Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
I decided to start this thread for sharing our personal spiritual experiences. One forum criticism is that it's too intellectual with not enough of our how such ideas affect us personally. How the spiritual transforms our lives in daily living. So I'll kick it off with a personal story that just happened in the last couple of days. I call it "a very grounded spiritual experience."
I had a colonoscopy yesterday. In preparation one must do a liquid fast the day before, as well as drink chemical laxatives to completely clean the colon. I'd done the procedure before and it is quite unpleasant, not just the starvation but the incessant, frequent diarrhea This time as part of the prep I decided to turn it into a spirit quest, to use the fasting and cleansing to prepare for an experience of the numinous, to converse with god/dess. I told this to my roommate in a joking manner, but I was also serious.
I thought of American Indians, who do that ritual of piercing their chests an then hanging by its flesh. And sweat lodges, another ritual of extreme pain to induce visions. It's sort of like the crucifixion, going through such pain that one is forced to let go and let god. Give up the ghost, so to speak. I image childbirth is one such experience if done without pain meds. I decided to do the procedure without sedation, to be conscious throughout, so as to feel every moment of the pain.
The fasting was not at all fun, as I had incredible hunger pangs on several occasions. Drinking the liquid laxatives was disgusting, the taste beyond horrible. And I had to drink a gallon of it by the glass every 10-15 minutes. And no, I did not get used to the taste and nearly wretched with every swallow. And the diarrhea! That too every 15 minutes or so. And not your garden variety but explosive and messy. Clean up was also gag inducing.
I made it through the day but then couldn't sleep. I just laid in bed with my mind reeling of all the possibilities of what could go wrong with the procedure, like perforating my colon and needing emergency surgery. Or bursting one of my hemorrhoids and blood pouring out of my ass like a river. And what if they found a tumor? Or cancer? Due to the fast and cleansing these thoughts, especially on the verge of sleep, were crystal clear nightmares come to life, palpable, real, horrifying. I tried to calm down with slow breathing and meditative letting go techniques but to no avail. I tossed and turned all night with such visions, as if in a fever.
The next day I went to the hospital for the procedure. In the prep room waiting for the doctor again the fears arose. This time though I was able to calm down with breathing meditation and let them go. The doctor came, explained the procedure, the dangers, the side effects. The nurse started the IV and took my vitals and off I went into the procedure room. The doctors and nurses were surprised I was not taking the sedation, a rare occurrence. I of course did not tell them the reason.
The procedure was relatively painless except for one point. As the colon is empty from the cleansing they have to inject air to inflate it to see inside. At the height of the forced air it was quite painful, feeling almost as if my colon were about to burst like a balloon. I told the doctor and thankfully he said he'd lower the air pressure, which he did to my great relief. The rest went smoothly with no pain. In the recovery room I was a bit disheartened that I didn't see god/dess. It seemed all so clinical and routine. All that prep and intention and nothing. Plus afterward for a couple of hours there was some painful gas from the procedural inflation process.
But after all the gas passed, and as I was walking up the stairs in a parking garage, it hit me. I felt as if I were on a mild LSD trip. Maybe more like mescaline. My senses were acutely aware of all the bright colors around me, the sounds of the birds chirping, the smells of cooking food and car exhaust, the fine texture of the concrete walls noting the air bubbles therein. As I topped the stairs and walked through the mall the women were in scant clothing due to the hot day. I felt extremely sexual unlike I've felt in years. I could smell their perfume as they approached. They perhaps sensed my lively exuberance and smiled at me as we passed. I had a near constant erection and felt it starting to copiously exude pre-ejaculate fluid. I hadn't felt this alive in years.
My mental state was also particularly pellucid so I simultaneously and dispassionately witnessed all of this with equanimity while also feeling the incredible passion in all my heightened senses. I pondered if this experience was merely the result of my preparation and intent to induce it? Then it dawned on me that as part the procedure my prostate was being continually stimulated for 45 minutes! Well no wonder that I was experiencing such wonder. I was basically maintaining sexual arousal for that extended period without ejaculation. I recalled previous tantric sexual experiences where that was the point: To extend the arousal period without ejaculation and circulate that energy throughout the body. In so doing I had multiple orgasm's without physical ejaculation, much like what I was experiencing during this episode.
This trip went on for the rest of the day into the evening, slowly dissipating. Only instead of being induced by mescaline, sex or a sweat lodge this time it was precipitated by a colonoscopy. That is, its catalyst was the elimination of waste and the inadvertent stimulation of my prostate, as well as my intent and conscious focus. It was a very embodied, grounded spiritual experience which will live on in my memory of other experiences of this kind. And hopefully transform for the reader the experience of their future colonoscopies, which can be just plain unpleasant if not approached in a like manner.
A good description of Wilber's gross and subtle! Back in the day when I was doing food experiments I once had my body so pure that my crap smelled like roses! No shit! Sattva type thing. Many spiritual type experiences in those days. Anyway, it sounds like your okay, so take care!
Fascinating. I assume that if you had taken the sedation your post-op experience would have been merely grogginess with much suppressed awareness?
Yes, on previous colonoscopies with sedation I had no such experience.
I have recounted my experiences many times, in many places, so there is a reticence to putting any new effort into describing them -- they are not "top of mind". Yet I approve of this thread and can probably muster a few short-hand descriptions of various kinds of events.
So I'm sitting in the bathtub. A fine place for meditation. I have been pondering the delicate shift between (a) outgoing, relational, engagement with creative communication and (b) the habit of being isolated, withdrawn, habit-bound. I observed at that time my thoughts tended to gravitate automatically toward unresolved concerns but I had no objective standard by which to judge resolution. It became clear that the standard I was actually using was closer to "did I or did I not fully try to communicate or make creative contact". Thus I confronted each arising area of subjective interest. Everyone and everything I thought about spontaneously was a situation in which I asked myself how and if I could communicate myself more thoroughly or be more engaged into responsible exchange. This tended to release each area of concern and over perhaps a half hour there was a distinct trend moving from physical-emotional to intellectual-cultural to subtle-spiritual concerns.
I then found a recurrence of a fairly common (i.e. it shows up during various types of methodologies) event that I call "beholding bhagwan". A more-than-imaginary eye confronts me on the projection screen of the back of my eyelids. It then typically shows itself to be a fluid sets of icons. Variations on Kings, sages, Empty thrones, goddesses, interlocking organic machine parts, toruses trying to touch themselves, etc.
This, as I mentioned, is a very ubiquitous experience but on that day I immediately tried to imagine establishing a more outreaching communication with it (as I had been doing with everything else). And a certain momentum had built up.
The next instant I was "smudged" out of existence. There was a brief of faint golden or beige color and very familiar pressure. I trailed into nothing of myself though I definitely was in some utterly abstracted sense. There was no capacity there to estimate duration and I shuddered back into my bathtub body after an unknown length of time. My memory stores no content for this phase and instead seems to extend the "introductory smudge" over the entire event.
I am roughly willingly to call this Nirvikalpa Samadhi. There was "bodiless ecstasy with disconnect from sensory reality".
I did not repeat the method since I have learned, over long periods of attempting to regenerate my epiphanies, that this is not usually appropriate. It is more like being the 1 millionth customer -- what you did that day is not really the cause of the celebration effect.
Now that I have written this out I begin to suspect that "subtle realm" experience are probably more what people would like to hear about. So I will try to relate one of those next time...
Your nirvikalpa experience reminded me of a series of posts in the old Gaia forum in this archived 2008 thread (pp. 15-21). I was discussing tarot pathworking with the Fool card, responding to e's questions. I was calling it an 'emptiness' meditation, meaning nirvikalpa and not the other meanings of Buddhist emptiness on which I've written elsewhere. Keeping that in mind I've copied below some excerpts:
The purpose of The Fool imagery and symbolism is to lead one to drop all imagery and symbolism and to enter the Sanctum Sanctorum behind the Three Veils of Negative Existence. So much jargon that means to enter a meditative state that appears to have stopped thought, imagery and a separate sense of self. It even goes so far as, like many Buddhist explanations we've read here, to the very origin of existence, the empty vessel out of which the universe springs.
When I was studying with that Tradition, I did it by being inculcated over years in the meanings of hermetic qabalah and tarot imagery. So when I then did the Fool meditations I experienced an imaginal (astral) “journey” of the character in the card, walking off the cliff and falling into the void, which was free of all thought, form, etc. It was an experience of, in a word, emptiness. Now one might say that if I experienced a sensation of falling then I was still in a relative ego. But the sensation of falling is only an initial sensation, for when one falls long enough into a void without end one soon no longer falls but is within the void, since it, or I, aren't going anywhere, i.e., there is no perceived relative motion when there are no objects to reference.
You start by looking at the card, in this case The Fool. Then you step inside the card and put yourself inside the Fool, play his role. You imagine you see what you've memorized about the card. But like a dream it comes alive, everything around you is in motion, including yourself. In the card the fool is walking toward a cliff, so when I'm inside the fool I'm walking toward a cliff and then over the cliff.
In my meditations the further I drop into the void the less light there is until I am in total darkness devoid of light, sound, object, etc. But in some of those meditations, after a while in the darkness, a most subtle and far distant point of light emerges. And it grows and grows as I either travel to it or vice versa. And finally all is brilliant light. But instead of being void it is full of light, sound (angelic choirs or the music of the spheres, so to speak) and it is the essense of every object.