talking about spiritual experiences

a while ago evan asked the question how do we talk about our spiritual experience? we had a little discussion about that here.

what still remains to be done, however, is for me to actually tell you about my spiritual experiences. let me offer up two stories, and then perhaps you will contribute one of yours, too. let me also, once again, repeat my now almost broken record: spirituality is what you define it to be (maybe this post helps clarify that a bit)

whenever i try to remember my first intense spiritual experience, there is one glimpse that i come up with. “glimpse”, come to think of it, may not be such a bad word to describe certain types of spiritual experiences generally; it’s a little blip that quickly passes through the retina of our consciousness and then it’s gone – but it leaves a lasting impression, a sort of afterimage that never really goes away.

i don’t even know what the occasion was, all i remember is walking on the dirt road that led from my grandparents’ house to the dairy farmer, maybe to pick up our daily can of milk, and all of a sudden the thought struck me how much i wanted my best friend, who was jewish, to convert to my lutheran faith. knowing me, you might find that strange; i espouse quite a radical multifaith view here, as you know. even at the age nine that this happened, i was already well aware of ecumenic ideas because they were important to my grandparents (my grandfather was a lutheran minister). what was going on, i think, was not so much that i felt that her (unpracticed) faith was wrong and mine right; the force of this experience had more to do with the love for my friend and the great spiritual nourishment i received; i wanted to share this with her, i wanted to “break bread”. even now as i write this, i have tears streaming down my face. i am very grateful that my friend and i, after nearly 50 years of knowing each other, are still close. (and no, she hasn’t converted, and that’s just fine with me.)

fast forward to now, a few weeks ago. once again, i was out for a walk. either at the outset or some time during the beginning of the walk, i intentionally wanted to move into a keen awareness of the sacred. i let myself drift this way and that, letting my feet follow whatever path seemed the right one. i decided to walk down the block where years ago i had had a glimpse of reality, a minute or two of kensho. it was very different now: the street was not as everyday-familiar as it had been when i had lived at the end of that block; it was night in late fall, not a sunny summer afternoon.

i consciously pulled myself away from wanting to experience kensho again, just wanted to expose myself to – i don’t know what. there was just a sense of wanting to open up to something “there”, and wanting to be as open as possible to whatever, maybe nothing. this desire in itself was strong and expansive. then i remembered one of my favourite city magick exercises: to walk along a street, trying to connect with the life of everything you encounter along the way. this here is not just a bunch of walls with windows cut into it, it’s a living, breathing house with real people in it who fight and read newspapers and laugh and put on pajamas. and this here is not just a green something but a plant with a history from seed to tree, a living being that craves sunlight and rain, good soil and clean air. somehow, from this it was natural to turn to the energy of everything around me. i walked along the block, saying to myself, with ever increasing delight, “house energy, wet leaf energy, loud car energy, rain drop energy, rock energy, maple tree energy, sidewalk energy, siren energy …” i felt – full.

…. hard to come up with anything else to say after this …

14 thoughts on “talking about spiritual experiences

  1. ClinicallyClueless

    This is such a great question with many ways to approach it. I consider myself a non-denominational Christian who attends an American Baptist Church. I have two experiences that I want to share.

    The first one is that I had no memories of my childhood which was quite disturbing. I was praying about this and while in the shower, I felt God “saying,” not until you give your eating disorder over to me. Boy was I pissed!! God and I almost always fight over things that I know is right…but to hear it from God!! I was really out of control with my ED. I did let go, memories came up, and lost 20 pounds in a month…had I not have let go of my ED, I would have put my health is serious condition. I guess, He knew what was right for me.

    A second experience was at church and I just felt a warm wave come over me. I knew that it was God’s prescence. Then, I felt calm and like I was “receiving” His fathering. I felt so comforted and safe. I wasn’t dissociating, but I really wasn’t aware of anything else. For me, I feel and see God’s presence in my life in many ways…visually, tactile, bodily sensations, thoughts and verbally. No, I am not psychotic…I just can tell the difference between my thoughts and His.

    Sorry that this took so long. It was good to share.
    .-= ClinicallyClueless´s last blog ..The Coffee Dance!! =-.

  2. sandy

    I very much like your belief, “spirituality is what you define it to be.” Refreshingly inclusive. I am very open to a spirituality which suggests connecting with my environment. My most satisfying spiritual connection is with nature, trees, hills, natural springs, wildflowers. But I also love to look at old houses. Some of my most cherished memories include meandering down old city streets: New Orleans and Charleston, South Carolina’s Rainbow Row are two examples. There is such a gratifying feeling when taking in old architecture, thinking about the shared humanity, the many generations of people who walked these very streets, inhabited these houses, lived complicated lives of their times.
    .-= sandy´s last blog ..January’s Here! =-.

  3. Evan

    Thanks Isabella, and to the commenters above.

    My own spiritual experiences have usually been from journalling – I’m very introverted. I do feel contentment and peace in beautiful natural setting but not the sense of presence I have had from the experiences with journalling. (I’m quite and introvert.)

