Meditation and Levitation


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by Keith Varnum

An old joke goes, “How do angels fly?” The answer is, “They take themselves lightly.”

One evening I uncovered the core of truth in this joke. Little did I imagine that the joke was being totally literal.

I was attending a lecture of Michio Kushi, one of my spiritual mentors, when he became very frustrated with his Los Angeles audience of several hundred metaphysical seekers. He was attempting to convey to us an understanding of the physics of life, the fundamental mechanism of creation and transformation in life processes.

Sensing he wasn’t getting his message across, Michio decided to get more simple and basic. He emphasized the fact that the core nature of all life is energy, declaring, "The world is all energy. Everything is energy. And if you understand that, you can understand the real dynamics behind how things happen the way they do in the ‘so-called’ physical universe."

The audience was comprised of bright, curious people of all ages and backgrounds. However, few of us were understanding Michio on the fundamental level he was trying to communicate. Exasperated, he switched to an experiential tack, announcing abruptly and emphatically, "All right. I'll demonstrate what I’m talking about."

Michio knelt down in the traditional Japanese manner on his knees, put his hands together in a prayer-like position, closed his eyes and sat very still. After several minutes, his body began to slowly lift off the ground to a height of about three feet. There he remained for ten minutes, suspended in the air several feet above the floor. Now he had my attention!

I was astonished, of course. Then I impulsively did something that, in retrospect, seems very irrational and even humorous. But at the time, the maneuver made sense to me.

My mind’s orderly framework of reality was being severely challenged by Michio’s airborne body. I needed to do something to psychologically feel more in control. If I was being forced to expand my belief in what is humanly possible on this earth, I was going to make sure the phenomenon was authentic. I had to do something that would give the apparent impossibility I was witnessing some sense of validity.

In a childlike way, I felt the levitation would be more real for me if I knew firsthand that nothing was underneath his body. I was sitting in the front row of the audience. I reached underneath Michio’s hovering body, pretending my only intention was to grab a notebook behind him.

I discovered Michio was, indeed, floating in midair! There was only empty space underneath him. Inserting myself physically into the incomprehensible picture before me made the whole scene more authentic for me.

After about ten minutes, Michio’s body gently descended to the floor. He opened his eyes and shared offhandedly, “Levitation is very easy. It is a natural, simple process. You all can do it.”

Then he proceeded to tell us how to levitate. He spoke casually, as if he were describing how to ride a bicycle, “You simply empty your mind and clear your consciousness. Eliminate yourself of ego and self-absorption. When you are completely purged of awareness of the small self, of identifying with the personality, you are free to move with the natural rhythm of the universe. You are no longer weighted down with self-concern and limiting beliefs. You are then able to utilize the electro-magnetic wave energy that moves between the earth and the sun, moon, planets and all the heavenly bodies in the universe.”

Sensing that he was losing his audience again, he paused and then elaborated, “On a hot day, you can actually see the wave motion of this universal energy as it undulates the air over hot pavement. You can measure the powerful effect of this energy on the ocean: this invisible force causes the sea to rise and fall, creating the ocean tides. You can see this pattern of universal pulsation in the rolling of the ocean waves, the rhythm of rock strata in canyons and the formation of sand dunes in the desert.

This universal, undulating motion creates all the spiral patterns you find in nature—from whirls in sea shells, twirling plant growth, twisted tree trunks and swirling ocean currents to water funnels going down the drain.

The natural flow of life is an energy wave motion, up and down, in and out. All the wavelike patterns and spiral formations you find in nature exist because natural elements are fluid and flexible enough to flow with the natural wave energy current of life.

When you become light enough, clear enough of ego-concern, you can let this wave energy move you as well. That's all levitation is.” Sensing his audience was close to grasping his meaning, Michio tossed out examples for them to identify with. “Observe children, dogs and wild animals tap into this universally available energy source. To them, it’s natural.

Haven’t you seen children and dogs in a park or on a beach as they run and jump all day without getting tired? If a child or dog feels especially happy and carefree, you’ll see them jumping two or three times higher than they normally can.

