A little night music

 

Nighttime at a roadside inn somewhere near Mt. Shasta.

 

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Banners of blood red and yellow clouds shining brightly in the distance turn grey silhouette upon a mountain’s edge at days end.

There’s a holy feeling as quiet descends across the valley. In communion I stand in an empty field singing to the night.

A bright flash lights the distant mountain kingdom where war sabers of cold and warm meet. The gods of day and night having one last joust.

A knight of the road dismounts his chuffing beast, fills its hungry belly with a sulfurous black fluid, and again flies into the now inky sky.

 

 

A trinity within us: The awesome prayer of the three-way conversation.

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Most prayer is for things we want and need such as relief from suffering or for forgiveness, peace, justice, love or health. But the prayer of mindfulness, of just observing and being with what is, is a prayer of communion. In this we are taking care of the God we find within us. In this way we bring the conscious mind and the unconscious mind closer together.

The following is a prayer that came to me in a half-awake reverie that called me to crawl out of my dozing recliner and get it down before it turned to the dust of consciousness. It went something like this…

“Musing on what’s going on in and around me I talk to my familiar, he whom I don’t share with any other.

Sometimes it’s as a prayer, deep, fervent, grateful or pleading and it is then that the third in me joins in.

We three are always talking though all too often I think that only the two of us closest to the outside are in private discourse.

But the third is always there, noticed or not, and always informing the conversation.

It is not the third who joins, but I as first and second who joins it. It is the primordial me that continuously touches but is often hidden by the chatter of the other two.

Lost in our incessant conversation and removed from immediate experience. Number one and number two going on and on in abstraction are often brought to kneel by the true touch experience of the third.

We treat our third as Other, apart as though outside but in prayer we hear it coming from within and as part of. When it comes to our table it is as though it’s always been there though we hadn’t noticed. We can only see this when we pay attention and are not lost in our own thoughts.

We are always in relationship, never alone, though it most often seems so when we are running amok and aren’t being quiet sort of like perennial kindergarten school children.

Afraid to look beyond the me of one and two all my energy goes into how I look to myself and to others and I ignore the void within me shunning the contribution of the third.

Nearly always lost in the meaningless conversation of the first two it’s only when he and I include the third that we touch real meaning. In the three-way conversation what seems like me and what seems like not me join together and no longer need perform as though we’ve got it altogether and I begin to see wholeness without the void.

It is the aware conversation of the three in relationship that creates the existence of fully being.”

Embodied Cognition: The enlivened Dream

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Not too long ago I was reading an article in the Jan/Feb 2011 Scientific American Mind Magazine. The subject was how body movements and fleeting sensations affect our thinking. This is called “Embodied Cognition.” It reminded me how when I used to give seminars and workshops in the 70’s and 80’s I used to always wear a light colored pastel sweater with audiences that I thought might be resistant, or even hostile to my message. My own research, though narrow, seemed to reinforce the calming and trust inducing effect this had on the audience. Mr. Rogers and his blue cardigan seemed to have it right.

In the article, researchers at Yale University found that rough textures in the environment tend to make social interactions go roughly and that while touching hard/cold objects in the environment would affect the perception of rigidity. The article implied that drinking something warm on a first meeting between people would increase the feeling of warmth toward each other vs. the drinking of something cold.

Physicality has always played an important role on our perceptions and our learning. Educators have known for years that children learn their letters and words easier when they use large arm movements to ‘draw’ the letter, or word in the air.

Using “manipulatives” while learning math principles has also proven effective in elementary learning situations. Adults build models of chemical reactions to extend their learning and to enhance the discovery process.

We also know that simulating an action while reading a story increases the comprehension of that story. This concept is one of the generating principles behind the effectiveness of Gestalt therapy and Active Imagining, both of which I’ve mentioned in earlier Blogs. Mentally simulating body movements has been a technique to help embody a routine in gymnastics or on the field of various sporting activities. When I was in community theater the director would have us go through all our movements mentally before the play so as to help build the action into the body’s memory.

Re-embodying a dream after you have awakened by selecting a prominent image from the dream and bringing it back into the imagination while quietly meditating can allow one to interact with the image and gain greater insight as to why it has visited the dream.

The embodied cognition effect also shows up when you journal a dream. The mere act of writing a dream down immediately after waking stimulates and reinforces the recall of that dream and in many cases the recall of many subsequent dreams.

“and Grace will lead me home”

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The other night I had a dream where I was being acknowledged for something I felt I hadn’t really earned. This morning I wondered where in my life I might be claiming unearned acknowledgement when I realized that perhaps the negative might also be true. Where in my life might I be rejecting acknowledgment e.g. claiming unacknowledgment? Then it came to me that I’ve often received acknowledgment that seemed to come from nowhere, unbidden and having done nothing to earn it.

This is the stuff of religions as in the mystical hand of the universe intervening for no reason into the lives of ordinary people. Some people would call this Grace.

Sometimes acknowledgment is just acceptance, assent and affirmation i.e. a declaration of your right to exist, just as you are and as an appreciation of that fact.

There were many times in my life when had not grace been there, I might not physically still be here. Many of us have those traumas in life where we wonder why we’re still here. I’ve been in a situation where in combat the person near me died while I continued to stand. I have stumbled on many occasions where I could have met my death, or suffered extreme trauma and yet I survived unscathed. There have been times when events have presented themselves in such a way that doors of opportunity opened that I had never known existed and I’ve walked through into a whole new world.

None of this happened because I was more special, or had somehow earned the grace offered. The truth is I don’t know why–why me, and why not them? Many of them certainly deserved it more than I.

 

“Through many dangers, toils and snares…

I have already come.

T’was Grace that brought me safe thus far…

and Grace will lead me home.”

–John Newton

 

That line from the hymn Amazing Grace speaks to me like never before. Its meaning for me has evolved over the years. The use of the word, “home” not only refers to a spiritual home, but to the place where my soul resides and where the body rests, or interacts with the other “bodies” of this world. In a very profound way, everywhere I find myself is my home in that it is becoming a reflection, or projection, of the home I carry with me. I consider it grace to have lived long enough to experience my life in this way, not that I’m always conscious of that experience in that I still need continuous reminders like the other night’s dream.

I hope you experience your life as the Grace that it is.

 

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OM

 

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I was reading an article in Science Illustrated about a team of scientists translating the shock waves from a black hole into sound waves that you and I can hear. It was said to be a low Bb tone. There was also a link to this sound that one could listen to. When I went to the link and listened I knew that I’d heard that sound before. It was a low rumble sounding like an Australian didgeridoo, or Tibetan long horn. As I listened I recalled another sound the sound of AUM or OM, the sound of the universe that many meditators use to focus and quiet the mind.

This also seems to be the sound of our sun. Yes, I know one can’t hear sound in space because there’s no air for the vibrations to pass through but the waves of electrons that pass through ionized gas or plasma can be detected and translated into a sound that our ears can hear.

This is the sound that the ancient Hindus described in the Vedas thousands of years ago. This sent a chill up my spine and raised the hairs on the back of my neck. Ancient mystics could quiet the mind and tune into a sound that represented the cosmic sound of the universe. Some might even say it is the sound of God, ultimate reality, the essence of all life, and the self within.

This ancient mantra and spiritual icon is not just another man-made ritual sound but the actual sound of the universe around us. OM is the connection of humankind with God. OM is also referred to as Pranava i.e. something that pervades life and is the container for the supreme, God or Brahman. It wouldn’t be too difficult imagining the universe as the container for what we call God and all brought to a singular point through OM.

As explained in the Hindu Upanishads the sound represents the four states of consciousness. The A sound in AUM or OM represents the waking state; the U sound represents the dream state, and the M sound represents deep sleep. And the fourth state is what is called turiya that is the sound of silence that follows the mantra.

So it turns out that the sound of the universe is also the sound of our consciousness i.e. our waking and dreaming mind.

To hear this sound permeating the cosmos I realize that only now the world of science is beginning to catch up to and open us to the spiritual world– a reality beyond our imaginings.

 

 

Peace: An expression of the ‘free range’ soul.

 

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If we are to have peace at any time we need to shift the inner and outer dialog from “How do we prevent violence, how do we make things safer or how do we get rid of fear?” to one of “how do we make ourselves peaceful and soulful?” You see the difference, from a focus on the negative to one focusing on the positive.

It’s a moment-by-moment choice to either act out of fear that is out of a negative context, to one where we choose to act out of love, to express our soulful self.

When I use the term fear I’m talking about the fear that one may experience in jealousy i.e. if you show interest in someone else or love for someone else that means less interest or love for me or the fear that if you have more money than me that means there’s less for me (note how close money mirrors love here). There’s also the fear that if you get to be more powerful than me that means I’ll be less powerful or if you get to be right that means I’m less right or even (shudder) wrong.

This is all ego stuff because that’s what the ego is all about. The ego knows that it’s small and weak so it believes it needs to protect itself and it does that by convincing you that you are small and weak and the only way you can overcome that is through protecting yourself from any further loss– after all there’s only just so much love, safety, money, and power to go around– right?

Wrong! It’s unlimited and the only way to access that power is through love, compassion, caring, giving i.e. the continuous expression of the soul.

Acting out of fear only generates more fear– it sells guns, security systems and elects politicians but it doesn’t make for a peaceful world. It only creates a fearful world with lots of guns, walls (both physical and emotional), domination, and hoarding to prevent loss. And because that doesn’t work to make us feel more peaceful we pile on more of the same– more security, more laws, more and bigger walls, and more restrictions– simply put guns never bring about peace, love brings about peace.

So if this were such a simple thing why haven’t we done it yet? Because peacefulness is not something external to us or something or someone we can manipulate to our will as we’ve been led to believe, it’s an internal condition– an expression of the soul. We cannot be peaceful without being in touch with and expressing our soul. And that’s what most of have forgotten how to do, express their soul– we choose fear instead of love, we choose not to find answers to love but to find answers to fear.

When we operate out of love whatever comes our way can be embraced in love– as a way to express love. For example, I don’t always feel love for my wife or my friends but I always try to choose to act out of love. I don’t love a bigoted message or messenger but I can choose to express another way of being that shows love and compassion.

Many in this country, or the world for that matter, have so walled themselves off with fear that they have become soulless. We spend so much precious time talking about banning people, closing doors in their face, building walls around ourselves, and restricting people’s freedoms which is all soulless rhetoric and only serves to rid us of our soul expression, of love, community, and the essence of ourselves and our lives. We need to resist the temptation to embrace the negative thus living our lives in fear.

We need to embrace our better natures and not those of our basal, more animal aspects. We are not what we think we are, what our tiny egos have convinced us we are. We are so very much bigger than that. When we truly get that, miracles happen, peace happens and there’s no need for the walls against fear.

 

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A spiritual path

 

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I’ve used a number of Christian references in my Blogs over the last four plus years and have been asked if I am a Christian.

I never really understood Christianity until I studied the Tao. That’s a hell of a statement! But the way that Christianity seemed to be preached, taught, and presented was all unintelligible, nonsensical, flawed and depended on a mindless acceptance of someone else’s interpretation. There seemed to be no soul in it, no spirit, just a lot of meaningless words signifying nothing, shame and punishment all punctuated with the phrase, “Thanks be to God”. And most of all, none of it matched my personal experience. So I ignored it for over thirty years. I continued a spiritual search, but without a clue as to what I was searching for. All I had was the irrational inner knowledge that I would know what it was when I saw it.

As I wandered down this meandering path I met many teachers, some religious, some spiritual, some fitting neither category such as my Marine Corps Drill Instructor. Hell, I didn’t even know where the path was sometimes, but I always managed to stumble back on after tramping through the brambles for a while.

Slowly I put together an image of reality, an inner map if you will, that would help me to make decisions when I encountered crossroads, forks, or dead ends. Slowly I began to see through the veil of misunderstanding propagated by most of the religious leaders and followers I’d encountered along the way. Slowly I began to trust my own internal guide, my own intuition, and my own sense of meaning. And though from time to time I continue to wander off the road feeling stupid and emotionally shut down my process of soul-making (now there’s a Jungian concept if ever there was one) goes on.

One night back in the 70’s while trying to decipher a section of Lao Tzu’s the Tao Te Ching and comparing it to H.B. Sharman’s Jesus as Teacher it dawned on me how much traditional Western thinking had screwed up the meaning and significance of Jesus’ words and how certain Christian mystics (read as Augustine) had sent the whole shebang running off in the wrong direction.

After that realization the teachers came rushing into my life, literally stumbling over each other to walk with me e.g. Thich Nhat Hanh, Krishnamurti, Deepak Chopra, Hermann Hesse, The Course in Miracles, Carlos Castaneda, Paolo Coelho, Carl Jung, Thomas Moore, the Gnostic Gospels, Marcus Borg, Thomas Merton, James Hillman, Ram Dass, Joseph Campbell, and Bishop Spong to name a very, very few. As I read and pondered, the words of the New Testament of the Christian bible started to make some sense. Through this growing filter of reality I began to see the path I was on and had an inkling of where it was taking me and the best part was that I now wanted to go. I now had a relationship with the God-of-the-path, walking side-by-side discovering as we went; It in I and I in it.

I attend a church because it’s a place in which to give of myself and it’s a place full of teachers when I’m open to them. It’s a place with a soul and it allows me to walk my path without shame. It’s also a place where I can plumb the depths of my own unconscious and find the gems of my being. For me the light that shines through the Mandala-like stained glass window embedded high in the stone wall above the altar is a metaphor for the light that’s growing in me.

My understanding of the life and meaning of Jesus may be quite different from most due to the influence of the path I’ve been trodding, but these folks seem not to care, content to walk a different path yet still willing to hold my hand as we go. For many, the dogma isn’t the purpose, nor is the history, ritual, or tradition the point. Like me they’re here to discover who they are, why they’re here and what to do about it.

And what about the Tao? The Tao loosely means “The Way,” not a specific way, not as in a rigid exclusivity, but as, in essence, the way of “what is”– the natural order. The Tao Te Ching is translated as “to become one with the Tao.” When I walk with God, I walk in the Tao. It is an experience, not to be found in words, or prescribed belief, or in translation by another other than through your own experience. It cannot be taught, though there are those who can point you into places where you might discover it and using tools that have been found by others to ready yourself for the discovery.

I can hear Jesus talking to me through the words of Lao Tzu. To me they are one in the same and they are leading me home. Thanks be to God.

Becoming your own Shaman–checking in with the Spirit Guide

 

For over three thousand of you who have written me with your dreams you have probably noticed my caveat at the end of each interpretation.

“Please note that the interpretation(s) that I provide are not the ultimate meaning of the dream. Every interpretation is but a hypothesis and an attempt to read what is often an enigmatic narrative. You the dreamer will know what meaning(s) would be your own truth by what you feel in your heart. If it resonates as true, then go with it; otherwise discard it in part, or in its entirety. I can only offer what the dream would mean for me if it were mine.”

My point is that each of us has our own inner wisdom, our own Spirit Guide that has informed our creative energies and guided us through our life regardless of whether we’ve listened or not. No Guru, or Priest, Rdreamtime.jpgabbi, Imam, shaman, psychologist, therapist, or dream analyst can tell you who you are, or guide you on the path that is uniquely yours.

And that is my purpose for this Blog, the website and the books–to help manifest your, and my, becoming our own sham
an, our own intercessions with God.

When I say, “You the dreamer will know what meaning(s) would be your own truth by what you feel in your heart.” I’m suggesting that this resonance is a product of your inner Spirit, Self, and Soul. This is not to say that the interaction between other Spirits or Self’s isn’t useful, or deepening. Experts have “other” points-of-view, but not “the” point-of-view, so the dreamer must actively include their own wisdom and not just be the passive recipient of someone else’s hypotheses.

It is said that the Shaman, or Priest for that matter, believes in the reality of their Spirit Guides whether they be Wolf-Goddess, Rainbow Snake, Jesus, Mohammad, Shiva, Buddha, or Abraham. They all reside in the reality of the imagining of humankind. At a profound level they are not just figures outside ourselves, they are all representatives of our true essence–they are our core wisdom shining before us as we look into the mirrors of their eyes. In short, they are us!

Through dream, trance, or meditation they come to us with ancient wisdom if we only had ears to hear. We are all born with the talent for this hearing, but as with any gift, or talent it needs to be studied, developed, and practiced in order for the song to be heard as it is sung in its purest form. And not just practiced through the mind, but also through the body, heart, and the soul.

Okay, it’s time to consult your Shaman.

Stand quietly for a moment before your mirror, empty your mind, and look deeply, lovingly, compassionately into the eyes of the person reflected. Try to forgive him, or her, all their judgments and criticisms of you.

“Put your thoughts to sleep, do not let them cast a shadow over the moon of your heart. Let go of thinking.” ~Rumi

Take a few moments to do this….

 

There is an amazing spirit watching through those eyes, smiling, and knowing. Knowing you as nothing else knows you. Knowing that you came into the world complete, whole, with nothing left out, and perfect. For a few moments just imagine the truth in that….

Now try to remember why you’re here–not just standing before the mirror, but why you’re in this world at all. Chant softly “Why am I here?” “Why am I here?, “Why am I here?”, “Why am I here?” deepening with each repetition and listen with no editing.

It’s that first thought that floats to the surface, no matter how trivial, small, or hugely big that is often the answer to the inner query. It’s only the ego-self that is judging the thought; the Self has no such judgments. For it, everything makes a difference, everything is important and it’s why you’re here. You might write it down quickly because the ego-self likes to fade to unconsciousness right about here.

Be aware that you’ll probably have to do this several times in your life because the ego-self is easily distracted and is constantly chasing squirrels and its own tail in the belief that the catching will bring true happiness, unless of course chasing squirrels and tails is your true purpose, then chase with intention and abandon–never do anything passively i.e. participate in your life, don’t just be the audience.

“If you knew yourself for even one moment, if you could just glimpse your most beautiful face, maybe you wouldn’t slumber so deeply in that house of clay. Why not move into your house of joy and shine into every crevice! For you are the secret Treasure-bearer, and always have been. Didn’t you know?” ~Rumi

(I’ve seen a number of translations of this quote and used a different one than the one here at the end of the last chapter in The Dragon’s Treasure.)

 

 

A heart meditation: letting go

 

th.jpgOf late I’ve had a number of people write about dreams that included the concept of letting go e.g. death and dying images, dropping things, toilet images, even ghosts. Many of the dreams also included images from the past such as a childhood home.

Because most of us don’t really let go of past hurts in that we tend to deny them, push them down, and gloss them over as in “what’s past is past, or then was then” that in and of themselves is appropriate if what you’re actually doing is letting go of the events and hurts. But most of us aren’t letting go.

We tend to hold on to painful resentments, feelings, disappointments, grief, betrayals, guilt, and hurts by storing them in the footlocker of our unconscious mind. After many years and as many memories we have quite a treasury of buried material built up. These buried negatives are something like radioactive waste that after time begins to leak onto the surface of our lives, poisoning much of what we do and think and feel. Most of this stuff seems to arise uninvited, in our dreams, or in troubles we find ourselves in in our waking lives.

We seem to armor ourselves against any future pains by walling parts of us off, or putting up barriers to protect ourselves from others. It’s a slow process and for most of us we don’t notice how much different we are as adults than we were as children. The free expression of the self is often subdued, or cut off, the playful part of ourselves moderated, or pasted on to make it look as though we’re being a free spirit full of fun, where in the quiet of our own homes after the party we nurse the effects of our drug or alcohol induced gaiety and wonder if anyone actually really liked us or bought into our act.

All these stored negatives over time close our hearts to ourselves and to others and weighs us down.

So what to do?

Well, following the theme of letting go i.e. of unchaining from the past, I’ve found that there is an ancient practice that can literally transform one’s relationship with the past and lighten considerably their experience of the present. In short, it heals, it dissolves obstructions, and it opens the heart to other hearts. It shifts our identification with the negative and helps us to resolve the unresolved. It can even help us to regain a positive relationship with our own bodies.

What is this magic of what I speak? It’s called, forgiveness. Really! It’s forgiveness that can heal us back into our own hearts. It’s the letting go of resentments and negative self-judgments. It opens ones heart and lessens pains from the past. It helps us to get back in touch with our soulful, playful self.

When we accept ourselves and others for what we and they are i.e. “as is” it includes even their non acceptance of us. It allows the mind to get beyond it itself.

You can’t force forgiveness, that’s just more of the same old squashing down of negatives that caused the problem in the first place.

A forgiveness meditation:

As with the technique of Active Imagining http://thedreamingwizard.com/active-imagining_291.html Close your eyes in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed and bring into your mind an image of someone for whom you have resentment. Make their image as real as you can even to the smell of them if you can.

