There are stories about people who literally disappeared. There’s the Prussian prisoner Diderici, who in 1815, while shackled to a chain gang, slowly began to fade, his body becoming ever more transparent, said witnesses, until it entirely disappeared, as his empty manacles fell to the ground.
Or the shoemaker James Worson who in 1873 bet his friends he could run non-stop from Leamington Spa to Coventry. Figuring he’d soon tire, they followed him in a horse-drawn cart and watched as he appeared to trip on something, fall forward, then vanish. He never hit the ground.
Both tales are suspect. It’s likely a manacled Diderici was thrown off a bridge into the river. Or maybe he picked the locks and managed to escape on a super foggy day. Worson actually began as a fictional character in an Ambrose Bierce story.
Even so, these tales have survived. Perhaps it’s because there’s something eerily familiar about them. On some level we all know what it means to disappear. According to the yogis, this is one of the 28 human superpowers or “siddhis.” With the right diet, mental focus, and practice, a yogi can learn how to vanish and reappear.
What yogis can do, anyone can do. They aren’t a magical species. They’ve rather developed the capacities that are latent in all humans. Occasionally regular people stumble into physically performing siddhis like teleportation, levitation, super strength, or invisibility. But it’s spontaneous, without control.
More commonly, people exercise these capacities in an entry-level way, in the mental and emotional bodies, as shifts in consciousness.
Presence or absence?
From the yogic perspective, there’s a right way and a wrong way to mentally/emotionally disappear: unconsciously or with presence.
In the unconscious version, we disappear in such a way that we lose both ourselves and the world. We vanish into nothingness. We may be a prisoner like Diderici — of our obligations and schedules. Like Worson, we may push ourselves so past our limits, we shut down, enter brain fog as the bodily senses numb.
In the conscious practice, we stay awake. We train our mind with the same technique yogis use when they’re learning how to physically disappear. We find something in our world that’s so absorbing—a chewing caterpillar, the sound of rain—that we lose ourselves and become one with it. We vanish into the greater world outside ourselves. We awaken awe. Awareness expands. We transcend the illusion that we’re separate. In this expansive “coming home,” it’s the ego–our personality–that disappears.
It’s a delightful and nourishing vanishing trick that replenishes vitality and creativity, just as a walk in the forest does. And it’s something I recommend doing at every new and full moon. Both are great moon days to lean into your human superpowers. Disappear into something greater than yourself. You can do it on the cushion. Meditating with a candle. Taking a walk on a beautiful day.
Recently I came across a master in the art of positive disappearing. His technique? Listening … to silence. Says acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton: “Silence is not the absence of something, but the presence of everything.” Let him inspire you to develop your “disappearing” skills!