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.