“One hot afternoon, during summer vacation from grammar school, I wandered around in the yard looking for something to do,” wrote actor Richard Chamberlain in his memoir Shattered Love, describing his 7-year-old self.
“None of my pals seemed to be around, and I was bored. For want of a better idea I climbed the walnut tree and sat on the wall, leaning back against the restful curve. A light summer breeze ruffled the leaves as I watched the occasional car or pedestrian pass on the street. I gazed up at the over-hanging branches and hoped some of our local feathered friends — mockingbirds, blue jays and doves — would come and visit me.
“As I sat there motionless, something absolutely new happened to me. I was filled with total stillness. It was almost as if I wasn’t even breathing, almost as if I’d become a part of the wall, part of the tree. And in this stillness I was observing everything around me with complete neutrality, with no thought at all. There seemed to be observation, but no observer.
“I don’t know how long this lasted — probably not more than half an hour, possibly less. I did not know what was happening to me. I only knew that my thinking went silent, and my sense of self disappeared. I experienced absolute simplicity and peace.”
I had two similar experiences — once when I was about 5, on the sunny lawn in front of our house in Effingham, and another time when I was about 22, watching a fan revolve on a pleasant summer afternoon.
Telling no one of his experience, Chamberlain recalled that he very much wanted to feel that sense of vibrant, alert peace again — but never did, until 60 years later.