Regular practice of meditation can open up a whole new dimension of experience
A long term meditator, Chris Dale shares his experience with meditation and mystical states.
As any experienced meditator will know, the regular practice of meditation opens up a whole new dimension of experience. The terrain of this inner world is vast and can be intensely captivating, so much so that a meditator may feel that any sensory experience that the external world can offer seems trivial by comparison.
The goal of meditation, as given in all the classic Vedic meditation texts, is to experience the infinite consciousness which is the source of our being and to function in life from that unbounded awareness.
Of course, there are many other benefits which accrue from meditation, including tremendous enhancements in physical, mental and emotional health. Spiritual unfoldment however is the essence of what meditation is about. Because we are all unique beings, the process of that unfoldment will vary from person to person. Usually it will include some profound, life changing, awakening experiences, which could be described as mystical.
My journey as a meditator began in 1977 when I was living in the remote town of Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia. I was working as a civil servant and feeling quite stressed and restless. Darwin was then a frontier style town with the one of the highest per capita consumptions of alcohol in the world. It also had a large transient hippie population. I had an intense desire to feel totally free inside, which had been there for as long as I can remember, but alcohol, drugs and a couple of other strong sensory experiences were the only sure fire avenues that I knew to enter that joyful, free inner state. Then I happened to see a tiny ad in the local newspaper for an introductory talk on meditation. I was the only attendee at that talk, and the teacher did not seem to be particularly relaxed and happy, but I liked him and took the meditation course anyway.
The technique was based on the use of a mantra and as soon as the teacher imparted it to me my body started to shake uncontrollably. The teacher reassured me that it was just drugs being released from my system. During that meditation I felt as if I was airborne and that my body was doing somersaults in the air. Afterwards I felt incredibly relaxed. Even though that feeling soon passed, I knew then that I had found what I was looking for. As I continued to meditate and learnt some advanced meditation techniques, as well as incorporating some asana and pranayama in my practice, I started to experience some mystical states which were sublime, ecstatic and "out of this world". I should emphasise that these experiences are quite common and most regular meditators will experience some flavour of them as their journey of unfoldment continues. They do not necessarily indicate spiritual advancement.
One experience, which started to occur regularly from the early 1980s, was that I would feel incredibly blissful during and soon after meditation, with a remarkable peace and joy, and a thrill though the whole body. It was far more intense than the normal happiness experienced at times during the waking state of consciousness. It had more of a physical feel to it, as if all the cells in the body were also rejoicing! Sometimes the bliss was so intense I would feel that I needed to do a bliss management course to get some tips on how to integrate the experience!
An oceanic feeling of being intimately connected with the whole creation also happened occasionally, as well as visual phenomena such as inner lights and strange visions. I experienced amazing physical sensations, including tingling up and down the spine, the body moving spontaneously during meditation into different asanas and mudras, spontaneous pranayamas, bandhas and chanting of mantras without any volition on my part.
I went through a stage in my practice, particularly in the 1980s, when I became totally captivated by these phenomena and would meditate in order to experience the "high" induced by them. Thus meditation became like a drug for me and I never failed to have my "fix" twice a day. I started to realise that meditation had become a subtle way of escaping this moment under the guise of being spiritual.
In 1993 I received initiation into Sahaj Samadhi Meditation from Sri Sri Ravi Shankar at Shakti Kutir in the Bangalore ashram. Initially I struggled with the technique, which was significantly different to what I had been practising since 1977. My mind was in turmoil about whether I had made the right decision in jettisoning my previous practice. The following day at Bangalore airport I thought I'd meditate for a few minutes while waiting for my flight call. Despite the busy and noisy external environment I went more deeply into meditation than ever before and it took me several minutes to be able to move when I heard my flight call. When I came out of the meditation it was absolutely clear to me that everyone I saw was made up of one consciousness and I felt so much love and reverence for creation. From then on I had no doubts about my practice.
As important as the technique, was Sri Sri Ravi Shankars profound teaching on meditation. It enabled me to see that meditation is not a journey from this moment to a more blissful future moment, but a letting go of all effort (including subtle "effortless" effort) to be anywhere but here and now.
Through the knowledge given by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and my meditation instructors, I know that some of these captivating meditation phenomena were an effect of release of stress from the nervous system. I also know that some of them were a result of the awakening of prana which happens through regular deep meditation and/or a disciplined pranayama practice.
I honour and am grateful for all the experiences that have come my way in meditation. I continue to enjoy the bliss of meditation and, over the years, have experienced a complete revolution in my day to day life. Like many long term meditators I feel that the mystical has become the normal. Exotic experiences now seem like sweets. I have them occasionally but am not craving for them. I feel this shift has only been through the grace of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar