What defines a ‘spiritual’ experience?
By Nancy B. Loughlin
Published in News Press on December 27, 2016
It was either an out-of-body experience or an inner-body experience. I can’t decide.
It happened during an afternoon meditation while I lay on my back. Blue and purple stones surrounded my head, my holy trinity being blue calcite, kyanite and amethyst.
I dumped mantras long ago. I couldn’t remember them, and, when I did, I fixated on pronunciation and maintaining a catchy chant.
Instead, I started visualizing color. I didn’t have to worry about words dragging me back to Planet Thinking.
Something strange happened.
As shifting hues of purple flickered in my mind, the image flipped to ribbons of ruby red water highlighted with white foam gushing in a towering waterfall. Intermittently, I saw flashing still shots of dark brown earth punctuated by gray stones.
Before I could register the shift, goosebumps exploded over every inch of my body, and all sensation of the floor and my clothes disappeared.
“What’s happening?” I asked out loud, semi-panicked, and I opened my eyes.
I stared at the ceiling. My body was a transparent jar made of nothing, and I was floating inside, gazing out of the shell. Love and compassion overwhelmed me, and my eyes filled with tears.
Ask a single question: Am I a body, or do I have a body?
It was that moment, lying on my living room floor, I knew, deeply knew, a body was something I had. I was a spiritual being having a temporary physical experience. This body was a suit, and I was independent of my biology. I was both a wave in the ocean and the ocean, and everything was beautiful.
Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh has written about the concept of “interbeing.” It is through interbeing we sense all barriers between ourselves and others disappear and experience oneness with all that is. In “Living Buddha, Living Christ,” he wrote a flower has no independent existence. It is a sum of all “non-flower” elements such as clouds, sunshine, minerals, time, the earth, and everything else in the cosmos – as are we.
Samadhi, the eighth limb of yoga, is that state of mind where you become one with the divine. There is debate as to whether meditation, the path to Samadhi, can even be taught since it is the upshot of the deepest spiritual work. That single point of focus beyond thought and language can be elusive since we are so riddled with desires, ego, likes and dislikes. After all, when we say, “Hey, I’m meditating!” is when we stop meditating.
Yet, I was determined to get back to that stardusty billion-year-old carbon state of mind.
With passionate intention, I lay back on my floor with the same stones and focused. I disoriented my senses with flashing lights. I banged drums and shook rattles. I choked on sage and incense. I visualized over and over erasing my skin and even shattering that nothing jar I sensed before. Nothing worked.
But, there was good news. As my mind wandered, peacefully frustrated, I realized that afternoon on the carpet wasn’t the only occasion when I tripped the light fantastic. Once, while hiking deep into the forest, the density of the trees stopped me from taking another step. Nature’s hum and crush invited me in, and I sensed for the first time I wasn’t just a solitary being walking on the planet, but I was part of the divine organism. While dancing, I’ve felt the rhythm of the music take over my body, some force other than my mind directing my movement. While running, floating in the ocean, watching fire or making love, I have recalled separating from my crude matter and existing as pure energy.
I’ll be on the lookout for more because contrary to my initial response, this was definitely far in, and in is better than out.