Nature mysticism and me

 

Nature has played an important role on my spiritual path and in my life in general. 

It feels strange to write that because I am nature, and I and humans and human civilization wouldn’t exist without nature. All of it is nature, and all of it requires the whole universe which also is nature. So to say “nature has been important to me” makes very little sense. 

As a child, before school age, nature – and especially sunlight filtered through the leaves – sometimes brought me back to life before incarnation. I had flashbacks to a life where all was (golden) light, beings and everything were formless, and all was infinite love and wisdom, and profoundly home. 

When I was around ten, I slept under the stars by Sølen, a mountain in Norway. There was a sense of infinity of the night sky, and also of the landscape stretching seemingly endlessly into the horizon. I looked at the stars and the satellites passing over, and it opened a profound sense of oneness with it all. I was the universe experiencing all of it. I was a local expression of the universe experiencing itself in its endlessness. Again, it came with a profound sense of being home, of not only belonging but being it all, and a deep sense of quiet joy and gratitude. It changed my life. 

Age sixteen, between Christmas and the new year, I walked along a gravel road at night. It was dark, the sky was full of stars, and a big wind moved through it all. This time, there was an even more full blown opening. The divine woke up to itself as all there is, without any exceptions. Even the divine locally and temporarily taking itself to be something exclusively local and temporal – a separate being – was seen as the divine, the play of the divine. This too changed my life, and even more profoundly. 

When I was 24, I went to Utah to study at the university there. (And, without knowing it in advance, to live at the Zen center there for a few years.) When I first went to southern Utah, I took my sleeping bag and walked into the desert on my own and slept under the stars and the milky way stretching from one horizon to the other. Again, there was a profound sense of being home and a quiet and deep gratitude and joy. This time, there was also the most profound sense of belonging to that particular place and landscape. (If we have several lives, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if one or more of mine where in that area – the Four Corners area – of this planet.) 

I still often feel a profound sense of belonging when I am in nature or see the night sky. A deep sense of quiet joy and gratitude. And it’s always there, low level, in the background. 

As a child and in my early teens, it was probably more of a genuine nature mysticism. A sense of the divine in nature, or – more accurately – nature as divine and sacred. Later in my teens, it became very clear that all of it – all there is – happens within and as the divine, and that that is what we and everything already are. It’s all the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself as all of this. Including when it locally and temporarily takes itself to be separate and a separate being. 

The nature mysticism element is still very much here and it plays a beautiful role in my life, but it happens in a different context. 

Note: When I say the divine, I could say consciousness, and love, and even a quiet bliss, because those labels also work. And there is the small and big interpretation of all of this, as I have written about in other posts. But I wanted to keep that side of it simple in this post. 

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The essence of mystical experiences

 

My mystical experience has faded a lot now. I still spend time in nature, but that incredible oneness and closeness of feeling with the birds, trees, rivers is much less.

– J.

You may already have discovered this. One thing that has helped me with fading mystical experiences is to see what’s still there. Often, the strength of the experience may fade or the “bells and whistles” (the bliss, amazement etc.) may go away, but something is still there. And what’s still there is often the most central.

What I have found helpful is asking myself “what’s the essence of the mystical experience”, and then see if I can find that here and now. For instance, it may be a sense of oneness, or that all is Spirit or the divine. Initially, it can be a bit disappointing to see that it’s here but not as strong as before. But as you attend to it, you may find a real appreciation for what’s still here. It may turn out to be what’s most important and transformative in the long run.

– from my reply

I thought I would share this here. It’s common for mystical experiences to fade and for the side-effects – the bliss, awe, amazement – to go away. That’s the nature of mystical experiences. And there is an invitation here, and that’s to see what’s still here.

It’s easy to get into “chase the mystical experience” mode. I did for a while. Whether it works or not, it becomes pretty clear over time that it’s a bit like a dog chasing it’s tail. It can be fun, it may work, but it’s also exhausting and – if we are honest with ourselves – futile. It doesn’t really get us what we want because experiences, including the most amazing ones, fade and go away.

So what is it that didn’t go away? What’s still here? Maybe that’s what it is more about?

More on transition experiences

 

I wrote a long post on transition experiences, but decided to make it short and simple. Some details goes out, but the essence is maybe more clear.

Here are a couple of points from the longer post that may be interesting…

  • What we are, is a field of awake emptiness and form, absent of a separate I. This means that what is alive in each of ours awareness here and now, is realized to be nothing other than awake emptiness itself. This room, the cat, the sound of the cars, the lamp, computer, thoughts, sensations, it is all awake emptiness. An awake void, temporarily taking these forms. And it is all without a center, without any trace of a separate self.
  • When we take ourselves to be an object in the world, we filter awareness so it appears to be only here, associated with this human self, and not out there, in the wider world… with the exception of being there, in theory, in other people. We don’t notice emptiness much, everything seems quite substantial and real. And there is certainly a sense of a separate self here, in this human self.
  • So in the transition between the two, what we are breaks through within the context of what we take ourselves to be. There is a growing sense of no separation, glimpses of the wider world as somehow inherently alive and awake, a diminishing sense of the solidity of the boundary between I here and the rest of the world out there, and so on.

As Ken Wilber and others have pointed out, this transition mirrors what we find in nature mysticism (nature, all objects, as alive), deity mysticism (all as God), and finally realized selflessness (one field, absent of center and separate self.)

All of these transition experiences can be experienced and interpreted in different ways. I am sure there are many more than I wrote down here, and each of them will take on different flavors for different people at different times.

One experience I have heard recently, from a friend, is an experience of walking in nature, and everything suddenly appearing aware… the trees, stones, ground, landscape. Another, is of objects smiling back at you (having awareness, being somehow alive, able to make a connection.)

Of course, these are all just experiences and states. Nothing to be too caught up in. Just carrots, and sometimes distractions (!), within our process of exploring what we really are – in our own immediate awareness.

And that is the ground of awake void, and forms as no other than this awake void, all absent of a center and separate self. It is all emptiness dancing. A depth of awake emptiness with a thin surface of form.

Shifting filters

 

I was just reminded of how Ken Wilber’s old model of the levels of development reflects these shifts of filters.

The conventional level these days is where the field is filtered into a strong sense of I and Other, and the I is placed on only a relatively small part of our individual self.

Then, the I is placed on more of our whole individual self (whole body/mind, centaur.)

Then, a sense of I is also out there, in the form of nature mysticism. There is a sense of I, yet also of an aliveness and intelligence out there.

Then, a sense of all as God. I am still here, and everything is also God (deity mysticism).

And finally, the field awakening to itself as awake emptiness and form, centerless and selfless, even as it is functionally connected with an individual.

It is all part of the field awakening to itself as a field, and filtering itself slightly differently at different phases of the process. At the same time, there is a corresponding reorganization and development of the individual, as these changing filters are taken into account and reflected in the life of the individual.

Summary of the shifts

Throughout the whole process, the field is already and always a field of awake emptiness and form, with no center, no separate I, yet also functionally connected with a particular human self.

After the typical childhood development, there is a strong sense of I here and Other out there, this sense of I is placed on this individual, and any immediate sense of awakeness and consciousness is placed on this I here (it takes a great deal of energy and resistance to filter out the sense of awakeness, which is already alive throughout the whole field, and place it on this I).

From here on, the sense of a separate I is reduced at each shift, and the sense of an “I” out there increases – in the form of a sense of aliveness, intelligence, love and consciousness out there… in nature, and then in all of Existence.

Finally, the whole sense of I and Other falls away entirely, revealing the field as everywhere awake emptiness and form, without any center, without any separate I anywhere.