Here there was no sky above, no surrounding sphere. Only points of perfect light against perfect blackness, an infinite and empty void with countless tiny holes through which shone the brilliance from some unimaginable realm beyond.

I’ve recently found the closest analog to Quirrell’s spell that I’m aware of in this realm.

On our last retreat with Shinzen Young, we sat through the night one night. It was a small group of us—maybe 12 to 15. We sat in a close circle, and alternated sitting and walking periods from the end of one evening till the start of the next morning.


There’s a little pond on our property, in our front yard. During one of the walking periods, we were invited to go for a swim in it. In the middle of the night, on a rural mountainside in Vermont, in late September. You know, to help stay awake.

Each time someone entered the pond, you could here the noble silence being punctuated by shocked gasps and “oh god”s. But once you were in, it wasn’t that bad, actually.

And as luck would have it, during that walking period, the cloud cover rolled back. So you could, if you were so inclined, float on your back—temporarily quieting most nearby sensations—and look out at the stars.

There is not a way I can think of to describe that experience to myself prior to doing it. I would probably just say “you should definitely do this.” As I crawled out of the pond afterwards, there was a sense: Alive. Right. That’s what it can be like.

It was easy to forget … your own body, and become a point of awareness which might have been still, or might have been moving. With all distances incalculable there was no way to tell.