"Some great confusion has fallen like a shadow across the world, a mass forgetting in which the sense of meaning waiting to be discovered right under the surface of events has been obscured in favour of compiling information and recitation of facts that only become forgotten. This is a time of great forgetting; especially forgetting that life is full of mysteries trying to be revealed."
- Micheal Meade
The Personal Within the Larger Creation
Because we live in a world of evidence and facts, many of us are cautious about sharing stories about our personal relationship with the Divine. Genuine accounts of spiritual experiences might remain unspoken during our normal conversations with each other.
Through trials and traumas, we become more defended as time goes on, and our direct experience of the spiritual becomes an idea instead of a lived reality. Many of us prefer to independently guide our own lives, separate from the larger patterns of Creation, especially when it disturbs our comfort zone and requires that we grow in unfamiliar ways.
A Spiritual Experience
I had a profound spiritual experience when I was a young college student, burning the candle at both ends. I remember waking up wide-eyed in the middle of the night with a strong inner directive that said. "Go sit on the couch." Too sleepy to second guess myself, I walked over to the next room and sat cross-legged on the sofa.
As soon as I settled myself, my mind went profoundly quiet. What happened next defies verbal explanation, but I can only describe it as a spontaneous heart opening. Never before in my life had I been stilled by energy so much larger than myself.
Sitting still, my heart began to pulsate with a Universal tempo that seemed much different than my own heartbeat. The pulsation in my heart was so powerful, there was nothing I could do except surrender to it. It was impossible to think any thoughts during this pulsation. My mind went completely quiet.
I felt no fear - only love. And, I had only one marker of my internal experience in my literal reality. As soon as my heart pulsations began, my tabby cat went utterly still with me. She stopped purring in the pristine stillness with me as my heart opening experience continued. When the heart pulsations ended, and my ordinary thinking mind returned, my cat started purring again in the exact same moment.Spontaneous Forgiveness
In that silent hour, I was gifted with an experience of spontaneous forgiveness that was beyond my understanding. And, what I was left after my spiritual experience was the indelible impression: "I love and forgive my dad." With no need for psychological work, my misunderstandings about my dad's emotional unavailability in my life vanished. From that point forward, I found easy compassion for him.
From my spiritual heart opening, I understood that relationship difficulties can be healed in an instant. My father and I had an effortless friendship after that night. I never did I speak a word of my spiritual experience to him. Nothing needed to be reconciled through words. The next time I went back home to visit on college break, my dad had created a fatherly "shrine" to me in his garage. He had dug up all of my old sports awards from grade school and hung them up on the wall.
An Easy Friendship
After my spiritual experience, my father and I enjoyed a comforting friendship. Five years later, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. We hung out together, often without words, within the shared energy of love. My father built me things - crafting a wooden cradle for my baby and constructing large canvas stretchers for my paintings in his wood shop.
My father even accompanied me to a weeklong intuitive painting retreat to help take care of my baby daughter. I remember laughing at how weird it all was to him. He was not used to the vegetarian menu or the open esoteric conversations.
At the retreat, my dad spent his day reading my spiritual books from cover to cover while my baby slept, and I was painting. He took long walks in the woods carrying my daughter in his arms. He tried very sweetly to understand me. And, he was already very sick.
The Journey Towards Death
"The essence of love and compassion is understanding the ability to recognize the physical, material and psychological suffering of others, to put ourselves "inside the skin" of the other. We "go inside" their body, feelings, and mental formations, and witness for ourselves their suffering. Shallow observation as an outsider is not enough to see their suffering. We must become one with the subject of our observation. When we are in contact with another's suffering, a feeling of compassion is born in us. Compassion means, literally, "to suffer with."
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Six months after the painting retreat, I sat with my dad in the hospice on the day he died. We had a quiet afternoon together. My daughter, almost two years old at the time, sat on his bed and shared his tray of lunch with him. He smiled at my daughter grabbing food with both fists off his plate.
Without speaking, I let him know it was okay for him to go. When I left the hospice I knew I would never see him again. When I arrived home I got the call that he had passed away. I turned right around and drove back to see him. I could see that his spirit had vacated his body and only the shell of him lay on his bed.
My father's spirit left his body, but our loving connection actively continued for several years after his death. "The energy of him" came to me in my dreaming life and in my daily waking life. I vividly remember two instances that distinctly felt like contact with my dad's soul.
My first experience of my father's soul visiting me was at his own funeral. I was in a quiet room nursing my daughter. It was dark and quiet. I could hear the humming voices of friends and family next door. Suddenly, a distinct feeling that I recognized my father entered the room. Unmistakably, he permeated the space.
The change in the room was palpable. My father and I shared a joyful moment together before he was gone. I felt his love and gratitude. There was a new lightness to the particularity of his soul essence that felt different from when he was alive. At his own funeral, he seemed free.
The next episode of connection occurred on my birthday a year after my dad died. My dad gifted me with his car before he passed away. When I moved, I sold his burgundy sedan to a young woman and had not seen it since.
On my birthday I was sitting alone at my kitchen table when suddenly I got the inner directive, "Drive to the grocery store." I obeyed, even though there was nothing I needed to buy. When I arrived at the store I saw my father's burgundy car parked out front and I started to laugh! I thanked him for the birthday visit!
A Larger View of Loss
I leave you with the wise words of Michael Meade:
"Each has the surprising gift of life and each life has to come to the end of life's road one day. It's not simply that "death must have it's due" but also that death has a place in life. Death and loss must have a place in life in order that the creation of the world might continue. If we treat death as simply an absence of life, something essential to creation gets lost to our awareness. When seen in the context of ongoing creation, death can be found to have a place in the midst of life and a hand in both renewal and re-creation."