James R's Experience
The unexpected experience
On another summer night, not too long after my encounter with the abbot, January 2007 between the 18th and 20th, I was listening to Yahoo Radio on my headphones while typing on the computer. A variety of random songs and music from different genres transmitted from the massive on-line data base, many I had never heard before.
By about nine p.m. I noticed that I was hearing songs in a way I never had before. I seemed to be entering more deeply than usual into the mind of the writer and understanding what was being emotionally conveyed. So I kept listening. I felt the sorrows and joys of others as they spoke to me in song. I felt the tragic beauty in the passions, lost hopes and brevity of life as experienced by other people. There was a collision of sadness and beauty, a kind of majestic sorrow. I wondered if it was due to being fifty six years of age and being able to relate to many situations in life. Shivers repeatedly rose in waves up my spine from its base. I could not recall ever enjoying music to such an extent.
I could get up and go to the bathroom or get a drink of chilled water from the kitchen without losing the spinal effect. I then returned to the headphones and Yahoo Radio on the computer.
The shivers of pleasure continued to rise in waves up my spine and began to intensify and surge down my legs and up my arms. The base of my head, at the rear, where the spine joins the skull was hit by waves of exquisite sensation with each new song. It felt like a hand was gripping the upper back of my neck where it meets the skull, and channeling in high voltage pleasure direct to my brain. After each wave of energy up my spine, this sensation did not totally subside, but seemed to remain as a scintillation of increased magnitude higher than the level before it.
I became concerned as the euphoric physical effects intensified and extended in duration. I checked my pulse by the clock to see if I had an elevated heart rate associated with panic attacks. My pulse was normal and steady and my body felt very, very relaxed. I had the sensation of settling or falling back, deeper within my body, as the experience continued. My mind was paradoxically calm, intensely present, sharply aware and my cognition totally functioning and nimble.
The waves of sensation up my spine became a volcanic rush that entered my head. I was thinking Oh, Oh, Oh! Awesome! Go with it!Ł Rivers of energy flowed outwards along my limbs. By now it was after midnight. My body felt almost weightless. I felt immense power flowing through my body. At one point I looked at my hands and they felt so full of the sensation of energy and so insubstantial that I wondered if they might pass through the wall if I tried. I touched the wall out of curiosity and my hand was certainly still solid as it touched the wall! It was just that could not feel my hand.
It went on and on, hour after hour as powerful waves of surging energy, ever intensifying. I was totally immersed in intense ecstasy. Suddenly, there was another huge rush of energy upwards. I found my locus of consciousness now resting in the centre of my head as a tiny pin point. The room I was sitting in had totally disappeared from sight. It was dark and comforting in the centre of my brain. Then, with a final atomic eruption I could feel rising beneath this tiny meŁ, my centre of total awareness burst forth from the top of my head as that tiny point in a massive torrent of energy that felt like a clear, cool viscous liquid, and my awareness emerged into a infinite yet intimate space like an endless ocean where I felt connected to all things in the cosmos. I thought, Huh! I must have died! Oh well, itÖs not so bad.Ł I had no fear. I was merely a point of consciousness with no body at all. I was overcome with immense gratitude for the privilege of having been alive, and for my life with its joys as well as its sorrows and the total improbability of just being. I thanked God.
Following on was an instantaneous, total life review. It was like viewing a three hundred and sixty degree panoramic picture screen with all of my life events played out simultaneously. Many of the things I had thought very significant in my life were not at all important. My preconceptions of right and wrong melted away. I did not feel judged in any way, I felt completely accepted. Everything was meaningful in my life and nothing I had experienced was wasted. The only things that now mattered in my past life were the times I had shown loving compassion to other people and living things. Then I felt enormous, limitless, feelings of joy, love, compassion and empathy for humankind and all living things. I felt intimate kinship with all humanity. I somehow was The Divine Mother with a heart for all my suffering beings and wanted to encompass them in arms of love and mercy and tell them everything was all right and always had been. Everything was perfect and always had been and always would be. At this stage I did not see anything with my sight that I can remember but I had total perception. How can one describe such a thing? It was not a vision, it was total involvement. I am not sure how long I experienced this state, as I lost all sense of time in this limitless state. I did not feel I was experiencing or meeting anything resembling my previous concepts or ideas about God. I felt I was God or was of one substance with Him-Her-It. My form then changed and I became the dancing One with four arms, [Shiva Nataraj]. I was the dancing divine current of living energy. I was the Lord of the Cosmic Dance. I was identical with the cosmic, playful tumult and buzz of eternal intelligent energy. I danced, immeasurably powerful as I encompassed the universe and far beyond. My exultation and freedom knew no bounds. [I had no previous attraction to or preoccupation with Shiva before that moment that I can remember apart from a strong positive reaction to a song about Jesus in church in the 1970Ös, Lord of the Dance.] To speak of personal identity when in such a state is meaningless. The human I had been was no more. It was total personal obliteration.
