When I am meditating, apart from the times when I am caught up in one distraction after another – which is sometimes most of the time – apart from these times I find myself face to face with nothingness, the void. The mind shies away from this, hence the tendency to be distracted. But it is important to face it, to confront it, to merge with it. This happens rarely but when it does I feel myself on a threshold, a frightening, terrifying threshold – like standing at the very edge of a high cliff and feeling the yawning emptiness below draw like a magnet and you step back because you don’t trust yourself. So we shy away from nothingness although it is the threshold to truth and reality.

It is a bit like a baby waiting to be born. It is conscious but not yet self-conscious. It cannot think, nor can it anticipate, but if it could the prospect of birth would be a scary event even though there is nothing, and everything, to fear. The womb is a warm, secure environment. It presents no challenges, imposes no choices or decisions, no demands are made. The baby is about to be violently thrust out of this environment, which is all that it has ever known, into the unknown.

We all fear the unknown precisely because it is unknown. Such is our deep-rooted insecurity we are more willing to believe that it will be peopled with terrors than with warmth and love. Why are we so insecure? Partly, I suppose, because we are not self-sufficient, we depend so much on others who, like us, are themselves insecure and dependent. We do not have a firm and unyielding basis for our existence, we suffer from the three brute facts of contingency, powerlessness and scarcity. And so we tend to do two things which are really not very intelligent. We shy away from the nothingness and we try to find security in material things.

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