Friday, January 15, 2021

Unsettling Mystical Experiences and a Special Word from God

I had an unsettling mystical experience yesterday.  That's a sentence I didn't anticipate writing.  I thought I might write many observations about my onground intensive to become certified in spiritual direction, but not that.

Have I had a mystical experience?  Have I ever?  I've had a mystical experience here or there, but I've also been a bit skeptical.  Were they really mystical experiences?  Was it just a tired brain?  Most of my mystical experiences have happened as I did a guided visualization/meditation, so maybe it was God speaking to me or maybe it was my subconscious or maybe it was something innocuous that gets transformed into something that seems important.

Yesterday's later part of the onground intensive revolved around silence, and the leader of the last session offered us an extensive guided meditation.  I tried so hard to follow the directions.  I sat in my desk chair and closed my eyes.  I visualized energy moving through my body.  After what felt like an endless journey from head to toe, we got to a space where God was waiting for us.  We visualized the space.  We visualized God.  Then the leader said, "God has a special word or phrase for you. Let's sit in silence and wait for that word or phrase to emerge."

It didn't take long for my word to emerge:  patient.  Not patience, but patient.  I thought about the difference between the two.  I sat resisting the urge to open my eyes and flip through other online sites.  I was not concentrating on God or my word.

I opened my eyes and reached for my sketchbook.  I decided to write the word across the page, and then I wrote it on other parts of the page in different ways (all capital letters, block print, cursive).  I turned the page around.  I wrote patience instead of patient, but I turned that word back to patient.  I revolved my sketchbook again.

Then I wrote Pain.  I only realized what I wrote when I paused to think, how do I spell patient again?  Then I looked down and realized that I wasn't just a letter or two off.  I looked at the word.

So if I believe that God was sending me a word, is my word patient or patience or pain?  My brain remembered that pain means bread in French, and that seemed relevant too.  I looked up some definitions to see how the words wind/wound their way together.  I tried to figure out if pain had interesting meanings in other languages.  I liked this definition for patient:  "not hasty or impetuous."  I have certainly had impulses, especially in the past 9 months, that have seemed hasty and impetuous, like my yearnings to sell everything we own and move to a place on higher ground that's more affordable and less hurricane prone.

I felt a bit of anxiety--was God trying to warn me that pain was coming my way?  Was God telling me I would be a patient?  Was God telling me to be patient with pain?  My first thoughts had not gone in these dire directions--my first thoughts had been, Yes, I will be patient in the the belief that better days are coming.  I will be patient; I will hold on.

My first exercise in embracing patient/patience was the meditation itself.  I had done as much thinking about the word, sketching, pondering, as I had in my tired brain. I looked at my computer screen again--surely the leader would bring us back soon?  How long could I sustain this meditation?  Were all those people on my Zoom screen meditating or napping?

Finally she brought us back.  We had a question and answer session, and some of us asked about alternate ways to do the exercise, with journaling or sketching or walking.  She replied in language that seemed significant enough to capture:  "Respond in a way that's consistent with who you are."

At least I did that.  At most, I got some interesting information from God or from the Collective Unconscious or from my own subconscious.

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