By two thirty am I came down from the great space through the top of my head, as the tiny point of consciousness. My body was in a highly energized state. I found myself with eyes open still sitting at the computer with my hands on the desk, staring at the screen. I thought, Nothing can compare with such an experience, no accomplishment, no scientific discovery, nor any experience on earth can match it. One may have all the resources, all the money, all the women and all the intelligence on earth but nothing can match this. Everyone should have this experience at least once!Ł
It felt like had won the Lotto, some vast sum of money. All desires and wishes granted. Nothing left to do or say; completion.
My body was feeling pleasantly tired and sleepy. As I walked down the passage it felt like I was walking lightly, on pillows. I felt weightless. I had the sensation of being in two places at once. One in my body and one up above my body somewhere, looking down. I could see myself walking down the passage to the kitchen from above. I went to bed and drifted off. I was a buzzing mass of energy. Though sleepy, I felt carefree, new, fresh, blissful, happy, full of laughter, totally present and focused. I slept the profoundest, sweetest and most dreamless of sleeps.
The next day I awoke still buzzing all over with energy. I still felt new, peaceful, untroubled and joyful. I thought to myself, That was, and still is, a most therapeutic experience! I wonder if such experiences can be triggered in everyone else. I had no idea my brain could do that!Ł I remembered the readings of my youth about the rising of the Kundalini and thought, Perhaps this is Kundalini. The experience appears to be authentic, although perhaps not divine. If only someone had been there to take blood samples and wire my head to an EEG! I wonder if this is replicable?Ł
There had been absolutely no drugs or alcohol involved and I was in peak mental, emotional and physical condition at the time. Leading up to this event was the happiest and most contented period I could remember in my life. This was something totally
The bus ride to work was like the first bus ride of my life, colors around me were bright and vivid like the world had just been made. My whole past life seemed to have receded to a faint harmless memory. The lights were certainly on inside but I was no longer sure who was home.
I attended work that day at 12 noon at my part-time job in Bunnings Timer and Trades Department. During the day a customer who I had never seen before suddenly said, I feel so peaceful around you. Thank you for speaking with me.Ł I was inwardly puzzled, as I had said nothing at all different to any other day at work. I did, however, feel a heightened awareness of other people and a general sense of benevolence. I guessed it was evident in my demeanor.
At the time of your experience was there an associated life-threatening event? Uncertain My heart may have stopped as I sometimes have had irregular heart rates
Was the experience difficult to express in words?....Yes....see story
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness?....More consciousness and alertness than normal Some time after midnight....see story
Please compare your vision during the experience to your everyday vision that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. Se story
Please compare your hearing during the experience to your everyday hearing that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. see story
Did you see or hear any earthly events that were occurring during a time that your consciousness / awareness was apart from your physical / earthly body? No
What emotions did you feel during the experience?....limitless joy, limitless happiness, limitless power, limitless compassion, limitless love
Did you pass into or through a tunnel?....No....
Did you see an unearthly light?....No....
Did you seem to encounter a mystical being or presence, or hear an unidentifiable voice?....I encountered a definite being, or a voice clearly of mystical or unearthly origin I was the divinity
Did you encounter or become aware of any deceased (or alive) beings?....No
Did you become aware of past events in your life during your experience?....Yes....Life review
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world?....A clearly mystical or unearthly realm....
Did time seem to speed up or slow down?....Everything seemed to be happening at once; or time stopped or lost all meaning....
Did you suddenly seem to understand everything?....Everything about the universe....
Did you reach a boundary or limiting physical structure?....No....
Did you come to a border or point of no return?....No....
Did scenes from the future come to you?....No....
Did you have a sense of knowing special knowledge or purpose?....Yes....see account
Discuss any changes that might have occurred in your life after your experience:....Large changes in my life....There were many spontaneous changes taking place within me. Since my experience I was better able to cope with life in the face of things that would normally cause me great anxiety or precipitate anger. At times I felt in love, with everyone. Indian couples appeared as gods and goddesses. I felt immense gratitude to India for preserving information about mystical experiences. At other times, during what I called blissful states,Ł sunlight seemed to penetrate my head and cause a further explosion of bliss. Immediately following on from that state, I walked around, in wonder and awe at the material and energetic miracle of this world and its great and detailed beauty. Colors appeared clear and bright, particularly different shades of blue, which appeared to glow. I felt every movement of air across my skin and radiated heat from walls and other objects from a distance. I felt intensely in the moment and bathed in pleasure. I had entered a mind-state of sharp focus and deep tranquillity as I moved through the crystal clear moment where time seemed to stand still. I functioned very well in both states, bliss and the after poise of tranquility, and it enhanced my work and family life. This blissŁ is not emotion, it is a psycho-physical sensation that calms all emotion and stills all passion, emptying the mind of all chatter. The after-effect lasts for days. I could not understand why people tried so hard to find supernatural explanations for what amounted to a miracle right in front of their eyes; the physical universe! It seemed to me that the dichotomy between the so called physicalŁ and spiritualŁ was false. There is only phenomena, seem or unseen, currently detectable or undetectable, on a spectrum of unity.