We all know wild animals have extraordinary abilities to jump and leap, as well as run long distances very fast and long. Indigenous, tribal natives who retain their childlike innocence and openness in adulthood can run 100 miles in a single day without being tired.

This is because they are light and empty enough to flow with universal energy. They allow the natural energy pulsation between the earth and other bodies to propel them. That is what the Star Wars screenwriter meant when he said, “May the Force be with you.” His characters had learned how to surf the Force. When you become fluid and malleable, you also can ride this energy and float."

Immediately after the lecture, I ran up to Michio, voicing my excitement over what I witnessed. He turned to me and smiled one of those accepting smiles I came to love.

“Most will not remember the levitation, Keit.” I protested, exclaiming that, of course, they’d remember such a fantastic display of levitation, not to mention actual instructions on how anyone could do it. He simply shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe some. But very few.”

Determined to prove him wrong, I joined the attendees milling about the lecture hall and questioned small pockets of people about what they witnessed. To my astonishment, the majority of the audience didn’t see Michio levitate; they perceived him simply kneeling in meditation!

A minority of the audience did witness the levitation. Yet, of the people who stated that evening that they saw his body float, only a handful stuck by their statement the following day. The rest of the witnesses could no longer remember having seen the body levitate!

I reminded these witnesses that they had admitted seeing the feat just the evening before. But they took back their words—and their experience. As one observer replied incredulously, "Oh, no. I never said that. I never saw that. All I saw was Michio kneeling on the floor." They changed their story and their memory by the next morning!

What an awakening for me! I was forced to recognize how strenuously we humans hold onto our current, familiar, thus comfortable, views of reality.

On three other occasions, I observed Michio suspend his body in midair for ten minutes in front of several hundred people. After each demonstration, I questioned people in the same way I did after the first levitation. The same pattern played out: admission on the day of the event followed by a retraction the next day! Seeing, then denying.

When I followed up the next day with professed witnesses of the event, most of them changed their story. Overnight, the fact of a fascinating levitation was demoted to a memory of mere grounded meditation. Only a few of the witnesses retained the experience of the levitation from the evening it happened until the next morning!

Furthermore, with the passage of time, even the few people who remembered the levitation the morning after, began to reinterpret, invalidate or completely forget they ever witnessed Michio float in the air. In other words, the further in time we got from the actual miracle, the fewer people remembered seeing it. The only witnesses who remembered over time that they witnessed Michio levitate were people who saw him—or another gifted being—levitate on more than one occasion.

What’s going on here? I asked myself. What a lesson in the filtering power of our programmed preconceptions. We only see what we’re conditioned to see. We only perceive what we expect to perceive!

Over the years, I’ve found this perceptual filtering often goes along with the witnessing of supernormal abilities. I call it “spiritual amnesia.” The mind works fast to cover up any evidence that contradicts its own rigid perimeters regarding what is possible in its world.

This malady is like a 24-hour flu virus. It’s easy to catch in our culture. The effects of the syndrome last just long enough to wipe out any memory of an unusual event that doesn’t fit into our expected range of possibilities! By the next day, the extraordinary event is either made ordinary by the mind and memory, or forgotten altogether.

In my career as a journalist covering natural disasters and crisis situations, I’ve encountered the invalidating effect of spiritual amnesia after every major superhuman feat that was out of the box—beyond the envelop or scope of what most people believe is possible.

A prime example is the seemingly extraordinary ability of people to lift and keep aloft heavy vehicles until a loved one or stranger is rescued from danger. In the making of a documentary on the subject, I found out this act of extra-normal strength has occurred at least once in practically every community in the country!

And, as with levitation, it’s usually only those people who have witnessed this extraordinary human ability more than once who are able and willing to remember that it occurred at all.

Later that same year, I fell victim to the insidious power of spiritual amnesia in my own psyche. Until a friend at work mentioned levitation one day, I never considered attempting this skill myself. Recounting Michio’s floating feat to my co-worker, I got so re-invigorated about the subject that I decided to try to levitate when I got home from work that very evening. I planned to use Michio’s technique of tapping into universal wave energy. Yet, by the time I got home that evening, I totally forgot about my intentions to levitate!

