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March 3, 2006

The Face of God

"You can't have experienced that, you'd be a saint." She told me in an alarmed tone.

I replied, "Well, I did experience it, and I'm not a saint. My understanding is that it's necessary to enter that state many times, karma being bleached out each time, until freedom comes. I think that a saint would be able to enter that state at will, which I don't seem to be able to."

I had sent my spiritual director a poem describing an experience that I'd had during meditation. She had called me to her place immediately to talk with her.

I sat cross-legged on the floor of the room which later became my son's nursery. For the past four months I had sat there for twenty minutes twice a day. All I did was watch my breath pass in and out of my nose.

"You can't be a saint; you don't look like a saint. You're all skinny and angular." She told me. She seemed to be getting angry with me.

"Well I already told you that I'm not a saint." I said.

Inside, as I focused on the breath in my nose, I could feel threads of feeling being sucked into the center of my body. It felt like everything was collecting together. Soon my awareness was centered above my eyes and inside my head. I felt that if I opened my eyes, I would be looking out from above them; it felt like all of me was there. I believe that this is what the Christian mystics, like Teresa of Avila, refer to as the collected state.

"You don't walk like a saint." She said, "You don't carry yourself like a saint. You don't hold your chest out in front of you. There's a certain way that a saint will carry himself."

"Really," I said, wondering when she was going to start helping me with my concern, and giving me some spiritual direction, "perhaps it's because I'm not a saint."

I felt that I was placing my entire self before God. It seemed like a sacrificial offering, the ultimate: this is all of me, do with me what you will. As I watched, my awareness moved from the point inside, and behind my eyebrows, toward the back of my head. I watched that point where I had been collected and saw that in its place was a tiny dot, smaller than a mustard seed. It was an infinitely small point of perfect stillness.

"Your voice isn't like that of a saint." She continued, becoming increasingly angry. "It's thin and reedy. There's something missing from it. And you can't enter that state when you choose, can you? You told me that."

"Yes, I can't enter it at will. I guess it's because I'm not a saint then." I responded, confused.

It seemed that I was being sucked out, with no effort on my part; all I had to do was surrender. When I reached the back of my head, I began to move upward. A tingling sensation passed over the back and sides of my head and moved upward with my awareness as I watched the point of stillness being lifted too. The tingling sensation was like thousands of petals lifting. I assume that this is one way of experiencing the highest chakra, called the thousand-petaled-lotus. When the sensation reached the crown of my head, there was an abrupt transition of consciousness: I found myself in the light.

Later, I looked at pictures of the Buddha and wondered what those bobbles on his head were. I asked some people about them but I never got a really compelling answer. Some said that after he shaved his hair off and it grew back, it grew in thousands of little clockwise spirals. So then I asked myself and I realized that they represent the thousand-petaled-lotus; I was amazed at how blind I could be.

"Pride comes before a fall." Was her wise advice, "You're going to fall a long way." We sat for a while in silence looking into each other's eyes. Then she continued, "You should just thank Divine Mother and forget about it." I continued to listen and then she said in a dismissive and angry tone, "You obviously know nothing about grace!"

I've been into the light on two occasions, separated by a week. These things happened around Christmas 2001. I'm going to focus on the second time because I transitioned into and out of the light what seemed like hundreds of times on that occasion. That gave me a very clear perspective on what the light is, which I'll explain.

I used to really wish that I could go back into the light, but as I'm learning more about life, I find that I'm becoming increasingly patient. I have a feeling that it's possible to experience the qualities of the light in the context of being in a human body, and so I know that this is really what I need to be working on. This is what I am working on.

There is a taboo in the spiritual community around sharing experiences. The idea is that you shouldn't focus on experiences because you'll get stuck and not make progress. There is also the concern of spiritual pride, which supposedly can also hamper your progress. However, it seems to me that this is the right thing for me to do. Why shouldn't I share the most amazing thing that ever happened to me? Why can't I try to convey to people why I feel so strongly that God really exists?

I was in the light. Or rather, the light just was. It was infinitely large. Infinitely light. I could feel the edges of it at infinity. Or rather, the edges were at infinity. There was a feeling of love. But it was more than love, I was completely accepted. Or rather, there was perfect acceptance. And bliss! Oh the bliss. There is nothing, ever, that could compete with that bliss. Even though, as far as I am aware, I have not experienced everything, I know that there is nothing that can compare with the bliss. And then I was in my body for a moment. I was remembering being in the light. I had seemed to be in the light, because I had perceived it, and to me that meant seeing it with my eyes. But my eyes had not been with me, because I had not been in my body. And I realized that the light had actually been inside of me. And then I wondered how I could contain something that was infinitely large.

I was in the light again. It was so bright. It shines through anything. It illuminates everything. Imagine being in a massive room with white walls and a hidden light source as bright as the sun. But there are no walls and there is no light source; it just is light. And then I was in my body again. I could see that in our normal awareness there is light and there is dark, but that in the light there is no light or dark, there just is. I wondered what had brought me down into my body and I felt that something in my heart had tugged me back.

And then I was in the light again. It was perfect acceptance. It was absolute and complete forgiveness. But then it wasn't really forgiveness because there was nothing to forgive. And then I was in my body. I realized that I had come down into my body but that in the light, there was no concept of up or down. I also saw that being in a body meant separateness; separateness from others, separateness from God. But in the light separateness does not exist, because there is only oneness. The bliss comes from the perfect acceptance of everthing because we are everything. So there is no exclusion, and no hatred. There is only unconditional love.

I continued to alternate rapidly between the two states of consciousness. I will refer to being in the body as down here, and being in the light as up there. Down here there is me and the light, up there it simply is. Down here there is good and bad, up there the distinction doesn't exist. Down here there is up there, but up there is only up there. In essence, down here are many things, up there is only one thing.

I believe that the state of consciousness that I experienced is called Savikalpa Samadhi in Sanskrit. This is a state where bliss is entered through effort; I had to sit and focus on my breath. In higher states, bliss arises with no effort. One sign that I was in that state was that on returning, my breathing and heartbeat had ceased; so I had consciously died. Paul wrote to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15:31), "I die every day."

After having these experiences, I started reading spiritual texts and scriptures to understand what that was about. And it seemed to me that I had a clear understanding of them and could percieve their deeper meaning. These experiences mean a lot of things to me but I'll try to explain the most important things.

The light is God beyond creation. That light is more real that the physical world, the emotions, or the thoughts; it is our essence. That state of consciousness is a direct perception of our ultimate reality: that we are all one and that we are pure consciousness. God is everything and in everything. That light is pure awareness, and that is God, and everything is constructed from that; every substance, every thought, every feeling, every object, and every body. The state of awareness that we usually operate in, where we perceive separateness, good and bad, light and dark, pleasure and pain, is a delusion. It is real, but it's a limited view of God, of everything. So one day we're happy and the next we're sad. The good news is that it's possible to see through that and perceive the truth that all is bliss.

I recently watched a film called What The Bleep Do We Know which explains how the field of quantum physics is discovering that all, in essence, is consciousness.

In a nutshell, my message is this: I know that unalloyed bliss exists. I want to have it and I want you to have it. We deserve it, it's ours, and it's what we really are. And it's not hard to attain; and all we have to do is watch. I want to quote the Buddha, from the Dhammapada:

Wakefulness is the way to life. The fool sleeps as if he were already dead. But the master is awake and he lives forever. He watches. He is clear. How happy he is! For he sees that wakefulness is life. How happy he is following the path of the awakened. With great perseverance he meditates, seeking freedom and happiness. Work with care and attention. Live in the way, and the light will grow in you.

And from the Dhammapada also, an important message for me:

The way is not in the sky, the way is in the heart. See how you love whatever keeps you from your journey. But the tathagathas, "they who have gone beyond", have conquered the world. They are free. The way is not in the sky, the way is in the heart.

"Thank you for sharing your experience. I too don't believe that sharing our spiritual experiences is harmful. What are people afraid of about sharing their joy and bliss? What are they in fear about if God is really love and bliss? Makes you wonder just how enlightened they really are?"

"I was inspired by your sharing and encouraged to continue my own practice. Your story helps to demystify spiritual experiences and sends the message that they are available to all. Spiritual experience comes from the Buddha mind, which is our real mind. Ego is a trap and we all have the capacity to self-monitor it, but fear that we will fall from the path is another trick of ego. I am learning that discriminating between what is ego and what is not is essential to making progress."

— John

"Duncan, the gift is that you can describe your expierence so fully that (for me) my heart responds in such a way that I know that we have shared truth. You live in grace. Thank you again." — Trish


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