Everyday become an adventure and I never knew what energetic experience within my body and brain would manifest next. I could relate many. ....
Did you have any changes in your values or beliefs after the experience that occurred as a result of the experience? Yes see account
Do you have any psychic, non-ordinary or other special gifts after your experience that you did not have before the experience?....Yes
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes I told a friend in Sydney via email a drastically toned downŁ version of what had happened for fear she would think I was insane. She sent me a very helpful book, The Sacred Power,Ł by Swami Kripananda, explaining that I had experienced what the book called an awakeningŁ of the Kundalini The book made clear it was the beginning of a process that could last years and culminate in complete Self-realization (whatever that was) if I adjusted my life to it, meditated and followed a spiritual and yogic lifestyle.
Regardless, I was not sure if the experience was anything more than a transient psycho-physiological phenomenon induced by music. The book presented a world view and cosmology. It then answered all questions in terms of that world view and cosmology. How could I know that world view or cosmology was correct? Where was the scientific proof? There was none I knew of. I was left with the experience and no scientific explanations.
The calm and joyful mood lasted for months and months. Often, when I listened to music or spoke with people, I had waves of pleasure up my spine and into my head and though my limbs. Sometimes I felt as though there was something resting lightly on my head or something invisible emanating from the crown of my head, like waving tentacles of some sea anenomie and also emanating from my forehead. It felt pleasant. Not knowing who to tell, I decided to keep it all secret.
Then a thought occurred to me. Perhaps this all was, as wonderful as it all appeared to be, the onset of pre-senile dementia, a brain tumor, some other disease, a developing late life psychosis or food poisoning. I had myself checked over by a doctor. I was at least physically healthy. But I would keep an eye on myself. I might be pleasantly insane.
As I thought about the initial experience, it raised more questions than it answered. Why were the mental archetypes that emerged from me both female and male? Why were they explicitly Indian? I had no fascination with India or its religion, not since I was about seventeen years of age. Indian religion and society appeared to be socially irresponsible, lacking in compassion and hopelessly divided unnecessarily into an oppressive system of castes. To me Indian society represented the outworking of a belief in karma and the collective justification of casual cruelty to those who were not of the same caste or family. India seemed a veritable moral sewer of institutionalized human degradation. It disgusted me. Yet why were Indian people I met so gracious and kind? Why did my experience have elements of Out of Body (OBE) and near death experiences (NDE)? Did the experience indicate I had a sentient soulŁ that could separate from the body? Did it mean that deep inside us, we were actually holographic shards of a Divinity? We all suffer in this existence so how could all things be perfect eternally as my Divine Mother SelfŁ had asserted? What was the ocean of living energyŁ in which I had been immersed and part of? Was this type of experience common over human history and geography? Was it the type of experience that led to the establishment of religion in the first place? Why did I feel so different after the experience? Would the pleasurable and positive after affects persist? Could such experiences be used in psychological therapy? Could music be used in psycho-therapy? What was the neurobiology of such experiences? Could I reproduce the experience in a laboratory? Could drugs produce the same experience?
When I moved to Melbourne in late July 2007, I discussed with a new friend what happened to me and she suggested that I speak with Swami Shankarananda at The Shiva School of Meditation at Mount Eliza. He agreed to talk with me. And he was Jewish. In our discussion he said my experience was real and I should meditate daily and attend Shiva SchoolÖs Self-inquiry Process, which I did. The swami is a disciple of the late Swami Muktananda. Swami Shankarananda is a highly articulate academic, formerly a university lecturer in English literature. Was he only just another deluded fanatic? I didnÖt know. I felt a great amount of affection for him.
I read Swami ShankaranadaÖs book, Consciousness is Everything.Ł I experienced many states of what I called blissŁ while reading this book. I defined this
śblissŁ as a pleasurable spinal and body rush with altered state of consciousness. The book indicated to me that in 2007 I had briefly experienced my true Self,Ł the soul, none other than Shiva, the ever-conscious soul of all, pure eternal self-existent blissful, consciousness. It also urged that one should press on to full realisation of this Self,Ł and then remain established in that state. This sounded good. It resonated with me. Sat-Chit-Ananda. It did not answer in any satisfactory way why this state of affairs existed. It also proposed a cosmology that seemed to have no scientific validation. As far as I understood, consciousness was an emergent property of the physical brain and did not and could not exist as a separate entity.
Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience?....Yes From books
What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened:....Experience was probably not real I was not sure if the experience was anything more than a transient psycho-physiological phenomenon induced by music. The book presented a world view and cosmology. It then answered all questions in terms of that world view and cosmology. How could I know that world view or cosmology was correct? Where was the scientific proof? There was none I knew of. I was left with the experience and no scientific explanations.
What do you believe about the reality of your experience at the current time:....Experience was definitely real....
Have your relationships changed specifically as a result of your experience?....Yes....My family tell me I am easier to be with, happier, calmer and more accepting
Have your religious beliefs/spiritual practices changed specifically as a result of your experience?....Yes I am now a mystic
At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience?....Yes I was becoming increasingly detached from my family and friends. Not in a cold way. Personal attachment was being replaced with generalised benevolence towards all people and a calm, concerned interest for my family. I started to look to serve peoples best interests. What would those be?
As I write this I am reminded of the words of Ramana Mahharshi, In the first place I lost what little interest I had in my outward relationship with friends, kinsmen or studies, In my dealings with them I developed humility, meekness and indifference...The old personality that resented and asserted itself had disappeared...I preferred to be left to myself. Often I would sit alone by myself especially in a posture suitable for meditation close my eyes and lose myself in the spirit, current or force.... Ł Quoted by R. Rangachari, Page iv of Periya Puraana Published by Sri Ramanaramam Tiruvannamalaim, 2010.
I was becoming infatuated with all things spiritually and culturally Indian.
I felt increasingly humble. How could such an exulting experience make me feel humble? It did and it still does. I concluded that if I was divine then everyone else was equally so. My inner mental architecture is average. Perhaps we are all divine and everything inanimate and living is all divine as well. That is how it felt. I was yet to satisfy myself as to its truth.
In early 2008 I discovered the abridged version of Paramahansa YoganandaÖs Translation of the Bhagavad Gita in a bookshop and purchased it. I thought, My Guru! I wonder if the Self - Realization Fellowship is still in existence.Ł I had given no favorable thought to Yogananda in forty years. Much less read anything more of his.
I was reading this book in a coffee shop before work and got to the part where Krishna shows Arjuna His Cosmic form. I became ecstatic. I got up to go the bathroom and as I walked there, I became engulfed in "bliss.Ł I had stopped reading but sublime words were now forming in my head by themselves, I could hear them, ineffable thoughts about Deity, utterly beautiful phrases and sentences, concepts and other Divine things I am inadequate to express. As I entered the bathroom area I wondered what would happen, as it was so intense, I thought I might leave my body or physically dissolve into the Sea of Bliss. Afterwards, I buzzed for days and in and out of bliss of varying degrees. In fact, I often had episodes of bliss. There was a gentle scintillation of it in my body that never quite departed. I begun to see a small beautiful luminous blue disk that appeared momentarily in the air about two feet away, in front of my head. I also saw sparks, one with a black centre and one with a red centre and one with a light blue centre. So I sought out and rejoined the Self-Realization Fellowship. There was a meeting place nearby to where I was living.
On 6th August 2008, I was reading on the train on the way home from work and something in the excellent commentary of Hatha Yoga PradipikaŁ (Bihar school of Yoga). Bliss swept over me. In this frame of mind I alighted from the train and walked the short distance to my flat. At home I played a CD of ShankaraÖs poems superbly sung in Sanskrit. Waves of bliss swept over me for an hour. In between the waves of bliss (which were emotion free), tears of joy and gratitude coursed down my cheeks. I felt I was leaving something of my old self behind. I then realized I was due at self-inquiry group. I left in a very present, crystal clear and tranquil state of consciousness. I did not appear to be breathing, time was standing still and the world seemed quiet. Indeed, I had a most singular trip of twenty minutes in my car. I thought it was funny. I imagined reading a Police report; Corpse found driving car.Ł The altered state continued during the group work. The state tapered off after the group finished.
During such states I seem to have no doubts about the existence of the Divine, I feel like I am in It. The world appears Divine and so do I, whatever IŁ means under such circumstances. The lights are on but who is at home?One night I was meditating, came out of it, and then realised I had forgotten to go shopping for food. It was eight thirty pm. I appeared to be stone-cold inside my body and in my extremities and face also when I touched it. (But how did I know I was cold?) I did not appear to be breathing. Once outside, the cold winter air felt wonderful. I embraced it with great pleasure. I drove to the shops. I put my hand into the fridge section to get cheese. It felt warm. It was so exquisite. I held my hand inside and let the chilled air (4 degrees C) flow over it. It was warming my hand! I wondered then how cold my body actually was!