Thursday, 28 August 2008

The nature of spiritual emergency.....

Last month I attended an evening in central London on spiritual emergency. I have spoken of the team management and leadership programme I am currently doing with Landmark Education and this was the team game of one of the participants. The woman who organised it was interested in the topic having had this experience in the past. I would never have known it was happening if she hadn't been asked to share with the group what her team game was. Once I heard it there was no doubt but that I was going to be there. What was amazing was that there are 48 other team members and we all play a team game in the world each quarter and yet nobody else was asked to explain what theirs was.

I arrived at the Friends Meeting House in London for this evening which was billed as the first public talk into the nature of spiritual emergency. The evening began with chanting from the woman who organised the evening. It was obvious to me from the depth and reverence of her chanting that she through the nature of her spiritual emergency was singing from a place of deep peace and stillness. The depth and resonance and beauty of the soul that came through was so moving.

Chanting over, J C Mac was then introduced. He is a long standing friend of the woman who organised the evening and as is quite common in cases of spiritual emergency he was operating quite normally as a life coach when suddenly something happened that totally shattered his consciousness. I can't remember the exact words of what he said about the experience. He described feeling an experience like a very strong wind within him and in an instant the world as he knew it had completely changed. The shift in consciousness was instant and intense. For him it resulted in a completely different perspective on life.

In an instant he realised the unity behind what seems to be separate. There was an automatic and intuitive realisation of deep spiritual Truths. Hearing him speak it was obvious to me that he is still trying to understand and piece together what happened to him. He claimed that it happened spontaneously and without warning and I don't doubt that this is so. My experience though is that this rising of energy from the base of the spine which is often accompanied by a kind of swishing or hissing sound comes after much focussed and concentrated meditation. From my research into the phenomenon there is always a background of intense spiritual practices and seeking.

J C Mac admitted that he had been looking into Zen and Buddhism and other spiritual practices but that he hadn't been doing any of it that intensely. I was a bit sceptical of this when I heard it. Something always precedes this experience, usually a shock of some kind to the mind that shifts it to allow the transformation to happen. This is the way it was for Eckart Tolle when he was struck by the thought when he was depressed 'I cannot live with myself any longer' and the shock of realising 'who am I; am I 'I' or am I 'myself' was enough to shock the mind to allow the transformation to happen and he describes in his first book 'The Power of Now' the rush of energy which coursed through his body and caused him to lose consciousness. When he woke up he was in the same room but it wasn't the same room, everything looked totally different'. This is spiritual emergency in its most concise form. Something happens that involves a movement of energy from the base of the spine to the brain and then back to the heart. This movement of the energy results in the heart awakening and deep feelings of love and connection for all people. For me it marks the shift of the consciousness from the human to the soul.

But the shift if it happens before the consciousness is prepared can prove too much. The shift shatters the mind and this results in the kind of bewilderment and not such a great grip of life that I saw in this man at that event. However the way he was being and his authenticity in not pretending that he had all the answers or any for that matter resulted in a space being created for others to share similar kinds of experiences. What was common to all who shared was the deep sense of love and connection that was experienced by those who claimed a spiritual emergency. What I was concerned about though was that no experience was without its consequences in terms of how well those who went through it were functioning in life. In all there seemed to be a kind of dissociation with the world.

There is no doubt that the experience of spiritual emergency is profound and the insights and realizations that come along with that are shattering to the consciousness. The best way to deal with all of this is to be like a witness, watching the chaos that is arising without entering into it. At this time all kinds of thoughts and realizations come through which are not of the ordinary and the temptation is to get involved with them and take ownership them. To do this is not to integrate the experience so that it becomes a hugely powerful context from which to live life and to be powerful in life. If the experience is not integrated then the consciousness becomes permanently dissociated from reality. It is this integration that was missing in my view from those who shared their experiences that evening.

When the spiritual energy which is dormant at the base of the spine rises it wakes up certain centres in the brain that are normally dormant. It is this that results in the understanding of spiritual truths and insights. A successful awakening is when the energy rises up through the nerves in the centre of the spine rises to the brain and then descends to rest in the heart. This pathway results in the experience of deep joy, peace and love. However what happens if the energy is forced to rise before the channels are ready to receive it either through intense meditation or some other intense spiritual practice is that the energy rises through either the right of left sides of the spine. When this happens the energy cannot find its way back down to the heart and stays in the brain. This results in the experience of tingling, crawling which is often reported in cases of spiritual emergency. The lady who organised the evening told me privately that she was hospitalized when she had hers and she went onto explain to me all of the visual and auditory hallucinations that she had while having it. She knew about the witness though and for all the time kept a journal of what was happening. I have asked if I can read this journal.

I consider myself hugely lucky with the experience I had in 1998 where on a meditation retreat in Devon called 'awakening the heart' I had the experience of energy rising from the base of my spine. I didn't have any visual or auditory hallucinations, see visions of any deities, have any images of past lives or anything psychic or paranormal. Thinking about it now after it I became quite manic with ideas and theories and reading everything spiritual I could get my hands on. I recognised that this was some kind of mania which I watched like a witness without getting involved with it. I also had periods of tearfulness and feeling incredibly sad which I also watched as a witness. Gradually the whole experience has become integrated so that I am able to be in life and be fully present in life while my consciousness is in another dimension.

The most moving account I have read about this process is a book written by a woman called Hazel Courtenay who is an award-winning health journalist. She titles her book 'Divine Intervention' - The true story of how one woman walked between worlds and returned with messages of hope from Diana'. The bit about messages of hope from Diana I am highly sceptical about. The mind when it is shattered is capable of anything and I firmly believe that all such claims no matter what they are or of who they are claiming to contact are products of a mind that is desperately trying to survive. That said, the book is a very good recount of the experience of a sudden and intense spiritual emergency, what it produced and the difficulty afterwards to return to life as it was before this experience.

During the evening I looked around and recognised a man from the Royal College of Psychiatry who I had met and spoken to at a conference on mystics and scientists. Afterwards I went up to him and I said 'this experience has been given such bad press this evening'. I have something different to say but don't know how or where to start'. The unease I had felt from him when I first spoke to him at the conference was there again and he made it obvious that he did not want to speak to me for very long. However one thing he said is something that I am going to take on. He said 'you can be the hope for people that having the experience of spiritual emergency is a rewarding and enriching experience that transforms consciousness and doesn't have to have the lasting and uncomfortable consequences that many spoke about this evening'.

I have taken that on and for my team game in the world I am going to put on another event. I am going to research some statistics for this phenomenon in terms of how many people have experienced it. I dimly remember someone in Luton doing some research into this and so I am going to put on a spiritual science evening around this phenomenon so that those who come have a feel for the scale of people who have this kind of experience. This will be my contribution to an experience which shifted life for me from one where I was just existing and getting by to the one I have now which is filled with joy, peace, love and a deep abiding feeling of contentment that is independent of external events.

Finally....I have removed my pic from this blog. Not because I have anything to fear or hide but out of concern for my family. I have teenage neices and nephews and I don't want them to feel embarassed about any of my writing or for people to make life uncomfortable for them if they recognise their relationship to me from my picture. I've also found now that I feel freer writing knowing that it is not there.....

No comments: