On Spiritual Crises and Spiritual Awakenings

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“There can be no rebirth without a dark night of the soul, a total annihilation of all that you believed in and thought that you were.” ~ Hazrat Inayat Khans

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s I sat in a room with 23 women who were quietly meditating, I was praying — no, begging God to spare my life.

I started meditating in 2011, four months after my mother passed away. When I lost her, I had a complete and utter breakdown. Fast-forward 120 days . . . and in 20 minutes of learning how to meditate, I was an entirely different person.

I had been handed a mantra and a new set of kaleidoscope eyes through which to see the world.

History and experience have shown me that meditation transforms people, and in my case can cause a complete metamorphosis within minutes.

After a couple of weeks into my new spiritual practice, I knew there was no turning back. My meditation teacher invited me to go into various corporations with her and talk about the benefits of meditation. Over the next year, as I watched hundreds of people learn to meditate, one by one, I saw their eyes light up.

People would describe a sense of peace they had never experienced, and a feeling of joy that lasted throughout their day. Others would start sleeping through the night (where they’d previously been hampered by insomnia) or finally rid themselves of migraines that had plagued them for years.

And so, it was through this particular vehicle that I dedicated my life to helping others. It was here that I found my destiny.

As time went on, I decided I wanted to deepen my own meditation practice. I felt a strong desire to stay in that quiet space for longer than 20 minutes twice a day, and my practice had already given me so much that I wanted only to further explore these uncharted waters.

People would describe a sense of peace they had never experienced, and a feeling of joy that lasted throughout their day."

I had a chance to fulfill this desire by attending a course (the TM-Sidhis Program) that was only held a couple of times a year — a five-week program that teaches Transcendental Meditation students how to move within the space of silence, to see more and do more. I was all in.

I cleared my schedule and started gearing up for this new adventure. I didn’t read about it on the Internet or allow anyone to tell me about what happens on the course; mainly because I wanted to walk into it completely free from preconceived notions and expectations.

That’s how I like to roll when it comes to spiritual lessons — naturally focusing on my experiences, not anyone else’s notion of how it should be or what could happen. The only thing I was told was that this course was super intense, but that I would completely connect with it.

The first three weeks of the course consisted of attending a class for 2-3 hours a day, during which I/we learned a variety of “advanced meditation techniques.” No problem. I felt really good — amazing, actually. Colors were brighter, my energy levels were off the charts and my mind was clear as a bell. I was digging it.

Then started the two-week in-residence part.

First week, same thing. No problem. I felt extra groovy explaining to my teachers that I sensed I was being carried through my life, that I was connected to everything -- the trees were my friends and the entire earth was my home. (Yes, I totally went there.)

I had the very same feeling when I started meditating three years ago, like being in a state of ecstasy that lasted for years. I was in God and God was in me, but now that this state felt very familiar to me, I just went with it.

The next week rolled around, and we were taught the last part of this new three-part meditation practice.

Now, there is a systematic and traditional way each of these new lessons is taught, having been passed down in the same manner for literally ages. There’s always a short ceremony giving thanks to the previous teachers and then the simple instruction is passed on to the student. Easy breezy.

I’ve seen it a hundred times, and it’s as familiar to me as eating a bowl of Cookie Crisp cereal. Well, not this time.

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Spiritual Emergency

When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crisis -By Stanislav Grof and Christina Grof "During a spiritual emergency much, perhaps everything, changes. The path is often rough and difficult to navigate, but it eventually leads to peace and inner freedom.” Read the Book >

The show began and my heart starting racing, at which point my meditation teacher gave all of us the instructions. On the surface, it was simple – however, inside my body and my mind, well, that was quite a different story.

I started to meditate just like I’ve done seemingly a million times before, until I gently thought about my new instruction.

If there were a door inside my soul, it got ripped off the hinges, and all the energy from the entire Universe hit me like a hurricane! No wait . . . it felt more like I took 20 hits of acid at once and plugged myself into an electrical socket! I thought I was going to die and go insane, all at once!

While everyone else in the room quietly continued to meditate, I began to pray like I’ve never prayed before. Tears started to fall from my eyes, as I begged God to let me live. I would have run out of the building, but I was frozen, unable to move, think or speak — just a Popsicle suspended in time with high-voltage electricity streaming through my veins.

As the clock ticked on the wall, 20 minutes felt like 10 lifetimes. My new mantra at this point was, “God, please let me live . . . God, please save me.” When it was all over, I told my teacher what happened. I stood in front of her with streams of tears falling down my cheeks. She looked stunned.

