Jim's Mystical Experience Meme

23 Jan 2009

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[A] religious experience (also known as a spiritual, sacred, or mystical experience) is an altered state of consciousness where an individual reports contact with a transcendent reality, an encounter or union with the divine. ~Wikipedia

I was just doing a mental inventory this morning of my encounters with religious or spiritual experiences. As a young Catholic, I'd heard about these things for the first time in a sort of roundabout way. It's not like they sit 10-year-old kids down in Catholic school one day and say, "Okay, now we're going to discuss what it's like to be overcome with rapturous mystical exaltation." Rather, the knowledge is passed on through stories -- for example, St. Teresa of Avila -- from which students, when so included, may infer their own personal lessons. Here's St. Teresa's thoughts on the topic, as nicely paraphrased by a Wikipedia contributor:

"Sense activity ceases; memory and imagination are also absorbed in God or intoxicated. Body and spirit are in the throes of a sweet, happy pain, alternating between a fearful fiery glow, a complete impotence and unconsciousness, and a spell of strangulation, intermitted sometimes by such an ecstatic flight that the body is literally lifted into space. This after half an hour is followed by a reactionary relaxation of a few hours in a swoon-like weakness, attended by a negation of all the faculties in the union with God. From this the subject awakens in tears ; it is the climax of mystical experience, productive of the trance." (emphasis mine, to be discussed below) ~ from the Wiki article on St. Teresa

As a kid, I believe I'd initially opened myself to the possibility that this sort of thing could indeed happen to anyone. However, in my case, an unusual event jarred me from that mindset. The paradigm-shifting event is described in the opening to my screenplay, "Wood's Confection": A child, looking upon an elder, believes the elder is experiencing the throes of a religious experience. However, the child immediately learns that said presumed blissfully tearful elder was in fact actually choking. So, yeah, I hit upon a strong vein of agnosticism at age 11.

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While I'm certainly full of paranormal stories -- as are all Midwesterners -- nothing else that I perceived as truly mystical or spiritual happened to me until the age of 25 (though there were scattered profound and/or unexplainable occurrences along the way that, while extraordinary, did not constitute a St. Teresa-esque episode). But, at 25, I was in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on my honeymoon with my wife. I'd written about this privately before. Here's a snippet:

We'd been visiting a Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka. I believe this was in Colombo, where our friend Kamanee lives, though it could have been up in the hill stations where we also visited. But, I vividly recall standing before an enormous Buddha when Kamanee told me that I should take a private moment with my thoughts there and think about life, the universe, and everything, so to speak. Wendi and I were on our honeymoon then, traveling through India and Sri Lanka.
So, I approached the massive statue and sat for a bit. I began to consider my happiness and decided to make a mental "wish" of sorts. I thought: If reincarnation is true, then it is my wish to meet Wendi again in the next life, and return here with her so that I can make the same wish again.
It was satisfying to do. But, later, the impossibility of it all hit me hard. What are the chances I'd have even met her -- a Missouri boy meeting a small-town Pennsylania girl, all based on a chance snowstorm and a lucky snowball throw, that we'd fall in love, that she'd lead me to India, that we'd visit Sri Lanka, and that I'd think to make that wish? What struck me as the most spiritual moment of my whole life was not the emotional bond I felt with her leading me to wish that, but the notion that this was not the first time I'd been there making that wish with her by my side. I was there because I'd been there before, making that same wish. It was an incredible feeling.

Others may not, of course, view that story as a spiritual experience. I suppose part of what constitutes one is subjective perception. Put two people on a crowded Manhattan street and one may view that environment as stressful or frightening while the other is moved beyond words by the sheer magic of it all. So, sure, it's partly subjective.

I've touched on all of this stuff before, so I won't explore it too deeply again now. But, I did want to simply record something that happened to me last Sunday evening, and also poll any passers-by with a question. First, my own experience:

It happened to me while sleeping, though, upon reflection, I still do not regard it as a dream. In this experience, I (and , when I say "I," I suppose I mean my soul, spirit, or some kind of astral representation of myself) visited a guru. I know who it was, too. It was Paramahamsa Nithyananda, an Indian guru I'd come to know of via my wife's recommendation that I watch some of his YouTube videos.

In this experience, it was as if I'd been waiting in some sort of "cue" for a while (though I wasn't aware of it). At some point, it was my turn to approach and have a consultation (it seeming perfectly reasonable to me, upon reflection, that an enlightened master might very well keep "astral office hours"). So, I sort of floated up toward him (not sure how, exactly -- it wasn't like I was purposely floating or having one of those flying dreams we all love so much) and began having an exchange.
Though our forms were spirit, they resembled human form, though mine, as I recall, seemed less solid as his. This more "solid"-appearing realm, in other words, was his; I'd traveled there to see him through a vast void, my body some kind of a nonentity, almost like a weightless physical form, slightly luminous, viewed through a scrim. Yet, we communicated normally. The world there was earthy. He was reclined on a stone, eyes closed, an ancient tree behind him. He wore only a simple pair of brown kurta pajama pants. His countenance the whole time, even as he spoke, indicated enlightenment, bliss ...
Unfortunately, I no longer recall all of the exchange. There was a part during which he asked me to seek out some stones. Wish I could recall the details. I remember seeing a blue stone and maybe a red one. And there was some significance to a square stone. But what this all meant escaped me. I don't think it was like a quest or anything like that. My recollection is that there was some potential lesson I might learn by meditating on these particular items.
Toward the end of our exchange, I'd asked him one other critical question -- one that I believe I remembered upon waking but it escapes me now. He replied, "I cannot answer that because I'm not your guru." I began to drift away, but willed myself to return and ask him one more question. I said, "May I ask you one more question?" He smiled, indicating yes. I said, "If you're not my guru, who is?"
Again, the memory gets a bit hazy. I seem to recall that he sort of smiled a bit and touched my forehead. The moment his "being" (or form or whatever) made contact with my forehead, it sent me into the deepest state of meditation I've ever experienced.
I can't claim to know the depths attainable via meditation. But, I've been meditating nearly each morning for the past four months or so, so I'm at least marginally familiar with these states and have at times glimpsed the possibilities, if even from afar. This was a "whole nuther" ball game. It was intense to the point of being frightening. I felt as though my energy had dissipated into a million tiny points of light and was being reabsorbed into some kind of universal pool of energy, every last grain of ego dissolving into some great sea.
During the moment, it struck me that, if I gave in to it fully, blissfully alarming as it was, I might never return. In other words, I believed my physical body would perish. I paniced and began fighting it, pulling myself together and struggling to emerge from the trance. I saw my wife sleeping and called out for her desperately -- and then suddenly I was back in my bed. Can't recall if she woke me, of if I woke myself somehow. My heart was racing, I felt sweaty head to toe, I was trembling almost to the point of convulsing, and just kind of unabashedly sobbing.
It wasn't like a dream, though; it was more of an experience. Through the trembling, I think the first thing I said to her was, "I saw the guru." I then relayed the whole story, much as I've just written (although it was certainly clearer at the time). She thought we should write it down, so she went scrambling around in the dark (it being nearly 4:00 a.m.) for a pen. By then I'd sat up. This was a mistake, she said, explaining that you should remain in the same position you were in while sleeping in order for your recall to be optimal. So, maybe I blew it upon sitting up. Some details just left me ...
Now, I DO have a lot of wonderful dreams, always in vivid color, sometimes silly, sometimes adventurous, some darker than others in theme. But, this simply wasn't dream-like at all. I know the story sounds perfectly dreamlike, but there was a whole mystical quality to it that I have not adequately captured. Usually, when I look back at a dream, there are elements of non-reality lurking here and there. This was TOO real.
I honestly believe that I did not dream, but rather had, this unusual encounter, and that this guru gave me a bit of a "push." At once, he seemed to be saying two things: First, it was clearly some kind of energy awakening, via which I was granted a glimpse of something I was clearly not yet spiritually prepared for, yet invited to experience first-hand, perhaps as a gesture of future possibilities. I don't know a lot about this topic, but my intuition tells me that, for about 5 seconds, I was falling into some kind of deep samadhi. (I could be totally wrong on that, I'll admit. But, whoa, it was like nothing I've ever experienced.)
Second, by touching my forehead, he seemed to be providing a metaphorical response to my question. I'd asked who my guru was ... The answer, it seems, was to look within. In fact, I think that was probably his main point. (I think that little stunt about sending me into a deep samadhi was probably a fun little trick that gurus do from time to time to welcome aspirants to the path, as it were. But, hey, it's all good ... I lived to tell the tale.)

The question: Has anyone else had a profound spiritual experience? If so, I'd like to read about it -- either told in the comments section, or via a link to your own blog or site where you talk about it at length. Consider it Jim's spiritual experience meme. Pass it on ...

Original Comments

Below, are the original comments on this post. Additional comments may be made via Facebook, below.

On January 24, 2009, Jim Dee wrote:

Cap'n: Chances are we're having a little shin-dig of sorts on Feb 21 or 22 (not quite sure yet). It's not a beer & wings kind of thing -- more of a raw food / green smoothie / sit around & discuss health & nutrition kind of party (just how we roll round here). You're certainly welcome to stop in & stay over (as are other blog friends of mine). If you like, I'll drop you a line once the date's set.

Chris: Wow, your blog's *gone*!! That must've been one hell of a tough decision. I hope you're not being too hard on yourself over it.(Hopefully you at least saved all of your writing!) Strange, though ... a few clicks and kapoof, years of work disappear. You still writing on your own (not publicly)?

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