being human,  embodiment,  learning

Field Notes on Mystical Embodiment

I am currently enrolled in The Living School through the Center for Action and Contemplation, and in a nutshell it is a living (alive, breathing, adaptable, embodied) school that deeply, methodically (thoroughly) explores the contemplative Christian mystical tradition. I applied and was accepted last year; the two year program kicked off with a symposium in July. Though my experiences feel really hard to process and write about, I plan to try during the time I spend in the program.

As a deep seeker of spiritual truth, I’ve walked many roads in my life from West to East and back again. And the auspicious thing about it all is that the truth I’ve been seeking has been here all along. It was here in my eastern studies as much as west. It was here as I learned about yogic philosophy and Ayurveda and astrology and embodiment. It was here, inside of me. It’s in you too.

In this post I hope to explain, as best I can, some of the mystical experiences that have been happening of late. At this point I’m not able to string the experiences into a cohesive story; they are much more fragmented. Yet, I feel they are linked; they are one. I call them ‘divine glimpses’ and list them below:

  • Seemingly out of nowhere, I get flashes of sheer embodied joy. It is palpable and happens spontaneously.
  • Daily I embrace more non-duality; so much is both/and. Sometimes I feel joy and deep grief simultaneously.
  • Each night when I fall asleep, it seems as though I slip into a different dimension within myself.
  • I embody more joy/pleasure; my body ‘zings’ and feels almost orgasmic as I simply slip into felt sense, just experiencing consciousness within myself.
  • I feel a deeper calm in allowing myself to just be myself.
  • I’ve had a few experiences of disassociation, or slipping into the void. It is extremely scary as I feel a sense of annihilation.
  • There is so much aliveness in me, my body buzzing; I cannot get to sleep without a weighted blanket most nights.
  • I continually read texts about the Christian mystics and understand them at a cellular level.

My tendency in years past was to ignore or diminish my experience; I can no longer do that. These experiences are valid and I am leaning into them. I am both overjoyed and scared to death but I have a great faith in God and the fact that I’m being guided into a new way of being. Gently. Forcefully. Energetically. God awaits my full participation.

Here are a few passages from Mystical Theology (by William Johnston) that I feel line up with my own experience:

  • “Secret knowledge is mystical knowledge–it is obscure, dark, formless knowledge in a cloud of unknowing. It is knowledge that is experienced as nothingness or emptiness or the void.” page 4
  • “Then comes the paradox. This vague, dark and secret knowledge is light. It is the light of God which in its intensity blinds the soul, plunging it into darkness and causing great torment. The inner light, like the inner fire, is the center and core of Christian mystical experience. The fire and the light are inseparable.” page 4
  • “And this is the wonder of the mystical life: that God works directly on the human person, infusing into his or her heart knowledge and love. And the knowledge received in this way is not clear-cut and conceptual nor is it found in images and pictures. It is obscure knowledge in a cloud of unknowing or in a dark night. It can be painful knowledge because the human is not always ready to meet the divine and can be plunged into darkness by the excess of light.” page 52
  • “This dark night is an inflow of God into the soul, which purges it of its habitual ignorances and imperfections, natural and spiritual, which the contemplatives call contemplation or mystical theology … Mystical theology is an inflow of God into the soul. Sometimes this inflow causes the agony of the dark night; at other times it brings the overwhelming joy of enlightenment. In either case, through it ‘God teaches the soul secretly and instructs it in the perfection of love without its doing anything or understanding how this happens.'” pages 69-70

These are the field notes of my life these days. I cannot form them into a conclusion. They just are and they are confusing, scary and awe-inspiring. All I know is that now that I’ve seen I can’t unsee, nor do I want to. If you’ve had similar experiences, I’d love to know. Please comment below.

Sweetly, gently, onward.

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash