Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Nature of Experience, some random thoughts

Wifey, Philip – your insights and introspections are very valuable to me. I think you have seen exactly what this strange business of experience is all about. AND, you have helped me clarify my own thoughts on the matter of experience. Thank you, especially, Wifey, for bringing up this captivating idea which, I hope others can chime in on.

If experience brings about change, then I think we can conclude that it was valid, if not, then, not so much, perhaps. For me, this is one of those rare touchstones that enables the spiritual quest. I am grateful to you, Wifey. Many, many things.

Not all change seems good. But that’s more in the nature of evaluation and relative consideration than experience per se, at least that’s what I think.

I began TM in 1968 and have had many diverse experiences during TM as well as after in Zazen, Śamatha-Vipassanā, Dzogchen and Mahāmudrā. (I have omitted Kriya Yoga as I failed to be able to take it or Yogananda or his organization seriously.) My first real experience doing TM was very, very real (to me), lasted maybe a minute and years later when I told some initiator friends, they started jumping for joy, for me! But it didn’t change anything for me or them, unless their getting all bunched up about it changed something for them.

My first genuine, life-changing experience happened when I was at University. This was during my third year in 1964. I had been very worried and distressed because a very gifted friend was ruining both his life and his chances for a career he seemed destined to discharge brilliantly. His family and other mutual friends were also deeply concerned. I was sitting alone in an empty lecture room pondering his fate and my own helplessness to affect his course of action when, suddenly (then, as now, I know this was real in my mind, not “real” in the room), I literally “saw” (as in my mind’s eye) angels ascending and descending a latter that went up and up, I assumed, then as now, to heaven. It was literally breathtaking. I have no idea how long it lasted, 5 seconds? 2 hours? No idea.

Literally I staggered out of the room into the sunshine (it was towards the end of May; 4 years later, at the end of May I began TM – relationship? questionable). I felt both wiped out and light. From that day onwards everything was/has been totally different from my life before that day. What happened? I have no idea. (No, drugs were not involved.) This is as close to an explanation as I have ever come. From that day I was no longer interested in Church or any of the religious ideas in which I had been raised. Everything was subject to scrutiny and questioning. I had had notions of entering the ministry at one point. Such notions no longer existed. I was, on the contrary, interested completely and unaccountably in Eastern “stuff” and searched the libraries for something about China and Chinese religion, although the concept of “religion” doesn’t quite say what I mean. Other than Christianity, there was no such thing as any other religion then, there. I was also young, inexperienced and largely unaware that there was a world outside the limited worldview in which I had been accustomed. That, too, began to change.

This experience continues to resonate as “alive”, even now, 44 years later, as does that first major TM experience; but the TM experience didn’t change anything for me, I have watched movies that changed me more. Possibly, that first TM experience impressed me, but I was so new at TM that I don’t think I made a connection between it and TM or it and anything else.

Four years later, when I saw a copy of Science of Being, my curiosity instantly peaked and when I began to read the book, that first line to be is to live struck me as utterly fantastic and exactly what I was searching for. It just seemed so right. So, maybe a connection can be made between the experience I had had 4 year previous. I cannot make that determination.

I really thought TM was “it”. But had Mahesh not asked me to stay with him in Mallorca in 1971, I would probably not have continued with it much longer as TM was beginning to be routine and life was not particularly fulfilling. However, I did feel compelled (I’m not sure that that is the right word) to continue seeking. I had thought that seeking more and more deeply into the promise of TM was the way to go, yet, because of Mahesh and because he kept me close to him and I did get more and more deeply into the “promise” of TM, and I was increasingly discouraged by its prospects.

I hope that this is valuable to others, to someone. If not, that’s ok. If it does help, that’s good, too.

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