The 1990’s brought seminal changes in my life, unforeseen developments that emerged from some force outside my planning, imagination, or control. All of this was in perfection, now that I see it in hindsight. At the time, though, walking through these challenging events felt mostly disruptive to a life plan I had believed to be already carved out. I was required by the insistence of spiritual guidance moving deeply within to go with the flow, and each time I rebelled at the speed of the current and tried to turn around and row back upstream, my boat capsized. I had to yield to the unknown and trust in the flow.
I believe these events were coordinated to wake me up to the reality behind my eyes, to make me pay attention to the mystical events that had already visited me, to listen for more and to invite them all in without reservation, as Rumi’s poem “The Guest House” encourages us to do. And so I did.
Prior to the threads of connection that showed up in the 1990’s, several preparatory experiences occurred in the two decades leading up to that time. These incidents showed me a bigger picture and laid a foundation for the expansion of consciousness yet to come. I was somewhat prepared for mystical experiences in adulthood when as a child I first became aware of the word “reincarnation” as the word symbol for what I innately understood about the nature of life and death and the cycles of consciousness evolution. In 1969 after remaining mute about reincarnation throughout childhood and adolescence, a reminder came when an artist, a student in one of my college English classes, looked at me one night and said “You believe in reincarnation, don’t you?” These events I have already mentioned in this series.
Her question led me to begin my intentional studies about reincarnation. Along the way I was introduced to its relevance to Indian philosophy and Hinduism. I also came to realize that Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, two American writers whose work I admired, were deeply influenced by Indian philosophy. I sensed their writings as an expansion of my worldview, and understood that both were known as Transcendentalists, although I didn’t really recognize what that term meant until later.
None of the following experiences are that remarkable in and of themselves, but like the foundation of a building that becomes invisible once the building is erected atop it, they were the underpinnings to my seeing more of the elephant and realizing how big the elephant was.
In the following decade, the 1970’s, I read Richard Bach’s book Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. This book is almost like the Bible or like Bhagavad Gita to me because it holds so many spiritual truths and teachings and because I continue to refer to it for wisdom, guidance, and remembering who I am. From this book, I learned how to vaporize clouds. One summer day I vaporized most of the clouds over San Francisco as we drove from Carmel with my sister-in law to spend the day in the city. We enjoyed a wonderful, sunny day. I don’t know that I actually caused the clouds to vanish, but I used the vaporizing clouds technique and told Virginia and my husband that I thought the day would turn out to be sunny. I learned many key truths from this book. It gave me my first experiential sense of liberation, which at the time I did not connect with Yoga. At that point I didn’t really understand that liberation is the cornerstone of the yogic experience.
When my husband and I married in 1975, I was mid way into my high school English teaching career. At some point between 1976 and 1980, he and I were asked to serve as chaperones for the Young Republicans Club, a group of high school students going on a rafting trip down the Rio Grande, the river best known as the border between Texas and Mexico. We and another couple drove our own cars
because the school’s bus was full. I had no idea at the outset of that trip that I would experience my first waking state, “nondual” realization before we even got to the river.
Driving south between Ft. Stockton and Alpine, Texas, you come off a plateau into a very large, semi-arid valley, from horizon to horizon bordered by mountains in every direction except to the north. The mountains are so far away they look extremely small and you can almost always see dust devils, like miniature tornadoes dancing across the land, often several at a time. It was a familiar landscape to me because I had been on this same road many times growing up. I have always enjoyed the sense of expansiveness and broad, open skies in this place. It invites deep breathing and simply being present to the magnificent surroundings.
Decades later, shortly before my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I told her, a devout Christian lady, about that long ago experience. She said, “That’s in the Bible.”
“What?” I asked.
“The earth and all of her creatures singing praise to God. The Bible tells about that.”
“The verse is on the calendar in the hall bathroom. Look back a couple of months and you’ll find it,” she replied. I found this scripture: “All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name.” ~ Psalm 66:4
I later found the following verses as well, which demonstrates that my experience has been shared by others for thousands of years and that it is not uncommon. We simply need to be open and attuned in order to hear it.
- “Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds, kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and maidens, old men and children.” ~ Psalm 148
- “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the LORD . . .” ~ Psalm 96: 11-13
- “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” ~ Isaiah 55:12
- “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!” Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them! Then the trees of the forest will sing, they will sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth.” ~ I Chronicles 16: 31-33
- “Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!” ~ Revelation 5:13
Not long after that trip to the Rio Grande, as a student in Elizabeth Koch’s yoga class, I again experienced union with nature in a meditation she led during deep relaxation. She guided us from visualizing a forest to walking into the forest, seeing individual trees, choosing one, walking more and more closely to that one tree, touching it, feeling its bark, and finally merging into it. I chose a Douglas Fir, a very tall conifer in the Rocky Mountains. Once I was inside, I was suddenly propelled by an unseen force up through the air. I saw the ground below and other trees from their sides and tops down. I felt the power, the strength and the weight of my trunk and the heft of my branches as they moved in the wind. I was neither cold nor warm and I felt totally free.
I had wondered as we started this meditation how trees experience the cold of winter in the mountains and how they experience their stillness, rootedness and inability to move from where they stand. I learned that trees express their lives in perfection, that they know how to be exactly who they are without suffering and even with their own sense of freedom as they move in the flow of the wind, fighting no part of their existence. We can learn so much, so much from the kingdoms to whom we humans believe ourselves to be vastly superior.