Archive for the ‘Buddha’ Tag

So there I was…   2 comments

I suppose I should describe what I think a mystic is and why I think I’m one in training. And why anyone should care about any of this, if any do. It’s important to me and perhaps fellow mystics-in-training out there will recognize themselves and learn that they aren’t alone.

Wikipedia is always a fun place to go for definitions and sometimes they’re even true. According to them, mysticism, “(from the Greek mystikos, meaning ‘an initiate’) is the knowledge of, and especially the personal experience of, states of consciousness, or levels of being, or aspects of reality, beyond normal human perception, including experience of and even communion with a supreme being.” And according to Merriam Webster, a mystic is “a follower of a mystical way of life.” Well, that’s really helpful. Not. A better one from the American Heritage Dictionary describes ‘mysticism’ as “immediate consciousness of the transcendent or ultimate reality of God.” Perhaps you’re getting the drift here.

So what does this have to do with me? Although I’d been deeply connected with nature and God throughout childhood, nothing prepared me for what happened when I was 14. It was Christmas Eve and I had stayed up late to just experience the peace of the night. I was standing by the dining room window and looking at the stars when “IT” happened. Whammo! Suddenly I was in God, of God, and all around me was God. I was God and God was me. I felt an ecstasy flow through me because for the first time I felt one with all and that the universe was safe and I was blessed within it. I was connected with God and everyone and everything in it. And that these words were and still are completely inadequate to express the exquisite joy I felt while in this focus.

This experience had a curious effect on me. Being deeply depressed at the time and incredibly angry with my parents and lashing out violently at anyone around me, I desperately needed some kind of help. I’d like to say that I was turned around by this and life became blissful and all was well, but that’s not what happened.

My life was changed somewhat and thank heavens for that because I was heading down into a clinical depression and I would eventually drop out of high school and become decidedly suicidal. This mystical event occurred before my depression became really deep so it didn’t exactly save me. Instead it reminded me that my physical reality was a far cry from that incredible peace that I had felt and only demonstrated to me how far my existence was from living in that special place. I felt bereaved and heartsick over not feeling this joy all the time and wondering what I had done to make it go away.

I would eventually work my way out of that depression and on into adulthood where the memory of that experience would never vanish completely. Instead it ran like an ongoing newsreel in the back of my mind, always there but faded and shopworn as I tried to replay it and get the same joyful results. I could feel a tiny bit of that inexpressible joy but never in the fullness of the original experience. It didn’t come back in completely at all during that time but the experience was sometimes repeated in my dreams and that kept it from fading from my consciousness completely.

There it stayed until a traumatic series of emotional and medical events forced me to go inward for help and in doing so I was able to open the door to the fullness of that joy once again. It was either that or go crazy and personally, I preferred joy over crazy any day. Since that day I have been able to recapture that experience again and again while in meditation, in standing outside at night or day with nature around me, and in the faces of people I see around me. I see and feel God in everything and in everyone though it’s not a focus I can keep all the time. I’m only human and it slips and slides around as I try to hold it in my grasp. Sometimes I can only get a glimmer but even that is a wonder. I think the secret to submerging myself within the experience is to not try so hard all the time to hold it still and to just let it be and it will come and stay naturally. That’s my theory, anyway.

I have an overwhelming desire to be of service to others because I feel God and incredible joy flowing through me when I am helping. I have no desire to let folks know of my service to others, a curious humility that has only emerged in the past couple of years. Before that I would have tooted my horn over every single good thing I did, no matter how small or insignificant. Even now I feel abashed about writing this but I do so because it is part of the message that I feel compelled to tell the world. I am completely at one with the Prayer of St. Francis in which he writes “Oh, Great Master, grant that I might seek to console as to be consoled, to understand as to be understood, and to love as to be loved, for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are reborn to a new and everlasting life.” And, I might add, that we are one with God when we allow the loving joy of which we are part to flow through us to another in need.

By the way, when I speak of “God,” I’m not speaking of a Christian Jesus, or of a Buddha, or Allah or Krishna or of any of the other manifestations of God throughout the world. I have no religion, no adherence to any particular liturgy or dogma. The God of whom I speak is the One who is all of us, All That Is, if you wish. I have no words to express this energy that created us yet It is a part of the smallest particle of my body and yours and the world I see around me. To me all paths lead to God (how could they not?), including those who walk the paths of atheism or agnosticism. It matters not to me if you believe in God or not. It certainly makes life more interesting, in my humble opinion, if you do, but it’s not necessary. That you don’t feel a part of anything, that you believe only in science, that you want “…just the facts, ma’am, just the facts,” that you believe that when we die we simply go poof and we are gone – that is your path and none of my business. God believes in you and that’s all that’s necessary for me.

No, I don’t feel compelled to write of the mystical life so I can proselytize my beliefs on the innocent victims who might read this. You don’t have to believe a single thing I say. Instead, I write because I want you to know that what I experience you can experience if you wish. I’m not some great philosopher, some revered sage or a saint in any way shape or form. I’m just another human, one more schmoe who is trying to stagger my way from birth to death without stomping on the foot of anyone else I encounter. I’m not Rumi or Meister Eckhart or St. John of the Cross. I am ‘only an egg,’ in the immortal words of Valentine Michael Smith.i I’m just a mystic in training and trying to make sense of my place in the world.

If you’re interested at all in reading about other ordinary schmoes like me who have had similar experiences and how it changed their lives, two good books are “The Ecstatic Journey” by Sophy Burnham and “Ordinary People as Monks and Mystics,” by Marsha Sinetar. In fact, the latter book is my favorite and when I see used copies in bookstores I buy them and give them away to others I think might be interested. We’re all mystics in training and it’s good to have help and conversations with those all around us on a similar path.

This is the first of many blogs I will write on how this experience has impacted my life and if you are interested how it can impact yours. God bless you on your journey, whichever God you worship, and may your path be filled with joy and love.

iStranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein.