Blog #7: Spiritual Awakening and Peak Experiences

Blog #7: Spiritual Awakening and Peak Experiences

Today I went to an AA meeting, and the topic was on spiritual awakenings. Such a juicy topic that is.

Basically, the moderator categorized spiritual awakening in two ways:

1) dramatic and instantaneous
2) gradual and educational

I've had a taste of both. When it comes to "burning bush" experiences of the dramatic variety, you can read about two colorful episodes in my recovery story on this website. One was psychedelically-induced; the other was a result of sober practices that promote purification and opening of the nervous system. Each was special in their own right, but it's the sober variety that has stuck with me over the long term. Psychedelics are just too tricky.

AYP is quite clear about the pitfalls of seeking peak experiences and/or clinging to them when they do arise. There's nothing wrong with peak experiences, per se; it's just that we should take them in stride. For this reason, AYP promotes a gradual and permanent awakening that is stable and rock solid. That way, when the occasional fireworks do burst forth in a grand display of ecstasy, we are prepared to enjoy the scenery without being overly obsessed with such sirens. We easily favor the practices, rather than the effects produced by the practices. The special effects will take care of themselves; we just have to tend to the causes.

In today's meeting, an old-timer recalled his early days of sobriety when he had attended a meeting and heard a woman describe her peak experience. Apparently, she had been ironing clothes, when suddenly, her laundry room was bathed in an ethereal light. Upon hearing the story, the old-timer went home that night and began to vigorously iron all of his clothes! Needless to say, he was disappointed when he didn't get doused with celestial moonshine and heavenly glory. But I sure don't blame him for trying. That kind of effort is definitely a sign of bhakti, which is the fuel that sustains our path of enlightenment.

In AYP, we iron our clothes with practices like Deep Meditation, Spinal Breathing Pranayama, Samyama, and Karma Yoga—to name a few. These practices enhance our life in a such a way that makes even mundane circumstances enjoyable. For instance, one of the symptoms that has been recurring for me is robust laughter, about the smallest things, and among co-workers and friends. The diaphragm starts pulsating spasmodically, and then joy arises and illuminates my perception. Then I don't care about fancy dimensions so much, because there is so much pleasure right here in front of me.

Like a wave that peaks into a crest and then breaks into a trough, so does our journey unfold. Only our steady and intelligent devotion will allow us to ride the wave successfully, through the ups and downs.

Surf's up!

1 Comment

  1. Mary Ann says:

    I had a “spiritual awakening” when I was about 8-years-old. (I was completely sober).

    It happened pretty quickly, too. Like deep meditation? Intense and “peak.”

    I felt a presence enter my body (I shuddered as if ice cubes had been poured down my back). It wasn’t gradual. I don’t know if it was God or the Holy Spirit or simply enlightenment…but I know it was spiritual. And again, I was 8.

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