    Very much looking forward to reading what other commenters have to say.
    .-= Evan´s last blog ..In Praise of Contentment (critiquing ambition) =-.

  4. Pete

    God does speak to the ones that will hear. I have experienced this st different times though out my life. We don`t always get the message we want but always the answer we need. I had prayed for my father who was having extreme mental problems. The doctors could not explain it except that he was losing his mind. God spoke to me and his words were ( your father does not have to be like this) God did not tell me what to do . I feel if we praised him for my fathers healing it would happen . Within a weeks time my mother call me and said someone wanted to speak to me. I was my father with a sound mind and he never had a mental problem after that. I deceided I would pray for his eye sight because he was also blind . I will never forget the morning I was getting out of bed and I heard a voice as clear as a bell. The words still ring in my ears. (HE IS IN MY HANDS). I thought all dad that I would get a phone call that my dad had passed. I couldn`t call home for fear. It finally come to my understanding that God was telling me not to worry about him because God was taking care of him.
    .-= Pete´s last blog .. =-.

  5. isabella mori

    thanks for the stories so far. what was it like telling them?

    sandy, i can relate to meandering old city streets. have wonderful memories of strolling through new orleans. i’m going to go to germany in a few weeks, and will think of you when i walk through those old streets!
    .-= isabella mori (@moritherapy)´s last blog ..talking about spiritual experiences =-.

  6. Pete

    These are much more than stories, although to many they would seem to be just that. Our spiritual experiences can differ on a wide range. To even have a spiritual event means there is a part of us that can connect and does connect to something higher than ourself. Our true selfs, our being is spirit. We limit ourself and we limit God by our beliefs.
    .-= Pete´s last blog .. =-.

  7. isabella mori

    pete, by “story” i simply mean the recounting of an experience. what i wrote is a story, too.

    there’s something interesting about this last sentence “we limit ourselves and we limit god with our beliefs.” on a superficial level that is totally obvious, e.g. if i believe that god is nothing but the guy in the sky who counts my sins, then that’s a limiting belief. but it sounds like you connect that to “spirit”. can you tell us a bit more about that?
    .-= isabella mori (@moritherapy)´s last blog ..talking about spiritual experiences =-.

  8. Pete

    Isabella, my thoughts and experiences are probably a little bit odd to most people. My belief is that we were created by God. Not only by God but also in his image. God in his puriest form is Spirit. Being created in his image makes a part of us spirit.My belief is that is what allows us to have a spiritual connection with Him. This spirit also connects us with all things. Sometimes it is hard to beleive that God is everywhere but he is . We can look at a beautiful flower or a snow capped mountain and have a sense of the presence of God. There is nothing wrong with that, it is a good thing. We can also experience God in a more intimate way as in His reveiling of himself to us . That is the kind of thing I think of as an spiritual experience.
    .-= Pete´s last blog .. =-.

  9. isabella mori

    we could say that evan’s and my whole point is that spiritual experiences can look odd.

    there are so many things we can learn as we talk about these experiences more frequently and more openly. one of them is that we can learn that whatever we hear from our brothers or sisters, it is what it is. my experience isn’t weirder, odder or “more spiritual” than yours and vice versa.

    one of the things that happens as we keep things in the closet, is that our minds start telling us unhelpful things. like “no-one will understand this”.
    .-= isabella mori (@moritherapy)´s last blog ..talking about spiritual experiences =-.

  10. Evan

    Hi Isabella, I like the point Pete raised about the relationship of mind and spirit. These are often treated as separate. But if mind can limit spirit what would it mean for mind to assist spirit?

    I think you are absolutely right that spiritual experiences can look odd. The spiritual is usually not our common experience – and so it is unusual in that way. I also think that because we don’t talk about it much it looks odder than it need to. If we talked about our spiritual experience more then we would at least know that others have this experience too and so we wouldn’t feel it so odd. I think you are right about us keeping things in the closet leading to our minds telling us that ‘no-one will understand’.

    I also agree very much that no-one’s experience is more spiritual (or stranger or weirder) than anyone else’s.

    I’m really enjoying this discussion.
    .-= Evan´s last blog ..In Praise of Contentment (critiquing ambition) =-.

  11. ClinicallyClueless

    I like what both Pete and Evan has said. And, I believe in what Pete said which to me is the “Holy Spirit.” That enables us to experience God here in more tangible and sometimes unbelievable ways.

    I realize that I don’t have difficulty talking to other Christians, but those who are not sometimes think that I am “crazy.” But, for me, it is quite an intimate area to share with others because my relationship with God is one of intimacy.

  12. Joseph Pannell

    The most spiritual experience for me is sitting beside a river or fire, I think the movement of the water and the sound it makes puts me into a trance like state… any natural sounds seem to have this effect, even a loud river is totally relaxing and just seems to blend into the background, i think we have evolved with to want to hear these sounds as rivers and open fires would have been a neccisity for our ancestors and I feel a deep conection to the past whenever I hear them.

  13. Debbie

    Has someone had the experience of ears getting really hot when you witness to someone and do you have any idea of what it might mean in a spiritual sense?

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