A Transformative Experience
No doubt everyone experiences a moment when the mystery of the universe reveals itself magnificently and completely if only for a few seconds. And those few seconds can change one forever!
My few seconds came one afternoon in my very early twenties. I was sitting quietly by myself in the middle of a large room. I had no agenda, just sitting there, thinking of nothing in particular, indeed not thinking at all, no thoughts, just a peaceful mind bathed without effort in silence. Then it happened.
The universe took over, swooped me up into the vast and far reaches of itself. I was the universe, infinitely expanded, all bliss, all awareness, all one with its simplicity and wisdom and profundity, with its joy, with oneness, with itself. I was free, gloriously free.
And then it was over!
The Effect of the Experience
For the rest of that day and for several successive months and even years, I basked in an afterglow. The gift of those few seconds transformed me. I beheld life and its mysteries without the complications and effort of thought. In those few seconds, oneness obliterated dualistic thought, made the experience impossible to describe.
The Limitation of Language
I can only stutter! Dualistic thought has tried and continues to try to understand that powerful, fleeting experience. Oh if I only had words to communicate to myself its essence.
Finding Echoes of the Experience
I find echoes and comfort in the words of so many poets, mystics, as they too try to verbalize their momentary glimpses into the ineffable.
Like John Keats, I find myself standing alone “on the shore of the wide, wide world…and think/ Till love and fame to nothingness do shrink.” 1
Robert Frost gives words to my ceaseless yearning and the difference those few seconds made: “I shall be telling this with a sigh/Somewhere ages and ages hence….”2
So many lines written by mystic poet Gerard Manley Hopkins provide momentary echoes for me: “The World is charged with the grandeur of God…./There lives the dearest freshness deep down things….” And “My heart in hiding/stirred for a bird, —-the achieve of, the mastery of the thing.”3
Radical Life Changes
Old conditioning around beliefs, around the nature of the spiritual journey, around life and death, around all that had previously preoccupied me and teased the brain into anxiety dissolved.
My questions now are so much larger and always unanswerable and that is as it should be, reminding me of the mystery that created us, that continues to create us and sustain us, that it is mystery.
And so with William Blake’s question in “The Tyger,” I stutter, “When the stars threw down their spears/And water’d heaven with their tears/ Did he smile his work to see?/ Did he who made the Lamb make thee?”4
The experience which in earth time lasted no more than a few seconds seemed when I was in it to be eternal, without beginning or end.
Benefit of the Experience: Eradicating Faulty Conditioning
I am deeply grateful for it. It reminds me when the dualistic mind continues to probe and try to make sense of the mystery of life, I resonate with Matthew Arnold, “…we are here as on a darkling plain.”5
Those precious few seconds gifted me in my early twenties have guided me, steered me through the subsequent difficulties that come my way. They help me be at peace with mystery.
They would have me remember that this “darkling plain” is infused with a confounding love, remember with William Wordsworth:
“And I have felt/A presence that disturbs me with the joy/Of elevated thoughts, a sense sublime/Of something far more deeply interfused,/Whose dwelling is in the light of setting suns,/And the round ocean and the living air/And the blue sky, …: a motion and a spirit, that impels/all thinking things, all objects of all thought,/and rolls through all things.”6
1. John Keats. “When I Have Fears.” lines 1,13-14. The Norton Introduction to Literature. W.W. Norton and Co. New York. 2002.pp.1092-1094.
2. Robert Frost. “The Road Not Taken.” lines 16-17. The Norton Introduction to Literature. W.W. Norton and Co. New York. 2002. p.1266
3.Gerard Manley Hopkins. “God’s Grandeur.” lines 1,10. “The Windhover.” lines 7-8. The Norton Introduction to Literature. W.W. Norton and Co. New York. pp. 1276-1277
4. William Blake. “The Tyger.” lines 1,2; 17-20. The Norton Introduction to Literature. W.W. Norton and Co. New York. 2002. p.1250
5. Matthew Arnold. “Dover Beach.” line 35. The Norton Introduction to Literature. W.W. Norton and Co. New York. 2002. p.896
6. William Wordsworth. “Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey….” lines 93-102. The Norton Introduction to Literature. W.W. Norton and Co. New York. 2002. p.1320