Just a day earlier, I’d been walking on a cloud. Clearly, they were not used to this type of extreme experience from their students. There was not a chance in hell I was going to be able to meditate, eat, sleep or function for days.

Then came the next stop on the crazy train: I threw up everywhere, kind of like that girl in The Exorcist. The waves of mania just kept hitting me, hour after hour. For four straight days, I was clinging to “the Jaws of Life.”

I knew it was common enough for some people to occasionally have “abnormal” reactions when meditating for long periods of time, but nothing like this had ever happened to anyone I’d ever known. Yeah, I know . . . when the stress starts to leave your body, it has to come out some way, but it’s usually a gradual process, which can be slightly uncomfortable at times. This, however, was off the charts.

Despite the panic, vomiting and insanity, I was determined to see this through. Once again, my intuition kept telling me, “You are going to make it and be stronger than ever. This is happening for a reason. Just let go. Surrender.”

By Day Four of my Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, the course leaders took pity on me. Still, I was told if I didn’t continue with the program in some way, shape or form, I would have to be sent home, the only one out of 50 people not to finish. The warrior in me (or maybe the crazy person) emerged and I replied, “If you’ll slow this train down for me, I will see it through.”

They did just that. I was to meditate for only 30 minutes a day and they would sit with me when I did the new program. It took every bit of courage for me to try out this particularly powerful meditation again, but settled in between two teachers and separated from all the other people on my course, I did it. It’s worthy of noting here, I started each of those preceding meditations by asking God and my mom to protect me.

And just like all the times I’ve jumped out of a plane (sky-diving), I just closed my eyes and leapt over the edge.

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” ~ Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

What came next blew my mind. I had the opposite experience of my previous meditation. This time, instead of diving into the depths of hell, I shot up into a “field” I can only believe was heaven. I had never entered this space before, filled with everything and nothing at the same time. I was completely aware in this new dimension, and with wide eyes, I took it all in.

Afterward, my teachers told me my head was facing straight up in the air, locked in place, towards the ceiling. It made sense to me, because it felt like I shot up through my head and “fell upward” right into this new world. When my teachers asked me what was going on, I looked at them and simply said, “I think I just went to the place we all end up when we die.”

But how was this possible, that I was traveling across dimensions from just thinking a couple of words? I mean, was I living in the Twilight Zone?

I had crossed the Rubicon, and my life, as I knew it was over. After the smoke cleared, I realized it was my ego that was dying, and that feeling of panic and horror was the remaining claws of my small self clinging to me like a mad dog clinging to a meaty bone. Like everything else in my spiritual life, it came on fast and furiously, but despite weeks of confusion, panic and deep, deep thinking, I can finally say, “Yes, it was worth it.”

As psycho as it sounds, what I have been left with is another level of clarity, freedom and knowing that I never even knew existed. Once again, I went to hell and back, and I don’t wish this insanity on my worst enemy, but that’s just how it happened for me.

Since then, I’ve done a bunch of reading on “cases” like mine. The upshot? A person’s “spiritual awakening” can often be precipitated by a severe emotional or spiritual crisis. It could be the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, severe illness or your run-of-the-mill nervous breakdown. At some point in our lives, each one of us may have a crisis — but when looked at through another pair of glasses, an “opportunity for extreme spiritual growth.” My sense is that’s why some of these seeming catastrophes happen to us in the first place: to catapult us to a higher level. God knows we would never get there on our own.

And I guess God knew I needed another boost. After all, this was the second time in my life I cracked open and then was shoved towards a higher state of consciousness. (I thought once was enough, but twice? Really?) But I suppose I’ve learned yet again that once you are on your knees, the only place left to go is up. In my case, I shot right up into the heavens.

The Prophet Muhammad said, “Die before you die.” Without a shadow of a doubt, I can say, “Amen brother!” to that statement. Because of our human condition, we are all stuck in a case of mistaken identity. When that false self dies, the crisis follows and then the gift is given.

Apparently, sometimes it just has to happen in that order for a person to achieve self-realization, to find one’s true self.

[bctt tweet="Once you buy the ticket and take the ride inward, that’s when the fun begins."]

One final note: it has to be achieved on your personal journey, through your personal experience, not anyone else’s. You will never find it in a book or someone else’s odyssey. You will only find it when you die before you die. I wish I could tell you it was easier, but after this second round of annihilation, I know how this story plays out.

Once you buy the ticket and take the ride inward, that’s when the fun begins. Hold on to your hats, brothers and sisters, because smashing your ego to reveal your true self is one hell of a ride!