For just a moment open your heart to them and notice your own fear, or anger, or whatever feelings that seem to arise. Keep looking at them and letting whatever your feeling just sit with you.

Now, look at them and slowly say, “I forgive you, I forgive you.” Watch your feelings as you do this, don’t do anything with them, just let them be there. Now say, “ I forgive you for the pain you have caused me whether you did it on purpose or by accident. Watch your feelings as you say this. “I forgive you for what you did, or didn’t do. I forgive you. I forgive you.

Watch the pain in your heart and see if you can let some of it go. Watch the person and let a little more of them into your heart. “I forgive you.” Let them be in the surrounding stillness. “I forgive.” Let them be as they are and in their own way of being. “I forgive you.” “I forgive you.” “I forgive.” Allow the distance between your hearts to dissolve. Allow them to be touched by your blessing and the potential of your forgiveness.

Now let the person leave when they are ready to go. Just watch them go and notice what you’re feeling as they go.

Open your eyes and sit in peace for a few moments.

The forgiveness meditation works but it often takes more than once. Keeping the heart open takes work and commitment, not to others but to yourself and your own sense of well-being. After many practices over time the forgiveness will stick and the heart expands.

 

Mystical Experience

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Many people over the years have shared their unusual experiences, bidden or unbidden, eyes open or eyes closed and all having profound effects on their ordinary state of consciousness. All those who shared seemed to experience a deep sense of connectedness or union with others and/or the environment.

Some people have had these experiences while in deep meditation, through their dreams, or while just walking down the street. There is for all a sense of transcending the self i.e. the ordinary self identified by name and body to a place of communion with something much, much greater.

Some years ago when descending from a hilltop building toward the parking lot below I happened to look out at the dusky glow of the city as it was slowly being cloaked by the evening light. My focus went to the traffic on the street slightly below me and made eye contact with one of the drivers.

Suddenly something else looked out from those eyes driving by. It was a spirit so profound I could only imagine it to be that of God. As I scanned other drivers this same observer looked out and saw a man standing on a hillside about to descend toward a parking lot. I was both seeing them and seeing me through them. The boundary between us disappeared and the stress of the day melted away.

I continued down the embankment with tears in my eyes knowing that something had changed forever in the way I was seeing the world. As I climbed into my car and pulled out of the lot and into the traffic on the street the experience lasted for at least another few minutes, or longer, or shorter, I don’t know because time too had stopped. Fortunately this didn’t last too much longer or I’d no doubt have ended up in a fender-bender.

This is what some philosophers call a mystical experience, though others might label it a brain burp caused by some random misfiring of neurons.

The phenomenology of mysticism was summarized in Borg and Wright’s book The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (Chapter 4 page 61) where a five-part description of a mystical experience was presented.

Borg suggested that the pre Easter Jesus was a mystic and that “If one takes seriously that the sacred can be experienced, and that people who have such experiences frequently and vividly may be called mystics or Spirit persons, then it seems apparent that Jesus was one of these (62-63).”

Though Borg was describing the pre Easter Jesus he was also defining the experience of mysticism and mystics in general. Borg’s description seemed spot on with my own experience as well as those shared by the many people who have written me over the years.

Mystical experience generally involves five characteristics; Ineffability: where the experience can’t really be described through ordinary words, Transiency: where the experience is somewhat brief, Passivity: in that they are usually unbidden, received rather than achieved, Noetic: produce a knowing of something not known before the experience i.e. a new reality. This may also include a sense of awe and joy. Fifth in the series is that these experiences are Transformative: they transform a person’s way of being in part because they see the world differently after the experience.

For me the experience on the hilltop above the parking lot was one of many I’ve experienced throughout my life all of which have shifted radically my vision of reality. Though my ego-self continues to insist that I view reality through a vision of separateness I know and am able to easily access the “knowing” that has grown from my experiences of the mystical.

I wish that I could share that there was some secret means for accessing the mystical spiritual but nearly all of my experiences have come unbidden though my tendency to give emphasis to such things as dreams, meditations, spiritual, psychological and emotional exploration may have left me more open to it. I have often had a dream or a meditation or rumination that I thought should have produced something deep and profound only to have it reach the level of interesting but hardly awe-inspiring. It’s one of those pieces of “magic” that can’t be made to happen but can be allowed or given room to happen.