We have all experienced glimpses of a larger consciousness that lies beyond our personal identity and day-to-day life. These glimpses are characterized by a sense of flow, ease, wholeness, peace, delight, and freedom. They are a welcome release from the day-to-day struggles of our usual self and life. We would, of course, like to know what causes these glimpses so that we can re-create them at will.
However, unlike ordinary experience these special moments have no cause. They unexpectedly and spontaneously reveal themselves when our personal self, with all of its habit patterns, reactivity and mind talk drops away, dissolves, disappears. Like the sun, clearly visible when the obscuring clouds move away, our essential self, always present, is seen in its natural luminosity when the obscuration of our personal identity dissipates.
There are however certain circumstances or events that may facilitate the dropping away of our personal identity. These may include an absorption in nature, beauty, dance, music, intimacy, art, meditation, or a religious experience. There is a common element in each of these. For a moment they draw attention away from our personal self and in that absence, when we are fortunate, our true nature spontaneously reveals itself for a glorious moment through the crack in the egg of our ordinary world.
We are touched by a fresh known but unknown touch of aliveness and wholeness. Unfortunately, although we have all had that experience, we miss its meaning. What we mistakenly take and label a serendipitous pleasant experience is in actuality a profound window into our essential nature, our authentic self. That is the meaning we have missed. We touch the divine and experience it as mundane pleasure.
But there is more. Not only do we mistake that glimpse as another transient pleasurable experience, but we falsely attribute it to the immediate circumstance. We say its cause was being in nature, absorbed in art, and so on. The activity or circumstances does have a role, but not a causal one. For a moment, it dissolves our tenacious personal self with all its related mental activity. When this obstacle to experiencing our natural self is removed, what is spontaneously revealed is what is already and always within us, our essential self.
Our natural ever present self is neither created nor caused by the transient dissipation of our personal identity. When the veil of our personal identity is lifted, our true self is naturally and spontaneously revealed, as what it is and has always been at the core of our being. Consider an aquarium with silt. We would say the water is dirty. When the silt settles to the bottom, we would say the water is clear. But the water was always clear. It was only obscured by silt. The settling of the silt did not create clear water. It merely revealed what is there all the time.
Why is this distinction essential? First, if we do not recognize these glimpses as windows into who we are and have always been, we miss these special opportunities that unexpectedly reveal to us the nature of our true self. And second, if we take these glimpses as pleasurable moments caused by a particular activity or circumstance, we will seek to re-create that circumstance, and that is the beginning of an addiction.
Too often we have the experience and miss the extraordinary meaning. Life goes on in its usual, ordinary, and limited way. We touch the sacred and divine and return empty handed.
All spiritual practices, meditation included, serve to quiet the ordinary mind and diminish the influence of our personal self and its tenacious conditioning. It is sort of like cleaning our room in preparation for a special visitor. Merely resting in the most subtle and still aspect of the personal mind is a healing antidote to the fears, anxieties, reactivity, and urgency of modern life. It enhances the quality of day-to-day life. But it does not take us beyond, to the essence of our self and its treasures.
With practice and understanding we slowly become less entangled in the dramas of daily life which promise much but fail to deliver. One drama leads to another and then another. There is no rest and no satisfaction. However, as we increasingly dwell in stillness these small islands of peace and clarity become larger land masses. We discover our personal self has been an unreliable and untrustworthy partner in the search for peace and happiness. Its influence softens and diminishes, and our interest turns inward towards a more trustworthy essential self.
As we turn our attention inward, and if we are fortunate, now and then unexpectedly and spontaneously a sacred breeze will embrace us, and its grace will offer the sacred union with the one that we seek in our journey home. It may just be a glimpse, but if we continue to move the clouds, the obscurations of our personal self, we will increasingly live from this glorious and noble center of our being.
And if you are fortunate to glimpse what lies beyond you will know it to be who you truly are. Blessed, you will dwell in your true nature. To the one who is truly devoted to a precious human life these glimpses will become one’s life.