Meditation on No-Thing: Ayin Meditation
Ayin (nothingness) is fundamental to Kabbalistic understanding. However, there is an element of paradox involved in discussing it. Ayin can only be pointed to, but can never be truly spoken of. Once we begin to use words, we lose connection with Ayin, because Ayin is beyond all duality. It is the ultimate oneness. The use of words implies duality. For this reason, Ayin isn't written about often. It is one of “the names” or words associated with the first Sefira, Keter, and it retains that sense of undifferentiated divinity despite the beginning of emanation (atzilut) that ultimately results in the emergence of the physical universe.
The Book of Job (28:12) contains the phrase conventionally translated as “Where can wisdom be found?” (HaChokhmah MeAyin Timatzeh). The Kabbalists completely reread this as (the Sefira) Chokhmah emanates from Ayin. But there is an additional understanding that true wisdom comes from nothingness, and ultimately (and paradoxically) only silence can capture and express that.
Meditation on Ayin occurs in a number of different ways. It can be achieved by an emptying of the mind, but is more commonly attained by slowing down all thinking during other forms of meditation and coming into a state of pure “being” rather than “doing.” Ultimately all meditation seeks to achieve a state of pure “being” rather than “doing,” but as long as the mind is focusing consciously even on some “object” of meditation, there is still a vestige of activity.
The great Hasidic master Levi Yitzkhak of Berditchev writes in his book Kedushat Levi, “there are those who worship the Blessed Creator with their mind, the human mind, and those who are able to gaze upon Ayin, as it were. This is impossible [to do] with the human [rational] mind.” In order to achieve this state, the meditator must transcend the rational mind.
YHVH and Ayin Meditation
YHVH was understood as embodying all of the Sefirot within its four letters. Its first letter Y (yud) is the smallest letter in the alphabet and symbolizes the Sefira Chokhmah, which is actually the second Sefira. So where is the first Sefira, Keter, in the name? As mentioned in Chapter 6, the word keter literally means “crown,” and the yud itself has a tip at the top, which is its “crown.” This is the part that symbolizes Keter, which is also referred to as Ayin. When meditating upon the ineffable name (YHVH) you can come to Ayin meditation by focusing on this tip of the yud and making this your initial focus before eventually even leaving that behind.
Niggun and Meditation
One other method of entering Ayin meditation is through the silence after singing a niggun (often a wordless melody) for a long time. The niggun prepares the ground for Ayin meditation by totally absorbing your awareness in singing it over and over and over. When the niggun ends, you may enter the very full silence of Ayin.
Ayin meditation is difficult to sustain because of the mind's tendency to race, as the earlier quotation from Sefer Yetzirah suggests. With other forms of meditation, you bring your attention back to the focus of meditation; however, with Ayin meditation you try to bring your focus back to nothingness. For this reason, Ayin meditation is usually not recommended until you have considerable meditation experience.