It was months later that some reference in my environment again triggered my memory of wanting to levitate. Again, I forgot my plans by the time I was in a suitable situation to act on them. The same lapse of memory and carry-through concerning my notions to levitate occurred many times over the following years. I usually remembered my objective to levitate when I was at work during the day, only to forget again by the time I got home in the evening. It ultimately took writing down the levitation plans on paper during the day for me to remember it in the evening!

When the auspicious event finally occurred, it took me several hours to empty myself of self-absorption and quiet my mind enough to successfully tap into the electro-magnetic energy force field Michio mentioned in his lectures.

Finally, I felt very clear and calm. My kneeling body started to lift off the floor! I felt my body rising. I opened my eyes, looked down and saw I was about a foot off the ground. As soon as I saw that startling reality, my whole body was immediately filled with the thunderous sound of "NNNOOOOO!!!!” This heavy, loud “NO!” filled every cell of my body, and I came crashing to the floor.

It took me years to recover psychologically from that “NO!” I felt very guilty, as if I had done something wrong and prohibited—like I’d committed some crime against nature. Several years passed before I tried levitation again. The same thing happened. I started lifting off the floor. I noticed that I had the thought, I'm levitating. I'm rising. And as soon as the reality of the floating hit my awareness, again, immediately, this loud, forceful, heavy “NO!” pervaded my body. It came from every cell in my body, and from deep within myself. I crashed to the floor.

Not one to give up on something I really want, I tried levitation again years later. This time I attempted my experiment with two friends, Giana and Steve. During an evening of intimate, honest conversation, I told them the story of Michio’s levitation. "Let's try it," they exclaimed in unison. Giana and Steve were the first people with whom I shared his story who were motivated to try to levitate themselves.

With all our excitement and expectation, it took hours of meditation for us to get quiet and clear our minds. When we finally did empty our minds, we all began to rise at the same time. I saw their bodies lifting off the floor. However, as soon as Giana and Steve noticed they were a foot above the floor, they came crashing down together. Watching their descent triggered me into “thinking.” I came right down after them.

Like me, Giana and Steve felt a strong sensation of shame and guilt—like they had done something wrong or prohibited. That night, we talked about our levitation experiment at length. But the next morning the “spiritual amnesia” had already set in and we all went off to work without mentioning the miraculous occurrence of the previous evening. And none of the three of us ever referred to that evening’s adventure again in the following years of acquaintance. I have since lost touch with both friends.

I often wonder if I could entice Giana and Steve to remember the evening we explored the wonder of surfing the waves of the universe. I often wonder if I could entice myself to fly again. With considerable embarrassment, I must admit I haven’t made another attempt to levitate since my exploits with Giana and Steve. I’m waiting for the right moment and situation. It hasn’t felt intuitively right for me to re-attempt flight. I haven’t gotten the impetus or clearance from my inner coach to undertake another experiment in expanding my known universe in this way.

My reluctance can be further explained through the inherent meaning of the word experiment. When we take a look at the Latin components, we discover the source of the word’s meaning: Ex-to go out of, beyond. Periment-perimeter, boundary, border, periphery. Experiment-to go beyond the boundary. According to Webster’s, another Latin root of the word contributes to a deeper understanding: pericul-danger, trial, test. Thus, experiment-danger in going beyond the boundaries—which is what a lot of us feel when we test the borders of our known world.

Through much exploration, I’ve learned the wisdom of waiting for intuitive guidance as to when, how far and under what circumstances I venture into new, uncharted territory. The perils are considerable in barging ahead heedless of one’s inner compass. Someday soon, I hope to get the go-ahead again from my inner coach that I am strong and clear enough to go beyond my old, known borders to enjoy “the incredible lightness of being.”

Bhagavadgita Translation and Commentary by Jayaram V Avaialbe in USA/UK/DE/FR/ES/IT/NL/PL/SC/JP/CA/AU

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Author:Keith Varnum may be contacted at

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