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mystical presence

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Last night, another telephone conference with my spiritual coach. Our agreement is to see what happens when everyday obstacles are approached through the body’s wisdom. We’ve been meeting like this for six times in two months and each time the process of my individuation unfolds in amazing ways. (See also my post of March 6).  

This time I let slip that I was always anxious as our appointment approached, wishing the phone would explode or otherwise malfunction: anything but have the conversation. What’s that about? she asked, What goes on in your body as the time comes near? I feel small, as if I don’t deserve your attention. Go inside and sense where this sensation resides. How old are you when these sensations arise? Five and fifteen, I said without hesitation: 5 when I lived with my stepmother and 15 with my apprentice master. What do you remember from those times? I could never do anything right. Punishment was dished out swiftly and disproportionate to the alledged trespass.

What would today’s Peter, the competent and mature you, say to these boys? Again, my response was immediate and clear. I’d put my arms around them and assure them of my love and respect. I’d say that they deserve better, that it is/was wrong to be punished so undeservedly. Now what do you sense in your body? Waves of energy began flowing though my body; coming from the centre spreading through arms and legs to hands and feet, as if fresh warm water was bubbling up from a deep source. Dive into that source; expand your awareness. As I lay on the floor for several minutes, telephone tucked in behind my ear, I noticed wave after wave of well-being straining the boundaries of my physical body. Trying not to think about what was going on, I reported a dissolving of skin and bones and boundaries. My breathing became slow and deep, beyond the bag of bones I think of as “me.”

Such profound sensory awareness is called transcendence in philosophy and religion, meaning “going beyond.” Also known as mystical experience, this form of self-transcendence is marked by the sense that a separate self is abandoned. I felt no “me” and “it,” no self as separate from a larger world. I was “one with the 10,000 things” as Master Dogen put it 750 years ago. Except that I don’t know what this “I” was: who, I wonder, was observing and who found the words to describe what was going on?

Rumi, the Persian mystic who knew about such things, would offer this advice:

Observe the wonders as they occur around you.
Don’t claim them. Feel the artistry
moving through, and be silent.

image: © 2009 A.J. Bell. “Exploded in Time 16: The Gardener’s Bench” by my friend Arnie. 72″ x 48″, acrylic on wood.


5 responses »

  1. You wrote about feeling as if you “could never do anything right”.

    Sometimes it has nothing to do with the event at hand(something we have done), and we are simply caught in another’s emotional outfall.

    • yes, nicole. and then we (as children) incorporate the other’s voice into our ego structure and there it continues to work. thank you for pointing … to tomorrow’s post on the “super-ego.”

  2. I asked two regular blog visitors whether this post (and others like it) might be too personal. I did this because I rarely receive comments when I write with such intimacy.

    Below are their responses.

  3. Anais wrote: “I don’t think your blog was too personal in the least.I strongly feel that people come to read your blog because they know that they will get a good dose of honesty. I love the way that you put yourself out there and share your vulnerabilities. It takes courage to do that. When you share in this way, it allows us to learn from your experiences and to relate our own experiences to yours. I think the trepidation you describe at having a conversation with your coach is the same trepidation that others feel in their daily lives.

    Last night I talked to a friend who volunteer in palliative care who said that many times she thinks of reasons not to go and how much she dreads it. You would never suspect this because she’s such a confident person. Of course, after she gets there and is in the midst of her shift, all anxiety disappears.

    Sounds like your experience with the coach … confronting yourself and surrendering to the unknown. Your experience of transcendence is amazing, and could only happen because of the bravery you show in facing your fears. I will speak on behalf of your readers when I say that we count on your honesty. Please continue this in your writing. We can learn from no other source but the truth.”

    • Dez wrote:

      “I don’t think it was too personal from my perspective. Are you feeling vulnerable now for having exposed something from a tender place? I think it’s a wonderful experience to share with others. Finding out what is behind emotions so we can not be led by them … and now what has followed, meaning the motivation for this email. (tomorrow’s post?)

      I too have felt unworthy of taking up someone’s time. Yet another limiting thought brought to light.”


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