I’ve had a number of spiritual experiences over the years. You might call them mystical experiences. As a part of Lent 2016, I’ve been digging into my archive of spiritual writings to reexamine them. This comes from 2009.
I believe that all life has both a physical and a spiritual nature. When you become in tune with the spiritual nature of life, you are having a mystical experience. Some are quite ordinary, while some are extraordinary. They are real, but when they are over, they feel like the memory of a dream. They are over when you place your consciousness back on the physical nature of life, which is necessary in order to function. I believe it’s possible to be simultaneously aware of both physical and spiritual nature. This is a state of enlightenment.
So, how do we become “in tune”? Many different ways.
Most of the time it’s out of our control. It seems random. It just happens. Something powerful throws our spiritual switch (so to speak).
1.) A powerful event. A trauma. A tremendous act of love. A death. A birth. A musical performance. I call these a sacrament.
2.) A powerful place. Undisturbed nature. A church. A place where a powerful event occurred. I call this a sanctuary.
3.) In the company of highly spiritual people. When your switch is thrown, my switch might respond. These people are teachers, prophets, healers, or just friends. It’s communion.
With practice, you can throw the switch yourself. Certain activities engage the spiritual self deeply enough that the switch will occur. I would break these into two categories: sympathetically spiritual and directly spiritual.
1.) Sympathetic. The activity is physical, but it often sparks a spiritual response. Singing, gardening, painting, dance, yoga, sex. These are things that don’t just happen to you. These are activities you choose to do. Do them often!
2.) Direct. This is a primarily spiritual activity. Prayer. Meditation. Yoga. Being in the moment. The lines are a little blurry, but some activities are entirely spiritual in nature. You are directly engaging the spiritual self as a means unto itself. Once you are there, you might have a more specific intent….insight, wisdom, peace, love, or simply being.
When your switch is thrown, to fully experience it awareness is important. How do you know when you’re having a spiritual/mystical experience?
- Time becomes relative. If an hour feels like 20 minutes, then you may have been in a highly spiritual state. This happens when I meditate, swim, and when I drive long distances; anytime I become engrossed in the moment.
- When I experience any form of ecstasy. “an overwhelming feeling of great happiness or joyful excitement.” Many people take mind-altering drugs to experience this, but I can witness to the fact that they are not necessary.
- A powerful experience of connectedness. When you cease to experience the boundaries between yourself and creation.
- When you experience direct contact with God (whatever that may mean to you); visions, words, intuitions, nudgings;
- Your perception of your environment is altered. When your surroundings are transformed in some beautiful way or cease to exist at all.
- When you feel detached from your body. When all you experience is pure consciousness to the point that you feel unaware of your body or that you have come out of your body.
I’m sure there are many more, but these are the ones I’ve experienced.
And finally, what do we do when we have become aware of our spiritual experience? This is where drugs and true mysticism split. Ecstatic experiences precipitated by drugs are less likely to lead to action other than using more drugs. A spiritual experience can transform our way of thinking, our behavior, our perspective in a positive way which could lead to positive changes in our lives.
A mystical experience should not be wasted. Yes, they are novel to think about and talk about and become enamored with, but ultimately, we must ask the question, what good can I make of this? What can I bring down from the mountain top into the valley when the switch is thrown?