Mystical Experiencer: Male in mid-fifties
Current location: U.S.A.
Age at time of experience: 26
I was raised Christian (Church of the Brethren). This church had no dogma, no doctrine and no oaths, and was a peace church. But it didn’t feed anything deep in me, so I stopped going when I turned 19 and went to college.
When I was 26 years old, I was an electrical engineer. I became an engineer because coming from a lower-middle-class background, I had convinced myself that having lots of money would make me happy. It didn’t. I remember asking myself “Is this all there is? Go to work, make money, go to the store, buy stuff?” So, I went to the book store and saw on the bottom shelf of the philosophy (or self-help?) section a book by Jiddu Krishnamurti, called “Think On These Things.” Shortly thereafter, my girlfriend suggested another book by Alan Watts called “The Book.” I had been reading both books for a while, and then picked up a second book by Krishnamurti called “Flight of the Eagle.” I was reading and pondering those books for a month or two……….
I was in my bedroom on my bed. It was nighttime (dark outside). I had just finished my dinner (Chinese food) and was reading (by lamplight) a book by Jiddu Krishnamurti, called “Flight of the Eagle.” Alan Watts’ book “The Book” was also there on the bed.
I got to a passage that read, “When you realize that there is no method, no system, no mantra, no teacher, nothing in the world that is going to help you to be quiet, when you realize the truth that it is only the quiet mind that sees, then the mind becomes extraordinarily quiet. It is like seeing danger and avoiding it. In the same way, seeing that the mind must be completely quiet, it is quiet.”
I stared at the word “quiet.” This is when my thoughts stopped completely. There was just quiet and emptiness. Then a few seconds later my body was filled with a rush of ecstasy. Like an extended orgasm, actually. But it didn’t stop. I looked at the food and wondered if someone had spiked it with LSD or something (I had taken 1/2 hit of LSD when I was 21). That was the only and last thought I had. Waves and waves of physical ecstasy, but not sexual or romantic in any way.
Then bliss. A feeling that everything was okay just the way it was. Spatial expanse. The outline of my body, which seemed like the outline of “me” dissolved completely. The sense of “me” dropped away completely. The sense of time dropped completely. All my senses were operating, but none of the information was being processed by my brain, apparently. Still, no thinking at all. The gentle physical spasms of bliss slowly dissipated, but thoughts remained still. I lay in there, in the dark, painless, absolutely and deeply content. Like my whole being was floating in a calm, warm sea.
Then what felt like a kind of “download” of information began. But it wasn’t in words or labels or concepts. But I knew it was information, or a type of cosmic wisdom. Perhaps it was other, personal concepts leaving as well?
Since time wasn’t registering, I don’t know how long it lasted.
Then, at some point, very gradually, thoughts started up again. A sense of a me returned, but it was very different. Time, also, never was the same again. At that point, the physical bliss had mostly subsided, but I was left with the pleasant floating feeling until this very day. That only stops when under extreme stress. Then it returns.
What was different was instead of being “me,” I now had a sense that “a” “me” existed. Apparently, my identification had been displaced into that great expanse. “I” was now more a field, centered more or less around (within) the body, rather than a solid point of view. As I then (and now) looked down at my body, I have no strong feeling of ownership of it.
My feeling that a past and future existed was obliterated. There’s just a continuing present. Not even any “moments.” I just move around in space, with no time recording it. The closest I could get to describing it was in a poem:
Now and again
I spent the next year or so at the library trying to find out what it was that had happened to me. I had no guru, no teacher, and no guidance outside of books to reveal what it was. Then from William James’s book “The Varieties of Religious Experience” I learned that what probably happened was a “religious or mystical experience.” I then began reading all I could by other people deemed “mystics.” Bede Griffiths, Thomas Merton, Meister Eckhart, Alan Watts, Tao Te Ching, Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads, Joseph Campbell, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.
While reading these books, the mystical experience would happen again. Certain phrases rang as true, or reflected that wordless download of information, and I had a sense of identifying with those ideas. It always starts with the stoppage of thought. Then the physical bliss, then the deep contentment.
I would estimate, that on average, over the last 28 years, it happens once every week or two. On average. Although the frequency of them vary, they always happen again eventually. The last two years I’ve been studying Advaita Vedanta, and that along with other disciplines, has made the experiences much more frequent and stronger. I now know that those experiences are merely glimpses or “free samples” of what is called “nondual reality.” In the last 6 months or so, I am abiding in this reality much more than “normal” reality. Never been happier…………
Within a year after those first experiences, I quit being an engineer, moved into a tiny apartment near Lake Erie, in Lakewood Ohio. I had some money saved up, so I didn’t work but just read and read for about six months. Fortunately, I had one friend who I could talk to about all this, who wouldn’t think I was going crazy. I told him about the experiences and how amazing they were. I asked his advice and he said that if they started feeling like a drug, then I should cool it for a while. He and I would visit Gethsemane Monastery in Kentucky for weekend retreats. He noticed a vast change in me. He suggested I go volunteer at a Catholic Shelter/food kitchen, so I did.
Out of that came two new careers that I’ve engaged in until today.