rebirth destinations (duggati) have been closed to them.

Wikipedia

Entering the stream is a powerful experience because once you happen to go through it, you will never be the same again. The wall will arise between you and the phenomenal world. And the world will feel more like a dream than a really solid place.

The shift in what makes you happy

Once you become a “stream entrant” or “touched by the void”, your main source of satisfaction shifts from external things to who you are at your core. You are simply happy with who you are and the more you’re aligned with the inner core of stillness, the more true joy is felt.

You also start understanding the nature of external things and experiences. Their nature is empty. Those are mere shells of the Spirit that moves all things. They cannot fulfill you permanently because by themselves they are nothing. It’s what’s the deeper dimension in each of us that holds the power to make us joyful.

We can’t even access that deeper dimension in others if we have not yet reached it within ourselves. And when we reach it within ourselves, then we can also feel it in others. So the external world by its nature cannot make us fulfilled if we fail to touch something that’s deeper within ourselves.

When this spiritual conversion happens, we naturally feel the divine nature of the whole world and thus even the smallest things, like rain or greenery, make us happy. And that happiness is not the nervous high that egoistic people get when they attain that which they lust for. It’s a very pure form of joy that is felt more like peace than some energetic high. I could also describe it as feeling joyful harmony within.

How to touch the void and what happens if you don’t

The void can be touched through being present. That void is consciousness itself. The reason I call it “the void” is because consciousness itself is no-thing. It’s the background in which everything happens but of itself it’s totally transparent.

According to Buddhism, if you don’t experience the void, you’re still considered “lost” in the stream of thoughts or the round of rebirth:

To become an ariya [pure, noble] is the greatest achievement for any being lost in the round of rebirth. Only by entering the stream to awakening can beings proceed to eliminate all the causes of suffering.

Access to Insight, “Teacher of the Devas”

I believe the Christian terms “lost” and “saved” point to being asleep and then becoming awake in their original meaning. Eckhart Tolle also thinks the Christian doctrine to at first have been the doctrine of liberation; Jesus taught about “the kingdom of heaven” that is within you – and this is the very “spaciousness”, “void”, or the “unconditioned element” that all true religions or awakened individuals speak about.

Buddha described in The Middle Length Discourses that the human birth is extremely hard to attain and that’s why it’s so important to become a stream entrant which assures a limited number of human or divine births followed by liberation.

He described in a few of his talks about how rare it is to receive a human birth. For example, in the Nakhasikha Sutta he says:

As the dirt in a fingernail is smaller than the great earth, the beings reborn as humans are few.

Nakhasikha Suta SN 20.2

He also mentions the improbabililty of human birth in Samyutta Nikaya.

Whether it is indeed the case that humans without this experience are totally lost in the round of rebirths I don’t know; but it’s very obvious that those without the experience of void are very much lost in their current existence.

They mistake that which is only an outer shell for the real thing, and they hope that that which is illusory and dead can make them permanently fulfilled.

Not touching the void equals actions fueled by wrong motivation

When you touch that deeper place within you, external search gradually ceases. Yes, you can still make the mistake of trying to get satisfaction from the outside world, but the pain that follows such attempts quickly teaches you not to make this mistake again.

When you touch the deeper place within, compulsive negative habits gradually start falling away. Hunger for novelty disappears, hunger for intensity (sexual or extreme experiences of any sort) also vanishes. Lust for food is no more. You are simply happy that you exist, your life considerably simplifies, and you start finding happiness in the smallest things of life.

As long as people have not yet “entered the stream”, they will always take action in order to fill the emptiness that they feel within. That inner hunger that is their ego will drive them to seek fulfillment in things that cannot accomplish this permanently.

Once you touched your inner depth, however, the sense of hunger is no longer there. You don’t need anything from the world – you are simply happy to exist as you are.

It’s not that you become totally passive and do not want to improve yourself in any way after the awakening; but you understand that any external improvement or the betterment of your circumstances will not hold any permanent fulfillment in itself.

The sense of not-enoughness, therefore, gets replaced with contentment.

The work of the Universe through you once you’re awake

When you get in touch with that deeper place within, sometimes the Universe will choose to manifest certain projects through you.

That is very different from hankering after new experiences to fill the ever hungry ego. Instead, you feel the impulse from within to create something and you know that it’s not your idea at all, but the Universe itself wants to use you as a tool to create something beautiful and useful to the world.

That’s the reason I know I need to build the Self-Sustaining Mindfulness Center. It’s not that I have the need to do so; but I do feel the universal impulse to create it, and sometimes I can’t even sleep because the Universe is building this project in my mind already.

So these are very different motivations. Such plans come into being not as a result of you feeling empty without those things, but because you feel that you need to manifest them as a result of the deep divine impulse that you get.

Changed approach to relationships

Once this spiritual conversion happens, not only goal manifestation, but also your approach to relationships changes. You no longer hope for your second half to fulfill you, for example, which includes attempts to change him or her for you to feel happier.

Instead, you allow people to be who they are, and they become beautiful enhancements of your life but not your life itself. They cannot become your total life after the spiritual born-again experience; that’s because you now see the world from the center within and are no longer lost in it, so you cannot externalize yourself to the degree that another person becomes the center of your Universe.

If another person is also awakened or at least very independent, the relationship holds a huge potential. For example, my partner is not awake, but he’s a very free and independent personality. So we just let each other be, we give to each other plenty of space, and this, we find, increases love so much more.

We are already happy with who we are and we don’t see each other as means to fill some void. We simply enjoy being with each other when we are together, but we are also happy when we do things on our own.

Since my other half is not awake yet, he does operate in a way that unawakened people do and tries to fill the emptiness he feels in other ways. But I can’t be too open about this because this is his personal matter.

What I’m saying is that as long as people are not awake, the seeking for inner fulfillment will manifest in one way or another, so it doesn’t have to be relationships only. Also, I believe I’m in his life for a reason – maybe it will cause him to awaken. And he teaches me plenty of lessons also.

Finally…

Whether people, food or experiences, once you’re awake, you no longer view all these as a means to fulfill you. Instead, you do not mistake the form for the essence, and you are happy to play with the form, but by no means you consider the form to hold the potential of making you permanently happy.

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