In experimenting with headlessness, we may notice that sudden “click” or shift in perspective when we move out of a very narrow and constricted mode of consciousness into a sense of something much vaster and freer. The surroundings stand out in relief, our senses become acute and something rigid in our psyche feels dissolved.

If this is our “natural” state, why then do we revert to a more self-preoccupied mode, one full of thought and rumination? This “opposing click” happens almost soundlessly, without our awareness. We seem to lose headlessness and the process of seeing, and this is an interesting moment as well.

Of course, we could say that even rumination and preoccupation happen within the vast space of the self, or of reality.

Are there ever multiple states? Or does only reality shine through in being?


If I close my eyes and pay attention to my body, I feel sensations. Breathing, rising, falling. Tingling, pulsing. Heat and cold.

In a headless space, the world appears in consciousness without a “me.” Likewise, “the body” can arise in consciousness without the sense “this is a body” or “this is my body.”

“I am my body” is an intuitive notion, but perhaps this idea is the primal error. For it leads to a contraction of selfhood, a consciousness twisting and squirming in a limited space, when it can be abundantly free.

Nostril-gazing :-)

Gaze at the tip of your nose. No doubt it feels a bit strange to do so; you will probably see a fuzzy cloud protruding from your face which seems to shine quite a bit. If you close either eye, the orientation of this fuzzy shiny cloud vis-a-vis the background shifts too.

So far so good. However, now consider, or try to see, this nose not as protruding from “your face,” but as emerging from a void. This void contains everything: your nose, the bits of cheek and lips you can glimpse, your body, the surrounding environment with all its colours and smells and sensations and, if we pay attention, your thoughts, feelings and sense of self.

All emerge from and dissove into the void.

Forget navel-gazing. Nostril-gazing can trigger pretty powerful meditation and insight.

Birthday again

Let’s look at that opening sentence from Douglas Harding’s book On Having No Head again.

(For those who are unfamiliar with Harding’s work, here is an excellent documentary):

“The best day of my life – my rebirthday, so to speak – was when I found I had no head.”

This opening salvo is obvioulsy not meant to be taken literally. In a physical sense, you and I have heads (although, come to think of it, there is a swift abstract picture of a body that we carry around with us that we tap into when needed. If you close your eyes and just be honest to pure sensation, can you really say you have a body? Or , rather, do we only register a complex patchwork of sensation? Warmth, cool, tingling, pressure etc).

So then how can we understand this marvellous opening sentence?

I think this is not a matter to be intellectually grappled with. It is an observation, pure and simple: when we look, we find the world (which includes our body, thoughts and feelings) but no centre from which the world is observed or sensed. The world just is.

Again, this is not an idea to intellectually battle over. It is a fact to be seen, not conceptually practised. This is really the challenge, for we can get trapped in intellectually battling this insight, doing a “for” and “against” rationalisation.

Headlessness frees us from an ego-trapped view of reality. We register a delightful glimpse of freedom that is mercifully non-rational and fundamentally non-argumentative.

Can it be practised? Sustained? Improved upon? I find these concepts quite exhausting and limited. The trick is just to relax and see.