Mystical Experiencer: Male in early sixties
Current location: England
Age at time of experience: 34
I had been a spiritual seeker from the age 6 when the question ‘Who am I?’ suddenly came upon me, and in an instant, I realized that existence was a great mystery. This started me on a spiritual quest that from the age of 15 became the main goal in my life. There was a gradual unfolding in my life that took me from Christianity to yoga, then a study and experience of most religions.
Finally, I found myself very attracted to Advaita Vedanta, particularly as personified by Sri Ramana Maharshi. This wasn’t a thing in itself, but more a way of understanding Christianity better. By this time, I was well aware of ideas such as Self-realization, and understood them academically, but had no real idea of what they meant in terms of direct experience.
Being on the spiritual quest whilst trying to live a normal life created great tensions in my life, and sometimes I could get into a depression/spiritual doldrum when I was making no obvious spiritual progress, and I was living on the margins of worldly life at that time. It can be difficult untying the Gordian knot.
On this particular occasion, I had gone to the seaside coast to enjoy the good weather. The train coming back was quite full and quite hot. I began to get something like a panic attack, which I assumed was related to the heat and crowded train. I started to do some breathing exercises to calm my panic down. Unfortunately, the sensation got worse and I began to feel that I was going to die. This sensation intensified despite my efforts to calm down.
Eventually the train stopped in the station where I was to get off. Walking along the platform station I was absolutely certain I was about to die. The station had some meaning for me because it was somewhere that I had had to go to school for six years, and various other events had happened at that station.
Gradually I felt that I was going to lose consciousness and I was thinking’ after all that, “thus ends my life in such an ordinary place’.
As I began to faint and fall, instead of losing consciousness, my consciousness seemed to burst forth from my head, like you would see melt water rushing to fill mountain streams, except in this case the mountains were of the same substance as the water.
My consciousness burst out in all directions and I could feel it touching everything. I remember there was a small building in the distance, and yet I was aware of what it looked like on the side I couldn’t see.
After this initial burst, the sense of my consciousness touching the environment went, so that I was experiencing everything as ‘me’. As if the whole world/universe was ‘me’ (my head), and I was walking around inside my head.
At that point, I thought ‘oh yes this is what is meant by self-realization/self-recognition, and that you are already self-realized’. I couldn’t distinguish between myself and other, it was all me, all SELF, but not in a way that would be egotistic (au contraire it was a humbling experience).
I actually started to laugh to myself, because I thought how funny it was that I had been wrestling with the world all my life, and yet it was Me all along. Like in a dream, all the components come from the mind, but they all seem like separate events. Maybe something frightening happens in the dream which causes you to wake up, and then you are relieved – ‘ok, ok it was just a dream’. It was that sensation-like a great relief.
I had to cross a bridge and catch a link train to my home town, and this sensation of ‘all is self’ continued with me all the time, vaguely amusing me, and also making me contemplate various scriptures and sayings about self-realization.
When I got home, the first thing I did was read the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ because for me this represented the ultimate teaching in selflessness in the Christian tradition. From the stand point of the individual self the teachings seemed challenging, but for the self-realized saint, all is self, so helping the world is helping self only.
Gradually over the course of the evening the sensation of pure Self subsided, but I was left with the memory of it that has remained to this day, close to 30 years later.