On The Mystic’s Path: Part Three

A lot of my youth was spent waiting for something to happen.

I believed I would transform or evolve or something. In a way, I suppose you could say that I was right. When I was a kid I thought I might turn into an angel or a psychic.

I fought the path to Awakening instead. I hadn’t heard of anything like the path to Awakening, so in my mind I thought of it in different ways. But, I think deep down it was always the path to Awakening, the mystic’s path, that I was thinking of.

I sometimes imagined I would step through a doorway and enter another world. A pure land of wonder. But, the truth was I didn’t need to look for a pure land of wonder, because I’m already in one. And so are you.

Anyway, by the time I started college I felt alone in the universe. I had lost both my parents to cancer. My only sibling, my brother, and I were never really close.

It was in this context that I discovered Buddhism. I read two books for this course. They were “Buddha” by Karen Armstrong and “Meditation in Action” by Chogyam Trungpa.

It was like something clicked in me. I’m not sure why it resonated with me so much. One of my teachers says he thinks it’s related to karma from previous lives. I’m not sold on that idea.

I didn’t think I should become a Buddhist right away. That thought didn’t really enter my mind then. I just thought about learning more. Part of what I learned was that meditation is sometimes used to manage anxiety.

I had anxiety problems, so I decided to try it. I started getting books on meditation and studying. I read a lot on the subject and I started doing it. I found that I was pretty good at it. I could sit and work with my mind really well. I had a natural aptitude for the practice.

Now I think it was because I was probably supposed to be a mystic the whole time.

On the Mystic’s Path: Part Two

My spiritual context was probably similar to most people in America.

Spirituality wasn’t a big deal in my house growing up.

I mean, my parents took me to church sometimes and we had a kid’s bible in the house, but still, we never talked about spiritual subjects at home.

So, we certainly didn’t talk about comparative religion or mystical experiences or anything of that nature.

I’ve heard it said that a lot of people have mystical experiences throughout their lives, especially in childhood. It’s just that most people either dismiss them and forget about them, or become afraid of them. I don’t know if that’s true. I can only speak from my own experience.

There may have been more before the one I’m about to write about and I simply don’t remember.

I was in the 4th grade and I was in class when it happened.

All at once a thought occurred in my head. No, more than a thought. It was like an insight. Like one of those riddles where once you figure out the answer you know you’re right because it’s staring you in the face.

All at once my sense of identity dropped away. I became just the experience of sitting in the classroom, as opposed to the experiencer. It seemed that time was frozen and there was no ‘me’ in that moment.

Then the moment ended. My sense of identity came back, but not all at once. I was surprised to realize that I was an individual having these experiences, rather than some kind of witness, some outside observer.

I thought to myself, “I’m a real person. I haven’t been here forever and I won’t remain here forever.”

I almost had a panic attack, but I made it through the day.

But I carried those thoughts with me when I went home.

I had no context, as I said. I didn’t know words like Mystic or Shaman or Buddhist. And I wondered what could possibly be going on. I wondered if I was different from everyone else.

I never talked to my parents about it. I wouldn’t have been able to find the words. I can barely find the words now.

That’s the first one I can remember. I had several similar experiences throughout childhood.

Anyway, I had no context for what happened to me. Who knows what would have happened if I had been in a different environment.

I tried to figure it out. I tried many different things as a kid, but I didn’t have any REAL information. There was no internet back then for me to use for research.

I had some ideas throughout childhood:

For a while I thought I was psychic. I thought I would develop psychic powers any day and that day was just the beginning. I tried to practice moving rocks and things with my mind. I could never do it.

For a while I thought demons were reaching out to me. There was exactly one book in my school library on the subject. It was called “Curses, Hexes, and Spells”. Looking back, I can’t believe a book like that was there. It was a nonfiction book about witches and demons and the target audience was children. I read that, but it wasn’t a very serious book.

I also found a book at a yard sale called “The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology”. I read this book too, but a whole lot of it was over my head at the time.

For a while I thought I would transform. Into an angel or a demon, I wasn’t sure. But I had this strange idea in my head that I was meant for something more than this life. Could it be that as a child I created a complex metaphor for spiritual awakening? Maybe.

And for a while I threw myself into Christianity as I understood it (which wasn’t all that well). I read the entire Bible as a kid and tried to really understand what was going on.

I spent a lot of time switching between a lot of faith and no faith as a kid. It’s not something most kids concern themselves with, but it was a big deal to me.

My teenage years were significant.

I lost both my parents. I was alone, cast adrift at the age of 19.

And one night I had a mystical experience that really scared me. I was trying to sleep and I suddenly felt oneness. I felt myself as a part of the entire universe. This should have been a state of bliss, but instead it was a state of fear.

I felt oneness with everything, but I didn’t feel a God out there. That’s what I expected and wanted to feel, but I didn’t feel one.

Spirituality had been a big part of my life, but all of a sudden it was gone.

Not long after that, I caught pneumonia and spent four days in the hospital.

I hadn’t had epileptic seizures since I was 8 years old. I had three of them when I was in the hospital. The doctors told me that those could occur in situations where I have a very high fever.

I felt like I had a near death experience. But instead of seeing light, I only saw darkness. Nothingness. Emptiness.

I became hostile toward religion and spirituality. I became one of those nasty people that looks down on others for their faith.

And I would remain so until I discovered Buddhism in college.

Then everything changed.

On the Mystic’s Path: Part One

On The Mystic’s Path: part one

When I was a kid I had a mystical experience.

Actually I can remember 3. I might have had more but those really set me on a path.

Not that that’s really important. But sometimes when I’m meditating, when I’m having trouble sitting still, there’s a trick I can do. I can just try to recall those events and put my mind back into exactly those states. It works every time.

But, I’ll start earlier.

I was born with epilepsy. As a child I had to take medication or I would have seizures in which I would lose all control of myself and fall on the floor. I never remembered these seizures, by the way.

Around the age of 7, I think, I got better. Some people have childhood epilepsy that goes away and some people have it all their lives. So, I haven’t been medicated for it since then.

But, when I was 19, I had pneumonia and I had to go to the hospital for 4 days. While I was there I had seizures three times. The doctors said that something like a really high fever could cause me to have seizures, even though I wasn’t technically epileptic anymore. It didn’t seem significant at the time, but that’s, I think, when the path that led me to meditation practice started. When I was 19. That’s when I started really getting serious about exploring.

Anyway, why would this matter?

I’m glad you asked.

Something occurred to me. I know a lot of people who practice Buddhism and other similar spiritual paths. I like that I have met them and I enjoy spending time with them a lot.

But it occurred to me that they aren’t like me.

Spirituality is not a passing interest for me. The mystical path is a huge part of my life. I’m spending a whole lot of my free time either meditating in different styles or studying. Most of what I’m studying is Buddhism, but I’m exploring other mystical paths as well.

So, I was wondering. Am I a ‘devout Buddhist’? Is that even a thing?

I don’t have faith, not in the same way that fundamentalists do. Doubt is a virtue in Buddhism. I don’t engage in so much study and practice because I feel like I’m supposed to. I do it because I like to.

I call myself a Mystic because just calling myself a Buddhist doesn’t quite explain it.

Anyway, to tie it together.

I was reading an article about Shamanism by Terrence Mckenna. He was writing about how Shamans were found in ancient societies. Epilepsy was one of the ways.

He said this:
“In archaic societies where shamanism is a thriving institution, the signs are fairly easy to recognize: oddness or uniqueness in an individual. Epilepsy is often a signature in preliterate societies, or survival of an unusual ordeal in an unexpected way. For instance, people who are struck by lightning and live are thought to make excellent shamans. People who nearly die of a disease and fight their way back to health after weeks and weeks of an indeterminate zone are thought to have strength of soul. Among aspiring shamans there must be some sign of inner strength or a hypersensitivity to trance states.”

So, if I had been born in one of these ancient societies, then when my epilepsy had emerged, I meant have been trained to be a shaman. Maybe I should have been.

Shamans are practically universal in ancient religions. They pre-date priests. It’s one who is said to have feet in both worlds, the world of men and the world of spirits. Or the worlds of form and void.

A shaman was one who would gain insight by entering trance states.

So, where am I going with this?

I started calling myself a mystic because I thought Buddhist just didn’t say enough.

A mystic is a spiritual seeker, one who is looking for oneness or transcendence.

I had some of these transcendent experiences as a kid, just like the Buddha did before his Enlightenment. That might be why his story really inspired me in the first place.

It makes me wonder if I’m more prone to transcendent experiences than most people are because of who I am.

And if my love for meditation and other spiritual practices is because of who I am too.

My Zen teacher said he thinks I probably generated good karma in a prior life and that gives me a good grasp of the dharma. (I’m not sold on the idea of past lives)

Maybe that’s not correct.

Maybe I have a good grasp of the dharma because my mind was opened when I was a kid by epileptic seizures. I suspect that’s what the shamans would say if they were here.

the Metta Sutta

This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who seeks the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech.
Humble and not conceited,

Contented and easily satisfied,
with few responsibilities and easy going,
grounded, and not impulsive;
not chasing status

And not doing the slightest thing
which is denounced by the Wise in others
May they have happiness and peace;
May all beings be happy in themselves

Whatever living beings there are
fearful or fearless – without remainder
Huge, large,
medium, small. Fine or coarse.

Seen or unseen,
Remote or living nearby,
Born or seeking birth:
May all beings be happy in themselves

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.

Like a mother’s own child,
[she will] protect that only child with her life
Thus for all beings should
the heart become infinite

Radiating kindness over the entire world
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.

Standing, or going, or seated, or lying down,
as long as one is free from drowsiness,
one should practice this mindfulness.
This, they say, is the holy state here.

Not falling into views,
ethical and with perfect vision
Having given up greed for sensory pleasures,
freed without doubt from birth.