Today I am compelled to relate the story that describes the most profound spiritual experience I have ever had up until this year (Note: today’s date of editing is November 20, 2009 and a most recent experience that eclipses the one shared here happened on November 14th, but I will have to Share at some future date).
I believe it was 1996. I had been on a spiritual path for many years, and known about spontaneous spiritual “awakenings”, or experiences, that resulted in a person having a completely different perspective on life and existence. Those similar to the one described about Moses. My experiences for the most part from 1981 until 1996 had been of the “educational variety” (as per William James), a sort of slow progressive process of having greater awareness and clarity gradually over many years. Part of me wanted to experience the sudden cosmic enlightenment, but I was satisfied with my progress nevertheless.
I was living in Austin Texas. I was working at a state agency, but also driving a city commuter bus before I went to my regular job. I had to wake up at about 4:00 am. I was living in a rented room in a friend’s house on Lake Austin.
I believe the stage was set for my experience by the Landmark Education Forum. There were a few friends who were talking about the experience so I decided to participate.
It was a weekend program. I was quite impressed with the instructor, the various exercises and the transformation of one of the students who was selected as a focus of the instructor’s attention. I found the focus of the introductory program on discovering where our beliefs originated the most powerful. To question my accumulated ideas about reality, and the “facts” of the world, and how I had come to believe in them was something that I had previously never really considered. There was also an exercise in examining our greatest fears that was similarly powerful. Essentially arriving at the point that our greatest fears, to discover that we are really afraid of each other – people fear people. Then the question that arises from this is “why”?
I could write much more about the program, but the point to get to is to describe my experience. As a result of the energy of the workshop and the shift towards awareness I believe I was in a highly charged spiritual condition. I also had a friend whom I was sharing in the experience and we had great enthusiasm over the weekend. To this point my efforts toward spiritual development had been very mundane for the most part over about fifteen years. I was living semi-successfully, but also struggling in other respects. Life changes like a divorce had been weighing on me emotionally, but then living in Austin was a blessing for I believe the energy of the place is highly charged andmotivates people to grow.
My experience occurred as I was waking up on a Monday morning, after the weekend seminar. The alarm clock went off at four am, and I was resting in a half awake state. The radio was on and I could hear the DJ and the other radio personalities talking. On this particular occasion they were making jokes about a politician who was immersed in some sort of sexual scandal. In this half awake state I remember sinking into this very sad place where I felt it a travesty that we live in a world where it is acceptable to make humor, publicly especially, about the challenges of individual people. These thoughts of “who in this world doesn’t have frailties?”, and “who are these guys to be judging?” were floating through my mind. I really came to a near state of despair – and felt like crying. At that moment, the strangest experience I have ever had occurred. As I recollect it, it was like a small window opened to Divine Consciousness. It felt like God opened just a small portal, a window to “All Knowing”, for just a nano-second. And in that brief moment I was carried away into an indescribable experience of awareness. In no time at all I was given a glimpse, or sense of the power that had motivated people like Ghandi, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Buddha and Jesus. I was given a glimpse, but an experiential one which told me that it wasn’t supposed to be that kind of world that I was contemplating from the radio show. And there was a power that was accessible that could assist me to make a difference.
The experience was so brief, but overwhelming that I was totally astounded. I was taken to a place, a feeling place of great, great Joy. A place where I knew we didn’t have to let the world stay the same with the sorrow and suffering that we all seem to experience.
It was as if a tiny window had opened up to cosmic knowing for the briefest moment and I was submerged in the Divine Light of God, and it told me that I was responsible.
That I too, like the great beings that I had admired so much, had some responsibility to bring change – to free humanity from all of suffering. I had the distinct feeling that it was my time to “step up to the plate”. This idea relates to baseball: when it is your time up to bat, you go. You don’t tell the coach, ¨well coach, I’ll pass on this one¨. You just get up to bat. And you always do the best that you can. Without question. You stand, look at the pitcher, keep your eye on the ball, and each time is an individual example of “doing your best”. And in this brief span of time in the world, I experienced an almost indeterminable amount of knowing that I had a part to play.
Now in this moment, which I have no idea how much time had passed, but I am sure it was only a few seconds for a world of thoughts, and more importantly feelings to wash me away into this “cosmic knowing”, it scared the livin’ daylights out of me. Within a second of this “gap” opening, I immediately felt incredible fear. How can I live up to this? Why me? What can I do? I felt this conflicted sense of, I finally knew the power, personally, experientially behind all of creation, but how could I live up to the expectations, the responsibility. I was elated, exhalted, expanded for the first time in my life and then more afraid than I had ever been before. I believe, but I don’t know for sure, that this all happened in a few seconds. As the fear overwhelmed me, and I went to the place of not thinking I could do this, I physically curled up in a ball and started weeping.
I am not absolutely sure how much time passed. But I know I made it to work and proceeded with my usual day. I did call my friend and tried to relate the story. I remember that during the Landmark experiences, that he had been referring to a very elusive but powerful experience. And he kept telling me about it, but I had no idea what he was talking about. And to this day I still don’t. Because when I told him about my experience, I felt he didn’t have any idea what I was talking about either. I sensed that what I was describing was way beyond what he had been referring to.
I came away from this experience, even though it ended with great, great fear, with a sense of calm knowing. I felt more empowered and more sure of the path I was on. I am just realizing this more fully as I am writing this now. Although I am not sure what this experience was all about, over the years I have come to believe that a sort of seed was planted. That seed was to grow into what I am not totally sure.
I have never connected all of the dots, or even thought to any great extent, about the repercussions of this experience, but as I write this I know that shortly after I was back in college working on my doctorate. I had taken a radical and risky step to go back to school and pursue my dreams rather than just work a job. And I know that my work as a professor after finishing my doctorate, and as a research scientist has never been of an ordinary nature. I have always had this passion for looking at the big picture, putting things in context, having a vision for how can we make the living systems of the world work better and take care of the living things in a way that protects and enhances lives. I have never met anyone else who understands the broad perspectives that I do.
As a professor I just couldn’t see the purpose to writing a bunch of articles to increase the lines on my CV, with the purpose of increasing my pay, taking care of my own and being satisfied. There hasn’t been a time I could be satisfied with my own comfortable life while knowing that people are starving, trees and environments are getting destroyed by the thousands of hectares a day, while I publish words that go sit on a shelf that only a handful of people will read in the entire world.
I sense, as I reflect, that many of my creative capacities were enhanced from this experience. I may never know. After this, as I returned to academia, I found myself able to understand greater arrays of information. I have been able to examine the greater phenomena, like the Internet, while at the same time contextualizing that “on the ground”, as in the case of my dissertation which examined the Internet as a global phenomena, but then drilled down vertically to ask the question, how is this impacting people and the planet? I was interested in how small nature tourism business owners were using the Internet to grow their business, but at the same time I could see the astounding potentials of the Internet as a phenomena for changing everything on the planet. In many respects, the ideas contained within the concept of the “I Am Sharing” collaborative network encompass these understandings.
I believe that the book that I recently completed “A Vision to Re-Create the World”, is a snap-shot of the capabilities, or perspectives that were possibly “downloaded” from the experience described in this essay. I have no idea what ultimately is going to happen with all of the work that I have done, and the decision to help change the world. All I know, is that I will continue to pursue the things that I have been motivated to do. Not really understanding where the drive comes from, but knowing, without one single shred of doubt, that it is the right thing for me to do. And even though I have struggled as a very “non-traditional” person, and one whom people may consider to be a little crazy, that I know in my heart I am doing the best that I can – and that, ultimately, is all I am responsible for.